Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Love & Chocolate (RR Book Tours)

Alright y'all, so this beauty is about most girls two favorite things: love and chocolate! Obviously right?! This is a contemporary romance that I was able to read thanks to Reads and Reels Book Tours, and I am so glad. I will admit that this was just the thing I needed to break out of my reading funk. With Valentine's Day coming up, this is one that needs to be on your TBRs. It was a quick read, and one that is best for those that like a story line that isn't just about romance. Gail Cleare has obviously earned the title USA TODAY Bestseller. Alright so let's go!

Sarah is working on her laptop when a pop up comes up from the dating website her cousin, Paisley, signed her up for after a night of drinking. Sarah signs in under the screen name CocoLvr, which makes her wonder if it is too obvious for those that know her really well. Paisley convinced her this was the way to help her cope with her recent divorce from her husband and father to her son, Devon, who wants nothing to do with them. Sarah sees it is a message from a guy with the screen name HotNCold with just a picture of abs. She decides to reply back and it leads to a little bit of cyber foreplay until she hears Devon in his room. She gets Devon settled and back to sleep before rushing back to her room only to find HotNCold already signed off. Realizing that her cybersexing wasn't going to happen tonight, Sarah reaches into her bedside table and pulls out a plastic container of brownies Paisley made before trying to fall asleep.

Sarah is working her shift at her family restaurant, the Three Chocolatiers, that she is a Jr. Partner with Paisley while their grandfather Chef Emile is the main partner. Sarah is about to start devouring newly baked chocolate treats that are supposed to go into the dining room display case when the sous chef Jerome gets her attention while the second sous chef Raoul continues to work in his station. Paisley and Emile come walking through the kitchen into the office arguing about new recipes that Paisley wants to try. Sarah is the dining room manager while Emile and Paisley handled the kitchen, but Sarah is also the peacekeeper. Once the conversation is resolved for the moment, Sarah takes a seat on the bar stool in the kitchen.

She is reading the local business news when she is interrupted by Blake Harrison, the manufacturer and supplier of the restaurant's ice cream. Blake is there to confirm that he wanted to take the wedding catering job she emailed him about earlier. Sarah is half listening while string at his crotch until she snaps out of it long enough to make herself walk into the office to get the notes she had made. Blake watches Sarah practically run to the office and thinks about how he has been trying to find a private moment to ask her out. Blake doesn't want anything serious after his ex dumped him shortly after he put down a non-refundable deposit for their wedding. It was for the Bahamas rental she wanted, but then she ran off with all the vacation money and her personal trainer. Now Blake just dates casually to avoid being disappointed again and works constantly to fight off the depression that he can feel trying to take over.

Blake can't figure out why Sarah is so interesting to him since he could have any woman he wants, but he keeps coming to the restaurant when he can to try to get a glimpse of Sarah. While watching her fidget on the kitchen stool she was sitting on when he walked in, he thinks about how he is pretty sure that she is CocoLvr. He is pretty sure that the profile picture of freckled boobs is hers, which he thinks about while she heads into the office. The look on her face when she was looking at the fresh chocolate treats just confirms his theory even more. However, Blake aka HotNCold was still surprised that she would sext a stranger on the internet. Blake knows about Sarah's ex husband, and is thinking about how stupid he was to leave when Sarah comes back out of the office with her notes which Blake knows includes that the wedding gig involves cake, cupcakes, and special flavored ice cream. Watching her walk towards him, Blake decides that he needs to get to know her better online as HotNCold as well as in person as himself.

Blake and Sarah are about to walk out into the dining room when she hears a funny gasp followed by a thump. She turns around to find Emile pale and sweaty on the floor clutching his chest. Blake calls 9-1-1 while Sarah and Paisley try to get Emile to respond to their questions. Sarah watches Emile's face and is pretty sure that he is having a heart attack. A few minutes pass and Emile's color is starting to return to his face, then he asks why and how he got on the floor. The EMTs arrive, assess him, and take Emile to the hospital with Paisley riding with him while Sarah stays at the restaurant. Blake stands with Sarah near the back entrance as they watch the ambulance pull away. He pulls her into a hug and tells her to call him him if she needs anything before he walks away. Sarah goes back into the kitchen and makes a game plan for the night with Raoul and Jerome while switching into manager mode. After Jerome and Raoul assure her that they have the kitchen covered, Sarah walks out into the dining room just as the hostess station phone rings. She answers it and has to inform the caller that the dining room is completely reserved for the night. This makes Sarah question whether or not she can handle the wedding as she hangs up the phone, but she tries to shake it off before heading home to meet Devon's bus.

Meanwhile Blake drives back to his shop in the old shoe factory which hosts a bunch of different stores thanks to Blake and his brother Jordan. They bought the place together, and by sharing resources like bookkeeping makes it affordable for them all. However, this does mean that Blake and Jordan are responsible for all repairs, but it still makes Blake happy to see all their businesses doing well. Blake does a quick check to see if any repairs need to be done on the outside before he hears Jordan calling his name. They go into the office while Blake tells him about what happened to Emile. Once inside the office, they start talking about upcoming orders, events, and promotions but it leads to a debate. In the middle of the debate over dates and times, their little sister Carrie comes walking into the office with Blake's chocolate lab, Kahlua, on leash.

Carrie is currently working in the building as one of the bookkeepers for all the business owners to make some money for college. Carrie asks if they know anyone that will hire her during the summer so she isn't stuck working on the spreadsheets. Blake thinks about Sarah and the wedding gig, and tells Carrie that he will talk to Sarah. Carrie tells him thank you before heading back upstairs while Kahlua settles on his bed in the corner. Jordan starts making phone calls while Blake stares at the mountain of paperwork in front of him. Blake starts thinking about how attractive Sarah looked walking away to get her notes from the office until he makes himself get to work. Meanwhile, Sarah is pulling into her driveway just as school bus drops off Devon.

She watches him drag his feet towards the house and decides to not tell him about Emile just yet. She knows that he has a hard time with his ADHD even though he is pretty smart for a second grader. Devon has recently become obsessed with the TV show Bonanza, and she encourages it for as long as he is. She parks the car and tells him to meet her at the back door. She unlocks the door, and watches him run to the bathroom while her chocolate lab Hershey comes up to greet her before he goes outside to pee as well. While waiting for Devon to come out, she thinks about how much work she has done to the house to restore it. She bought it with her ex, but she done all the work herself. She thinks about how she was even doing some repairs on the night she realized that he truly wasn't coming home. Sarah replays calling him that night just to hear him say that he doesn't want anything to do with Devon beyond paying child support. She shakes herself out of it while she thinks about how she converted the third floor into a mini apartment that she rents out. The current tenant is a college student from Japan named Miki. Sarah made the arrangement with Miki that she could have free room and board in exchange for her watching Devon while Sarah is working.

While Devon gets settled in front of the TV to watch cartoons, Sarah goes through his backpack where she sees a flyer reminding her about the upcoming baseball playoffs. She knows that this is a big game for Devon and mentally prepares herself for him to be extra anxious. Sarah also starts a load of laundry to make sure that his uniform is ready to go before bringing in Hershey. Sarah heads up to her room with a cup of tea. Once she is settled on the the bed for a little bit, she calls Paisley to try to get an update about Emile. Paisley finally answers and tells her that blood tests showed that Emile had a small heart attack, but no major damage. He just has to rest and take a new medicine for it. Paisley also tells her that the doctors were keeping Emile over night just to be safe. Sarah tells Paisley about the plan to get through the dinner service, and hangs up.

Sarah gets ready for work after getting off the phone. While putting on her makeup, she thinks about her father died at his work desk and how her ex not coming home had the same feeling to it. Sarah was scared she was going to have that same feeling again with Emile until she got off the phone with Paisley. Then Sarah thinks about she found out her ex was cheating because an airline called to ask about a ticket for another woman, and how she emptied the joint bank accounts as well as cancelled the credit cards to ensure that there was money for her and Devon. After Sarah finishes getting ready, she heads downstairs and sees that Miki is already settled on the couch with Devon. They are playing a video game together, so Sarah tells them goodbye and heads to work. Later that night, Blake is waiting for Sarah to look at the message he sent her as HotNCold since he knows that she should be home from the restaurant soon.

Blake takes Kahlua for another walk past the restaurant to try to see how things are going while sticking to the shadows. He looks in the windows and sees Sarah standing behind the bar drinking some water. Blake thinks about how she is beautiful with her hair coming out of her updo and stretching from a very long night. The sight of her has his pulse pounding and breath labored, so he turns it to the rest of the dining room where everyone else is cleaning up. Blake continues the walk before doubling back to make it look like he is on the way back to his place instead of coming from it. He knocks on the door and waits for Sarah to come to the door. She comes and unlocks the door before greeting Kahlua first. Blake plays it off as he just wanted to check on Emile on his way home. When Sarah stands back up, Kahlua pulls Blake forward until he is standing beside her. She smells the ice cream on him, and literally waters at the mouth. She invites Blake to come in for a drink, which he accepts after he takes Kahlua home. Sarah watches Blake walk down the road before going back inside to prepare the single drink each.

A short time later, Blake walks in the restaurant just as she is pouring the drinks into martini glasses. They toast to Emile before slowly drinking the chocolate alcoholic drink that fixed both cravings Sarah had all day long. There is a buzzing energy between Blake and Sarah as they have a flirty conversation that most people would have on a first place. Sarah feels like they're in their own world until Paisley walks in from the kitchen with her current boyfriend and restaurant wine supplier, Wayne Gallaway. Paisley answers questions about Emile while Wayne opens the bottle of wine he brought for him and Paisley. Paisley brings up the wedding gig, and this is when Blake decides it is time to leave. Sarah walks him back to the front door while wondering if he is going to ask her out because she flirted with him a little, but he just walks away from her without much more than goodbye.

Finally back at home, Sarah tosses and turns for over an hour before she gets her laptop out. When the start up sound is a little loud, she gets up to check on Devon who was still peacefully sleeping. Back in her bed, she checks the restaurant email before her personal one where she sees a message from HotNCold waiting for her. She logs into the site, and sees a note from HotNCold saying that he had to take a phone call, but he hopes she will give him a second chance. Before she has a chance to send a message back in reply, a window pops up with a chat invite from him. She accepts and they have a conversation that covers their most recent failed relationship. Before the conversation can go back to sexy, HotNCold tells her that he has to be up before dawn and he wants to know if they can continue tomorrow. As much as Sarah doesn't want it to end, she agrees that they would talk again tomorrow.

When Sarah sees that HotNCold is offline, she thinks about the attraction between them mentally. Once shutting down her laptop, she reaches into her bedside table drawer and pulls out a plastic bag with almond bark candy. Just as she is drifting off to sleep, Hershey barks to alert her to a scraping metal sound outside. She hears Miki put her feet down on the floor above her right before Devon calls out to her. Miki comes down the stairs carrying a lacrosse stick while Devon is coming out of his door when Sarah goes into the hallway. Sarah tries to reassure Devon that it is probably just a skunk or a raccoon when a crash is heard at the back of the house. Devon grabs a baseball bat before the three of them head downstairs to investigate. Hershey is begging to go outside, and Devon is about to let him when Sarah stops him. She turns on the outside lights and sees the trash cans are knocked over. She puts Hershey on his leash and hands it to Miki before going outside alone to fix the trash cans while checking for any animals. On the way back into the house, Sarah notices that one of her azalea bushes has a few bent branches, but doesn't say anything. Sarah locks the door, and carries Devon back up to his room while Miki lets Hershey back off his leash and turning off the lights. The three of them go back to sleep without much more fuss.

Blake wakes up a few hours later with a sense of purpose after the conversation with Sarah last night. The heart-to-heart had him wanting for more with her, and he realizes he hadn't opened up to anyone else in a long time. Blake hums cheerfully while he gets ready for his day. He goes to the Downtown Diner to meet his dad and Jordan for breakfast. His dad and Jordan try to get Blake to spill why he's so happy, but he doesn't tell them anything. While eating, their dad tells him that his mom says to get Cassie a new job at the restaurant or Blake will go on the Black List. This makes Blake say that he will take care of it immediately, because he doesn't want to upset his mom in anyway. Blake throws a couple bills on the table before heading to the Three Chocolatiers.

Emile was released from the hospital two days later, and Paisley is bringing him home. Sarah decides that she will go upstairs to clean the apartment up a bit on the second floor of the restaurant. Paisley lives on the top floor in a tiny one bedroom apartment, but Emile had all the room he needed in his. When she takes the trash down to the dumpster, Sarah checks to make sure that Blake wasn't lurking around. Yesterday she hired Carrie to work as the summer hostess. Sarah thinks about her budding relationship with HotNCold which has turned into a nightly ritual even though they still hadn't had cybersex. She climbs the stairs back up to Emile's apartment as she thinks about how HotNCold promised her that tonight was going to be special. She reached the apartment just as she hears the elevator coming up from the ground floor parking lot. Sarah can hear Paisley and Emile arguing about the girls have everything covered so he can get the doctor demanded rest.

Paisley and Emile stops arguing when they see Sarah standing in the hallway. Paisley and Sarah help Emile walk into the apartment to his favorite armchair. Sarah brings out tea and scones for the three of them to enjoy while Paisley tells her what the doctor said. Emile needed to stick to a diet that involved no alcohol, no caffiene, low-fat, low-salt food as well as two new medicines. When Emile starts to complain about not being in the kitchen, Sarah tells him that he can tutor her in prep for the wedding right from his chair. Paisley brings up that he has to walk every day, so Sarah suggests that he take Hershey around downtown. After accepting this game plan, Emile sends Paisley down to the kitchen to get started on lunch while Sarah gets books down needed to give her a crash course on food safety and cocoa cookery.

Sarah takes the books Emile gave her and heads home to get ready for Devon's game in just a couple hours. She pulls into the driveway just as Devon bursts out the front door. It is clear that he is hyper and worried about being late. Sarah goes inside, changes her clothes, and then helps Miki load the cooler with snacks and drinks before they all head out, Hershey included, to the school playing field. They arrive just as the first round of teams are leaving. After getting settled with the other moms and dads who have become her friends, Sarah sees Blake walking towards her in a a purple shirt matching the team he sponsors. She also sees that he is wearing a whistle as she waves at him. He comes over, and Sarah finds out that he is the assistant coach for his team who just finished. Blake sits with Sarah and helps cheer on Devon's team.

Before the game starts, Blake puts his hand on her knee and holds it there until they both have a blush form over their faces. Blake was still talking to her as HotNCold, but it is clear that she doesn't know because last night she mentioned a cute guy she met at work. Blake is pretty sure she means him, but not enough to reveal his secret. They watch the game together, and Devon's team wins which means that they will face Blake's team for the next round of playoffs. Blake walks Sarah, Miki, Devon, and Hershey back to her car. Sarah invites him to her house for chocolate chili, but he has to say no since he has a community meeting for his condo building. Blake helps her load everything up, and then leans into her driver's side window to tell her goodbye. He leans so close that Sarah is sure that he will kiss her, but he places a peck on her cheek. He sees the clear disappointment on her face, and he knows that is a sign that he is getting closer to having her as his girl.

On the drive back to the house, Sarah listens as Miki explains that she knows about her dating profile and can be a good/bad thing. Miki tells her about the time that her friend got stalked by a dude she met online. The guy was able to find her friend's address through an internet search. When they get back to the house, Miki shows Sarah just how easy it can be to find information about someone. After dinner and doing a few household chores, Sarah heads upstairs to get started on the books Emile gave her while Devon watches TV. Sarah reads until her eyes glaze over and she nods off for a little bit. She is startled awake by her house phone ringing, but no one is there when she answers so she lays back down. She decides a little longer nap before putting Devon to bed is needed. Especially since she had another cyberdate with HotNCold later.

Sarah is in the middle of another round of cyber foreplay with HotNCold, and instead of enjoying the pleasure he's painting for her, Sarah's guilt instinct kicks in. Sarah takes out a box of chocolate truffles thinking it will help, and it does. That is until she she pictures Blake's face. With the fantasy ruined, she cuts HotNCold's descriptive conversation short by saying that she feels weird talking like this. He tells her that he enjoys the simple conversation by itself, and asks her for another chance. She thinks about it for a moment before telling him yes. Later Sarah is sitting on her window bench seat watching the storm happening outside. She notices a strange car sitting outside a house across the street that is for sale. She watches the car long enough to see the driver light up a cigarette before starting the engine. She sees it drive down the road without it's headlights until it reaches the stop sign. Before Sarah can think too much about it, a strike of lightening startles her back to her bed. Knowing she won't be able to fall asleep soon, she picks the chocolate cooking books up again.

Blake wakes up all wound up from the cut short conversation with Sarah, and decides to make a stop by the restaurant to see her. However when he gets there, it is clear that he is the subject of an inside joke between Paisley and Raoul. Blake plays it off that he is there to check on Emile before heading upstairs. After asking Emile how he is doing, Blake confirms that the ice cream is ready for the wedding. This leads to Emile asking Blake if he will be sending someone to deal with the ice cream, so Blake volunteers that he can handle it himself. Emile agrees that it would be good for Sarah to have a familiar face, and now Blake has a reason to be there besides his own. Blake leaves and heads back to his office after telling Emile to call if he needs anything.

Sarah is sitting in Emile's office trying to make sense of the massive paper pile on the desk when she sees the papers about the wedding. She decides to use the excuse of needing to give them to Blake and heads out to also enjoy the nice weather. She walks through downtown which is full of other people taking advantage of the nice day until she reaches Blake's ice cream factory. She gets there as he is dealing with a delivery on the loading dock. Once he is done, he takes her on a tour while staying intimately close which sends shivers and goosebumps all over Sarah's body. They go into his office at the end with the tension so think that Sarah wants Blake to make some kind of move until the phone rings. Shaken out of her sexual state, Sarah tells Blake goodbye and practically runs back to the restaurant. She goes into the office and starts to work on the paperwork pile again.

Later Sarah is working the bar section when a man named Alonso comes in. Sarah notices that he looks a lot like the Tarzan figure she usually imagined during her fantasy moments with HotNCold. He makes intense eye contact with her when she engages him in conversation. He scribbles notes in his notebook in between bites and conversation with Sarah. She politely asks what he does for a living, and he tells her that he works in the HVAC area. Sarah hears this, and practically runs to the kitchen convinced that he is HotNCold. She tells Paisley that she thinks HotNCold was sitting in the bar area. When Sarah finally gets Paisley to come out of the kitchen with her, Alonso is already gone after leaving a $100 bill tucked under the dessert plate. Paisley calms Sarah down by convincing her that he was just a random nice guy who found Sarah attractive. Sarah agrees that she was probably overreacting.

Blake heads over to his childhood home where his parents still live for a family dinner. Jordan and Carrie are already there waiting very impatiently to eat. Jordan has already had a few beers and tries to bait Blake into confessing his interest in Sarah. Blake doesn't take it, and makes it through dinner without much more about it. While cleaning up, Jordan tries again but it just makes Blake get defensive until Jordan gets that he doesn't want to talk about it. After Jordan says goodbye, Blake joins his mom near the fire pit and vaguely asks her what to do about Sarah. She tells him to just be himself because that is what any woman wants. Blake realizes his mom was right, and says goodbye. He looks up and sees the blood moon, and contemplates what it means as he decides that he needs to tell Sarah that he is HotNCold.

Sarah finally makes it back to her house after closing down the restaurant and is letting Hershey out back. Hershey growls and stares at the azalea bushes. She takes a few steps closer to the bushes until she hears a stick snap. Sarah runs back into the house and calls Hershey to come to her. He slowly inched his way to the back door until she is able to pull him inside. She bolts the door shut and kills the outside lights. She watches for a few minutes until Hershey starts up the stairs with her close behind. The next morning Sarah gets up and rushes getting Devon ready for school and on the bus on time. Miki comes down the stairs to join Sarah for a cup of coffee when she goes to check the outside thermostat. Miki calls Sarah over to the window because the bushes were completely flattened and trash cans turned over. Sarah assumes that the person who emptied the trash cans is responsible, and calls the company. Miki heads out the door herself.

Sarah trims the bent branches before getting ready for work. As she is going out the door, the phone rings but she doesn't answer when she sees Private ID. Once at the restaurant, Sarah walks in to find a very somber atmosphere. She walks into the office to see Paisley trying to do the bookkeeping. Paisley admits that she has already messed up once as well as burnt some cakes. Sarah comes up with a plan to let Paisley's brother Lucas handled the accounting part every week through FedEx while they do a few specials a week to help boost sales. This helps calm Paisley some, but she reminds Sarah that they need to nail the wedding gig. Sarah heads upstairs for another lesson with Emile. It is after lunch when Emile brings up the fact that the chef that works at the country club the bride chose will not be happy to have them there. Emile calls Paisley to come join them, and they come to the agreement that Paisley would handle the kitchen at the wedding while Sarah worked with the serving staff. Emile gives his blessing that Raoul and Jerome will handle the restaurant.

Emile then tells them the story about he met their grandmother while they fill in the pieces they remember. When Emile falls asleep in his armchair shortly after, Paisley and Sarah head up to Paisley's apartment to relax before getting ready for the dinner rush. While sitting up there, they come up with a plan to talk to Emile about sticking to his new diet better after Sarah saw heavy cream in his fridge. Then they reassure each other that they have the wedding gig handled. They share a hug that makes Sarah want to tell Paisley everything about HotNCold and Blake, but she decides not to before leaving to go meet Devon's bus at home.

Will Blake ever tell Sarah his secret? Will Sarah give in to the attraction between her and Blake? What is the cause of the strange noises and bent bushes outside Sarah's house? Is there a happy ending for everyone?

Alright y'all, I could probably have covered a little more, but I don't want to give away too much. Like I said this was the perfect book to help break me out of the reading funk I was in thanks to having a sick household. Gail Cleare has a wonderful way of writing about a budding romance while making sure that there is an actual storyline. This one even has a slight suspense plot behind it. I have to say thank you to Read and Reels Book Tours for including me into the readers for Love and Chocolate. If you want to add this beauty to your library in time for Valentine's day, head over to my page:

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Echoes Between Us

Alright y'all, this ARC came to me thanks to TorTeen and BookishFirst.com and I am so glad that it did! So this is a YA that is about two teens that are in complete opposite social circles at school that are brought together by ghosts and secrets. Katie McGarry takes on the story of Veronica, the weird girl that does things her way, and Sawyer, the popular guy who doesn't really try to be popular. I had a few moments where I completely forgot this was a YA novel, because she writes in an amazing way that just pulls you into the story. I am super excited to talk about this book and had to actually stop reading so I would not spoil too much. So let's dive in!

Veronica is a seventeen year old girl who deals with constant headaches. She lives with her truck driver dad and mom in the second and third floors of their Victorian house. They converted the first floor of their house into an apartment that they rent out for some extra cash. Normally she wakes up in pain, but today she wakes up in a good mood and pain free despite it being the day of the school orientation. She looks around at the paper turkeys Veronica has hung up because she likes to creatively celebrate holidays on their non-designated days like her mom. Veronica and her mom have a whispered conversation about a secret Veronica is keeping from her dad while he is cooking in the kitchen. He brings up the short term tenants moving in soon because they are waiting on their new house's construction being done. Veronica asks if they know the house is haunted, but her dad tells it's not so no they weren't. She watches as her mom goes up the stairs without a glance from her dad as he joins Veronica at the table so they can eat breakfast.

Sawyer is an older brother to Lucy and a son to a single mom. His parents got divorced a little over five years ago when Lucy was just a baby. Ever since then Sawyer has taken on the responsibility of being the man of the house because his dad made it clear that was what was supposed to happen now. Today that means driving the U-Haul as they head over to move into the first floor apartment owned by Veronica's dad. He also has to check out the place when they first arrive to make sure there is nothing strange and out of the ordinary waiting for them around the corner. He walks through and finds nothing strange except an eerie feeling of being watched and a stapled pack of papers on the window seat of what is going to be Lucy's room. He picks up the papers and sees that it is a diary of a girl named Evelyn Ballack dated 1918. Once he tells his mom that it is all clear and shows Lucy her new room, his mom pulls him to the side. She lets him know that their landlords have rules: do not go upstairs and knock if something is wrong, you must call on his phone. Also the house is haunted.

Veronica is hanging out on the hill behind the house with her friends Leo and Nazareth. They are sitting on the wall of what used to be a tuberculosis (TB) hospital during the early 1900's. They can see Sawyer and his friends are making their way up the hill towards the abandoned hospital. Leo graduated last year and Nazareth is on an accelerated course that is half high school half college. That means that Veronica is by herself most of the school day. Nazareth drops the bomb on Veronica that he can't do the Senior Thesis project with her because he was made to do it last year. Veronica listens as a migraine is making its way through her head. Meanwhile inside, Sawyer and his group of friends are walking in through the front doors of the hospital. The others walked in further while Sawyer and his best friend Sylvia hang near the door. Sylvia starts talking about Veronica and how weird she is now that it is out that Sawyer moved in to her house. Next thing they know Veronica is standing on the other side of the room asking if there is anything else they want to say about her. Veronica asks Sawyer about the stapled papers just as Leo warns that cops are coming. While everyone else scatters, Veronica and Sawyer have a staring contest silently daring the other to run off first. Sawyer is the first to move.

Veronica is back at home looking through her files to see if Sawyer does have her copy of a diary. After looking every where she realizes that he does have her copy that her mom got for her. She's on the phone with her dad, who is out delivering another haul, talking about the accounting side of the business. Once she catches him up on everything, he hangs up and she realizes that it is after midnight. She sees a shadow run down the stairs, and she quietly follows it down the stairs. She is hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost children she used to see when they first moved into the house. She is waiting patiently on the main staircase when she hear a child's scream. In his room, Sawyer is startled awake from his dream of being in Evelyn's TB hospital room by Lucy's screaming his name. He walks out of his room to see her standing at the main front door with it open. She is trying to go out the door while screaming about a monster when Veronica grabs her and pulls her close just as a shadow figure lunges towards them. Veronica picks up Lucy and carries her halfway up the main staircase with Sawyer close behind just as his mom stumbles in drunk. Veronica takes Lucy up to her place while Sawyer deals with his mom. He puts his mom in the bathroom before she can throw up everywhere. Once she is done, she tells him that they are broke until her next payday because his dad hasn't paid child support the past few months.

Upstairs Veronica gets Lucy a snack and all the art supplies needed to make paper turkeys to add to the collection Veronica has already started. She asks Lucy what was so scary, and the little girl tells her that she saw a little girl ghost that was dressed funny. Veronica tells her that the ghosts aren't scary, just simply people who left their bodies but not their homes. Veronica tells Lucy a secret: her mom is a ghost in the house too. Then Veronica tells Lucy about her decision to do her school project on proving ghosts are real so her dad will believe too. Lucy asks Veronica to show it to Sawyer so that he will believe her when she says there are ghosts waking her at night. Veronica tells her sure because more people need to believe. Later Sawyer goes upstairs to get Lucy and tries to convince Veronica not to cash their deposit check yet. She lets him know that she already had and it bounced. Sawyer asks her to give them until next week, and she agrees to wait on telling her dad. She also tells him that Lucy is welcome to come upstairs whenever she feels like it as long as Veronica is home.

The next morning, Sawyer sets Lucy up in front of the TV with a couple boxes of her toys and his mom outside with a book before heading off to his doctor's appointment. Sawyer has been walking around with a cast on his arm, and as far as anyone knows it is from where he slipped on the pool deck at the Y. The doctor takes the cast off, and Sawyer drives to a rock quarry and jumps down 40 feet into the water. He knows it is dangerous because this is how he actually broke his arm, but no one else knows that he jumps off cliffs for an adrenaline rush. Veronica is at her friend Jesse's farm with Leo and Nazareth camping out since Leo leaves for college in the morning. Veronica and Leo are sitting on a blanket waiting for the sun to rise when he asks her what it's like to have a brain tumor. She has to fight to hide the tears forming in her eyes while she answers that she forgets it's there until she gets a migraine. She thinks about she has already told him that it is benign but inoperable because of it's placement, and how ever since he only saw her tumor when he looked at her. Her mom died of a malignant one in almost the same spot, and Leo watched her go through the grief of losing her. They continue to sit there while she silently begs Leo to kiss her again, but he just puts her back in the friends zone like he has done so many times in the past. The conversation ends with him telling that her, Jesse, and Nazareth should come visit him at college in a few weeks. 

It's the first day of school, and Sawyer is in the library just listening to music after picking up his schedule from the front office. Before first period rings, Veronica comes up to his table and tells him that she wants to work with him for the Senior Thesis project since they are in the same class and he has a car. He tries to tell her that she doesn't want to work with him because of his dyslexia, but she doesn't see a problem with it. She tells him to just take her to one place this weekend and he can decide after that if it is something he wants to do since they have until Monday to pick out their own groups. Sawyer tells her okay, and heads to his first class. After the last bell rings, Veronica is slowly making her way out to the parking lot because she has been hit with a migraine that just won't quit. She makes out the doors and is pleased to see Nazareth waiting for her. He looks at her, and tells her to get in his car.

Nazareth takes her to his house where she smokes some pot his mom, Greer, grows until she falls asleep. She has migraine medication, but it doesn't do anything for her pain when it is this bad. She wakes from her nap to Jesse coming into Nazareth's room holding out his cellphone. Her dad is waiting to talk to her because she left her phone in the car and Nazareth doesn't always have his on. After reassuring her dad that she is okay and is honest about the pot, he tells her to go eat the soup Greer made her. She promises to let him know if she stays the night or goes home. Greer treats her like one of her own kids when Veronica comes over, especially during an intense migraine. After going to pick Lucy up from school because his mom forgot again, Sawyer heads to a town thirty minutes away with the urge to jump. Instead of heading to the quarry, he winds up at an AA meeting where he meets Knox. Sawyer sat in the back the whole time and didn't say a word, but he still got Knox's attention. Knox tells him that he is there to talk anytime Sawyer was ready. Sawyer just keeps thinking to himself that he's not an alcoholic so he doesn't need to be there.

It's Saturday and Sawyer is driving Veronica to an address that she gives him. They pull up to a house that she has been to before, and knocks on the door. Veronica introduces Sawyer to her dad's friend Max. Max does ghost hunting on the side, so he is able to instruct them on the proper way to use the necessary equipment as well as how to talk to the ghosts. When Sawyer asks if they have to spend money to do this project, Max tells him and Veronica no because he is going to loan them his equipment. Unfortunately for Veronica, Max spills the beans about her tumor in front of Sawyer when he tells her that he prays for her and her dad. Once all the questions are answered, Sawyer loads the equipment into the car when he sees Veronica starting to walk home. He tries to convince to let him drive her, but doesn't push when she keeps saying that it is just a few miles. Sawyer figures she is upset about what Max said, and drives off even though he feels like an ass for doing that. 

Sawyer is still thinking about it as he sits at Sylvia's house around midnight for a pool/pot luck dinner party. Him and Sylvia are sitting in chairs by the pool when she tries to explain that his mom was just trying to help when she signed him up for the AP English class her and Miguel are in. She says that his mom just wanted to make sure the three of them could work on the Senior Thesis project together, Sylvia and Miguel doing most of the work while Sawyer did the other part. Sawyer knows this means the "easy" part, and decides to ask Lucy if she is ready to go. He takes Lucy inside so she can get changed and tries to convince his mom it was time to go. However, Sylvia's mom Hannah steps in that the kids could go now while someone drives her later. Annoyed Sawyer takes a very sleepy Lucy and leaves his mom there wishing that his friends and his mom were more separated. Veronica is having a pity party on the porch when she sees Sawyer pull up with a sleeping Lucy. She opens both the main door and the apartment door for him, and waits in the living room at his request. Once Lucy's all tucked in and back to sleep, he asks Veronica about the tumor. Veronica gives him the quick breakdown like she gave everyone else that knows before asking if he is going to do the project with her. Sawyer surprises her and himself by saying yes.

In English on Monday, the teacher asks everyone to announce their groups for the project, and Sawyer surprises everyone else by saying he will be working with Veronica. He ignores the hurting and angry look on Sylvia's face while the rest of the class states their groups. Once that is done, Sawyer joins Veronica at the back of the class so they can start discussing more details as well as writing out the summary for the teacher. During the process, Veronica tells Sawyer that they need to get to know each other a little better if they are going to work well together despite her frequent headaches and his dyslexia. Back at home later on, Veronica gets a surprise visit on the psychic Glory who she has been avoiding lately. She is about to ignore her when Glory pulls out a smudge stick that will send away all spirits including Veronica's mom. After Veronica refuses to let Glory smudge the house, she leaves a few smudge sticks, a seashell, and the instructions on how to use them properly. Once that is out of the way, they go out back so that Glory can perform the healing that Veronica has been dodging for the past month. Inside the house Sawyer is in his apartment taking care of Lucy after having to leave practice early to pick her up because their mom forgot. His mom comes in the house mad about him working with Veronica on the Senior Thesis which causes him to leave out of the house fast with the urge to jump again. 

After getting an A- on the summary, it takes two weeks before Sawyer and Veronica can get together again. After dropping Lucy off at a sleepover, they drive to their first haunted spot. Their first place to check out is a covered bridge that has had multiple deaths occur, including a car accident. They get there before sunset which means that Sawyer is able to get a few pictures while Veronica sits on rocky ledge with the recorder and her phone behind her. She is about to adjust her sunflower barrette in her hair when it falls onto another rock a little below her. She lays on her stomach and tries to reach it when the ground gives way under her. She is sliding down the hill when she feels Sawyer grab her and roll her onto another rock ledge. They stand there and debate their options before Sawyer says they need to jump. Veronica never learned to swim, so he proposes that she float while he pushes her across. After a few more minutes of looking at the options, Veronica agrees and jumps with Sawyer. They land in the water and are able to swim across exactly how he said they would. They make it to the other side and walk up the hill. They have no choice but to go across the bridge back to his car. While walking across it, they hear tapping behind them like footsteps and hurry the rest of the way. 

Sawyer builds them a fire after Veronica spent thirty minutes trying to capture an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) near the bridge's entrance with no success. They are still damp from the river when Sawyer decides to take off his shirt. Veronica has a blush form over her face that she tries to hide when he looks at her. After a little bit of awkward silence, they admit that they are both attracted to each other. Sawyer holds her hand while Veronica asks what is something no one else knows about him. He tells her about being told by his dad at 11 years old it was time to be brave. She tells him about her mom's battle with brain cancer when they hear more taps coming from the bridge. They grab the camera and recorder and walk a little ways into the bridge. Veronica asks a few questions while Sawyer takes a few pictures after telling the ghost that he was going to at Veronica's insistence. Once she asks all her questions, Veronica goes back to the fire and rewinds the tape. Her third question "Is there anything you think I should know?" is answered with "He's hurting."

On the drive home, Sawyer and Veronica sing and dance in the car until they pull onto their street. Once parked in the driveway, they sit in Sawyer's car for a bit when he hands her back her barrette. She pulls him into a hug and stays there until they are both thinking about kissing the other. However they are stopped when Sawyer sees someone standing on the porch over Veronica's shoulder. She turns around and bolts out of the car when she realizes that it is Leo coming down the steps. Sawyer gets out shortly behind her and see Nazareth and Jesse standing at the top of the stairs. Sawyer watches Leo casually touch Veronica while jealousy course through his body before he tells Veronica to text him when she is ready to go over the EVPs as he heads into the house and his apartment. Once he closes the apartment door, Sawyer finds his mom passed out on the couch with three empty wine bottles on the coffee table. He carries to her bed so she can sleep it off.

It's two in the morning, and Veronica is back over at Jesse's place climbing a tree while Jesse, his girlfriend Scarlett, Nazareth, and Leo all watch from below. When she decide she can't climb any higher, everyone else starts climbing up the tree. Veronica has to jump down because she starts getting dizzy. Just as she's walking towards the blanket near the fire, Leo jumps down behind her. They walk over and sit on the blanket as Leo makes a comment about him missing her because she's never down, and it just makes the awkwardness worse. He mentions that he's been going on dates and it quickly turns into a fight about her being around Sawyer. Leo says he's sorry when he sees how exhausted she really is, and then calmly voices his concern about Sawyer hurting her. Before Veronica can respond, his phone is ringing. He answers it saying that his friend is just going through something, which is confirms that their friendship has officially changed. Leo walks off and is replaced by Jesse who joins her when her head erupts into pain. Veronica tells Jesse to take her home right away. Jesse pulls into her driveway as Leo calls his phone for the dozenth time since Veronica turned her phone off. Jesse starts to say Leo came home because he's confused by his feelings for Veronica and a girl he is seeing at college. Veronica gets out in a rush while telling Jesse to just go home. Veronica gets inside just as her dad is coming down the main stairs yelling at her for being home late before she breaks down in tears over losing Leo as her best friend. Instead of continuing to yell at her her dad just holds her while she cries.

Sunday comes and Sawyer is cleaning up from making lasagna with Lucy when his mom brings up the Senior Thesis, him ignoring Sylvia, and his upcoming swim meet depending on his grades. Sawyer is just about to blow up on her because she's blaming Veronica when there's a knock at the door. Sawyer goes and opens it to see Veronica's dad, Ulysses, standing on the other side. He comes in and gets Sawyer to repeat that he won't tell anybody about Veronica's tumor. This peaks Sawyer's mom's interest as Ulysses is explaining a little more about her diagnosis and that he knows Veronica will make sure the Senior Thesis is perfect. Ulysses then tells Sawyer that he'll be taking Veronica out of town for a week for a vacation. When Ulysses leaves, Sawyer wonders what's going on with Veronica. When his mom loses all the fight in her voice, she walks away while yelling at his mom to not tell anybody about the tumor. Sawyer drives to the AA meeting he knows Knox will be at so he doesn't go jumping again. When it's over he tells, Knox about the jump with Veronica at the covered bridge, and Knox tells him that he was going to be his sponsor. While this is for alcoholics, Knox knows that they don't have adrenaline addiction groups, so this would have to be the next best thing. Knox's first step as Sawyer sponsor is for them to go grab food together and get to know each other.

Veronica wakes up at midnight realizing she slept the day away after talking to her dad about everything but seeing her mom's ghost. She hears tapping in the living room and follows it out in hopes of seeing the little ghost girl. On the way out to the living room she sees her mom laying next to her dad in his bed like she did when she was alive. This makes Veronica happy since it means he's finally getting a good night's sleep. She quietly walks out to the living room and down the main stairs when she hears more taps. Meanwhile Sawyer is woken again by Lucy screams. After getting Lucy back to sleep, Sawyer follows the taps that sounds like footsteps out of the apartment front door where Veronica is standing at the bottom of the main stairs. She basically confirms that he heard the ghost she has been telling him about. Sawyer asks her to go with him on a ride. She says sure but she has to leave a note for her dad.

Sawyer drives Veronica 20 minutes away to his favorite spot which is a rock quarry that he loves to jump from. He brings her here in an attempt to share his deepest darkest secret about being addicted to jumping, and to get her to tell him what is going on. Instead she tells him to kiss her and save the relationship altering talk for the morning. Sawyer has an internal debate until Veronica kisses him first. They make out for hours before driving home and happy silence while holding hands at 4:30 in the morning. When they pull into the driveway, Sawyer opens her car door, but lets her open the main door. They stand in the foyer and are about to kiss again when ghost's footsteps startle them apart. Then they hear her dad calling her up the stairs, and telling Sawyer to decide what kind of man he is going to be. Sawyer walks with Veronica up the stairs. Just as they get inside the living room when she sees her mom and passes out. She wakes up to see her dad and Sawyer staring at her while she's laying on the couch. After making sure she is okay, her dad gives them a minute to say goodbye. Veronica uses this minute to tell Sawyer this needs to be a fun thing with no pressure, and he agrees but says that they only kiss each other, no one else. Sawyer says goodbye knowing that Veronica and her dad will be leaving for their vacation soon.

A week passes, and Sawyer is driving with his mom and Lucy over to Sylvia's forget another weekend potluck dinner. Before they get out of his car, his mom makes them both promise to not tell anyone about their money troubles. Sawyer and Lucy sit in the car for a little bit longer, and are about to get out when Sylvia knocks on the car window. Sylvia helps Lucy get out and sends her inside, so Sylvia and Sawyer stay out in the driveway. Once alone they sort of make up and become friends again by admitting they were both handling the situation with Veronica wrong. Then she asks if her and Miguel can join his group with Veronica. Sawyer tells her sure, but she needs to know that he's dating Veronica. On Sunday, Veronica gets dressed for Christmas since her Thanksgiving got canceled thanks to Leo. She is finishing up her outfit while arguing with her mom about the sudden headache / seizure she had before going to Florida with her dad. She goes downstairs for what she thinks is a regular brunch with her dad, and is surprised to see that Sawyer got everyone together for her Thanksgiving after all. They all sit down to eat half brunch and half Thanksgiving food that Lucy keep saying she helped make. After helping clean up and set up Christmas, Sawyer joins Veronica on the porch after her dad finishes a short but serious "don't hurt her talk". Veronica admits to being in love with Leo once, but that she fell out of love when he couldn't see past her tumor. Sawyer makes it clear he sees her, and then tells her about going to the AA meetings for his cliff jumping addiction. She surprises him by being supportive and everything seems at ease. That is until he tells her that Miguel and Sylvia are going to be joining their group, now Veronica is pissed. It's 10:00 p.m. when Sawyer walks back into his apartment. After calming down Veronica, they went over the EVPs and photos from the bridge until he had to go to the Y for a work meeting. After the meeting was over, he did a few laps in the pool before coming home to find his mom still drunk from the night before. She tries to argue with him over Veronica being a bad influence until he brings up his dad is having another baby with his girlfriend. Before it can get turned into a shouting match between the two of them, Lucy wakes up thirsty so Sawyer puts her to bed before calling Knox.

Veronica, Sawyer, Sylvia, and Miguel are in a cafe in Lexington interviewing Dr. Kelly Wolfe, who is a professor of history at Transylvania University. Dr. Wolfe also knows a lot about Kentucky history, local folklore, and ghost stories. Veronica shows her the photos and the EVP from the bridge, and gets confirmation from Dr. Wolfe that they did in fact capture ghost activity. Then Dr. Wolfe explains the difference between an actual ghost interaction, and a residual haunting (a memory so traumatic that it stays at the location). This causes Sawyer to think about Veronica's house and all the ghost activity they've been hearing lately. After finishing the interview, they are back in Miguel's SUV who drove them to Lexington, and is now driving them to Louisville. The next destination is a road close to a cemetery where people have claimed to see a teenage girl in a prom dress walking on the road towards the cemetery.

The story is the teenage girl and her boyfriend crashed while they were on their way to a school dance. This road that they are on has a very sharp curve that will send you down the side of the steep hill if you are not careful. They are almost to the cemetery that both teenagers are buried at on the steep hill when a bright orb runs in front of the SUV forcing Miguel to slam on the brakes. This is just moments after Veronica explains the deaths in the crash are real and have records. After Sawyer make sure everybody is okay, he tells Miguel to pull over to the side of the road. Veronica gets out with the recorder and heads into the cemetery before Sawyer, Sylvia, and Miguel follow behind her. They catch up to Veronica as she stands over the teenage girls broken headstone. Veronica mentioned something about a statue close by that she wants to look at, so Miguel goes with her while Sawyer and Sylvia stay behind. Sylvia then tells Sawyer that her and Miguel know about Veronica's tumor thanks to his mom. Before the discussion can go further, Veronica comes back and get some saying they found the statue. Sylvia gets teased by Veronica and Miguel over a statue that supposedly predicts deaths of visiting groups. Sawyer takes a few pictures while Sylvia chases down Miguel. Veronica tells him that it feels like the cemetery wants them to leave.

When Sylvia and Miguel come back, Veronica says they need to take some EVPs. The four of them are sitting on the grassy knoll at the very end of the cemetery trying to get some EBTs but are out of luck. Instead Miguel asks the group what would be the one moment in their lives that would turn into their residual haunting. Miguel is unable to voice his, but it is clear that Sawyer and Sylvia know what he is thinking. Then Sawyer says his is the day his mom finally broke down after another round of him blaming her for the divorce. Veronica says hers is the moment her mom died after all those rounds of chemo. Sylvia says hers is a moment she came out to her family as being gay and her grandma told her that she would be going to hell. Then they all admit that the energy from the cemetery is very off-putting, so Veronica announces that a cleansing of chocolate milkshakes was an order while wondering in the back of her mind if this was the moment Glory had warned her about....

Will Sawyer tell Veronica that more people know about her tumor? Will Veronica tell Sawyer and her dad about the new symptom she's an experiencing? Will Sawyer ever learn the full truth about her tumor? Will they be able to prove ghosts are real after all?

I know this is not the usual cliff hanger that I would stop at, but this is the best spot I could stop at without giving away too much more. Like I said, this may be a YA novel, but Katie McGarry did such an amazing job that I completely forgot. This book pulls you in pretty much from the first few pages, and makes it almost impossible to put down! I am so grateful to TorTeen Books and BookishFirst.com for sending me this book because I absolutely loved it! It has ghosts, secrets, and two teenagers that don't normally fit in the same social circles. What more could you ask for? If you simply must join me and many others by adding this to your personal library, then head on over to my page:

Thursday, January 16, 2020

What to Do About POTASS (R&R Book Tours Spotlight)


Welcome to the blog tour for What to Do About POTASS, a hilarious political satire by Glenn Shepard! Read on for more details and an exclusive excerpt! 51lrb53FrYLWhat to Do About POTASS: A Comedic Novella of Political Errors Publication Date: October 4th, 2019 Genre: Political Satire/ Comedy/ Novella Publisher: Mystery House Publishing What To Do About POTASS tells the story of the bumbling antics of legislators and The President or, as he is known in the book, POTASS. When Capitol Hill maintenance worker Thomas Wilson (or Will Thompson, as POTASS calls him) overhears different groups of legislators scheming about saving the country through various plots, he believes it’s incumbent on him to notify The President, who has recently hired him part-time to collect press clippings. But The President dismisses Wilson’s pleas. Will the legislators bungle their way to greater disaster or can they succeed in their efforts to rescue the country? Where does Thomas Wilson fit in? How will they all ultimately decide What To Do About POTASS? Read this book, and it will have you laughing out loud. This new novella is the first comedic endeavor for surgeon-turned-thriller-author Glenn Shepard (Dr. Scott James Thriller Series, including The Missile Game, The Zombie Game, The Ebola Game, and The Encryption Game). Ever with an aim to heal, in What to Do About POTASS Dr. Shepard offers the sorely needed medicine of comic relief in this politically divisive age. “Bipartisan political tomfoolery. Diet Cokes. Bungled assassination attempts. Secret meetings in basement restrooms. Great Walls. Poisonous needles. And the most popular President of all time, POTASS. What more could anybody want in a great modern day political satire? This book is of this moment and also one for all moments. Read it. Laugh out loud. Pure satiric genius. Enjoy.” ~ Rich Krevolin, Author of Screenwriting in the Land of Oz and The Hook Add to Goodreads


“I like Diet Cokes.” The President pointed to the button. “This guy brings a Diet Coke each time I press it, at least eighteen times a day. Diet Coke stimulates my whole body and my brain as well. It improves my performance, which I need to stay on top of everything I do. I drink one before my every tweet. In fact, during my most productive days, when I do two dozen tweets in an evening, I just about pop from the heavy intake.” He laughed. *** “How about I bring you a hamburger for dinner tonight, one of those monster burgers with onion rings and bacon? That’ll get your mind flowing strong again. And I have a few ideas to float, if you are in the mood to listen.” The President looked up and nodded slowly. “The burger sounds good, but I want two of them, with a double order of French fries. And I don’t know if I want to hear your ideas or not. There are just too many people who seem to think they know better than I how to run this country. I’ll have burgers delivered to the West Gate at six. Pick them up and return here. Just come in. No need to knock since I’ll know it’s you.” *** Wilson awakened in the morning with a start. He looked around and saw that he was in The President’s office, lying on a sofa that was not a part of the office yesterday. The President was there reading at his desk. Wilson sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Where are all the people that were here last night?” “I dunno. I hope Congress is in session today, but no one has told me that.” A President who was so warm and open to Wilson last night was coldly indifferent, like someone else.
Available on Amazon About the Author 61QuztAXK+L._US230_

GLENN SHEPARD is the author of The Missile Game and The Zombie Game. His first novel, Surge, was written while he was still a surgical resident at Vanderbilt. In the following years he wrote The Hart Virus, a one-thousand-page epic about the AIDS crisis, as well as three other novels. In 2008, he created “Dr. Scott James,” his Fugitive-

like action-hero, and began publishing the series. The first volume of the Dr. Scott James series was originally released as Not For Profit, but was later changed to The Missile Game.

Born on a farm in eastern Virginia, Dr. Shepard lives and maintains a thriving plastic surgery practice in Williamsburg. The third volume of The Dr. Scott James Thriller Series, The Ebola Game, is due out this year, through Mystery House. Glenn Shepard Blog Tour Organized By: R&RButto200x200 R&R Book Tours

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Back to You: You Series

Alright y'all this ARC comes to me from across the pond by a wonderful Indie author who is celebrating her debut novel as it starts to hit your TBRs! This book has two parts to it, one part is when they are in high school and part two is eight years later. This is definitely a friends to lovers type romance, but it's not the typical story. This one is filled with secrets and  However this book is definitely geared toward the 18+ crowd because of the steamy content and language that is there pretty much from the get go. I will be using pretty much the same language as well as describing the sexual parts as much as I find necessary, so if you don't want to read that, I strongly suggest you stop reading this review right here. Let's begin!

PART ONE: 18 Years Old

Rome Grayson is sitting in Red's Diner with a blonde that he has no interest in so that he can watch his best friend and love of his life Ashley Davis on her date with a dude that he really wants to punch in the face. While Rome is thinking about how much Ashley is meant to be his girl, she finally sees him and the color drains from her face. Rome gives the blonde money to pay for the food, and walks away to Ashley's table. He tells the dude that date is over, holds his hand out for Ashley, and after she willingly takes it, walks her out the door to his truck. Outside, Ashley and Rome take turns confronting the other over their behavior just now. She asks him why the sudden interest in dating her, and he asks why that asshole. Rome finally asks her out on a date, and she replies it is just because someone else did. He makes it clear that he's been wanting her for a long time before he kisses her.

It's been a week since Rome asked Ashley on a date. He is walking out of the locker room after another football practice just as Ashley is talking with her friend Molly about someone walking over hot coals for her after last night. Rome quickly realizes that they are talking about him because he was with Ashley last night at Brayden's party. Brayden is Rome's other best friend and football player. Brayden threw a party last night and it took everything in Rome's willpower to not put his hands all over Ashley. Rome listens for a little bit longer before joining them. He asks who was walking on hot coals, but Ashley tells him to ignore her while running her fingers through his hair. After sending Molly into the locker room to get his wallet, Rome checks to makes sure they are alone before pressing Ashley against the wall and kissing her like he can't get enough of her. He tells her that she is coming home with him around kisses, and she simply replies "whatever you say". Rome thinks about how he has been in love with her since they were kids and has been dying to hear her say those words for as long as he can remember.

Back at Rome's house, they are alone which is not out of the ordinary since his parents travel a lot for work. Rome and Ashley share a few more kisses and confessions of feelings before cuddling together and falling asleep like they have since they were kids. No one knows about them being together still, so it is not surprising when the next day at school Brayden is trying to nag Rome into telling Ashley how he feels about her in the one class they all share. While listening to Brayden, Rome text Ashley about how beautiful she looks, and when she blushes it leads to Brayden nagging more. Rome keeps quiet still, but thinks about how he is 17, the football quarterback, yet the only girl he has ever kissed is Ashley. He has had plenty of opportunities with all the Jersey Chasers that surround them after each game, but Rome only wants Ashley. Brayden groans out of frustration at Rome, and the teacher asks if there is something he wants to share with the class. Before Brayden can say anything, Rome kicks him forcing him to cry out "Motherfuck--" which earns them both a warning of detention.

It's Saturday which means that Ashley is working in her mom's boutique for the morning. She is ringing up a customer when Rome comes walking in. Rome helps her mom with a box while Ashley practically drools over him. The customer notices and asks if that's her boyfriend in reference to Rome, and Ashley takes the moment to tell someone about them quietly. Then she wonders why Rome is there so early because she still has two hours left to go in her shift. Once the customer leaves, her mom calls Ashley over to help with old stock and asks what they have planned for the afternoon. Ashley starts to say they were going on a date, but Rome cuts her off saying day trip. Ashley feels deflated but says they are headed to Disney World for the day. Her mom lets her take off early, so Ashley grabs her stuff while trying to figure out why Rome is acting like she is his dirty little secret. On the drive, Rome is back to acting the way he normally does when it's just the two of them. They have to stop for gas on the way there, and Rome is once again acting weird. She tries to kiss him and he tells her not here because he wants to keep that side of them private. She says okay but stays quiet the rest of the ride there.

As they are driving under the Disney World signs, Rome tries to get her to talk to him. When she doesn't say anything, he pulls over to the side of the road, pulls her into his lap, and says he won't move the car until she tells him what is going on. She says that she isn't the one acting shady over a few kisses. He says again that he is just trying to protect her from the people that would try to rip them apart. Rome is able to get her to relax and happy again so they can go enjoy their date. While getting back in her seat, she makes a comment about this being a story to tell their kids someday. Both of them burst out laughing once she realizes that she said that out loud. The next few hours are happy, amazing, and full of small pieces of affection. They decide to take a photo in front of Cinderella's Castle since there was a photographer there. While waiting for the man to take the picture, Rome plants a big kiss on Ashley that draws a lot of "aww's" from the crowd. The photographer clears his throat, waits for them to pull apart some and smile before taking their picture. Later they are on the Haunted Mansion ride and it breaks down, so Rome and Ashley take advantage for a quick make out and dry hump until Rome stops her with the promise of tonight.

Back at Rome's house later, they are laying in the bed with bare minimum of clothes when Ashley tries to suggest that they tell their parents, Molly, and Brayden about them. Rome still resists, so Ashley pulls away from and starts to get undressed while using his blankets to cover herself. She argues with him about telling their parents not being a big deal because they won't judge or tell the whole school. When Rome still says no, Ashley says she's leaving because she doesn't want to be anyone's dirty little secret. She walks out of the house, and Rome doesn't hear from her the rest of the night or all day Sunday.

On Monday, Rome is walking around the school before early practice trying to find Ashley since she's been avoiding him. He wasn't able to sleep at all knowing Ashley wasn't with him and that she left upset. When he doesn't find her in the halls anywhere, he heads to the school gym to work out some agitation before he snaps on someone. After working off some steam, Rome heads to the cafeteria when Brayden catches up to him. They both walk to their usual table and find it completely empty. While they are both standing there looking at Ashley's empty seat, Trey Henderson walks up behind them with some of his goons in tow. Trey is also a football player, but Rome still can't figure out how he made the team. Trey starts trying to pick a fight with Rome about Ashley not being by his side, but it ends quickly when Rome mentions his mom. Rome warns Trey to stay away from Ashley or he will make sure the whole school knows about Trey's coked out mom's extracurricular activities. Trey walks away with the goons in tow telling Rome that it isn't over between them.

Later at early practice, Rome struggles to get through the drills because his body is so exhausted and aching from not sleeping all weekend. Finally in the locker room, Rome checks his phone and sees nothing from Ashley. Brayden sees the frustration, and asks Rome if Team Romely has hit a rough spot. Rome is forced to confess that he messed everything up, but Brayden tries to reassure him that they will be fine by lunch time. Rome is about to go hop in the shower when Liam, Ashley's brother and baseball team captain, walks up behind him and asks why he sent Ashley home in tears the other night. Before Rome can start to ask Liam where Ashley is, Tiffany walks into the locker room. Tiffany is Ashley and Liam's stepsister and head cheerleader. First she tries to seduce Rome, but her nasty side is quickly turned on Brayden. She makes a remark about Brayden's stepmom which forces Rome to get her attention back on him before Brayden blows up on her. With Tiffany's attention back on him, Rome asks her what she wants. Tiffany says something about the cheerleaders working hard and not wanting the football team to make them look like fools at the big game Friday, so he needs to fix whatever is going on with Ashley. Liam tries to jump in, but Tiffany dismisses him. Liam and Brayden both walk off before they say something they will regret to Tiffany. Galley, the football center back, tells Rome that his girlfriend Lilly just saw Ashley on the bleachers. Ignoring anything else Tiffany has to say, Rome sprays on some deodorant, packs his duffel, and walks out the locker room.

Ashley is still sitting on the bleachers looking over the football field when she hears Rome's heavy footsteps coming towards her. After giving in to the hug he pulls her in, Ashley listens as Rome tells her that he was complete mess all weekend without her. She admits that it was hard on her too, but she doesn't want to hide their relationship from anyone anymore. Not after they both waited so long to be together. This time Rome doesn't argue with her. Instead he surprises Ashley by saying that he will do whatever she wants to do. Then Rome talks her into ditching school with him with the promise that he will cover for her with her parents. When she agrees, he practically carries her out of the school. They drive to Miami for the day since Rome is pretty well known around their hometown Palm Beach. They are walking on the beach when Ashley makes a comment about living there one day. He says he will make it happen when he is a NFL player and she is a teacher. She acts shocked that he thinks about their future together. Rome teases her about the fact that she made a comment about kids the other day, and she tries to act mad about it. He shocks her out of by saying that he is in love with her and he knows she loves him back. Then he takes her for ice cream before she can say anything back. After finishing their ice cream, Rome and Ashley are standing in a tattoo shop to get matching tattoos on a whim. It started out as Rome's idea that he get one, but it quickly turns into her getting one as well.

The next morning, Ashley is standing in the kitchen in just her underwear and Rome's shirt trying to make them breakfast. She is interrupted by Rome grinding his hard on into her back. He convinces her to stop making breakfast, turns off the stove, and takes her back upstairs. Once back in his room, Rome strips Ashley down and makes her cum with just his fingers and tongue. When she comes down from the pleasure waves, she tries to give him the same attention back. Rome stops her and says that he wants it to just be about her this time despite how badly he wants her. They are laying on the bed looking at their matching wrist tattoos, an A on his right wrist and an R on her left, when Ashley finally says "I love you" to Rome.

It has been a month full of either dry humping or Ashley riding Rome's fingers and tongue, and she finally gets the courage to ask Molly to go with her to the doctor so she can get birth control pills. When Molly agrees to go, but wants to know why, Ashley is forced to tell her about dating Rome for a month now. They finally told their parents but not Liam and Tiffany. Her mom was thrilled, her dad had the usual father response, and his parents acted like they could care less. Then Molly admits to being interested in Liam after spending the last few weeks tutoring him. Molly asks her if she's mad, but Ashley tells her that she's not mad but surprised. Ashley warns Molly to be careful because Liam can be an ass and she doesn't want to see Molly hurt. At the end of school, Molly and Ashley are heading to their lockers before going to the doctor and food before the football game. Just as they are crossing the hallway to get to their lockers, Trey knocks into Molly which sends her to the floor and her books flying. Tiffany is giggling at his side, but this doesn't stop Ashley from telling Trey to watch where he is going. Molly tries to stop Ashley, but it doesn't work. Liam walks up behind them, pulls Molly to his side, and tells Trey to take his slut (Tiffany) and walk away. Tiffany tells everyone listening that Liam didn't think she was a slut last night just as Rome comes up to Ashley's side. Brayden walks up next to Rome just as Rome is reminding him about his warning to stay away from Ashley.

Trey finally walks away with Tiffany with the weak threat of seeing Rome on the field. Brayden has to step in front of Rome to stop him from going after Trey with the reminder that they can get him on the field later. Liam tries to explain himself to Molly, but Molly tries to play it off as she doesn't care. When he says it was a mistake, she tells him to find a new tutor because she thinks it was a mistake as well. Molly and Ashley walk away and head to the doctors. Later after the game has been over for 20 minutes, Ashley and Molly are still sitting in their reserved seats because the stadium is still packed and Molly doesn't seem to be in a rush to leave. After admitting that she wasn't sure why she expected anything different from Liam, Molly decides to head home. Ashley offers to go with her, but Molly tells her to go have fun with Rome. Molly asks about their coffee date tomorrow, and Ashley confirms it is on. While Molly heads to her car, Ashley heads to the locker room.

Ashley gets to the locker room and is pleased to find it empty except for Rome's equipment bag. When she realizes that he is in the shower, Ashley bravely walks in to them after stripping off her wrap around dress and shoes. She joins him in the shower, and it doesn't take but a few seconds before Rome has her pushed up against the wall with his head between her legs. When she finally comes down from the waves of pleasure he just gave her, Ashley pushes Rome against the wall and finally gives him the blow job she has been wanting to give for weeks now. This time Rome doesn't fight her, and just gives in. When he finally cums, Rome pulls her up to her feet so he can kiss her. Then he tells her that she is his end game, his forever, and tells her it is time to go home while she processes the fact that he wants forever with her.

When they get back to Rome's house, Rome is quickly reminded that he told Brayden the party can be at his place since his parents are gone again. Rome kicks himself for forgetting about it. Ashley is upstairs in his room while he is in the kitchen taking a shot of tequila looking around at the damage already done to his house. Tiffany comes up trying to figure out where Liam is. Rome tells her to leave him and Molly alone, but that makes her turn her attention to seducing him with Trey watching close by. Rome pushes her hand away when she tries to grab him after not taking his hint to leave him alone. Brayden comes walking up to Rome asking if everything is okay with a slight slur. He tells Brayden to get her out of his house before Rome heads upstairs to his room. When he walks in his door, the lights are off but he can see Ashley thanks to the light streaming in the window. She is laying on his bed with her eyes closed and headphones on. She keeps her eyes closed as she sits up and takes a drink from a water bottle. Rome stands near the door and watches her jealous of the water bottle, and thinks about how deeply in love he is with her. He spots her Queen embroidered hat on the night stand that matches the one he's wearing, and thinks about how loves that she got them to make it clear to everyone at school they were together.

He finally pushes away from the door, turns his hat backwards, and walks over to the bed. Ashley is still sitting up when she opens her eyes in surprise until she realizes it is Rome. He kneels on the floor in front of her and places his body between her legs as he hugs her close to him. She takes off her headphones as he says he missed her. She says it's only been an hour, but isn't surprised when he admits that every second away from her is torture. She suggest having Brayden shut down the party so they can be alone before telling him that she is on the pill now. Rome makes it clear that he can't believe how lucky he is to have her in his life, and she playful insinuates that she just wants him for his body. Just as Rome is holding himself above her body in response to this comment, her phone vibrates. He tries to convince her to ignore it, but Ashley is worried it is Molly. She grabs the phone and sees a text from Molly saying she has a very drunk Liam banging on her door. Ashley leaves to go deal with her brother with the promise that she will be back later.

Two hours have passed, and Rome has managed to kick everyone out of the house and shut down the party. Now he is sitting on the couch waiting for Ashley's coming home text and is starting to get worried. When she does finally text it is to let him know that she needs a rain check because she is still dealing with Liam. She promises that she will see him after her coffee date with Molly tomorrow. It is after midnight, and Rome is sitting on the beach alone watching the waves lap at the shore. He spent hours trying to get sleep but just tossed and turned in his bed. He quickly finds that he is not alone when he hears Tiffany's voice beside him. She hands him an open beer, and he takes two swigs of it. Tiffany starts kissing on him just as his vision starts to blur. She grabs his crotch while Rome hears a clicking sound in the distance. He passes out listening to the sound of clothes being pulled off.

The next day, Ashley is leaving a concerned voice mail on Rome's phone because she hasn't gotten a response to any texts and got no answer when she went by his house before heading to meet Molly. Ashley tries to shrug off the uneasy feeling she has when Molly reminds her that he could be working out with Brayden. They get their coffee, and sit down at a table where Ashley asks Molly to help her make a sex bucket list before they head to Victoria Secret. Just as they are reaching their cars, Rome finally texts Ashley back telling her to come over to his house. She tells Molly that she will see her on Monday, and drives over. Ten minutes later she is parking in Rome's driveway. She is about to get out when Rome pulls open her car door and yanks her out of the car and into a deep kiss. While Ashley is enjoying the kiss, she can tell there is something different about it. She ends up stopping him when he holds her up against the car to try to keep the possessive and desperate kisses going, and leads him into the house.

Once inside, she forces him to sit down on the couch and talk to her. She takes a good look at him and see that he looks like he hasn't slept all night. He tells her that he feels horrible about last night as a few tears run down his face. Ashley thinks it's because he was upset she left to deal with Liam as he says he's sorry. He pulls her into his lap, and she decides to grind her hips into him and tell him to show her how sorry. He asks her if she is sure, and she replies yes even though he is sure he has been with other girls. He quickly tells her that he hasn't done anything even remotely sexual with anyone but her which just drives her need up more. She strips his shirt off of him before he puts them both on the carpet in front of the fireplace. She tells him to quit playing around when he tries to take things slowly. He rolls on a condom before entering her fully. He stills himself for a minute and peppers her with kisses until the pain passes. Once it does Ashley tells him to move, and it turns into everything she ever imagined her first time being.

Rome jolts awake from the third nightmare the following night of Ashley asking him why she slept with Tiffany if she is all he ever needs. Then he thinks about how two nights ago he woke up in an alcove on the beach with his head still fuzzy and Tiffany laying next to him naked. He also saw two beer bottles and several condoms around them, but has no idea or memory of what happened after his first few sips of that beer. He is pretty sure that Tiffany drugged him, because he knows even drunk he would never have sex with anyone but Ashley. He knows that he is lying to her every time he doesn't tell her about what happened, but he is too scared that she will walk away from him for good if he does. Rome jumps when his phone buzzes on the nightstand when a text from an unknown number comes through threatening to ruin Ashley if he tells her about what happened. He is pretty sure that it is from Tiffany. Ashley wakes up next to him and asks him who was on the phone, but he tells her no one and to go back to sleep. Instead she starts up another round of love making, and says that she is glad they waited for each other. This causes Rome to freeze for a second before he makes himself snap out of it.

Rome drives Ashley back to her house the next morning and thinks about her being in the same house as Tiffany and how that can ruin everything. He tries once again to recall what happened that night, but is still drawing a blank. Ashley pulls his attention back to her by mentioning the lingerie she bought as well as the sex bucket list. She shows it to him and he can't believe just how lucky he is to have her as his girlfriend. Before she gets out of the car, Ashley tells Rome that her mom wants him to come to game night later, and he says sure even though internally he's panicking. He asks if he can bring Brayden, and she says sure. She gets out and goes inside. Later Rome is walking up to Ashley's front door, and is about to knock when Tiffany pulls it open. She tries to get him to go for another round with her, but he tells her not going to happen just before Ashley walks up behind Tiffany. When he is sure that she didn't hear any of it, Rome hugs her and says fine. Brayden comes up the driveway, and they all go inside to start eating.

Sitting around the dining room table when Tiffany calls him Romey, which causes Ashley to growl that his name is Rome. Tiffany says that he didn't mind her calling him that the other night, and Rome explains she was at the party after the game. Brayden jumps in by complimenting Ashley's mom on the food. Rome could cry with relief because he doesn't know about the other night either. Brayden playfully tells Ashley's mom that he will happily elope with her when she gets tired of Ashley's dad. Her mom laughs it off and tells her dad to calm down because he doesn't mean it before asking for help with the dishes. Brayden starts to get up, but her dad stops him with a look and a statement about him helping his wife. Rome excuses himself to use the bathroom which is upstairs. He is about halfway done when Tiffany comes barging in to try to seduce him again. He tells her no  and forces his way out the door past her.

Rome comes back into the dining room as Ashley is helping clean up. He asks her if they can leave early because he is wiped, and she says sure but she needs to say goodbye first. They walk hand in hand out to the living room where Brayden, Liam, and Tiffany are sitting on the couches. She asks Liam where their parents are, and Liam says upstairs right before Tiffany laughs. Ashley asks her what is so funny, and Tiffany replies that she slept with two out of three men in the room. Ashley knows Liam is one of them, so she looks at Brayden like seriously? Brayden say it wasn't him, which makes her turn to Rome. The look in his eyes confirms it while his mouth is trying to explain himself to her. Ashley starts crying as Brayden stands up and pulls her into a hug while Liam also stands and asks Rome what the hell. Rome drops to his knees as the tears start to roll down his face as well, and Ashley makes him admit that it happened before they slept together for the first time. Her mom comes down the stairs catching most of the conversation, and tells Rome he needs to leave. Ashley announces that she's leaving because she can't be in the same house as Tiffany. Rome tries to convince her to talk to him and love him, but she walks out the door leaving Rome back on his knees as she runs away.

PART TWO: 26 Years Old

Ashley is sitting in a club that is owned by her friend Sean at the insistence of her friend and fellow middle school teacher Tori. Ashley is trying to politely tell a dude named Brant that she is not interested in him when she hears a voice behind her she hasn't heard in eight years. It's Rome and he's telling Brant to leave because she's with him. Brant quickly turns his attention to Rome since he is a retired star QB for Miami by asking for an autograph. Rome whispers in Ashley's ear to just go with it before he tells Brant that he better leave because he isn't getting an autograph or Ashley. After Brant finally walks away, Ashley asks Rome what the hell he is doing there. He admits that he has been keeping tabs on her all these years before asking her to dance. She hesitates for a second before letting him lead her onto the crowded dance floor. After a week protest, Ashley gives in and lets Rome hold her like they have both been dying to do for 8 years. Rome says he knows she's angry at him still. but he just wants to pretend for just one night that she's his again. Ashley tries to hate him and walk away, but just can't bring herself to do it. Rome whispers in her ear about how he's only thought of her, which sends Ashley into thinking about the first time on the floor in front of the fireplace. But that quickly turns to heartache, so she turns herself around to put her back is to his chest. She can feel his hard on pressing into her ass so she grinds against it. Rome spins her around and begs her for a kiss.

The next thing Ashley knows they are stumbling into the men's restroom while Rome kisses her neck. He kicks close the door and locks it behind them. Deciding that this is purely fueled by lust and nothing else, Ashley tells him to hurry up and fuck her. Before Rome complies, he tells her that he knows they have a lot to talk about, but he needs this to just be about being with her and the look in his eyes confirms every word. Once they both climax, Rome looks at her with love just swimming through his eyes, and all Ashley can feel is instant regret. She spent six years putting herself back together after finding out about Rome and Tiffany. She thinks about all the trust and commitment issues she's had over the years because of it. Ashley pushes him, fixes her dress, and basically tells him they are not the same people anymore and she doesn't belong to him. After practically throwing her ripped red thong at him, Ashley walks out the bathroom door leaving room standing there with his pants still down.

It's the next day and Rome is like a teenager all over again. Every single time he opens the drawer and sees Ashley's thong sitting there he has to jerk off. He thinks about how lucky he was that Sean invited him to the club the same night Ashley was there when Brayden knocks on the door. After quickly cleans himself up, Rome tells Brayden to come in. Brayden walks in with a handful of newspapers and tells Rome to take a look at them. Rome makes a sarcastic comment about Brayden reading Cosmo, but Brayden confidently tells him that it has helped with Lexi. Lexi is Brayden's wife of two years and is pregnant with their first child, however Braden's been in love with her since high school. Rome finally looks at the newspapers and see that him and Ashley are plastered all over each of them. Rome curses as he thinks about all the time and effort he put in during his football career to keep Ashley out of the press. Now it has been all for nothing, but Rome decides to call his agent Damon to try to see if he can do damage control.

Rome is at his gym that he owns trying to finish up a training session with a client. The client tries to hit on him for the umpteenth time, but he reminds her that he doesn't date clients. Rome thinks about how he could easily have any woman he wanted, but even after all these years, Ashley is the only one for him. When the client doesn't take the hint, Rome ends the session 10 minutes early because he isn't going to stand there and let her carry on like that in his crowded gym. After she quickly recovers from the rejection, she asks Rome if it's because of the woman in the pictures she saw on TMZ. He just ignores her by saying it's none of her business and tells her to make an appointment with the receptionist. He is sitting in his office putting away a client file when Olivia AKA Liv, who is one of the personal trainers on staff, comes barging in with a newspaper in her hand. Rome figures out quickly that Olivia is having a jealous moment even though they've only hooked up a few times. There has never been any kind of relationship between them besides a few one night stands. When he says that the two of them have never been in a relationship, Liv brings up the other night. Rome knows she is referring to the fact that he went over to her place after a rough day at work because she was convenient. At first he couldn't get it up until he thought about Ashley, and he now realizes that Liv took it as a response to her. He tries to walk out with his phone and keys in hand when Liv calls him Romy and tries to stop him. Rome tells her that she is a great asset to the gym, but there is nothing between them. Liv responds and anger, and says that she knows he loves her before launching into a full-blown crazy girlfriend type moment. She tries to bring up Ashley and him on the dance floor in the video she saw and he has had enough.

Rome is about to tell Liv that enough is enough when Ashley comes storming into his office pissed off. She starts talking about how she couldn't even go to work and teach her students or leave her house without reporters following her. Rome is about to pull Ashley into a hug when Liv pipes up that she's his girlfriend and that Ashley needs to leave. Ashley believes Liv and walks out in digust. After warning Liv that he'll fire her if she acts like that again, Rome gathers his stuff and runs after Ashley. He catches her before she goes out the door and explains that Liv isn't his girlfriend, and asks her to come talk to him. She tries to say that he could just lie to her again, but Rome reminds her that he only lied to her once. I actually finally agreed to go with him, but she wants to go in her own car. He quickly tells her no because he has blacked out windows for a reason. Before they pull off he looks at her and reminds her that he will keep her safe even if someone crowds the car or follows them.

They finally arrived at Rome's house just as it starts down pouring rain. Ashley gets out and runs to the door first, but she is soaked completely by the time she makes it up the porch. Rome is closely behind her after he grabs his bag and opens the door for her. He glances at her soaked white shirt and uses all the self-control he has to go get them towels and dry clothes. He points to the direction of the kitchen, and tells her to make herself at home. After watching Rome sprint up the stairs, Ashley heads to the kitchen, grabs a couple water bottles, and then takes in the view from the balcony sliding glass doors. Ashley is still staying there looking out the door when Rome comes in to tell her that he laid out clothes and fresh towels for her if she wants to take a shower. She turns around to face him and he makes it clear that he is fighting very hard to be a gentleman but her wet shirt is making it difficult. And response to his statement Ashley takes off her shirt with a new sense of boldness coursing through her. Ashley tries to tempt him into fucking her again, but Rome manages to keep his mind on explaining what happened at the gym even as he lifts her up so she can wrap her legs around his waist. Ashley says she only has two simple questions: did he use her to cheat on Liv and is Liv his girlfriend? He repeats again that no he did not and that Liv has never been his girlfriend. She pushes them away so he has to put her back on her feet before kissing him and walking away with the statement that he better not keep her waiting in the shower.

Ashley is standing under the hot water while she thinks about how crazy her life has become in the past 24 hours. It takes 10 minutes before Rome finally comes in and joins her. Rome starts out with just a few kisses as he tells her how much he has missed her in general. Ashley however quickly turns it back to sex. Rome gently pushes her down onto the shower bench before putting his head between her legs and an achingly slow passion. It's just like when they were first together all those years ago. Ashley tries to return the affection and Rome says again he wants to focus on her. once she is done Rome helps her stand under the hot water yet again before taking from behind. Once they are both done riding their waves of pleasure, Rome holds her close under the hot water and asks her to stay as the night.

Immediately Ashley stiffens up because she knows that shower sex and staying the night in his bed are two totally different things. She asked him if he really thinks it's that's a good idea since they still have so much to talk about and he eventually agrees. He says she can't blame me for wanting to make up lost time, but then suggests that they order food and sit in front of the TV and block out the rest of the world. Ashley is still unsure but can't think of anywhere else she would rather be. After ordering their food through Uber eats, Rome makes it clear that he remembers everything about her as he hands her a glass of white wine in the kitchen. Ashley kisses him and thanks him for showing her that he is still the boy she fell in love with all those years ago. She asked about how he feels but being a famous football star and he admits that it's nice but he's always known something was missing from his life. Then Rome tells her that a piece of him died the minute she walked away from him that fateful night all those years ago. She listens to him describe himself as being in a black hole full of self-hate. She tells him that the past happened and there's nothing they can do about it except learn from their mistakes. She finally asked for the full truth about Liv so that she can start trying to trust him with her future. Rome is honest with her and says that he is slept with Liv a few times, but has never fallen in love with anyone but her. Ashley lets him know that she isn't judging him anyway because she's been with a few other people but she needed to know. When he starts to bristle at the idea of someone else being with her, she tells him that none of them ever meant the same thing to her as he did it has always been him.

At that statement, Rome carries her as he jogs back up the stairs to the bed. An hour later they are laying in the bed when Ashley mentions the fact that they haven't used a condom once in the past 24 hours. He tells her that because of football he is checked out every few months, and will happily show her his most recent clean bill of health. She reassures him that she wasn't accusing him otherwise. She simply wants to have some kind of protection, because she isn't ready for a baby especially when they're not sure if this is permanent or not.  After quickly flashing her his A tattoo, he tells her that while she may not be sure, he knows for him this is everything. Rome reminds her that they forgot to eat, but instead of getting up she just snuggles into him and said he'll owe her breakfast in the morning then.

The next morning Ashley wakes up to find Rome's head between her legs. He stays there until he makes her come so forcefully that she sees stars, and then gets up to make her breakfast when her stomach growls so loudly he can hear it. She watches him pull on some sweats as he discusses her needing food and energy for what he has planned for the day. She has a moment where she thinks about the fact that she will eventually have to go back to her place and that terrifies her a little. It must be written all over her face, because he looks at her with such concern until she plays it off. 30 minutes later Rome returns with a mini buffet of food for them that smells so amazing, Ashley's mouth is practically watering. While they eat, Rome asks Ashley about her teaching job. She tells him about how she worked as a waitress until she got her bachelor's degree in Miami. Then she admits that she is unsure if she still has her teaching job since they put her on paid leave until everything settles down with the press. Rome makes it clear that he never wanted her to go through this, but she reassures him that she's a tough chick and can handle it. Rome finally gets it off his chest just how badly he regrets hurting her like he did all those years ago. She once again tells him that the past is the past, because she thinks it's the only way they will be able to work everything out. He finally tells her that he loves her and that he never stopped loving her. This leads to another round of amazing sex without a condom that ends with Ashley internally realizing that Rome still owns her heart despite everything.

After cleaning up from breakfast, Rome tries to accept the fact that Ashley is having Tori pick her up from his house, because she doesn't want to add fuel to the fire involving the press. She reminds him that this comes with the territory of him being famous just as a car horn sounds outside. Rome stops Ashley when she starts making her way outside and ask about seeing her again and calling her. After Ashley reassures that he can call her and that she will see him again he lets her go. Once inside Tori's car, Ashley fights the urge to tell Tori to turn around because the car ride is torture and every single mile kills her. She tries to process just how much her life has changed in just the past two days when Ashley notices that Tori has pulled the car over just down the road from her house. Tori asked her why in the three years they have been friends, Ashley didn't mention anything about Rome. Ashley admits it was because she never thought she would see him again. So Tory makes Ashley to tell her everything once and for all. Ashley gives her a quick rundown about her relationship and it ends with Tori voicing her concern about her getting hurt again. Ashley understands it, but admits that room was still the boy she fell in love with, and that she's pretty sure there's more to the story about Tiffany and Rome. Tori accepts that Rome may actually be good for Ashley because she hasn't seen her happy in a long time, but does usual friend threat of being Rome's worst nightmare if she cries a single tear because of him.

Tori ends the conversation with the advice to Ashley make Rome do all the work to prove to her that he's changed, and then takes her down the street to her house. After making sure all the reporters have gone, Tori and Ashley sit on the couch watching TV and drinking a couple glasses of wine. She finally asked Tori what is the deal between her and Sean and Tori says it's nothing but harmless flirting. Ashley doesn't buy it but gets distracted by the fact that Rome has texted her saying that he misses her already. Tori takes it as the cue that it is her time to leave. Ashley walks her out and watches her get in the car and drive off. She's about to walk back into her house when she hears a rustling noise in the bushes. Ashley starts to cautiously take a few steps down towards the bushes until it happens again. She runs into the house, locks the door, and immediately texts that she thinks somebody is watching her.

Rome is playing cards over at Brayden's house with Brayden and a couple other guys that they both know. It's been 15 minutes since Ashley's last reply to his I miss you text, and it's starting to make it difficult for him to focus. He goes down to the kitchen to get a drink when Lexi comes in and asked him what's going on. He tries to say that he's fine while he thinks about how he doesn't want to scare Ashley away with his intense feelings about her. Lexi makes him follow her into the dining room so she can sit down and make Rome tell her everything. It takes a little coaxing, but Rome finally admits that he wants what Lexi and Brayden have but with Ashley. Lexi knows a little bit about Ashley because of Brayden, and reassures Rome that Ashley will forgive him for eventually. Lexi suggests bringing Ashley to their cookout tomorrow when he gets the text from Ashley about her being watched. Rome runs into the kitchen and grabs his keys before bolting towards the door to get his jacket. Lexi follows behind him as fast as a 6-month pregnant woman can move and ask if everything is okay. Rome walks out the door asking her to tell Brayden that he may need bail money. Rome blows through every red light and is in Ashley's driveway in about 5 minutes. After grabbing a baseball bat out of the trunk and doing a quick scan, he rushes inside and pulls Ashley to him with the sigh of relief while she lets the tears fall. After making sure everything is locked up, Rome takes Ashley to her room and holds her until she falls asleep with the promise that he's not leaving.

The next day after another round of morning sex, Rome drives Ashley over to Lexi and Brayden's house for their cookout so that she can get out of her house after the scare last night. When they pull into the driveway, Rome leads her through the back gate where they are greeted by Brayden uncovering the pool. Brayden realizes that it is Ashley standing next to Rome and gives her a quick hug before Rome plants a possessive kiss on her lips. Lexi comes out mid kiss, and tells Brayden to quit teasing them. She gives Ashley a hug while telling her that Rome talked about her a lot and that she should just enjoy herself today. Later Rome and Ashley are walking up her driveway while she thanks him for the day. Rome stops and pulls her into a hug, and Ashley sees her garage door and pales instantly. Seeing her face, Rome turns around and see the word slut spray painted on the door. He does a quick scan around the property before carrying Ashley into the house. He sets her down after locking the door and tells her to go pack a bag, because she was going with him to his place. She starts to put up a fight, but gives in when he points out that it is unsafe for her to be in her house alone.

Back at his house, Rome calls Brayden and makes arrangements for him to get Ashley's keys from Rome's so he can get her car from the gym parking lot and park it at his house. He hangs up just in time to hear the pasta water boiling over onto the stove. Rome turns it down just as Ashley comes in with a silk white robe covering white lace lingerie and black heels. Dinner is quickly forgotten as another round of mind blowing sex starts up in the kitchen and ends on the living room rug. Once they are both sedated and laying on the rug, Ashley gets up with a blanket barely covering her and pads to the kitchen to pull out some food. After she pulls out some grapes, cheese, and ice cream, she gets Rome to help her carry it back to their spot in the living room. Once they are seated again and eating, Rome tells her that he wants to take away for a couple days. She listens as he explains that he rented a place in Little Palm Island for two nights just for them. She agrees to go with two conditions: she pays for some things (which he mentally says no to) and no sex.

While on their trip, they get to know each other again without the constant distraction of sex. Ashley learns that Rome kept everything she gave him including the King hat that he hears, and that his NFL career ended because of a torn ACL. While they stick to the no sex rule, Ashley enjoys teasing him and a little foreplay. While they are getting ready to go out for dinner, Ashley hears his phone buzz. She looks at it when she can't get his attention and see that someone named Liv sent him text. She opens it and sees Liv's tits above a message saying she hoped her and Rome had a repeat the other night. When Rome leans out of the bathroom to ask for a shirt, Ashley shows him the text livid. He immediately tells her that he's sorry she had to see that before deleting and blocking Liv's number right in front of Ashley. She instantly calms down and feels bad for getting so mad at him. After a few sweet reminders that Rome loves her and her alone, and that no one else compares to her, Ashley says she trusts him and believes him. They finish getting ready for dinner.

At the restaurant while waiting for a waitress, Ashley thanks him for bringing her to the island. Then they have a serious conversation about him letting the police handle the nastiness and threats aimed her way. Rome tells her that he will do no such thing because a threat against her is a threat against him. She is about to tell him that she loves him when the waitress interrupts her to take their order. Just before walking away, the waitress says that she recognizes Rome as the NFL player and from his visit last time with the blonde. Ashley gets up with her appetite gone, and walks away in anger talking about she's supposed to trust him huh?

Will Ashley and Rome ever work things out? Who is threatening Ashley? Will Rome ever be able to prove that he is not defined by one mistake? Will Ashley ever learn the truth about the night Tiffany slept with Rome?

To find out you will have to buy the book for yourself! I know you will agree with me when I say that C. Standing knocked it out of the park with this angsty romance debut novel! This is book one in her intertwining stand alone series, but I know I loved every moment. There were a lot more steamy and sexy moments than I expected, but I can't imagine the book without them. I have to give a big thank you to C. Standing for having me as one of her ARC readers and for letting me part of her debut journey a little bit. I know you are dying to get your hands on a copy so you can find out what happens, so head on over to my page:

Spotify Playlist put together by C. Standing:

Author Interview with J Lynn Hicks

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