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Holly's Favorite Reads 2013

2013 was a year of some REALLY great reads! As hard as it is to play favorites, there are just some books that stand out above the rest. You know, the ones that continue to play in your head long after you have finished them. Here is the list of my absolute loved them to distraction books of this year!

#1 READ OF 2013
  Making Faces by Amy Harmon makes the very top of the list for me! Ambrose, Fern and Bailey will forever live in my heart!!

 The Consequences Series by Aleatha Romig
This year I was introduced to Tony and Claire! – While I started out in a love/hate relationship with Tony, I soon fell head over heels with this couple. If you haven’t experience this trilogy yet…do it NOW!!


On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves
I read OTI at the very beginning of the year and it was simply amazing. I recommend it to every single person who asks for a great read!! TJ and Anna are one of my favorite couples of all time!

The Night Owl by M. Pierce

One to Hold by Tia Louise

 Surviving Raine by Shay Savage

Twisted Perfection by Abbi Glines

 True Love Story by Willow Aster

 Vain by Fisher Amelie


The Dark Light of Day by TM Frazier
I just read this one not long ago and I still think about it. It was not your typical love story but Jake & Abby are the couple you can’t help but love. They may not be all hearts and flowers but they are perfect for each other!

The Missionary by Jack Wilder
Mr. Wilder hits a mega homerun with his debut novel. Dark, gritty and real!

Escape From Paradise by Gwendolyn Field 

Wounded by Jasinda Wilder 

The Mistress by Tiffany Reisz 

Don’t Let Go by Skye Warren


Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon
I have been a lover of Kenyon since I picked up Fantasy Lover many years ago. Acheron is one of my all-time favorites so anyone familiar with the series would know that I was then ALL OVER Styxx!!! LOVED THIS BOOK!!


Epilogue by CJ Roberts

Epilogue was an amazing addition/ending to the amazing series, told by Caleb himself! 

This Girl by Colleen Hoover
This addition to one of my favorite series ever was just awesome! Will getting to tell pieces of each story the way he saw them was truly a wonderful read!!

Rock Chick 8 by Kristen Ashley

 Reckless by SC Stephens

Grace's Favorite Reads 2013

In 2013 I discovered many new-to-me authors. I got caught up in several series. I laughed, cried, and did the happy sigh. One book even gave me a HUGE book hangover! Here are my faves of 2013 in no particular order.

 Contemporary Romance
I'll start off with...
Jane's Melody by Ryan Winfield was a big romantic hit for me! This is the one that gave me a HUGE, two-week book hangover! I still think about this book all the time.
I Stand Before You by S.R. Grey had such an unexpected, classic romance. 

I also LOVED in this genre... 

Sex Love Repeat by Alessandra Torre

Painted Faces by L.H. Cosway

Vain by Fisher Amelie

Fear of Falling by S.L. Jennings 

The St. Helena Vineyard series by Marina Adair

The Funny
 Must Love Otters by Eliza Gordon is HILARIOUS!!!

I also laughed-out-loud with these... 

Tangled by Emma Chase

Return to Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia 

Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy
This year I read the entire Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. Charley & Reyes are smokin' HOT!!!
I got caught up with the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward. This year I read Lover Unleashed, Lover Reborn and Lover at Last. Gotta love these vamps!

My other PNR/UF faves for 2013 include... 

South of Surrender by Laura Kaye 

Just Breathe by Kendall Grey

Romantic Suspense
This is my favorite genre. I read so many and either got caught up or started several series.
2013 was my year to fall in love with the I-Team series by Pamela Clare.  I read all the books and heart them all!!!

Hard As It Gets by Laura Kaye...I never tire of anything she writes!

Other faves include... 

Reunited in Danger by Joya Fields

The Black Knights Inc. series by Julie Ann Walker

The Phoenix Rising Series by Joan Swan 

I'm also currently addicted to the Fatal series by Marie Force

Women's Fiction
 Finding Colin Firth: A Novel by Mia March...simply adored!!!

Young Adult
The Fault in our Stars by John Green...Hazel Grace & Augustus will live in my heart forever!

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher touched my heart too!

Blog Tour ~ Return to Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia Review & Giveaways!

Beckett Taylor is a murderer. His calling, his craft are destruction and intimidation—whether he wants it that way now or not. He left Poughkeepsie to keep his brothers safe, to keep Eve safe. Set up with happy lives to live, they’re better off without him, right?

But all his willpower crumbles when he hears his brother Blake’s frantic voice on the phone. An unknown enemy has moved in on his old territory, and Livia’s been taken. In an instant, Beckett knows it will take an attack only he and Eve can execute to bring her back. All his self-imposed embargoes are torn to shreds, perhaps along with the new man he’s struggled to become.

“Brother, call Eve. I’ll be there soon.”

In this emotional and action-packed sequel to Poughkeepsie, Debra Anastasia conjures a tale of love at its most raw and ragged. With Beckett and Eve, how could we expect anything less? But even when it’s messy, not magical, true love perseveres. Real love finds a way—for better or for worse until death does part.

Series: Poughkeepsie #2

Release Date: December 30, 2013

Four Stars 

Are you ready to Return to Poughkeepsie? 

When I read Poughkeepsie back in 2011, I knew that there had to be more. The story of the kick-ass assassin and the ultimate bad boy seemed unfinished. Those that know the background of Eve and Beckett know that it seems so impossible for them to be together. In Return to Poughkeepsie all of our favorite characters return, a whole slew of new characters are introduced, and we're taken down an unexpected, wild and crazy path that will leave you craving more. I adore the way Ms. Anastasia weaves a story. She doesn't just focus on one couple. In this sequel we get a continuation of the stories of all three relationships, and so much happens to each and every one.

Blake & Livia...how beautiful it is to see their love continue to deepen and grow and create a family. A terrifying ordeal ends up strengthening their bond even more. Blake fans, you will melt all over again for him, his tender heart, and his love for Livia's smiles.

Cole & Kyle...what these two endure as a couple is so painful that my heart goes out to them. In a heartbreaking situation that tests true love and perseverance, I'm telling you right now to have tissues ready!

Beckett & Eve...

She loved him, and it hurt her.” 

I'm not worth your heart yet, but I'm gonna be. Eve, the next time you see me, I'm going to be a man worth it.” 

Things have always been complicated for Beckett and Eve. Yes, they love hard, and their passion for each other is raw and rough. They are truly made for each other. Eve has always been one of my faves. Wow! I think I now have a bigger girly crush on her now! She's trained herself to be a deadly weapon. She commands such strength everywhere she goes. Men know to cover the family jewels in her presence. Beckett, oh, how I heart you! He wants to turn good for Eve's sake, so he continues to stay away and work on turning himself into someone worthy. I love how he's written to be so selfless! For Beckett, his loved ones are always a priority. If you have a good heart, Beckett will have your back.

Return to Poughkeepsie has the crazy and funny swirled with the action, suspense, and angst. It also flows with lots of heart and love all around. So many things happen all at once. You'll be wondering what the heck is going on and where Beckett went, but there is a method to all the madness. I appreciate the attention given to the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood. It was nice returning to this familiar place. Things end on a happy-for-now note. So much goes down between Eve and Beckett that I just don't know how Ms. Anastasia will grant them their true HEA. I can't wait to find out in Poughkeepsie #3!!!

*A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.*

 Author Bio
Debra Anastasia is busy, just like every other mom. There's dinner, the dogs, the two kids, the two kids, and her ongoing battle with...ahem... digestive issues, which combined with her adolescent boy sense of humor makes for colorful and sometimes cringe-worthy social media updates. Her first love and crowning achievement is her thriving career as the weirdest mom on the block.

Her writing started a decent handful of years ago when--along with the animals and humans in her house--the voices of characters started whispering stories in Debra's ear. Insomnia was the gateway to plots that wouldn't give up, wouldn't let go. Now they stalk her everywhere. Halfway through making lunches, a twist takes hold and--fingers full of peanut butter--she finds somewhere, anywhere to write it down.
She's eternally grateful to Omnific Publishing, which has now published four of her books: two in the Seraphim Series and two in the Poughkeepsie Brotherhood Series, as well as her novella, Late Night with Andres. That one is special because 100% of the proceeds go to breast cancer research. (So go get it right now, please!) She also very much appreciates her open-minded readers, who embrace everything she has to offer, with a focus on anti-heroes and bathroom humor.
Debra lives in Maryland with her family. You can find her at DebraAnastasia.com and on Twitter @Debra_Anastasia. But be prepared.

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Sidelined Afterlife (Hauntings at Inner Harbor #3) by Joya Fields ~ Guest Post & Giveaway!

 Today we have a special guest post from author Joya Fields. She's talking about besties & siblings!  We also have an excerpt and a review of her latest book, Sidelined Afterlife. Be sure to check out the giveaway down below.

Besties and Siblings 

The holidays bring lots of expectations. Some are attainable, some are not. Take family, for instance. Sometimes, life deals you a great hand and you get a wonderful, caring family. But sometimes, it doesn’t work that way. So who fills the void when you need someone to talk to, to lean on, or to be there in general for you?


In my latest release, SIDELINED AFTERLIFE (Hauntings at Inner Harbor, Book 3), heroine Veronica is an only child. Her dad is a rock star, and her mom has always been…well…more enamored with her famous husband than her own daughter. But Veronica doesn’t feel neglected, she feels lucky, because as she grew up, and her parents were off touring more days than they were home, Veronica had her nanny and her nanny’s daughter, Jeanne. Jeanne and Veronica were the same age, and quickly became best friends.

Years and miles have separated these two friends, but their bond remains strong. The first person Veronica reaches out to when she has good or bad news is her best friend. And, of course, when hot and sexy doctor Hunter enters her life, Veronica calls her friend right away, needing a sounding board to help figure out her emotions where this man is concerned. Just talking with her best friend calms Veronica, helps her stay grounded.

Sharing secrets is another essential element of friendship. Veronica is a psychic-medium, but hates her “gift.” Not many people know about her abilities, but the one person she trusts with that knowledge is her best friend. Trust doesn’t come easily to Veronica, but the more time she spends around sexy Hunter, the more comfortable she feels telling him about herself.

Personally, I was lucky. My friends were built in to my family. I’m the oldest of three girls, and the three of us have been close ever since childhood when we dressed up in our mom’s old high heels, ate snowflakes as we played in the yard, and confided in each other about boy stuff. To this day, they’re still the first ones I call when something major happens in my life.

I know of lots of people, however, who have siblings, but don’t have anything in common with them. That’s okay. Happens all the time. But that’s where friends can fill the void. We all need someone who, in times of need or celebration, will pick up the phone and be there for us. That person doesn’t have to be related to us. Sometimes we get built-in friends in our family, and sometimes the awesome people in our lives aren’t related by blood.

Here’s hoping you find many trustworthy and wonderful people in your life that you call friends!

Veronica Matthews hates her psychic-medium "gift" of being able to communicate with ghosts and dying people. All it's ever brought her is pain and grief. When her neighbor Hunter Anderson, an ER doctor, realizes her talent, he begs her to help get rid of the ghost that’s been haunting him for two years and endangering his job. She’s torn—her need to help the attractive man who saves peoples’ lives wars with her guilt over not being about to lead police to crime victims until they were already dead. She agrees to help Hunter. They soon find out the ghost is likely to turn dangerous if he doesn’t cross over to the next world in the coming weeks.

After losing his wife in a tragic accident, Hunter's only solace is his work. The ghost that haunts him jeopardizes the one thing he cares about. But spending time with Veronica, getting to know her passionate lips and sassy attitude, gives him something new to care about.

She can't risk her heart... he’s afraid to love and lose again. Can a ghost help them break through a barrier of mistrust and guilt?

“I am an idiot. The biggest idiot ever. If you want me to pierce something for you, to prove I’m an idiot, I have some sterilized instruments upstairs in my apartment.”
Her tongue poked against her cheek, signaling a laugh that wanted to erupt. Suddenly, he really wanted to be the one who could make her laugh. “Maybe I could do your lower lip?”
Her short laugh erupted. A sweet, melodic sound that filled the small apartment.
His gaze stayed on that full mouth and he lifted his fingers closer, compelled to touch her. She stared at him with wide eyes as he traced the corner of her mouth lightly with his finger.
“I’m a liar. I could never tarnish something as beautiful as this.”
Christ. What a line. Where had those words come from? But he meant it.
Her breath was hot against his finger as he traced the line of her lower lip. Her gaze held his. His stomach growled again, breaking the spell, and she blinked and leaned against the sofa.
“You know what? We never had dessert,” she said.
He had room for dessert. But not the food kind. He swallowed to quell his appetite for her. “Uh…how about I make an ice cream run? Then we’ll get to work.” Enough of this temptation. He needed to get away from her, from this pull she had on his body and emotions.
Four Stars 

Mysterious & Charming! 

Sidelined Afterlife is the third book in the Hauntings at Inner Harbor series and my favorite of the three! The setting returns to the haunted apartment building in Baltimore, Maryland. In the previous book, Altered Frequency, we were given a glimpse into the life of one of the residents, Veronica Matthews. I remember finding her character quite interesting. She seemed troubled in a way, and after reading this installment, now I know why. Veronica is a photographer, but she's also a psychic-medium. She's really not a fan of her ability to see and talk to ghosts only because this “gift” has mainly brought her so much emotional pain. When she meets her neighbor Hunter Anderson, Veronica struggles with helping the handsome ER doctor. She hopes to finally use her ability for something positive for a change.

What a fun mystery/romance! On one hand there is this vibrant spirit who just wants to cross over into the next world but can't do so without help. On the other hand there is the budding romance between two neighbors. The two sides of this story are beautifully tied together! Veronica and Hunter spend a lot of time together trying to solve a mystery that has them delving into the the former life of the young ghost who has been haunting Hunter. Hunter falls hard for the sassy redhead, but he's got his work cut out for him with all the walls she puts up. For Veronica, trusting someone with her heart doesn't come easy. It's good that Mr. “Sexy Eyes” is a pretty determined guy!

Ms. Fields sure did keep me on my toes and guessing where everything would lead to! The theme of being able to resolve heartache in order to move on is widely used. There were funny parts, sexy parts, and then some scenes just gave me lovely, ghostly chills! Each story in this series is unique and each can be read as a standalone. Sidelined Afterlife was both charming and engaging enough that I didn't want it to end. I'm actually going to miss these characters! I have truly enjoyed reading this series and getting to know the people in this haunted apartment building.

*A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.*


Book Links:

Joya’s Bio:

Joya Fields has had over 100 stories and articles published in local and national magazines. Her debut novel, a romantic suspense, was a NJRW GOLDEN LEAF WINNER FOR BEST FIRST BOOK OF 2012 and was nominated for RT Book Reviews 2012 Indie Press/Self-Published Contemporary Romance award. Since then, she’s published four more books with even more on the way.

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Blog Tour - Sempre: Redemption by JM Darhower

In this thrilling and sexy follow-up to Sempre, two young lovers struggle to keep their relationship intact after they become deeply enmeshed in the dangerous mafia-run crime ring they once tried to overthrow.

Haven Antonelli and Carmine DeMarco have been through a lot. Haven was taken in by Carmine’s father, and with his family’s help, she escaped a gruesome fate. However, saving Haven from the dark intentions of a mafia family cost Carmine a steep price: he was forced to swear loyalty to them.

Now, still passionately in love, Carmine and Haven must face the fall-out of Carmine’s forced service, as Haven discovers terrifying secrets about the family that enslaved both her and her mother—and why she matters so much in this intricate web of lies.

4.5 Stars

**Possible spoilers below if you haven’t read book one**

“You’re not asking me to choose you. There’s no choice about it. It’s always been you. Your father once told me that we always have a choice, but I think he was wrong. I think sometimes things choose us. It’s like with breathing. It’s natural. It’s a part of us. It just happens. We can hold our breath and try not to breathe anymore, and it’ll work for a few minutes, but we’ll eventually pass out and nature takes over. We can’t just not breathe, just like I can’t just not love you.” 

I honestly don’t know how to begin this review. Okay, I’ll start off by saying that Sempre (#1) is one of my favorite books of all-time. So when I heard that this sequel was coming out, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. So many questions lingered after book one finished:

- Is Corrado alive?
- What’s going to happen to Carmine & Haven now that Carmine was forced to join the Mafioso?
- What is Vincent really up to?

Fear not. 
Questions will be answered. 

“All I ever wanted was someone to see me, to love me, to understand me. I didn’t have to hide from you; I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. You know me, the person no one else will ever know.” ~ Haven 

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, but it took quite a while for me to get into this. The first 12% was pure heaven. Their lives are completely entwined. They know each other’s ins/outs and they don’t have to hide who they are. They’re in love and in a happy bubble. We were even treated with a little steam. Le sigh… I love this couple. However their bubble was about to burst, leaving the couple in pieces. This is where my struggle begins. 

“What do you do when the thing you want most suddenly feels like it’s just beyond your fingertips?” 

A good portion of this story has Carmine and Haven apart. Yes, apart. Carmine’s life is about to drastically change when his Godfather, Salvatore, summons him. His life in the Mafia is about to begin. He didn’t want his beloved Haven to experience this new life with him; a life full of danger, violence and the unknown. Carmine loves her so much that he feels that she deserves a chance to live a normal life. Unfortunately to achieve that, he must do the hardest thing he has to do – leave Haven. 

Haven didn’t know what hit her when Carmine walked away. Honestly, I was shocked right along with her. I understand why he did, but what I didn’t understand is why didn’t he give her the chance to make her own choice? 

You were worth it. 

I was struggling. I wanted these two together; to face their futures together and as I was reading it, I felt a little cheated that the majority of this book didn’t have them together. However I was happy that I didn’t give up and skip to the reunion. A lot happens in this book – things that needed to happen in order for our beloved couple to have a shot a normal future. Some events shocked me, while some saddened me. This book wasn’t what exactly what I wanted and, yes, I wanted more of Carmine and Haven, but it was still a fantastic story. I love this series and this author can weave a tale like no other. This was definitely worth the wait. 

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About the Author

JM Darhower is the author of countless stories and poems, most of which only she has ever read. She lives in a tiny town in rural North Carolina, where she churns out more words than will ever see the light of day. She has a deep passion for politics and speaking out against human trafficking, and when she isn't writing (or fangirling about books) she's usually ranting about those things.

Chronic crimper with a vulgar mouth, she admits to having a Twitter addiction. You can usually always find her there.

Author's Links


Excerpt One
Carmine sat in his usual chair in the library, casually strumming his guitar. A sliver of light filtered in from the large window, illuminating his somber expression in the darkness. She called his name but he remained still, continuing to pluck at the strings almost as if he hadn’t heard her. She took a step toward him and was about to say his name again when he let out a long, deep sigh. “I had a dream.”
“Another nightmare?” she asked, walking over to him. He glanced up at her as his fingers stilled, the music stopping, but Haven barely noticed. She couldn’t focus on anything but the green eyes boring into her. Once so alive with passion, she saw nothing but deep sadness marring the bright color.
Carmine set the guitar aside and moved his legs to make room, motioning for her to join him. She climbed into his lap and he wrapped his arms around her.
“Not a nightmare this time,” he said. “It was a good dream.”
“What was it about?”
“You,” he said quietly. “You made a painting—some abstract shit, I don’t know—but it was so good they hung it in a museum and raved about how talented you were. It was like you were the next fucking Picasso, tesoro.”
She laughed. “I don’t even know how to paint, Carmine.”
“You could learn,” he said. “Would you want to?”
“Maybe, but I don’t know how good I’d be.”
“Oh, you’d be good,” he said confidently. “You shouldn’t doubt yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to.”
“Except for play the piano,” she said playfully. “Or the guitar.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, for the sake of everyone’s ears, we ought to leave music to me, but the rest is all you. You can probably do all of that, you know. Draw, paint, sculpt shit into weird shapes and tell people it’s something it doesn’t look anything like. That takes talent.”
She smiled. “And you think I have that kind of talent?”
“Of course,” he said. “There’s gonna be no stopping you once you get started.”
“Thank you,” she whispered, a swell of emotion surging through her at his words. “It means a lot that you believe in me.”
“I’d be an idiot not to,” he said, kissing the top of her head.

Excerpt Two
The smile fizzled from his face as he strolled through the house, heading straight for the drink table. He grabbed a small glass and filled it from an open liquor bottle, disregarding Corrado’s warning. The burn lessened the pressure in his chest, unwinding the knots and loosening his taut muscles.
He leaned against the table as he drank, his attention shifting to the front door. Hours had passed, yet the girl still stood there, as silent and still as ever. He studied her, wondering where she had come from and how long she had been trapped in Sal’s home. He couldn’t recall her ever being there before.
She snuck a peek after a moment, tipping her head up slightly so her blue eyes met his. Her brow furrowed when she saw him watching her, and she dropped her gaze again quickly.
“What’s your name?” Carmine asked curiously.
She peeked up once more but didn’t have a chance to respond before laughter sounded out behind him. Carmine turned at the noise of a clinking liquor bottle and froze, the glass nearly slipping from his hand as he stared at the badly scarred face. The familiarity took his breath away.
“Her name’s Annie, I think,” Carlo said, casually pouring a glass of scotch.
“Abby,” the girl whispered, her voice shaking as she corrected him.
“Not that it matters,” Carlo continued, shrugging. “You can call her anything you want.”
Carmine couldn’t tear his eyes away from him. Everything about the man screamed vile, from his callous words to his horrid face. “I prefer to call her by her name.”
Carlo looked over at him, studying him carefully. “DeMarco’s kid.”
“Makes sense.” Carlo brought his glass to his lips. “She’s your type.”
Anger swept through Carmine. He fought to control himself, forcing his feet to stay where they were. He wouldn’t be provoked. Not here, not now. “Excuse me?”
“Ah, no reason to be ashamed,” Carlo said. “If it’s any consolation, I’ve always liked to sample the help, too. Little Annie over there is a sweet thing. Submissive. Didn’t even put up a fight. Not that any of them do. Well, except yours. Feisty one, isn’t she? Didn’t get that from her mother.”
Carmine’s rage spiraled over. “You son of a—!”
Before he could leap over the liquor table and pound his fists into the man’s grotesque face, the noise in the room grew louder as a slew of guests filtered in. They scattered through, some heading for the door while others made their way to the back den. Carlo took a step back, tipping his glass at Carmine with a menacing smile. “Nice to officially meet you, kid. I’ll see you around.”
He sauntered away as Corrado approached, grabbing the glass from Carmine’s hand and slamming it on the table. “Your ability to listen is astounding.”
“Do you know what that motherfucker just said to me?” Carmine asked, clenching his hands into fists. “He just—”
Corrado cut him off. “I don’t care. He’s made, Carmine. You don’t disrespect a man who earned his button.”

Excerpt Three
“How long ago did you initiate?” the other officer asked casually, changing the subject.
Carmine glanced at him, surprised at his nonchalance “Initiate what?”
“La Cosa Nostra.”
He scoffed. “You’re joking, right?”
“Do I look like I’m joking?” he asked, raising his voice. “We know you’re involved, so there’s no sense denying it.”
“You must’ve watched Scarface one too many times,” he muttered. “That shit’s not real. It doesn’t exist.”
He sighed exasperatedly, giving Carmine an annoyed look. “We know it exists. We’re not stupid.”
“Neither am I,” Carmine snapped. “Take your bullshit questions about the Mafia elsewhere, because I have nothing to say about it. Period. End of motherfucking story.”
A tense silence fell over the room before Agent Cerone cleared his throat. “I saw her, you know.”
“Who?” Carmine asked, the shift in topic catching him off guard.
“Haven,” he clarified, his lips twitching as he fought back a smile.
“How . . . ?” His confusion deepened. How the fuck? “You’re lying.”
“I’m not,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about looking her up again.”
“Leave her the fuck alone,” Carmine spat, standing and shoving his chair back in haste. “I swear to God if you—”
Before he could finish, Mr. Borza grabbed his arm and pulled him back into his seat. “Threatening my client’s loved ones isn’t going to help you.”
“I wasn’t threatening anyone. I was simply saying—”
“We’re all well aware of what you were saying,” Mr. Borza said, “and it was nothing but a thinly veiled threat. You claim to want his cooperation, but yet you bring up Miss Antonelli in an attempt to upset him further.”
“I did no such thing,” Agent Cerone said. “As far as I’m concerned, he doesn’t care about her. In fact, last we spoke, he denied even knowing her.”
“Then why bring her up at all?”

Excerpt Four
Carefully, so not to wake Haven, he slipped from underneath her and climbed out of bed. He tiptoed across the room to the window and pulled some slats of the blinds apart to look out into the night. It was nearing three in the morning, the sky pitch black and the city quiet. Carmine surveyed the street, looking for any sign of trouble, and tensed when his eyes fell upon a car out front.
A vaguely familiar looking dark Chevy Camaro.
He stepped back from the window and gave Haven a quick glance before heading out of the room. Instinct took over, every move calm and calculating. He found his pants and pulled them on before grabbing his gun downstairs. He made sure it was loaded as he quietly slipped out the back door. He headed around the house and came up behind the Camaro, eyeing the license plate.
The moment he saw the letters JK, his adrenaline kicked into overdrive.
Staying in the shadows, he watched the car for a bit. The man was alone with the driver’s side window down, his attention focused away from Carmine’s house. Every time headlights flashed nearby he would watch them like a hawk until they passed. He was waiting for something, but Carmine wasn’t sure what until a set of headlights shined their way. The man ducked as a black Mercedes sped by them before swinging into a driveway about a block away.
Carmine wasn’t sure what to do, torn between reacting and alerting Corrado, but he didn’t get much time to consider his options. The driver’s side door swung open and the guy climbed out, keeping his head down as he started down the block. Without even thinking Carmine followed him, dodging streetlights while trying to keep up with his pace. The man slowed when he neared Corrado’s house, staring at it peculiarly like he was trying to assess how to get inside. The living room light was on and Carmine could see shadows, Celia’s laughter faintly filtering out of a cracked window.
The man ducked beside Corrado’s house and Carmine hesitated, taking a deep breath and clutching his gun before darting behind him. The invader had almost made it to their backyard when he heard Carmine’s footsteps. He swung around, alarmed by the presence, but it was already too late.
Carmine slammed him into the side of the house, shoving his gun against his temple. “If you move, I’ll blow your fucking head off.”
He cursed and shook as Carmine patted him down, frantically pulling everything out of the guy’s pockets. He found a gun in his coat and made sure the safety was on before sticking it in his waistband.
Grabbing the man’s wallet, Carmine flipped it open and yanked out his driver’s license. “Oisin Quinn. What kinda name is that?”
“Don’t hurt me,” he begged. “I’m not looking for trouble!”
“Bullshit,” Carmine spat. “You don’t lurk around this neighborhood with a gun if you aren’t looking for trouble.”
“I swear it’s a mistake!”
“What is?”
“What the fuck is this?” Carmine asked, pulling him away from the house and shoving him into the backyard. He stumbled but caught himself before he fell, and hesitated for a second before he took off sprinting through the yard.
For a brief moment, Carmine remained frozen in utter disbelief. He had just let go of the guy. How fucking stupid could he be?
Adrenaline kicked in again. Carmine aimed with his finger on the trigger, a hair away from pulling it, but lowered the gun and took off after him instead. Carmine managed to catch him, tackling him in the grass at the edge of the yard. Panicked, the man swung, trying to fight Carmine off, and his fist connected with the right side of his jaw. Pain ripped through his cheek, sending him over the edge.
If he wanted a fight, Carmine was going to give him one.
He pulled his arm back that clutched the gun, slamming him straight in the face with it. A lifetime worth of aggression came pounding from his fists, disappointment and anger, shame and heartbreak. Carmine didn’t know the man, but that mattered not—he took his pain out on him, battering him with pent up hostility he needed to let go of.
After he was beat down, Carmine pulled him across the yard and forced him on his knees right outside Corrado’s back door.
“Stay there, motherfucker,” he spat, giving him a swift kick in the side out of frustration. His jaw ached and he was out of breath, blood splattered on his hands.
“I’m certainly glad you decided not to shoot him.”
The voice caught Carmine off guard. He looked up, seeing Corrado standing motionless at the back door, watching them. “Fuck, how long have you been there?”
“Long enough.”
“And you couldn’t help me?” he spat, annoyed he had just watched.
“You seemed to have it handled,” he said. “Besides, it was quite entertaining.”
Carmine glared at him. “Entertaining? There’s nothing entertaining about this!”
“I disagree.”
“Well, you’re wrong,” Carmine said, reaching into his waistband for the guy’s gun. He cursed yet again when he came up empty-handed and glanced around, realizing it had fallen out during their scuffle. He found it a few feet away and picked it up, handing it to Corrado when he stepped outside. “He could’ve killed me.”
Corrado laughed dryly. “You’re exaggerating. You had him, no problem.”
“You couldn’t have fucking known that.”
“Yes, I could. He didn’t do his homework if he parked in front of your house.”
“How do you . . . ?” Carmine stopped, narrowing his eyes when it struck him. “Wait, you knew he was there?”
“Of course I did,” he replied. “He wasn’t sly, Carmine. Even you noticed him.”
“Son of a bitch,” he grumbled, aggravated. “I did all of that for nothing?”
“I wouldn’t say it was for nothing,” Corrado replied, smiling with amusement. “Like I said, it was entertaining.”