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Teaser Tuesday!

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My back hurts, my legs burn, and everything sticks to me, sweat painting my neck. I scrape my hair out of my face and find pieces of lettuce and dried enchilada sauce. Angel is just as filthy, the hours stuck to us in layers of grease while time has burrowed even deeper in my father’s skin.

He’s been waking up at three AM every morning for the past fifteen years. Cooking migas and tamales and pozole and carne asada. Cleaning up broken glass and spilled drinks and half-eaten food. Hiring bartenders and dish boys and steak cooks, firing them too. Waking up every morning wondering if people are going to show up that day, if they’re going to like the food, if they’re going to pay what it’s worth. And going to bed every night hoping that it was enough. To pay the bills. To raise four kids. To open the doors another day.

I can see those worries on his face, and even covered in filth, in food my father used to love, in sweat I can’t wait to wash off, there’s nothing I want more than to wear the same worry he does, to wake up with the same hope.

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Teaser Tuesday

I waited. For hours. For days. The sun never sank down but I could feel every nightfall. I could feel the cold, the darkness reaching for me, the slow drawl of my name. It fell on me hard like rain. That voice. I knew that voice. Or maybe it knew me.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t know me. I didn’t know where I was or what I’d done but I knew it was terrible. I could tell by the way my blood stalled in my veins and the way my chest cracked open with every breath. I’d done something terrible and something terrible had been done to me.

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Teaser Tuesday

Bryn was watching the clock as we waited for the far-off ding of the elevator and my dad to appear in the doorway with some more awful takeout. I watched it too, not daring to stare at the television for fear that my gaze would drift in her direction, betraying the wounds you could only see if you were staring straight through me.

She said something about rain clouds clustering outside and then she sniffled. “I wish you could just…” She stopped.

I wasn’t sure how many days I’d been awake, how long she’d been waiting for me to say something. But she was desperate. I could see it.

I was desperate too. Every day I was plagued by new sensations, feeling returning to me in pieces, and all those pieces wanted to do was touch her. I just wanted to touch her.

I swallowed, opened my mouth. Air. I took another breath, holding onto it.

“Roman?” she whispered.

“Br—” I stopped. Don’t say her name. Don’t let her love you.

It was burning there in her eyes, the kind of love that turns your insides into glass and the person you love into stone. Every word, every sigh, every pathetic sound I made had the potential to break her or keep her safe but when it came to the two of us, I couldn’t figure out how to do one without the other.

She stared down at me, still waiting. But instead of speaking the rest of her name I fumbled over my own, muddled and one syllable instead of two. When I finished I closed my eyes, cheeks flushed.

“Roman,” she whispered back.

And when I opened my eyes again Bryn was smiling and for one second I lost control and I couldn’t help but smile too.

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Teaser Tuesday

First there was her voice, a stray thin thing I couldn’t hold onto. I could feel it, the air passing between our lips, her breath on my face. Then I felt those lips. Soft. Shaking. They pleaded but when I opened my eyes, in those first flashes, lashes ripping free, irises burning, all I could see were the flames.

Pain.

That’s what I remembered. It pinned me to the bed, a dull ache that started in my fingertips and then it raged, filling me up, burning me from the inside out. There were other hands holding me down, gripping me hard. Faces blinking in and out. Strangers, all of them, except for Bryn.

She was standing in the corner, small and breathless and afraid. She looked at me, reached for me, but they pushed her out of the way. I watched her lips move, my name hanging on them. But above the whirr of the machines, the scuff of shoes on the linoleum floor—the chaos the two of us had somehow set in motion—it wasn’t her voice I heard. It was mine.

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Teaser Tuesday

When it peered at me from between the trees I didn’t even flinch. It stood there like a man but bristling like a beast, shadow creeping across the road to where I stood.

The cold hit me but it wasn’t enough to stop the riot in my veins, to chill the rage that was pulling me to my feet. When the dark shadow reached the edge of the road, silhouette swimming with the night, my instincts weren’t telling me to run. They weren’t telling me to hide or to be afraid. No. Every cell in my body was telling me to burn.

I took a step toward the shadow, its pull making my chest ache. I felt like I was at the bottom of the ocean, an infinity pressing on my lungs, trying to hold me down. But I didn’t let it. Because this thing was haunting Bryn. It wanted Bryn and whether she found me or not, I couldn’t stay here. I knew that. But I couldn’t leave her with this. I wouldn’t.

I took another step into the vortex, then another, letting my instincts maneuver every muscle in my body. And then I saw it. What was under the shadow.

Me.

I saw my face. Eyes bloodshot and seething. Lips curled into a smile that made my insides go cold.

My mouth strained for words, and as the air cut between them, the shadow came with it. It filled me. It clawed its way into every empty space until I thought I was dead. Until I wished I was.

But then I saw the light. I blinked and it was brighter than it had ever been. Warmer. Stronger. Pouring from every inch of me.

I fell on the ground, blinded, the darkness thrashing inside me. It clawed at my insides, trying to rip free. But I felt the heat surge and suddenly I was the flame. I lay there, burning, forcing it deeper, deeper. It strained for other pieces of me—my thoughts, my memories. It tried to snake its way inside, destroying everything but I pushed back, pulling myself to the surface again.

The fire in me reached its apex and I was nowhere and everywhere at the same time. I was human and something else. I was dying and then I wasn’t. I snuffed the shadow out, clawing my way back into my body until the weight lifted, until the quiet settled, until there was nothing inside me but ashes.

TGIB-WP

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