Treat Yourself to 10 Romance Ebooks for $0.99 Each!

I don’t know about you, but here in Connecticut, it’s been cold and windy, and Mother Nature keeps dumping snow on us. This Valentine’s Day, I’m collaborating with nine other authors in an exciting $0.99 sale. Diving Into Him (South of Forever, Book 1) is only $0.99 through February 18th.

Warm up with 10 romance ebooks for $0.99 each—and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

Click here to get started »

Alexa and Siri Are My Bitches

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And by “bitches,” I mean “dear friends who help me with things.”

This weekend, I finally upgraded my pathetically outdated iPhone 4. Not even the 4S—the 4, you guys. It was years old and turtle slow. It did make calls, which is pretty much the point of a phone, but in my out-in-the-country apartment, I barely have service. Texting is my main method of communication—that and FaceTime. I’ve long been eligible for an upgrade, but money’s been tighter than tight. Sprint.com had a deal: a free iPhone 5S with a two-year contract renewal. Um, hello!

I’d been using Siri on the iPad, which we got secondhand in December 2015—and it radically changed my life. When it’s plugged in, you can use the “Hey Siri” feature, which is pretty handy. For example, if I’m cooking dinner and the iPad is on the counter playing a podcast, I can plunk my sore body down and say, “Hey Siri… Set a timer for 20 minutes.” Hands-free, which my achy fingers and wrists really appreciate. I don’t have to walk across the kitchen to reach the iPad, which my hip and lower back also appreciate.

Since activating my new phone, I’ve used Siri mostly for texting. I’ve been having a hard time with texting lately, because my thumbs and wrists are so stiff and sore. The simplest messages take me forever, and it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll goof them up somehow. It’s really amazing to hit that button and say “Read my texts” or “Text so-and-so…”

While the tech itself is cool and I nerd out a lot about it, I’m all about the accessibility. If Siri has been helpful to me, imagine how helpful it is for others!

I would’ve been completely satisfied with my Siri, but my aunt got us an Echo Dot for Christmas. Now my little gang is complete with Siri and Alexa.

At first, back when Alexa first launched, I thought it was a tad bit creepy that Alexa is always listening. You don’t press any buttons. You just say “Alexa,” and then whatever command. It was also kind of buggy when it first launched; it didn’t understand a lot of things and often played the wrong songs, etc. But Amazon seems to have ironed out some serious kinks. However, Alexa doesn’t seem to understand my husband. Maybe it’s because he spent its first night home completely torturing it: “Alexa, what drugs do you do?” Now Alexa ignores him completely. (I can’t really say I blame it.)

In the morning, I’m supposed to take my Plaquenil, Prednisone, and one of my two Tramadol for the day with some food. I’ve been having trouble with Plaquenil and dairy, though, so if I have any dairy in my breakfast, I wait before taking my meds. Being that I’m so stiff in the morning and my mobility isn’t the greatest until Prednisone kicks in, I’ve already settled into a rhythm with Alexa. When I finish eating, I say “Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes.” It can hear me from across the room and starts the timer right away. I can even ask it, “Alexa, how much time is left on my timer?” I don’t have to get up or push any buttons. For me, this is a dream. When the timer goes off, I say “Alexa, stop,” and take my meds with water.

I’m sure I’ll find more uses for Alexa and Siri. I’m trying to figure out how I can have Alexa read my manuscripts to me while I’m editing; it can read Kindle books, but I don’t know if I’d have to format my WIP as a .mobi first or if it’d work just fine if I just load it into my account as a .doc. This would help me catch more errors in early passes.

Siri can also take dictation; I’m planning on setting aside some time to play around with writing by dictating to Siri on my Mac. I know a lot of authors love Dragon, but I just don’t have the budget for it. Dictating my novels—if I can get the hang of writing out loud—would really take some strain off my wrists.

I know a lot of people are kind of weirded out by voice-commanded tech. It seems futuristic and slightly creepy. My dad, for example, wants nothing to do with it. I completely agree that there are certain lines you just don’t cross. I wouldn’t load all of my payment and banking information into Apple Wallet, for example. That’s just asking for trouble—or at least, it seems that way to me. But Alexa can order things off Amazon for you, and you can even set a voice code so that it can’t be abused. I don’t often feel well enough to run errands, and Mike is usually exhausted and raring for a nap after work, so it would be pretty handy to say “Alexa, order some paper towels” or whatever when we’re running low. They’d be delivered straight to my door, saving both of us some time.

You can even connect certain home objects to your Alexa. It’d be so rad to say “Alexa, turn down the thermostat” or “Alexa, turn on the bedroom light.” I can easily imagine mornings, when it’s hard to get out of bed, made a bit easier by my girls: “Alexa, read Let’s Get Visible.” I could still be productive.

I do feel kind of weird “bossing” Alexa and Siri around. I can’t help but think of The Matrix and even Dollhouse. It brings up some interesting questions. Does AI have feelings? What makes us human? Sometimes I say “please” or just tell them they rock. I can easily imagine a future where voice-commanded AI is super useful or completely and totally abused—or abusing us! It’s definitely an intriguing avenue to explore in fiction. My Amarie in the f/f companion novel to Just One More Minute always says “please” to Alexa and Siri, because she doesn’t want to hurt their feelings. (Amarie is so sweet, and I can’t wait for you to meet her!)

Security and ethics aside, I welcome our robot overlords. As long as you’re smart about how you use them, they can be extremely beneficial to those of us with limited mobility. I’m even envisioning a future where, instead of the Life Alert lanyard, elderly people have an Echo Dot or something similar in their home; if they fall, they can say “Alexa, call 911” or even “Alexa, call my daughter.”

There are so many fantastic uses for Alexa, Siri, and future iterations. I’m eager to see how this technology progresses!

Do Alexa and Siri creep you out? How would you utilize them in your everyday life? Let me know in the comments!

Now Available: Just One More Minute

via GIPHY
via GIPHY

November has been a complete jerk so far. October too, if I’m being honest. But where last month I was able to keep up with everything, I’ve fallen completely behind this month. 🙈 Needless to say, between release day jitters, life-y things, the election, and chronic pain, I’m a blob of anxiety. Usually, pre-release, I sit down and write up an organized marketing plan, complete with deadlines. I kept up with everything until just about two weeks ago. I’ve barely promoted the Facebook release party and I’m honestly really bummed about that. Only Thursday night did I remember to email everyone who signed up for ARCs to remind them to post their reviews. Le sigh.

But the show goes on. That’s what we do. We pick ourselves up, find our place, and keep marching forward—even if we need to take frequent breaks for rest.

The theme of Just One More Minute, in a nutshell, is that life blows up. It’s not pretty. Plans change. But there are always people around us who help us get back on our feet, and we always find more strength within ourselves. There’s always a chance to start over.

My inner strength reserves are kinda shot at the moment, but I’d like to give a shout out to, in no particular order: my husband Mike, my work wife and fellow author J.C. Hannigan, my crit partner and fellow author Molli Moran, and my best friend Sandy. I also want to thank my family for doing really nice things like showing up with groceries and helping wrestle my air conditioner out of my super scary 100+-year-old windows. And a major thank you to everyone who’s helped via my GoFundMe page. Thank you also to Sarah J., who read an ARC of Just One More Minute and told me it was the one bright spot in an otherwise crappy week. Honorable mention goes to Michelle H., a lovely reader and soon-to-be-published author who has lifted my spirits several times this week just by chatting with me on Facebook.

Even when life gets sassy, there are a lot of things to be grateful for.

My fingers, hands, and wrists are especially stiff and achy, so I’m just gonna end this with the Just One More Minute blurb and some buy links.

Happy release day to me—and to you, my lovely readers!


Just One More Minute, by Elizabeth BaroneA down-on-her-luck waitress inherits a bakery with the man who stole her dream job—and broke her heart.

Rowan left Connecticut to escape her indifferent family the second she graduated high school, but when her loving aunt dies, she drops everything to return for the funeral. All Rowan wants is to say her goodbyes and get back to her life—until her aunt’s lawyer tells her that she’s inherited Elli’s Bakery, the last straw that sent her running to New Jersey.

Even worse, her brand new business partner is Matt—the guy who stole her dream job at Elli’s and crushed her heart. Is she really supposed to just forgive him and run Elli’s by his side?

For Matt, Elli’s has been a safe haven, a way to take care of his heartsick mom and fatherless little brother. When the woman who took him in passes away, Matt has no idea what he’s going to do next. Until Rowan returns to their small town and becomes his new business partner. But after everything that went down between them, it’s clear that Rowan resents him.

Digging up the past will only be painful, and Matt needs to keep the bakery in business. Can Matt convince Rowan to stick around long enough to work things out between them?

Just One More Minute is a standalone small town bakery romance.

Buy Now

Kindle · iBooks · Nook · Kobo · Google Play · Smashwords · More

I’ve decided to leave the book at $0.99 just a bit longer, so grab your copy now!

Still not convinced? Read the first two chapters here.

Win a $100 Amazon Gift Card!

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

It’s November, which means two things: the election is coming up (eep), and the holidays are, too. While I can’t help you decide who to vote for, I can totally help you with your holiday shopping.

Schwartz Bioresearch recently reached out to me and offered to send me one of their products and open up their $100 Amazon gift card giveaway to my readers! I’ll be reviewing their probiotic in a couple weeks, but in the meantime, all you have to do to enter the giveaway is click here.

You can also enter below.

Giveaway November 2016

Who doesn’t love a free gift card? I mean, really.

The $100 Amazon gift card giveaway ends November 30th, so enter now!


Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Schwartz Bioresearch. I received a free bottle of their probiotic supplement in exchange for my honest review. My opinion is my own.

The Sky is Falling (Again)

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

I’ve been working in the indie publishing industry for five years, with a smattering of trad pub experience right before that. I mean a very tiny smattering; I had a couple short stories and poems published in journals before I got addicted to self-publishing, and I was with a small press for a year. But I’ve always been an introvert, and the thing most people don’t know about us introverts is that we’re super observant. We may not say much, but we see everything. And we pay attention.

Lately there’s been a lot of ugliness in the lit community. Some high profile authors were outed for attacking readers, there’s been a lot of mudslinging over diversity in fiction, and now I’m seeing a lot of authors griping about how “oversaturated” the industry is.

I get it. Amazon sales have tanked for everyone this month. In general, there’s been a decline in sales. The industry has been plateauing, trying to find its footing in the midst of this digital revolution. But I’ve noticed the panic really dig in to authors when Amazon changes something. And then things get ugly.

I’ve been doing this for five years. It’s not a long time, by any means, but I’ve seen a lot of things change. It’s completely natural to look for something to blame when the industry shifts, but it seems kind of petty to lob it at the increasing number of authors and books out there.

For one, the market has always been full. Even before indie publishing took off—back when it was considered vanity publishing to go and print copies of your books and sell them out of your car—there was a vast traditional market. Book stores became more and more selective with who they gave shelf space to. It was a game of dollars—which publisher could pay the most to get their star author front and center in stores. And it still is.

New authors are debuting every day in the traditional world. Some never sell. Publishers are taking a huge gamble on them. Many authors will not publish again, or will and remain low- or mid-list. Those who buckle down for the long haul will ultimately have the most rewarding careers. Some will become overnight bestsellers and will be completely okay with their single famous series.

It’s the same on the indie side of the fence. The only difference is whose dollars are backing the production and marketing.

Authors, we’re not competitors. There are millions of readers around the world, with new markets opening up every single day. (Right now India and Nigeria’s ebook markets are booming, by the way.) Readers don’t play favorites. Sure, there are authors they love who they will always buy from right away. But most readers are just looking for something good to read that fits their tastes and their budget—especially while their favorites are in between releases.

We’re not competitors, the same way sushi and pizza aren’t. They’re different foods, with different flavors, but they’re still tasty. Depending on the day, I’ll have a craving for one or the other (or a variety of other foods).

Amazon tweaked an algorithm that slashed sales. Okay. That does sting. My sales, for example, aren’t that high in the first place. Being disabled and low income, I work hard so that my book sales help pay my bills. I more than understand the stress. However, Amazon isn’t the only retailer out there, nor are they the only avenue of income for authors.

For example, over on Kobo my sales are business as usual. I’m participating in a 30% off promotion and my standalone romance The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos is currently selling all over the world, with little effort on my part at this point. All I did was sign up for the promotion. Thanks to Kobo, I just sold my first book in Sweden. A couple months ago, I broke into the UAE market for the first time.

 

Kindle Unlimited is just not a long-term business plan for indie authors. It’s great in the short-term, but as Amazon tweaks algorithms to better service their customers, it affects the authors. And that’s fine, because Amazon is a business and they have to do what’s best for their customers. They don’t owe authors anything. Their job is to keep their business running—and our job is to keep our businesses running.

I was recently listening to an episode of The Creative Penn podcast and Joanna Penn said something like “readers don’t owe you a living.” This really resonated with me.

Amazon and readers aren’t obligated to keep our businesses running. We are. And we do so by being open to other streams of income, such as going wide (maybe rotating series in KU but not putting our entire catalogs in), writing in multiple genres, writing nonfiction, and looking for related work, like teaching courses and workshops.

Our entire careers do not and should not depend on Amazon. Our sales do not depend on whether other authors are releasing. Our sales do not depend on readers.

How well we do is up to us, the author—the entrepreneur at the head of our own businesses.

Our careers depend on how hard we want to work. It’s as simple as that.

I’m in it for the long haul. And no algorithm tweak or market condition is going to change that.

Cover Reveal: What Happens On Tour

Untitled design

Drum roll, please—it’s time for the official What Happens On Tour cover reveal! You may have seen my puzzle over on my Instagram profile, but there’s nothing like seeing this baby in HD. Designer Starla Huchton needs some serious applause.

Are you ready? I’m tingling, I’m so excited.

3…

2…

1…

What Happens On Tour (South of Forever, Book 3), by Elizabeth Barone

South of Forever’s first tour is about to begin, and so is Poppy’s career—if she can keep all her lies straight.

Poppy Hampton may be rock band South of Forever’s new manager, and she may have successfully launched her brother’s music career, but she sort of lied about her credentials. She also may have aged herself up a bit in her resume. It’s no big deal.

All she has to do is make sure they don’t find out.

Until the band’s sexy drummer—and the guy of her dreams—Griff tells her that it’s finally happened: South of Forever has been invited to go on tour with the fast rising rock band, King Riley. She’d be thrilled if such an exciting opportunity didn’t mean choosing between her career and her education—or if dating Griff didn’t mean lying to him about the ten-year age difference between them. Can Poppy launch her career without destroying it before it’s even started? And if she risks everything to follow her heart and be with Griff, can she keep her secret safe?

What Happens On Tour is the third book in the South of Forever series, a steamy contemporary New Adult romance that follows a fledgling rock band on its way to the top.

Available August 19th.

PRE-ORDER SALE

Pre-order now for only $0.99!

Kindle · iBooks · Kobo · More

What Happens On Tour (South of Forever, Book 3), by Elizabeth Barone

Catch up on the South of Forever series:

Buy Diving Into Him and Savannah’s Song now »

Savannah’s Song: Chapter 5

After registering Chloe for day care, Savannah had said nothing else to Max about the whole thing. Barely sleeping that night, she tossed and turned, worried that she’d just sealed her relationship’s fate. When morning came, she waited until Max left to bring Chloe to the day care, her frazzled nerves sizzling under the hot sun. She took the T home alone, and the silence was deafening.

The apartment seemed smaller without Chloe. Savannah sat on the warm couch, the TV off, a full cup of cold coffee in her hands. Biting her lip, she shifted position. Maybe it was time to get up. Without Chloe, though, she didn’t know what to do. No small hands tugged at her shirt. No chatter filled the empty spaces between her thoughts.

“It’s for the best,” she reminded herself. The ache in her heart didn’t seem so convinced.

She needed to put her free time to better use. She had never gone through anyone else’s things before. Even when she tidied up, she merely organized. Max didn’t seem bothered by it, and she could probably throw away his old ATM receipts and scribbled lyrics, but it felt wrong. It felt even more wrong to purposely dig through his belongings.

Perhaps trying to talk to him again would yield better results, especially if she straight-up asked him what was going on. Or he would yell at her some more. Maybe he would even get aggressive. The Max she fell in love with wasn’t violent, but she hardly knew who he was anymore. That Max hadn’t kept secrets, either.

His nightstand was the obvious place to start. Kneeling in front of it, she pulled on the top drawer. As if refusing to betray him, the drawer stuck fast. She yanked harder. Papers crushed against each other. She gave the nightstand a flat look, wondering when it had gotten so full.

Putting all of her strength into it, she wrenched the drawer open. A stack of papers slid into her lap. She gathered them in a rush, then hesitated. If she was going to snoop, she should go all the way.

She fanned the papers out on the floor, eyes skimming each page. Most of them were drawings by Chloe. In the bottom corner of each one, she recognized the date in her own handwriting. She grinned. There was an obvious evolution to each piece. Chloe was getting good, for a little kid. She just might take after her.

“We don’t share any DNA,” she reminded herself in Spanish. There was no way that Chloe would ever be like her. It was probably for the best. She hoped that Chloe would grow to be honest and direct, less of a coward than she was, sleuthing through her boyfriend’s drawers for answers.

The first stack of papers contained nothing else of interest. She put it to the side and reached in for another. The receipts she found were mundane, things like Big Gulp purchases and groceries. One had a phone number scrawled on it, but when she examined it closer, she remembered that it belonged to the cell phone they shared. Neither of them had been able to memorize it when they first moved to Boston, after canceling their individual, more expensive plans.

She put the papers back where she found them. Perhaps there was nothing else to find.

Or, she surmised, she was looking in the wrong place.

She returned to the living room, went to the desk, and woke up the laptop. A twinge of guilt twisted through her as she navigated to Max’s email. His password was easy to guess. Scrolling through the messages, she skimmed the subject lines. Much of it was spam. The rest were from her—reminders to pick up milk after work—or from the other members of South of Forever.

She slumped back in the chair. So far, her search had turned up nothing useful. She started to shut the computer down when a thought occurred to her.

If Max was cheating on her while he was supposedly at work, the best way to find out was to watch the studio.

She snorted, shaking her head. The idea was preposterous, and yet, it made sense. She might be turning into the obsessive, stalker girlfriend.

Rubbing at her face, she told herself that she needed to stop. Whatever was going on would reveal itself in due time. Things like that always came out, she reminded herself. Her abuela liked to say that secrets were like farts.

Savannah wished that she and her own mother were so close. Maybe, when things calmed down a bit and she had a better idea of where she would be living, she could invite her parents and older sister to visit, to try to make amends. There was no point in contacting them if Max was about to break up with her. If that happened, she would have to go back to Connecticut. Though she hated the idea of crawling back to her parents, there was no alternative.

She had nowhere else to go.

Wrenching her thoughts back into the present, she left the computer on the desk and grabbed her keys.

She wasn’t sure how much she could observe in the two hours she had before the art show began. Still, she hopped onto the T and took it over to the studio. More than ever before, she relied on her own two legs since moving to Boston. The city had a romantic, alive feel to it that no other city she ever visited had possessed.

There were plenty of cities all throughout the United States that fostered careers in the business. Something drew her and Max to Boston, though, and that had to count. They couldn’t really be at the end of their relationship. They had to grow old together, first, she mused.

Stepping off the T, she headed toward the studio. The scent of burnt coffee from a nearby stand pressed down on her. Dread pitted in her stomach. Her mind reeled. The muscles in her shoulders tensed with each step.

Stopping outside the building that housed The Den, she paused. For the first time in her life, she wished that she was a smoker. Then, at least, she would have something to do, rather than standing outside idly.

She stared at the entrance and debated whether to go inside. Doing so would put her at risk of being seen. There wasn’t much she could observe outside, though. Hoping that she wasn’t about to make yet another mistake, she slipped inside the entrance to the stage. Before heading up the stairs, she glanced around to make sure that no one from the band was around. The coast clear, she bounded up two steps at a time. When she got to the landing, she paused.

Her heart thudded in her chest.

Other musicians occupied the hall. She ducked back into the stairwell. She couldn’t tell if anyone from South of Forever was out there. If they saw her, she would have a lot to explain. Drawing a shallow breath, she crept back into the hall. Her eyes darted from face to face. None of the musicians looked familiar.

Her own heavy breathing echoed in her ears.

The room adjacent to South of Forever’s, she remembered, had a one-way window into their recording booth. It was mainly for videography purposes. Now and then, The Den was used as a space to film music videos. More than likely, the room stood empty at the moment. She tiptoed toward it as if the door was about to burst open. Putting a hand on the knob, she paused for a second. It could be locked. Muttering a silent plea, she twisted the doorknob. It turned easily. She pushed the door open.

Darkness greeted her. Letting out a sigh of relief, she eased into the room. Her heart continued to pound, her mouth dry. She used her tank top to dry her sweaty palms, then walked toward the window.

No one occupied the booth at the moment, but the door was open. She saw Jett head to head with Koty as they pored over a notebook that was full, she assumed, of lyrics for their EP. Perry leaned against the couch, an arm slung over the back, his fingers brushing against Poppy’s hair. She scooted away from him, her chest rising and falling as she sighed.

Griff joined Jett and Koty. Though Savannah couldn’t hear him or read his lips, his body language and hand gestures told her enough. Poor Perry wasn’t getting the message that Poppy was off limits.

Her view was only a fraction of the room, and it didn’t include Max. She closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against the window. Spying on him was stupid, especially if she couldn’t see him.

Opening her eyes, she took a step away from the window when movement caught her eye. Max sat on the other side of the couch. Poppy turned toward him, more out of gratitude, Savannah suspected, than actual want of conversation. The booking manager’s body language was purely professional, and Max didn’t seem interested in her, either—at least, not on a physical level. He looked as if he was going to drop, though.

Dark circles wove around his bloodshot eyes like stage makeup. He pushed his hair out of his face, and Savannah made a mental note to trim those locks later. He had a notebook balanced on his lap where he scribbled something down every so often. Savannah couldn’t tell whether he was taking notes on what Poppy was saying or not. He didn’t seem to be paying attention to her, other than a polite nod every few sentences.

Deciding that she had seen enough, Savannah turned away. Max was at work, where he was supposed to be. She needed to get to the gallery, or everything that she had done to get Chloe into day care would be for nothing.

Suspicion still tugged at her, though. If he wasn’t cheating, she needed to find out what was going on.

* * *

Savannah took the T to Seven Deadly Brushes, the painting tucked under her arm. Her nerves popped and sizzled, a frazzled mess under her skin. Even with the air conditioning on the T, her hair plastered to her forehead. She looked down at her sneakers and shorts, debating whether she was underdressed for the occasion. She suddenly wished that she had thought to call her father. Despite their lack of communication, she probably could have talked him into sending her the money to order a dress with overnight shipping. Begging for their help might be a little like cheating at adulthood. Her shorts would have to do.

Before she knew it, she stood in front of the gallery. She smoothed her hair and, taking a deep breath, forced herself to go inside.

She glanced around. Zachary hadn’t told her where to go once she got there. Eyes scanning the art on the walls, she noticed all of the paintings were Latina-themed. She searched for a blank space to hang hers. There was nothing available.

As she turned to go, a hand caught her arm. She gasped as she met Zachary’s eyes. “Well, hello there.” She held out her free hand.

Instead of shaking hands, he leaned forward and kissed her cheek, his warm lips lingering. It had been a long time since someone greeted her with a kiss. His scent teased her nostrils. It was a combination of, perhaps, whatever cologne he wore and his own natural scent—spicy, matching the heat of his lips. “Glad you came,” he said. His lightweight, button-down shirt clung to corded muscles.

She indicated the full lobby. “These people are all here for your show?”

“No, beautiful. They’re all here for you.” He lifted a hand and directed her gaze to an easel standing alone in the center of the clean, brightly lit lobby.

She lifted an eyebrow at him. “What’s that?”

“That,” Zachary said, “is where we’re displaying your piece.” His eyes gazed into hers. Warmth shot down into her pelvis. Her grip tightened on her painting.

“Whoa. There’s no way I can do that.” She avoided his eyes. If she looked into them too long, she feared, she would be sucked in.

He put his hand lightly on the small of her back and steered her toward the easel. “This is my gallery, and I can feature whoever I want.” He lifted the painting from her grasp and began peeling off the paper it was wrapped in. “Ladies and gentlemen.” His voice boomed above the chatter. “Welcome to Seven Deadly Brushes, where you can view and buy Latina art and, if you’re feeling crazy, get inked.”

Polite laughter rippled through the group, though no one seemed particularly interested in getting a spontaneous tattoo.

Setting her painting on the easel, Zachary stepped to the side. “Please welcome our featured artist, Savannah Santos.” The way her name rolled off his tongue made her slightly dizzy. Applause undulated through the crowd, and people pressed closer. Leaning down, Zachary whispered in Savannah’s ear. “I have to go mingle now. This is going to sell. Just stand here and chat with people. I guarantee, you’ll walk out of here with money.” He gave her another kiss and sauntered away, raising an arm in greeting to someone she couldn’t see.

Though she wanted to wrap her arms around herself, she made her hands hang limply at her side. She tried to look inviting, though she had no idea how she was supposed to do that.

“That’s beautiful.” A woman in her forties stepped closer. She pointed at the painting. “How long did it take you to paint?”

Savannah glanced at the filigreed skull eyes and the pouting lips. She returned her gaze to the woman. She thought of Chloe, of the tiny hand that was currently missing from hers. Guilt pulsed through her, but she shoved it down. She could feel guilty later. “A couple days.”

“Amazing.” The woman nudged the slightly older man who escorted her.

He nodded. His gaze drifted across the room. “Ah! Let’s go look at that one.” He led the woman away, but she winked at Savannah over his shoulder.

“You might want to start tracking your time.” A thin woman in her early thirties stood at Savannah’s elbow. She wore purple lipstick, a stark contrast to her dark skin. Her long black hair was piled in a bun, and she spoke with a light Mexican accent.

Savannah turned toward her, switching into Spanish. “¿Por qué?

“Altagracia,” the woman said, pointing to herself. She leaned in and air kissed Savannah. “I did that one over there.” She pointed to a black and white painting of a woman dancing in traditional Campeche dress, long red skirt fanning out around her.

Savannah gasped. “She’s beautiful.” She started toward the painting, a hand outstretched. She air traced the long, flat nose and round, dark eyes, picturing how the woman in the painting would look tattooed on her shoulder. Altagracia drew her back.

“To answer your question, it helps you price things better. Stick by this.” She touched Savannah’s painting. “It’s going to sell fast.” Altagracia nodded toward the crowd milling around.

Everyone kept saying that. She wanted to believe it. Savannah bounced on the balls of her feet. Anticipation thrummed through her. The second that she could get away, she was going to check out the rest of the artists. Glancing at the rest of the paintings, it seemed as if she had fallen into her own personal heaven.

“It’s true.” Altagracia patted her hand and ambled away, her black skirt swirling about her ankles as she moved.

Most people passed by, giving Savannah a smile or nod. There was no mistaking the interest in their eyes, though. She had no idea that Boston had such an affluent Latina culture. She supposed that it made sense, though. The people fleeing conditions in South and Latin American countries wanted to get as far away as possible. For a moment, she wondered how many of the artists in the room were legal American citizens. She decided that it didn’t matter. They were safe from the violent gangs, and that was all that she needed to concern herself with. She had enough worries on her list.

Still, the thought of children and their families fleeing such violence often weighed heavily on her. A young man stood in the corner in front of a scene painted on cardboard with acrylic. In the painting, a teenager lay on the ground, blood gushing from a gunshot wound in his chest, hand outstretched. In the shadows, his shooters walked away without a second glance.

The artist didn’t look a day over seventeen. With his dark skin and haunted eyes, he could easily be a refugee. The painting was probably based on a real event. She made a mental note to figure out a way to ask him without sounding insensitive. She spent so much time wrapped up in her own problems that she often forgot about the suffering in the rest of the world.

“This is gorgeous. How much is this one?”

Turning, Savannah came face to face with a man wearing a shabby suit. Glasses sat askew on top of his head, and crow’s-feet etched the corners of his eyes. She held out a hand and introduced herself.

“Derek Galloway, songwriting professor at Berklee.” He shook hands with her, his grip cool but firm. “I walked in, and your piece drew me right over.” His voice was gentle, soothing in a grandfatherly way. “I try to bring color to my office, to inspire my students. I have to have this. How much is it?”

Her mouth opened, then closed. She gasped a sharp laugh. “How much is it?” she repeated. She looked around for Altagracia, but didn’t see her. “Excuse me, one moment.” She slipped away, eyes scanning the crowd for a familiar face. Her heart pounded in her chest. Someone wanted to buy her painting.

She found Zachary first. He stood talking with a man in a crisp suit. When he saw Savannah, he put an arm around her and drew her into the conversation. “Here she is, my star artist.” He introduced the other man as an art acquisitions manager for a local museum, but Savannah barely heard his name.

“Can I steal you for a second?” She hoped that the other man wouldn’t be offended.

“Of course.” Zachary led her to a less crowded spot, a hall that appeared to connect the lobby and gallery to the tattoo parlor. “What’s up? Is everything okay?” His eyebrows knit in concern.

“Someone wants to buy my painting.” She tugged at the hem of her shorts.

“Didn’t I tell you?” Zachary hugged her with one arm, and she was once more enveloped in the heat of his scent.

She backed away. “I don’t know how much to ask for, though.”

“Ah.” He drew her farther into the hall. The voices from the lobby drifted away slightly. “Here’s my advice. You don’t want to lose them by going too high, but you don’t want to cheat yourself, either. Let them make you an offer.”

Her brow furrowed. “What if they go too low?”

Zachary snorted. “Trust me, they won’t.” He indicated the well-dressed crowd. Her glance flicked to Professor Galloway, though, eyes roving over his worn suit. He ambled toward the young man with the painting of the dying youth.

“The tragedy of this one!” Professor Galloway lifted his arms.

“Just let them make you an offer, okay?” Zachary released her and sauntered back toward the crowd. Her knees wobbled in his wake.

Tilting her head back, she closed her eyes. She needed to get a grip. It didn’t matter how chiseled his chin was, how warm his eyes were, or how solid his body appeared. But, apparently, it mattered to her body. She wished he would stop touching her. Collecting herself, she walked back into the fray.

An elderly woman with her long white hair woven into a braid tottered toward Savannah. She leaned on a cane. “Are you the artist of the two sugar skulls?” she asked in Spanish.

Savannah nodded.

“How much do you want for it?” The woman limped back toward the painting. “I want to give it to my granddaughter.”

For a moment, Savannah thought of telling her that she could have it for free. The woman’s braid reminded her of her own abuela. But she could use the money toward fall and winter clothing for Chloe. She took a deep breath. “It’s up for negotiation,” she said, keeping her voice light. Her heart thundered in her chest.

“How about a thousand?” The old woman’s eyes glinted.

Savannah’s own eyes widened. “As in, a thousand dollars?”

“Or $1,500?” The woman swung her braid over her shoulder. It trailed down her back. Gnarled hands gripped her cane.

Savannah shook her head. “No, a thousand is fine.” Her voice came out in a squeak.

“Sold. I’ll go see Zachary.” The woman tottered away. “Don’t you go double-crossing me, selling to anyone else while I turtle my way over there,” she called over her shoulder.

Savannah looked for something to lean against. Her legs felt like jelly. She wanted to laugh. Blinking in disbelief, she glanced around the room. The youth in the corner shook hands with Professor Galloway. It was a firm sold handshake. Altagracia threw another number at the art museum’s acquisitions manager. He nodded. All around her, the other artists haggled with buyers. She watched as various forms of signs went up on paintings, marking them as sold. She wished she had thought to bring her own.

A short time later, she walked out of the gallery with $850 in her pocket. Humming to herself, she hopped onto the T. She couldn’t wait to tell Max.


Savannah’s forever has a secret that could destroy them—and the band.

CONTINUE READING
Chapter 1 · Chapter 2 · Chapter 3 · Chapter 4 · Chapter 5

Savannah’s Song, Book 2 in the South of Forever series, is now available.

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Savannah’s Song: Chapter 4

The front door opened and Max shuffled in, hair disheveled. Her fingers twitched with the desire to run her hands through that hair, to try to tame it. Part of her wanted to know why he was home from his paper route later than usual, though.

Shoving her questions down, she wiggled the phone at him. “Guess who just called me?” Her lips broke into a wide grin.

Lifting a shoulder, he ambled past her toward the coffee pot on the counter.

Grabbing Chloe’s breakfast, she moved to the side so he could make his coffee. Savannah put the fruit and waffles in front of the little girl and practically danced to the refrigerator. “I submitted one of my paintings to a gallery.” She leaned toward Max, hands clasped, ready for his reaction.

He measured coffee grounds, his back to her.

Face falling, she inched closer until she stood next to him. “Did you hear me, papi?”

“So?” He turned the coffee pot on and reached for a mug amidst the dishes drying in the drain.

“I got in.” She waited for understanding to dawn on his face. It didn’t. Rocking back on her heels, she mumbled in Spanish to herself about how men were so oblivious to everything. “They’re going to sell it, for money. My art is being displayed to people!” There. Sometimes, she had to break things down for him. Men and women truly lived on different planets.

He gave her a nod and headed for the refrigerator.

“That’s it?” She lurched into his path. “You’re not going to congratulate me?”

His eyebrows knit together. “Why?”

She shook her head and moved to the side. “Never mind.” As he opened the refrigerator door and grabbed the half and half, she tried again, from a different angle. “Mira, the showing’s gonna be early in the day. I kinda have to show up. I was thinking, maybe we could enroll Chloe in a day care. Maybe I could start painting again, a couple hours a day.”

Max slowly turned to look at her. The half-gallon of creamer slipped from his grasp. It crashed to the floor, splashing against the cabinets and Savannah’s feet. “Day care?”

Grabbing the dish towel, she knelt to sop up the mess. “Yeah. Probably just one of the ones where they socialize, you know? Not one of the accredited ones.” She steeled herself for the argument. She knew they couldn’t afford childcare for the whole day, but if she could bring Chloe just a couple of times a week, it would be the perfect compromise.

“Are you serious?” He crossed his arms.

He glared down at her. She grimaced. “Do you want me to say I was kidding?” Meeting his eyes, she smiled. “Just think about it. I know we don’t have the money, but—”

“You want to just dump my kid with strangers?” His words cut into her like shrapnel. At the table, Chloe burst into tears at her father’s sharp tone. Max never yelled.

Lifting Chloe from her seat, Savannah rocked her back and forth. She shot Max a glare. “It’ll only be a few hours a week. Besides, the interaction with other kids her age will be good for her.”

Will be?” Max’s hands balled into fists.

Ignoring him, Savannah brought Chloe into the living room. The little girl’s favorite cartoons were on. Reaching for the remote, Savannah turned the volume up. Max followed her, though, and she sighed. So much for drawing attention away from their fight.

“You’re not putting my kid into some kind of baby farm.” He pointed a finger at her.

Taking a deep breath, she moved back into the kitchen, hoping that he’d follow. He stomped behind her, and when she turned, he looked even bigger than usual. Huffing, he reminded her of the Hulk. She took a step back, eyes darting for a way around him—just in case. Lifting a hand, she searched for a way to calm him down. “I’m just trying to make us all happy.”

“So you’re not happy?” He bristled and appeared to grow another few inches.

She rubbed her temples. “That’s not what I’m saying.” Glancing at the clock, she tried to change the subject. “Aren’t you going to be late?”

Max looked at the clock, too. Deflating, he nodded. “I had to cover someone else’s route on top of mine, and I got lost.” Stepping over the still-wet spot on the floor, he grabbed the pot of coffee and poured it into a thermos. Spinning away from her, he moved into the living room. He kissed Chloe’s forehead. She looked up at him, cheeks still wet. He turned away. Without another word, he left.

Blinking back tears, Savannah sank to the floor. The Max she knew rarely even raised his voice. If Chloe did something he didn’t like, he merely redirected her. She had never seen him angry, never been afraid of him. She pressed a hand to her lips. Both of her hands shook. Forcing her shaking legs to still, she stood. She needed to figure out what was going on with him. There was no way she could live in a home with so much negative energy swirling around.

Her gaze landed on the cell phone on the counter. She bit her lip. Arguing with Max was one thing. Going behind his back was another thing entirely. Though she would never let him run her life like she was some kind of Stepford robot, she hated to break his trust. When it came down to it, he had a certain parenting style, and she usually didn’t try to undermine him or work against him in any way. He relied on her to take care of his daughter.

She sighed. Missing the gallery wouldn’t kill her, but it would probably hurt her chances of selling the painting. It wasn’t as if she didn’t trust the little girl to behave. No matter how good she normally was, though, Chloe was only four. She had her moments. It could be embarrassing.

She reached for the phone. All she had to do was email Zachary. She could figure out the rest later.

Hands shaking, she opened up the email application. She started to type out a message, then deleted it.

She couldn’t do it, even if it meant giving up her dream. Chloe and Max were her dream instead. They had to be.

She put the phone down on the table and made herself walk away.

In the living room, Chloe sat in front of the television.

“Hey, baby girl, let’s go to the park. Come on, let’s get you dressed.”

Chloe ignored her, her eyes fixated on the screen.

Savannah chewed on the inside of her cheek. “Chloe.” She made her voice slightly sterner and marched across the living room. “Come on, cutie.” Even as Savannah plucked her from the floor, Chloe’s eyes remained on her cartoon.

Pausing, Savannah watched the characters. There didn’t seem to be a plot, and the things they said hardly made sense. When they did say something logical, it was completely inappropriate for a four-year-old.

She put Chloe down, her mind made up.

In several long strides, she was back in the kitchen. She retrieved the phone from the counter and opened the email app again. Taking a deep breath, she sent Zachary a simple message: I’ll be there. Then, closing her eyes and hoping she wouldn’t regret it, she pressed send.

When she opened her eyes, she wished she could take it back. She could only move forward, though.

Squaring her shoulders, she went into her and Max’s bedroom. Throwing open the closet door, she searched for the box that contained all of their personal records. Max hadn’t done much to organize anything back in Waterbury. When they moved to Boston, the first thing she did was bring order to the mess.

She found the box underneath a box of winter clothing. She hoped she wouldn’t regret her next move.

She tucked Chloe’s folder underneath her arm and pushed everything else back into the closet.

“There’s no going back, girl,” she told herself in Spanish. Her grandmother would say that she needed to give it to God. Savannah couldn’t remember ever believing in a higher power, but she could believe in herself. Still, she whispered the phrase her abuela often used. “Vaya con dios.” She suspected that her abuela was actually referencing an old Western, but Savannah liked to think she had been as pious as she always claimed to be.

She dressed quickly then, in the living room, tugged clothing onto Chloe.

“Wanna go to school?” she asked Chloe.

The little girl’s eyes lit up. “School? Like, where you play?”

“Basically.” Savannah held out her hand. “Come on. Let’s go sign you up.” She just hoped that, when the time came to explain, Max would understand.


Savannah’s forever has a secret that could destroy them—and the band.

CONTINUE READING
Chapter 1 · Chapter 2 · Chapter 3 · Chapter 4

Savannah’s Song, Book 2 in the South of Forever series, is now available.

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Savannah’s Song: Chapter 3

A groan rippled across the apartment. Savannah sat at the desk in the living room, her chin cupped in her hand. A yawn escaped her lips as she strained to listen for further movement. When no other sound reached her ears, she decided that it was probably just the building settling—or her imagination. With Chloe finally in bed and Max still at work, the house felt eerily silent. Plus, the late hour didn’t help.

She focused on the computer again. A web page displaying samples of logo designs sat open on the screen. She scrolled through, studying each piece. She figured that if she looked at enough examples, she would eventually come up with an idea for South of Forever’s logo. So far, all she had accomplished was keeping one eye open while her body grew more exhausted.

Instead of taking a nap, Chloe had spent an hour throwing a tantrum on the living room floor. Gazing at the screen with bleary eyes, Savannah resisted the urge to look up parenting blogs. Whatever was making Chloe boycott naps was probably normal. Besides, she needed to focus.

She eyed the kitchen through the pass-through and chewed the inside of her cheek. Maybe a cup of cocoa would energize her enough to get through the next couple of hours. Pushing back her chair, she padded into the kitchen and retrieved a pan from a cabinet. Within a few minutes, the scent of cocoa permeated the air. She poured it into a tall mug.

Carrying her drink back into the living room, she switched on a lamp. Max didn’t need to come into a dark house.

She set the mug down on the desk next to the computer and slid back into her seat. As she sat, something poked her bottom. Frowning, she lifted up and examined the chair. No stray screws protruded from the fabric. She slid a hand along the fabric of her shorts. Her fingers brushed something. Shaking her head at herself, she dipped her fingers into her pocket and withdrew the crumpled business card.

Smoothing it out, she leaned closer to read the small text. Her heart fluttered in her chest as she replayed her meeting with Zachary. She reached for the keyboard to look up Seven Deadly Brushes. From what the business card said, it seemed as though Zachary’s tattoo shop was also a gallery.

The home page proclaimed that they were taking submissions for their gallery. She wondered if Zachary actually had any staff, or if “they” stood for just him. Maybe he was hiring. She scrolled through the page, skimming the entry requirements. All someone had to do was email a photo of the painting they wanted to include in the exhibit. There wasn’t even an entry fee. She could submit one of her skull paintings.

Rolling her eyes at herself, she shook her head. She had no business submitting her work to any gallery. Nowhere near professional level, she would only be disappointed when she was rejected—or when she didn’t hear back from the gallery at all.

Still, her fingers itched to peel off the paper she had wrapped her paintings in. Something had to be worth submitting. Even if she never heard back, she had to try.

Shrugging, she reached for the cell phone that she and Max shared, then darted into their bedroom.

She slid open the closet door and pulled out a large wrapped canvas. Her fingers danced back and forth as she unwrapped the painting. By the time she finished, sweat beaded her hairline. Without air conditioning, the apartment was hot—and she’d just been drinking cocoa.

Three sugar skulls painted in vibrant pink, green, and purple stared back at her, surrounded by bright orange marigolds. She moved the phone around until the entire painting was in the frame. Then, before she could think about what she was doing, she pressed the button to take the picture.

She re-wrapped the painting and slid it back into its place behind her and Max’s clothing. A sigh escaped her lips. Her fingers twitched with the urge to pull out the last canvas she had worked on—a painting of Max that she had yet to finish.

Tapping a key, she woke up the computer, then connected the phone into the USB port. When the screen popped up asking if she would like to import the photo, she clicked yes and went back to Seven Deadly Brushes’s website.

Filling out their form, she uploaded the photo. Then, before she could change her mind, she pressed the send button. It zipped off into cyberspace to Zachary’s inbox. She wiped her sweaty palms on her T-shirt.

“And then right to his trash,” she muttered. Unplugging the phone, she deleted the photo. Her eyes swept toward the time on the display. Grimacing, she shut down the computer. She had spent far too much time on the gallery’s website. Steam no longer rose from her mug of cocoa. It was just as well.

She wondered what life would be like if she had finished college and started her own freelance design business. While she had never considered graphic design, she could have fallen in love with it, if she had given herself the chance. Instead, she had wasted her art history and English courses sketching rather than taking notes. She had seen the college’s required courses as a waste of time and wanted to spend more time on her actual major, and had paid the price.

Taking a deep breath, she walked back to her bedroom and closed the door behind her. It was time to stop dwelling in the past, especially when she had such a beautiful family. Given some time, maybe she could talk Max into having a baby of their own. Even though he didn’t make much money, they were relatively settled. Chloe would love being a big sister.

She pulled off her clothes and tossed them into the hamper. A satisfied sigh escaped her as the satin sheets enveloped her naked body.

The front door swung open, the creak groaning across the apartment. Max moved through the short hallway and into the living room. Imagining him weaving around their furniture, she propped her chin in her hands and prepared herself.

The door to their bedroom inched open. Max eased inside, probably because he thought she was already asleep.

“Hey,” she whispered.

Light from the street spilled into the room from between the blinds. As Max’s eyes adjusted to the dim room, his mouth dropped open. She rolled onto her side, exposing her breasts. He yanked his shirt over his head as he crossed the room. Kicking off his shoes, he joined her in bed.

The scent of his cologne hit her a second before his lips crushed to hers, his fingers tangling in her hair. Using his free hand, he cupped her breast, thumb roving over her nipple until it hardened. His other hand moved to stroke the back of her neck. She gasped, and he took advantage of the opportunity. His tongue flicked into her mouth, caressing hers. She pressed her body against his, feeling his erection against her thigh. Fingers trailed his chest, pausing at the waistband of his jeans. He kissed her harder.

She unbuttoned his jeans and dipped her hands into his boxers. She stroked the velvety skin of his head, drawing him out of his pants. He exhaled sharply into her ear, and her skin tingled. Finally, the moment she had been waiting so long for was about to arrive. Scooting to the side, she pulled him toward her with one hand. With her other hand, she helped him shed his pants. He kicked them off.

Grinning, she pressed him against her. His teeth nibbled at her earlobe. His fingers stroked the back of her head, tangling in her hair again. The slight pull only turned her on more. She arched her hips and thrust until he was inside of her. Adrenaline shot through her body, erasing the long day and her worries. Moving against him, she put her hands on his shoulders, and frowned.

He balanced on an elbow, eyes closed. For a moment, she thought he may just be savoring the moment. When his eyes remained closed, though, she stopped moving. He sagged to the side, slumping into a pile of pillows. Her jaw dropped. He had never fallen asleep during sex. Despite their recent dry spell, they joked all the time that it was their favorite pastime. Savannah turned onto her side and poked him hard in the chest. A soft snore rippled from his nostrils.

Shaking her head, she scooted down, intending to entice him into further activities. She cupped him in her hand, then frowned. He was already going soft.

Gritting her teeth, she glanced at the time. It was just as well. She needed to be up soon with Chloe, and he needed to rise early to deliver more newspapers. Curling up on her side next to him, she kissed his cheek, the stubble on his face prickly against her lips. The beard was new, too. She closed her eyes and waited for sleep to come.

It didn’t.

Thoughts swirled through the darkness, diving into her mind. Perhaps he wasn’t interested anymore. Maybe, she supposed, there really was someone else. Poppy hadn’t seemed interested, but he still technically had time after practice for a quickie with someone else.

Savannah’s eyes flew open.

If that was the case, she should hardly be worrying about designing something for his band. He didn’t deserve it.

Hugging a pillow to her chest, she turned away from him, tears slipping from her eyes.

* * *

Sunlight streamed into the kitchen. Chloe stared through the pass-through, transfixed by her cartoon in the living room. Standing at the counter, Savannah sliced a banana, arranging it next to Chloe’s mini waffles. If all the kid was going to eat was carbs and sugar, she was going to sneak something healthy into her diet.

As she dropped the knife into the sink, the cell phone vibrated against the counter. She didn’t recognize the phone number. She almost let it go to voicemail—she didn’t want to waste their minutes on a telemarketer—when she realized that it was a Boston area code. Her heart skipped a beat.

Taking the call, she pressed the phone to her ear. “Hello?”

“Is this Savannah Santos?” a smooth, masculine voice asked. He sounded familiar.

Her jaw dropped. Her mind went blank as she realized who she was talking to.

“Hello?”

Shaking her head at herself, she gathered her thoughts. “Yes,” she said. “This is Savannah.”

He chuckled. “Good, because I was going to be embarrassed if I called the wrong person.”

She laughed, too, though she wasn’t sure why.

“I think we met in the grocery store yesterday,” he continued.

His confidence only sped up her heart rate. “Sorry,” she feigned. “I meet lots of guys when I’m shopping for milk. Which one are you again?”

“I’m the one who’s going to make you a lot of money.” He paused. Heat enveloped her face. The phone nearly slipped out of her grasp. She wiped her hands on her pajamas. “I like your submission,” Zachary said.

“Oh?” She leaned against the counter, urging her heart to stop its galloping.

“It’s amazing. The color, the detail—I think it would be a great fit for Seven Brushes and what I’m trying to do. And I’m going to sell it for you, get your name out there.”

“You’re awfully certain of that, papi.” The term of endearment flew out of her mouth before she realized it. Clearing her throat, she forced her next words to come out quickly. “How can you sell it?”

“All you need to do, baby girl, is show up. I’m opening the exhibit at noon tomorrow. Just come, bring some business cards, if you have them. If you don’t, you’re going to be kicking yourself.”

She barely heard him. There was no way that she could go to a gallery smack in the middle of the day—not with Chloe underfoot. For a four-year-old, Max’s daughter was really well-behaved, but a gallery was no place for her.

“So I’ll see you tomorrow?” Zachary asked.

Hesitating, Savannah glanced at Chloe. She could probably figure out something. “Totally,” she said finally. She considered her options. “I mean, would it be okay to hang the painting and leave, if all else fails?”

“Of course.” The smile in his voice shot heat into her pelvis. He switched to Spanish. “It’s your painting, Savannah. I’m just here to help you succeed.” The way the words rolled off his tongue made her sag against the counter.

She had to get herself under control. Just because she was sexually deprived didn’t give her an excuse to go all loose-limbed whenever he spoke. She cleared her throat and forced herself to respond in English. “I’ll email you.” Her voice came out husky, thick with lust. Heat blazed across her cheeks. She turned on the faucet in the kitchen sink and grabbed a towel.

“I’m going to sell that painting within the first hour, Savannah,” he said.

She wet the towel and pressed it to the back of her neck. “Sure.” She nodded, her resolve strengthening. “I’ll see you there.” Then she hung up before he could say anything else—or entice her any further. She dropped the phone and leaned over the counter, the dish towel cold against the back of her neck. She needed to get a grip. She also needed to get laid, and soon.

Her mind flashed to the night before. It wasn’t like Max to fall asleep like that, she thought, but she would turn it around. She had to.


Savannah’s forever has a secret that could destroy them—and the band.

CONTINUE READING
Chapter 1 · Chapter 2 · Chapter 3 · Chapter 4

Savannah’s Song, Book 2 in the South of Forever series, is now available.

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Savannah’s Song: Chapter 2

Stepping into the studio, Savannah guided Chloe to the sofa, without taking her eyes from Max and the new girl. She released Chloe’s hand and barely noticed as the preschooler climbed onto the couch. Eyes narrowed, she watched Max touch the woman’s arm lightly, a smile playing on his lips.

The men’s voices were a babble, drowning out Max’s conversation. But Savannah had learned to read lips along with her friends in middle school, when talking in class resulted in detention.

The young woman’s eyes never left Max’s. Savannah easily made out her next words: “It’ll definitely be a pleasure working with all of you.”

She gritted her teeth and started toward them.

Perry squeezed between Max and the beautiful woman. “Poppy, if you’re free after this, I’d love to take you to a great bar for a drink.”

“She doesn’t even look old enough to drink,” Savannah muttered.

“You can’t afford to take yourself out, never mind her,” Griff told Perry.

Poppy played with a stray strand of curly hair, full lips glistening with lip gloss.

Jett joined Savannah. “Isn’t it amazing, how men can be distracted so easily?”

Savannah nodded. “Who the hell hired her?” Her voice was nearly a growl.

Jett sighed. “I did.”

Poppy untangled herself from the group of men. “Excuse me, gentlemen, but I’ve got a list of shows that I’ve already booked for you.” She winked at Jett as she strode toward the couch. She clutched a binder to her chest. “I actually do have some shows booked, if you’re interested.” Her brown eyes met Jett’s again.

Savannah tightened her grip on the cooler and took a step away from the couch. A pang twisted her heart as she glanced at Max. She wished she could work with him in the studio. Jett got to work with Koty. Though Savannah sensed that Jett had initially tried to keep Koty at arm’s length, they now spent their days writing songs together and practicing harmonies. With no musical inclination, though, there was nothing Savannah could contribute to the band.

“Wait.” Jett tapped her shoulder, holding up a finger to Poppy. Savannah spun to face her, blinking her thoughts away. “I actually wanted to ask you something.”

Savannah followed her across the room. The table was cluttered with notebooks and sheet music. “What’s up?”

Jett slid her hands into the pockets of her jeans. “We’re almost done recording the EP. Your boyfriend’s been harassing me to just upload it somewhere, rather than trying to get a record deal first.” She nodded toward Max. “He even offered to handle everything. I have no idea how to do any of that stuff.” Jett shrugged, a sheepish grin playing on her lips.

A strand of hair escaped Savannah’s side braid. She tucked it behind an ear. “You want me to talk him down?” Max hadn’t mentioned anything. If he was that excited about the EP, he should have shared it with her. Something was definitely going on with him.

Jett waved a hand. “Nah. I think it’s great. He’s got a lot of energy.”

Savannah’s eyebrow shot up. The Max that she knew dragged himself around the apartment, alternating between ignoring her and snapping at her. If he wasn’t acting that way at work, then he definitely had a problem with her. Dropping the cooler onto the table, she started to turn away. She needed to collect Chloe and go home, figure out what she was going to do.

Jett caught her by the arm. “Any chance I can harangue you into designing a logo for us, and the cover of the EP? I’ll pay you,” she added quickly. “Eventually.”

Savannah’s mouth dropped open. “Oh.” Mind racing, she glanced at the group of men. Max and Koty sat at the mixing board, while Chloe bounced around her father trying to get his attention.

“I know it’s kind of last minute,” Jett continued, “but I’ve seen your work, and I think you’re fucking amazing.”

Fingers pulling at the hem of her shirt, Savannah struggled for a graceful way to decline. “I’ve never really designed anything for the internet.”

“You’d be great,” Jett said. “I know you can do it.”

Before she could say anything else, Poppy appeared at Jett’s elbow.

“Are you free to talk about the shows now?” Poppy asked. She held out the open binder.

Nodding, Jett sat at the table and indicated for Poppy to do the same.

“I started with a show here at The Den,” Poppy said. “I’ve got a distributor who can have CDs of the EP made in a few weeks, just in time for the first show.”

Savannah cringed. She would need a lot more time to draw up a logo and make the cover, especially if she was going to have to learn Photoshop.

Joy unfurled across Jett’s face, though, something Savannah had never seen from her. “Yes!” She pumped a fist in the air. “I knew I hired you for a reason.” She hugged Poppy with one arm.

Eyes wide, Savannah tucked the cooler under her arm and turned away. If she was going to work on the project, she needed to get started that afternoon. She wasn’t sure she wanted to, though. If Max was planning on breaking up with her, there was no point.

Chloe sat at Max’s feet, her lips twisted into a pout. He still hadn’t so much as acknowledged her. It was flat-out weird. Maybe his problem wasn’t just with Savannah. Maybe he was tired of playing house, period. The Max she knew lived for his daughter. Before she met him, he had been raising her alone.

Frowning, Savannah crossed the room. She tapped his shoulder. “Hey, Daddy, someone’s here to see you.”

Max swiveled in his seat. He flicked an annoyed glance at Savannah, then scooped Chloe into a hug.

Though Savannah’s heart leapt at the sight of him with his daughter, she wished that he would put his arms around her. She wondered what his deal was. He was acting so weird.

But Max released Chloe quickly, his attention already drifting back to the mixing board. The little girl’s shoulders drooped, a whine escaping her lips.

Savannah swatted at the back of Max’s head. “Your daughter misses you.” She shook her head, wondering how Max could so easily dismiss them.

It was as if he didn’t hear her. He slipped on headphones.

Koty glanced at Savannah, his eyebrows furrowed in concern. “Let’s take a quick break.” He jumped up from his seat and ambled toward the table where Jett and Poppy still sat.

Savannah held out the cooler to Max. “I made you lunch.” Even though she had done nothing wrong, she needed to make up with him.

Max glanced at the proffered peace offering. “Thanks.” He accepted the cooler and leaned in to kiss her. His warm lips met hers. His mouth moved against hers, his skin soft and warm. Tingles shot through her body, and she inhaled a sharp breath. Maybe he was merely distracted, overwhelmed with work. Dimples appeared in her cheeks. She would find a way to unwind him when he got home, that was for sure.

He pulled away and, nodding, turned back to the mixing board.

Holding her hand out to Chloe, she ducked out of the studio, back into the cool hallway. For a moment, she rested against the wall, her head tilted back. Her heart thumped in her chest, her body still reacting to the kiss and her doubts. Forcing her breathing to slow, she closed her eyes for a moment. The hushed whisper of cool air pumping through the vents eased her frazzled nerves. She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

“Na Na.” Chloe wriggled out of her grasp.

She opened her eyes. Sometimes, she wondered if Chloe was trying to say her name or call her Mama. She refused to take that title, even if Nicole—Max’s ex-girlfriend and Chloe’s mother—didn’t deserve it. She couldn’t remember the last time Nicole had seen her daughter. “Yes, nena?”

“Let’s go!” Chloe walked toward the stairs and pointed down.

Savannah took her hand and let the little girl lead the way back outside. Her thoughts swirled frantically. Maybe she had made a huge mistake in accepting Jett’s proposal. Aside from being rusty, she had dropped out of college before ever cracking Photoshop open. She had no idea how to use it for her old assignments, never mind create a logo.

It was nice that Jett believed in her, but if she couldn’t deliver, she might really mess things up for Max. The last thing she wanted to do was lose his respect.


Savannah’s forever has a secret that could destroy them—and the band.

CONTINUE READING
Chapter 1 · Chapter 2 · Chapter 3 · Chapter 4

Savannah’s Song, Book 2 in the South of Forever series, is now available.

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