****A HUGE THANK YOU TO TOSKI COVEY PHOTOGRAPHY AND OKAY CREATIONS FOR CREATING THIS BEAUTIFUL COVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!****
Well, the day has come, FINALLY! The official introduction of Tatum and Noah to the world. I can not even begin to put into words how much I love these characters and the story that they have to tell. I would like to preface this by saying you DO NOT HAVE TO READ Running on Empty or Recovery to dive into this story. It IS part of the Mending Hearts Series, but it can be read as a stand alone. I feel it is important to tell you that because their story, their ages, their issues are much different than that of Alex and Blake. I would actually classify this book as New Adult (GASP!!!!). So, if you like the synopsis, if you want to read their story, but don’t want to read the other two that is just fine. You won’t be lost at all – although Alex, Blake and the girls all have little parts in the book, so for those who have read and are looking forward to more from them, well, you will be very pleased.
Tatum and Noah are an amazing couple. I have enjoyed writing them and getting to know their personalities as they unfold. Their story just pulled me and I had to tell it. And of course, for those of you who read my books, there are lessons to be learned from both of them. I hope you take the time to read the excerpts below, I think they will let you in on a little of their character make-up and who they are. Also, there is a $100 Amazon Gift Card, signed paperbacks, and even an ARC of Running in Place up for grabs. All you have to do is click the Rafflecopter link below to enter!!!
Please feel free to share the giveaway, the cover, and the excerpts with your friends!
So, without further adieu…
Expected release date: Late October 2013
SERIES READING ORDER:
Some call me a party girl. People see me as happy, full of life, with absolutely no cares in the world. They see what I want them to see. But no one knows me – really knows me. Not even Noah Reese. Mr. Perfect is always watching me, most likely judging every single imperfect thing I do. But, if Noah wants to keep an eye on me, that’s just fine. I definitely don’t mind. I just hope he doesn’t have any plans to save me from my new-found life of self-destruction because in order to save me, he will have to see me…
And I’m never going to let that happen.
Perfect. That’s me. That’s the only acceptable way to be, according to my father. Perfect grades. Perfect manners. Perfect athlete. Perfect SAT scores. Perfect college. And recently, I was accepted into the perfect med school. My future has already been mapped out for me and there’s nothing that can change that. Not even Tatum O’Connell. That girl is out of control, yet for some reason, I can’t seem to keep my distance from her. I watch her closely, hoping that one day she’ll let me in, but watching her lead her life down the dangerous path she’s on right now isn’t easy…
I have a feeling I’m about to find myself swept away by the hurricane that is Tatum O’Connell.
“Two fleeting souls,
Too slowly drawn,
Impatient fate calls.
The jolting collide intertwines their lives
And splinters their walls.”
“Catalyst” – Noah Reese
“Seriously, why are you even with him, Tatum? You never seem happy when you are.”
Well, that sure turned her smile upside down. It also caused her to glare back at me.
“Like you have room to talk, Noah. Why are you with Piper? You sure as hell never look happy when you’re with her, either. You usually look irritated, actually.”
“Touché. You’re right,” I shrug as I lean back against my chair, “We kind of have an agreement. So, it is what it is. But, it’s nice to know you’ve been watching.” I give her a quick wink.
She narrows her eyes as she sits back in her seat and crosses her arms over her chest. “Well, you might want to explain that to her, because I’m pretty sure she thinks otherwise. Like, she probably has the church booked and wedding magazines all over her apartment.”
It seems that even the mention of marriage also has an adverse effect on my cardiac system. Or maybe it’s just any reference to Piper?
We are getting way off track here, so I scoot my seat underneath the table, getting closer to Tatum and shift toward her, crooking my finger for her to lean in as well. After a slight hesitation, surprisingly she does. I shield the side of my mouth with the back of my hand and lower my voice to a whisper. “Let’s drop the Piper topic for a second, it’s giving me heartburn, and concentrate on you for a second.” Her hardened mask breaks and she laughs even though I couldn’t be more serious.
“I’m going to give you a loser lesson. Let’s call it, ‘Loser 101: Introduction to All Things Loser.’” Another small smile breaks across her lips and I’m once again momentarily distracted by her mouth.
Glancing back up, I look into her eyes and grin. “Okay, so number one. His name isn’t really Cash, you know this right? His name is Herman. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if he’s not man enough to even stand behind the name his mother gave him, well?”
Tatum’s eyes widen and she covers her mouth. “How did you know that?” she whispers back from behind her fingers. She looks like an adorable little girl with her huge blue eyes gaping back at me. It’s captivating. I burn the image into my brain before letting her in on my secret.
“I’m a bartender. I’ve seen his I.D. In fact, I make him show it to me every time he comes into the bar because it makes me laugh.”
She drops her hand, huge smile displayed. “You’re evil.”
“Yes, yes I am.” I hold up my pointer finger. “That’s number one. Number two…” I draw out, “He’s what? Twenty-four? You know what I see every time he hands me that I.D. other than his name and age? His goddamn huge-ass senior ring … from high school. He really needs to learn to let go of what were probably the best years of his life and just move on. So, if they still feel that their high school years are relevant – loser. Lesson number two.”
I count it on my fingers as I lean in even closer and whisper my final lesson in her ear. “The third one is the most important, so listen closely.” I take a discreet whiff of her hair before continuing. “You may not believe this but it’s the truth. You deserve to be treasured. You should be with someone who respects you, who makes you a better person, and most of all who makes you happy. He, however, treats you poorly. I see it every single time I’m around the two of you, and I have to say it takes a lot of restraint on my part not to beat the shit out of him when I see him do it.” I lean away from her and hold up three fingers in front of her shocked-as-shit facial expression. “So, they don’t respect you and treat you how you should be treated – loser. Lesson three.”
I clear my face of its smartass smirk so she understands that I’m completely serious. “Never settle for less than you’re worth. You don’t give yourself enough credit. Hopefully, one day, you’ll see what everyone else sees.”
She graciously accepts my compliment with a half-smile and after sliding herself back into her chair, she studies me intently.
“Interesting lesson there, Noah. Thank you for the wise words. But, as I clearly displayed last night, I have issues. Not everyone would take me back after what I did last night. But he did. Because, he loves me. We all have our faults, not everyone can be perfect, like you. I hope you know that’s not meant to be an insult, so please don’t take it that way. I just mean that some of us are flawed and have to deal with what we’re given.” She breaks from my eyes to watch the waitress pick up the empty plates from our table. Once they’re cleared, she begins again, still gazing off in the distance.
“Broken hopes and expectations can leave very, very broken people. So, after a while, you learn not to aim so high, because when people fail you, you land hard and there’s only so many times a person can be shattered before they’re beyond repair.”
She brings her eyes back to mine. “What you’re so quick to label as settling, I simply call survival,” she finishes with a defeated shrug of her shoulders.
After her statement, she casts her glance away from mine to smile at the person passing by. Although as usual, it’s not genuine. It’s the same one she plasters on her face to appease everyone around her.
What the hell happened to her?
The waitress conveniently drops the check off at our table, providing Tatum the perfect way out of this conversation and therefore any further interrogation. She stands and pushes the chair out from underneath her with the backs of her knees. “Ready?” she asks, purse already in hand and stepping towards the direction of the register.
Well, I guess that’s all I’m getting from her for now. I know it’s not much, but I’ll take it.
It’s not like I can actually concentrate on asking her any more questions, because there’s one gigantic conclusion I’ve just drawn and it’s currently blocking any other thoughts from entering my mind.
A person who judges someone without really knowing them, without walking in their shoes, or without at least attempting to understand what they’ve gone through or experienced during their lifetime – loser.
Lesson number four.
Still laughing and not paying attention, I round the corner, only to run straight into a completely different kind of trouble. A brown-headed, blue-eyed, whirlwind kind of trouble. A trouble that looks unbelievably hot in a tight-ass, short black dress. A trouble wearing the highest black heels I’ve ever seen, heels that make her legs look unbelievable and should be outlawed judging by the bulge forming inside my dark Diesels. Damn. She’s also a trouble that I’ve formed a decent friendship with over the last few weeks, so any mental images I have of her doing certain things to me wearing those heels have got to go.
“Hey!” she says laughing as she flips her hair off her shoulders. My eyes immediately land on her pouty lips, the clear shine reflecting off of them as she smiles. “What are you doing here?”
I clear my throat and tear my gaze from her mouth. “Getting my check, you?”
She looks me up and down as she nods her head. “Me too,” she says clearing her own throat. “Where are you going, looking all spiffy?”
I chuckle because only she would say spiffy. “I’m taking Piper to that new club, Parallel. Where are you going looking all spiffy?”
She claps her hands together excitedly before taking my hand. “We’re going there too! Yay!”
I’m still surprised every time she touches me. It’s such a drastic change from the first day at the duplexes. As I think about the last month or so – all the times that we laughed together at something ridiculous that she said, or the fact that she insists on bumping hips with me every single time a song comes on the radio that she likes while singing at the top of her lungs, even the times she lightly brushes her hand across my arm while she’s speaking – there’s a level of comfort and ease about our friendship. Reason five hundred why I need to curb my inappropriate thoughts about this one.
I smile to myself as she tugs me harder. “Where are you taking me?”
“To the employee bathroom!”
Well, that did absolutely nothing to fend off dirty thoughts.
She giggles. Obviously, she’s already started drinking. Great. Well, at least we’ll be at the same place so I can make sure Dickhead the Douchebag takes care of her.
“Because, I’m gonna fix your hair. It looks too…perfect. It needs to be messy – sexy, like you.” She stops dead in her tracks. “Um…I mean, as sexy as you look now.” She exhales, frustrated. “Sexily dressed, that’s what I mean.” She bites her bottom lip nervously as she mentally tries to hook her words and reel them back in. I just laugh because she looks so damn cute.
“So, you think I’m sexy?”
Saying nothing else, she rolls her eyes and pulls me in the direction of the bathroom. Once we arrive, she flips on the light and points at the toilet for me to take a seat. Turning on the faucet, she sets her purse on the counter and pulls out a travel size hairspray. After digging around for a little while longer, she turns towards me.
“Well, I guess this will have to do.” She tilts her head to the left and then scrunches her mouth to the same side, deep in thought. Nodding to herself, she leans over and wets her fingers in the sink before stepping in between my legs.
She breathes in deeply before placing her fingers in my hair. Slowly, she distributes the water throughout, often leaning back to the faucet to get more. Her cool hands work from the sides of my head toward the top, where her fingers interlace to form a spiky section down the center. Then she bends at the waist, placing her face so close to mine, her breaths hit my mouth. I know I can’t have her, but damn if I don’t want to take some piece of her with me. So greedily, I take in her air with every breath she releases. Her eyes still focused on my hair, I watch her mouth. Still breathing with her, I lick my lips, the movement distracting her so that she brings her blue eyes to mine. In silence, we stare, only the shared breaths between us are heard.
Taking her hand out of my hair, she places it on the side of my face and gently strokes my cheek with her thumb as we hold each other’s eyes. Before long, I watch a soft saddened half-smile appear on her lips. “Much better,” she says with one last soothing run of her thumb before she backs away. Reaching for the hair spray, she tweaks the top of my hair, pulling random pieces in different directions before spraying them. I fight the urge to put my hands around her waist and pull her into me. To hold her. To have her.
Instead, I sit with my hands on my knees, wanting what I can’t have.
After a couple of more sprays, she steps back. “All done. You’re good to go. To the bar. With Piper,” she says, the pitch of her voice getting higher with each incomplete sentence spoken. There’s no mistaking the heartache radiating between the both of us. It’s so thick I could slice it with a knife.
• Winner 1: $100 Amazon gift card
• Winner 2: A set of signed paperbacks of Running on Empty and Recovery.
• Winner 3: ARC of Running in Place, to be sent to the winner in mid October.
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