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Hunks to the Rescue

Title: Hunks to the Rescue
Authors: Margo Bond Collins, Krista Ames, Raine English, Tamara Ferguson, Aileen Harkwood, Lynda Haviland, Jody A. Kessler, Katie O’Sullivan, Constance Phillips, Stephanie Queen, Nancy Segovia, Emily Wilder, Jan Romes, Debbie White, Michelle Jo Quinn, Victoria Pinder, Deb Christie, Eli Grace, Janice Ross
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC.

Get ready for a sexy, thrilling ride!

Who hasn’t fantasized about being rescued by a red-hot hunk? Indulge those fantasies with this box set of alpha rescuers who have a delicious talent for romance. 18 stand-alone novellas from New York Times and USA Today bestselling, and award-winning authors will steam up your nights and leave you begging for more.

Whether the hunk you lust for is military, a firefighter, first responder, FBI agent, cowboy, bad boy mafioso, or that sexy, everyday guy who plucks you from danger only to kiss you senseless, this bundle has your hero.

18 hunks. 18 heart-pounding rescues—17 brand-new, standalone stories. Get ready for a passionate and thrilling ride!

Pre-order your copy now from these retailers. Plus, we have a Buy One Box Set, Get One Box Set offer going on here through June 12. Pre-Order Hunks to the Rescue, and get Beyond Hunks for FREE now!

Hunks to the Rescue Website

Margo Bond Collins
https://margobondcollins.net/
https://www.facebook.com/MargoBondCollins

Krista Ames
http://www.kristaames.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kristaamesauthor

Raine English
http://www.raineenglish.com/
https://www.facebook.com/RaineEnglish

Tamara Ferguson
http://www.kissedbyfate.com/
https://www.facebook.com/KissedByFate?ref=hl

Aileen Harkwood
http://aileenharkwood.blogspot.com/p/newsletter-sign-up.html
https://www.facebook.com/AileenHarkwoodAuthor/

Lynda Haviland
http://www.lyndahaviland.com/
https://www.facebook.com/lyndahaviland

Jody A Kessler
http://jodyakessler.com/
http://bit.ly/2qOfY28

Katie O’Sullivan
http://www.katie-osullivan.com/
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKatieOSullivan

Constance Phillips
http://www.constancephillips.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ConstancePhillipsRomanceAuthor/

Stephanie Queen
http://stephaniequeen.com/
https://www.facebook.com/StephanieQueenAuthor/

Nancy Segovia
https://nancysegovia.com/
https://www.facebook.com/segovia.nancy/

Debbie White
https://www.authordebbiewhite.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DebbieWhiteBooks/

Author Quinn
https://quinnauthor.wixsite.com/quinnromancebooks
https://www.facebook.com/RomanceAuthorQuinn/

Emily Wilder
https://www.facebook.com/authoremilywilder
https://twitter.com/thewilderauthor

Victoria Pinder
http://www.victoriapinder.com
https://www.instafreebie.com/free/q21sO

Janice Ross
https://jgrwriter.com
https://m.facebook.com/jgrwriter

Eli Gace
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorEliGrace/

Deb Christie
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDebChristie/

 

Pre-order your copy of Hunks to the Rescue (releasing June 13), and get a second box set FREE right now. Beyond Hunks includes 12 novels and novellas by the Hunks to the Rescue authors not normally published as a set, with a combined value of $26 individually. Don’t wait too long, however. This BOGO offer expires June 12, when Beyond Hunks will no longer be available. Details here: https://hunkstotherescue.com/box-set/

Orlando Universal Giveaway: We’re giving away a boatload of fantastic prizes during our pre-order giveaway, including a $700 Universal Orlando Theme Park Family 4-Pack, which includes 1 day passes to 2 parks and a special welcome at the park from Hunks to the Rescue author Lynda Haviland. To find out the details, click here https://hunkstotherescue.com/orlando-universal-giveaway/

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Abi’s Neighbour by Jenny Kane

Out Now—Abi’s Neighbour by Jenny Kane (@jennykaneauthor) #romance #cornwall

Set in the picturesque Sennen Cove, Cornwall, Abi’s Neighbour is the sequel to the bestselling Cornish romance, Abi’s House.

 

It’s time to catch up with Abi, Max, Beth, Jacob, Stan, and Sadie the Labrador- and meet some unexpected new faces…

 

Blurb

Abi Carter has finally found happiness. Living in her perfect tin miner’s cottage, she has good friends and a gorgeous boyfriend, Max. Life is good. But all that’s about to change when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Cassandra Henley-Pinkerton represents everything Abi thought she’d escaped when she left London. Obnoxious and stuck-up, Cassandra hates living in Cornwall. Worst of all, it looks like she has her sights set on Max.

But Cassandra has problems of her own. Not only is her wealthy married lawyer putting off joining her in their Cornish love nest, but now someone seems intent on sabotaging her business.

Will Cassandra mellow enough to turn to Abi for help – or are they destined never to get along?

Complete with sun, sea and a gorgeous Cornwall setting, Abi’s Neighbour is the PERFECT summer escape.

Abi’s Neighbour can be read as a standalone novel, or as a follow up to Abi’s House.

Available in eBook and print from Amazon (universal link): http://mybook.to/abisneighbour

 

Extract

 

The untidy, clipboard-wielding woman started talking as soon as she climbed out of her Mini. ‘Hello, my name’s Maggie, and I’m from –’

Cassandra cut impatiently across the formalities. ‘Sennen Agents, obviously. It’s written across your car.’

‘Oh, yes. So it is.’ Maggie paused, ‘Anyway, I’m sorry I’m late, I got stuck behind a tractor down the lane.’ She jingled a key ring in front of her. ‘I have your keys, Miss Pinkerton.’

‘No, you don’t.’ ‘I don’t?’ The estate agent frowned, looking away from the woman that stood before her in expensive couture with crossed arms and a far from happy expression. Flicking through the papers on her clipboard, Maggie said, ‘I was instructed by a Mr Justin Smythe that you would be accepting the keys on his behalf?’

‘I meant, no, my name is not Miss Pinkerton. It is Ms Henley-Pinkerton.’

‘Oh. I see.’ Maggie refrained from further comment as she clutched the keys a little tighter.

Determined to make sure the situation was clearly understood, Cassandra pulled her jacket on, turning herself back into the sharp-suited businesswoman she was. ‘In addition to your error regarding my name, there appears to have been a further mistake.’

‘There has?’

‘Mr Smythe has not purchased this property. He has merely rented it, with an additional agreement to sublet it as a holiday home. I am here for two months to make the place suitable.’ Cassandra ran a disdainful eye over the beautiful exterior stonework. ‘It would seem that my work is going to be well and truly cut out.’

‘This is a much sought-after street, Ms HenleyPinkerton. And this particular property is in excellent period condition.’ Feeling defensive on behalf of the old miner’s cottage, Maggie bit her tongue and flicked through her paperwork faster. Extracting a copy of the bill of sale, she passed it to the slim, angular blonde. ‘I think the misunderstanding must be yours. Mr Smythe has purchased number two Miners Row outright. It was a cash sale.’

Snatching the papers from Maggie’s fingers, Cassandra’s shoulders tensed into painful knots. Why hadn’t Justin told her he’d done this? She was convinced she was right. And anyway, he’d never deliberately make her appear foolish in front of a country bumpkin estate agent…  Yet as Cassandra scanned the document before her, she could see there’d been no mistake. Closing her eyes, she counted to ten, before opening them again to regard the badly dressed woman before her, who was once again holding out the offending set of keys.  Failing to take them, Cassandra gestured towards the little house.

‘Perhaps you would show me around, after I’ve made a call to Mr Smythe?’ Maggie, already feeling sorry for this unpleasant woman’s future neighbours, took unprofessional pleasure in saying, ‘Good luck with that call. The phone signal here is unpredictable to say the least.’

It had taken a ten-minute walk towards Sennen village to get a decent reception on her mobile phone, and then, when she’d been able to connect the call, Justin’s line was engaged. When she’d finally got through, she was more than ready to explode. ‘Justin! How could you have done this to me without a word? You’ve made me look a total idiot.’

Clearly thrilled that he’d managed to buy the terrace for a knock-down price – which, he’d claimed, was a far more economic use of their funds, an investment that would make them a fortune to enjoy in their retirement – he’d sounded so excited about what it meant for their future together that Cassandra had found it hard to remain cross. Assuring her that the situation remained the same, and that she was still only expected to stay in Cornwall while he secured his new position and got the wheels of the divorce in motion, Justin told Cassandra he loved her and would be with her very soon.

Returning to the terrace reassured, if lacking some of her earlier dignity, Cassandra swallowed back all the words she’d have liked to say as she opened the door and the gloom of the dark and narrow hallway enveloped her. She was sure that awful Maggie woman had been laughing at her. The agent had taken clear pleasure in telling her that if she hadn’t stormed off so quickly she’d have found out that the phone reception was excellent if you sat on the bench in the back garden.

Vowing to never drink champagne in any form ever again, as it clearly caused her to agree to things far too readily, Cassandra saw the next two months stretching out before her like a lifetime.  Letting out some of the tension which had been simmering inside her since she’d first seen the for sale sign, she picked up a stone and threw it at the back fence, hard. Maggie had gone, leaving her reluctant client sitting on an old weathered bench in the narrow rectangular plot at the back of the house.

Playing her phone through her fingers, Cassandra saw that there was enough reception to make calls if she sat in this spot – but only in this spot. One step in either direction killed the signal dead, which was probably why the previous owners had placed a bench here. And probably why they left this Godforsaken place!  The Internet simply didn’t exist here. When she’d swallowed her pride and asked Maggie about the strength of the local broadband coverage, the agent had actually had the audacity to laugh, before informing Cassandra with obvious satisfaction that people came to Sennen for their holidays to leave the world of emails and work behind them.

Breathing slowly, she pulled her shoulders back, pushed her long, perfectly straight blonde hair behind her ears, and took a pen and paper out of her bag. It looked as if she was going to have to tackle this, old school.

First she would make a list of what she considered necessary to make the house habitable for holidaymakers, then she would locate the nearest library or internet café so she could source decorators and builders to get the work underway. The sooner she got everything done, and herself back to hustle and bustle of London, the better.

Deciding there was no way she could sleep in this house, which Maggie had proudly described as ‘comfortable’, ‘sought-after’, and ‘ready to be made absolutely perfect’, Cassandra hooked her handbag onto her shoulder and headed back into the whitewashed stone house. Shivering in the chill of the hallway, despite the heat of the June day, she jumped in the silence when the doorbell rang just as she bent to pick up her overnight bag. For a second she froze. It had been years since she’d heard a doorbell ring. In her block of flats back home she buzzed people in via an intercom, and anyway, people never just dropped by. She hoped it wasn’t that dreadful Maggie back with some other piece of unwanted advice.

It wasn’t Maggie. It was a petite woman in paint spattered clothes, with a large shaggy dog at her side. Cassandra’s unwanted visitor wore a wide smile and held a bunch of flowers in one hand and some bedding in the other.  ‘Hello. My name’s Abi, I live next door. Welcome to Miners Row. I hope you’ll be very happy here.’

 

Bio

Jenny Kane is the author of the full length romance novels Another Glass of Champagne (Accent Press, 2015), Abi’s House (Accent Press, 2015), the contemporary romance/medieval crime time slip novel Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), the best selling contemporary romance novel Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014), and Christmas at the Castle (Accent, 2015).

Jenny’s sixth full length romance novel, Abi’s Neighbour, will be published in May 2017.

Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.

Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JennyKaneAuthor

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance

Jenny also writes erotica as Kay Jaybee and historical crime as Jennifer Ash.

 

Release blitz organised by Writer Marketing Services.

Trigger ~ LP Dover

Title – Trigger: A Circle of Justice Novel
Author – LP Dover
Genre – Romantic Suspense Standalone
Release Date – February 6, 2017
Cover Designed By – Mae I Design and Photography


A killer . . . that’s what I am.

It’s what I do.

It’s what I live for.

I’m no longer the Preston Hale everyone knew. I left that life and the people in it a long time ago the second I made my first kill. I wasn’t going to give in, but when I heard the screams there was no going back.

It triggered the pain, the need.

I knew what I had to do, and I did it well. But I never expected for Emma Turner – the only link to my past – to come back into my life.

She triggers a different emotion inside me, something I hadn’t ever felt.

It’s not a want to kill . . . but a need to CLAIM.

“From the first page to the last, this book had me holding my breath. Fast-paced, sexy, and addicting, Trigger is bound to be one of my top reads all year.” ~ New York Times Bestselling Author, Emily Goodwin


“Exhilarating and pulse-pounding. Trigger is a non-stop roller coaster ride from beginning to end.” ~ Author of the Light in the Dark Series, Micalea Smeltzer

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author L. P. Dover is a southern belle living in North Carolina with her husband and two beautiful girls. Before she began her literary journey she worked in periodontics, enjoying the wonderment of dental surgeries.


She loves to write, but she also loves to play tennis, go on mountain hikes and white water rafting, and has a passion for singing. Her two youngest fans expect a concert each and every night before bedtime, usually Christmas carols.

Dover has written countless novels, including her Forever Fae series, the Second Chances series, the Gloves Off series, the Armed & Dangerous series, the Royal Shifters series, and her standalone novel Love, Lies, and Deception. Her favorite genre to read and write is romantic suspense, but if she got to choose a setting in which to live, it would be with her faeries in the Land of the Fae.


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Review: How to Date a Douchebag: The Failing Hours by Sara Ney

Title: How To Date A Douchebag: The Failing Hours
Author: Sara Ney
Genre: New Adult, Sports Romance, College Romance

Release Date: January 31, 2017


Zeke Daniels isn’t just a douchebag; he’s an asshole. 

A total and complete jerk, Zeke keeps people at a distance. He has no interest in relationships—most assholes don’t. 

Dating? Being part of a couple? Nope. Not for him.
He’s never given any thought to what he wants in a girlfriend, because he’s never had any intention of having one. 

Shit, he barely has a relationship with his family, and they’re related; his own friends don’t even like him. 
So why does he keep thinking about Violet DeLuca? 
Sweet, quiet Violet—his opposite in every sense of the word.

The light to his dark, even her damn name sounds like rays of sunshine and happiness and shit.

And that pisses him off, too.

Best Read of 2017! A one click must for any lover of hot, sexy romance done RIGHT ! [This] story is the quintessential slow burn effect…Zeke will come to own your body and soul–I am OBSESSED with this series and The Failing Hours has just shot to my ‘Best of All Time’ list. Be prepared to fall in love with a douche bag and the woman who sets him straight. ” – Books and Boys Book Blog
“That was EVERYTHING I expected, wanted, dreamed of. . . this is a MUST FREAKING READ. UNFORGETTABLE goodness. NA romance at it’s best.”  – Angie’s Dreamy Reads
“Sara Ney has delivered a sexy, jerkwad douchebag with soul-deep feelings and the sweet, kind, unassuming girl to reach his hidden heart in one of the best NA romantic comedies I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Ney’s impeccable writing, fresh characters, and feel-good story will stick with you forever.” – Bestselling Author Staci Hart
“I took so much pleasure in Zeke’s looming destruction (insert evil laugh)….” – The Reading Belles

The clock on the wall counts the seconds, steady as the rhythm of my beating heart, which thumps wildly within my chest until the glass door to the library opens, propelled by a gust of wind.


Some new fallen leaves flutter in, the heavy doors slamming from the draft.


Along with them? Zeke Daniels.


He shuffles in, dark gray sweatpants hanging low on his hips, black Iowa Wrestling hoodie pulled up over his head, the university’s bright yellow mascot screen-printed across the chest. Backpack slung over one shoulder, black athletic flip-flops, and a pair of black sunglasses perched on the bridge of his strong nose complete the overall ensemble.

He is utterly…ridiculous. 


Unapproachable. 


Daunting.


His arrogance knows no bounds; I can see it in his loose gait, the exaggerated swagger, and the too-casual way he’s dragging his flip-flops across the cold, marble tile floor. It’s noisy, irritating, and completely uncalled for. 


In the moment, my mind drifts to his personal life, and I theorize that he listens to heavy metal music to sooth his foul temperament, drinks his coffee black—as black as his soul—and his liquor straight up. I imagine once he’s had sex with someone, they’re never invited back. I go one step further and theorize that they’re never invited to spend the night at his place, either.


Zeke Daniels makes his way to a table at the far end of the room, near the periodicals, one out of the way with plenty of privacy.


Sets his bag down in one of the four wooden chairs. Flicks on the small study lamp. Plugs his laptop cord into the base and stands. 


Turns.


Our eyes would have met then were it not for those ludicrous sunglasses. I choose the exact moment he lifts his gaze to look down at the ground. Busy myself with shuffling papers on the counter. Count to ten instead of chanting, Please don’t come over, please don’t come over, please don’t come over…


But luck isn’t on my side because he most decidedly does. 


Makes his way over like a predator at a pace so deliberate, I’m convinced he’s doing it on purpose. As if he suspects I’m watching from under my long lashes, dreading his imminent arrival.


He basks in my discomfort.


The distance between us closes, his strides purposeful.


Twenty feet.


Fifteen.


Ten.


Eight.


Three.


His large hand reaches up, pushing down the hood of his sweatshirt, his fingertips pinching the earpiece of his sunglasses and pulling them off his face. My eyes follow the movements as he folds them closed, hanging them on the neckline of his hoodie. 


His gaze lingers—those clear gray eyes famous around campus—and finds the shiny silver bellhop bell perched on the counter with the sign next to it that reads, Ring for help.


Ding. 


The tip of his forefinger presses down on the small bell.


Ding.


He hits it again, despite me standing not three feet in front of him.


What an ass.

Review:

I looooved this book! I cracked up from the first page, especially since the quotes heading each chapter were real. Zeke, the hero, if you call an always angry douchebag a hero, was fantastic. Too handsome, too shallow, and he hated people-all people. Zeke loved to bet but always lost. Absolutely nothing redeemable about him. The girls on campus loved to hate him. Hit it and quit it could be Zeke’s motto. His coach had enough. He forced Zeke to be a big brother. Coach wanted that chip on his shoulder gone. He figured on showing Zeke he didn’t have it so bad.

Violet was shy, quiet and stuttered when she talked.  She had to tutor Zeke. She lied to get out of tutoring him but he returned. Zeke scared the shit out of her! But if she wanted to keep her job, she had to do it. Violet just knew Zeke would embarrass her. Violet was right, he did. So how did he manage to captivate her?

Violet had no boobs and she looked ready to blow away. She always a damned do gooder. She loved kids, kept her nose clean, Zeke could go on and on. So why did she fascinate him?

Seeing Zeke with his little, seeing the gambling for what it was, seeing the pain in his eyes, Violet took a chance on opening her heart. But really, once an asshole, ALWAYS an asshole!

Hilarious and tender, watching Zeke attempt to grow had me howling with laughter. I even managed to get a little teary eyed. (I couldn’t help it, he was such an ass to Violet!) Definitely worth the time to read.

Then I find out it is the second in a series. Sniff. Now I HAVE to get the first one. So don’t miss this!

Purveyor of all things witty & romantic, I love: iced latte’s, traveling, and bright, bold colors. On any given day, you can find me in my office, lovingly gazing at my bookshelf or shuffling my Bic felt-tip pen collection. I love hand writing letters, and sarcasm. 


I live in the midwest, but “Will Write for Travel,” and believe everyone should follow their dreams, no matter how big or small. My favorite authors include Cindy Miles, S Walden, Suzanne Enoch, Tessa Dare (to name a few). I am a glutton for Historical, RomCom, Sports and MC romance.


One husband. Two daughters. Plenty of chaos.

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It Started with a Kiss

  Title: It Started with a Kiss
By: Melanie Moreland
Publication Date: January 23, 2017
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Cover Designer: Monark Designs
#itstartedwithakissblitz

It started with a kiss.
Then it became so much more.
Love at first sight.
Avery Connor doesn’t believe in it.
But what about love at first kiss?
A favor for a friend. Kiss a stranger and walk away.
But what if that favor, and that stranger, prove to be the turning point of her life?
What if that kiss leads to something more?
Dr. Daniel Stewart is certain it will.
He is determined to make her see him. To feel what he feels.
To have the effects of that kiss last forever.

A story about taking a chance, opening your heart to the moment, and falling in love.

AMAZON UK – https://goo.gl/bDybLH
AMAZON CA – https://goo.gl/kn9e62

New York Times/USA Today bestselling author Melanie Moreland, lives a happy and content life in a quiet area of Ontario with her beloved husband of twenty-seven-plus years and their rescue cat Amber. Nothing means more to her than her friends and family, and she cherishes every moment spent with them.

While seriously addicted to coffee, and highly challenged with all things computer-related and technical, she relishes baking, cooking, and trying new recipes for people to sample. She loves to throw dinner parties, and also enjoys travelling, here and abroad, but finds coming home is always the best part of any trip.

Melanie delights in a good romance story with some bumps along the way, but is a true believer in happily ever after. When her head isn’t buried in a book, it is bent over a keyboard, furiously typing away as her characters dictate their creative storylines to her, often with a large glass of wine keeping her company.

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Wake Up Call

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Book Title: Wake-Up Call
Author: Amy Avanzino
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

Goodreads

book blurb

Sarah Winslow wakes up with a terrible hangover…and a kid in her boyfriend’s bed. She makes the horrifying discovery that, due to a head injury, it’s not a hangover. She’s got memory loss. Overnight, five years have disappeared, and she’s no longer the hard-living, fast-track, ad executive party girl she thinks she is. Now, she’s the unemployed, pudgy, married, stay-at-home-mom of three kids under five, including twins.

As she slowly pieces together the mystery of how her dreams and aspirations could have disintegrated so completely in five short years, she finds herself utterly failing to manage this life she can’t imagine choosing. When Sarah meets the man of her dreams, she realizes she’s got to make a choice: Does she follow her bliss and “do-over” her life? Or does the Sarah she’s forgotten hold the answers to how she got here…and how she can stay?

excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

The moment I wake up I know I’m in trouble. I try and caution a peek at my surroundings but I can’t get my eyes to focus. I feel nauseous. I finally manage to make out an image of a massive lump beneath the covers beside me. It rises and falls with alternate motion in rhythm to a rumbling snore, which only intensifies the loud thumping in my head. I soon realize, with a sinking heart, that the man in bed with me is too large and unruly to be my boyfriend.

What have I done?

I become lightheaded with the thought of myself as a cheater. My stomach turns and I think I’m going to be sick. I take in a few short breaths and try and collect my thoughts. What happened to me? How did I get here? Why would I do this when I have a man with defined abs and the sex drive of a man at sea?

I must have had too much to drink last night because my memory is so fuzzy. I can’t seem to remember anything.

It doesn’t matter. Kofi will never forgive me and I couldn’t ask him to. My eyes well up and my chest feels clinched while thinking about all the things I’m going to miss about him. The way he looks at me when I enter a room. His ambition and how he inspires me to work harder and be a better person. He has this sarcastic sense of humor, I often don’t understand, but he accompanies it with a laugh that’s quiet and contagious, like a yawn. I miss him already.

I need to get out of here. I want to get up but my head is too heavy to lift and moving makes my head pound harder. I have a charley horse in my neck and a shooting pain in my eye. This is the worst hangover ever.

I mine for deeper reserves of strength and roll myself off the bed and hit the floor with a thud. Through scrunched up eyelids I look around for my belongings but I can’t seem to find any of my things. Where’s my bag, my shoes, my clothes?

A twinge of guilt trickles down my spine as I borrow a shapeless shirt and sweat pants from the floor. I pause for the poor girl who owns these garments. Not only did I sleep with her big fat man last night, but worse, her personal taste is appalling. She has enigmatic style and is awfully un-savvy. Because her clothes identify her as a husky woman, I best move fast before she returns. I’m quite certain she can kick my skinny ass. Although my Tae Bo keeps me perfectly toned, I fear the heavily practiced jabs, punches and sidekicks have little street use.

I look for the emergency exit and can’t help but take in this distasteful environment. I’m surrounded by a terribly decorated room with cheap imitation Anne Geddes baby photos and mismatched furniture. I’ve seen garage sales with better interior design elements.

I creep to the door and twist my ankle on an oversized Lego. I tumble to my knees and mime a silent scream. Now eye level to the carpet, I’m better able to survey the final course of my escape route. I stay low and slither across the floor, appreciating the breathable fabric and freedom of movement of the clothes on loan.

Once I make it past the threshold of the bedroom, I’m faced with a mine field of toys planted in the hallway, obstructing my passage to the outside world. I trip over a stuffed dinosaur and he screams and then there’s silence…the snoring has ceased. As this could further complicate my departure, I begin my high-speed pursuit towards the front door forgoing all thought of injuries and hangover.

“Sarah?” says a recognizable voice.

I cock my ear at the door. “Kofi?”

“Where you going babe?”

I weave my way back through the house to my boyfriend.

“Where are we?” I breathe a heavy sigh when my eyes meet his.

Kofi has intense smoldering charcoal eyes and behind them there is a light that sparkles whenever he is excited. He’s got impeccable lustrous ebony skin, exotic full kissable lips, and high cheekbones – a fascinating combination resulting from his African American-Cherokee heritage. When standing he is nearly six-feet-tall, with a v-shaped torso and he oozes with unadulterated, uncontrived maleness. But in spite of his appearance, he has this cool confidence that’s devoid of arrogance. In fact he is so smooth that the Isaac Hayes’ theme song for Shaft plays in my mind whenever I watch him from across a room.

My heart is dancing inside my chest, thrilled I haven’t ruined the opportunity to see where this relationship will go. I want to leap into bed with him, pin him down, and smother him with kisses, but I’m still feeling off balance. Instead I rest my shoulder against the door frame for support.

Kofi, moving sluggishly, sits up. I watch him closely and notice I can’t hear the music playing in my head, instead I hear my brain beating against my skull. My eyes still zooming in and out of focus. “Where are your braids?”

Kofi jerks his head up. “What do you mean?” and talks in a loud whisper.

Kofi once described his hair as an expression of originality but it is now something approaching respectability and uniformity. “You look like a Marine and yesterday you looked like K-Fed.”

After a pause, he says, “huh?” sounding perplexed.

“You know K-Fed, a.k.a Kevin Federline, a.k.a Mr. Britney Spears,” and if he didn’t get those references I add, “a.k.a the next Eminem.”

Kofi looks at me with an expression curiously akin to confusion.

“Why did you shave off the cornrows? A buzz makes you look so…” I trail off, unable to think of a single word other than fat. Then old comes to mind. I finally arrive at “different. You look so different,” I say, wincing on his behalf.

Before Kofi can answer, the covers start rustling and out pops a child rubbing his eyes.

“What is that?” I scream and point at the boy. “Why? Why?” is all I am able to say.

“He had a nightmare.” Kofi exaggerates a long drawn out yawn and stretches out his lengthy arms.

“Huh? What?”

“Mama, what’s wrong?” says the boy in the bed in a tiny, weary voice.

“Kid I’m not your mom,” I say, followed by an uncomfortable chuckle. I share a look with Kofi and gesture towards the door. “I’m going home.”

“Very funny Sarah, but I don’t have time for this.” Kofi digs into the corner of his eyes with his fingers. “I have to be at work, I’m in trouble enough as it is.”

The boy turns to Kofi and asks, “Daddy, why’s mama acting weird?”

“Daddy? Daddy! You have a kid? Shit Kofi, you never told me you have a kid.” I study the child closely, there’s no denying the resemblance. He’s but a miniature clone of Kofi, with lighter skin and one third his stature and both are sitting cross-legged, with heads tilted slightly to the left, the same single eye brow raised, and both now pouting petulantly.

I retreat into the hallway and try and slow down my thoughts that are running circles through my mind. Where am I? How did I get here? Why does this kid think I’m his mom? And why is Kofi looking at me as if I’m crazy?

“What’s shit?” the child asks.

“Oh sorry kid, I mean…” I search for a more child-friendly vocabulary and come up with nothing. I just look at the boy blankly as he looks back with wide saucer eyes. The silence stretches too long and my nerves burst with a bang. “Shit,” I repeat -I can’t help myself.

Kofi’s expression goes instantly very angry. “Sarah, what the heck is wrong with you?” he grumbles.

“Me? What the heck is wrong with you? I didn’t know you had a kid. You somehow breezed over that topic in the six months we’ve been together.” The last thing I want to be is some poor, confused kid’s step-mom. “I didn’t sign on for this! Where’s my stuff?” I stalk back and forth like a caged animal searching for an escape route. “I want to get out of here.”

“Okay. Ha-ha, you’re funny. I never told you I have a kid.” Kofi and the child exchange puzzled looks.

“Whatever. Let’s talk about this later. I can’t deal with it now. God, my head is killing me,” I tell him. “I have the worst hangover and I think I’m going to throw up.”

“Hangover?” Kofi draws back sharply. “Babe,” he squints his eyes slightly as he surveys me, “maybe you should get back into bed?”

“With the young boy…that’s illegal,” I say, avoiding eye contact with the child. “Can you just take me home?”

“Sarah,” Kofi says in a slow, clear, soothing way; a tone I imagine a pre-school teacher would use or maybe a psychotherapist. “Are you okay?”

“What do you think? I just found out my boyfriend has a kid. I’m in some dreadful house and God only knows where the Excedrin is. I’m probably wearing your baby’s mama’s clothes.” I breathe in deeply, the smell is repugnant and triggers my gag reflex.

Kofi gets out of the bed and approaches me slowly. He’s wearing boxers and T-shirt advertising Jones BBQ. I scrutinize his appearance for a moment and perceive a change, but my eyes feel like they’re burning behind my head. I squeeze them shut.

“Actually, don’t even bother getting up Kofi. I’ll bus back to my apartment.”

Kofi walks toward me looking troubled. “Oh babe,” he nervously shifts his eyes and says, “Babe, can you…can you…” then he stops, looks at his…son, raises his voice an octave. “Sweetness, why don’t you go use the potty and give us a minute.”

The boy jumps several times across the bed, as though on a trampoline and then darts out of the room.

Kofi turns back to me and his stutter returns. He finally manages to spit out, “Can you tell me what you did yesterday?”

The only thing I know for sure is how brutal this headache is and it seems to be crippling my thoughts.

I attempt to reconstruct the events of last night’s drunken debauchery. I try to concentrate as hard as I can. Desperately searching for the memory, much like trying to remember a dream the morning after. “I…um…oh yeah, I interviewed for that promotion I’ve been talking about for weeks, which went really well by the way. I’m pretty sure I got it.” I stop, think harder. “And then I met up with the girls for happy hour, like every other Friday for the past three years.”

Kofi’s mouth falls open.

I think back on the night, but nothing jumps out as odd: the drinks went down in the usual way. My girlfriends and I covered the typical topics: men, fashion, office gossip and celebrity current events. When the spirits took over us, we took over the dance floor. I remember Jo-Jo dancing to a seven count rather than the conventional eight and Piper’s good judgment was lost somewhere between the funky chicken and the robot. Celia was jiving and using her hand as a microphone, lip-syncing with the house band. It appears in my recall, however, that I was an expert dancer.

I shrug my shoulders. “I must’ve blacked out after that because I don’t remember coming here.”

Kofi stares at me hard. “Babe, are you serious?”

“Yelling isn’t helping Kofi.”

“I’m not yelling,” Kofi says and looks me firmly in the eyes. “I think…we have a problem. Nico told me you fell when riding his skateboard yesterday and you hit your head, maybe you…” his voice trails off.

Instinctually, I put my hand up to my head and I cringe at the touch. “Ow!” I call out. There’s a bump the size of a golf ball. It feels sore and tender and its throbbing like it has its own heart beat.

“Nico? You mean grandpa? He just got a hip replacement…he can’t even Bocce Ball anymore.”

“You haven’t been to a happy hour in, well, forever.” Kofi speaks slowly and maybe even a little sadly. “Last night we watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on DVD and we were in bed by 9:00.”

“Wait a minute…this is a prank.” This must be another one of Kofi’s jokes, although I’m not really sure how it’s funny. “You totally had me going for a second. Bravo.” I applaud his originality, creating his own Harry Potter title, Deathly Hallows, that’s detailed. “Where’d you get the kid? He’s a good little actor…did you rent him? Did you drug me to get me here? That’s a little bit excessive, but man, you really got me. I almost believed you.”

I wait for him to break into laughter and then deliver some punch-line, but instead he holds a poker face for an unbearably long time.

Kofi rubs his forehead as though trying to gather his thoughts. “I’m going to call the doctor Sarah,” he says and before I can respond, the kid has returned from the bathroom. Kofi bends down to meet him. “Stay with her. I’ll be right back.”

Kofi grabs a navy fuzzy robe from the back of the bathroom door, leaving its matching baby blue one behind. He slips into a pair of house shoes from the foot of the bed then hustles out of the room, leaving the child and me behind.

I flash the youngster a nervous semi-smile. He’s an attractive kid. He has large, soft, dark chocolate eyes, shapely nose, perfect lips, charming grin and a skin tone I’d risk skin cancer for. He has wild, brownish hair that’s styled in a three-inch, loose-curl afro. He’s smallish, as a child should be I suppose, but he has the build of a bulldog; broad shouldered and solid frame. He looks like my sister’s kid, but I guess all kids look alike.

I open dialogue hesitantly with, “Hi”. He begins to speak a dialect unfamiliar to me. And wow, does he speak: he goes on and on and I haven’t a clue what he’s talking about. He’s using up all the oxygen in the room, and I feel like I’m suffocating. I begin side stepping my way to the door. I’m hoping he won’t notice if I duck out, but he watches me like a hawk. I try zigzagging and weaving, but he won’t get off my tail. It’s like being chased by a mugger in a dark alley.

Kofi, still on the phone, is pacing back and forth, in and out of the kitchen. He yells into the receiver, “Yes, I understand we don’t have an appointment…No, we don’t want to see another doctor…I don’t care that he’s not on-call, this is an emergency….If you can’t make this happen, put someone on the phone who can.”

When I look down at the kid, he’s still talking. I try to politely excuse myself. “Kid,” I say, “I don’t know what a wocketchip is, and I need to go tinkle…okay?”

“Okay. A wocketchip is…” and he continues talking, unbothered by my lack of interest. Thank God my ears are ringing to drown out some of his noise. He follows me right into the bathroom, stubbornly determined to invade my personal boundaries.

Then Kofi storms into the bathroom- even though, and I can’t stress this enough, I told him I was busy inside. “Blue’s Clues is on,” Kofi says and without another word, the young boy whirls out of the room, not unlike a miniature tornado.

Kofi approaches me slowly. He kisses me gently on the cheek, despite the fact he hasn’t brushed and his scent is musty.

“The doctor wants us to come in right away. He’s worried you may have a concussion or something.”

“Don’t be silly. I don’t need a doctor. What I need is a Bloody Mary. Will you make me one?”

“Um,” Kofi utters, fumbling for the words. He slowly lifts his eyes to meet mine. He looks weird. I squint at him and study him. I notice the deep set lines. His hair is cropped short, peppered gray amongst the jet blackness of the rest of it. His stomach is…round.

I wonder if I’m dreaming. Am I still drunk?

“Maybe you should sit down.”

“What’s going on Kofi?”

“Well, I’m not sure how to start actually.” He takes a deep breath and composes himself. “You know that interview you were talking about?”

I nod firmly.

“That was at least five years ago.” He pauses to let it sink in.

I look up briefly and rub my eyes. What did he just say? There is no way he just said that was five yearsago.

He adds in a no-nonsense tone. “Nico’s our son.”

“What?! You’re trying to tell me that I’m a…a…” I can’t even say it. I notice my knees shaking ever so slightly. Kofi tries to slide his arm through mine but I pull away.

“Yes, you’re a mom and we’re married and this is our home.”

I feel hot on the inside, and itchy, and a little bit queasy. I try and speak but the lump in my throat won’t budge. I need a few moments to take all this in. I take a few steps back and lean against the wall and start looking around the room at the graffiti walls, the laminate flooring, the dirty counter tops and then begin to panic.

“You don’t work in advertising anymore,” Kofi continues, “you work full time at home, you’re a stay-at-home-mom.”

I freeze. Time seems to slow down to a crawl. Is this what the deer-in-headlights, who we hear so much about, experience right before the 18 wheeler smacks it head-on?

“You’re not kidding?” I ask nervously.

Kofi fixes his eyes to mine and shakes his head very slowly. He puts my hand inside of his and says, “It’s going to be okay.”

I can’t believe this is happening. I was finally moving up the ladder. When I began my career in advertising my 5×5 cubicle was blocking the elevator and in four short years I’d moved to three cubes away from the office that had a window. I was so close. I could finally see success. All that shit work I put into advancing my career. The late nights, working weekends, the years of school, was for nothing. This is just my luck.

“So I’m not twenty-eight anymore?”

“You’re thirty-three.”

I react to the news physically, with a flinch. Thirty-three is practically mid-thirties, that’s almost forty, which means…I’m old. Oh God, no!

“Oh, and your grandpa’s dead too; sorry,” Kofi adds, cautiously awaiting my next move. He’s following me closely with his eyes as I shift my weight, so that I can peer into the mirror behind him.

I look at the stranger in the reflection and I don’t know who I see, but she looks as surprised to see me as I am too see her. I spin around a little, slowly, and she does the same. I approach the mirror and with every step the reflection gets bigger and bigger and fatter. My voice is shaking now. “What’s going on? What…what…. happened to me?”

Kofi explains again more slowly and enunciating his words judiciously. “I don’t know exactly, I was at work, but according to Nico you were attempting an ollie off his skateboard and you fell back and hit your head on the curb. You weren’t wearing a helmet, but I thought you were okay…there was no blood and last night you seemed fine….maybe a little shaken up…maybe a little tired, but you’re pretty much always tired, so…” The color from his face begins to fade as the memory cascades over him. “Oh God, now that I think about it, you were acting strange. You put Nico’s Transformer back-pack on and said you were going to school. I thought you were just fooling around…it was really funny.” He puts both hands up to his head. “Jesus, I laughed.” His expression looks about to crumple. “I’m so sorry Sarah, I feel terrible…” his voice trails off.

Truthfully I’m not really listening. I’m still staring at myself in the mirror, while my fingers trace the fine lines that crowd my mouth. “No. No. Why do I look like this?” My eyes have sunken; my roots now freckled with gray and at least an inch thick above the rest of my wild ash-blond mane. How could so much damage happen in five years? I’ve aged at least a decade. “You’re right I should probably sit down. I’m so pale. I look faint.”

“Actually, you look…normal.”

I feel tears build behind my eyes. I start blinking hard, refusing to cry, refusing to believe that this is actually happening.

“I have the arms of a linebacker, my thighs are fuller and my boobs,” I say, grabbing my breasts and lifting them up and down, like I’m doing arm curls with them. “They’d definitely fail the Pencil Test.”

“Pencil Test?”

“The Pencil Test. If you can tuck a pencil under your breasts, they’re saggy. If you can tuck the entire back-to-school supply box under them, you have mine!”

He scratches his head. “I love your shape,” he says, thankfully convincingly.

“Then you must like circles!” My cheeks feel swollen, my legs feel like jelly and I’m feeling myself wobbling on the edge of hysteria. “What’s happened to me? This makes no sense. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!”

“Relax,” he advises. “We’ll get this all straightened out at the doctor. It will be okay. Everything is going to be okay,” he says almost to himself.

I inhale deeply through my nose, then open my lips and make an om sound as I exhale, trying to find my center.

“Right now you just need to get dressed so we aren’t late for our appointment.”

“Are you out of your mind?” I say, unnerved. “There’s no way I’m leaving this house looking like this. I haven’t even showered.”

Kofi blinks, taken aback. “That’s crazy talk. This is really serious.”

“Well so is hygiene,” I point out.

“Please,” Kofi struggles to keep his voice calm, “let’s just go and you can take a bath when we get home.”

“Ew, I am not leaving this house without a shower.” I put my unpedicured foot down.

“Fine, I need to make a few phone calls anyway.” Kofi throws up his arms. “But hurry.”

When Kofi leaves, I take off my clothes and against my better judgment I take a look. It’s worse than I’d expected. My stomach looks like a walnut shell. I have a muffin top without pants on and even my hair looks fat. I’m dumbfounded. I always valued beauty and grooming. I love working out and being unemployed, I imagine that I have time in spades to do so. What else do I have to do, for Christ sakes?

I stand in the shower and let the water pour down my face, as I try to piece together the mystery of how my dreams and aspirations could have disintegrated so completely. But my eyelids are feeling heavy again. My head’s spinning and banging, like having shoes in the dryer. I can’t think.

“You okay babe?” Kofi watches me through the clear shower door, which is just another design flaw of this house.

“I’m fine.” This is a lie. I’m freaking out.

“You need to speed things up. Our appointment’s at 8:00 and it’s almost 7:00.”

I sputter through the water, annoyed, “I only have an hour to get ready?”

“No, we have to be there in an hour. So you have about fifteen minutes,” he yells over the shower stream.

“Sorry, no can do. I’m in need of a deep conditioning. And I mean deep.” I’m hoping against all hope that that’s all it takes to get me back to some semblance of normalcy. “We’ll just taxi.”

“Actually, we have to drive. We live in the foothills, about twenty miles east of Seattle.” I mentally zoom in on the word “foothills”. What he really means is, we live in a damned suburb.

I lean my head into the water stream that won’t get hotter than warm and look down for my hair products and only see one bottle, Pert Plus 2 in 1, shampoo and conditioner. So this is what it’s come to. I lather and spread the soap. My skin moves with the wash cloth. I have an eight inch scar beneath my belly and below that I’ve gone savage.

By the time Kofi returns, again he enters without knocking or announcing himself. I’m perched on top of the bathroom counter doing extensive damage control: the makeup bag that I managed to dig out from underneath the sink has vomited its contents all over the place. I apply a generous amount of make-up and pull my hair back in a perfectly parted, elegant twist, at the nape of my neck. Although it makes me look like a pudgy ballerina, it’s better than a disheveled housewife.

Kofi grabs a shirt and pants from the top of one of the clothes piles, sniffs them, and then puts them on. He pats his pockets and discovers his phone and wallet. His eyes grow bigger when he notices me. “You’re not even dressed yet?” He begins to pace about the way he does when he’s nervous. “Your friend’s coming over and she’ll be here any minute. You should be ready by now.”

“Who’s coming Piper or Jo-Jo? I know you wouldn’t call Celia. I couldn’t handle her honesty right now anyway.”

“I called Elaine. She’s very concerned about you and is on her way over.”

“Who?”

“Our neighbor.” He slips his feet in his shoes without unlacing them. “You don’t really talk to those other girls much anymore.”

“It’s because we don’t get reception in the burbs, isn’t it?” Something squeezes hard in my chest. “Oh God, you moved me to a place that’s out of network.”

“Babe, I know this is a lot to take in, but maybe we can get more answers from the doctor.”

The doorbell rings.

“Let’s go,” Kofi says, “I know Elaine really wants to see you. She’s really worried about you.”

“Send her away,” I say, trying to summon some composure. “I’m not ready to meet anyone right now.”

“You’re not meeting, you’re great friends.” He rubs his face hopelessly then says, “That’s right, you don’t know that because you don’t remember. Well,” he speaks quickly, “she offered to babysit while we’re at the doctor, so she’s staying. I’ll just ask her to stay with Nico in the kitchen while we sneak out.” Kofi moves across the room at a pace four times that of mine. “Can you please hurry up and get dressed?”

I roll my eyes to mean, whatever, and he leaves with a loud sigh.

The sounds of Kofi and a chirpy, disembodied voice head down the hall toward the kitchen.

Now according to my lingerie drawer, I’ve given up on sexy. All undergarments are functional and supportive, meant to stay concealed and not revealed. My panties are white and made of cotton and –oh God!- they’re tall. Why, why? My brassieres are built with technological and scientific sophistication. They cover my entire chest, with three inch straps and needing a five clasp panel system in the rear. I then origami my breasts to get them in my bra.

Everything in “my” closet is casual, conservative and machine washable. I’m completely underwhelmed by my options and trying to put something acceptable together with what I have is like my own Project Runway challenge. I pick out a shirt that has a pattern that gives me vertigo and hope since it’s been at least five years that poly-cotton blends are just a bad trend like the visible g-string or holey jeans. I reluctantly pull on a pair of high waist jeans. I lace up my shoes and then admire the finished product. I do my signature runway walk to a half length mirror and hit my pose, but instead of looking fierce, I look healthy, plump, and jolly.

Kofi puts his head in around the door. Can’t he knock?

“Ready?” he asks, looking at the woman in the mirror, who vaguely resembles the woman he dated five years ago. “Babe, you know we’re just going to the hospital right?”

“What do you mean?”

“You look…” he stops, then starts again, “glamorous…like you’re getting ready for the theater and not a doctor’s appointment.”

I give a few twirls and wonder what Kofi’s complimenting. I have always appreciated his trustworthiness and candor, but my suspicions are now raised to his sincerity.

Kofi grabs my arm. “Come on. We have to get out of here before Nico catches wind that we’re leaving.” I hear urgency in his voice. “Let’s go quietly. And don’t step there,” he points to a spot on the floor. “That board’s loose.” Kofi moves like a ninja but I walk with a heavy foot on a rubber sole. “Shhh, tiptoe,” but it’s too late.

I hear the frantic pitter patter of running feet before an advancing blur attacks me from down below. The next thing I know the little boy, “Nico” I presume. He has his legs wrapped, then locked, around my midsection. He’s squeezing the breath out of me and I’m unable to withstand the weight of his forty plus pound frame. I begin to crumble, hitting the floor. My foundation is smudged almost instantly and my hair comes undone.

“Help me,” I say with my last breath, “I think he’s trying to kill me.”

Nearly blacking out but revived by his high pitched piercing scream, “Don’t go!” The kid is covered in tears and getting slobber on my hair and neck. Then he plants his face into my shirt and wipes it across the front, leaving a snot streak. I’m appalled that I was just used as a tissue. “Mama, don’t leave!”

I don’t know who this mama person is, but I run for the exit. I reach for the door handle, that much closer to freedom, when I hear something, like an echo. It’s coming from the back of the house, and the sound is suspiciously familiar.

“What’s that noise?” I gasp. “Oh no. Do I also have a baby?”

“No,” Kofi replies, frantically pushing me towards the door.

“Oh, thank God. I just couldn’t handle that right now.” I’ve got one foot out the door. I can almost taste the escape.

“We have two.”

praise

“Funny yet tender…witty and charming…a reminder of the things that really matter in life.” – Jackie Bouchard, USA Today Bestselling Author of What the Dog Ate

“A sparkling debut novel brimming with heart and hilarity.” – Karin Gillespie, National Bestselling Author of Girl Meet Class

“With a marvelously snarky, sarcastic wit and a formidably flawed heroine, Wake-Up Call is frequently laugh-out-loud—and hard to put down.” – Phoebe Fox, Author of The Breakup Doctor Series and Huffington Post Contributor

“I laughed through every page…I never wanted to put it down…hilarious.” – Holly Rust, Co-Founder of Mother’s Guide to Sanity and Contributing Author of It’s Really 10 Months: Special Delivery

One of the best I have read this year… a great read especially if you are feeling the strain of raising small children and you are dreaming about the greener grass in someone else’s yard.” – A Novel Mama

“A sarcastic, snarky, funny look at life and all the things we never knew we really wanted.” – The Books Lover’s Best Friend

“Hilariously funny…endearing and heartfelt.” – Library Thing

“Thought-provoking…relatable…loved.” – Tara Wilson, Co-Author of Martinis & Motherhood: Tales of Wonder, Woe & WTF?!

“A lighthearted read, with lots of love, hilarity, some sexiness and definitely a good time.” – Comfy Reading

“Fresh, funny, and compulsively readable. I loved it!”– Kati Merritt Radziwon, Founder of OneMomADay.com

“I love everything about Avanzino’s writing; it’s witty, true and extremely smart. She is awesome at creating hilarious dialogue and her characterization is also spot on. I love how she has taken a run-of-the-mill suburban street and plucked so many fascinating stories from amongst its residents” –Bookaholic Confessions

“Amy Avanzino has quickly developed a reputation for writing realistic characters and situations that truly touch the heart and inspire.” –BestChickLit.com

meet the author

Amy Avanzino received a Bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a Master’s from the University of Washington. She is a former special education teacher who has spent the last several years writing and doing extensive hands-on research for her Wake-Up Series, the first of which is Wake-Up Call. She’s a contributing writer of Hap Scotch, a play performed at the 2008 Frigid Festival in New York, which won two Audience Choice Awards. Amy currently lives in the stands above the football fields, basketball courts, and baseball diamonds around Folsom, California with her husband and four children.

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Chapter Reveal ~ Enzo by Shyla Colt

Title: Enzo
Series: Jinx Tattoos Book 1
Author: Shyla Colt
Genre: Contemporary Romance
–LIMITED TIME SALE ONLY $0.99–

“WOW! I absolutely LOVED this heart wrenching story.” ~The Power of Three Readers


“5 jinxed stars!! Beautiful, gut wrenching and hot!” ~B1tches N Books


Neglected, abandoned by a heroin-addicted mother, and placed in foster care at ten, Enzo Jordan has learned one thing…love hurts. At thirty-five, he has a successful tattoo shop and his choice of women. The one-night stands are getting old, and the love he holds for his best friend, Aibhlinn is impossible to hide. When the attraction between them reaches a boiling point, he’s forced to choose between facing his fears and walking away. 
Aibhlinn Leahy has been in love with her best friend for years. The Irish-born comic book artist has poured time, energy, and love into the wounded man. His choice to walk away breaks her heart but frees her to explore a new future.
Life is a cruel and amazing thing. An abandoned baby brings the two back together, and they’re forced to examine the love that has long existed between them. This is a story of pain, scars, and fear. We all have demons to battle. The real decision is who’s in control…us or them?
*** Enzo is Book One in the Jinx Tattoos Series but is a STAND ALONE novel***

Enzo Chapter One

Enzo


The alarm mocked him as he woke to limbs tangled with his own. The blonde from the night before snuggled into his side. He ran a hand through his hair and rested his head on the pillow. Overnights weren’t his norm, but waking up alone on today of all days wasn’t an option. He had a love-hate connection with the day of his birth, and thirty-four was too old to deal with shit with liquor. So…he fucked in excess and kept his liquor consumption to a minimum instead. Normally, he would be ready to go for round three, but all he wanted was silence…some peace. He moved away from the blonde and rolled from the bed, ready to wash away the night before.

 


“Time to go home, sweetheart,” he said.

 


She stretched her arms above her head, letting her blanket fall to her lap. Her perky breasts were perfection and obviously fake.

 


Still, Enzo took a moment to appreciate her investments.

 


“You sure I can’t tempt you into breakfast?” she purred.

 


“Positive, got somewhere to be.”

 


She pouted her plump red lips.


What kind of makeup shit lasts overnight? The thought of the chemicals involved made him shudder. “As amazing as you were last night, I’ll have to pass.”

 


She huffed and tossed the blankets aside, swinging her shapely legs over the side of the bed as she stood. She was petite, tanned, toned, and plastic. It made her easy to look at, have a good time with, and say good-bye to.

 


Not that he ever felt bad. She knew what she was getting into, they all did. He made it clear he didn’t do seconds and wasn’t looking for more than a mutual exchange of pleasure. Still, some of them seemed to think they would win some magical lottery, and things would change in the morning. He’d seen Tracee around the tattoo shop a million times. She was an ink chaser.


She wanted a tattoo artist for an old man in the worst way. He made it clear she was barking up the wrong tree, but she kept coming around. He wasn’t looking to have a significant other, and her desperation to land someone who would take care of her made his skin crawl. This would kill two birds with one stone.


“You’re a real ass, Enzo, you know that?” Tracee asked as she poured her body back into her skin-tight black dress.

 


“You already knew that, though, Trace. We knew this wasn’t more than a night of fun.”


She cocked her hip and narrowed her eyes. “You sure about that, sweetheart? We had a lot of fun. Imagine that in your bed every night.”

 


“Not looking for that, Trace,” he said with a shrug.

 


“Would you say the same thing if I had my head stuck in a book and my body covered from head to toe?” Tracee scoffed.


“What the fuck did you say?” Enzo asked, stepping forward.


The color drained from her face. She snatched up her sky-high heels and fled. “Nothing, see you around,” she muttered, skittering out the door before he could respond.

 


People wondered about him and his best friend, Aibhlinn. They didn’t think a man and a woman could be friends without jumping in the bed together. His theory was the exact opposite. Sex ruined things. It broke up lifelong relationships, made people paranoid, and upset the natural order you first had before romance entered the picture. No, his spitfire Irish lass with the piercing blue-green eyes and flowing chestnut mane would remain off limits forever.

 


The very thought of her made him smile. Even on his darkest day, she never failed to bring him a little happiness. He walked to the front door of his house and locked the door behind Tracee. A quick glance at the clock told him he had about thirty minutes to get his ass into gear. He walked back over the maple hardwood floor and into the bathroom. The white on white tiles and glass shower enclosure made the room appear more open and easy to get into and out of, which made the space tolerable.


Turning on the hot water, he sank onto the bench at the far end of the massive stall and let the gathering steam clear his pores and his muddled head. Lack of sleep and beer had him feeling sluggish. After a few minutes, he rose to his feet, stepped under the spray, quickly soaped down, and rinsed off.

 


He was pulling on his plaid button up when the doorbell rang. A few moments later, the lock turned.

 


“You decent, birthday boy?” Aibhlinn called with that slight lilt he’d grown to love.

 


“Yeah, I’m coming out now,” Enzo called back. He appeared in the doorway and smiled.

 


Dressed in a pair of black skinny jeans that hugged her thick thighs, and large ass, she was mouthwatering.

 


Off limits didn’t mean he couldn’t admire her assets. An off the shoulder Pink Floyd sweater displayed tantalizing porcelain flesh. She had her hair pulled up into a messy bun that showed off her long, slender neck.

 


“You ready to go?” she asked.

 


“What? No breakfast?” he shot back.

 


She rolled her eyes. “Smart ass. We’ll be back for that later. If you don’t hurry, we’ll miss the sunrise.”

 


He nodded his head and walked toward her, wrapping an arm around her waist as they hugged. He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Thanks for coming, Ave.”

 


“Where else would I be?” she whispered.


Anywhere, with someone worthy of your time and affection. It was his deepest fear. That she would enter a romantic relationship and their friendship would go by the wayside. It was selfish wanting her to remain his number one girl…she deserved more. It worked for them now. They were both artists obsessed by the act of creating.


The years were passing swiftly, and she’d gone from unknown to sought after in her career field. First come loves, and then comes marriage. He snarled, pushing the thought of the day she, too, left him far in the background of his brain.


“Come on, I’ll drive,” she said, pulling him to the door.


He allowed her to manipulate him.


At five-foot-eleven, she still lacked the strength to move him if he resisted. Along with fucking, he liked to workout. It kept his head from getting overcrowded and allowed him a healthy way to work out his frustrations. Locking the door behind them, he followed her to the black SUV.

 


She hit the fob and unlocked the door.

 


Enzo was at the driver’s side, opening her door before she could protest. He knew how to treat a woman. He wasn’t so fucked up that he felt a sick need to use and abuse them. His mother, the angel who adopted him and straightened his ass out, would skin him alive if he ever went that route.

 


“Thanks, Enz,” she said, climbing into her seat.

He made his way to the passenger side then leaned his head back against the headrest, and zoned out as she pulled out of his driveway and headed for their destination.

 


Fog hung in the air, creating a thin layer of white. The haze turned the massive structure that was their destination into something mystical, or creepy, depending on how one looked at it. Bundled against the fall chill, they made their way from the car and into Ault Park, in the direction of the pavilion.

 


After the climb, his eyes drank in the frosted landscape. He shoved his hands in his pockets.

 


This park held good and bad memories. His birth mother brought him here many times. Originally, he thought it was because she was a good mother who loved the outdoors and knew he loved to be among the beauty the park offered. As he grew, he understood it was a public place to get her fix. No one thought twice of a man, a woman, and a child walking through the woods.

 


He would never forget the first time his brain registered the cash she gave Uncle Ian was for drugs. The tiny brown squares were heroin. They’d found her body here on his sixteenth birthday, needle still in her arm, eyes vacant, and body cold. She’d turned a day he already loathed into something even worse.

 


He inhaled, embracing the chilly air that crept down his throat and into his chest.

 


The ache meant he was alive. That he’d survived against the odds. Thinking of the days scrounging for food in garbage cans, stealing from the stores, and running drugs for dope boys to feed his starving gut…he shuddered. She’d always saved the most fucked up shit for his birthday, like an anti-birthday gift. That last day she’d left and never returned was his twelfth birthday.


He bowed his head in solemn remembrance. All the bullshit made it hard for a guy to feel joy on the day he came into the world and landed in a pile of festering shit. But that’s not where I am now. He glanced over at the woman standing beside him as the sky yielded from an inky blue to a purple, and a dusky orange. The sun’s rays turned everything golden, and for that moment in time, things were clean and new. The world was a hopeful place. The darkness was banished.

 


“Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; but only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay,” he whispered, quoting Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. There was a man who understood how to live in the moments before dawn ended. He hadn’t gotten there yet.


Ava tangled her fingers with his, and he let her. She was a blazing white light in the murkiness. His Irish angel on his shoulder, constantly encouraging him to do better, insisting he reach for his dreams, and repeatedly telling him he was worthy. She was the best present he’d ever received, on the same day his mother left this Earth. Perhaps that’s why he liked having her with him on his birthday.

 



Past


He sat in the back of the room, sketching in the expensive pad Mrs. Jordan had purchased for him as a birthday gift. As far as foster parents went, Karen and her husband Bill were one of the rare ones. Not only were they decent, they seemed to enjoy having him and the other boys there. The children who moved in and out were more than a paycheck; they were a chance to change lives. He thought it was an act at first. Now, he understood they were the genuine article. He’d been here six months, and other than bumping heads on being accountable for his whereabouts, it had been fairly smooth sailing. The high school was the same as any other, but he dug the art teacher, Ms. Leahy. The Irish woman with bright red hair, blue eyes, and a melodic accent encouraged him to hone his skills.


She said he had the potential to be a great artist. It was something he’d never really heard before. Writing and poetry were a means to escape from the shitty surroundings he often found himself trapped in. Artists and writers understood pain in the intimate way a boxing coach knew the mechanics of fighting.

 


“Hey, that’s good.”


He continued to darken the area of the crow’s wing.

 


“Hey, did you hear me?”

 


Peering up, he found himself lost in an ocean of an intense blue-green gaze. He blinked and took in the entire package.


The girl leaning over his shoulder was dressed from head to toe in a black dress with black tights and tall black boots. Her deep red lipstick stood out against her pale face and made her hair look more red than brown.

 


“You talking to me?” he asked.

 


“Yeah. I like the way you’re shading that in,” she replied, gesturing toward the paper.

 


“Uhh, thanks?”

 


She laughed. “That’s about the usual response to me.” She held out her hand. “Aibhlinn Leahy, I’m Ms. Leahy’s daughter. I just transferred to this high school.”

 


So, she didn’t know to stay away from the degenerate foster boy yet. “Enzo,” he said, quickly shaking her hand.

 


“Ahh, it’s nice to meet someone else around here with a unique name.”

 


He snorted. Heads turned to glance back at them. He scowled, and they faced forward. “Look, you’re new here, so you don’t know any better. But…I should warn you. Being seen with me will get you labeled as an outcast.”

 


“And now, you’ve intrigued me,” she said with a smile that showed the tiny dimple in her right cheek.

 


He shook his head, not willing to be the bad boy to some good girl gone wrong. “I should also mention, I don’t like people.”


“Oh, you’ll like me, I promise.” She sank onto the seat beside him and set down her pad. “You like comics?”


He blinked, trying to keep up with her crazy topic jumps. “Yeah.”

 


She opened her page. “Me too.

 


The impressive comic strip of Wolverine made him whistle. “You did this?”

 


“Yeah, need to work on my shading in certain areas. Which is why your work caught my eye.”


So, it’d been a self-serving thing. That he could understand. “Your detail is on point. I could use some pointers.”

 


“Then I’ll help you and you can help me,” she offered.

 


“Deal.”


He had no way of knowing it was the start of a lifelong relationship that would in many ways define him as a man.

 



Present


Aibhlinn

 


After they returned from Ault Park, Aibhlinn studied Enzo from beneath her lashes. He seemed more sullen this year than he had previously. “What’s wrong?” she asked, setting his bowl of steel cut oats and toast in front of him.

 


“You know I hate my birthday,” Enzo replied, and pushed the oats around with his spoon like a petulant child.


His pouty expression was adorable. She tried not to smile at the picture he presented. It was all too easy to imagine what little Enzo looked like once upon a time. “No, this feels like more than that,” she said, frowning.


He glanced up at her and sighed. “We’re getting old.”


She snorted. “Speak for yourself, grandpa. We’ve barely hit our thirties.”


“Yeah, but you know how fast time flies. We’ll blink, and it’ll be our forties.”

 


“So?” she asked, shaking her head.

 


He shrugged. “Makes a person wonder what their contribution to the world is, or why they were brought here in the first place.”


“What about Jinx Tattoos? You guys are taking names and kicking ass. You just did an interview with the local paper. That’s not something a mediocre shop does,” she said.


“Yeah, I mean, business wise I’m doing okay, just…”

 


“Ahh, so we’re talking about an ailment of a spiritual nature, then?”

 


“Ave.”

 


“What? If it’s not logical, it’s of the heart. Why do you always get antsy when I mention this?”


“Because I don’t know if I believe in this shit. I mean, what kind of God lets all this crap happen to innocent people”

 


“One who believes in free will. He allows us to do what we choose, even when it’s soul killing and bat shit crazy acts.”


“Why?”


“Because, if He didn’t, we’d be nothing more than puppets. This forces us to be accountable for our actions.”


“You believe that? After everything?” he asked.


She sighed. “After what happened to my father you mean? Yes. He made bad decisions, and it cost him his life. Catalyst being, my mother got out of there and made a better life for us.” Her heart turned to lead as she thought about her father and his obsession with purifying Ireland. They’d lost him to a bomb. He lived by the gun, and he died by it. Her mother had distanced herself from his associates and casually applied for a working visa. The rest was history.

 


“I’m sorry.” He set his spoon down and placed his hand over hers. “That was shitty of me.”


She shook her head. “No, it’s okay. You asked an honest question. I try not to think about that too much, Enzo. It’s no use rehashing a past none of us can change. If anything, I used it as a model for what not to do. We can’t control the things that happen to us. But we can decide what to do with the rest of our life afterward.”

 


“You make it sound so damn easy, Ave.”

 


“Ack, I never said that. I’m a bag full of crazy on a good day and fully aware I’m a thirty-four-year-old comic book author who has a sorely lacking social life, a D.O.A. love life, and very few friends.”


“You’re brilliant, and you know it,” Enzo countered.

 


She laughed. “To you maybe.”


“More than me. I’ve watched you work your ass off to get where you are. I remember when you were pounding the pavement submitting your resume everywhere, doing any sort of pro bono work you could to get your name out there. You worked a bevy of craptastic jobs to support yourself while you went after your dream. Now, you’re well on your way to achieving them. Own that shit.”


Heat rushed to her cheeks, and she glanced away. She would never possess his swagger. Some days her plentiful contracts felt like a streak of good luck, though she had the work history to prove it to be anything but that.

 


“One day some man is going to swoop in and whisk you away from me. Then who’ll be here to call me on my shit?”


“Your mother, and come on, you know that’s never going to happen. I’ll always have time for you.” It could be you if you’d let yourself try with me.


“Even after you get hitched and pop out a few babies?” He met her gaze, pinning her to the spot with his thoughtful expression.


Something she couldn’t name crossed his face.

 


“Well, thank you for marrying me off and knocking me up.”

 


“What? We both know you’re dying to have kids.”

 


“With the right man…someday, yes. At this point, I’ve never had a relationship make it to the one year mark. I’m a lot to handle, and it’s going to take one hell of a man to get me even half as well as you do.” She willed him to finally see what was in front of him. They were a key and lock, made to fit and always working in tandem. It was a rarity.


“We’re not getting any younger, Ave. That day is coming around the corner.”

 


Unless you step up to the plate. She glanced out the window, afraid he would see the longing in her eyes. Maybe he’s trying to tell me we are never going to happen and I need to move on without him. And my ass is too stupid to realize it. “I don’t feel the crush of age the way you do. I think it’ll happen organically. Life has a way of putting you on the right path eventually. For now, I’m in love with my life. I love my vintage two-bedroom apartment in the charming historic building. The freedom of being a freelancer, and the point I’ve reached in my career. Why borrow trouble worrying about what may or may not happen?”

 


“Just like that?” Enzo snapped.


“No, it’s a conscious choice I make daily. You know I live in my head. I’ve been in the dark before…really deep. I’m trying not to return there. I didn’t like it much the first time.”

 


Enzo nodded and shoveled a spoonful of oats into his mouth. He was a brooding thinker, her creative best friend. Most only saw the successful tattoo artist with a hot bod, and what they took for a short fuse. While he might have some anger issues about certain events, he never flew off the handle or did anything impulsive. He was a brooder. A deep thinking individual who camouflaged his sensitivity with humor, crassness, and walls.

She’d scaled them one by one over the years, but an unbreakable obstacle remained. She forced herself to eat her breakfast. Times like this, it was best to let the silence remain between them. His birthdate was always rough. She never really understood why he wanted her with him. He never went into detail, simply saying it made him feel better.


She was a sucker that way, not wanting to bring up painful memories of his past. Maybe I should practice tough love? How could she when the majority of his formative years had been hell? The things that happened to you in the first five years shaped your life forever, she knew that more than most.

 


They finished their meal, and she took the plates away, washing them by hand to give herself time to figure out how to best approach him.


“So what movie are we starting with?” she asked, wiping the kitchen island down. The horror movie marathon had grown legendary. People would show up with birthday offerings, popcorn, candy, and snacks. He celebrated the traditional way with family the day after his birthday. This day was just for them.


“The bloodier, the better,” he answered.


“Hmmm, classic or modern?”


He leaned in closer. “That depends on what you have in mind.”


“Dead Alive or Saw, the first film.”


“Hmmm. Dead Alive. I could use a bit of laughter with my gore.”


“Excellent choice. Morning margaritas?” she asked, quirking an eyebrow up.


He laughed. “Yeah right.”

 


She laughed with him and retrieved a bottle of scotch and two glass tumblers. Setting the personalized glasses onto the counter that she’d brought back from Ireland on a visit, she moved to the fridge for the ice. “You get the movie cued up, and I’ll be in a minute,” she said.

 


“On it.”

 


Aibhlinn then pulled out the plastic black ice tray and cracked the round ball of ice out of its mold. Setting one gently into a glass, she repeated the process, proud of the habits Enzo picked up from her. Her love of fine whiskey was another trait she’d inherited from her father. Back home, people took their drinks quite seriously. While her mother could drink with the best of them, she wasn’t as particular on her pick of poison.


She poured them both a healthy dollop and placed them—along with the bottle—onto a chocolate wood breakfast tray she’d bought. It was amazing how many of her touches she could see throughout his house. If she’d left it up to him, the place would still be a barren bachelor’s pad. The man could be his own worst enemy. It was like he didn’t believe he deserved happiness. She entered the room, set the tray on the black table in front of the couch, and sank onto the soft grey cushion.

 


“You ready?” he asked.

 


“Let the horrorathon begin,” she replied solemnly with a nod.

 


He snickered and pressed play.

 


As the movie began, she tucked her legs under her and leaned into his side. It was the only time she could get this close casually. His body exuded heat, and the scent of something dark and delicious seeped from his pores. She knew the brand of body wash he used, but it was something about his chemistry that turned the scent into an indescribable buffet for the senses. Content, she let herself get lost in the movie.

 


“The nineties gave us such great one liners,” Enzo noted as the priest showed off his ninja assassin skills while claiming to kick ass for the Lord.


She laughed. “Well, yeah, but so did Peter Jackson. He’s a special kind of sick and twisted, though he hides it well these days. I mean, Meet the Feebles?”

 


“Truth. I’d like to see him do another horror movie.”

 


“It’ll never happen. He knows where his bread and butter lies,” she said.

 


“That’s the double edge sword of fame I suppose. When you’re just making a name, you’re not expected to do anything in particular. The world is your playground, and the only limitation is your imagination. Then you get recognition, get labeled, and wind up stuck in a box. He’s still making Lord of the Ring films how many years later?”


“I don’t know, he has a cult film following, too, though. That’s something to be proud of. Plus, there was District 9. That was a step back toward those movies where he really flexed his creative muscles and stepped ‘outside of the box’,” she said using air quotes.


“Yeah, that’s true. I forgot about that one. I actually liked it a lot.”

 


“I know. I did, too.” She smiled up at him.


“Well, you do tend to have pretty good taste.”


“Shut up, I’m awesome,” she retorted.


“Yeah, you are. Thanks for hanging with me.”

 


“Hey, traditions are meant to be kept,” she replied, careful to keep things light.


They returned their attention to the movie, and she allowed herself to enjoy his closeness.

 


A knock sounded on the door halfway through the movie.


Enzo pressed pause. “Got to be Rhys. No one else gets up this early.”

 


“I’ll get it,” Aibhlinn said, eager to put some distance between the two of them. It was a little too easy to pretend things between them could be romantic behavior. She peered out the window above the door and grinned at the sight of the blond male with green eyes. The baby of the brothers, he had a lightheartedness about him. She opened the door. “Rhys.”

 


“Aibhlinn,” Rhys cried, sweeping her up into his arms.

 


“I told you about treating her like a doll,” Enzo barked from the couch.


Aibhlinn giggled.

 


“Should we royally piss him off, then?” Rhys asked.

 


She nodded her head.

 


“When are you going to let me make an honest woman out of you?” Rhys asked, loud enough for Enzo to hear.

 


“I don’t know. What do you have to offer?” Aibhlinn asked in a sultry voice.

 


“Okay, seriously?” Enzo grumbled.

 


She and Rhys laughed.

 


“What? I only came here to see Aibhlinn,” Rhys defended.

 


“No way, man, it’s my day. Get your own girl,” Enzo growled.


Rhys’ eyes widened.


Aibhlinn quickly looked away, ignoring the blood that rushed to her face.


“I am,” Rhys said.


“Pain in my ass,” Enzo stated as his voice drew near. He entered the living room and scowled at his brother who held out a bag.

 


“Don’t shoot the messenger. It’s from Mom.”

 


“And she told you to bring it to me at the ass crack of dawn?” Enzo asked.

 


“She said first thing, and then proceeded to call me to make sure.”


“What is it?” Enzo asked.


“No clue, bro. She gave it to me last night when I was over there for dinner. Happy womb liberation day.”


“Thanks,” Enzo grumbled.

 


“Well, I’ll let you two do whatever it is you do when you’re together,” Rhys said.


Enzo rolled his eyes. “I’m starting to think you have a crush on my girl for real,” Enzo accused, wrapping his arm around her shoulder.


“All I’m saying is, Netflix and Chill has led to many babies, so please be safe,” Rhys teased.


Enzo stepped forward.

 


Rhys moved back, laughing. “I’m headed to the gym now. I got an early appointment that’ll take a good chunk of my day up.”

 


“Where do they want it?” Enzo asked.

 


“A back piece. Luckily, it’s not their first. I always cringe when first times come in and try to do a back piece in one sitting.” Rhys shook his head.


Enzo snorted. “Call me if you need anything.”

 


“We won’t, and if we do, I’m calling Noah. It’s your day.” Rhys and Enzo fist bumped. “See you soon, pretty girl,” Rhys said, giving her a hug before he disappeared out the door.


She spun around. “Open the bag.”

 


He laughed and removed the red tissue paper. “Oh, man, she did good.” He pulled out a bulky box set. “We are watching Kill Bill next.”


She leaned in and read the description. It was a gift set featuring Quentin Tarantino’s best and bloodiest. “I love your mom. She’s so cool.”


“Trust me, the feeling is mutual with your mom. Come on, let’s finish our movie before we’re interrupted again.” Enzo led her back into the living room.

 


Once again, she was lost to her thoughts of what if. Enzo was the sun. She had no choice but to keep circling him.

 


We fight it down, and we live it down, or we bear it bravely well,

 

But the best men die of a broken heart for the things they cannot tell.

 

“Things We Dare Not Tell” ~Henry Lawson

 

Translations:

 

A leanbuh (uh LAN-uv): My child

 

Shyla Colt grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, but has lived a variety of different places thanks to her wanderlust, interesting careers, and marriage to a United States Marine. She’s always loved books and wrote her very first novel at the age of fifteen. She keeps a copy of her first submission letter on her desk for inspiration. After a lifetime of traveling, she settled down and knew her time had come to write. Diving into her new career like she does everything else, with enthusiasm, research and a lot of prayers, she had her first book published in June of 2011. As a full-time writer, stay at home mother, and wife, there’s never a dull moment in her household.She weaves her tales in spare moments and the evenings with a cup of coffee or tea at her side and the characters in her head for company. A self-professed rebel with a pen. Her goal is to diversify romance as she continues to genre hop, and offer up strong female characters.

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