24in48 Readahton!


Thursday\

 

Hey readers! I want to let you know about a readathon that I will be in at 12am Friday night ( early Saturday morning.) I am so excited because Booktubeathon starts next monday and well and I am so ready. But, first, let me tell you about 24in48.

Join me on July 22 & 23rd for a weekend full of reading. It promises to be another great one. (You’ll be happy to know I’ll not be steering the good ship 24in48 alone this round. I recently relocated for a job in another country and finally decided to call in reinforcements.

If you’re new to 24in48, this is the basic gist: beginning at 12:01am on Saturday morning and running through 11:59pm on Sunday night, participants read for 24 hours out of that 48-hour period. You can split that up however you’d like: 20 hours on Saturday, four hours on Sunday; 12 hours each day; six four-hour sessions with four hour breaks in between, whatever you’d like.

I will definitely be taking breaks because you guys know that I am also down CampNanoWriMo as well. I am going to be one busy reader and writer. But, I would not have it any other way.

My Choices For The Readathon

 One Plus One

I am so excited to read these books! Stay tuned for my wrap up and book reviews.

How Often Do You DNF A Book?


Tuesday

Good morning! I hope that everyone is doing fabulous on this great Tuesday! I have so many books on my TBR shelf and that I am currently reading it is a shame. But, I still have my July TBR and Booktubeathon starts next week. Not to mention the books that I got in the mail that need to be reviewed. Where does one find the time? Any who, I wanted to get your guys opinion on DNF’ing a book. Is there really a proper way to stop reading something that is no longer interesting to you? How many pages do you give it? Sure, they can be some good parts and bad parts, but for you what do you do when you are like, ” Okay, I am not finishing this, I will be DNF’ng it.”

I have read many books that are slow and does not pick up fast enough for me. Granted, I read slow already, but if the book looses interest so do I. Does that make sense? If I read a book,I want it to be enjoyable from the beginning to end. On the other hand, I start to wonder if a part of the book is slow and then it just starts to pick up and still turns out good. You never know unless you read the entire book. One of my goals this year is to not DNF books so much.

What I DNF’D This Year:

I know that some of you maybe thinking, what?! Let me explain. Home going is a book that was making me cry with every page that I was reading. The book is sad, but real. Unfortunately for me, the sad and gruesome parts overwhelmed me. An Ember In The Ashes, was good, I was listening to that book on audiobook. I still have it and can always go back to it, but it started to be slow as well. I want a book that is fast paced and if it is slow, i want to be slow because it is building the world or the characters POV ( point of view).  I can always pick both back up, but as for now I am going to read and try to get through other books. Tell me in the comment, what books have you currently DNF’d thus far?

Having A Good Writing Flow


Happy Monday

Happy Monday!

I know this day is gruesome for some, but try to keep an open mind. For those writers who are doing Camp NanoWriMo, how is it going? As for me, I just hit a little over 27k and I am loving the progress of this story. It is really coming along nicely. My total word count goal is 70k so please keep my fingers and mind in your prayers.

It is imperative to have a good writing flow once you are finish with your outline. This can be creating an awesome schedule, writing with a writing buddy or participating in sprints. Sprints are when you write for a certain amount of time by yourself or with others. They are really fun. At times the flow of writing can be so good that you forget to eat meals or even do other things that were on your to-do list. Yesterday, I started to write in the afternoon and I did that for 2 hours then took a break. Then I started back up at about 9pm until 11 and I wrote 4000 words! I surpassed my goal by more than half. I was so proud of myself.

Having a good writing flow is important, but allow yourself some time to take a break. The last thing that you want to do is suffer from burnout. Burnout to writing is like unemployment to workers. It does not mix at all. There are some people that are mood writers and like to write when they feel lead to. I used to be like that, but since I want to write for a living like Stephen King, I have to  write and read daily. Reading is just as important when you are taking a break from your writing flow. It keeps you fresh and innovative in my opinion. Whether you are writing every day or sporadically, enjoy the writing flow and let it take your story to another level.

Can You Be Your Own Support System?


Happy Thursday!

Thursday

We go through many things in our life where we need and desire support from others. But, when we are able to gain that support from our friends and loved ones, are we able to seek it in ourselves? Yes! It is called determination and motivation. Now, with my writing career, I am sure that there are MANY people who disapprove of my career path. In turn that is okay, but when you have people like that, it is time to rid of toxic waste.  In my opinion being a writer is a lonely world until your readers support your work. In my time as a writer, I have seen some great reviews and even some bad ones. I took a step back and re-assessed the bad reviews. I take into consideration what the readers have to say. My work may look great in my eyes, but the readers are the real judges.

Dream-Big

With that being said, I motivate myself often to make the next book or writing endeavor better than the last one. I wanted to make sure that my words were relatable and valid for anyone who even cracked a page or clicked to see my work. My motivation and determination for myself has to be strong because everyone does not see my dream the way that I do. Sure, you will get discouraged when rejection happens, but use that rejection for fuel to continue to work on your craft and be the best writer that you can be. One of my goals this year was to keep my blog updated and relevant. There were times where I did not wrote for months and I saw the change in that versus now to me writing on a daily basis. I appreciate your support with my blog.  You liking my blog posts makes me feel good about the posts that I will continue to have.  A year ago, I did a vision board with my previous position and I look at it every day now just to motivate and remind myself that I am destined for greatness. Now, I feel like I have to keep my work to myself in a way and not tell everyone my dreams because I will not get the support that I give myself.

40-writtengoals

I do have a journal with goals in it. I never look at it. In my mind, I know what I achieve to do. Every time I achieve a new thing, I go back to my goals journal and see how close or far I came to achieving them. Thus far, I am on track because I am motivating myself. Currently, I am motivated and determined to finish this novel for NanoWriMo way before the end of the July. I really believe that this book is going to put me on the map. Never allow anyone to tell you that you can not or deter you from your dreams.

My BookTubeAThon TBR For 2017


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Hey Readers!

Happy Tuesday! I hope that is well. I know you are wondering by the title, ” Krystol are you crazy, you are writing a book?” I know. I participated in this read a thon two years in a row and failed miserably. I want to redeem myself and have a great experience with reading. Granted, I am already reading so many things that are posted on my TBR, but I can try and squeeze in a few more goodies. This read a thon starts on July 24-July 30th, 2017. I hope that you are able to participate with me. If you are, please let me know in the comments what books are you going to be reading.

Click here to see my TBR video. Also subscribe if you have not! 

Are You Optimistic Enough?


Happy Monday! Let’s Be Optimistic and Make It Great!

I Can Do It

But, can we really, you know, do it? Life can get us down, but it is up to us, to keep it together. Now, I am living witness of not being optimistic the last few months. It brings me to shame to, because I’m a Sagittarius and being optimistic is one our main traits. I used to be very optimistic until life started to show me that everything that glittered was not gold. I mean, I wanted it to be gold, well, I would rather that it was. But, let’s face it, the world does not work our way, which leads me to being more optimistic about life.

We often focus on the things that happen and are not working in our lives that we forget how blessed we truly are. Not to get all religious on you, but the bible says, ” When you are grateful for little, he will bless you with more.” This has been my new approach of late, being happy where I am. I have a roof over my head and food in my mouth. Things will get better in time.

Being More Optimistic

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The term optimistic means, ” hopeful and feeling confident for the future”.  Understand that you are not your circumstances or your struggle.  This also has to do with our mindset as well. Check out my post about having a positive mindset. Here are some ways that you can work on your optimism. I got some help from Wiki on how to be optimistic.
1. Recognize the good and bad in your life and examine how you’ve been affected by each. Optimism doesn’t mean you have to feel “happy” all the time. In fact, trying to force feelings of happiness during potentially traumatic experiences can be unhealthy.  Instead, attune yourself to the full range of emotions in your life, accepting that the negative as well as positive feelings are a natural part of human experience. Trying to repress a certain type of emotion can cause severe emotional distress. Not focusing more on one type of emotion than the other can actually help you become more adaptive and proactive in future unexpected situations. This will increase your ability to be optimistic and resilient in the face of uncertainty.
Negative feelings can become a conditioned habit over time. Avoid blaming yourself for negative emotions and associations. Blame is unhelpful because it doesn’t look forward to how you can grow; it looks backward at what has already happened.
Instead, focus on being mindful of when these negative emotions occur. A journal could help you do this. Write down when you experience negative feelings or thoughts, then examine their contexts and explore alternative ways of responding to them.
For example, imagine that someone cuts you off in traffic. You respond by feeling angry, honking your horn, and perhaps yelling at the driver even though s/he can’t hear you. You could write in your journal what happened, how it made you feel, and what your immediate response was. Don’t judge yourself as “right” or “wrong,” just write down what happened.
Next, take a step back and think about what you’ve written. Was your response in accordance with your values and the type of person you want to be? If not, what could you have done differently? What do you think you were really responding to? For example, perhaps you weren’t really angry at the driver; maybe you had a stressful day and allowed your stress to explode on that one person.
Look forward when you write these entries. Don’t use them just as a place to wallow in negative feelings. Think about what you can learn from the experience. What can you use to grow as a person? Can you use this experience to inform other experiences? If you encounter a similar situation next time, how might you respond in a way that is in line with your values? For example, perhaps realizing that you responded with anger because of your stressful day could help you realize that everyone makes mistakes and encourage you to feel more empathetic with other people the next time someone shows anger toward you. Having a pre-existing idea of how you want to respond to negative situations can also help you in the tough moments.

2. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a key component of optimism because it encourages you to focus on acknowledging your emotions in the moment without judging them. Often, negative reactions arise when we try to struggle against our feelings, or when we allow ourselves to become so blinded by our emotions that we forget that we can control how we respond to them.  Focusing on your breathing, accepting your body and your feelings, and learning from your emotions rather than denying them can help you become comfortable with yourself, which is important when those negative emotions arise.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown by many studies to help with feelings of anxiety and depression. It can actually reprogram the way your body responds to stress.
Look for mindfulness meditation classes in your community. You can also find guided meditations online, such as at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center[16] or BuddhaNet  (And of course, there are several great tutorials on Wikihow.)
You don’t have to commit a huge amount of time to meditation to see its effects. Just a few minutes a day can help you become more aware and accepting of your emotions.[18]

3. Identify whether your inner monologue is an optimist or a pessimist. Our inner monologue is a great indicator of whether we naturally take a positive or negative outlook on life. Pay attention to your inner monologue over the course of a day and see if any of the following forms of negative self-talk (that is, your inner monologue) are appearing regularly:
Magnifying the negative aspects of a situation and filtering out all of the positive ones.
Automatically blaming yourself for any negative situation or event.
Anticipating the worst in any given situation. The drive-through coffee shop gets your order wrong and you automatically think that the rest of your day will be a disaster.
You see things only as good or bad (also known as polarization). In your eyes, there is no middle ground.

4. Look for the positives in your life. It’s important to re-orient your inner monologue to focus on the positive aspects of both you as an individual and the world around you. Although positive thinking is only one of the steps towards becoming a true optimist, the effects of positive thinking for both your body and mind can be significant, such as:
Increased life span
Lower rates of depression
Lower levels of distress
Improved immune system
Better psychological and physical well-being
Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Some of these situations I witness first hand, especially depression. But, now I have a renewed mindset and better control of knowing I can’t worry about things out of my control. Daily, it is good to speak positive affirmations and surround yourself with positive people. I hope that these tips have helped you a lot as it has for me.

Colby: Prelude To My New Novel


Camp-2017-Event-Banner

Hey guys! Let me know what you think. This is what I’m working on for my Camp NanoWriMo.

Prelude

We were staring at each other. She was waiting for me to talk, but I didn’t have much to say. This decision wasn’t mine. I didn’t want to go through with this. My father told me it was what was best for me. I wanted to do what was best, but he thought he knew better.

“ How are you feeling today?”

I didn’t say anything. All I could do was look at my nails. I just painted them red to pass the time last night. I couldn’t sleep. I’d been having nightmares all over again.

“ Deborah, we need to talk about everything. Therapy will help you, I promise.”

I sighed.

Since I have been coming here the last week, I have been silent. But, I have to talk. I want to sleep at night. I’m not a horrible person and my father made me do it. I don’t know why I listened to him.

“ What do you want to know?” I said just above a whisper.

“ I asked, how are you doing today?”

“ I’m the same as I had been since it happened. I’m lost. “

She didn’t say anything. She just wrote in her notebook.

“ Do you think you will have children again?”

“ I don’t know. If I listen to my father, no.”

“ What does your father say?”

“ He said I’m the devil and I can’t grow the devil inside of me.”

I rolled my eyes. I would rather be at home in my bed then to sit here and endure this conversation any further.

“ How do you feel about that?”

“ My father is crazy. Ever since he came home from the war, he has not been right. I don’t listen to him. I will be a mother again one day.”

The lady smiled at me.

“ That’s great to hear, Deborah.”

“ Yea. Can I be dismissed now? I am late for class.”

“ Yes. Our session is up anyway. Let’s schedule something for next week.”

“ Let’s not. This is my last day. I’m going to college to set up my dorm room.”

“ Oh?” She said.

“ Thanks for the session. They have really helped me.”

“ Please, call me if you ever want to talk. By the way, are you going to school for?”

“ I can’t decide on teaching or social work.” I said to her.

She sat back in her chair and took a breath.

I watched as she took her left hand and put hair behind her ear. She was wearing a lab coat and had ginger hair with freckles.

“ Both are very demanding fields, but with what has happened, I understand that you want to work with children in some capacity.”

“ Yes. Well, I love children. I baby sit all of the cousins all the time.”

I stood up and grabbed my purse.

“ Thanks, Doctor.” I said.

“ I told you, call me Carrie.”

“ Alright then, Carrie. It has been a pleasure, but with all do respect you will not see me back in here ever.”

“ No offense taken. I would love to not see you again. Deborah, you aren’t crazy. You’ve been through an ordeal that you just needed to figure out that’s all.”

“ Oh I know. Thank again. Take care.”

I went to walk out and quickly scanned the room before turning the copper door knob and sighed.

“ You can do it.” Carrie encouraged me.

I held my dignity in tact and left the room.

Walking fast through the building I hurried to my car where I sobbed for fifteen minutes before pulling off and heading to Delaware State University.

 

 

 

 

You Are Not Your Struggle


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Happy Sunday!

Sunday

As I was reflecting and thinking about my life,  wondering where I want to be, this topic came to mind. There are many of us who are struggling, and feel like we don’t know where to turn or what to do with our lives. Trust me, I’ve been there and I’m still there.  Struggle doesn’t last always even though we fill it might. This can be affecting your personal, work, or even relationships with friends and family. Don’t allow it to get your down. The rapper T.I states, ” Tough situations don’t last, but tough people do.”   When I read his quote in an interview, I thought, ” He is so right! I am wallowing for nothing.”

The above picture reminds me of where I am and possible a lot of you are. You notice the man with the briefcase as he’s walking. He has a goal, somewhere to be! He’s not looking backward, even through his struggles are following him. He is still pressing on, so why can’t we? What is it about us as people that focus on not being where we want to be instead of appreciating where we are headed? This made me think! Here is what I came up with.

  1. Other Influences – We live in a society today where the media is booming with successful people. It is almost like successful people are throwing in our faces that we are not where we want to be. We focus on that and feel miserable. Well, not anymore! If we focus on what is important and just our goals, we will strive forward.
  2. Telling Our Goals –  Before you judge me with this one, please hear me out. Now, there is nothing wrong with telling someone who has their best interest for you about your goals. But, when you expose it to everyone, everyone does not have your best interest at hear. I know what you must be thinking, ” Who cares what people think?” Actually, some of us do. We as people need gratification and praises of other people, other wise we would do what we choose without having to tell anyone. My point is everything in our lives is not for everyone. Some people want to see us fail and not succeed sadly.
  3. Monitoring Others  – I used to focus on what my friends and other people that I knew was doing. I was envious of their success and them doing things that I wanted to do like travel, write for a major corporation, even down to marriage and children. Focusing on them was taking me off my square for me to be happy. Don’t allow this to happen. Be happy for your friends and associates. Your time will come. When it comes, it maybe even better than what others had going on.

accountable

It’s been said by many people that our struggle is what keeps us going. People are often stagnant when they are comfortable. Could their be truth to this? I think it depends on how bad the person wants to be their best selves. The picture above really captivated and resonated with me because the ball in chain is holding him back, but he is moving through this struggle. It’s almost as if his struggle is keeping him coming. Being able to move on says a lot about your character. Don’t sweat the small stuff and I know it maybe hard, but try no to worry about things that are out of your control. Life is too short. Work with your struggle, do not become your struggle.

My Current Reads


Reading Pace

Just like readers, read, writers have to read also! I am reading my behind off in order to be a better writer and reader. My last book that I completed was Bared To You by Sylvia Day. I really enjoyed it. Now, I am reading something a little more serious and real. Check it out.

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My Thoughts:   This story thus far, is VERY different from anything that I have read. I am really enjoying it so far. It’s about a girl named Effia, who lives in Nigera ( I believe) and she marries a man out of her will. Meaning, her family sold her to him, but it’s tradition for all women to be sold by either white men or powerful men in their village. This book is teaching me a lot about what really went on during those times. I’m only 37 pages in so I have yet to really get into the heart of the story. This book doesn’t have chapters,yet, it is based on different characters from different point of views. I look forward to continue the book and get know all of the characters.

Stay Tuned for the review!

RoseBlood by A. G Howard

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My Thoughts: For this book, it is a slow read for me. Not because it’s boring, but I don’t want to finish it fast. I LOVE Phantom Of The Opera and this re-telling is just everything right now. This book is about a musical genius ( singer) named Rune who has the gift of music inside of her. She used to sing with her father, but her mother believes she’s cursed in some way. Rune does believe in superstition and believes that she seems the phantom in her new school that is just for music majors. She believes that the school is haunted with the phantom inside. Her voice is so powerful that every time she sings, it’s like something or someone is taking over her body. She has the angel of music. I look forward to seeing if the rest of the book will hold up to the hype! Stay tuned for my review!

Book Review: Bared To You by Sylvia Day


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Title: Bared To You

Author: Sylvia Day

Pages: 334

My Copy: Paperback

My rating: 4 Stars

My Review:

This was my first time reading a book by this author. I purchased it from my local library book sale and I was amazed of the contents inside. When I realized this book was erotica, I was more intrigued because I wanted to see if the author would do erotica– the right way. Sylvia did not disappoint at all! I loved this book from beginning to end. Eva is the kind of girl that wanted something real and electrifying and she got just that. Gideon Cross is known as the ladies man, but when he spots Eva for the first time, he has to have her. I really loved Cary’s and Eva’s friendship because they both know what it’s like to need a good friend. But, Gideon however has a very ” passionate” spirit, when it comes to Eva and her passion matches his quite well. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series. If you are into sex that is raw and intensified this read is for you.

Excerpt of Chapter 1:

Chapter 1

“We should head to a bar and celebrate.”

I wasn’t surprised by my roommate’s emphatic pronouncement. Cary Taylor found excuses to celebrate, no matter how small and inconsequential. I’d always considered it part of his charm.

“I’m sure drinking the night before starting a new job is a bad idea.”

“Come on, Eva.” Cary sat on our new living room floor amid a half dozen moving boxes and flashed his winning smile. We’d been unpacking for days, yet he still looked amazing. Leanly built, dark-haired, and green-eyed, Cary was a man who rarely looked anything less than absolutely gorgeous on any day of his life. I might have resented that if he hadn’t been the dearest person on earth to me.

“I’m not talking about a bender,” he insisted. “Just a glass of wine or two. We can hit a happy hour and be in by eight.”

“I don’t know if I’ll make it back in time.” I gestured at my yoga pants and fitted workout tank. “After I time the walk to work, I’m going to hit the gym.”

“Walk fast, work out faster.” Cary’s perfectly executed arched brow made me laugh. I fully expected his million-dollar face to appear on billboards and fashion magazines all over the world one day. No matter his expression, he was a knockout.

“How about tomorrow after work?” I offered as a substitute. “If I make it through the day, that’ll be worth celebrating.”

“Deal. I’m breaking in the new kitchen for dinner.”

“Uh . . .” Cooking was one of Cary’s joys, but it wasn’t one of his talents. “Great.”

Blowing a wayward strand of hair off his face, he grinned at me. “We’ve got a kitchen most restaurants would kill for. There’s no way to screw up a meal in there.”

Dubious, I headed out with a wave, choosing to avoid a conversation about cooking. Taking the elevator down to the first floor, I smiled at the doorman when he let me out to the street with a flourish.

The moment I stepped outside, the smells and sounds of Manhattan embraced me and invited me to explore. I was not merely across the country from San Diego, but seemingly worlds away. Two major metropolises–one endlessly temperate and sensually lazy, the other teeming with life and frenetic energy. In my dreams, I’d imagined living in a walkup in Brooklyn, but being a dutiful daughter, I found myself on the Upper West Side instead. If not for Cary living with me, I would’ve been miserably lonely in the sprawling apartment that cost more per month than most people made in a year.

The doorman tipped his hat to me. “Good evening, Miss Tramell. Will you need a cab this evening?”

“No thanks, Paul.” I rocked onto the rounded heels of my fitness shoes. “I’ll be walking.”

He smiled. “It’s cooled down from this afternoon. Should be nice.”

“I’ve been told I should enjoy the June weather before it gets wicked hot.”

“Very good advice, Miss Tramell.”

Stepping out from under the modern glass entrance overhang that somehow meshed with the age of the building and its neighbors, I enjoyed the relative quiet of my tree-lined street before I reached the bustle and flow of traffic on Broadway. One day soon, I hoped to blend right in, but for now I still felt like a fraudulent New Yorker. I had the address and the job, but I was still wary of the subway and had trouble hailing cabs. I tried not to walk around wide-eyed and distracted, but it was hard. There was just so much to see and experience.

The sensory input was astonishing–the smell of vehicle exhaust mixed with food from vendor carts, the shouts of hawkers blended with music from street entertainers, the awe-inspiring range of faces and styles and accents, the gorgeous architectural wonders . . . And the cars. Jesus Christ. The frenetic flow of tightly packed cars was unlike anything I’d ever seen anywhere.

There was always an ambulance, patrol car, or fire engine trying to part the flood of yellow taxis with the electronic wail of earsplitting sirens. I was in awe of the lumbering garbage trucks that navigated tiny one-way streets and the package delivery drivers who braved the bumper-to-bumper traffic while facing rigid deadlines.

Real New Yorkers cruised right through it all, their love for the city as comfortable and familiar as a favorite pair of shoes. They didn’t view the steam billowing from potholes and vents in the sidewalks with romantic delight. They didn’t blink an eye when the ground vibrated beneath their feet as the subway roared by below, while I grinned like an idiot and flexed my toes. New York was a brand-new love affair for me. I was starry-eyed and it showed.

So I had to really work at playing it cool as I made my way over to the building where I would be working. As far as my job went, at least, I’d gotten my way. I wanted to make a living based on my own merits and that meant an entry-level position. Starting the next morning, I would be the assistant to Mark Garrity at Waters Field & Leaman, one of the preeminent advertising agencies in the United States. My stepfather, megafinancier Richard Stanton, had been annoyed when I took the job, pointing out that if I’d been less prideful I could’ve worked for a friend of his instead and reaped the benefits of that connection.

“You’re as stubborn as your father,” he’d said. “It’ll take him forever to pay off your student loans on a cop’s salary.”

That had been a major fight, with my dad unwilling to back down. “Hell if another man’s gonna pay for my daughter’s education,” Victor Reyes had said when Stanton made the offer. I respected that. I suspected Stanton did, too, although he would never admit it. I understood both men’s sides, because I’d fought to pay off the loans myself . . . and lost. It was a point of pride for my father. My mother had refused to marry him, but he’d never wavered from his determination to be my dad in every way possible.

Knowing it was pointless to get riled up over old frustrations, I focused on getting to work as quickly as possible. I’d deliberately chosen to clock the short trip during a busy time on a Monday, so I was pleased when I reached the Crossfire Building, which housed Waters Field & Leaman, in less than thirty minutes.

I tipped my head back and followed the line of the building all the way up to the slender ribbon of sky. The Crossfire was seriously impressive, a sleek spire of gleaming sapphire that pierced the clouds. I knew from my previous interviews that the interior on the other side of the ornate copper-framed revolving doors was just as awe-inspiring, with golden-veined marble floors and walls and brushed-aluminum security desk and turnstiles.

 

As I entered the building, I pulled my new ID card out of the inner pocket of my pants and held it up for the two guards in black business suits at the desk. They stopped me anyway, no doubt because I was majorly underdressed, but then they cleared me through. After I completed an elevator ride up to the twentieth floor, I’d have general time frame for the whole route from door to door. Score.

I was walking toward the bank of elevators when a svelte, beautifully groomed brunette caught her purse on a turnstile and upended it, spilling a deluge of change. Coins rained onto the marble and rolled merrily away, and I watched people dodge the chaos and keep going as if they didn’t see it. I winced in sympathy and crouched to help the woman collect her money, as did one of the guards.

“Thank you,” she said, shooting me a quick, harried smile.

I smiled back. “No problem. I’ve been there.”

I’d just squatted to reach a nickel lying near the entrance when I ran into a pair of luxurious black oxfords draped in tailored black slacks. I waited a beat for the man to move out of my way and when he didn’t, I arched my neck back to allow my line of sight to rise. The custom three-piece suit hit more than a few of my hot buttons, but it was the tall, powerfully lean body inside it that made it sensational. Still, as impressive as all that magnificent maleness was, it wasn’t until I reached the man’s face that I went down for the count.

Wow. Just . . . wow.

He sank into an elegant crouch directly in front of me. Hit with all that exquisite masculinity at eye level, I could only stare. Stunned.

Then something shifted in the air between us.

As he stared back, he altered . . . as if a shield slid away from his eyes, revealing a scorching force of will that sucked the air from my lungs. The intense magnetism he exuded grew in strength, becoming a near-tangible impression of vibrant and unrelenting power.

Reacting purely on instinct, I shifted backward. And sprawled flat on my ass.

My elbows throbbed from the violent contact with the marble floor, but I scarcely registered the pain. I was too preoccupied with staring, riveted by the man in front of me. Inky black hair framed a breathtaking face. His bone structure would make a sculptor weep with joy, while a firmly etched mouth, a blade of a nose, and intensely blue eyes made him savagely gorgeous. Those eyes narrowed slightly, his features otherwise schooled into impassivity.

His dress shirt and suit were both black, but his tie perfectly matched those brilliant irises. His eyes were shrewd and assessing, and they bored into me. My heartbeat quickened; my lips parted to accommodate faster breaths. He smelled sinfully good. Not cologne. Body wash, maybe. Or shampoo. Whatever it was, it was mouthwatering, as was he.

He held out a hand to me, exposing gold and onyx cuff links and a very expensive-looking watch.

With a shaky inhalation, I placed my hand in his. My pulse leaped when his grip tightened. His touch was electric, sending a shock up my arm that raised the hairs on my nape. He didn’t move for a moment, a frown line marring the space between arrogantly slashed brows.

“Are you all right?”

His voice was cultured and smooth, with a rasp that made my stomach flutter. It brought sex to mind. Extraordinary sex. I thought for a moment that he might be able to make me orgasm just by talking long enough.

My lips were dry, so I licked them before answering. “I’m fine.”

He stood with economical grace, pulling me up with him. We maintained eye contact because I was unable to look away. He was younger than I’d assumed at first. Younger than thirty would be my guess, but his eyes were much worldlier. Hard and sharply intelligent.

 

I felt drawn to him, as if a rope bound my waist and he were slowly, inexorably pulling it.

Blinking out of my semidaze, I released him. He wasn’t just beautiful; he was . . . enthralling. He was the kind of guy that made a woman want to rip his shirt open and watch the buttons scatter along with her inhibitions. I looked at him in his civilized, urbane, outrageously expensive suit and thought of raw, primal, sheet-clawing fucking.

He bent down and retrieved the ID card I hadn’t realized I’d dropped, freeing me from that provocative gaze. My brain stuttered back into gear.

I was irritated with myself for feeling so awkward while he was so completely self-possessed. And why? Because I was dazzled, damn it.

He glanced up at me and the pose–him nearly kneeling before me–skewed my equilibrium again. He held my gaze as he rose. “Are you sure you’re all right? You should sit down for a minute.”

My face heated. How lovely to appear awkward and clumsy in front of the most self-assured and graceful man I’d ever met. “I just lost my balance. I’m okay.”

Looking away, I caught sight of the woman who’d dumped the contents of her purse. She thanked the guard who’d helped her; then turned to approach me, apologizing profusely. I faced her and held out the handful of coins I’d collected, but her gaze snagged on the god in the suit and she promptly forgot me altogether. After a beat, I just reached over and dumped the change into the woman’s bag. Then I risked a glance at the man again, finding him watching me even as the brunette gushed thank-yous. To him. Not to me, of course, the one who’d actually helped.

I talked over her. “May I have my badge, please?”

He offered it back to me. Although I made an effort to retrieve it without touching him, his fingers brushed mine, sending that charge of awareness into me all over again.

“Thank you,” I muttered before skirting him and pushing out to the street through the revolving door. I paused on the sidewalk, gulping in a breath of New York air redolent with a million different things, some good and some toxic.

There was a sleek black Bentley SUV in front of the building and I saw my reflection in the spotless limo tinted windows. I was flushed and my gray eyes were overly bright. I’d seen that look on my face before–in the bathroom mirror just before I went to bed with a man. It was my I’m-ready-to-fuck look and it had absolutely no business being on my face now.

Christ. Get a grip.

Five minutes with Mr. Dark and Dangerous, and I was filled with an edgy, restless energy. I could still feel the pull of him, the inexplicable urge to go back inside where he was. I could make the argument that I hadn’t finished what I’d come to the Crossfire to do, but I knew I’d kick myself for it later. How many times was I going to make an ass of myself in one day?

“Enough,” I scolded myself under my breath. “Moving on.”

Horns blared as one cab darted in front of another with only inches to spare and then slammed on the brakes as daring pedestrians stepped into the intersection seconds before the light changed. Shouting ensued, a barrage of expletives and hand gestures that didn’t carry real anger behind them. In seconds all the parties would forget the exchange, which was just one beat in the natural tempo of the city.

As I melded into the flow of foot traffic and set off toward the gym, a smile teased my mouth. Ah, New York, I thought, feeling settled again. You rock.

 

I’d planned on warming up on a treadmill, then capping off the hour with a few of the machines, but when I saw that a beginners’ kickboxing class was about to start, I followed the mass of waiting students into that instead. By the time it was over, I felt more like myself. My muscles quivered with the perfect amount of fatigue, and I knew I’d sleep hard when I crashed later.

 

“You did really well.”

I wiped the sweat off my face with a towel and looked at the young man who spoke to me. Lanky and sleekly muscular, he had keen brown eyes and flawless café au lait skin. His lashes were enviably thick and long, while his head was shaved bald.

“Thank you.” My mouth twisted ruefully. “Pretty obvious it was my first time, huh?”

He grinned and held out his hand. “Parker Smith.”

“Eva Tramell.”

“You have a natural grace, Eva. With a little training you could be a literal knockout. In a city like New York, knowing self-defense is imperative.” He gestured over to a corkboard hung on the wall. It was covered in thumbtacked business cards and flyers. Tearing off a flag from the bottom of a fluorescent sheet of paper, he held it out to me. “Ever heard of Krav Maga?”

“In a Jennifer Lopez movie.”

“I teach it, and I’d love to teach you. That’s my website and the number to the studio.”

I admired his approach. It was direct, like his gaze, and his smile was genuine. I’d wondered if he was angling toward a pickup, but he was cool enough about it that I couldn’t be sure.

Parker crossed his arms, which showed off cut biceps. He wore a black sleeveless shirt and long shorts. His Converse sneakers looked comfortably beat up, and tribal tattoos peeked up from his collar. “My website has the hours. You should come by and watch, see if it’s for you.”

“I’ll definitely think about it.”

“Do that.” He extended his hand again, and his grip was solid and confident. “I hope to see you.”

 

The apartment smelled fabulous when I got back home, and Adele was crooning soulfully through the surround sound speakers about chasing pavements. I looked across the open floor plan into the kitchen and saw Cary swaying to the music while stirring something on the range. There was an open bottle of wine on the counter and two goblets, one of which was half-filled with red wine.

“Hey,” I called out as I got closer. “Whatcha cooking? And do I have time for a shower first?”

He poured wine into the other goblet and slid it across the breakfast bar to me, his movements practiced and elegant. No one would know from looking at him that he’d spent his childhood bouncing between his drug-addicted mother and foster homes, followed by adolescence in juvenile detention facilities and state-run rehabs. “Pasta with meat sauce. And hold the shower, dinner’s ready. Have fun?”

“Once I got to the gym, yeah.” I pulled out one of the teakwood bar stools and sat. I told him about the kickboxing class and Parker Smith. “Wanna go with me?”

“Krav Maga?” Cary shook his head. “That’s hard-core. I’d get all bruised up and that would cost me jobs. But I’ll go with you to check it out, just in case this guy’s a wack.”

 

I watched him dump the pasta into a waiting colander. “A wack, huh?”

My dad had taught me to read guys pretty well, which was how I’d known the god in the suit was trouble. Regular people offered token smiles when they helped someone, just to make a momentary connection that smoothed the way.

Then again, I hadn’t smiled at him either.

“Baby girl,” Cary said, pulling bowls out of the cupboard, “you’re a sexy, stunning woman. I question any man who doesn’t have the balls to ask you outright for a date.”

I wrinkled my nose at him.

He set a bowl in front of me. It contained tiny tubes of salad noodles covered in a skimpy tomato sauce with lumps of ground beef and peas. “You’ve got something on your mind. What is it?”

Hmm . . . I caught the handle of the spoon sticking out of the bowl and decided not to comment on the food. “I think I ran into the hottest man on the planet today. Maybe the hottest man in the history of the world.”

“Oh? I thought that was me. Do tell me more.” Cary stayed on the other side of the counter, preferring to stand and eat.

I watched him take a couple bites of his own concoction before I felt brave enough to try it myself. “Not much to tell, really. I ended up sprawled on my ass in the lobby of the Crossfire and he gave me a hand up.”

“Tall or short? Blond or dark? Built or lean? Eye color?”

I washed down my second bite with some wine. “Tall. Dark. Lean and built. Blue eyes. Filthy rich, judging by his clothes and accessories. And he was insanely sexy. You know how it is–some good-looking guys don’t make your hormones go crazy, while some unattractive guys have massive sex appeal. This guy had it all.”

My belly fluttered as it had when Dark and Dangerous touched me. In my mind, I remembered his breathtaking face with crystal clarity. It should be illegal for a man to be that mind-blowing. I was still recovering from the frying of my brain cells.

Cary set his elbow on the counter and leaned in, his long bangs covering one vibrant green eye. “So what happened after he helped you up?”

I shrugged. “Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“I left.”

“What? You didn’t flirt with him?”

I took another bite. Really, the meal wasn’t bad. Or else I was just starving. “He wasn’t the kind of guy you flirt with, Cary.”

 

“There is no such thing as a guy you can’t flirt with. Even the happily married ones enjoy a little harmless flirtation now and then.”

“There was nothing harmless about this guy,” I said dryly.

“Ah, one of those.” Cary nodded sagely. “Bad boys can be fun, if you don’t get too close.”

Of course he would know; men and women of all ages fell at his feet. Still, he somehow managed to pick the wrong partner every time. He’d dated stalkers, and cheaters, and lovers who threatened to kill themselves over him, and lovers with significant others they didn’t tell him about . . . Name it, he’d been through it.

“I can’t see this guy ever being fun,” I said. “He was way too intense. Still, I bet he’d be awesome in the sack with all that intensity.”

“Now you’re talking. Forget the real guy. Just use his face in your fantasies and make him perfect there.”

Preferring to get the guy out of my head altogether, I changed the subject. “You have any go-sees tomorrow?”

“Of course.” Cary launched into the details of his schedule, mentioning a jeans advertisement, self-tanner, underwear, and cologne.

I shoved everything else out of my mind and focused on him and his growing success. The demand for Cary Taylor was increasing by the day, and he was building a reputation with photographers and accounts for being both professional and prompt. I was thrilled for him and so proud. He’d come a long way and been through so much.

It wasn’t until after dinner that I noticed the two large gift boxes propped against the side of the sectional sofa.

“What are those?”

“Those,” Cary said, joining me in the living room, “are the ultimate.”

I knew immediately they were from Stanton and my mom. Money was something my mother needed to be happy and I was glad Stanton, husband number three, was able to fill that need for her and all her many others as well. I often wished that could be the end of it, but my mom had a difficult time accepting that I didn’t view money the same way she did. “What now?”

He threw his arm around my shoulders, easy enough for him to do because he was taller by five inches. “Don’t be ungrateful. He loves your mom. He loves spoiling your mom, and your mom loves spoiling you. As much as you don’t like it, he doesn’t do it for you. He does it for her.”

Sighing, I conceded his point. “What are they?”

“Glam threads for the advocacy center’s fund-raiser dinner on Saturday. A bombshell dress for you and a Brioni tux for me, because buying gifts for me is what he does for you. You’re more tolerant if you have me around to listen to you bitch.”

“Damn straight. Thank God he knows that.”

“Of course he knows. Stanton wouldn’t be a bazillionaire if he didn’t know everything.” Cary caught my hand and tugged me over. “Come on. Take a look.”

 

 

I pushed through the revolving door of the Crossfire into the lobby ten minutes before nine the next morning. Wanting to make the best impression on my first day, I’d gone with a simple sheath dress paired with black pumps that I slid on in replacement of my walking shoes on the elevator ride up. My blond hair was twisted up in an artful chignon that resembled a figure eight, courtesy of Cary. I was hair-inept, but he could create styles that were glamorous masterpieces. I wore the small pearl studs my dad had given me as a graduation gift and the Rolex from Stanton and my mother.

I had begun to think I’d put too much care into my appearance, but as I stepped into the lobby I remembered being sprawled across the floor in my workout clothes and I was grateful I didn’t look anything like that graceless girl. The two security guards didn’t seem to put two and two together when I flashed them my ID card on the way to the turnstiles.

Twenty floors later, I was exiting into the vestibule of Waters Field & Leaman. Before me was a wall of bulletproof glass that framed the double-door entrance to the reception area. The receptionist at the crescent-shaped desk saw the badge I held up to the glass. She hit the button that unlocked the doors as I put my ID away.

“Hi, Megumi,” I greeted her when I stepped inside, admiring her cranberry-colored blouse. She was mixed race, a little bit Asian for sure, and very pretty. Her hair was dark and thick, and cut into a sleek bob that was shorter in the back and razor sharp in the front. Her sloe eyes were brown and warm, and her lips were full and naturally pink.

“Eva, hi. Mark’s not in yet, but you know where you’re going, right?”

“Absolutely.” With a wave, I took the hallway to the left of the reception desk all the way to the end, where I made another left turn and ended up in a formerly open space now partitioned into cubicles. One was mine and I went straight to it.

I dropped my purse and the bag holding my walking flats into the bottom drawer of my utilitarian metal desk, then booted up my computer. I’d brought a couple of things to personalize my space, and I pulled them out. One was a framed collage of three photos–me and Cary on Coronado Beach, my mom and Stanton on his yacht in the French Riviera, and my dad on duty in his City of Oceanside, California, police cruiser. The other item was a colorful arrangement of glass flowers that Cary had given me just that morning as a “first day” gift. I tucked it beside the small grouping of photos and sat back to take in the effect.

“Good morning, Eva.”

I pushed to my feet to face my boss. “Good morning, Mr. Garrity.”

“Call me Mark, please. Come on over to my office.”

I followed him across the strip of hallway, once again thinking that my new boss was very easy to look at with his gleaming dark skin, trim goatee, and laughing brown eyes. Mark had a square jaw and a charmingly crooked smile. He was trim and fit, and he carried himself with a confident poise that inspired trust and respect.

He gestured at one of the two seats in front of his glass-and-chrome desk and waited until I sat to settle into his Aeron chair. Against the backdrop of sky and skyscrapers, Mark looked accomplished and powerful. He was, in fact, just a junior account manager and his office was a closet compared to the ones occupied by the directors and executives, but no one could fault the view.

He leaned back and smiled. “Did you get settled into your new apartment?”

I was surprised he remembered, but I appreciated it, too. I’d met him during my second interview and liked him right away.

“For the most part,” I answered. “Still a few stray boxes here and there.”

“You moved from San Diego, right? Nice city, but very different from New York. Do you miss the palm trees?”

“I miss the dry air. The humidity here is taking some getting used to.”

 

“Wait ’til summer hits.” He smiled. “So . . . it’s your first day and you’re my first assistant, so we’ll have to figure this out as we go. I’m not used to delegating, but I’m sure I’ll pick it up quick.”

I was instantly at ease. “I’m eager to be delegated to.”

“Having you around is a big step up for me, Eva. I’d like you to be happy working here. Do you drink coffee?”

“Coffee is one of my major food groups.”

“Ah, an assistant after my own heart.” His smile widened. “I’m not going to ask you to fetch coffee for me, but I wouldn’t mind if you helped me figure out how to use the new one-cup coffee brewers they just put in the break rooms.”

I grinned. “No problem.”

“How sad is it that I don’t have anything else for you?” He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Why don’t I show you the accounts I’m working on and we’ll go from there?”

 

The rest of the day passed in a blur. Mark touched bases with two clients and had a long meeting with the creative team working on concept ideas for a trade school. It was a fascinating process seeing firsthand how the various departments picked up the baton from each other to carry a campaign from proposition to fruition. I might’ve stayed late just to get a better feel of the layout of the offices, but my phone rang at ten minutes to five.

“Mark Garrity’s office. Eva Tramell speaking.”

“Get your ass home so we can go out for the drink you rain-checked on yesterday.”

Cary’s mock sternness made me smile. “All right, all right. I’m coming.”

Shutting down my computer, I cleared out. When I reached the bank of elevators, I pulled out my cell to text a quick On my way note to Cary. A ding alerted me to which car was stopping on my floor and I moved over to stand in front of it, briefly returning my attention to hitting the send button. When the doors opened, I took a step forward. I glanced up to watch where I was going and blue eyes met mine. My breath caught.

The sex god was the lone occupant.