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ARC #Review of Ties That Bind & Animal Attraction (Hot in Hollywood Duet) by Katee Robert w/a rafflecopter giveaway! @katee_robert #HotinHollywood duet

Download the Hot in Hollywood Duet!

 

TIES THAT BIND and ANIMAL ATTRACTION by NYT Bestselling Author Katee Robert are on Sale Now!  

 

“When I found out Katee was going to write novellas for Cora and Brooklyn I was so excited. I adored both of them when I read Prom Queen and I asked for exactly this, a spin-off featuring these two awesome friends. Ties That Bind was perfect in every way.” —Goodreads Review on TIES THAT BIND

 

“5 ANIMAL ATTRACTION STARS!! Wow, this is a fun cute sexy story that keeps you turning pages. I enjoyed the bantering between Levi and Brooklyn, these two were great together. If you are looking for a fantastic quick read, here you go.”— Goodreads Review on ANIMAL ATTRACTION

 

Download TIES THAT BIND and ANIMAL ATTRACTION and add them to your TBR pile on Goodreads! Then keep reading to get an EXCLUSIVE sneak peek at Hot in Hollywood and to enter the giveaway for a $50 Amazon gift card or a copy of PROM QUEEN, the book that inspired the characters in Hot in Hollywood!

Enter to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card and three (3) eBook copies of PROM QUEEN from Katee Robert!

 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b050ef29419/?

 

 

TITLE: Ties that Bind

SERIES: Hot in Hollywood, book 1

RELEASES: Sept 19, 2017

PUBLISHER:  Amazon Publishing

GENRE: Contemporary Romance

COUPLE: Cora & Jack

TROPES: Reunited Lovers

 

SYNOPSIS:

 

Once upon a time, Cora Landers was America’s Sweetheart and destined to be the Next Big Thing in Hollywood—but that was before her sex tape ruined her image and eliminated her contracts. These days, instead of being an A-lister, she’s divorce attorney to the A-listers. So when her ex—and fellow sex tape star—Jack shows up, needing her expertise, she wants nothing to do with it.

Jack McArthur might have costarred in that sex tape, but he didn’t share Cora’s fate—instead of tanking his career, the tape skyrocketed it. Now, as one of Hollywood’s most buzzed about new directors, Jack has everything to lose—especially when he wakes up after a friend’s bachelor party gone wrong to find that he’s apparently married a woman he’s never met before…and now can’t find. Desperate, he goes to the only person who he knows can help—Cora.

Cora reluctantly agrees to help Jack—both because he’s offering an absurd amount of money and because she loves seeing him as a disadvantage for once. Neither of them anticipate the very real problem of their being unable to keep their hands off each other—or that Jack’s accidental marriage might be anything but accidental. With both her heart and career on the line—again—Cora has to decide if she’s going to take the high road or leave Jack hanging in the wind the same way he left her twelve years ago.

 

I have to start off by saying that I went and re-read Prom Queen so that I could get a sense of Cora and Brooklyn.  Of course, I just Ms. Robert’s books anyway so it wasn’t a hardship.  A couple of things first, though.  This book is novella length.  It is short, sweet and to the point.  I love when an author takes secondary characters from one book and decides that they need their HEA, too.  Ms. Roberts delivers when it comes to Cora and Jack.  Oh boy, do these two have a history.  I loved how their sex tape was really all about and it’s not what you think.  I really felt sorry for Cora when the truth came out.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like a child star.  *shudder*

Jack is just that guy that everyone loves and it seems like that everything he touches turns to gold.  Unfortunately, Cora didn’t turn to gold that night.  She run.  And run she did.  To a very successful career if not an unsatisfying personal life.  Again, since this is a novella length, Ms. Roberts doesn’t take long for Jack and Cora to hit the sheets.  I know, instalove alert, but with Cora and Jack, its not.  These two fell in love 12 years ago when they were younger, they just didn’t know it.  Ms. Roberts also doesn’t take the high road when it comes to the raw emotions that come to the surface when it comes to Jack and Cora finally connecting again.

One last thing, the marriage aspect of the book is funny, if not scary.  Brooklyn is hilarious when she goes to Vegas.  OMG!  I love her.  If you are looking for a great story about two people that fell in love as kids, grew up to be adults and found each other again.  Don’t forget a cold glass of something to drink.  This is Ms. Robert’s after all.  She doesn’t skimp on the sexy times.  😉

 

 

Excerpt from TIES THAT BIND

Copyright © 2017 Katee Robert

 

Jack opened the back door, every inch a gentleman—if it was gentlemanly to plan to ravage her in his backseat. Cora climbed in slowly, letting her dress ride up to give him a peek of her panties. His sharp inhale was reward in and of itself.

She expected him to follow immediately, but he stood there blocking the open space, his blue eyes forbidding. “Take those off.”

Cora settled back against the far door and pulled her dress up so she could slide her panties off. She tossed them in his direction, and Jack snaked a hand out to catch them. He slid them into his pocket and only then did he climb into the backseat with her.

“Really? You’re going to…what? Take them home as a memento? Bragging rights?”

“Cora.”

She licked her lips. “Yes?”

“Shut up. You know goddamn well and good that I’m not a douche like that, so stop pretending that I am.” He hooked her thighs and pulled her to the edge of the seat as he went to his knees next to the seat itself. “And stop pretending that it doesn’t get you wet knowing that I’ll be jacking myself to the scent of you later.”

Her jaw dropped. “Holy shit.”

“Now, stop talking.” He nudged her shoulder until she leaned back against the seat. Jack ran his hands up her thighs, spreading her legs farther. “It’s been a long time.”

There was nothing to say to that because it was the truth. Cora grabbed the hem of her dress and arched off the seat so she could drag it over her head. It left her in only her bra, but Jack’s curse made the bold move more than worth it. She shook her hair out of her face. “It won’t be much longer.”

He didn’t take his gaze off her as he reached for the center console. “Fuck, Cora.” The blatant appreciate in his tone made her smile despite herself. Jack met her eyes. “This isn’t a one-time thing.”

“Excuse me?”

“You. Me. This.” He motioned between them. “We do this, we’re doing this.”

The words were less than enlightening, but with his thumbs stroking intoxicating circles on her inner thighs, she wasn’t sure she cared. “Fine. Whatever. I need you inside me.”

His slow grin was foreplay all on its own. Jack traced his thumbs along the dip where her thighs met her hips. “Getting there.” He didn’t give her a chance to curse him. One second he was teasing her, the next he pushed two big fingers into her, filling her in a way that was nothing compared to the main course. She rolled her hips, trying to take him deeper, but Jack just chuckled and kept his strokes light.

Need built, stronger than it had any right to be. His scent wrapped around her in the close confines of the car, the tinted windows creating an intimate atmosphere despite where they were. Cora didn’t want intimate. She didn’t want soft. She sure as hell didn’t want slow. She grabbed his wrist. “Stop teasing me.”

“Come home with me.”

She blinked, surprised for what felt like the thousandth time that day. “What?”

“Come home with me, Cora.” Jack kept stroking her, his fingers unerringly gravitating to that sensitive spot inside her that could motivate her to do damn near anything. She gasped and he leaned down to eat the sound. His tongue stole her words even as his fingers continued their wicked work. Jack consumed her.

And then he stopped.

He pressed one last light kiss to her lips and sat back. “What’s your answer?”

She wasn’t even sure what the question was. Cora shook her head, trying to clear it. “This is emotional blackmail.”

“Hardly.” His thumb idly circled her clit, sending a wave of tension through her body. “This is me flat out saying that I want you naked in my bed, to do with as I please for several hours before we pass out. Reality can wait until tomorrow.”

Common sense said it was the perfect time to stop this before she got herself—and her heart—into trouble. No one had ever seen her the way Jack threatened to. She didn’t relish the thought of being stripped bare, only to be left in the dust when he moved on from his current crisis.

But if she didn’t jump now, she might never get the chance to again.

The thought of spending the rest of her life kicking herself for missing the chance to be with Jack again had her finding words she never thought she’d say. “Yes.”

“Yes?” His cobalt eyes watched her every move, making her feel strangely like prey. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling, but it wasn’t entirely unpleasant, either.

Cora swallowed hard. “Take me home with you, Jack.”

 

Order at:

Amazon: http://bit.ly/TiesThatBindKindle

B&N: http://bit.ly/TiesThatBindBN

iTunes: http://bit.ly/TiesThatBindiTunes

Kobo: http://bit.ly/TiesThatBindKobo

 

TITLE: Animal Attraction

SERIES: Hot in Hollywood, book 2

RELEASES: Sept 19, 2017

PUBLISHER:  Amazon Publishing

GENRE: Contemporary Romance

COUPLE: Brooklyn & Levi

TROPES: Enemies to Lovers

 

SYNOPSIS:

 

A private investigator might not be as glamorous as Brooklyn James had expected, but it pays the bills. Or at least it used to. In dire financial straits, she no longer has the luxury of saying no to jobs if she wants to pay her bills—which is how she ends up in a tree, spying on a billionaire who’s accused of dognapping. Not her finest moment.

Levi Turnbull made his fortune by creating tech that melds exercise with video games. It sounded great at the time, but now he’s got more money than he knows what to do with and he’s bored out of his mind waiting for the next game to launch. When he realizes a neighbor has been neglecting his dog, he takes matters into his own hands—by taking the dog. If he’s been trolling the neighbor ever since with hilarious fliers around the area… Well, he’s only human. When he finds a pretty redhead trespassing on his property in search of the missing dog, he sees the ultimate distraction until the launch.

Brooklyn initially agrees to a date in order to get close enough to Levi to find evidence of his dognapping—but that motivation gets complicated when they end up in bed together. She’s unable to resist his charm, and as they grow closer, Brooklyn can’t avoid the truth—not only did Levi steal a million dollar dog…he’s in danger of stealing her heart, too.

 

Good lord.  This book is hot!  I mean hot!  But of course, it’s no surprise since Ms. Robert’s wrote it.  This book is one that you savor with relish and don’t really want it to end.  This book is a lighthearted read.  The complete opposite of Ties That Bind and I liked it.  While Cora and Jack’s story dealt with some deep seeded issues, Brooklyn and Levi’s story is just the opposite.  It involves a dog, a cat that is worn as a shawl and two people that couldn’t be more opposite.  And with that, it left me a little meh.

If I had one bad thing to say about the book is that I never really got to know Brooklyn.  Not like Levi.  Levi pretty much told his life history and family background with her and absolutely nothing from her.  I felt a bit cheated since I had gotten to know Jessica and Cora so well.  But I digress.  I liked Brooklyn with her smart mouth and her morals.  When she finally figured everything out about the dog and Levi, she runs.  Oooo, I was mad at that point.  She finally met her match and she ran.

Anyway, I loved their story overall, Be prepared though, the book is very fast paced and then we are left with our hearts renewed.  I also have to say that we get to know about Jessica and what is happened after the reunion.  I missed her, Cora and Brooklyn and their Friday nights.  Bad television (HGTV) (hey, I’m addicted to that channel), wine, and ice cream.  I wished that I had gotten one more scene with them.  *sigh*

Overall, I really liked the story.  And no, you don’t need to read Prom Queen first but you really should.  Cora and Brooklyn are hilarious in that one but you do need to read Cora’s book first.  Trust me.  You’re welcome!

 

Excerpt from Animal Attraction

Copyright © 2017 Katee Robert

 

He spun her around and pressed her hands to the door, his big body at her back. “This is the door.”

“It’s a very nice door.”

“Mmm.” His hips thrust against her ass, and she swallowed hard, her body clenching in anticipation. The first-time nerves were gone. She knew what was coming, and she knew she would be coming before long. They might not be compatible in life, but their bodies didn’t know that. Levi pulled her hair off her neck and kissed her there, taking his time, the sensation of his lips and beard making her toes curl. “I picked it out myself.”

Picked out… Oh, right. The door.

She arched back into him, rubbing her ass against his cock. “You have good taste.”

“Funny you say that, because what I want most right now is to taste you.” He backed off enough to pull her jacket off and then one hand was on the front of her jeans, unbuttoning them deftly and dragging the zipper down. She felt that tiny vibration all the way through her body. There was nothing to say, though, because he slipped a big hand into her jeans, dipping beneath her panties, and speared a single finger into her.

Brooklyn moaned and tried to spread her legs. The move tightened her jeans, holding his hand in place. “I need you.”

“Tour’s not done yet.” He pumped as much as he was able. And then he withdrew his hand.

She couldn’t keep her whimper of protest in. She spun to face him, trying to shove out of her pants in the process, and nearly face-planted. “Levi.”

“Dresser.” He lifted her, and walked the handful of steps to the dresser to set her on it. Then he yanked off her jeans and tossed them behind him. “Better.”

“Much.”

He stepped between her thighs and kissed her. It was nothing like the last time. There was no careful and teasing exploration. Levi sucked and stroked and nipped her into a frenzy. His mouth drew sounds from her she wasn’t aware she could make. She wrapped her legs around his waist and clung to his shoulders and basically tried to climb him like a big, sexy tree, because she needed his cock and she needed it now.

He shifted and set her back on the dresser, untangling from her. “Mahogany.”

It took Brooklyn a few beats to catch up. She looked down at the piece of furniture she sat on and back at the man in front of her, his hard length creating a mouthwatering outline against his jeans. “I don’t care.”

“You should. It’s a family heirloom. My grandfather built it.” He hit his knees in front of her and spread her legs wider. “It was his wedding gift to my grandmother.”

She blinked. Didn’t expect that, either. Brooklyn tried to get a better look at the massive piece of furniture, but Levi chose that moment to lean in and drag his tongue up her center and suddenly, she didn’t give two fucks about what she sat on, as long as it didn’t fall apart beneath her. She gripped the edge of the dresser to keep from levitating right off it and looked down her body to meet his gaze.

The switch had been flipped again. Gone was the playfulness, replaced by that intensity that had tingles shooting down her spine. He really was something.

She half expected him to rush through the oral, but she really should have known better. Levi hitched her legs higher and went after her clit like it owed him money. He sucked and licked and growled against her skin as his grip tightened on her thighs.

Brooklyn was so lost in her pleasure, she didn’t notice that he’d half released her until she looked down to watch him again and saw that he was stroking himself. He jacked himself while licking her, as if he couldn’t contain himself and…

Her back bowed and she came with a cry. “Oh, my God.”

“You don’t have to call me God. Levi will do.” He kissed first one thigh and then the other. “But if you’re going to insist, I won’t stop you.”

“Shhhh. You don’t get to talk shit when I’m too weak from my fantastic orgasm to fight back.”

Levi rose and kissed her shoulder, her collar bone, her neck. “Honey, that’s the best time to talk shit.”

 

Order at:

 

Amazon: http://bit.ly/AnimalAttractionKindle

B&N: http://bit.ly/AnimalAttractionBN

iTunes: http://bit.ly/AnimalAttractioniTunes

Kobo: http://bit.ly/AnimalAttractionKobo

 

About Katee Robert

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her 2015 title, The Marriage Contract, was a RITA finalist, and RT Book Reviews named it ‘a compulsively readable book with just the right amount of suspense and tension.”  When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

Connect with Katee at: Website | Facebook | Twitter| GoodReads | Instagram

Excerpt, Giveaways, New Release, Release Week, Reviews, Teaser Excerpts

ARC #Review of Her Book Boyfriend (the Awkward Duckling series ) by K.R. Grace w/a rafflecopter giveaway! @BuoniAmiciPress @Krgrace10

Title: Her Book Boyfriend
Author: K.R. Grace
Genre: Mature YA Romantic Comedy

Release Date: August 25, 2017
Cover Designer: Okay Creations, LLC
Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC.

She believes the secret to love is in the tropes of her favorite romance novels. He’s the best friend prepared to prove her wrong.
Then comes the bet.
If she can’t land a boyfriend for prom by recreating the ten popular tropes in her favorite romance author’s books, she has to go to the prom with her.
The glitch?
They’ve been close their entire lives. He’s the rock god and school legend, while she’s the brainy sidekick who does all his dirty breakups. Thus, finding a guy who doesn’t think they’re already an item is going to be a lot harder than she thinks.
Will she land the book boyfriend of her dreams? Or will she be forced to go to prom with her best friend.
The truth is in the pages.

 

 

“Are we going to talk about whatever is really bothering you or do I have to stare at you like this for the rest of the day? We both know I can.”

He could. When we were seven, we’d had a staring contest. First one to look away had to eat a refrigerator concoction. I got distracted within fifteen seconds…he’d followed me around for the rest of the day, staring at me just to prove a point. And the refrigerator concoction…I still got cold chills when I thought about it. Yuck!

“There’s nothing to talk about. I had an idea. You think it’s stupid. I’m still doing it. End of story.”

“I didn’t say it was stupid. I said it was unnecessary.”

Appetite lost, I shoved the remainder of my sandwich into my lunch bag. “You know what, I don’t expect you to ever understand why I would need to resort to a book for dating advice.”

I occupied myself with searching for my iPad in the bottomless pit that was my backpack.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” he demanded.

I shoved my hair out of my face as I looked him dead in the eye. “It means you, oh great one, don’t know what it’s like to be rejected. All you have to do is wink and girls throw themselves at you.”

“That’s not true.”

“I just broke up with a girl for you because you were already too preoccupied with the new girl you were dry humping in the parking lot, for crying out loud!” I’d hit “drama queen” mode: arms flailing, voice at falsetto levels, spit flying, and face flaming red.

He blinked once before taking in a deep breath. “I don’t want to see you get hurt, Mace.”

“I can’t go through life only known as someone’s friend or someone’s daughter. I need to be someone’s world. It might be a foreign concept to you, but I crave it.”

“But a romance novel, Mace? Those things are nothing but unrealistic fantasies.”

I closed my eyes so I couldn’t see the truth in his. He didn’t think I could pull it off. Was I really that undesirable?

He took in a deep breath and let it out. “Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’ll let you prove me wrong, but if I’m right, you have to be my date to prom.”

“What?” My eyes flung open. “Why do you want to go to prom with me?”

“Because, like you said, prom isn’t supposed to be spent with someone you don’t know.”

“I figured you had an orgy extravaganza in the works for prom night.” I snorted.

He pulled the green pick from his pocket and began twirling it across his knuckles. “Nah, too wild for me. I don’t want to go down in high school history as the guy who banged a girl on prom night. Too cliché.”

 

 

Let’s see.  New YA author.  And I’m picky.  I worship at the feet of a few and I aspire to publish my YA crossover to NA series, eventually.  But that’s a different post altogether.  Anyways, I just LOVED watching Mace and Cam FINALLY figure out that they were made for each other.  *swoon*

Cam and Mace are the typical childhood to lovers trope but what makes this one so special is that we get see it through their friends and family, too.  I love the fact that Mace is the most clueless heroine that I’ve read to date.  Totally!  I mean, she is so book smart but when it comes to boys, she is a hot mess.  Her words, not mine.  Most of the time while I was reading, I was laughing.  There are only a few angsts moments and they are brief.  Mostly it’s Mace, not understanding where Cam is coming from in terms of their relationship.

Cam is a dream.  A dream, I say.  And he ranks right up there is Tuttle from Monica Murphy’s Just Friends series.  Which I worship.  Cam is the boy that everyone wants or wants to be but he lost his heart so many years ago.  I won’t go into the whole manho scenario but I got the feeling that most of that was just made up for Mace’s sake.  I loved how he finally manned up about the whole situation with the other girls.  It was so sweet when he finally admitted his feelings.

I realized that I might have spoiled the book but you truly must read it to get the full effect.  Her list (shown above) are the chapters in the books and I love how much of a book nerd that she is.  She is so wrapped up in her favorite author’s world that it has somehow messed with her mind in terms of how boys see her, especially Cam.  The typical high school hijinks abound in the book and since I work at a high school, it is completely true and believable.  And laughable since I’ve been out of school since 1985.  I had tears at times with my laughter.

Overall, you MUST read this book.  YA or not.  Ms. Grace writes like she is overhearing a bunch of teenagers talking and nails it.  The story flows and I kept on swooning over Cam so many times.  His sister, Winter, is a joy, too.  Plus, Clay, Mace’s brother is a trip.  Again, it’s like Ms. Grace tapped her inner teenager.  Plus, I can’t wait to see who she picks to write about next in the series.  If I had one little complaint is that I wanted an epilogue but maybe, just maybe we will get that in the next book.  I’m greedy that way!

 

As a child, K.R. Grace had an overactive imagination. When it was obvious she wasn’t going to change anytime soon, her mom shoved a pen and paper in her hand and said, “Write it down.” So, at the age of eight, her first story was born, and the writing hasn’t stopped since. When she’s not running with wolves, sleeping with bears, or flying with falcons, she can be found checking out local bands or watching movies about things that go “boo” in the night. She lives in East Tennessee with a dog that is afraid of his own shadow and a cat that was a mob leader in a former life.

 

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Happy Release Week to Race to the Gallows (Mavericks of the Heartland #1) by Jenny Bullington w/a rafflecopter giveaway! @mtwpromotions @MTWPromotions @morethanwordspr @Jennifer_Pitkin ‪#‎romance #historical #mafia, #excerpt

Title: Race to the Gallows
Series: Mavericks of the Heartland #1
Author: Jenny Bullington
Genre: Adult, Historical Mafia Romance
Published: August 24, 2017

Jack and Ruby Walsh thought their sleepy town’s Independence Day would be like all the others. That is, until an accidental explosion of fireworks destroys downtown Cherokee, Iowa. A witch-hunt ensues as WWII tensions rise, causing everyone to blame one immigrant German family for the fire. But was it really them? Only Jack and Ruby have the courage to fight for justice, even as they stand against the most corrupt in their community. Ignited by their white-hot passion for each other, the two stick together until they have Cherokee on its knees, rectifying its wrongs and uncovering a more sinister criminal network. RACE TO THE GALLOWS is a harrowing tale of love, loyalty, and courage. Based on true events in Northwest Iowa.

 

RACE TO THE GALLOWS Excerpt

Chapter Five

June Vogel

June stood in their family kitchen and wrapped up the food she made for the luncheon after the memorial service. The children were getting changed in their rooms after their baths, and she still had to do Hannah’s hair. She could hear the boys in their rooms, conversing in English. Before, when they’d first come to Cherokee, her children had usually spoken in their German tongue, and that provided a sense of comfort for her. She didn’t want them to ever lose that gift from their family and their homeland. Yet now, after repeated bullying, they rarely spoke German unless they were around her and her husband.

Her ankles began to ache in her heeled shoes, and it brought her back to her present reality. She’d been standing by her counter, caught in thought again. The kitchen always seemed to be the one room that she occupied most as she both fed and kept vigil over her family, prayed and daydreamed for them above herself – only if there was spare time did she allow herself to utter prayers for her own heart. The memorial service would be difficult today, and while she ached for the hurting families, she always felt apprehensive when she had to venture in to town. How would it go today? Could she openly grieve the loss of a child in the community? And if she didn’t in a way that others expected, would that be held against her? Would she hear again how she and her family are Nazis?

Sighing, she took a deep breath to steady herself. Someday, she tried to convince herself, they will see that I am a good person no matter where I came from. June heard their collie, Jaeger, barking in the yard, and as she gazed out the window above the sink to the yard, she saw her husband, Karl, walking toward the house from the barn.  

 “Hi, sweetheart,” Karl greeted as he opened up the front door of the farmhouse, the familiar squeaking of the hinges echoing in the kitchen. He drew his handkerchief out of his back pocket and wiped the perspiration from his brow. He’d been hurrying through his chores on the farm so they could attend as a family.

June took a fresh glass out of the cabinet, filled it up with cool water for him, and walked over to Karl. He paused mid-step, his eyes flashing with admiration for the woman before him.

“You look lovely,” Karl complimented in German as he slowly took the water from June, smiling as he leaned in and kissed her cheek.  

“You smell awful,” June teased, but the happiness she tried to fake didn’t reach her own expression. Karl’s face fell when he saw that something was bothering her.

He touched her face gently then took her by the hand, feeling his callouses rubbing against her own as he led her to their kitchen table.

“Karl,” June began softly, “we have to go soon and you’re not ready.  You should bathe quickly.”

“No,” he stated simply. “What is the matter?” He slid a chair out for June to sit in. June tried to sigh her frustration, yet knew the way her husband worked: if something was bothering June, he wanted to discuss it right away. Meanwhile, she would be patiently annoyed at having to discuss the inner feelings she hid from everyone.

June shrugged and shook her head no, not wanting to divulge her feelings before they had to leave. She had to keep them stuffed down, hidden, locked away and not let them out lest she dissolve in tears as soon as the snide remarks and glares came their way. The wounds sometimes felt so deep, all because she was from a different country. Even some of the other residents in Cherokee had earlier generations come from Germany, yet none as recently as she.

“Tell me what’s bothering you,” Karl asked once more, the loaded question that she did not want to discuss. Despite this, his gentle blue eyes pleaded with her, begged her to open up as she’d been asked by him many times before.

Yet June couldn’t put into words the depths of her feelings. It was as if a well was sealed tightly inside her, deep in the Bavarian forest that was the free nature of her soul, containing all her dreams, longings and hopes. It was those places she chose to let herself in her mind wander; safe, warm, comfortable.

It also contained such darkness that shadows seemed as daylight compared to the monsters and demons that made the darkness their friends. It was there, in the darkness of her soul’s forest, that the well made its dwelling. Many times, June imagined the well was sealed tightly with chains, but somehow, they’d come loose from time to time. The burning red flames of memories would crawl out, chasing after her, even in the otherwise placid places of her soul’s forest. She’d run as fast as she could, but quickly her bare feet would become ensnared. Cracked, bruised and bleeding, she’d only allow herself to collapse under the oppression of the aggressive memories if she was alone. When the kids were napping or playing outside, or at night when everyone in her family was fast asleep. Only then could she allow herself to feel the weight of it all, the unceasing burden she carried.

Otherwise, on any normal day, she chose to keep the well locked. It sometimes beckoned for her to take a peek, but there was too much… too many emotions, too many memories that vividly played across her eyes like they were still going on right before her.  

Karl had met June back in primary school; their families were friends and fellow farmers in Kelheim. While they’d been the best of friends in school, it had been in secondary school when June had met an older man, someone who’d said the right things, who appeared religious and upright.  He seemed to be on the successful track in life and was part of the military’s young adults that seemed to be on the rise upward toward importance. That was the only reason her parents had allowed her to be courted by the man.  

Yet he was not what he appeared.

She’d been warned by a well-meaning friend from school who had heard things about him, things he’d done with other girls. June refused to listen, however. His time, his attention, his touch all allowed her to pretend everything was okay. Surely her parents would have stopped them had the hidden secrets been true?

But her friend was right. Everyone who’d expressed their concerns was right. She didn’t listen and she paid for it, nearly with her very life. June had wanted to believe that his words were true, that she had been special. He’d said he loved her, and oh how badly she wanted to be loved.

Then his love began to hurt her. He robbed her of a precious part of her life, her virginity, something she had wanted to give in a sacred way to someone who cherished its value. Once he was done hurting her, he taunted her for her lack of performance, liking her to a Jew he’d hated so deeply, as he put back on his Nazi uniform. June laid there, bare, broken, and bleeding, and still he kept hurting her with his words.

This pain she carried every day, reminding her of what was stolen from her youth, what she could never get back. What she could never give to another – she came to Karl broken, used, tainted. Who she wanted to be and what she wanted to give to her future husband was instead given to someone who made her feel as though she was no more than a piece of refuse.  

June knew how lucky she was that Karl still wanted her, still loved her, and had two more children with her even after she had born a child, unwed. He was seen as the hero, and in many ways, he was. June would hear Karl praised for his valor in taking on a tainted woman with a child, and she said her thanks many times. She had no idea why he still loved her even though he wasn’t the first to her. Yet as grateful as she was, she wished she could have been seen for her own valor, her own bravery as she rose from the bed, bloodied, broken and raw. She stood, numb, and forced her legs to move to the wash room despite the pain, cleaned herself up and left. She was the one who bravely made her way home, keeping her composure until the warmth of her pillow on her bed enveloped her, holding her and soaking up her tears.  

It was June who still held her head high when the man accused her of taking advantage of him and lied about her integrity and character to everyone in the town. It was June who withstood the torrential rains of judgement as she brought her first born into the world out of wedlock.  

June’s quiet suffering and bravery to survive until she and Karl finally joined hands in matrimony was neglected, unobserved. Karl took the credit for saving her, and while she was indeed thankful for him, at the same time, she was the one who endured the most.  

She hadn’t cried since that day, until she and Karl moved to a new country and she found herself once again alone. Alone and, eerily similar to before when she was the outcast, hearing cruelty thrown her way. She’d found out how to be strong alone before, she’d have to find a way again.  

Karl and the children needed her to be strong. Therefore, June forced the well inside her soul shut, and sealed it up, walking away unburdened by the chains she had to bear, accustomed to their weight.  

Smiling once again, June put her hand on Karl’s face and stroked his cheek.

“I’m fine,” she said, almost convincing herself of her lie, and decided leave the children at home this time so they wouldn’t see her ridiculed and mistreated.

 

***

Jack Walsh

Jack tried to be careful with his dress pants before the funerals as he waded through the debris, looking for something, anything, that could show the Malones accusation against the Vogels was a lead worth pursuing. He doubted very much the Vogel boys had anything to do with the fires, yet it was his duty to investigate anyway.

“Walsh,” Paulie called from behind him. “What the hell do you think was going on with that guy on your block?”

Jack was thankful that he had convinced Ruby to wait for him in the coolness of the church rather than the heat of the sun. He could tell she was upset by something that day, and the stranger on his street didn’t help. He shook his head, disgruntled. He felt unnerved, and suspicious that his own home was being watched. He had made it his business to know everyone in the area he patrolled, making mental files for each resident should anything ever come to play in the future. He was always preparing for an investigation on anyone, at any time, so the unfamiliar face refused to leave his mind. He had a wife he loved more than himself, and a baby on the way. Should that man have gotten the notion to dig through the home and Ruby was home alone…

Jack stopped where he stood and shook his head more vehemently this time.  “I’m not sure, but he doesn’t know who he’s messing with,” Jack finally replied to Paulie, meaning every word he spoke. He felt his protectiveness over his own home turf send a surge down to his stomach and a tingling began in his fingers.

“Hey, you know I will be over as fast as I can if you ever need it,” Paulie stated simply, shading his eyes from the sun.    

Jack smiled and nodded. He did indeed know Paulie would always be there. “It’s probably nothing,” he said more for Paulie than himself, “there are a lot of extra people in town today for the memorial service and to see Main Street for themselves.”

Paulie lifted his eyebrows at Jack’s statement. “Right,” he feigned agreement.

Jack smirked at his partner. He liked that they knew each other as well as they did. He looked down at his watch and saw that it was nearly time for the service to begin.

“It’s hotter than hades out, Goldstein.  I want you to find out where that locket came from and see if we can track down its owner.  Start with the jeweler, see if he remembers it.  Ask Mr. Beatty to see if anyone ordered it from one of his catalogs, too.”

Paulie pulled his notebook out of his front shirt pocket and wrote notes down with his pencil. “Consider it done,” he said as he deliberately flipped it shut and put it back in its place.

Jack looked around the debris, the piles of rubble familiar to him now, and he huffed in exasperation. He’d need to refresh his eyes. “Let’s come back after the funerals.  One more look.” Jack said as he turned to leave the disaster site, hearing the crunch of debris underneath his black leather shoes. He made a mental note to be sure to wipe off the bottoms of his shoes before entering his father-in-law’s church.

He had been so engrossed in watching where he stepped in his church clothes that when he finally looked up, he was shocked to see a couple men in suits and one with a camera by his car.

Jack looked back at Paulie, who’d been following closely behind him, and whispered, “What is this?”

“Sheriff Walsh!” one of the men shouted, seeing he’d been noticed. “Ryan Josephs with the Daily Journal!  I have a few questions for you!” Jack heard Paulie chortle behind him, and slap his shoulder as the reporter named Ryan nearly ran to approach Jack.

“You’re a celebrity now, Walsh,” Paulie taunted under his breath so only Jack could hear. “I’ll wait for you in the car.”

“Oh, hell no,” Jack called after his partner. “You can take this one!”

Jack watched Paulie laugh as he kept walking away from the clamor. He was still laughing at Jack’s plight even as he opened the car door and got in.

“Sheriff Walsh, how can Cherokee recover from such a disaster in your opinion?” the reporter, Ryan Josephs, asked.

Jack heard the question, but as the group of reporters started to circle around him, his mind began to wander to a time that was distant, yet one he was never able to forget.

He was standing in body with the reporters on Main Street, but his mind went back to his boyhood, sitting on the front step of his family’s run-down house with a wooden, wrap-around front porch with chipped paint. There were two cop cars out front; they’d been there a while after a neighbor intervened in the feud finally, and a throng of people had gathered to watch the scene playing out before them.  

It was no secret the Walsh family had their problems. With barely enough food to feed their large brood, Jack’s father had gambled the rest of their meager income away. As if that wasn’t enough to make them a spectacle, Jack’s father also had a problem with the bottle and the fist, and it was usually directed toward his mother.  

The oldest of Walsh kids, Jack would rush his siblings to the back bedrooms when his father would ramp up to an outburst. He’d stand in the kitchen, or the hallway just outside the kitchen, bottle that he’d just polished off in hand, and he’d start yelling. Life had dealt his father an unfair hand, Jack would hear him shouting. Life never worked out for him. Only later did Jack realize that all of it was his father’s own doing. He’d made the family lose everything, and yet Jack’s mother stuck with him, tried to fix things.  

Yet this time, there was no fixing. This time, there was no more forgiveness, let alone going home. His father had beat his mother so badly this time, she was carried out by the cops and firemen, headed in the back of the ambulance to the hospital.  

Jack sat on that step, watching them leave with her, and he had this sinking feeling in his stomach that something was horribly wrong. His mother didn’t look right, and he’d never seen his father in handcuffs before. Indeed, nothing would ever be right again.

His mother never recovered from her injuries, and spent the rest of her days as an invalid in the hospital. His father had been jailed for the abuse, and Jack and his siblings all had to go live with his paternal grandparents.  

But the boy on the step that day felt a break so deep he didn’t understand until much later the pain of that wound.  He began to weep openly, as any boy who loved his mother would, watching her leave on a stretcher, watching the cops gather up the younger children and their belongings in suitcases, watching the crowd cover their open mouths and aghast eyes. Then a reporter had the audacity to come up to him, trying to get the details of what happened.   

Jack saw it all, and to this day had never spoken of the time that his mother turned from a living being to being trapped in a body that didn’t house her soul anymore. That little boy would never sit on that wooden front step again, not until many years later when Jack and his siblings came back to burn the house and all its horrid memories to the ground.

That boy grew up helping his elderly grandparents raise his siblings, and under their tender care, he grew into the leader he was today. The sense of duty and justice was instilled in him, and he fought for it from even a young age.  

One cop, a father of one of Jack’s classmates, shooed the reporter away and sat down next to him on the step. Jack heard later that his dirty face had the marks from where the tears streamed down his face. When the cop put his arm around Jack, he buried his head in the cop’s chest and felt consoled compassionately by a grown man for the first time ever in his life.

Never again, Jack had promised himself.  Never again…

“Sheriff Walsh?” Ryan Josephs repeated, looking perplexed.  

Jack woke from his reverie and to his embarrassment, realized he’d been standing in front of the reporters, lost in the fog of his own memories.  

“I’m sorry, could you repeat your question?” Jack replied to the reporter named Ryan, though he looked at everyone standing around him seeing the same confused face looking back at him.

“Uh, sure.”  Ryan cleared his throat.  “Do you believe you’ve put the right people in jail?”

Jack’s heart jolted. “What did you say?  I’ve made no arrests in this investigation as of yet.”

“Oh, just this morning two suspects were arrested and jailed,” Ryan stated, scribbling down notes in his small, leather-bound notebook.

Jack’s face flushed hot.  He was the lead on this investigation, and there was literally no evidence that gave a clear lead on anyone being the guilty party.  There hadn’t even been any other investigative parties involved.

Except for the Malones, Jack’s memory reminded him, and he gave the reporters a dark look before bolting toward the car where Paulie sat.  

Glancing up in alarm as he saw Jack coming, Paulie asked, “What’s going on?”  His hands popped up and gripped the steering wheel, knuckles suddenly white.

“Get down to the jail!” Jack demanded, running around to the side and throwing his body into the passenger side of the car.  He shut his door just as Paulie backed out onto the street once more and headed away from the fire scene.  

“Walsh?” Paulie reminded his partner of his earlier question.

“Someone’s been thrown into our jail without notifying or partnering with us,” Jack took his hat off and nearly threw it down onto the floor by his feet before thinking better of it.  “Has anyone contacted the station?” Jack’s voice rose along with his stress and anger.

“No,” Paulie quickly replied, coming only to a partial stop at a crossing before charging forward.

“Damn it!” Jack exclaimed indignantly, slamming his fist on the car door, having a keen sense of who had taken over his investigation.

“What about Ruby?” Paulie questioned, glancing at his partner. “She’d be with the Vogels at the memorial service.”

Jack raised his hands in the air as he leaned his head back, seeming to look up at the sky. “You’re right. She’d be right by them, and if anything happens…”

Paulie brought the car to a stop. “Go, Jack. I’ll see what happened at the jail.”

Jack put his hat under his arm and, once out of the car, began running toward the church.

 

 

Ever since she was a little girl on a farm in rural Iowa, Jenny Bullington’s heart has been filled with wanderlust and adventure. She started writing at an early age, and has never stopped. After exploring Italy, Ethiopia, and South Korea, Bullington’s desire to transport others to those places and to raise awareness of important humanitarian and social issues takes hold in her writings.

She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Iowa State University and her Master’s Degree from Pacific Oaks College. In her spare time, Bullington enjoys teaching as an adjunct college professor, writes parenting and child development columns for a taekwondo kids program, advocates against domestic violence and human trafficking, and is passionate about social justice. She’s recently been featured as a storyteller at Ode, an Iowa organization that promotes positive impact through empathy. Her adventures never stop as she raises her five small children with her beloved husband, Branden, in the Midwest.

 

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