Read the South of Forever Series FREE on Kindle Unlimited

Extra, extra, read all about it鈥攖he South of Forever series is now available on Kindle Unlimited! It’s also got some updates.

  • The prequel novel聽is now a free bonus when you join the South of Forever email list. I’ve long struggled with finding the proper place for this story; it’s important to the SOF series, but I think a lot of readers聽were confused. No more! Readers get it free. Click here to get your copy.
  • I’m testing new cover designs. What do you think? My favorite is SOF3. Poppy looks like she’s having the time of her life! And her rockin’ hair is love. 馃槏
  • Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the entire series at no additional cost. Learn more about KU and sign up here! You’ll also get the first 30 days for free.
  • I’ve resumed working on SOF4. More info on that soon!
  • Paperbacks back in stock in 2017. More details soon.

Start binge-reading the South of Forever series now!


Book 1: Diving Into Him

Jett might be sober, but she can’t kick her addiction to Koty.

Read a Sample: Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5

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Book 2: Savannah’s Song

Savannah’s forever has a secret that could destroy them鈥攁nd the band.

Read a Sample: Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5

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Book 3: What Happens on Tour

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

Read a Sample: Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5

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Happy reading!

8 Reasons Not to Date the Band

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

Last night @SeriousGirlGang threw one of their usual hashtag parties. They’re always a blast, and often trend, but #ReasonsNotToDateMe was especially fun.聽There are a lot of reasons not to date聽me, but since Mike took care of that problem three years ago, I thought it’d be fun to tweet from the point of view of the South of Forever gang.

It was way too easy to riff on these guys.

If you want to see all of my #ReasonsNotToDateMe tweets, click the tweet below to see the thread.

Since they were so fun, I figured I’d do a few more.

Reasons Not to Date Jett

  • I’ll spend all of my money on boots… then all of your money on more boots.
  • If you like hot showers, don’t hold your breath. I take long, hot baths.

Reasons Not to Date Koty

  • Because of my stint with the boy band ESX, I never have to work again, and I’ll always try to rescue you with my cash.
  • I have zero taste in home decor, unless you count stainless steel and leather.

Reasons Not to Date Savannah

  • I’ll put your kid in daycare behind your back so that I can focus on my painting career.
  • Most of the聽closet we’ll share will be occupied by half-finished paintings.

Reasons Not to Date Max

  • My ex is crazy. Like, legit crazy. She’ll sneak attack you without you ever even seeing her.
  • I have a B.S. in education, but I impulsively moved to Boston and joined a band instead of finding a teaching position.

Reasons Not to Date Poppy

  • I will always look more put together than you. I have outfits for days.
  • The first time I ever drove on my own鈥攍icensed, of course鈥攚as in a snow storm. Wearing聽wedges.

Reasons Not to Date Griff

  • Since I’m pushing thirty, I have a bad case of family fever.
  • If things with the band don’t work out, I’ll go back to playing minor league hockey. Or just retire early with my trust fund.

Reasons Not to Date Krista

  • I’m not looking for a relationship. To quote Group X: I just want bang-bang-bang.
  • Hos over bros. Sisters before misters. Period.

Reasons Not to Date Perry

  • I enjoy long walks to the liquor store and relaxing聽one-night stands.
  • My hair will always be cooler than yours. Fuck yeah, dreads!

For more of the South of Forever gang, pick up your free copy of聽Diving Into Him.

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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鈥檇 just sealed her relationship鈥檚 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鈥檛 know what to do. No small hands tugged at her shirt. No chatter filled the empty spaces between her thoughts.

鈥淚t鈥檚 for the best,鈥 she reminded herself. The ache in her heart didn鈥檛 seem so convinced.

She needed to put her free time to better use. She had never gone through anyone else鈥檚 things before. Even when she tidied up, she merely organized. Max didn鈥檛 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鈥檛 violent, but she hardly knew who he was anymore. That Max hadn鈥檛 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.

鈥淲e don鈥檛 share any DNA,鈥 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鈥檚 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鈥檚 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鈥攔eminders to pick up milk after work鈥攐r 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鈥檛 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鈥檛 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鈥檛 much she could observe outside, though. Hoping that she wasn鈥檛 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鈥檛 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鈥檚, 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鈥檚 hair. She scooted away from him, her chest rising and falling as she sighed.

Griff joined Jett and Koty. Though Savannah couldn鈥檛 hear him or read his lips, his body language and hand gestures told her enough. Poor Perry wasn鈥檛 getting the message that Poppy was off limits.

Her view was only a fraction of the room, and it didn鈥檛 include Max. She closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against the window. Spying on him was stupid, especially if she couldn鈥檛 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鈥檚 body language was purely professional, and Max didn鈥檛 seem interested in her, either鈥攁t 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鈥檛 tell whether he was taking notes on what Poppy was saying or not. He didn鈥檛 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鈥檛 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鈥檛 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鈥檚 eyes. 鈥淲ell, hello there.鈥 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鈥攕picy, matching the heat of his lips. 鈥淕lad you came,鈥 he said. His lightweight, button-down shirt clung to corded muscles.

She indicated the full lobby. 鈥淭hese people are all here for your show?鈥

鈥淣o, beautiful. They鈥檙e all here for you.鈥 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. 鈥淲hat鈥檚 that?鈥

鈥淭hat,鈥 Zachary said, 鈥渋s where we鈥檙e displaying your piece.鈥 His eyes gazed into hers. Warmth shot down into her pelvis. Her grip tightened on her painting.

鈥淲hoa. There鈥檚 no way I can do that.鈥 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. 鈥淭his is my gallery, and I can feature whoever I want.鈥 He lifted the painting from her grasp and began peeling off the paper it was wrapped in. 鈥淟adies and gentlemen.鈥 His voice boomed above the chatter. 鈥淲elcome to Seven Deadly Brushes, where you can view and buy Latina art and, if you鈥檙e feeling crazy, get inked.鈥

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. 鈥淧lease welcome our featured artist, Savannah Santos.鈥 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鈥檚 ear. 鈥淚 have to go mingle now. This is going to sell. Just stand here and chat with people. I guarantee, you鈥檒l walk out of here with money.鈥 He gave her another kiss and sauntered away, raising an arm in greeting to someone she couldn鈥檛 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.

鈥淭hat鈥檚 beautiful.鈥 A woman in her forties stepped closer. She pointed at the painting. 鈥淗ow long did it take you to paint?鈥

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.”

鈥淎mazing.鈥 The woman nudged the slightly older man who escorted her.

He nodded. His gaze drifted across the room. 鈥淎h! Let鈥檚 go look at that one.鈥 He led the woman away, but she winked at Savannah over his shoulder.

鈥淵ou might want to start tracking your time.鈥 A thin woman in her early thirties stood at Savannah鈥檚 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. 鈥驴Por qu茅?

鈥淎ltagracia,鈥 the woman said, pointing to herself. She leaned in and air kissed Savannah. 鈥淚 did that one over there.鈥 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. 鈥淪he鈥檚 beautiful.鈥 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.

鈥淭o answer your question, it helps you price things better. Stick by this.” She touched Savannah鈥檚 painting. “It鈥檚 going to sell fast.鈥 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.

鈥淚t鈥檚 true.鈥 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鈥檛 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鈥檛 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.

鈥淭his is gorgeous. How much is this one?鈥

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

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

Her mouth opened, then closed. She gasped a sharp laugh. 鈥淗ow much is it?鈥 she repeated. She looked around for Altagracia, but didn’t see her. 鈥淓xcuse me, one moment.鈥 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. 鈥淗ere she is, my star artist.鈥 He introduced the other man as an art acquisitions manager for a local museum, but Savannah barely heard his name.

鈥淐an I steal you for a second?鈥 She hoped that the other man wouldn鈥檛 be offended.

鈥淥f course.鈥 Zachary led her to a less crowded spot, a hall that appeared to connect the lobby and gallery to the tattoo parlor. 鈥淲hat鈥檚 up? Is everything okay?鈥 His eyebrows knit in concern.

鈥淪omeone wants to buy my painting.鈥 She tugged at the hem of her shorts.

鈥淒idn鈥檛 I tell you?鈥 Zachary hugged her with one arm, and she was once more enveloped in the heat of his scent.

She backed away. 鈥淚 don鈥檛 know how much to ask for, though.鈥

鈥淎h.鈥 He drew her farther into the hall. The voices from the lobby drifted away slightly. 鈥淗ere鈥檚 my advice. You don鈥檛 want to lose them by going too high, but you don鈥檛 want to cheat yourself, either. Let them make you an offer.鈥

Her brow furrowed. 鈥淲hat if they go too low?鈥

Zachary snorted. 鈥淭rust me, they won鈥檛.鈥 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.

鈥淭he tragedy of this one!鈥 Professor Galloway lifted his arms.

鈥淛ust let them make you an offer, okay?鈥 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鈥檛 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. 鈥淎re you the artist of the two sugar skulls?鈥 she asked in Spanish.

Savannah nodded.

鈥淗ow much do you want for it?鈥 The woman limped back toward the painting. 鈥淚 want to give it to my granddaughter.鈥

For a moment, Savannah thought of telling her that she could have it for free. The woman鈥檚 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. 鈥淚t鈥檚 up for negotiation,鈥 she said, keeping her voice light. Her heart thundered in her chest.

鈥淗ow about a thousand?鈥 The old woman鈥檚 eyes glinted.

Savannah鈥檚 own eyes widened. 鈥淎s in, a thousand dollars?鈥

鈥淥r $1,500?鈥 The woman swung her braid over her shoulder. It trailed down her back. Gnarled hands gripped her cane.

Savannah shook her head. 鈥淣o, a thousand is fine.鈥 Her voice came out in a squeak.

鈥淪old. I鈥檒l go see Zachary.鈥 The woman tottered away. 鈥淒on鈥檛 you go double-crossing me, selling to anyone else while I turtle my way over there,鈥 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鈥檚 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鈥檛 wait to tell Max.


Savannah’s forever has a secret that could destroy them鈥攁nd the band.

CONTINUE READING
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4 路 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. 鈥淕uess who just called me?鈥 Her lips broke into a wide grin.

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

Grabbing Chloe鈥檚 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. 鈥淚 submitted one of my paintings to a gallery.鈥 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. 鈥淒id you hear me, papi?鈥

鈥淪o?鈥 He turned the coffee pot on and reached for a mug amidst the dishes drying in the drain.

鈥淚 got in.鈥 She waited for understanding to dawn on his face. It didn鈥檛. Rocking back on her heels, she mumbled in Spanish to herself about how men were so oblivious to everything. 鈥淭hey鈥檙e going to sell it, for money. My art is being displayed to people!鈥 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.

鈥淭hat鈥檚 it?鈥 She lurched into his path. 鈥淵ou鈥檙e not going to congratulate me?鈥

His eyebrows knit together. 鈥淲hy?鈥

She shook her head and moved to the side. 鈥淣ever mind.鈥 As he opened the refrigerator door and grabbed the half and half, she tried again, from a different angle. 鈥Mira, the showing鈥檚 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.鈥

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鈥檚 feet. 鈥淒ay care?鈥

Grabbing the dish towel, she knelt to sop up the mess. 鈥淵eah. Probably just one of the ones where they socialize, you know? Not one of the accredited ones.鈥 She steeled herself for the argument. She knew they couldn鈥檛 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.

鈥淎re you serious?鈥 He crossed his arms.

He glared down at her. She grimaced. 鈥淒o you want me to say I was kidding?鈥 Meeting his eyes, she smiled. 鈥淛ust think about it. I know we don鈥檛 have the money, but鈥斺

鈥淵ou want to just dump my kid with strangers?鈥 His words cut into her like shrapnel. At the table, Chloe burst into tears at her father鈥檚 sharp tone. Max never yelled.

Lifting Chloe from her seat, Savannah rocked her back and forth. She shot Max a glare. 鈥淚t鈥檒l only be a few hours a week. Besides, the interaction with other kids her age will be good for her.鈥

Will be?鈥 Max鈥檚 hands balled into fists.

Ignoring him, Savannah brought Chloe into the living room. The little girl鈥檚 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.

鈥淵ou鈥檙e not putting my kid into some kind of baby farm.鈥 He pointed a finger at her.

Taking a deep breath, she moved back into the kitchen, hoping that he鈥檇 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鈥攋ust in case. Lifting a hand, she searched for a way to calm him down. 鈥淚鈥檓 just trying to make us all happy.鈥

鈥淪o you鈥檙e not happy?鈥 He bristled and appeared to grow another few inches.

She rubbed her temples. 鈥淭hat鈥檚 not what I鈥檓 saying.鈥 Glancing at the clock, she tried to change the subject. 鈥淎ren鈥檛 you going to be late?鈥

Max looked at the clock, too. Deflating, he nodded. 鈥淚 had to cover someone else鈥檚 route on top of mine, and I got lost.鈥 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鈥檚 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鈥檛 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鈥檛 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鈥檛 kill her, but it would probably hurt her chances of selling the painting. It wasn鈥檛 as if she didn鈥檛 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鈥檛 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.

鈥淗ey, baby girl, let鈥檚 go to the park. Come on, let鈥檚 get you dressed.鈥

Chloe ignored her, her eyes fixated on the screen.

Savannah chewed on the inside of her cheek. 鈥淐hloe.鈥 She made her voice slightly sterner and marched across the living room. 鈥淐ome on, cutie.鈥 Even as Savannah plucked her from the floor, Chloe鈥檚 eyes remained on her cartoon.

Pausing, Savannah watched the characters. There didn鈥檛 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鈥檒l be there. Then, closing her eyes and hoping she wouldn鈥檛 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鈥檚 bedroom. Throwing open the closet door, she searched for the box that contained all of their personal records. Max hadn鈥檛 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鈥檛 regret her next move.

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

鈥淭here鈥檚 no going back, girl,鈥 she told herself in Spanish. Her grandmother would say that she needed to give it to God. Savannah couldn鈥檛 remember ever believing in a higher power, but she could believe in herself. Still, she whispered the phrase her abuela often used. 鈥Vaya con dios.鈥 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.

鈥淲anna go to school?鈥 she asked Chloe.

The little girl鈥檚 eyes lit up. 鈥淪chool? Like, where you play?鈥

鈥淏asically.鈥 Savannah held out her hand. 鈥淐ome on. Let鈥檚 go sign you up.鈥 She just hoped that, when the time came to explain, Max would understand.


Savannah’s forever has a secret that could destroy them鈥攁nd the band.

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Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3 路 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鈥攐r her imagination. With Chloe finally in bed and Max still at work, the house felt eerily silent. Plus, the late hour didn鈥檛 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鈥檚 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鈥檛 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鈥檚 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 鈥渢hey鈥 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鈥檛 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鈥攐r when she didn鈥檛 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鈥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鈥檚 clothing. A sigh escaped her lips. Her fingers twitched with the urge to pull out the last canvas she had worked on鈥攁 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鈥檚 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鈥檚 inbox. She wiped her sweaty palms on her T-shirt.

鈥淎nd then right to his trash,鈥 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鈥檚 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鈥檚 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鈥檛 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.

鈥淗ey,鈥 she whispered.

Light from the street spilled into the room from between the blinds. As Max鈥檚 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鈥檛.

Thoughts swirled through the darkness, diving into her mind. Perhaps he wasn鈥檛 interested anymore. Maybe, she supposed, there really was someone else. Poppy hadn鈥檛 seemed interested, but he still technically had time after practice for a quickie with someone else.

Savannah鈥檚 eyes flew open.

If that was the case, she should hardly be worrying about designing something for his band. He didn鈥檛 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鈥檚 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鈥檛 recognize the phone number. She almost let it go to voicemail鈥攕he didn鈥檛 want to waste their minutes on a telemarketer鈥攚hen she realized that it was a Boston area code. Her heart skipped a beat.

Taking the call, she pressed the phone to her ear. 鈥淗ello?鈥

鈥淚s this Savannah Santos?鈥 a smooth, masculine voice asked. He sounded familiar.

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

鈥淗ello?鈥

Shaking her head at herself, she gathered her thoughts. 鈥淵es,鈥 she said. 鈥淭his is Savannah.鈥

He chuckled. 鈥淕ood, because I was going to be embarrassed if I called the wrong person.鈥

She laughed, too, though she wasn鈥檛 sure why.

鈥淚 think we met in the grocery store yesterday,鈥 he continued.

His confidence only sped up her heart rate. 鈥淪orry,鈥 she feigned. 鈥淚 meet lots of guys when I鈥檓 shopping for milk. Which one are you again?鈥

鈥淚鈥檓 the one who鈥檚 going to make you a lot of money.鈥 He paused. Heat enveloped her face. The phone nearly slipped out of her grasp. She wiped her hands on her pajamas. 鈥淚 like your submission,鈥 Zachary said.

鈥淥h?鈥 She leaned against the counter, urging her heart to stop its galloping.

鈥淚t鈥檚 amazing. The color, the detail鈥擨 think it would be a great fit for Seven Brushes and what I鈥檓 trying to do. And I鈥檓 going to sell it for you, get your name out there.鈥

鈥淵ou鈥檙e awfully certain of that, papi.鈥 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. 鈥淗ow can you sell it?鈥

鈥淎ll you need to do, baby girl, is show up. I鈥檓 opening the exhibit at noon tomorrow. Just come, bring some business cards, if you have them. If you don鈥檛, you鈥檙e going to be kicking yourself.鈥

She barely heard him. There was no way that she could go to a gallery smack in the middle of the day鈥攏ot with Chloe underfoot. For a four-year-old, Max鈥檚 daughter was really well-behaved, but a gallery was no place for her.

鈥淪o I鈥檒l see you tomorrow?鈥 Zachary asked.

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

鈥淥f course.鈥 The smile in his voice shot heat into her pelvis. He switched to Spanish. 鈥淚t鈥檚 your painting, Savannah. I鈥檓 just here to help you succeed.鈥 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鈥檛 give her an excuse to go all loose-limbed whenever he spoke. She cleared her throat and forced herself to respond in English. 鈥淚鈥檒l email you.鈥 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.

鈥淚鈥檓 going to sell that painting within the first hour, Savannah,鈥 he said.

She wet the towel and pressed it to the back of her neck. 鈥淪ure.鈥 She nodded, her resolve strengthening. 鈥淚鈥檒l see you there.鈥 Then she hung up before he could say anything else鈥攐r 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鈥檛 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鈥攁nd the band.

CONTINUE READING
Chapter 1Chapter 2 路 Chapter 3 路 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鈥檚 hand and barely noticed as the preschooler climbed onto the couch. Eyes narrowed, she watched Max touch the woman鈥檚 arm lightly, a smile playing on his lips.

The men鈥檚 voices were a babble, drowning out Max鈥檚 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鈥檚 eyes never left Max鈥檚. Savannah easily made out her next words: 鈥淚t鈥檒l definitely be a pleasure working with all of you.鈥

She gritted her teeth and started toward them.

Perry squeezed between Max and the beautiful woman. 鈥淧oppy, if you鈥檙e free after this, I鈥檇 love to take you to a great bar for a drink.鈥

鈥淪he doesn鈥檛 even look old enough to drink,鈥 Savannah muttered.

鈥淵ou can鈥檛 afford to take yourself out, never mind her,鈥 Griff told Perry.

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

Jett joined Savannah. 鈥淚sn鈥檛 it amazing, how men can be distracted so easily?鈥

Savannah nodded. 鈥淲ho the hell hired her?鈥 Her voice was nearly a growl.

Jett sighed. 鈥淚 did.鈥

Poppy untangled herself from the group of men. 鈥淓xcuse me, gentlemen, but I鈥檝e got a list of shows that I鈥檝e already booked for you.鈥 She winked at Jett as she strode toward the couch. She clutched a binder to her chest. 鈥淚 actually do have some shows booked, if you鈥檙e interested.鈥 Her brown eyes met Jett鈥檚 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鈥檚 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.

鈥淲ait.鈥 Jett tapped her shoulder, holding up a finger to Poppy. Savannah spun to face her, blinking her thoughts away. 鈥淚 actually wanted to ask you something.鈥

Savannah followed her across the room. The table was cluttered with notebooks and sheet music. 鈥淲hat鈥檚 up?鈥

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

A strand of hair escaped Savannah鈥檚 side braid. She tucked it behind an ear. 鈥淵ou want me to talk him down?鈥 Max hadn鈥檛 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. 鈥淣ah. I think it鈥檚 great. He鈥檚 got a lot of energy.鈥

Savannah鈥檚 eyebrow shot up. The Max that she knew dragged himself around the apartment, alternating between ignoring her and snapping at her. If he wasn鈥檛 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. 鈥淎ny chance I can harangue you into designing a logo for us, and the cover of the EP? I鈥檒l pay you,鈥 she added quickly. 鈥淓ventually.鈥

Savannah鈥檚 mouth dropped open. 鈥淥h.鈥 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.

鈥淚 know it鈥檚 kind of last minute,鈥 Jett continued, 鈥渂ut I’ve seen your work, and I think you鈥檙e fucking amazing.鈥

Fingers pulling at the hem of her shirt, Savannah struggled for a graceful way to decline. 鈥淚鈥檝e never really designed anything for the internet.鈥

鈥淵ou鈥檇 be great,鈥 Jett said. 鈥淚 know you can do it.鈥

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

鈥淎re you free to talk about the shows now?鈥 Poppy asked. She held out the open binder.

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

鈥淚 started with a show here at The Den,鈥 Poppy said. 鈥淚鈥檝e got a distributor who can have CDs of the EP made in a few weeks, just in time for the first show.鈥

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鈥檚 face, though, something Savannah had never seen from her. 鈥淵es!鈥 She pumped a fist in the air. 鈥淚 knew I hired you for a reason.鈥 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鈥檛 sure she wanted to, though. If Max was planning on breaking up with her, there was no point.

Chloe sat at Max鈥檚 feet, her lips twisted into a pout. He still hadn鈥檛 so much as acknowledged her. It was flat-out weird. Maybe his problem wasn鈥檛 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鈥檚 here to see you.”

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

Though Savannah鈥檚 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鈥檚 shoulders drooped, a whine escaping her lips.

Savannah swatted at the back of Max鈥檚 head. 鈥淵our daughter misses you.鈥 She shook her head, wondering how Max could so easily dismiss them.

It was as if he didn鈥檛 hear her. He slipped on headphones.

Koty glanced at Savannah, his eyebrows furrowed in concern. 鈥淟et鈥檚 take a quick break.鈥 He jumped up from his seat and ambled toward the table where Jett and Poppy still sat.

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

Max glanced at the proffered peace offering. 鈥淭hanks.鈥 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.

鈥淣a Na.鈥 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鈥擬ax鈥檚 ex-girlfriend and Chloe鈥檚 mother鈥攄idn鈥檛 deserve it. She couldn鈥檛 remember the last time Nicole had seen her daughter. 鈥淵es, nena?鈥

鈥淟et鈥檚 go!鈥 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鈥檚 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鈥檛 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鈥攁nd the band.

CONTINUE READING
Chapter 1 路 Chapter 2 路 Chapter 3聽路 Chapter 4

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

BUY NOW
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Savannah’s Song: Chapter 1

鈥淎rms up,鈥 Savannah said, tickling Chloe鈥檚 belly. The four-year-old giggled as her arms shot into the air, begging for Savannah to tickle her armpits. Grinning, Savannah wriggled her fingers into Chloe鈥檚 skin. The toddler shrieked with laughter, nearly falling to the floor. Savannah caught her and, in one swift motion, peeled off her pajamas. This had been their ritual for the last two years鈥攆or almost as long as she鈥檇 known Chloe. She sighed. Chloe wouldn鈥檛 want to wear footed jammies much longer.

A door squeaked open on the other side of the apartment. 鈥淒addy鈥檚 home,鈥 she told Chloe. 鈥淗urry!鈥 She tugged an undershirt over Chloe鈥檚 head, then helped her into a romper and sweater. The floor groaned under Max鈥檚 feet as he crossed the apartment while Savannah maneuvered Chloe鈥檚 feet into socks and sneakers. The grocery store would be cold inside, their only access to air conditioning all summer.

Max entered Chloe鈥檚 bedroom, his delivery bag still slung over his shoulder. He brushed hair out of eyes punctuated by dark circles and gave Savannah a nod. 鈥淕onna take a shower.鈥

鈥淲ait.鈥 She stood, brushing dried soap from her bare legs. She had shaved for the first time in days, specifically so she could wear shorts. Spring in Boston had seesawed between cool rain and warm rain. She was ready for summer. Crossing the room, she stood on tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his lips. 鈥淚 figured I would drop you off at the studio, and we鈥檇 take the car to go get some groceries.鈥 She struggled to remember the last time she had left the house that week.

Even though it would be nice to drive for a change, the Taurus wasn鈥檛 the same as her BMW. Selling it had been the only way they could afford the move from Connecticut to Boston.

Max ran a hand through his hair. 鈥淭his early?鈥 He nodded toward the yellow clock on Chloe鈥檚 wall. In complete contrast to her pink and purple bedroom in Connecticut, Chloe had asked for yellow when they moved in. 鈥淒on鈥檛 you think it鈥檚 a little early to be dragging Chloe out?鈥 His voice was rough. He stepped away from Savannah.

Frowning, she closed the distance between them. 鈥淚t鈥檚 not that early.鈥 She lifted a hand toward the clock. It was a little after seven.

鈥淚f you need the car for later, I can just take the Red Line.鈥 He spun away from her and into the bathroom. The door slammed shut.

Biting her lip, Savannah turned back to Chloe. The little girl watched Savannah, blue eyes wide. 鈥淒addy鈥檚 cranky when he鈥檚 tired, huh?鈥 Savannah scooped Chloe from the floor and carried her through the apartment. She hesitated in the living room, eyeing the fabric fraying from their couch. Shoulders slumping, she made her way to the kitchen.

鈥淚 want waffles,鈥 Chloe told her.

Savannah put her in her booster seat. 鈥淣o kidding.鈥 She opened the freezer and withdrew the box of store-brand waffles. Pausing, she tapped her finger against her chin, staring at the bread on top of the refrigerator. She could surprise Max with something to eat at the studio. He certainly seemed like he could use it鈥攁long with a good night鈥檚 sleep.

As Chloe鈥檚 waffles popped out of the toaster, Max jogged through the hall. 鈥淪ee you later.鈥 He stopped only long enough to kiss his daughter on the forehead, then swung the front door open and disappeared from view.

鈥淭hanks for the kiss.鈥 Savannah kept her voice low. Max needed more than some rest. Maybe, her mind whispered, he was so tired because he was spending all his free time with another girl. She shoved the thought away and grabbed sandwich meat, mayonnaise, and maple syrup from the refrigerator. She plopped a plate of waffles and the syrup in front of Chloe.

The little girl grabbed the bottle with two hands and squeezed.

鈥淥kay, that鈥檚 enough.鈥 Savannah plucked it from her grasp. 鈥淕ood job.鈥 She kissed Chloe鈥檚 cheek and returned to making Max鈥檚 sandwich. If she surprised him with some lunch and his daughter, he might be in a better mood later when he got home. As long as it had been since she last shaved, it had been even longer since they had sex.

Boston had been her idea. It was supposed to be an adventure, an opportunity for Max to pursue a career in music. Instead, he came home late from band practice every night and grabbed maybe two hours of sleep before he got up to deliver newspapers. Perhaps they got too hot and heavy too fast, Savannah thought. Her slim, brown fingers flew as she packed the sandwich into a small cooler. Dancing two steps from the counter, she returned to the refrigerator and pressed the button for ice. Even though their Dorchester apartment was one of the cheapest in Boston, it was still expensive. At least they had ice on demand, she mused.

When she turned around, her eyes met Chloe鈥檚. The little girl held out her empty plate. 鈥淚 want more waffles.鈥

Savannah snorted. 鈥淎nd I want my BMW back.鈥 She kept her voice light and playful. It wasn鈥檛 as if Chloe knew what a BMW was, or why they sold the luxury car Savannah鈥檚 parents had given her and kept Max鈥檚 beater. She slid another waffle into the toaster and leaned against the counter. Things wouldn鈥檛 be so bad if Max wasn鈥檛 snapping at her all the time. She was starting to feel like a nanny rather than his girlfriend. A bitter laugh escaped her lips. Even when she had been Chloe鈥檚 nanny, Max had never treated her so badly. She was starting to worry that she had made a huge mistake.

* * *

Goosebumps rose on Savannah鈥檚 skin. Air conditioning swirled about her bare arms and legs. She clenched the handle of the shopping cart and quickened her pace through the freezer aisle.

Holding a box of cereal, Chloe seemed not to notice the subzero temperature of the grocery store. She traced the character鈥檚 face with a small finger. Savannah grinned, stepping away long enough to grab a package of mini waffles from one of the freezers.

鈥淚 swear, they make you go through the freezer section last just to torture you.鈥 Savannah glanced down at her list. She almost had everything they needed. She was getting to be a champion at grocery shopping. She pushed Chloe out of the frozen foods section, hurrying toward the warmer bakery.

Chloe stretched her arm out, fingers smudging the glass of a freezer door as they passed. Letting out a squawk, she turned and pointed, her eyes locked.

Savannah followed her gaze to the ice cream and popsicles in the case. Her lips formed an O. She laughed. Before she could stop herself, she found herself saying the same thing her mother used to say to her in Spanish. 鈥Ay, dios mio.鈥 Chloe watched her, an eyebrow raised. 鈥Lo siento, nena. Food stamps don鈥檛 cover extras.”

“What does 鈥榣o siento鈥 mean?鈥 Chloe鈥檚 feet kicked against the cart.

Savannah pushed the cart into the bakery, practically running past the cupcakes. Her lips twisted into a frown. For all of Savannah鈥檚 efforts, Chloe wasn鈥檛 picking up much Spanish. 鈥淚t means sorry.鈥 She supposed she only had Max to blame. If he tried to learn Spanish and spoke it in front of Chloe, too, his daughter would pick it up much faster. She glanced down at Chloe. 鈥淵ou might as well be my daughter,鈥 she mumbled in Spanish.

Chloe pressed her lips against the bar of the cart.

鈥淐hin up.鈥 Savannah turned away to examine the reduced loaves of bread.

鈥淚鈥檓 bored.鈥 Chloe resumed kicking her heels against the metal.

Savannah withheld a snort. Her back still to Chloe, she squeezed a loaf and turned it upside down. Squinting at it for mold, she righted it again.

鈥淵our daughter is beautiful,鈥 a deep voice murmured in Spanish.

Turning, Savannah nearly dropped the bread. The guy beside her stood at least a foot taller than her. Muscles bulged in his arms. A light beard covered his face. He was handsome in a rugged way, with a slightly crooked hairline. She pegged him in his thirties, judging by the occasional gray hair that she picked out in the florescent lighting. Despite the grays, he was a young thirty, she decided.

He held out a hand. 鈥淶achary Acevedo.鈥 Warm brown eyes met hers.

Swallowing hard, she shook his hand. 鈥淪avannah Santos.鈥 She gestured to Chloe. 鈥淪he鈥檚 beautiful, but she鈥檚 not mine.鈥 The Spanish rolled off her tongue easily, wrapping around her heart like a long lost lover. It felt good to converse with someone in her mother tongue.

Zachary stooped until he was at Chloe鈥檚 eye level. 鈥淗i, there.鈥 He wiggled his fingers.

Chloe watched him with dubious eyes.

鈥淪he鈥檚 shy.鈥 Savannah switched to English as smoothly as he had. Nodding to the basket he carried, she said, 鈥淚鈥檓 guessing you don鈥檛 have any kids.鈥 Only a bachelor would shop at a grocery store for body wash and protein powder.

He shook his head. 鈥淣ot yet.鈥 His eyes roved over her body, and she didn鈥檛 miss them stopping at her sleeve of tattoos. Though somewhat covered by her chambray shirt, the bright dots and filigrees of her D铆a de los Muertos sugar skulls screamed to be noticed. Though they were benign in nature, most people mistook them for something sinister. Zachary only nodded at them. 鈥淣ice ink.鈥

Licking her lips, she blinked. 鈥淭hanks.鈥 She gave his tattooed arms a quick once over, wondering what lay beneath his T-shirt and shorts. A squid鈥檚 tentacles wrapped his forearm and stretched up, coiling around his bicep.

鈥淚f you ever want more work done, I鈥檝e got a shop not far from here.鈥 Digging into his back pocket, he plucked out a wallet and handed her a business card. When his skin touched hers, she drew back as if she had been shocked. He seemed not to notice.

鈥淭hanks.鈥 She tucked the card into her own back pocket. Heart pounding, she gave Chloe a nod. 鈥淲ell, I鈥檝e got to get going. This one won’t sit still for much longer.鈥 Nodding toward Chloe, she threw him a wink and turned away. As she hurried toward the checkout, she wondered if winking could be considering flirting. She grimaced, then shook her head. Even if she was flirting, there was no harm in it.

Urging the cart into a line, she felt the card as if it were burning a hole in her shorts. It would be amazing to get another tattoo. Chloe鈥檚 arm stretched toward the candy in the checkout line. Automatically, Savannah guided her hand away. She missed being around artists and, she thought with a pang, she missed painting. She couldn鈥檛 remember the last time she had picked up a brush.

She glanced down at Chloe and pressed a kiss to the little girl鈥檚 head. She wouldn鈥檛 trade her sort-of-daughter for anything in the world, though. Even if art was no longer her life, she served a larger purpose. Her mother once said that raising children was the best gift one could receive.

The last person she should be thinking about was her mother, she chastised herself. Her parents didn鈥檛 appreciate art or tattoos. Though they spoke Spanish, they didn鈥檛 appreciate her mother鈥檚 Mexican heritage or her father鈥檚 Puerto Rican lineage鈥攏ot the way she did.

Remembering her mission to bring Max lunch, Savannah paid for her groceries and rushed Chloe out to the Taurus. She tossed the non-perishable food into the trunk and put the milk and eggs on the backseat next to Chloe鈥檚 booster. Strapping the toddler in, she wiggled her fingers into Chloe鈥檚 ribs. The little girl giggled, gazing adoringly at Savannah.

Those moments, Savannah mused as she got behind the wheel, made everything she had given up worth it. She sped away from the grocery store and headed toward the apartment. She was still learning her way around Boston and rarely left the Dorchester area. Between her and Max, they had one cell phone, and it wasn鈥檛 sophisticated enough for GPS. It didn鈥檛 even take decent pictures. Slowing, she pressed her lips together, trying to remember the way. If she felt like risking her life, she could jump onto I-93. Snorting, she glanced at Chloe in the rearview mirror. The little girl played with a stuffed animal she had left in the car鈥攈er current favorite. Aside from when she and Max first moved to Boston, she had avoided the highway completely.

But Boston was perpetually in rush hour, its streets clogged with pedestrians. Taking the highway would shave precious minutes off her commute. 鈥淣ow or never, girl,鈥 she told herself. Then, she swung the car onto the on ramp.

Traffic flowed, and she let out a sigh of relief. She made it to the apartment in record time, zipping upstairs with Chloe on one hip and the milk and eggs in her other hand. As soon as the perishable food was in the refrigerator, she tugged Chloe toward the stairs. The little girl鈥檚 shorter legs slowed her down, though. Feeling a bit guilty, Savannah scooped her up and raced toward the bottom.

鈥淲hy are we going so fast?鈥 Chloe glanced down with wide eyes.

鈥淒o you want to surprise Daddy?鈥 Rounding the corner, Savannah burst out into the parking lot and sunshine.

Chloe pressed her lips together, considering.

鈥淪eriously?鈥 Savannah asked as she tucked her back into her booster seat. 鈥淲e鈥檙e gonna bring Daddy some lunch.鈥 She realized that she could have saved herself from packing the cooler if she had just left the sandwich in the refrigerator and grabbed it on her way back out. Sighing, she moved the cooler from the trunk to the passenger seat and jumped back into the car.

Her heart pounded as she sped toward the studio. She had been there so many times since South of Forever had moved their headquarters from Malden Street a few weeks ago that she didn鈥檛 need to think about it. Plus, most of the locals knew where to find The Den Stage & Studio. Once upon a time, it had been a premier recording facility for big-time artists. Lucky for South of Forever, the studio was struggling and had offered them a cheap rate.

Savannah pulled into a parallel spot in front of the studio, its large sign declaring the upcoming weekend鈥檚 events. It may not be a popular recording studio anymore, she mused as she lifted Chloe from her booster seat, but it was still a great place to catch a concert. Someday, when she and Max could afford a babysitter, she would have to take him to a show there.

“Can I walk now?” Chloe rolled her eyes.

“Totally.” Though Savannah was in a hurry, Chloe was four鈥攎uch too heavy for hauling around long distances.

Pushing through the double doors, Savannah turned right and climbed the staircase that led to the studios. Air conditioning whispered across her skin, and she shivered.

Looping the strap of the cooler around her arm, she slowed as she reached the top of the stairs, waiting for Chloe to catch up. Savannah led Chloe to the left of the staircase. She crossed the hall to the door with South of Forever鈥檚 name on it.

Knocking on the door in case someone stood just inside, she eased it open.

No one occupied the recording booth. Instead, the guys clustered in a tight knot. The lead singer of South of Forever, Jett Costa, stood at the other side of the small room, an amused expression on her face. Dark hair tumbled over her shoulders. Despite the heat outside, she wore leggings and knee-high boots that Savannah was positive were real leather.

Following her gaze, Savannah鈥檚 eyes shot to the cluster of men. She recognized Perry instantly because of the dreads swinging from his head as he flung them over a shoulder. He laughed at something, his guffaw as deep as his skin tone. With his goatee and full lips, he was someone she would have been attracted to, had she not already been with Max.

She picked out Max just as easily. He and Perry were the only band members with dark skin, though her boyfriend was pale in comparison to his bandmate. Max nudged Perry and said something only the other man could hear.

Savannah鈥檚 eyes traveled to Jett鈥檚 boyfriend. Koty鈥檚 blue eyes sparkled, his black hair looking almost red under the studio lights. Secretly, she wondered if anyone else found it weird that the Koty Jackson of ESX was in South of Forever. Though Savannah had never gone through a boy band phase, her older sister Gabriela had been hooked on ESX.

Griff, the band鈥檚 drummer and Jett’s right-hand man, cleared his throat. He ran his fingers through sandy hair, then put his hand on the shoulder of the woman standing in the midst of the tangle of men. His eyes crinkled as she said something. All three men leaned in closer to hear her better.

Savannah鈥檚 cheeks blazed. The woman looked younger than her, by at least a couple of years. She was probably still in college, Savannah guessed, if even a day past seventeen. As the men fawned over her, she tossed curly hair over her shoulder. Ebony skin shone under the light, supple and velvety. Bright eyes sparkled as Griff touched her shoulder, and she glanced at Max.

Standing in the doorway, Savannah watched as her boyfriend winked at the other woman.


Savannah’s forever has a secret that could destroy them鈥攁nd the band.

CONTINUE READING
Chapter 1 路 Chapter 2聽路 Chapter 3聽路 Chapter 4

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

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#TeaserTuesday: The Worst One

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“I thought you were one of the good ones,” she said, “but it turns out I was wrong. You鈥檙e the worst one of them all.”

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Savannah鈥檚 forever has a secret that could destroy them鈥攁nd the band.

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#TeaserTuesday: Far Too Much Damage

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She touched her lips, debating whether their relationship was even salvageable. She had done far too much damage. They both had.

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#TeaserTuesday: Onto the Floor

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“Come on, sleepyhead,” she purred into his ear. As his pants slid against the fabric of the old couch, something tumbled out of his pocket onto the floor.

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Update, June 3rd: The South of Forever series is back! Shop all retailers here, or use the sexy widgets below to one-click your way to steamy musical heaven.

鈾︹櫐鈾

The South of Forever series is currently out of print, but it will be back in stores starting tomorrow!

I know this sounds kind of ridiculous. How can an ebook be out of print? Isn’t that an oxymoron? When an author is accepted by a publisher, usually the publisher legally obtains聽the rights to the book. It’s basically permission, to avoid copyright issues in court. If it didn’t say on paper that the publisher owns the rights, technically the author could sue them. Publishing rights protects the publisher.

When rights revert鈥攐r go back to the author鈥攖he opposite happens. Until the official reversion date, the author does not have legal permission to publish. Technically, if the book is published before rights are reverted, the publisher could sue the author. There may also be repercussions聽with retailers (like Amazon).

Often, when a publisher closes, authors have to wait an eternity to get their rights back. I’m talking decades or never. I’m very grateful that Booktrope has been so generous with how quickly they’ve reverted rights.

I truly have no bitter feelings toward them. Publishers close. It happens all the time. This industry is crazy tumultuous. Did it rock my world and force me to rearrange my own business five years early? Totally, but shit happens.

So, like Cinderella, I’ll wait ’til the stroke of midnight. It’s killing me that over half my catalog is currently unavailable. This gig is how I feed myself and pay my bills. But I’m super excited to聽get these books into Kobo and other retailers that my publisher didn’t distribute to. Better times are ahead.

You know. Lemonade and all that.