Neighborly by Ellie Monago #Review


A not-to-be-missed novel of suspense about the secrets hidden in a young couple’s new neighborhood.

Kat and Doug felt like Aurora Village was the perfect community. Minutes from the city, affluent without pretension, low crime with a friendly vibe—it’s everything Kat never had, and that she’s determined to provide for her infant daughter. Snagging a nice bungalow in this exclusive enclave was worth all the sacrifice. But everything changes overnight when Kat finds a scrawled note outside their front door.

That wasn’t very neighborly of you.

As increasingly sinister and frighteningly personal notes arrive, each one stabs deeper into the heart of Kat’s insecurities, paranoia, and most troubling, her past. When the neighbors who seemed so perfect reveal their open secret, the menace moves beyond mean notes. Someone’s raising the stakes.

As suspicious as she is of every smiling face and as terrified as she’s become of being found out, Kat is still unprepared for the sharp turn that lies just ahead of her on Bayberry Lane.

Amazon 

For starters, I was not thrilled with the first half. Here is why:

Kat – don’t call her Katrina- and Doug go overboard buying a house in a “great” family friendly neighborhood. The start reminded me of our newest obsession, NextDoor. So I sorta got pulled in. The the BIG Welcome … so overboard. I want to know where people have a huge block party to welcome people. All Kat did was attempt to be anyone else. She faked everything solely intent on pleasing others, trying to be like the others, gauging who was friend and who was BFF material. Just that part of the character was too over the top for me.

 

The past was introduced and it was a curve-ball. I felt for Kat and that is why I stuck with it. When I got to the halfway mark, I almost gave up.

The other characters got real. There was another plot twist. Kat is “threatened” by notes that I wanted more threatening. Really scare the shit out of her!  I think if they were a little harsh I would have gotten over the feeling of just a “watcher” and got into the scary stalker. Sometimes that is key to the “thriller” aspect.

I wont give away the plots, but the last half of the book surely makes it worthwhile. It was a Kindle First about 3-4 months ago and I think for a first, it was good

Ellie Monago is the pen name of an acclaimed novelist and practicing therapist. She’s also a wife and mother, and when you add it all up, she doesn’t wind up with much time for hobbies. But she’s an avid tennis fan, a passionate reader of both fiction and nonfiction—especially memoir (nothing’s as juicy as the truth!)—and she relishes a good craft cocktail.

 

Cry Baby by Ginger Scott @TheGingerScott #CoverReveal #NewRelease


What’s new…

CRY BABY will be coming your way on June 22! I can’t wait for you to read this one! Today is my cover reveal!!!! I also wanted to give my newsletter readers a little peek inside! Tell me what you think of the cover and excerpt!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Cry Baby by Ginger Scott

Young Adult Contemporary Romance

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2rjlag4

Tristan Lopez is loyal to his brothers. He doesn’t really have a choice, born into a gang that has a chokehold on every kid that roams its streets.

He gave his life to them willingly, knowing if he did then one day this kingdom, led by boys drunk with power and ruled by fear, would all be his.

He was loyal through it all. Loyal when prison took his dad away. Loyal when his face was touched by the cold metal of the rival gang’s gun. Loyal even though his mom begged him to run the moment she returned home from rehab.

He thought about becoming someone else. It was hard not to crave the life of a regular 17-year-old. It’s the only reason he stayed in school—to pretend. But he always fell back in line.

Loyal.

Riley Rojas didn’t belong in Tristan’s real world. She should have only been part of the fantasy, one of the many faces he got to pretend with amidst rows of metal chairs and desks and whiteboards with assignments.

But there she was, moving boxes from the back of an old pick-up into a house Tristan had shot up on a dare with his friends only a few months before.

Tall enough to look him in the eyes and strong enough to fill his shadow, Riley took up space on his streets, her loud mouth fearless in the face of the gang leaders who terrified everyone else. She pushed Tristan around on the hard court, and she balled better than his friends—better than him sometimes. She challenged him. She needed him. He liked it. And when her pale blue eyes stared into his, he quit wanting to pretend.

He couldn’t ask her to leave because she’d only dig her heels in deeper. He couldn’t ask because he didn’t want her to go. She was blurring his lines. She was testing his loyalty.

He was falling in love.

And it was going to tear him apart.

We stare at one another through a full breath while she takes in my partial promises, and I’m compelled to make my point again—the one I have been trying to make since I first met her.

“You don’t belong here, Riley. You just don’t.”

I’m barely done speaking when her hands reach up and touch my cheeks as her body steps into me. Her eyes close in that fraction of a second and her lips find mine, a cool and soft surprise that stuns me at the first touch, my entire body rushed with what feels like a shot of morphine that begins at my lips and flows down my neck and arms and spine. It’s the softest kiss I’ve ever had. There’s nothing dirty or obligated about it.

Her fingertips are feather-light against my skin, and her mouth holds onto my bottom lip with a quivering and timid touch that matches everything I know she’s feeling—that I’m feeling.

This kiss is uncertain. I don’t deserve it. She should take it back.

Her lips fall away from mine, losing their tentative hold as she lowers her heels back to the ground and takes a single step away as her eyes open on me. They are heartbroken and embarrassed. I didn’t kiss back. It kills me that I didn’t, and I wanted to. God, did I want to. Her lips deserve better, though. Kissing back would have been another sin. It would have been weak in another way. I’ve let her get too close as it is.

“We can’t be friends.”

The sickness climbs up my chest the instant I utter those words. Her eyes flicker, the light dimming quickly, hope lost and regret quickly moving in. Her mouth hardens, lips forming a sneer. I wouldn’t be shocked if she spit at me next. She doesn’t, but she does slap me. My skin bakes, the burn from what I know is a bright red sting she left behind throbbing as I tilt my head back to face her.

She knocked me off my axis, but she didn’t destroy my world. It’s more than that, though. I know it the second she turns her back to me and walks out the gym door.

I didn’t destroy hers.

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One Week by Roya Carmen @royacarmen @ejbook promos


Title: One Week
Author: Roya Carmen
Genre: Steamy Contemporary Romance (standalone)
Release Date: June 21, 2018
Cover Designer: Calico Images
Cover Photo: Depositphotos Stock Images 
A troubled marriage. A one week hall pass.
Gabriella Moore has it all; a beautiful husband, two adorable children, and a dream home. Yet, when, by chance, she befriends Eli online, she falls fast. And hard. She knows she must let him go, and saying goodbye is one of the hardest things she’s ever done, but she resolves to move on and forget about her beautiful stranger.
But then… she makes an unexpected discovery, and it shakes her perfect world to its core. Rules don’t apply anymore. An arrangement is made, and her husband gives her just one week with Eli. The rules are clear: One week. Sex only. No contact thereafter. Seems simple enough, but it’s never simple when it comes to love.


Prologue
Dear Eli,
First, I just want to tell you how much you mean to me. And that’s the problem… you mean more to me than you should. I keep telling myself that we’re just friends, but I think we both know we’re more than that. I’m not exactly sure what I am to you, but you are everything to me. I think about you all the time, every hour of every day. It’s a little ridiculous, to be honest. I am a happily married mother of two, and I should start acting like it.
I’ve really enjoyed our conversations about art and life, but it’s time for me to end this. For a bachelor like you, this is just a fun distraction I’m sure. But for me, it’s so much more, and it really shouldn’t be. What I’m doing with you is not right. I love my husband and my children, so it’s because of them that I need to say goodbye.
I’ll always remember you. : ) And I’ll smile every time I do.
Your friend,
Gabriella
It’s just one or two paragraphs, but I’ve second-guessed every word, have pored over every single sentence, debating whether the right sentiments were expressed. I’ve spent over an hour going over it. Over and over. I’ve read the message more times than I can count. The last thing I want to do is hurt him. He just doesn’t fit into the picture. My picture; John and me, and the kids, and the white picket fence, the perfect life. He should have never been in it. Some days, I wish I’d never met him. Others, I’m so glad I did. For the brief time that I knew him, he truly was one of the best things in my life.
My heart is hammering, threatening to burst as I swallow hard, and finally press on the ‘Send’ arrow. As soon as I do, I feel sick. A heavy weight presses down at the center of my chest, threatening to crush me. I’ve never felt so horrible, so lost.
But it had to be done. I tell myself I’ve done the right thing. For my family. For me. For him.
Our relationship flashes before my eyes — the laughs, the jokes, every single conversation, every wink, every little skip of my heart, his beautiful eyes, and his sweet smile. Damn… his smile.
It all started innocently enough, as these things often do…
Roya Carmen is a busy mom, romance writer, designer, bookworm, chocoholic, and hopeless romantic. There’s nothing she enjoys more than making up stories about love, and sharing them with her readers.
HOSTED BY:

Neighborly by Ellie Monago


A not-to-be-missed novel of suspense about the secrets hidden in a young couple’s new neighborhood.

Kat and Doug felt like Aurora Village was the perfect community. Minutes from the city, affluent without pretension, low crime with a friendly vibe—it’s everything Kat never had, and that she’s determined to provide for her infant daughter. Snagging a nice bungalow in this exclusive enclave was worth all the sacrifice. But everything changes overnight when Kat finds a scrawled note outside their front door.

That wasn’t very neighborly of you.

As increasingly sinister and frighteningly personal notes arrive, each one stabs deeper into the heart of Kat’s insecurities, paranoia, and most troubling, her past. When the neighbors who seemed so perfect reveal their open secret, the menace moves beyond mean notes. Someone’s raising the stakes.

As suspicious as she is of every smiling face and as terrified as she’s become of being found out, Kat is still unprepared for the sharp turn that lies just ahead of her on Bayberry Lane.

Amazon 

 

Ellie Monago is the pen name of an acclaimed novelist and practicing therapist. She’s also a wife and mother, and when you add it all up, she doesn’t wind up with much time for hobbies. But she’s an avid tennis fan, a passionate reader of both fiction and nonfiction—especially memoir (nothing’s as juicy as the truth!)—and she relishes a good craft cocktail.

 

Wreaking Havoc by Harley Stone @HarleyStoneAuth @ejbookpromos


Title: Wreaking Havoc
Series: The Dead Presidents MC Series #2
Author: Harley Stone
Genre: MC Romance
Release Date: May 28, 2018
18+ for language and sexual situations…
 
Fresh out of jail, Dead Presidents MC Sergeant at Arms, Marcus “Havoc” Wilson, is trying to lay low and keep his PTSD-induced temper under control while helping other military veterans rejoin society. In search of relaxation techniques, Havoc stumbles upon an alluring bookstore owner with a violent past of her own who’s able to calm him down in ways he’s never experienced.
 
Julia Edwards gave up her life of privilege the minute she tried to kill her ex-husband, and she doesn’t want it—or him—back. As a small Seattle bookstore owner, she’s determined to spend her days hidden between the covers of romance novels until her real-life fantasy appears and shakes up her entire existence.
Can these two attempted murderers find peace together? Or will the loose ends from their past unravel their future?


About a half hour, three chapters, and two cups of coffee later, the bell above the front door chimed. Pleasantly surprised, I set my book down and looked up, preparing to greet my first customer of the day. At the sight of who had come in, the greeting froze on my lips. Standing close to six-and-a-half feet tall and wearing the same inviting smirk that seemed to grace all his pictures, Marcus “Havoc” Wilson filled the doorway. And I mean, he filled the doorway. Everything about him was big, muscular, and imposing, blocking out the sunlight and dampening the sounds of the city.  

After the hours I’d spent scanning the web for juicy details on the Kinlan scandal, I’d recognize him anywhere. I just never expected to see him in person. Wearing faded blue jeans, dirty work boots, and a leather biker vest over a tight black T-shirt, he was one hundred percent, grade A, pure male, exuding sex and power like rays of sunshine penetrating my cold, dead love life. His testosterone levels had to be off the charts. I was tempted to close my eyes and bask in his manliness, but instead drank in his appearance once again, pausing to appreciate how large his hands and feet were. 
No doubt this man was huge everywhere. The thought stirred something to life inside me and heated up my entire store. 

 

“Mornin’,” he said, closing the door behind him. Such a deep, sexy voice. Deep and sexy enough to send vibrations straight to my lady parts. If that sound was coming through a speaker, I’d be tempted to sit on said speaker and work some stuff out. 
I needed to get a grip. 
Actually, I needed to get laid. And to stop reading romance novels. And to stop drinking. What if he wasn’t real, but just some figment of my imagination spawned from loneliness, desperation, and booze?
“You’re open, right?” he asked. 

 

He sure sounded real
“The sign says you’re open. I can come back later if you’re not.” He reached for the doorknob. 

 

The idea of him leaving spurred me to action, freeing me from whatever spell his unexpected presence put me under. I stepped forward, ready to tackle him if he tried to escape. “Sorry. Yes. I’m open.” 
He cocked an eyebrow. 

 

Unintentional sexual innuendo for the win. Heat flooded my cheeks. “The store’s open, I mean. You’re… you’re Marcus Wilson, aren’t you?” 
His eyebrow dropped, and his expression darkened. “Havoc. Please. Do I know you?”  
“Did Laura put you up to this?” Had my sister really contacted him and sent him my direction? I’d kill her. Or I’d hug her. I was so confused I didn’t know what I’d do. 

 

“Laura?” He tilted his head to the side staring at me like I was a puzzle. Either he was an excellent actor, or he had no clue who I was talking about. Carefully watching me, he shook his head. “Sorry. I don’t know any Laura. I’m just here looking for a book.”
Could it be true? Had the universe brought him to my doorstep out of mere coincidence? If so, I’d just made a complete fool of myself. “Right. A book. I can help you with that.” Scooting down the counter to my computer, I pretended we hadn’t just shared an award-winning awkward moment and got down to business. “Do you know the title, author, or genre?” 
He stared at me, no doubt trying to determine my level of sanity and possibly marveling at my recovery skills before answering, “Something about keeping flowers alive.” 
Come on. This had to be some sort of setup. No way was a man like Havoc searching for a book about flowers. I wanted to laugh and tell him I was on to his and Laura’s little game, but his expression remained serious, making me second guess myself. Fingers hovering over my keyboard, I considered the circumstances that would send him after a book about flowers. Maybe it was a gift? For whom? He wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, so I decided to fish. 

 

“Who’s the gardener?” I asked. “You or your significant other?” It was a blatant, shameless line, but I’d cast it, and there was no reeling it in now. At least not until I saw whether or not he’d bite. 
He watched me, his expression curious and a little amused. “No significant other. Just me.”

Harley Stone writes mafia romance and funny-as-shit romantic fiction. When she’s not writing, she’s busy living out her real adventure in southwest Washington with her husband and their five boys. 

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Unscripted by Jax Hart @ejbookpromos


Title: Unscripted
Author: Jax Hart
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Suspense
Release Date: May 21, 2018
Cover Design: Mayhem Cover Creations.
 When she told me Sons of Anarchy was her favorite show, I knew I was in trouble.

When she said I’m what Jax would look like if he didn’t die, I knew I was screwed.

I was her fantasy man… all grown up.

But I’m no pretty boy acting in a show.

This is real life sweetheart. 

It’s ugly. 
It’s raw.
Unscripted.

Meat a.ka. Roger spent his life protecting the secrets of his motorcycle club while being a bodyguard to the princess who grew up in its shadow. But when she finds her king and her happy ending: Roger rides alone.

Devon walks into his bar looking for a job. But, one look at the tatted, silver fox and she knows she’s found her man. 

But Meat wants nothing to do with a girl half his age.

He calls her jailbait.

She calls him her dream man.

Sometimes the best things are unplanned. They are UnScripted.

Authors Note: This is a standalone spinoff novel from Duke but the author does recommend reading in order.


“You showed.”
Shrieking, I turn around, with a hand over my rapidly beating heart. My first thought is: He’s huge. My second thought is: He’s that asshole. My third thought is: Damn, he’s fine.
Be cool Dev, be cool. My fingernails dig into my palms as I try to slow it down, bite my tongue and rein in my swirling emotions. I can’t make an enemy of this man when he could be the key to solving so many answers of my past.
“Y-yes.”
He smirks, slowing coming forward and my breath catches before I burst out into a fit of laughter. He’s a beast–a giant with ink covering both arms, but in that white apron he’s wearing over a pair of worn jeans he looks like any woman’s wet dream who’s over forty.
“What?” He barks.
“It’s just. It’s just that… I’m sorry,” I gasp out swiping tears of laughter, “You look hot. I mean, for an old guy and all… in that apron,” I gesture with one hand, trying to charm him with the truth.
His lips don’t twitch. He stares me down with eyes that seem to glow in the dark. Fascinated, I slowly walk forward. I’ve never seen eyes that color before. They’re light blue like arctic ice caps, bobbing in a frigid sea. And his hair… it’s gray and hands down the back of his neck tethered by a leather strap. His beard looks soft, they kind that you could run a hand over before you cuddle in, listening to the sound of your man’s steady heart.
What the fuck?
I shake my head and clear my throat. “I’m sorry. You caught me off guard.”
“Follow me,” he grunts.
He leads me down a hall towards the kitchen. The smells wafting towards us makes my tummy growl. I know he heard, but he doesn’t crack a joke at my expense.
My eyes lower to his ass, and I bite my lip. He’s built. His ass is firm and meaty like he used to power lift or something. I kind of feel like a freak for even looking at a man who’s got to be twice my age at least—but I’m fascinated. I’m fascinated that he’s in such good shape and intrigued that he knows who Dee was. I need to make sure I get this job. It might be the key to solving everything about my past.


Jax Hart: Singer, a songwriter, living creatively through art. Dirty Romance author from the great state of Washington. Duke is his first full-length novel. He generally hates most people, plays the bass guitar, and enjoys camping trips with his son. 

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Wreckless Engagement by K. Marie @kbos14 @ejbookpromos


Title: Wreckless Engagement
Series: The Russian Engagement Series
Author: K. Marie
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: March 14, 2018

 

You just couldn’t make this sh*t up if you tried…

 

A hot man, a one-night stand. Five days in Miami, that was the plan.
Things went sideways real-quick.
How could what started off as a five-day girls’ trip have careened so quickly out of control?
I found myself in a fix.
Just a small-town girl from a boring little city, my life might have even been described as charmed. Until it suddenly wasn’t.
My knight in all black armor swooped in to save my distressed damsel like a move right out of the super-hero playbook.
The man was a ridiculous cliché.
Tall, dark, handsome and mysterious? Check!
Garland wore power like a suit, possessed an ego on steroids, never minced words, and avoided messy entanglements like the plague.
Prince Charming? Nope!
He still drew me like a magnet.
Only, he was way out my league. A man like him could never be serious about a woman like me.
But he didn’t seem to mind slumming. Heck, I guess everybody’s got to make a charitable donation sometimes.
And the man is nothing if not a giver. His words are seductive, his touch addictive, his mouth magical, and his body a weapon.
I never stood a chance.
Then a snap decision has life altering consequences, and my world shifted in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
Bodyguards, paparazzi, and high-stakes might have been more than I bargained for.
Oh, did I mention I was already engaged…to another man?
Follow Camry as she sets off on a head-spinning journey that started out as a vacation but ended up in crazyville. If you like both romance and adventure, WRECKLESS ENGAGEMENT is the book for you.

 

An avid reader, K. Marie fell in love with books when a good friend bequeathed her with her very first Harlequin Romance novel. An admitted sucker for happily-ever-after, she loves nothing more than a gripping tale rife with hunky heroes, feisty heroines, and lots of drama. Reading has always been her escape, but writing is her passion. So, it was only natural that she’d one day create her own steamy tale of sex, lies, love, and redemption. 


K. Marie is a self-professed feminist, who believes in indulging and catering to the female fantasy in an unabashed and unapologetic fashion.  

She currently lives in Michigan with her heroic husband and incorrigible children. When not writing, she can be found ranting and raving at cable news, deeply engrossed in politics; doing DIY projects, or planning her next vacation.

Wreckless Engagement is her debut novel.

Road to Grace by Piper Davenport @ejbookpromos @piper_davenport


Title: Road to Grace
Series: Dogs of Fire Series
Author: Piper Davenport
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 8, 2018

 

18+ for language and sexual content! 

Grace Lundy’s life has been tainted with horror and tragedy. She’s spent the past ten years building a fortress around her heart to avoid more pain. In the process, she’s managed to push away those closest to her, but the time has come for them to push back.

Billy “Flea” Jameson lives his life as a faithful soldier in the Dogs of Fire MC, free of commitment and drama…until Grace comes home from college. The sexy as sin woman who walks into the clubhouse isn’t the young girl who left for school, and her appearance promises an end to his commitment-free life.

But trouble brews when an innocent man is sent to prison and a rival club vies for territory.

As Flea works with his brothers to protect the club, can he keep Grace from being caught in the crossfire? 

 
Piper Davenport is the alter-ego of New York Times Bestselling Author, Tracey Jane Jackson. She writes from a place of passion and intrigue, combining elements of romance and suspense with strong modern-day heroes and heroines.
She currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids.

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Perfectly Lonely by Jessica Marin @ejbookpromos @authorjessmarin


Title: Perfectly Lonely
Series: Let Me In Series #2
Author: Jessica Marin
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 2018
Cover Design: Najla Qamber Designs

I’ve loved and lost. Now I lose myself in mindless sex, drinking and work, anything to pass the time and fill the void that I feel. Another drink, another guy…until Chase Wilson. He’s not what I expect, turns out he’s also not who I thought. Then again, neither am I.
Some might call what I’m doing destructive, I call it survival. When finally putting myself out there backfires, I vow not to let it happen again. I know what my body wants, but it’s not what my heart needs and it’s about time I learn the difference.

As life around me moves on, I realize life is worth living and that I’m worth loving. But old habits die hard as I struggle to understand Chase’s motives for trying to save me from myself.

One thing is clear. For the first time, I’m done being perfectly lonely.

 

Jessica Marin began her love affair with books at a young age from the encouragement of her Grandma Shirley. She has always dreamed of being an author and finally made her dreams of writing happily ever after stories a reality. She currently resides in Tennessee with her husband, children and fur babies. When she is not hanging out with her family, she loves watching a good movie, going dancing with the ladies, sniffing essential oils and daydreaming of warm beaches, winning the lotto and world peace.
HOSTED BY:

COLLECTING SECRETS Book One of the Friends & Lovers Series By PE Kavanagh @pekavanagh



Book Links
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0792F84WY
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37859291-collecting-secrets
ARC Signup: https://goo.gl/forms/Oid2j8SJfm506GDy2
Reviews
“With beautifully written characters and a storyline that was an emotional journey, this is a book that should not be missed.”
Goodreads reviewer
“A must for any romance lover.”
Amazon reviewer
“It was a beautiful story to read and a smoking hot chemistry added to the appeal.”
Amazon reviewer

 

 

Blurbs

A grieving heiress.
A celebrity psychologist.
A decade of friendship.
Undone.
When Camille first met Jackson she was too young.
Too innocent.
Too traumatized.
Friendship was less than what she wanted, but all she could handle. Ten years later and she’s a different woman. Strong, successful, brave. At exactly the wrong moment, one bold move threatens everything. The safe harbor of Jackson’s family. The unconditional commitment of his friendship.
The collection of secrets she never knew existed, Claims and confessions come hard and fast as Jackson and Camille navigate all that has never
been said. Each step they take, closer to the truth and each other, demands another layer of secrets must fall. Collecting Secrets is a steamy standalone contemporary romance with no cliffhanger. You will meet characters who will reappear throughout the series.

Website—www.pekavanagh.com
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PE KAVANAGH has been a professional dancer, MIT-educated engineer, corporate executive, spiritual teacher, and chef. These days, her favorite titles are author, mother, and hot stuff. Find out what she’s up to at pekavanagh.com.

 

Excerpt

This was not the first time Camille had looked foolish, but it might have been the first time she didn’t care. Unable to find her room key or hold back the torrent of tears, she plunked down onto the ugly hotel carpet in front of her door and sobbed, loud and hard. With nothing but the back of her hand to wipe away the tears and snot, the scene quickly escalated from tragic to gruesome. Heartbreak was no stranger. But this particularly cruel break-up was the last straw. How dare he? She had given him everything and he claimed it wasn’t enough. He’d stood in the cold marble lobby and yelled at her. Accused her of cheating. As if… Humiliation mingled with anger and desperation, halting any effort to pull herself together. They’d flown across the country to attend this wedding and now she’d be conspicuously dateless in a room full of happy couples. She tried to take a breath and choked on a new wave of tears.

A soft crush of footsteps stopped in front of her, but Camille had no interest in lifting her head off her knees to look.
“Hey, Cam. What’s wrong?”

She knew that voice, as well as the gentle stroke of his hand in her hair. “Camille. You’re scaring me. What’s going on?”
His worry pierced through her pain and, with great effort, she tilted her head up to see her best friend’s face inches from hers. His eyes flashed to fear. “Camille! What happened? Are you okay? Talk to me!” It took so much energy to form words. “Calm down, Jack. I’m okay.” “You don’t look okay. Did something happen with Charlie? Where is he?” The questions were coming too fast for Camille’s throbbing, blurry head. “He dumped me.”
There, she said it. Out loud. The line of his lips flattened and his breath growled. Rage filled his expression. “That mother fu-”

Camille shook her head, trying to regain her composure. “We flew all the way here and that bastard couldn’t even wait one more day.”
Jackson’s mouth softened. “I’m so sorry.” He rubbed his thumb across her cheek. She looked into the warm brown eyes of her closest friend, the man who’d been like a brother for the past ten years. This was how she knew him best – kind, caring, and sweet. She didn’t care how the world saw him. She had gotten to know the real man. “Let’s get you up and into your room.” He slipped his long arms under hers and stood her up. She fell into his broad chest, melting into the arms that enveloped her. “Where’s your key, love?” he whispered into the top of her head. She mumbled into his chest. “I couldn’t find it.” Keeping a firm grip around her with one arm, Jackson dipped down to pick her purse up off the ground. “Can I take a look?”

“Of course.” She had no secrets from him. She winced when he had to unlock his arm from her waist to search through her purse. Of course, he knew exactly where she would have put the key: in the smallest zippered pocket. He waved it in front of the magnetic pad and the loud click confirmed his success. As expected, the room had been cleared of all Charlie’s belongings. His compulsiveness would have prevented him from forgetting anything. Camille stepped away from Jackson to look around, hoping to find a belt, or a tie, or even a tube of shaving cream. Any excuse to contact him again. But there was nothing, not even a stray hair. Charlie had almost snuck out without her knowing. If she hadn’t had to leave the restaurant to go to the bathroom, she would never have seen him, bags in hand, striding across the lobby. Jackson stepped in front of her, halting her examination of the room, and began wiping her eyes and nose with a tissue.

“I’m a mess.” Only the slightest tinge of self-consciousness colored the moment. This was who they were and had always been. He pressed the tissue across her nose and she blew, like a small child.

“No, Cam. You’re just hurting.” He balled up the tissue and flicked it into the small metal bin to his right. “I know you’re upset, love. But, personally, I’m glad he’s gone. He was never good enough for you. And he reinforced his complete lack of class by doing this here. I mean, he couldn’t have ended it before flying to Chicago with you?” Camille dropped her head, another rush of tears pressing against her eyes. His broad palms cupped her face, tilting her up to look at him. “Hey, hey, Cam. He has no idea what an amazing woman you are. There are better things in your future. I know it.”