Jun 072021
 

Takedown (A Tapped Out Novella #1.5) by Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott

I’m not giving up until she’s mine, forever.
Walking away from being a SEAL—and the injury that led to my discharge—didn’t scar me nearly as much as knocking on my estranged baby brother’s door and finding my ex, Abby, on the other side. And naturally, she’s every bit as beautiful as she was when we broke up a couple of years ago. I’d never wanted to let her go, and now that she’s standing in front of me with the wreckage of my former life behind me, I’m ready to fight for my woman.

No matter what it takes.

But Abby is understandably gun-shy, though she claims she’s only platonically living with my brother. Turns out I only have one weekend to prove that I’m the man she needs. Forever.

Good thing I’m up for the job. In every way.

Author’s note: Takedown is book 1.5 in the Tapped Out MMA series and is a novella with a happily ever after ending and no cliffhanger. Previously released by Cari Quinn in the Hot Ink anthology in 2014.

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Jun 072021
 

Knockout (Tapped Out Book 4) by Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott

She’s forbidden to me…and so is he. Too bad I want them both.
MMA fighters are supposed to leave it all in the ring. But I have a secret. Two secrets, actually.

Secret #1: I can’t deny the simmering attraction I feel toward Lily, the sweetly innocent daughter of an overprotective cop who is like a second father to me. And Lily’s friend JC? Freaking A, he’s hot. He also just happens to be renovating the gym I train at and is always walking around shirtless and sweaty.

Secret #2: I love women. I love men just as much. Once I get an unforgettable taste of both Lily and JC, I’m addicted. One night turns into more, and soon I’m ready to walk away from everything just so I don’t have to give up either of them.

Now with all of my secrets coming to a head, the only question left is how much I’m willing to lose.

Author’s note: Lots of boy-on-boy—and boy-on-girl—touching ahead. Knockout is book 4 in the Tapped Out MMA series and is a short novel with a happily ever after ending and no cliffhanger. Previously released by Cari Quinn in the Hunks, Hammers and HEAs anthology in 2015.

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Jun 072021
 

On the Ropes (Tapped Out Book 3) by Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott

I’m willing to die for vengeance. Until she gives me a reason to live…
I’m a rising star in New York City’s underground MMA scene. I’m winning all my matches, and I can have any woman I choose.

Except the one who was lost to me, and now, the one I want but can never allow myself to have.

Carly Anderson is gorgeous and funny and seductive. She isn’t shy about letting me know she’s interested. But she’s far too innocent for me to taint with the sins of my past—and my present.

In the circles I run in, a bullet can take you out at any time. My father and older brother embraced the dark, dangerous world of the mafia that I turned away from, until the person I loved most was caught in the crossfire between our warring families.

I made a choice to avenge her death, fully aware I likely won’t come out alive. I’ve embraced the life I now live. And if it ends me, so be it.

But I never expected Carly would have to pay my debts—and her sister’s.

Author’s note: On The Ropes is a full-length MMA romantic suspense novel with a happily ever after ending and no cliffhanger, though it contains violent material that may be triggering. It was previously published by Cari Quinn in 2015 and has been lightly re-edited.

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Jun 072021
 

Sneak Attack (Tapped Out Book 2) by Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott

My girl thought she’d fought for the last time. She was wrong.
Not long ago, I was known as “Fox” Knox, king of the fighters in New York City’s underground MMA scene. MMA was my life, until Mia came into it with her bravado and her fists raised, ready to fight me.

Then our clothes came off, and the real fight begun. To build a life out of the ashes of our pasts, together.

We both walked away from MMA, but I know it still calls to her. And now something—or someone—else is as well, and she won’t talk to me about what’s going on. I’m ready to slay any demon she has, except the one she refuses to share.

And that might be the one who takes us down. For good.

Author’s note: Sneak Attack is a full-length MMA romantic suspense novel with a happily ever after ending and no cliffhanger, though it contains violent material that may be triggering. It was previously published by Cari Quinn in 2015 and has been lightly re-edited.

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Jun 072021
 

Shadowboxer (Tapped Out Book 1) by Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott

I’m in for the fight of my life…with the man who only wants to be my lover.

I’ve faced the darkest parts of life and survived. But now I’m starting a new life with my baby sister. And that means I need cash.

Quick.

To get the money I need, I’m going to beat the reigning king of the male fighters in New York’s underground MMA circuit, Tray “Fox” Knox.

Tray refuses to fight a woman, until he learns I’m not what he expected. At all.

Then he makes me a bet I can’t refuse. He’ll fight me, but if he wins, I will spend the night in his bed.

All night long, his rules. No tapping out.

I agree, certain he will lose. Because I have to win. I have no choice.

What I didn’t realize is that Tray loves to fight dirty…and that this match may end up being the most important one of our lives.

Author’s note: Shadowboxer is a full-length MMA novel and is book 1 in the Tapped Out MMA series. It has a happily ever after ending and no cliffhanger, though it contains violent material that may be triggering. It was previously published by Cari Quinn in 2014 and has been lightly re-edited.

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Apr 202021
 

Stone Cold (The Heavy Hitters Series #2) by M. A. Lee

After his scandalous fight with Mad Max, Stone was banned from the professional fighting world. Turning to a wild and reckless life filled with women, alcohol, and drugs, Stone thought that his life was officially over. With nowhere left to go, Stone takes a job as a bouncer in a Las Vegas Club.

Ember grew up in a trailer park in the middle of nowhere. Once she graduated high school, she took off for the big city lights of Las Vegas and never looked back. She has no idea what she wants out of life yet, but she knows she will never go back to the world she left behind.

One night, after a couple of customers get a little too rowdy in the bar, Ember finds herself being saved by the last man she ever would have expected– Stone Cold, the infamous bad boy fighter who was shunned from the MMA fighting world. When their eyes lock, both Stone and Ember realize there’s more to the other than they ever could have imagined. Ember see’s strength in Stone and he finds hope in Ember.

Will they be able to save one another and help build the lives they are both destined for?

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 20 April 2021  Posted by  Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
Apr 032021
 

Sick Heart by JA Huss
DARK MMA FIGHTER ROMANCE

Cort van Breda has won 35 death matches as a fighter in an MMA circuit so deep underground there are no rules and only the winner gets out alive.
They call him the Sick Heart.
They say he’s a shameless monster.
They say he’s a ruthless killer.
They say he’s as twisted as the man who owns him.
They say a lot of things about Cort van Breda.
But in our world violence is money, and money is winning, and winning is life, and life is the only thing that matters.
Except… he wasn’t meant to win that last fight.
And I wasn’t meant to be his prize.
But he did.
And I am.
And now his sick heart owns me.

WARNING: This is a sweet love story adrift in an ocean of evil. It is about two survivors dealing with their darkest secrets while they fight to change their lives. It is for mature readers only and has descriptions of deeply disturbing situations. There will be pearl clutching.

Excerpt Sick Heart by JA Huss
I put one hand up and slowly sign, Talk to me. It’s an easy sign and she gets it, because she goes tense again, then shakes her head no. But then she repeats my signs back with modifications, pointing at me, tapping her chin with a sideways hand, and then pointing to herself. You talk to me.
I already did.
She shakes her head and makes a sign for ‘whisper.’
And now it’s my turn to go tense and just stare at her for a moment.
Because she got it right. The sign is ‘talk,’ but if your other hand is cupped on the side of your mouth, it means ‘whisper.’ Like you’re gonna whisper in someone’s ear.
Did she just… I squint at her and she frowns in response. Has she taught herself sign language?
That’s not possible. Not this fast. It hasn’t even been a week.
Then whisper to me, I sign.
She shakes her head again. And then she touches my lips with the edge of her fingertips and slowly drags them up my cheek before pulling away.
‘Kiss.’ That was the sign for ‘kiss.’
She wants me to kiss her.
I know this is a distraction. I know who I’m dealing with. A girl who has been silent so long, no one remembers her last spoken words. A girl who should be dead, but isn’t. A girl who should be anywhere but here with me, but is. A girl who four days ago didn’t know a single bit of sign language, and now knows enough to stun me silent.
So I should really know better.
I should push her. Keep going. Because I could make her talk. I know I could.
But then she leans towards me. And we’re not that far apart, so that kiss she just asked for is now an absolute guarantee.
Our lips touch and just… linger there for a breath.
And so many things go through my mind in that breath. I want to resist her offer. Push her down, roll over, and forget where I’m at and who I’m with.
But that’s just fucking stupid. I like this girl. A lot.
I want to kiss her.
And all those other thoughts earlier about not wanting sex… well. This seems like more than sex. So that’s something I am interested in.
When our lips touch everything that happens next—whether it’s today, tomorrow, or next year—everything that happens next is preordained. And there’s no way to stop it.
I cup my hands around her face, my thumbs caressing small circles on her cheeks as her mouth opens and her tongue touches mine.
There is maybe one more moment. One more chance to stop the car crash that’s coming, but it’s such a small moment, so short and tiny, it barely exists.
And what comes next is pure lust.
I open my mouth, kiss her hard. Bite her lip, grab her breasts as I drop my full weight over her.
She kisses me back. But her kiss isn’t urgent, like mine. It’s soft. And even though we’re stained with salt water, and sweat, and the wind, she tastes so sweet, I want this kiss to last forever.

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 3 April 2021  Posted by  Tagged with: , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Feb 242021
 

Finn: The Heights Saga by E. M. Moore

Everyone in the Heights knows fairy tales are fake.

There’s no happily-ever-after, there’s just making the best of what you got. But what if that isn’t the case for me?

First, my brother returns. Sure, he’s come back changed. A ferocious leader, a hardened gangster, but most importantly, an overbearing, overprotective, ass. But hey, he’s alive.

Something I couldn’t be more thrilled about until he ruins my love life, practically repelling men away with his signature glower.

His constant warnings don’t work on Finn though.

The badass—yet somehow adorably sexy—MMA trainer puts up with my brother’s attitude to protect me from being used as a pawn in the Dragon’s world. Keeping me safe from this new threat is the only thing they can agree on.

But just how far is Finn willing to go?

A girl needs answers because I’m ready to be swept away in my own treacherous version of a love story…

After all, Cinderella’s shoes aren’t made for the Heights, but I’d take a combat boot any day.

♥♥♥

FINN is a full-length new adult romance standalone with MMA and gang themes. It takes place in the same world as Erin’s The Heights Crew series, bringing to life a beloved side character. You do not have to read The Heights Crew before reading this book.

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Oct 192020
 

Fighting for Us (Love is Worth Fighting For Book 1) by Bella Emy

In this steamy holiday romance, can an MMA, ex-Navy SEAL, single dad find love again? Can a brokenhearted young woman believe happily ever afters don’t only exist in books?

LORENZO
I had it all.
A wonderful family with a loving wife who was my world and a beautiful baby girl.
I didn’t need anything more to be rich in my eyes.
Then one day, everything changed and my world was ripped apart.
My wife, my everything, was taken from me, and I was left alone to raise our baby girl.
I was forced from late night sessions at the gym to changing diapers all by myself.
Thank God for the help I received from my parents and siblings or I would have been lost.
I accepted my fate of being alone with my baby girl and living life with just us two…
Until the day I met her, and she became everything worth fighting for.

CARISSA
Life was so perfect.
A loving fiancé, wonderful friends and family, and a job I adored.
Until one day, my world was turned upside down and the man I loved threw the promise of forever down the drain and walked out of my life.
The day he walked out of my door, I knew that everything I had ever grown up to believe in was a lie.
Love is unconditional but love sure as hell doesn’t last forever.
The vow to love me for the rest of our lives ended quickly as he pulled away from me, and buried himself in the arms of his ex.
I was left alone, cursing the male species and everyone who had found their happily ever after.
My sister and my best friend were the only ones there for me…
Until the day I met him, and he became everything worth fighting for.

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 19 October 2020  Posted by  Tagged with: , , , , ,  No Responses »
Aug 292020
 

Playing With Fire by L.J. Shen

A broken boy on the path to destruction.
A scarred girl without direction.
A love story carved in secrets, inked with pain and sealed with a lie.

Grace Shaw and West St. Claire are arctic opposites.
She is the strange girl from the food truck.
He is the mysterious underground fighter who stormed into her sleepy Texan college town on his motorcycle one day, and has been wreaking havoc since.
She is invisible to the world.
He is the town’s beloved bad boy.
She is a reject.
He is trouble.
When West thrusts himself into Grace’s quiet life, she scrambles to figure out if he is her happily-ever-after or tragic ending.
But the harder she pushes him away, the more he pulls her out of her shell.
Grace doesn’t know much about anything beyond her town’s limits, but she does know this:
She is falling in love with the hottest guy in Sheridan U.
And when you play with fire—you ought to get burned.
Expected publication: September 15th 2020

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Apr 262020
 

Reckless Love (Hard to Love #2) by Kendall Ryan

One reckless fighter.

One night of passion he can’t forget.

The battle between sex and love is fierce and unrelenting.

And love is about to knock him on his ass.

Reckless Love can be read as a standalone novel, but is a follow up to the New York Times and USA Today bestseller Hard to Love.

Long Version:

Cage fighting always came first for him…
Ian’s life is full of sacrifice. His intense training schedule means brutal workouts, no drinking, and worst of all, no pussy. But it’s all worth it because he’s about to go pro. When a tempting young nurse starts working at his gym, he can’t escape the dirty desires clouding his mind, and it’s driving him crazy. He’d love a taste, but he needs his focus now more than ever.

She’s kept her heart on maximum-security lockdown…
Growing up in foster care, MacKenzie learned early on that love was something other people experienced, something she’d seen but never felt. When she meets sexy cage fighter, Ian, she expects nothing more than a one-night stand, but he walks away before they seal the deal. Now she’d like to forget the night they almost hooked up. But she’s just taken a job working at his gym, and despite her efforts to move on, his allure is overpowering. When Ian gets injured, they begin working together on his rehabilitation, and their one-on-one physical therapy sessions are so hot they sizzle, leaving them both desperate for more contact.
The battle for their love is about to become a fight to the finish.

Excerpt Reckless Love (Hard to Love #2) by Kendall Ryan

His touch awakened a need in me, one I’d been desperate to suppress, and I leaned into his warm palm. His touch felt so good, so right, that I struggled to comprehend why I’d been holding myself back from this for so long. I stepped closer.

His gaze moved between my lips and my eyes. “What about Chris?”

I shook my head, my bold gaze not straying from his. If only he knew the truth. “What about him?”

“Fuck it.”

Ian curled a rough palm around the back of my neck and guided my mouth to his. His lips barely brushed against mine. His overt strength took a back seat, and the gentleness of his touch surprised me. His hot breath whispered across my skin, causing little tingles of heat to crackle along my skin and down my spine, pooling low in my belly.

A tiny whimper escaped my throat. I needed more. When his tongue lightly brushed against my lower lip, I opened for him. His tongue flicked along mine, dampening my panties and sweeping away all my good sense.

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 26 April 2020  Posted by  Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
Jul 132019
 

Fighting Solitude (On the Ropes #3) By Aly Martinez

I was born a fighter. Abandoned by my parents, I spent my life forging my own path—one guided by my fists and paved with pain.

Untouchable in the ring, I destroyed everyone who faced me, but that’s where my victories ended. Outside the ropes, I repeatedly failed the few people who loved me. Including my best friend, Liv James—the one person I’d die to protect.

Even though I didn’t deserve her, Liv never stopped believing in me. Never gave up. Never let go. After all, she understood what I’d lost, because she’d lost it too.

Liv was everything to me, but she was never truly mine.

That was going to change.

I lost my first love, but I refused to lose my soulmate.

Now, I’m on the ropes during the toughest battles of my life.
Fighting to be the man she deserves.
Fighting the solitude of our pasts.
Fighting for her.

Excerpt Fighting Solitude (On the Ropes #3) By Aly Martinez

“Mia!” I shouted.
It was worthless. She’d been deaf since the day I met her. She’d never once heard my voice.
She’d never heard the deep rumble of my laugh when she was excited, signing so fast I could barely keep up.
She’d never heard my content sigh when she barged into the locker room after a fight—just her presence soothed the lingering madness brewing within me.
She’d never heard me whispering my deepest fears into her ear as she fell asleep on top of me.
She’d never heard the reverence in which I cried her name each and every time I took her body.
And she’d never once heard the ease in which the words I love youtumbled from my lips as I stared into her deep, jade green eyes.
But as I screamed her name while watching her petite body seizing in the passenger seat beside me, I’d never needed her to hear me more.
“Mia. Oh God. I’ve got you, baby.”
She was still thrashing violently as I made my way around to her door, yanking it open while pleading with whatever god was willing to help.
When she stilled, a whole new level of silence filled the air around us. It wasn’t the absence of sound.
It was the absence of life.
“Mia, breathe!” I roared as her chest remained agonizingly still. “Help me!” I screamed at the closed emergency room doors, but no medical savior rushed out with the miracle I so desperately needed.
My hands shook wildly as I released her lifeless body from the seatbelt.
“I’ve got you, just hang on. Please just hang on, Mia,” I whispered lifting her into my arms and sprinting through the sliding doors. “I need a doctor! She’s not breathing!”
Nurses rushed towards me in slow motion as the seconds without air in her lungs passed at a terrifying speed.
Breathe.
A doctor appeared with a gurney and quickly took her from my arms.
The immediate loss was staggering.
Hope became my only solace.
She needed help that I wasn’t capable of giving her, but that didn’t stop me from following close behind as they rolled her away. I was on the verge of self-destructing; letting her out of my sight wasn’t an option.
I stood motionless in the doorway while doctors and nurses swarmed around her. Their mouths moved frantically, but without my hearing aids I was worthless to make out the words their faint voices carried. I never wore my hearing aids when I was with Mia. There was no point.
She rarely spoke with her voice. We’d spent four years building a relationship with our hands. Those hands had told me animated stories that made me laugh until my face hurt from smiling. They’d fought with me relentlessly, but always ended the night raking down my back in silent ecstasy. Her fingers had fluidly signed I love you more times than I could ever count—or forget.
But as I felt the nurse attempting to physically remove me from the room, my eyes became fixated on her limp hand dangling off the side of the bed. It was the only sight more frightening than watching her flail mid-seizure.
It ripped the heart straight from my chest.
That hand was supposed to be full of life.
It was the very essence of Mia.
Pale.
White.
Still.
Oh God.
Sucking in a deep breath, I held it until the room began to spin.
It provided me no relief even as it forced me to my knees.
There would be no distraction from this.
I was going to lose her.
Yet another woman I couldn’t save.

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 13 July 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Jul 132019
 

Fighting Shadows (On the Ropes #2) by Aly Martinez

*This is a series of interconnected standalones.*

I come from a family of fighters. I always thought I’d follow in their shadows, becoming unstoppable in the ring. That changed the day I saved the life of a woman I loved, but could never have.

My brother hailed me as a hero, and my reward was a wheelchair.

Paralyzed, my life became an inescapable nightmare.

Until I met her.

Ash Mabie had a heart-stopping smile and a laugh that numbed the rage and resentment brewing inside of me. She showed me that even the darkest night still had stars, and it didn’t matter one bit that you had to lie in the weeds to see them.

I was a jaded asshole who fell for a girl with a knack for running away. I couldn’t even walk but I would have spent a lifetime chasing her.

Now, I’m on the ropes during the toughest battles of my life.
Fighting the shadows of our past.
Fighting to reclaim my future.
Fighting for her.

Excerpt Fighting Shadows (On the Ropes #2) by Aly Martinez

Chapter One
Flint
I remembered it all.
I heard the gun.
I felt the bullet.
I saw her fall.
In less than a second, my life as I knew it was over.
But, unquestionably, I would do it all over again.
For her.
“Flint!” Eliza cried from underneath me.
It wasn’t the way I had dreamed of at least a million times over the years. Her voice hadn’t broken in ecstasy. She hadn’t called my name as I’d been claiming her as my own, nor was it followed by confessions of love and declarations of forever. Instead, there was a sharp ringing in my ears and a tsunami of tears welling in her deep-blue eyes.
My heart was already pounding, but the earth-shattering pain on her face spiked my pulse even higher. I knew I had been hit, but that wasn’t what scared me.
“Are you hurt?” I rushed out.
“I’m fine,” she choked around a sob. As much as I hated to see her cry, the weight of my world disappeared with only two words.
“Are you sure?” I studied her, but she was focused on something else completely.
Peering over my shoulder, she lifted her hand off my back. Blood dripped from her fingertips to the floor.
“Oh God!” she exploded, scrambling from under me.
“I’m okay,” I tried to reassure her, but as I attempted to push up off the floor, I knew my words were in vain. I was nowhere near fine. “I’m…” I started, but the thought was stolen from my tongue. Pain overtook me, causing me to collapse face first to the ground where Eliza had just been lying.
I desperately tried to keep myself from passing out, but it was a battle I was quickly losing.
“Flint. Stay with me. Just hang on, please,” she said calmly, kneeling beside me. But as soon as she sat up, her true emotions were revealed. “Help him!” she cried. “Please, God, someone help him!”
My mind was drifting, rendering me unable to focus, but even amongst the chaos of Eliza pleading for help and security rushing into the room, I somehow homed in on the announcer’s voice on the television blaring in the background.
“I really expected more from Till Page in the ring tonight,” he said.
It was then that I was reminded of a pain far worse than any bullet could inflict.
Till.
Her husband.
The father of her unborn child.
My brother.
He deserved her, but damn it, so did I.
My eyes never left hers as her screams drifted into silence.
***
I awoke to a searing pain in my back, and panic immediately flooded my thoughts.
“Eliza!” I screamed as loudly as I could, but it came out as nothing more than a gurgle.
“I’m right here.” She appeared at my side. “Oh God, Flint. Don’t do that again. You have to stay awake.” She began smoothing my hair down.
“Eliza,” I repeated when further coherent thoughts failed me. I was terrified—I knew that much. But my mind fought to catch up and answer the why. “Are…are you hurt?”
“No. I’m fine,” she assured me, leaning down and kissing my temple—a gesture I would have killed to be able to return.
Instead, I blindly reached out to the side, searching for her hand. “Stay with me.”
Firmly grasping my palm, she vowed, “I won’t leave you, Flint. I swear.”
If only she’d meant those words in the way I would have liked. However, right then, as I lay facedown, bleeding on the carpet of an upscale Vegas hotel floor with a bullet in my back, I would take it.
It wasn’t enough.
But it would have to be.
She isn’t mine.
She never was.
As she whispered soothing words into my ear, I went willingly into the darkness.
***
I slowly roused back to consciousness. I couldn’t quite figure out where I was or why my throat felt like I had swallowed a truckload full of burning embers. Even through my grogginess, I could feel an ache in my back. It wasn’t until I spoke that I realized how fucked I truly was.
“Ewliz.” What the hell? “Elyz.”
“Oh thank God!” Eliza cried, suddenly appearing at my side.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I tried to pry my eyes open, needing nothing more than a glimpse of her dark blues. They held no superpowers, but I still believed they could heal me with a single glance. Hell, just knowing she was there with me worked miracles.
I tried to fight, but I couldn’t seem to convince my eyelids that light wasn’t the source of all evil.
“Shh. It’s okay. Just relax,” she whispered, reading my struggle. “Are you hurting? Do you need more pain medicine?”
“Nup. Juz you,” I said drunkenly.
“What’s wrong with him? Why can’t he talk?” Quarry whimpered from somewhere nearby.
I’d never forget how he sounded in that moment. His voice shook like that of the frightened child he never got to be. He might have only been thirteen, but he hadn’t been a boy in a long time. Just like Till and me, he’d been forced to grow up too soon. Hearing the inflection of fear in his voice cleared my groggy mind.
“Em good, Q,” I slurred on a laugh, even though nothing was remotely humorous about the situation.
I was lying facedown on a hospital bed, drugged out of my fucking mind, and pining over my brother’s pregnant wife. The same woman who was the closest thing to a real mother I’d ever known. The levels of fucked-up could not even be described.
On second thought, maybe laughing really was the right response.
My brother, Till, was quite possibly the best man I had ever met. He was only six years older than I was, but as far as I was concerned, he had always been a father to me. Lord knows that the man’s DNA I carried was not. My mother was a work of art, but my father was in a category all of his own. Clay Page was the reason I was lying in that bed and recovering from a bullet in the back, the reason Till had almost lost his wife and unborn daughter, and the reason Quarry had almost been kidnapped.
All I had left in life were my brothers, and in turn, I had Eliza.
If I could have been half the man Till was, I would’ve been better than ninety-nine percent of the male population walking the planet. God, I wanted to be as selfless as he was. But I wasn’t even close. Instead, over the years, I’d become increasingly jealous of his life and the way Eliza loved him. Sure, they had their fair share of problems, but they always weathered the storm together, never wavering in their devotion to each other. Only a year earlier, my older brother had suddenly lost his hearing—something that would have easily sent a lesser woman running for the hills. But not Eliza. She gave him unconditional love, and it stung so fucking much to watch her give it to him.
The older I became, the more I found myself consumed by guilt and anger. Guilt because no two people had ever deserved each other more. And anger because, despite knowing that, I wanted to shove my brother out of the picture completely. I wanted to own Eliza Reynolds Page in every possible way, but especially in the way where she never left me and loved me forever.
I wanted the comfort and security only she could offer me.
“Eliza?” I called as I went back to battle against my eyelids and was finally victorious. I was greeted by the sight of Till holding her tight, his arms folded around her swollen stomach.
“Hey, bud,” he cooed, visible relief washing over his face.
But I didn’t have eyes for him. Eliza stood in his arms with tears flowing in a steady stream down her cheeks.
My lips twitched in the most unlikely of smiles.
She always cries.
“You ’kay?” I mumbled.
“I am. Thanks to you.” She took a step forward, joining our hands.
I laughed, using our linked knuckles to rub her belly. “How’s ma baby?”
“What’d he say?” Till asked.
Eliza removed her hands from mine long enough to translate for him through sign language.
I attempted to roll over so I could have the use of my hands to communicate with him, but I was stilled by the sudden shouts.
“No!” they yelled as I tried to push up on the bed.
“You can’t move… I, um, I mean you shouldn’t move.” Eliza squatted down in front of me.
I lifted a hand to wipe her tears away. Her eyes were red and puffy, but as she brushed my short hair off my forehead, she’d never looked more beautiful. Her fingertips trailed over my skin, soothing my aches from the outside in.
“Let’s get you some more pain medicine.” She grabbed a red button off the corner of my bed and pressed it repeatedly.
I wasn’t in any real pain, but within seconds, my entire body relaxed even further.
She remained squatting in front of me, and her tears began to dry while she whispered soothing words I couldn’t quite make out among the myriad of beeping monitors. It didn’t matter what she was saying though.
She was there.
With me.
For me.
My vision was blurry, but time stood still as I stared into her eyes and slurred the words I had absolutely no business saying.
I had been harboring them for years. But no matter how I tried, no amount of time made them right.
“I love you, Eliza. Soooooo. Fuuucking. Mush.”
Even drugged out of my mind, I knew that my admission was going to do more harm than good, but that didn’t slow the words—or the pain.
Maybe, if I just told her how I felt, I could let it go. Move on to a day when I wasn’t teased by the unattainable. It was a grand idea, but fruition was a different story.
She replied, “I love you too,” but I knew she didn’t understand.
In that second though, I needed her to understand. It wasn’t a choice.
For her.
Or me.
“No. I loooove you.” I exaggerated the word but not the truth.
“Shh,” she whispered, resting her hand on my cheek. “I love you too, Flint. We all do. Just go to sleep.”
We all do.
They wouldn’t after I was done. I was sober enough to realize that.
“No. Lizen to me. I…love you. Like Till loves you. Like…I-want-to-have-sex-with-you love you. Really. Gud. Sex.” I laughed.
“Oh fuck,” Quarry groaned.
“And marry you, and…” I stopped to lick my dry lips before spewing the ultimate slap to my brother’s deaf ears. “That should be my baby, not his.”
“Oh fuck,” Quarry repeated.
“Uhh…um…” Eliza stuttered, looking up at Till, who was standing only a few feet away.
“What? What’d he say?” Till asked, stepping forward.
“I said I’m in love with your wife!” I yelled for some unexplainable reason.
Well, maybe only unexplainable to them; I understood my frustrations completely.
Till needed the chance to hate me. He had given me everything in life and provided for me even when he’d had to sacrifice himself. I owed him the truth about the way I felt about his wife. Regardless that it proved what a dirt bag I truly was.
I lifted my one free hand in the air and began to sign out the letters, but Quarry stepped between Eliza and me and forced my hand against the bed.
“Yep. That’s enough. Go to sleep, asshole.”
“He needs ta know. Tell him fur me.”
Quarry lifted his hands and signed to Till without words. He said he loves us all, and then he got all weepy and called Eliza mommy. I’m just trying to keep him from embarrassing himself. That’s all.
“Dat’s bullshit,” I replied when he finished.
“We love you too, Flint. Get some rest,” Till said, folding his arms across his chest, not buying into Quarry’s explanation.
“No! I said, ‘I love her.’ Eliza.” I began to point in her direction, but Quarry once again slapped my hand down.
Turning his back on Till, he leaned into my face. “Shut your goddamn mouth. I’m trying to help you here.”
“I love her,” I repeated for the umpteenth time.
Eliza wedged her way back to my side. “No, you don’t. You’re just drugged up right now, Flint.”
“Bullshit,” I declared adamantly.
Drugs didn’t cause the way I felt any more than they could fix it. I’d have been a junkie long ago if there were something that could’ve quelled the burning in my chest every time I saw her with Till.
“This isn’t somethin’ new, Eliza. I think about you when—” I’d started to spill all of my embarrassing secrets when Quarry’s hand slammed over my mouth.
“I said, ‘Shut the fuck up,’” he seethed.
“Stop cussing,” I mumbled from behind his hand.
He looked to Eliza. “Can you press that button again? Maybe see if he’ll pass out.”
“What the hell is going on?” Till snapped from behind us, losing his cool with being in the dark.
Nothing. He’s acting like a bitch. Just doing my job as his little brother to protect his manhood… or something like that, Quarry signed then flashed Till a tight grin.
“No, I—” I started, and his hand once again landed over my mouth.
Quarry gave Eliza an impatient glare.
“He has a few more minutes before the pain pump will give him any more meds,” she answered, frazzled by my confession.
And just that small reaction to my admission hurt more than whatever the hell was happening on my back.
“Well, I’ll just keep my hand right here until it’s time,” Quarry hissed at Eliza.
“Um, I’m gonna step out and get some water,” she announced uncomfortably.
“Eliza, wait,” I tried to shout, but Quarry wasn’t lying about not removing his hand. “Get off me.” I weakly swatted it away.
Glancing back at Till, he lifted a finger in the air to signal one second. Then he turned back to me. “Shut up. Shut up. Shut. Up. You’re in love with her, fine. Now, shut up.”
“Not until he knows,” I replied.
“Go to sleep, Flint. If you still want to make this mistake when you wake up, I’ll sign it out to him myself.” He urged me with a hard stare.
I was tired. Sleep didn’t exactly sound like torture. I’d been sitting on my feelings for Eliza since I was twelve. What was one more night?
“I would take her from him,” I declared as my lids began to droop.
Quarry busted out laughing. “Then, when you wake up, I’ll sign out your warning. Oh, look! Time’s up.” He grabbed the red button and gave it a push.
I moaned as the glorious burn of the medication hit my vein.
“Thank God,” he breathed as I drifted off to sleep.
When I awoke some hours later, my determination to tell Till had fortunately disappeared.
Unfortunately, so had my desire for Eliza to know.
But the truth was out.
As the embarrassment set in, I tried to convince myself that maybe it was for the best that she knew how I felt.
It wasn’t.
It was a hell of a lot worse.

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 13 July 2019  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Jul 132019
 

Fighting Silence (On the Ropes #1) by Aly Martinez

Sound is an abstract concept for most people. We spend our lives blocking out the static in order to focus on what we believe is important. But what if, when the clarity fades into silence, it’s the obscure background noise that you would give anything to hold on to?

I’ve always been a fighter. With parents who barely managed to stay out of jail and two little brothers who narrowly avoided foster care, I became skilled at dodging the punches life threw at me. Growing up, I didn’t have anything I could call my own, but from the moment I met Eliza Reynolds, she was always mine. I became utterly addicted to her and the escape from reality we provided each other. Throughout the years, she had boyfriends and I had girlfriends, but there wasn’t a single night that I didn’t hear her voice.

You see, meeting the love of my life at age thirteen was never part of my plan. However, neither was gradually going deaf at the age of twenty-one.

They both happened anyway.

Now, I’m on the ropes during the toughest battles of my life.
Fighting for my career.
Fighting the impending silence.
Fighting for her.

Every night, just before falling asleep, she sighs as a final conscious breath leaves her.

I think that’s the sound I’ll miss the most.

Each book in this series can be read as a standalone.

Excerpt Fighting Silence (On the Ropes #1) by Aly Martinez

“I swear to fucking God,” I snarled as I stomped a pattern around Eliza’s hospital room. She had just been wheeled out, but my anger and anxiety filled the room in her absence.
“Calm. Down,” Slate said from the doorway. “It’s no big deal. I’ll get it back.”
“Fuck you.”
“You’re welcome. Now, get your shit together and remember who the hell you are talking to.”
Eliza didn’t have insurance, and she had freaked when the doctor told her that he wanted to run a CAT scan because of the trauma to her face and head. She’d flat-out refused, spouting off some crap about not going into debt by racking up a huge hospital bill she’d eventually have to pay. She’d sworn she was okay, but I’d absolutely not been anything even resembling okay.
So I’d lost it. I’d snapped at her like a fucking asshole. Then I’d shouted at the doctor for reasons that didn’t even make sense. In turn, he threatened to call security, which only pissed me off more. It was a clusterfuck in that room until Slate came in and physically pinned me against the wall. While I was trying to get my shit under control, Erica was apparently informing administration that she and Slate would be financially responsible for Eliza’s hospital visit. While I was relieved as they wheeled her out of the room, I was sick and fucking tired of feeling like a broke-ass, worthless dick all the time. As it often was, my anger was aimed in the wrong place, and Slate was the only man in the room.
“Get my shit together?” My heart pounded in my chest, and every muscle in my body strained under the mounting stress. “I’d like to see how the hell you’d react if Erica looked like that and there wasn’t a fucking thing in the world you could do to help her.”
Slate’s eyes turned dark as his jaw clenched. “It was different. But I’ve been there,” he stated matter-of-factly. “It was the worst day of my life. I wasn’t even the one who got to make the piece of shit pay either. But honestly, Till, sometimes you have to accept that it’s not the way things get done or who does them. As long as, in the end, they are done. She’s getting that CAT scan right now, and you can sleep easy tonight knowing that she’s okay. It doesn’t matter one bit who signs the check that pays for that kind of peace of mind.”
“It matters to me. You have no fucking idea how it feels to be so goddamn helpless all the time. I can’t do this anymore. I’ve only truly had her for less then twenty-four hours and I’ve already failed to fucking protecting her and provide for her. My boxing trainer had to pay for her medical bills. It’s embarrassing!”
“It’s only embarrassing if you let it be.” He shrugged and settled into the chair next to the door.
I continued to pace. I couldn’t get over the heavy weight of failure compressing my chest. “Why the fuck would she want to settle for someone like me? I failed out of high school. I work sixty-three hours a week for minimum wage so that I can barely pay the bills on a shithole apartment. For fuck’s sake, I have two brothers I want to give the world, but last week, she had to buy us groceries. Oh, and there is always that fun fact that I’m going deaf. One day, she really will have to take care of me! I can’t handle knowing that she has to settle for a future filled with struggles just to be with me. I love her. I really fucking do. But at what point do I let her go because I know she’d have a better life with someone else?” I finished my rant on a yell.
“Wow. You have a really gone off the deep end. She’s not some puppy you can find a better home for.” He stretched his legs out and crossed them at his ankles.
If possible, it managed to piss me off more. I was in emotional upheaval and he was getting comfortable.
“Just leave me alone. I can’t deal with your shit right now.”
“You want to go pro?” he asked randomly.
“What I want is for you to leave.”
“Is that a no?” He crossed his arms over his chest.
“What the fuck are you talking about? Nothing has changed. I still don’t have the time. Honestly, I think I need to give up boxing altogether. Maybe try to find another job or something.”
“I’ll bankroll eight hundred a week. Quit your jobs and come work for me in the ring. It comes with health insurance for you and the boys too.”
I stared at him, awestruck. That was double what I was bringing home each week.
I’d always heard that you couldn’t judge a man’s character by the balance in his bank account. Thank fuck for that because character might be the only place I wasn’t overdrawn. And right then, Slate’s offer sounded a whole lot like pity. No matter how appealing it sounded, I wanted to make it without having to rely on anyone else. I couldn’t afford to sacrifice character.
“Why are you doing this right now? What part of that conversation confused you? I don’t want your charity.”
“It’s not charity. I’m gonna make a shit-ton of money off your ass. This isn’t a free ride. I’ll get all of your winnings until you’ve paid me back. Then anything you make over that, I get thirty-three percent. Erica’s been eyeing this condo on the beach in Florida. I’m hoping you can help me out and buy that for her.”
Outstanding. Slate wants to buy a condo on the beach and I just want to keep the electricity on.
“It has to be hard being you.” My voice dripped with sarcasm, but it only made Slate smile.
“I guess you won’t know until you try. I made every single penny I have from boxing. If you think money will solve all your problems, then put whatever preconceived notions you have about my motives aside and take my offer. But if you decide to refuse, you should know I won’t make it again.”
“Why now? Less than a month ago, you told me I wasn’t ready. Where was your offer to bankroll me then?”
“I’m not going to lie to you. You’re not ready. Not if you want to be great. But with enough time, I can get you there. You’re raw right now, and despite whatever you think, you’re driven by something greater than the almighty dollar or dreams of stardom.” He stood up and walked over to me. “To answer your question about why now, I was wrong. You’re not hungry for more in life. You’re fucking starving. I can work with that.
“Did you even listen to yourself while you were talking? Not one single thing you said was because Till Page wanted more money or a nicer car. You were concerned about Eliza and the boys…but never Till.” He poked my chest right over my heart. “I’m making an investment in you, Till. It’s no handout. I believe you’re going to set the boxing world on fire, because every time you put on those gloves, you’re doing it for them. Say yes. Accept the offer. Quit your jobs. Take a week off to take care of her. Then get your ass in my ring.”
I had no words. If I spoke, I was going to look like a sniffling little bitch. So I nodded instead.
“Good. I’m going to find Erica and get some coffee. I’ll send over the contracts and your first paycheck in the morning.” He turned and headed for the door.
I stood in the middle of an empty hospital room where my fantasy and reality had collided. Finally, I had the break I had dreamed of, but it had taken almost losing Eliza to get it. I would forever remember the way I felt in that moment. Cracking my neck and shaking out my arms, I decided I was done letting the world run over me.
Slate had just handed me my one chance to make a better life, and I was going in with gloves blazing. For the first time in my fucking life, I was climbing through the ropes.

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