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Dropped It: Book Blitz

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. She was quick enough to turn off the voice recording and hold her phone in her lap.
I arched an eyebrow at her. “I know when someone is faking it.”
“Happen often?” she quipped. Her eyes snapped with something that hadn’t been there before; anger. No, maybe it was there and I hadn’t wanted to see it.
I smiled. A real smile. She wasn’t the only one putting on an act. Frankly, it felt good to drop it.
“Only out in public,” I replied with confidence. “In private, it’s always real, and satisfying.”
I expected her to blush, but she didn’t. Instead, she gave me an epic eye roll. Yeah, I guess I deserved that.
“Sure,” she said sarcastically. She crossed her legs at her knees.
I stared, I admit it, but she had longer legs than I remember, and bigger breasts. Were they real? I tried to get a good look when she entered the room, but I couldn’t tell.
I shook my head to clear it. “You didn’t answer my question. Why did you pretend you didn’t know me?”
“Why did you?” she shot back. “I had no reason to believe you did. It was a long time ago.”
It was. And it wasn’t. The fuzzy memories of high school came back in a rush and almost knocked the wind out of me. I lowered my arms and gripped the sides of the chair beside my thighs.
I lowered my face and closed my eyes for a few moments.
“Yeah, it was.” I looked back up at her. Her green eyes watched me intently. Had they always been that color? They weren’t contacts, or she wouldn’t be wearing glasses too. I guess they were then. My mother used to have a jade statue almost that exact shade. Where was that statue now? I had no idea. Maybe Dad threw it out after…
Before I could say another word, she spoke.
“Why do you think I did it?” She gave me a challenging look through her long lashes.
I hissed in a silent breath through my teeth. “I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe you thought I would open up more if you acted like a groupie.”
She snorted. Now there was the Beckie I knew.
I rested an elbow on the arm of the chair and hid a smile by rubbing my upper lip, just under my nose. I could use a shave.
“If you were actually Hawkeye, it might not be an act,” she said.
I couldn’t hold back a grin now. “I can’t believe you actually pretended not to know who the Hulk was.”
She responded with a smirk. “I can’t believe you think you have his physique.”
Touché. “It sounds like you’re the green one,” I retorted. I puffed out my chest. It didn’t hurt to remind her how fit I was. It took a lot of work to get to this point and I was proud of it. The fact women seemed to like it was a bonus.
She barked a laugh. “Hardly.”
I shrugged with one shoulder. “At least I didn’t compare myself to Thor.” I only did that in the mirror.
“Not in public,” she said, shooting my words back at me. “What about in private?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” She seemed bitter about something, but I enjoyed the banter. Other than Mary, few women were so real. Once Becca stopped being fake, that was.
“Not if you were the last guy on Earth,” she replied.

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City to Avoid: Book Blitz

On top of the wall, silence reigns as the soldiers wait for word. We all stare toward the ground, anticipation a dark cloud suspended over us as sharp eyes scan the gloom for either a member of the scouting team that went out an hour ago or a Revoker, red eyes flashing and fangs covered in gristle and blood.
The first person who runs into view is tall and familiar and very much Nimali. His armor is blood spattered, but he appears uninjured. Others sigh audibly in relief, but my jaw tightens. Prince Shad. I wouldn’t have minded if he’d been grievously injured. My daimon silently chastises me for the unkindness, but I can’t help it. There are only two Nimali men who could have killed Dove, and he’s one of them. Until I’m certain it wasn’t him, I have to act like it was.
A bear and a lion are close behind him—part of the prince’s honor guard. The bear’s gait is hampered by a pronounced limp, though she still eats up the ground with long strides. Then my focus returns to the prince. He’s carrying something—someone—over his shoulder like a sack of beans. His bounding steps cross the distance easily, and then he’s at the rope ladder a soldier threw down. He climbs it with one arm while holding what I can see now is an injured woman.
Blood pours down her back from gashes that I’m sure were made by a Revoker’s claws. Her clothing is odd. A short, loose dress, oddly patterned and flimsy—I’ve never seen anything like it before, not on a Nimali or a Fai. Why anyone would go into No Man’s Land without battle armor is a mystery, but the woman is also barefoot. Begrudging respect bubbles up from my chest for the way the prince is able to negotiate the climb with that much dead weight, carried awkwardly. He could have shifted into his other form and flown up, but his own claws might have further injured her. And he is definitely treating her like something special.
The reason becomes clear when he finally gets to the top and one of the soldiers reaches out to help him with his burden. Prince Shad shakes his head and gently lays the woman down on her side, revealing her face.
I’m too far away to see at first, but when the soldiers in front of me gasp and immediately kneel, I get a glimpse. Princess Celena lies there, bloodied and battered. Her rich, chestnut skin is ashen, taking on an almost gray pallor. I’m frozen in place for a moment viewing her small form, her strange, tattered clothing, the odd way she’s braided her hair.
Then I’m shoved hard from behind, stumbling forward through the kneeling men and women.
“Where is the healer?” Prince Shad roars, but I’m already there, crouching down beside the princess. My daimon joins me seconds later, eager to fill me with its essence and lend me its healing power.
Celena’s back is ravaged, the wounds already bubbling with the poison from the Revoker’s talons. They look fresh, so it’s not too late to heal them if I’m quick about it. I hold out my hands and close my eyes, letting my daimon fully take over. Its energy flows through me, using my physical body as a conduit for its power.
Through my daimon, I sense the damage, the torn flesh and the toxins that have already entered her bloodstream. The healing energy pulls the poison out, a sticky black substance that leaks onto the stone of the wall. The flesh, layers of muscle and skin, is knit back together until there isn’t so much as a scar left. I silently thank my daimon and it retreats. Then I open my eyes.
Prince Shad is staring down at his sister. When the blue light of my power retreats, his dark eyes flick up to mine.
“I removed the poison,” I tell him.
“All of it?” I nod. His lips flatten into a grim line. “We’re taking her back to the Citadel. Come with me; the king will want to be sure.”

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Cross the Gulf with? Book Blitz

On the drive to Brierly Station, he didn’t speculate about who Miss DeWinter might be. It wasn’t his job to know who she was, only to meet her train and take her safely back to Westfield Court. She wouldn’t be the last of the friends and relatives who would gather as the old man’s life came to its long-awaited and peaceful end.
Brierly was bustling today, as restless as the St. James household. He was in plenty of time for the train and sat in the car reading. The car was a Bentley Mark VI, as well-maintained and highly polished as it was the day it was purchased. The book he was reading was Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native.
When the train rumbled in, he got out of the car. He stood patiently on the platform as the passengers disembarked, holding up a small slate on which he had chalked DEWINTER in large capitals. There weren’t many passengers, but they were briefly delayed while the conductor helped a blind woman navigate the steps. Neil’s gaze fell expectantly on a woman in her thirties, with an awful hat, but she was immediately met by a portly man and a teenage boy. No other likely prospects appeared, and he waited for someone to respond to the sign. No one did.
Finally, only two passengers were left on the platform—a small, homely man and the blind woman. Blind girl, really. She couldn’t be more than twenty. She had a jointed white cane, and her large sunglasses didn’t cover the edges of the scars on her face. She would not have been beautiful even without the scars—too thin, for starters, of average height but with small bones. On the other hand, her face might once have been pretty, and her hair was clean and shining, raven black, and well brushed. She was too pale, and the scars around her eyes were red and ugly. She looked a little lost.
Feeling foolish, he lowered the slate. “Miss DeWinter?” he asked as he approached her.
“Yes,” she said, turning toward his voice with a smile.
“I’m Vincent,” he said. “The St. James chauffeur.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Vincent,” she said. “Thank you for meeting me.” Her voice was soft, her enunciation perfect.
The porter fetched her luggage—a single gray vinyl suitcase with a flower decal—from the depot and turned it over to Neil with a cheerful nod. Jane would be disappointed, especially if the girl’s other clothes were as plain as what she wore, a simple dark dress with long sleeves and an unfashionable, below-the-knees hemline. “Would you take my arm?” he asked, positioning himself so she could place her hand in the crook of his elbow, which she did with easy confidence.
“Do you have a Christian name?” she asked.
“Yes, miss. It’s Neil.”
“That’s a good name,” she said. “Mine is Mary Claire. How is my grandfather, do you know?”
Neil, who hadn’t known the old man had any grandchildren, said, “Hanging on, miss.”
He opened the car door and helped her into the back seat.
“You don’t have to call me ‘miss’ all the time,” she said. “Please call me Mary Claire. Or my friends at school call me Sunny.”

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