Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Tattoos & Tatas by Tara Sivec!

Holy smokes...October 1st already?! You know what that means, "SAVE THE TATAS" month is upon us!! Got your pink?

But, we're also having a HUGE celebration for Tara Sivec's newest novella, Tattoos & Tatas (Chocoholics 2.5). Because she is one of the coolest human beings I know, during the month of October, 100% of the proceeds from Tattoos and Tatas will be donated to breast cancer awareness. October 2014’s donations will be split evenly between the Susan G. Komen Foundation - - and Living Beyond Breast Cancer- So not only will you laugh and cry (happy tears) while reading this book, YOU are helping to save some tatas yourself!!! Let's get to one-clickin, shall we?


About Tattoos & Tatas

Claire and Liz have always had a friendship that defied the test of time, but when one of them is diagnosed with a disease that every woman fears, their bond is put through the wringer. How do you cope knowing your soul mate could be taken from you?
Filled with memories of their life long friendship, inappropriate behavior, bad tattoos and shaving cats, the two friends will realize that laughter really is the best medicine.
Tattoos and TaTas is not your typical love story; it's a story of friendship and learning how to let go when something is beyond your control.

Join us today for a Release Party that is sure to get out of control. There might even be...ahem...COOKIES!!
Wednesday, October 1st 4-8PM (EST)

About Tara
Tara Sivec is a USA Today best-selling author, wife, mother, chauffeur, maid, short-order cook, baby-sitter, and sarcasm expert. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children and looks forward to the day when all three of them become adults and move out. 
After working in the brokerage business for fourteen years, Tara decided to pick up a pen and write instead of shoving it in her eye out of boredom. She is the author of the Playing with Fire series, the Chocolate Lovers series , the Chocoholics series, the Fool Me Once series, Burned and Watch Over Me. Her novel Seduction and Snacks won first place in the Indie Romance Convention Reader's Choice Awards 2013 for Best Indie First Book and she was voted Best Indie Author in the Indie Romance Convention Reader's Choice Awards 2014.
In her spare time, Tara loves to dream about all of the baking she'll do and naps she'll take when she ever gets spare time.
And of course before we go...a little pre-party giveaway!!
Breast Cancer Awareness Scentsy Warmer
Signed Paperbacks of Tattoos and Tatas
Tattoos and Tatas themed swag bags
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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Burned by Tara Sivec

Erotic Romance

Seventeen years old when he broke my heart.
Seventeen days later when another picked up the pieces.
Seventeen years together.
Seventeen thousand problems.
Seventeen days of reliving my past and finding a new future.
Seventeen minutes until it all went up in flames.
Seventeen breaths until I took my last.
This is my story…and it’s going to burn.

I find it only fitting to publish this while I am 30,000 feet high in the air because honestly, Tara had me up in the clouds while reading this hot little number the whole time. We already know she can do funny, and we found out she can do romantic suspense, but Erotica? Oh yes, my friends, this woman torched the pages of this novel and the best part, not only is it hot and steamy, but it has a fabulous storyline too. Some erotica is just sex, sex, Yes, we get it, you like sex scenes...but can I get a plot? Passion? Chemistry? Believability? I wasn't surprised at all when Tara delivered on every one. The emotions are raw and intense, the sex is sizzling HOT, and the touching romance is beautiful and sincere. She throws some curveballs in there to keep you on the edge of your seat and wanting more. Oh, and the dual POV...YES!!! I LOVE getting both sides of the story.

Bravo Tara, you are going to scorch the charts with this hot to trot story. As always with your writing, I couldn't get enough. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next!



About the author:

Tara Sivec is a USA Today best-selling author, wife, mother, chauffeur, maid, short-order cook, baby-sitter, and sarcasm expert. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children and looks forward to the day when they all three of them become adults and move out.

After working in the brokerage business for fourteen years, Tara decided to pick up a pen and write instead of shoving it in her eye out of boredom. She is the author of the Playing with Fire series and the Chocolate Lovers series. Her novel Seduction and Snacks won first place in the Indie Romance Convention Reader’s Choice Awards 2013 for Best Indie First Book. In her spare time, Tara loves to dream about all the baking she'll do and naps she'll take when she ever gets spare time.

To celebrate the hottest read of 2014 (IMO), I want to give away a SIGNED copy of Burned!! Obviously, this book is still pre-publish but, when we get them available (maybe about a week) we will send it out ASAP. Good luck!!

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Review and Giveaway: A Beautiful Lie by T.E. Sivec

A Beautiful Lie
by T.E. Sivec

I’ll start this out by saying T.E. Sivec (pen name for author Tara Sivec) is GENIUS!!  I have to admit when I started A Beautiful Lie (Playing with Fire, #1) I was a little worried. I laughed so hard I cried when I devoured her Chocolate Lovers: Sweet Stories About Love, Friendship, and Inappropriate Behavior and now she’s giving us a “Spy” romance novel? Well, here goes nothing, I thought. Two days later...GOOD LORD, WHAT WAS I THINKING?! T.E. Sivec is an evil genius with her writing!!!! Someone call a screen writer, or a producer or whoever the hell makes an adaptation because this book needs to become a movie, like RIGHT now! The details of this book were written so well that I could visualize every scene. It’s written in third person so we are given insight to each character, and the connection you feel with each character builds with every chapter. Even though the story is spanned over eight years, I was introduced to how each relationship developed and grew over time. There was no rushing the storyline or a feeling that she was trying to cram too much in. Every detail had its place and was presented at the very right moment.
So, we have Garrett, HOT to trot Navy SEAL and we have Parker, a free-lance photographer. Parker was engaged to Garrett’s best friend, Milo (also a SEAL), but tragedy struck and Milo was killed on a SEAL mission. So now it’s just the two of them. And here’s the thing, there has always been a little sexual tension between the two, but neither ever admitting to the other how they truly feel. Garrett never overstepped his bounds when it came to Parker when Milo was alive, but now that he’s gone, what will happen? Will their true feelings be exposed? Do they really know each other as well as they think they do? A secret mission puts Garrett and Parker in a very unexpected situation. Secrets are revealed, lies are exposed and the truth starts to unravel. Although they are faced with many things that are ultimately working against them, there is one scene in particular that is probably one of the hottest I have ever read. Three words ladies: A pool, a waterfall and a grotto…HOT HOT HOT!!!!

Whew, moving on. As for the whole plotline, I really can’t say too much without giving away too much. I know...a lot of good that does, BUT, from the very beginning of this story T.E. had me hook, line and sinker. This story simmers slowly and then BAM, it boils! Be prepared for a huge shock and watch as this meek woman transforms into a strong heroine who OWNS her destiny. A Beautiful Lie (Playing with Fire, #1) will leave you a little breathless and although the story was wrapped up with a beautiful bow on top, I was eager to jump right into the rest of the Playing With Fire series to devour more delicious characters.

Right now A Beautiful Lie (Playing with Fire, #1) is FREE!!  Click it up today, and while you're at it, make sure to purchase Because of You (Playing with Fire, #2) and Worn Me Down (Playing With Fire, #3) . I promise you a hot Navy SEAL that you will NOT be disappointed. Closer to the Edge is the fourth and final book in this best selling series and is due to release on May 28th. Love me some Cole!!!!


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Blog Tour: Undone by Rebecca Shea

I'm really excited to be a part of Shh Moms Reading tour for Undone by Rebecca Shea. Take a peek, click the links and make sure you sign up for the rafflecopter drawing. MAJOR prizes to win!

Title: Undone
Author: Rebecca Shea
Release: February 19, 2014


Companion to "Unbreakable" -- Landon's story

**This book is a Contemporary Romance and contains mature subject matter.It is not intended for those under 17 years of age.**

I’ve found it’s easier to share my body but not my soul. I need no one, yet I crave her.

Self-assured and independent, she doesn’t need me—but she wants me, and undeniably I want her too. At war with myself as I battle the secrets of my past, I don’t know if I can allow her to see the darkest parts of me, the parts I’ve left untouched—undone.

As she chips away at the walls I’ve built for years, I fear those secrets will hold me hostage from love—forever.


Rebecca completely blew me away with Undone. Having read Unbreakable just recently I really thought I knew what to expect from Undone. Wrong. I fell even harder for Landon, understanding why he did the things he did. Watching the trials and obstacles that Reagan and Landon's relationship went through just made me appreciate every little ounce of effort from before. When you think it will be a "cookie-cutter" style romance, something is thrown in here and there to make you want to strangle one while wanting to snuggle the other.

Undone will have your stomach in knots one minute and in tears the next. This is a rollercoaster ride, to say the least, BUT I highly recommend it. I didn't want to give away the farm on this review, as it was the companion to Unbreakable and you really need to start there first, so it may seem a little vague, but TRUST me when I say, you will NOT be disappointed in Rebecca's books. Go one-click them BOTH now!


Buy Links:

Rebecca Shea is the USA Today Bestselling author of Unbreakable. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her family and her beagle, Miles. From the time Rebecca could read she has had a passion for books. Rebecca spends her days working full-time and her nights writing, bringing stories to life. Born and raised in Minnesota, Rebecca moved to Arizona in 1999 to escape the bitter winters. When not working or writing, she can be found on the sidelines of her sons football games, or watching her daughter at ballet class. Rebecca is fueled by insane amounts of coffee, margaritas, Laffy Taffy (except the banana ones), and happily ever afters.

Social Media Links
Goodreads book link

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review and Giveaway: 'Til St. Patrick's Day by Holly Gilliatt

As per the usual, my life has been running in 1,000 different directions since, well...last year. Yeah, the holidays. Hockey has devoured our lives since October and we FINALLY finished our last tournament this past weekend. So, hopefully now that practices and traveling is over, I can get back to READING!!!

So, back to why we are here today. Last June (sigh...yes, 9 months ago) my family and I went to St. Louis for a little getaway with the kiddos. My hubby is from the area, as he grew up in Dorsey, IL, and graduated from Edwardsville High School (I won't mention what year). He still keeps in touch with his high school best friend so we were excited to hang out with his family while we visited. Well, one morning while we were at breakfast his wife mentioned she had a friend that wrote a book. I immediately dropped my fork into the syrup and picked up my phone to look it up. LOL It sounded really good, so I marked it on my wish list (because I can't remember anything if I don't write it down) and figured I would purchase it when I got back home. Well, the next week I received an email from Ms. Gilliatt! I was ecstatic to hear that she was interested in sending me a couple signed copies, one to read and review and the other to giveaway!

So here we are in March with St. Patrick's Day upon us, it's only fitting to share it with you now.

'Til St. Patrick's Day
For three best friends, one winter will change everything.

Chronically optimistic Jayne is surprised she's still single at twenty-eight. But as always for Jayne, there's hope. This time his name is Gray--a successful, gorgeous marketing VP that she can't believe is going out with her. She's never given up on the belief that the right man for her is out there, somewhere. Maybe Gray could be the one...if she just works hard enough to make it happen.

Her cynical friend Karen is suspicious of Jayne's new guy with his model looks and over-inflated ego. She's concerned for Jayne, but has her own relationship to worry about. Not that anything's wrong with her boyfriend. He's actually perfect for her, which is why she's terrified. Not sure she can ever fully trust a man again, she considers bailing on yet another relationship.

Claudia is always there for her friends, no matter what they're going through. She mothers them like the children she craves to have, relieved she's no longer navigating the dating world. Happily married, Claudia can't wait until the day her husband finally agrees it's time to start a family.

'Til St. Patrick's Day is a novel exploring the depths of friendship and what happens when love doesn't go according to plan.
Let me start by saying I don't care for John Mayer. Yes, the singer. You're probably asking yourselves, what in the hell does he have to do with this book? Well, you see, the title of this book is based on the premise of his song, St. Patrick's Day. Have you heard this song, like really listened to the lyrics? It's really sad in a hopeless romantics mind. LOL Here's the jest of the song, basically, you're in a relationship that usually ends by St. Patrick's Day because no one wants to be alone over the holidays. OUCH!!! I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book after all! LOL I want a happily-ever-after, or at least a go 'ol college try...not a "I'll-keep-you-around-so-I'm-not-alone" relationship.
So going into this book I had this in the back of my mind. Let it go, let it go...  So, when I was introduced to Jayne, Ms. Ray-of-Sunshine and Optimism, I thought, oh man, this woman is in for a rude awakening. Her two best friends, Claudia and Karen were my "keepin it real" sistas. LOL I really don't know how better to describe these two. All three are very strong in their own rite, but they all have their own struggles, everyday struggles, that we ALL go through. I was able to identify with each one in a certain way, which made it that more enjoyable. I was able to laugh at myself in a few instances even. They weren't millionaires, they weren't famous, they were just suburban women trying to find their paths in this crazy world. Refreshing.
That is, until Jayne meets Gray. A successful, Marketing Guru that probably sleeps with his Blackberry and watches the Dow before he goes to bed. He makes Jayne feel things she never has before, and keeps her wondering if this is the man that she has always wanted to fall in love with. I won't go into too much detail with this, because there was frustration...or struggles, I should say, when it came to this relationship. SOOOOO effing frustrating! Like, I wanted to shake some people because of it. But here's the thing...this stuff, that Holly wrote about, it's true! IT HAPPENS EVERYDAY! Again, why it's so frustrating!! Because if you've ever had a best friend fall for "that guy", all you want to do is shake the shit out of her. LOL I digress...
Moving on...
The first half of this book moved pretty slow for me. I just really couldn't find that flow I was looking for, probably because I was so damn frustrated with a couple of these characters. BUT, the second half moved so much better for me. The plot lines started to take twists and turns that I really didn't see coming, which kept my interest and certain characters made uncharacteristic moves. Ahhhh redemption!! I am a BIG believer in the fact that people are put into or lives for a reason. We may not know that reason right off that bat, but through simply things that are revealed in our journey, we eventually realize it. It may be that we see changes in ourselves or someone else for the better, of find something or someone from that experience that makes a huge impact down the road.
All in all, this was a pretty refreshing Women's Fiction read. It wasn't an "insta-love" novel, but the emotions did churn until that one page turn, when BAM!! Holly grabs you, hook, line and sinker.
In closing, Holly's 'Til St. Patrick's Day  just confirmed what I have always believed to be true: You don't find love, love finds you in the most unexpected way possible.

Here's your chance to win a signed copy of this wonderful debut novel by Holly Gilliatt.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cover Reveal: Against All Odds by Angie McKeon

Title: Against All Odds (Standalone)
Author: Angie McKeon
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date: Early April, 2014


Our lives shattered... Our hearts broken... Our souls torn to pieces...

He was my world, my whole life. My reason for breathing. I had a perfect marriage, a baby on the way, and I felt fulfilled—almost invincible.

Until the day life hit, leaving me broken, vulnerable, and alone.

She was my life. My ray of hope on the cloudiest day. With her, I thought I had the ultimate safety. A love that would never hurt or betray me. I gave her my heart, my body, and my soul.

Until she broke me, destroying every dream and illusion I had about life, love, and marriage.

In our grief, we made a mistake. A mistake I'm not sure we can come back from.



I’m so cold. It’s the kind of cold that seeps into my bones and makes me feel as though I’m going to die. My body trembles from the drugs and sheer terror coursing through my veins.
Why is this happening to me?
What did I do to deserve this?
  Please, God! I can’t handle it.
I open my mouth to scream, to cry, to do something, but nothing comes out. I’m aware of doctors and nurses surrounding me. They’ve placed Kayla on my chest. She’s still warm from being pulled from my body, but she's not moving.
She’s lying there . . . lifeless.
I’m in a state of disbelief as tears slide down my face. My world shatters when I look at my precious baby girl. She's everything I’ve always wanted, always dreamed of.
Slowly, I run my fingers over her delicate lips; they’re so soft and small. An instant reminder of Cooper’s lips. He doesn’t have full and luscious lips like mine but small ones that almost disappear when he smiles. As I run the tips of my fingers across her puffy cheeks and closed eyes, I try to memorize every last detail of her dainty face. She’s so beautiful it takes my breath away. Her hair reminds me of caramel; it’s light brown and silky to the touch. It looks like mine did when I was a baby. Her face is peaceful, and for a single moment, I’m so thankful she’s not in pain.
Looking at my little girl is a moment I’ve always dreamed of. I love her instantly, and I want to hold her forever. To breathe her into me. To never let her go. The realization that I’ll never hold my precious baby again sinks in, and I feel my stomach clench as pain rips through me. I’ll never get to see her smile, laugh, roll over, or take her first steps. I’ll miss it all.
How do I move past this?
Can I move past this?
As grief consumes me, my sobs become brutal. I feel as though I’m dying. Like my heart is burning up and turning to ash. I’ll never ever be whole again.
I pick her up and cradle her against my body, wanting to feel her skin against mine. She feels warm—soft and smooth, like velvet. As I curl my arms around her, my tears drip onto her perfect head. I feel an overwhelming urge to fix this, to bring her back. I don’t want to lose my sweet baby. Everything in my body, my soul is screaming to bring her back.
Desperately looking up at Cooper’s green eyes, I will him to fix this, to make it better and help me. Help her. He’s always been my rock, my glue, the person who makes everything better. But all I see in his eyes is sadness, desperation, and helplessness that I know is killing him as much as it is me. He rubs his big, shaking hand gently over her tiny head. He looks as though he’s being tortured. Sobs rip through his body as he wraps his arms around me and our precious bundle while climbing into bed with us. I feel myself collapse against his chest as we sob over our loss.
There’s nothing we can do.
This is the end of a shattered dream.
Our spirits are slowly dying, and I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to heal.
 All rights reserved. Against All Odds © 2014 Copyright, Angie McKeon.

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A multi-tasker from birth—and now proudly able to add 'writer' to my resume—I'm a
mother, wife and blogger. I love to read, write and drink copious amounts of iced coffee.

All three aforementioned addictions are detrimental to my sanity. I have a voracious
appetite for dark, painful and twisted reads. I'm enamored with the concept of
love and heart break. I believe life is a journey, a tale in its own for each
of us. The road to happiness is sometimes paved with stones from hell, or
glitters of satisfaction graced from the heavens above.
In my upcoming debut novel, 'Against All Odds,' I strive to make you feel. I believe any emotion—whether painful or happy—is good. To me, the key to living is to go through life feeling it’s ups and downs. Love is dark and it can be painful
but, at the end of the day, it can save the most lost of souls and the most broken of hearts.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Release Day Blitz...Undone by Rebecca Shea

Title: Undone
Author: Rebecca Shea
Release Date: February 20, 2014
Companion to Unbreakable -- Landon's story

**This book is a Contemporary Romance and contains mature subject matter.It is not intended for those under 17 years of age.**

I’ve found it’s easier to share my body but not my soul. I need no one, yet I crave her.

Self-assured and independent, she doesn’t need me—but she wants me, and undeniably I want her too. At war with myself as I battle the secrets of my past, I don’t know if I can allow her to see the darkest parts of me, the parts I’ve left untouched—undone.

As she chips away at the walls I’ve built for years, I fear those secrets will hold me hostage from love—forever.


Purchase Links:

Author Bio:

Rebecca Shea is the USA Today Bestselling author of Unbreakable. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her family and her beagle, Miles. From the time Rebecca could read she has had a passion for books. Rebecca spends her days working full-time and her nights writing, bringing stories to life. Born and raised in Minnesota, Rebecca moved to Arizona in 1999 to escape the bitter winters. When not working or writing, she can be found on the sidelines of her sons football games, or watching her daughter at ballet class. Rebecca is fueled by insane amounts of coffee, margaritas, Laffy Taffy (except the banana ones), and happily ever afters.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Cover Reveal and Excerpt for Before You by Amber Hart

Some say love is deadly. Some say love is beautiful. I say it is both.

Faith Watters spent her junior year traveling the world, studying in exquisite places, before returning to Oviedo High School. From the outside her life is picture-perfect. Captain of the dance team. Popular. Happy. Too bad it’s all a lie.

It will haunt me. It will claim me. It will shatter me. And I don't care.

Eighteen-year-old Diego Alvarez hates his new life in the States, but staying in Cuba is not an option. Covered in tattoos and scars, Diego doesn’t stand a chance of fitting in. Nor does he want to. His only concern is staying hidden from his past—a past, which if it were to surface, would cost him everything. Including his life.

At Oviedo High School, it seems that Faith Watters and Diego Alvarez do not belong together. But fate is as tricky as it is lovely. Freedom with no restraint is what they long for. What they get is something different entirely.

Love—it will ruin you and save you, both.        



My closet is a place of secrets.

This is where I change into Her, the girl everybody knows as me. Searching through hanger after hanger of neatly pressed clothes, I find the outfit I’m looking for. A black knee-length pleated skirt, a loose-fitting white top, and two-inch wedge shoes. Looking good at school is a must. Not that I do it for me. It’s more for my dad’s reputation. I have to play the part.

I am stuffed into a borrowed frame. One that fits too tightly. One that couldn’t possibly capture the real me.

            “Faith,” my stepmom calls. “Are you joining us for breakfast?”

            There is no time. “No,” I reply, my voice carrying downstairs.

            I quickly dress for school, catching my reflection in the closet door mirror. Waking sun shines off my hair, highlighting a few strands brighter than the rest. Everybody has a favorite body part. Mine is my hair, which is the fiery-brown of autumn leaves. My best friend, Melissa, swears my eyes are my best asset.  Ivy-green, deep-set, haunting. Like they go on forever.

            Speaking of Melissa, her horn blares outside. Beep, beep, pause, beep. That’s our code. I race downstairs, passing my dad, stepmom, and little sister on the way out.

“Wait,” Dad says.

I sigh. “Yes, Dad?”

He glances at my outfit, pausing at my shoes. If it were up to Dad, I would wear turtleneck shirts and dress pants with lace-up boots forever. The perfect ensemble, it seems. As it is, I dress conservatively to protect his image. I’m eighteen. You’d think he’d stop cringing every time he saw me in anything that showed the least bit of skin.

“Hug,” he says, waving me over.

I hug him. Place a kiss on my five-year-old sister’s jelly-covered cheek. Then, grab a napkin to wipe the sticky jelly from my lips.

“Bye, Gracie,” I say to her. “See you after school.”

She waves a small hand at me and smiles.

            “Take this.” Susan, my stepmom, hands me a bagel even though I already declined breakfast. It’s poppy seed. I’m allergic to poppy seed.

            As usual, I don’t put up a fight. My frame feels especially uncomfortable at the moment. It’s always the same thing. I learned early on that it’s easier to go with the flow than to be different. Different is bad. Standing out attracts attention, something I try to avoid at all costs. Unfortunately, being the dance captain makes that more difficult. 

            “Have to go,” I say, shoving the bagel in my bag.

The screen door swings shut behind me.

            Melissa waits in my driveway. We live in a modest, yellow-paneled house in Oviedo, Florida. The majority of the people here are middle class. We fit in well.

            “What’s up?” Melissa smiles. “Took you long enough.”

            “Yeah, well, you try waking up late and still looking as good as I do,” I joke.

            Melissa whips her blond hair into a ponytail and puts her red Camaro in reverse, careful not to hit my Jeep on the way out. I have my own car, but since Melissa lives three doors down, we have a deal where we alternate driving to school. She takes the first month; I take the second, and so on. Saves gas.

            “You look smokin’,” Melissa says, lighting a cigarette.

            I roll my eyes.


She’s always hated the way I dress.

            Melissa laughs. “Okay, true, the clothes need to go. But your hair and makeup are flawless. And no matter what you wear, you still look beautiful.” 

            “Thanks, you too,” I say, eyeing her tight jeans and sequined top. Melissa is effortlessly beautiful with her sun-freckled face and athletic build.

            “Prediction,” Melissa begins. This is something we have done since ninth grade: predict three things that will happen during the year. “Tracy Ram will try to overthrow you as dance captain, once again, but you’ll keep your spot, of course, ’cause you rock. You’ll quit dressing like an eighty-year-old and finally wear what you want to wear instead of what society dictates is appropriate for a pastor’s daughter. And you’ll come to your senses and dump Jason Magg for a hot new boy.”

            Melissa always predicts that I’ll dump Jason, has done since Jason and I began dating freshman year. It’s not that she doesn’t like him. It’s just that she thinks my life is too bland, like the taste of celery. What’s the point, she figures.

“First of all, I do not dress like the elderly,” I say. “And second, I don’t know what you have against Jason. He treats me nicely. It’s not like he’s a jerk.”

            “It’s not like he’s exciting, either,” Melissa says.

She’s right. What I have with Jason is comfortable, nice even, but excitement left a long time ago.

“Prediction,” I say, turning to Melissa. “You will not be able to quit bugging me about dumping Jason, even though last year you swore you would. Despite your doubts, you will pass senior calculus. And you’re going to win homecoming.”

Melissa shakes her head. “No way. Homecoming is all you, girl.”

I groan. “But I don’t want to win.”

Melissa laughs. “Tracy Ram would have a heart attack if she ever heard you say that.”

“Great,” I say. “Let her win homecoming.”

We grin. Melissa and I have been friends since kindergarten. Memories come to me suddenly. I’m in elementary school, and it’s sleepover night at Melissa’s. In my overnight bag, I carry a small stuffed bunny, my steadfast companion since forever. People would laugh if they knew, me carrying around a stuffed baby toy, but Melissa never tells. Fast forward to middle school. The braces on Melissa’s teeth are still so new that the silver catches the light from the fluorescent fixtures when she smiles. The headgear is huge, cumbersome, and no one lets her forget it. But I relentlessly defend my friend. She’s so beautiful, can’t they see? Sometimes I leave flowers stolen from a neighbor’s rose bush at her locker when no one is looking. That way people will know that she is loved. High school. Melissa and me, same as always.

“What do you want to bet?” Melissa asks.

Whoever gets the most predictions right wins.

“Hmm,” I say. “If I win, you have to quit smoking.”

Melissa almost chokes. “Pulling out the big guns, are we? Okay, then. If I win, you have to break up with Jason.”

“Deal,” I say, knowing that she won’t win. She never does.

Melissa purses her lips and gives me the stink eye. She knows I have a better chance.

“Faith, I will find a way to break you out of your mold,” she says.

I laugh, partially because of the determination in my friend’s eyes, but mostly because of the absurdity of her statement. Everybody knows that girls like me never break free.     




“Diego, vamonos.”

            I can’t help the frustrated sigh that escapes my lips, hurled at mi padre, my dad, like a gust of wind that threatens to flatten our house of cards. It’s my fault. I should have built something stronger with the cards I was dealt. But I didn’t. I didn’t know how.

“Go away,” I say. “Vete.”

I’m not planning to attend school today.

In fact, I didn’t plan to be in the States at all.

            Vamonos. Let’s go,” mi padre repeats in his heavily accented voice, yanking me off of the couch. “You will not miss senior year.”

            He has this new thing where we have to speak English as much as possible now that we live in the States. I almost wish I weren’t fluent. Several trips to Florida, and I am. 

            With a grimace, I pass him, reluctantly moving toward my room. It feels like my feet are sinking, like I’m walking over sticky sand instead of thick, dirty carpet.

How did I get stuck in this place?

I open my dresser drawer and pull out faded jeans, a white T-shirt, and my Smith & Wesson.

            “No,” mi padre says, grabbing the gun.

            I take a step toward him, challenging. He does not back down.

“This is why we left,” he says.

Hypocrite. Under his bed is a similar gun, waiting. Just in case. But he’s also the one who taught me how to fight. I’m bigger than he is, but he has more experience. And the scars to prove it.

Not that I haven’t been in countless fights myself.

            “Fine,” I say through clenched teeth, and turn toward the bathroom.

            The hot water heater goes out after five minutes. The tiny two-bedroom apartment—this hole we now call home—is the only thing mi padre could afford. It’s not much, but it’s inexpensive. That’s all that matters. The plain white walls remind me of an asylum. Feels like I’m going crazy already.

Our jobs keep us afloat. They’re our life vests, our only chance of survival in a sea of ravenous sharks. Mi padre found a job with a lawn crew a couple weeks ago. Not many people would hire him with his scarred face and tattooed body. A restaurant offered me work part-time. Two shifts as a cook, one as a busboy. They promised a free meal every night that I worked. Couldn’t pass that up.

            “Don’t be late for school or work,” mi padre says as I step out of the house.

School’s only ten minutes away. I walk, staring at the graffiti-covered sidewalk that stretches in front of me like a ribbed canvas. Latinos roam the block. It didn’t take moving to the States for me to know that’s how it is. The gringos, white people, live in nice houses and drive cars to school while the rest of the world waits for a piece of their leftovers. I’m trying not to think about how screwed up it all is when a Latina walks up to me.

Hola,” she says. “¿Hablas inglés?

“Yeah, I speak English,” I answer, though I’m not sure why she asks since both of us speak Spanish.

“I’m Lola.” She smiles, sexy brown eyes big and wide. She reminds me of a girl I knew back home. Just the thought, the image of home, makes my guts clench.

“What’s your name?” she purrs.

“Lola,” a Latino calls from across the street. She ignores him. He calls again. When she doesn’t come, he approaches us.

One look tells me he’s angry. He has a cocky stance and a shaved head.

“Am I interrupting something?” he snaps.

What’s this guy’s problem?

“Yep,” Lola says, turning her back on him. “My ex,” she explains, brushing a strand of curly hair out of her face.

Perfecto. Just what I need. I didn’t even do anything. Not that I’m going to explain.

“She’s mine,” the guy says, staring me down. “¿Entiendes, amigo?”

            “I’m not your friend,” I say, gritting my teeth. “And you do not want to mess with me.”

            Lola is smiling. I wonder if she enjoys the attention. Probably. I’ve met too many girls like her. She fits the type.

            “You don’t know who you’re messing with,” he says, stepping closer.

            A few guys come out of nowhere, closing in on me. Blue and white bandanas hang from their pockets like a bad-luck charm. I know what the colors signify. Mara Salvatrucha 13 Gang, or MS-13.

I turn to Lola. Watch her smile.

            This is all part of the game. What I can’t figure out is if the guy really is her ex and she doesn’t care that she could be getting me killed, or if he sent her to see how tough I am, to help decide whether he wants to recruit me. 

            I turn to walk away, but someone blocks my path.

“Going somewhere?” another gang-banger asks.

            This whole time I’ve wondered if I’d end up fighting at school. I hadn’t thought about the fact that I may never make it in the first place. I silently curse mi padre for hiding my gun. He wouldn’t get rid of it completely, though.

            “What do you want?” I ask.

            The original guy laughs, looks me up and down. The number 67 is tattooed behind his right ear in bold black numbers. It only takes me a second to figure out the meaning. Six plus seven equals thirteen.

“What are those markings?” he asks, eyeing my tattoos.

            “Nothing,” I lie.

            If they wanted to fight me, they would’ve done it already. This is a recruit.

            “Where you from?” he asks.

            I don’t answer. Members of MS-13 stretch around the globe like fingers. They can easily check my past. I’m not gonna give them a head start.

            “Swallow your tongue?” one of the guys asks.

            I’m trying to figure out if I can win a fight against the five guys who surround me. I look for weak spots, scars, old injuries. I look for bulges that might be weapons. I’m a good fighter. I think I can take them. But at the same time, fighting will guarantee me a follow-up visit from MS-13.

            Just then, someone speaks behind us. “Is there a problem?” a police officer asks from the safety of his car.

            Everyone backs away from me.

“Nope,” one of the gangbangers answers. “We were just leaving.”

            “See you around,” 67 says, throwing an arm around Lola.

            I turn my back and walk the last block to school. The police officer trails slowly behind, like a hungry dog sniffing for scraps. He leaves as I enter the double doors.

            I think about what my dad said. Moving here will give you a brighter future.

His words sit heavily on my mind, like humidity on every pore of my skin. His intentions are good, but he’s wrong. So far, moving here has done nothing but remind me of my past.




 “Hi, I’m Faith Watters.”

Those are the first words I speak to the new Cuban guy in the front office. He grimaces. He’ll be a tough one. I can handle it, though. He’s not the first.

I can’t help but notice that he looks a lot like a model from the neck up—eyes the color of oak, strong bone structure. Everywhere else, he looks a lot like a criminal. Chiseled, scarred body … I wonder for a second about the meaning behind the tattoos scratched into his arms.

One thing’s clear. He’s dangerous.

And he’s beautiful.

“I’ll show you to your classes,” I announce.

I’m one of the peer helpers at our school. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it counts as a class. Basically I spend the first two days with new students, introducing them around and answering their questions. Some parents with kids new to the school voluntarily sign their students up, but it’s only mandatory for the international students, of which we have a lot. Mostly Latinos.

            This Cuban guy towers over me. I’m five six. Not tall. Not short. Just average. Average is good.

This guy’s not average. Not even a little bit. He must be over six feet.

            I glance up at him, kind of like I do when I’m searching for the moon in a sea of darkness.

“Looks like you have math first. I’ll walk you there,” I offer.

            “No thanks, chica. I can handle it.”

            “It’s no problem,” I say, leading the way.

            He tries to snatch his schedule from my hands, but I move too fast.

            “Why don’t we start with your name?” I suggest.

            I already know his name. Plus some. Diego Alvarez. Eighteen years old. Moved from Cuba two weeks ago. Only child. No previous school records. I read it in his bio. I want to hear him say it.

            “You got some kinda control issues or somethin’?” he asks harshly, voice slightly accented.

            “You got some kind of social issues or somethin’?” I fire back, holding my stance. I won’t let him intimidate me, though I’ll admit, he’s hot. Too bad he has a nasty attitude.

            The side of his lip twitches. “No. I just don’t mix with your type,” he answers.

            “My type?”

            “That’s what I said.”

            “You don’t even know my type.” No one does. Well, except Melissa.

            He chuckles humorlessly. “Sure I do. Head cheerleader? Date the football player? Daddy’s little girl who gets everything she wants?” He leans closer to whisper. “Probably a virgin.”

            My cheeks burn hot. “I’m not a cheerleader,” I say through clamped teeth.

            “Whatever,” he says. “Are you gonna give me my schedule or not?”

            “Not,” I answer. “But you can feel free to follow me to your first class.”

            He steps in front of me, intimately close. “Listen, chica, nobody tells me what to do.”

            I shrug. “Fine, suit yourself. It’s your life. But if you want to attend this school, it’s mandatory for me to show you to your classes for two days.”

            His eyes narrow. “Who says I want to attend this school?”

            I take the last step toward him, closing the gap between us. When we were little, Melissa and I used to collect glass bottles. Whenever we accumulated twenty, we’d break them on the concrete. When the glass shattered, the slivered pieces made a breathtaking prism of light.

I cut myself on the glass by accident once. It was painful, but worth it. The beauty was worth it. It’s funny how the bottle was never as beautiful as when it was broken.

You will not shatter me, I silently tell Diego. Somebody already did.

“If you don’t want to be here, then don’t come back,” I say.

            A taunting smile spreads across his face. My first thought is that he has nice teeth, but then I scold myself for thinking about him like that.

            “My name is Diego,” he says, like he’s letting me in on some kind of secret.

            “Well, Diego,” I say, “better hurry. Class starts in two minutes.” I step around him to lead the way.

While we walk to math, I feel Diego’s eyes on me. I don’t know what it is about him. All the other confident students had nothing on me, and I swear I’ve heard it all, but he seems different. He shines. In a dark way. When he looks at me, I get a tingly sensation, like I’m being zapped by electricity.

It doesn’t matter. He’s rude. And besides, I have a wonderful boyfriend. Jason. Think about Jason.

“Quit staring at me,” I say, glancing at him.

He laughs, and strands of black hair fall into his eyes. I imagine it’s a little like looking at the world through charred silk.

“Why? Does it make you uncomfortable?”

He’s messing with me to get under my skin, like a pesky little splinter.

It’s working.

“Yes,” I answer.

In his white shirt, Diego’s skin is dark. Perpetually tanned by heritage. 

I keep Diego’s schedule out of his reach. He inches closer, no doubt to grab it and run. I try to concentrate on the newly painted beige walls and tiled floors. Every few feet hangs a plaque about achievement or school clubs or tutoring programs.

When we come to the door, Diego rests an arm on the wall and leans toward me.

“I have a proposition for you,” he says in a sultry voice.

It’s hard to seem unaffected.

“I don’t do propositions,” I say dismissively.

He grins, his mouth arching up like the curl of a wave.

“But you haven’t even heard me out,” he says.

“Don’t need to.”

He ignores my comment. “What do you say we forget about this thing where I follow you around like a little dog? And when the guidance counselor asks, I will say you were superlative.”

“Big word,” I mumble. This guy did not do well on his entry exams, but he says things like superlative? What’s with that?

He glares at me; I sigh.

“You know, it wouldn’t kill you to drop the tough-guy act for two days. You’ll be rid of me soon.”

I turn to leave but Diego grabs my arm gently. My breath catches.

“It’s not an act,” he says, jaw hard.

I wave him away nonchalantly, like his touch didn’t just do all kinds of crazy things to my body—things that make me want to forget about the warning blaring in my mind.

I need to stay away from him.

I need to forget him.

Will you touch me again please?

I walk away. He watches me go.

“By the way,” I say as I flick a look over my shoulder at his hardened face, “I see right through you.”



 She sees right through me? What does that mean? I wonder for the twentieth time as I enter the cafeteria. I managed to avoid my peer helper after my first few classes, rushing out before she could meet me. Did she really think I couldn’t get another class schedule? Maybe next time she won’t underestimate me.

A sweet smell hits my nostrils as I pass the fruit section. It smells like my peer helper, and I’m reminded of my disgust for her. She thinks she knows me, but she knows nothing. She’s a snob, trying to prove something. They’re all the same.

            Girls like her don’t know what it’s like to struggle, really struggle.

She’s probably never gone so hungry her stomach knots. Never roamed the streets wondering if she’ll have a safe place to sleep. With a face and body like hers, she’s probably never had to work for anything in her life. The people she represents, the life she lives, it’s all fake.

Javier, my cousin, warned me about her. She’s one of the Big Five, the ones who think they rule this school. Even with her perfect boyfriend and flawless life, she isn’t fooling me.

I hear Javier before I see him. “Diego, aquí.”

Through the crowd, I spot my cousin sitting with a group of Latinos. With his six-foot, two-hundred-pound frame, he’s hard to miss. I approach him. One of his friends mumbles something in Spanish about how tall I am.

“Hey, what can I say? They make ’em big in mi familia,” Javier says, laughing.

Truth backhands me. I realize now that I never actually thought I would see Javier again. After … after … no. I shove the thoughts away. Not here.

Not here.

“What’s up, ’cuz?” Javier says.

Nada.” I force a smile, though my relief is real. It’s good to see family.

¡Siéntate!” Javier says.

I sit. Sitting is usually an indulgence for those who can afford to relax. I pretend for a moment that I’m one of them. My cousin takes a minute to introduce his friends.

“Diego, this is Ramon, Esteban, Juan, Rodolfo, and Luis.”

Ramon and Esteban, with their slight overbites and similar features, must be brothers. Juan has a large head for his small frame; he’s covered in tattoos. Rodolfo has a smile full of white teeth and a dimple on the left side of his cheek. What happened to the other dimple? It’s as though God had an asymmetrical look in mind when He created him. Next to my cousin, Luis is the biggest. He has lots of freckles, splattered on his face like paint, seeping into his skin.

“Welcome to los Estados Unidos,” Juan says, biting into his burger.

“Gracias,” I reply.

My stomach growls, an animal hungry to live. Javier notices.

“Come with me.” He motions for me to follow him through the crowd.

As we walk to the lunch line, I spot my peer helper at a table, surrounded by her friends. There’s one of her kind at every school. The girl everyone hates to love and loves to hate. She’s probably been stabbed in the back countless times. Not that she would know, since everyone acts fake to her face. Her friends remind me of worker bees, buzzing for the queen’s attention. I wonder if she knows that the workers eventually kill the queen.

“When you get to the front, show them your student ID,” Javier says.

The guidance counselor already explained that I get one free lunch a day because of our low income. As we pass the food selections, I cannot believe the prices.

“Are they for real?” I ask. “Six dollars for chicken and fries?”

I have an image of Faith Watters taking out her designer wallet and easily paying for one of the pretentious lunches.

“Yep. Gringos,” Javier says, eyes hardening. He remembers what it was like in Cuba, the struggle.

Just by looking at the lunchroom crowd, it’s clear who the haves and have-nots are. Surprisingly, though, there are more Latinos than I expected. 

I grab a burger and make my way to the register. As I pull out my ID, football players in letterman jackets glance my way. Part of me wishes I had it easy like them: popular, at ease, able to pay for things.

I shouldn’t want to be like them.

I don’t want to be like them.

Yes, I do.

Some days.

The bigger part of me knows that a life like that will never happen for someone like me. It’s just the way things are.

I grab a water bottle and head back to the table with Javier. Do people here know that most of the world doesn’t get water from a bottle, but from a stream or river or muddy ground?

“So, you fittin’ in well?” Javier asks.

“Yep.” For the most part. No one has singled me out for being new.

“Latinos blend around here. One of the good things about Florida,” he says.

We pass a beautiful girl on the way back to our seat. I take a moment to look. She smiles.

“That’s Isabella,” Javier explains. “Sexy, but taken.”

“Too bad,” I say.

I’m not looking for a girlfriend, but it would be nice to have a little fun. I’m almost at the table when someone steps in front of me.

“What’s your problem?” my peer helper asks, one of her friends in tow.

Momentarily shocked by her boldness, I quickly regain my hard stance. Just like earlier, she doesn’t seem fazed by me. She’s either tougher than I thought, or she puts on a great front.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I reply. I try to feign confusion, but a smile creeps through.

“Oh, you think this is funny?” she asks, hands on her hips. For a second, she looks kind of beautiful, eyes hard and old. Wisps of hair fall out of her ponytail and around her face like angel feathers. 

“A little.” I grin.

She huffs. “You weren’t there to meet me after your classes this morning. If I report you, you could lose your chance to attend this school.”

Is she threatening me? “Like I said, I already have a mamá. I don’t answer to you.”

I hand my tray to Javier. He sets it on the table so I can deal with her.

“You’re being difficult,” she says.

“So are you.”

What is your weakness? is what I want to ask.

She doesn’t back down. “I’ll be there before the end of your next class. Don’t even think about ditching me again.”

I have to, don’t you see?

“I’m serious,” she says.

This girl is asking for it. I glance at her blond friend, who’s eyeing Javier, not paying us any attention. I wish my peer helper was as easily distracted.

Being tough does not scare Faith Watters. Time to change tactics. I relax and flash a grin.

Mami, why don’t I help you loosen up a little?”

She blinks, but doesn’t show any outward evidence that my words have affected her. I move close, very close. When I look down at her, she doesn’t look away.

Her eyes remind me of stained glass, bright and cutting.

“We could have a good time, you and me,” I say, mischief punctuating my voice.

“I don’t think so,” she says coldly.

I will not let her upstage me. I give her a long, slow onceover. She dresses older than she is, like she doesn’t belong in high school. I wonder what makes her so uptight.

What are you hiding, chica?

I usually don’t have to try with girls. It’s one of the very few advantages life has thrown my way.

“Oh, come on. You might like Latino if you tried it,” I say, voice low. The guys behind me laugh, egging me on.

“When you’re done with him, I’m available, mamacita,” Juan says. “I don’t mind leftovers.”

She sneers. Good. That’s progress.

“Let me take you out,” I say.

I’m not really going to take her anywhere. I just want to make a crack in her icy shield.

Why do you have a shield, anyway?

“Why?” she asks suspiciously.

Because I know it annoys you when someone else has control. “Because it would be fun,” I say, bending close to her face. “And I can promise you one thing.”

She looks cautious.

It’s a look I know well.

 “What?” she asks.

That one night with me will relax you.

Girls like her love bad boys, whether they admit it or not. I imagine it’s similar to visiting a haunted mansion. Exciting, at first. One foot slips through the door, then the next. Heart hammers. Blood races. It’s a rush. A fix. Never knowing what’s around the next corner, through the closed door, beyond the shadows. Trying to find a way out. Not really wanting to leave. Wondering how close a person can come to danger before something bad happens. Looking for the moonlight at the end of the tunnel, an exit.

Sometimes there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

I can show her excitement like she’ll never experience with that boyfriend of hers.

But I don’t say any of those things. Instead I let my lips brush her ear lobe as I answer.

“That you will leave satisfied.”