Ever After Release Day Blast

Find Your Ever After in Under An Hour

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance

From her earliest memories, Ashley Pearce has been drawn to Ruby Hill Lunatic Asylum, and she's not the only one. Decades after the abandoned hospital ended its institutional reign of torture and neglect, something lurks in the shadows. Since she’s a paranormal investigator, it's Ashley's job to find out what.

Crime scene expert Corbin Malone doesn't believe in ghosts. A born skeptic, he has no interest in entertaining the hype surrounding the mysterious deaths at Ruby Hill, but he won't turn his back while more women die. He agrees to an overnight investigation, never expecting his first encounter would be with the woman he pushed away a year ago. But when he discovers Ashley is a target, he learns his greatest fear isn't living with his own demons, but losing her for good.

One Thousand and One Nights by Ruth Browne

Sheri spends her days fighting zombies and her nights chained to a wall, earning her every breath by telling stories to her captor Aleksy—stories that make them both forget the ruined world. Sheri could put up with the conditions—at least she knows her sister is safe in the community Aleksy leads—until she realizes she’s falling for him...even though he wants her dead.

When Aleksy allowed Sheri and her sister into his compound, he didn’t know about the zombie bite on her back. It's only a matter of time before she turns into one of the rising dead and threatens their existence, but Aleksy has a secret need for Sheri and her stories. For everyone’s safety, he chains her to his bedroom wall, hoping for just one more day. But how long will the community allow Aleksy to ignore his own rule: always kill the infected. Always.

Mercy by Jan Coffey

Julia Klein’s life has begun to unravel—her daughter Amy has been suspended from school, Julia is about to lose her job, and her boyfriend Garrett is being transferred thousands of miles away. Overwhelmed, she and Amy leave for a weekend at a rambling old colonial inn. Julia never suspects that Garrett, desperate to find a way to keep Julia in his life, has decided to surprise her by joining them. Nor does she expect her daughter to befriend a mischievous ghost...or that she herself would be possessed by the malevolent spirit of a long-dead mother.

As a dark secret emerges, Julia, Amy, and Garrett find themselves pitted in a fight for survival against a savage presence that intends to resurrect/repeat/relive a horrible crime committed two centuries ago. And this time, Amy and Julia will be the victims.

Haunted Chemisty by Lindsey Loucks

When bookish college co-ed Alexis heads to the laundry room in her new apartment, she runs into Ian Reese, the chem lab partner she crushed on all last semester. And the guy who stood her up on their first date. But she’s down for an awkward reunion, and no better place than her creepy laundry room.

Ian has every intention of making amends, but just when Alexis begins to trust him again, a new threat calls more than their future together into question. A ghost from the apartment’s past is hellbent on revenge, and if he wants to get his girl, he’ll have to get the ghost first.

Wish Upon a Star by Michelle McLean

Ceri McKinley never stopped wishing that her ex-fianc√© Jason Crickett would come back into her life. But when he finally does, he comes with a request that puts them both—and all of humanity—into jeopardy.

Jason only wants two things: to bury his brother properly and to convince Ceri to trust him again after he jilted her. But when Ceri agrees to help him get his brother back, they end up fighting for their lives as a zombie uprising threatens them all.

Northern Light by E.J. Russell

Nothing gives art fraud investigator Luke Morganstern a bigger rush than busting forgers, the low-life criminals who dare victimize true artists. But when his latest job sends him to a remote cabin in the Oregon Coast Range, he’s stunned to discover the alleged forger is his former lover, Stefan Cobbe, the most gifted painter Luke has ever known.

Stefan, left homeless and destitute after the death of his wealthy partner, doesn’t exactly deny the forgery -- he claims he doesn’t remember, an excuse Luke can’t accept.

But Luke’s elderly client suggests Stefan may be telling the truth and presents another possibility – a dark presence in the woods, a supernatural fury simmering for decades. Luke must face down his fear of the uncanny – and admit his feelings for Stefan – if either of them is to survive.

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Eternal Sterling Book Blast & Giveaway

Hey everyone! I have a stop on the book blast for Eternal Sterling. There is info on the book and author along with a giveaway for you all.

A love so strong, even eternity can’t separate them. Evie Starling has lived a relatively uneventful life hanging out with friends, gossiping about boys, and driving her 1966 Mustang.

All of that changes when she moves to Gunnison, Colorado, to start college and meets two mysterious men. For centuries, Alex Night and Emil Stone have yearned for Evie but they each have their own reasons for wanting to be with her. When both men claim to be her soul mate and tell her about an unbelievable past, Evie learns that she s not the person she thought she was. Soon, Evie finds herself in the middle of an age-old battle between the Amaranthine Society the soul protectors, and the Daevos Resistance the soul destroyers. With a past she doesn t understand, and a future rife with danger, Evie has to decide who she can trust. But Alex and Emil aren t the only ones who want Evie, and her soul is about to become the rope in an eternal tug-of-war.

Angela Corbett
As a child, Angela Corbett’s most prized possession was a set of read-along books. She used to follow along with the narrator on the stereo and dream of when she would be able to read by herself. Her childhood reading habit led her to consider her future career. However, after consulting with her parents, she realized she had already exceeded hobbit height and since fairies and dragonslayers were tricky jobs to get, she decided she wanted to create worlds of her own. She started writing poetry in elementary school and worked as a journalist in high school and college, but could never leave her love for writing fiction behind.

She is a graduate of Westminster College where she double majored in communication and sociology. She has worked as a journalist, freelance writer, and director of communications and marketing. She loves classic cars, traveling, and escaping in a good book. She lives in Utah with her incredibly supportive husband and their five-pound Pomeranian, Pippin, whose following of fangirls could rival Justin Bieber’s.

Eternal Starling is her debut novel and the first book in the Emblem of Eternity trilogy.


Book Nerd Tours

The Darkest Path Blog Tour -Spotlight & Giveaway

Hi everyone I have a stop on The Darkest Path blog tour. I have a spotlight and a giveaway for you all. I would like to thank Book Nerd Tours, Jeff Hirsch and Scholastic.

USA TODAY bestselling author Jeff Hirsch once again creates a futuristic world with stunning, dramatic realism.

A civil war rages between the Glorious Path--a militant religion based on the teachings of a former US soldier--and what's left of the US government. Fifteen-year-old Callum Roe and his younger brother, James, were captured and forced to convert six years ago. Cal has been working in the Path's dog kennels, and is very close to becoming one of the Path's deadliest secret agents. Then Cal befriends a stray dog named Bear and kills a commander who wants to train him to be a vicious attack dog. This sends Cal and Bear on the run, and sets in motion a series of incredible events that will test Cal's loyalties and end in a fierce battle that the fate of the entire country rests on.

Jeff Hirsch

I live in upstate New York with my wife and a small passel of animals. I used to write plays (I actually have an MFA in it, which is number 8 on US News and World Report's list of the top twenty most useless masters degrees) and now I write books for teens. I've written three, The Eleventh Plague, Magisterium and The Darkest Path.
A few random facts about me:

  • I’m incredibly superstitious.
  • I believe in baking as the ultimate stress reliever. I mean, sure, I write pretty good books but have you tasted my Triple Chocolate Espresso Cookies?
  • I’m deeply obsessed with the work of Joss Whedon, Stephen King, Bryan K. Vaughn, Prince and Tom Waits.
  • I started writing because of two women—Susan Cooper, author of the Dark Is Rising Series and Denise Stewart, my 7th grade English teacher.





Book Nerd Tours
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Grimnirs Cover Reveal

Book Title: Grimnirs
Series: A Runes Novel
Author: Ednah Walters
Release Date: December 2nd 2013
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Firetrail Publishing
Presented by: Twisted Book Tours and More & As You Wish Tours
Banner Made by: Camelia Miron Skiba


One lost love.
One lost best friend.
One hot soul reaper.

Straight out of the psyche ward, Cora just wants her life to be normal. She doesn’t want to see souls or the reapers collecting them. The love of her life, the guy she’s loved from a distance for years, has moved away without saying goodbye. So yes, she’s nursing a serious heartbreak. It’s no wonder love is the last thing on her mind when Echo storms into her life.

The chemistry between them is mind-blowing. The connection defies logic. It doesn’t help that Echo is the poster boy for everything she hates in a guy—hot, beautiful, and cocky. A general pain-in-the-butt. Being around him makes her feel more alive than she’s ever felt before. But more important, the souls leave her alone when he is around.

Echo is perfect for her. Echo might even be her soul-mate. There is only one problem. Echo is a freaking soul reaper. A Grimnir. The very beings she wants out of her life. Maybe normal is overrated because Cora wants it all. Answers. Love. A life. You see, once you fall for a Grimnir, your life will never be the same again.

EDNAH WALTERS grew up reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and dreaming of one day writing her own stories. She is a stay-at-home mother of five humans and two American short-hair cats (one of which has ADHD) and a husband. When she is not writing, she’s at the gym doing Zumba or doing things with her family, reading, traveling or online chatting with fans.

Ednah is the author of The Guardian Legacy series, a YA fantasy series about children of the fallen angels, who fight demons and protect mankind. AWAKENED, the prequel was released by Pill Hill Press in September 2010 with rave reviews. BETRAYED, book one in the series was released by her new publisher Spencer Hill Press in June 2012 and HUNTED, the third installment, will be released April 2013. She’s working on the next book in the series, FORGOTTEN. Visit her at

Ednah also writes YA paranormal romance. RUNES is the first book in her new series. IMMORTALS is book 2. She is presently working on book 3, GRIMNIRS (Release date TBA). Read more about this series and the world she's created here

Under the pseudonym E. B. Walters, Ednah writes contemporary romance. SLOW BURN, the first contemporary romance with suspense, was released in April 2011. It is the first book in the Fitzgerald family series. Since then she has published four more books in this series. She's presently working on book six. You can visit her online at or

Summer Is For Lovers Blog Tour - Review & Giveaway

Hi everyone! I have a stop on the Summer Is For Lovers blog tour today. There is a review of the book and a giveaway for you all.

Summer Is For Lovers
By: Jennifer McQuiston
Avon Romance
Releasing September 24th, 2013

David Cameron has been tricked. After bringing his supposedly ailing mother to Brighton to take the waters, he’s found himself bombarded with young ladies of marriageable age, while his mother has made a marked improvement. Seeking respite from the hordes, he retreats to a beach he hasn’t seen in years--and finds a woman he’s never quite been able to forget.

Caroline Tolbertson just wants to be left alone. But her mother is determined to see her married off, no matter Caroline’s protests--or her embarassing lack of suitors. Seeing David Cameron, her childhood crush, again sets her heart racing, but she’s older and wiser now. And no, that wasn’t her heart sinking when David suggested a faux courtship instead of the real thing.

But Caroline has never been very good at following the rules, and the fake attraction soon grows into the real thing. Now Caroline has more scandalous pursuits in mind and David is finding it very hard to say no to his gorgeous friend. Will giving in to temptation send them both down a path they each claim to abhor--straight to the altar?

My Review
David has had a bad experience with women in the past. His mother gets him to take her to Brighton were the waters are supposed to be good for healing her. What he doesn't know is his mother wants him to find a wife. Years ago as a child Caroline saved a man's life and has never forgot him. Now all grown up she along with her sister are not seen as marriage material. She knows she has to find a husband to help her sister and mother. What she doesn't expect is to meet the man from her past who was her childhood love. Now she wants him to be hers for all time but he doesn't want anything but friends. As they both teach other new skills considered scandalous they both have to see if they can move past friends or will Caroline have to marry a man she doesn't love.

Caroline doesn't fit in. She swims which woman shouldn't do and she has the wrong body type that is not the fashion. She is a very curious woman and feels a responsibility to take care of her family. David wants Caroline but will not allow his memories of the past go. He isn't a conventional man and believes Caroline can do anything. He tries his best to ignore his jealousy.

This is a great story as you get to see both main characters personalities and what makes them the way they are. They both want each other and David more so than Caroline fights it all the way. They belong together and while Caroline knows it David doesn't. It has several steamy scenes however you get a great story as well. The book has a nice plot and great characters that you want to see more of. I would love go see Pen get her own story as she is just as fascinating as Caroline. If you love romance books pick this one up. It is really great.

4 out of 5 Stars

Author Info
A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer McQuiston has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, their two girls, and an odd assortment of pets, including the pony she promised her children if mommy ever got a book deal. Jennifer can be reached via her website at or followed on Twitter @jenmcqwrites.

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Sugar & Spice Blog Tour - Review & Giveaway

Hi everyone! Today I have a stop on the Sugar & Spice Blog Tour. I have a review and giveaway for you all.

The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap Anthology
By: Kimberly Kincaid
Kensington Books
Releasing September 24th, 2013

When caterer Lily Callahan goes up against hotshot pastry chef Pete Mancuso in the bake-off of the season, the stakes are high--and scandalously passionate. Will the gorgeous gourmand steal Lily's heart--and the top prize in the Christmas cookie competition?

My Review
Lily wants to win the Christmas cookie contest and use the money towards opening her own shoppe. Pete wants to win the money for other reason and to help him get a job at a top restaurant. The two know each other before the competition as Pete publicly dumped one of Lily's friends. They should be enemies but they find themselves working together for part of the competition and the kitchen isn't the only thing heating up. They both want to win but there can only be one winner however they both may get something more important along the way.

Lily follows things by the letter and isn't the type to wing it. She has always wanted to be a chef since her first easybake oven. She didn't have a lot growing up and works hard for her goal. She is a very sweet caring woman who puts her heart into everything she does. She also has a sexy side that Pete seems to bring out. Pete is a wonderful chef as well and loves to play things by ear and does't like to follow rules. He had a bad childhood and doesn't like to talk about it. He keeps many secrets but Lily seems to be able to get him to open up.

I really like this story as it has a heart warming feeling to it. You get to watch two people change before your eyes in a good way and you see they are great together. I love reading about both of them and what they want for the future. Pete really won my heart as he has a change of heart and it just makes him that much more endearing to me. They both really bare their heart and souls in this book. This also has some very hot scenes that the author did a great job adding just the right amount of. They fit in perfect and don't take away from the story just add to it. For some reason I like reading books that have sweets in them and this one is excellent. Your mouth will water just reading about these. I can't wait to try a blondie and glad the recipe was included. If you want a great story about great people try this book. It is sure to please many. Plus you have to read and see who wins the competition.

4 out of 5 Stars

Buy Links:

Author Info
Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she's not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as "The Pleather Bomber", she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to √©clairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Kimberly is a 2011 RWA Golden Heart® finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. She has written two digital novellas, Love On The Line and Drawing The Line, about hot cops and sexy chefs, with a third novella, Outside The Lines, due this summer. She is also thrilled to have collaborated on a Christmas anthology with Donna Kauffman and Kate Angell, titled The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap, to kick off her Pine Mountain foodie series with Kensington this October. Kimberly’s first full-length novel, Turn Up the Heat, will follow in February 2014. She resides in northern Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters. 

Visit her any time at or come check her out on Facebook ( and Twitter (@kimberlykincaid). 

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The Keeper: Awakening Blog Tour - Excerpt

Hi everyone! I have a stop on The Keeper:Awakening blog tour. I have info on the book and an excerpt for you all.

Title: The Keeper: Awakening
Author: O. L. Ramos
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Tour Host: Lady Amber's Tours

Elizabeth is a brilliant loner with a troubling secret she doesn't even know. As if the trauma of her mother being abducted before her eyes as a young girl wasn't enough, the small town she lives in thinks she’s crazy. That all changed when she met Michael, a mysterious and handsome man who identified with her like no one else before. Michael’s long time friend Vincent visits and drops the bombshell of a lifetime on Elizabeth and her world becomes completely unraveled. 

Vincent’s information has revealed the world for what it is; a place where the impossible is real, and myths and legends walk slyly in shadow. A world that Elizabeth will learn she too is a member. Now, the three are caught up in a thousand year long conspiracy they never could have imagined. The three must rely on one another and the secret connection they all share if they have a chance to survive.

Chapter 5
    As the hours pass by, I consider more and more that conversation with Michael. It’s all so much to take in. I can’t help but feel more than a little foolish as I recap to myself everything I said to him. He must see me as a complete loony; he can’t possibly be seriously considering what I said to be true.
    Yet he stayed there the entire time. His eyes were focused and without judgment. He made me believe he wasn’t lying. That I could trust him, and I do. The entire issue was still completely out-of-this-world crazy, though.
    I go to bed that night with all of these thoughts swirling around in my mind. Chalk up another sleepless night. This is getting old…
    When I make it to Jack’s place, he can tell right away how ragged I am. I’m sure my hair is a mess and I can feel my eyes almost desperate to jump out from my head. I’m exhausted. But there is nothing I can do. I made a promise to my friend to take her shift, and if I hadn’t come in, Jack would be in big trouble.
    After I bat away Jack and Roy’s initial protests, the day continues normally. It drags on, and the minutes seem like hours.
    Before I even notice, it’s close to quitting time. Michael’s text messages help the day go by faster and even though I’m ecstatic to see him tonight, I don’t think I’m up to it. The door to the restaurant swings open and my heart jumps immediately. I’m hoping it’s Michael so he can just sit at the bar with the boys and keep me company until we are really done for the entire day.
    But instead of a surprise early visit from Michael, it’s just another customer. Except I’ve never seen him before in my life. And honestly, I don’t know if it’s the exhaustion or the last-minute patron, but this guy has me feeling irked.
    Until I see his face, that is.
    He stares at me with a smirk on his face. He has this arrogant look about him, the kind of look that would make me almost immediately hate him. But his face is perfect. He’s almost the complete opposite of Michael. Whereas Michael has green eyes this man’s are sea blue, and they glisten like sapphires. Once again I find myself wondering if a person’s eyes could possibly really be that color. They are just so blue. The angles of his face, his cheeks, his complexion, he is…beautiful. Instead of Michael’s big, athletic build, this man is  lithe, but his muscles are also very clearly defined. His hair is light, not like a dyed blonde, but his hair almost looks as if it is spun of gold.
    “Hey sweetheart,” he whispers softly near me. I’m so lost in my own thoughts I must not have noticed him walking towards me. “You are the one to see about a table, right? Or am I being too presumptuous?”
    He smiles at me confidently, seductively. His smile is also perfect. This guy has to be a model or something. If he isn’t, he really should be.
    “This way,” I reply as I walk him to a table. I extend my arm and motion for him to sit, but he just stands there, looking at me. Almost as if he’s judging me.
    “I think we have a mutual friend, Elizabeth,” he whispers again as if we are exchanging pillow talk.
    “And who might that be?”
    Truth be told, this guy is incredibly attractive. But I’ve seen his kind a million times before, all over campus. Spoiled rich kid who‘s been given everything he ever wanted in his life. Exhibit A is his perfect smile. It screams of braces and whitening treatments.
    Besides, I am technically seeing Michael. Technically. And I am way too inexperienced in romance to even be thinking of flirting with a guy like this.
    “I know where this is headed, hotshot,” I respond assertively. “You’re a great looking guy, and I’m sure you have all the women fawning over you. But I’m just not that type of girl. I never was and I doubt I ever will be. Besides, I like my men to be manly and honorable. I bet you’re just your typical player who stepped out of a fashion catalog. So if you don’t mind, here is your menu, if you need anything, I’ll be waiting right over there.”
    “Ouch, crash and burn,” he says, feigning a wounded heart. “Always treat your customers that way? How could you earn a living like that? I’m guessing you’re a student, right? Working here to make ends meet? The public can’t possibly tip you well with that attitude. I like that attitude, though. It’s like a tiger, caged all her life. All she needs is someone to release the lock.”
    “Very smooth turnaround,” I remark sharply. I wasn’t lying, either, but I try to make it sound as snarky as I can as I turn to walk away. I give him my back in hopes of hiding my smile. Something about his confidence is really attractive. “Just let me know when you get your mind settled on something to eat.”
    “You should really take my advice, you know,” he continues, unfazed. “I know what I’m talking about. The customer is always right and all that. It’ll affect your tips. But then again, I’m sure you aren’t really concerned about tips right now, are you? Good ol’ Michael is tipping you as much as you need, isn’t he?”
    I feel both indignation and fear. Who is this creepy model guy who knows about Michael?
    “Is that the mutual friend you spoke of earlier?” I ask, still turned around to avoid his expression.
    “Yep, sure is,” he answers proudly. I imagine a large grin on his face. “You’re really quick to judge people. That’s a very savage quality, especially in a young lady like you. You don’t want the folks around here to think of you as unladylike, would you? But then again, they really don’t have you figured out…do they? I wonder why that is.”
    I turn slowly towards him and prepare myself for the worst. Did Michael tell this guy everything about us? Is this his employee, or a friend? Or maybe even worse, some sort of relative?
    He smiles at me again and extends his hand to me.
    “Please, sit down here,” he says as I notice his eyes staring deeply into mine. “It’s a really comfortable booth. Take a seat next to me, I insist. You could learn a thing or two.”
    As if the sea truly was in his eyes, those two deep blue orbs are sucking me in. I feel a need to sit down next to him as he asks. But I’m not  that type of girl. And I’m definitely not falling for his playboy crap. I want to know everything he knows about Michael.
    So I’ll bite and listen to him rant. For now.
    I walk closer to the booth and sit across from him. Ironically, we’re in the same exact booth I sat Michael down in when we first met. I notice the man’s face smirk once more as he chuckles to himself.
    “I see,” he says softly, as if he is the only person in the room who gets the joke. “Well then, so your Michael’s new friend eh? It’s the talk on the internet and newspapers worldwide.”
    I eye him suspiciously as I arrange the salt and pepper shakers on the table. He’s starting to make me more than a bit nervous. Is Michael really the kind of guy that would brag about us to his friends? We haven’t even done anything yet! If he is that type, I swear…I could just punch him in the face.
    But I do suppose it’s my fault as well. I’m the one that’s rushing into everything. And I also might have made Michael out to be better than he is. He’s the first guy I ever dated as an adult. after all. Who am I kidding? He’s the first guy I’ve ever dated.
    “Don’t pout, now,” the man says as he reaches for my face. “I’m only joking. I’m sorry; I have a dark sense of humor. I hope it can grow on you?”
    “That’s not something you joke about. I have never been accused of being that kind of girl. I don’t intend to start that reputation now either.”
    “What kind of girl are you referring to exactly?” he asks with another confident smile. “A girl who has fun? As opposed to the nun you currently are?” He places his right elbow on the table and plants his face in his hand, examining me closely. Just who does this guy think he is?
    “So, let me get this straight,” I say as I motion to Roy to get me a drink. If I’m going to be yelling at this jerk, my vocal cords definitely needed the fluids. “Not only do you come in here and insinuate I’m some type of floozy, but now you’re also going to pretend like you know me? All of the sudden and out of the blue?”
    “Hey now, I can see you’re getting upset,” he states as he straightens and offers his hands up in peace. “I never meant anything like that. But I do have a way of knowing people. For example, I can tell you’re a very intelligent girl. You want to be taken seriously. And although you could get by in the world easily with your looks, you want to get by with your brains. You’re also a goody two shoes. Were you a girl scout?”
    “What?!” I almost yell at the top of my lungs. “I was never a scout, I didn’t have the time. It wasn’t really my thing either. You obviously aren’t as good at reading people as you thought you were.”
    “Everything alright here, Lizzy?” Roy asks as he places my soda on the table in front of me.
    I nod at him and take a deep sip of my glass. Roy walks away with clear confusion on his face. I stare at this guy sitting across from me. Oh, if my eyes could burn a hole in him…
    “See that?” he says as he tilts his head to the side without a care in the world. “That glance right there. Only a caged tiger could produce such a powerful stare. If I’m wrong, please, feel free to tell me how wrong I am.”
    I continue drinking from my glass and staring at him. I don’t know what to say. I’m still wishing for that ability to burn holes in him with my eyes.
    “So I’m right, I take it? What a surprise,” he says in a mocking tone before extending his arm. “I’m not only right, you know. I’m also Vincent. And it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
    I breathe deeply as I remove the glass from my mouth and extend my hand also to shake his. At least now I have a name, and that’s enough to interrogate Michael with.
    “So Vincent, did you come over here tonight to eat, drink, or just torture me?”
    “Oh but I was hoping I could do a little of everything,” he says with a boyish laugh. “I suppose I’d take the torture option if I only have my choice of one. But really, I just came to see what had Michael so enraptured and out of focus. I can clearly see why he hasn’t been able to…concentrate lately.”
    “Excuse me?”
    “It’s just that I knew you’d be lovely, and knowing Michael the way I do, I figured you were more than just another pretty face,” he continues on as if having a monologue in front of a sold out audience. “Michael’s a brooder. When something took him out of that loop, I figured it had to be someone extraordinary. I never counted on it to be so very exquisite, however.”
    “So, are you a family member or do you work with Michael…?” My unease is growing and I fear that Vincent will realize it immediately if given a free moment. “Has he talked about me to you much? And I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, Vincent, but you do have a lousy way of introducing yourself to people.”
    Another soft laugh. This time he doesn’t even allow his mouth to open as he stifles the noise. He looks down briefly before turning right back to me with yet another smile.
    “Michael and I met through work,” he explains as if the topic itself is dull. “Now, I merely consider him a very old friend, more likely my little brother. Frankly, I’m hurt he never told you about me. I guess I’ll have to cross him off my Christmas list this year.”
    Vincent was right, now that I think about it. And as I allow myself to return to my first impression of Vincent, I realize that I was spot on with my initial instinct. This is a man that is completely different, almost a polar opposite of Michael. Michael is tough and rugged; Vincent seems more like an aristocrat. Michael is extremely tall with wide shoulders and large arms and legs. Vincent is noticeably in shape, his muscles easily visible in any light I’d imagine, but he is still very slender and statuesque.
    But their biggest difference perhaps is what Vincent himself pointed out. Michael does seem to be the quieter of the two. He is introverted and pensive. Vincent seems to be at home in social situations and wears his thoughts on his sleeve. He has a dark sense of humor and seems like the guy who is always sarcastic and cracking jokes. Most of all, Vincent seems to enjoy making me squirm. How could these two be friends?
    “To ease your mind, no, Michael never told me about you,” Vincent announces. “Michael doesn’t really talk to me about women or his relationships. I don’t think Michael talks to anyone about his personal life, really. I just saw that he was a little off key lately, for him, anyway.”
    “What do you mean, off key?” I ask with worry ringing clearly in my voice.
    “He’s happy,” Vincent says, almost as if the idea of Michael being happy distresses him. “I can see why now. I guess I just didn’t expect the object of his newfound bliss to be such a…keeper.”
    Yet again, Vincent laughs to himself. I officially have had enough. I was done playing his game.
    “Listen here Vinny,” I say as I look at him dead in the eyes. “I bet you make all the women fall all over you with your subtle wit and banter. I’m sure that icy, mysterious stare works on all the girls, but it doesn’t do a thing for me. And this whole act of laughing to yourself as if you’re the only one who knows what’s going on behind the scenes and everyone else is in the dark; it’s getting really old. So how about you stop laughing to yourself like a jerk and let the world in on the joke? If Michael is in trouble or if he’s going through something, I want to help him. I feel he would do the same for me. So fess up, order something to eat, or leave. Because right now, you’re really getting on my nerves. And I’m nowhere near nice when I’m angry.”
    Vincent curls his lips up in a toothless smile and tilts his head to the other side.
    “Vinny, huh? Like I said, you’re a tiger,” he says as he licks his lips. “I have quite the temper on me as well, you should know. I guess that makes us both tigers. It just recently dawned on me, just now, that is. He hasn’t told you, has he?”
    “Told me what? Michael isn’t the type to keep secrets. He’s been nothing but honest with me. You, on the other hand, are playing some sick, twisted game that only you’re enjoying.”
    “Michael is a stickler for the truth,” Vincent says with a couple clicks of his tongue and a nod of his head. “I’m amazed he’d keep such a secret from you. But then again, he’s probably trying to protect you. You are indeed worth protecting. I’m not so sure he really is by keeping the truth from you. And in keeping the truth from you, some might say that in itself is lying. How do you feel on the issue, Elizabeth? If I withhold some important information from you, is that lying?”
    My mind races at all the possibilities Vincent could possibly be getting at. I really don’t know this man; I should just brush off whatever he says to me. But for some reason, I know he’s telling me the truth. But I also suspect it’s a distorted truth.
    “Is he married or engaged?” I ask with a shake of my head. Confusion and panic are starting to settle in. That would definitely explain his absence earlier and why sometimes it was near impossible to get in contact with him.
    But Vincent just laughs, harder than before.. His face is flooded with amusement.
    “No, it’s nothing like that,” he answers softly, calmly. This time, there is a tenderness to his tone. “Michael is a good guy, a goody two shoes, like you. He wouldn’t do something like that.”
    I exhale a sigh of deep relief. What else could be so bad to make such a big spectacle of it? It’s like Vincent was intentionally trying to make it ominous, just to grab my attention firmer. He reaches across the table and takes my drink, pulling it towards him without a second thought, and takes a sip.
    “Excuse me?!” I exclaim in frustration. “How could you just grab my drink like that?”
    “I was thirsty, you haven’t taken my drink order,” Vincent says as he looks up from the glass. “You really are a very poor waitress.”
    This guy has a real way of getting under my skin. Worst thing about it is that he wasn’t really upsetting me. The only time I was truly frustrated was when I thought Michael might have been in trouble or seeing someone else. Now I’m just surprised at the depths of Vincent’s confidence. I wonder if he has any limits in trying to push my buttons. It’s as if all of this is a game to him. I’m not about to give him the satisfaction.
    “What did he tell you he does for a living?” Vincent asks nonchalantly, still attending my drink.
    “He told me he inherited his family’s wealth,” I reply, a little unbalanced by the question. “But he said he also has a family business that’s involved with protection of the environment. I assumed it was mostly pro bono work.”
    Vincent smiles to himself as he wipes the excess liquid from his lips with a napkin.
    “I suppose all that is truthful, if a little…skewed,” he answers. “Did he tell you why he was here? I hear he’s going to school. Always very meticulous, that one. I’m just surprised he’s stayed in the area for so long. It’s not usual for him.”
    Vincent is giving me more than plenty to think about.
    “Skewed…?” I ask, trailing off. “I know his work takes him many places, but I didn’t know it was strange for him to be in one area for long. You make it seem like he’s always on the move. What do you mean, skewed?”
    “I mean it’s all really at how you look at it,” he answers without a second’s thought. “Kind of how I asked whether it’s a lie to withhold a truth. I like to ponder these types of petty, perhaps insignificant things. So, did he tell you why he was here?”
    With growing concern, I’m starting to hesitate before answering Vincent’s questions. But if I don’t answer them then that meant that Vincent succeeded in making me uncomfortable enough to avoid him. I’m not about to let that happen.
    “He’s trying to scare a Russian businessman away from here,” I say as I look Vincent dead in the eyes, trying to appear completely unafraid. “The guy wants the land to build some stores and things like that. It’ll destroy this tiny town. The small businesses will go bankrupt almost immediately, and all the animals in the forest will have to find another place to go. We’ll end up with rabbits and wolves and who knows what else in our front yards.”
    Again, a smile from Vincent.
    “I suppose that’s true also,” he says as he scratches his right eye. “Although one might consider that to be skewed as well. A Russian businessman can’t be the only reason he’s staying here.”
    “You’re his friend,” I answer immediately in protest. “Shouldn’t you know if there’s more? Maybe he’s staying here because he likes my company. Does that make you jealous? Am I taking away your best friend, and you just can’t handle it?”
    In my meager attempt to act and sound tough, I only succeed in making Vincent laugh louder than ever. All of the customers left in the restaurant are now completely focused on Vincent and me. This is beyond embarrassing. After what seems like an eternity, Vincent stops laughing and everyone goes back to their meals and drinks. My face is undeniably red, I can feel it.
    “You couldn’t be farther away from the truth, my dear Elizabeth,” he assures me smugly as he sits up again properly. “If Michael wants to ignore me for the rest of all eternity, he could. I wouldn’t say I won’t miss my playful jabs at his oh-so-serious demeanor, but there has to be more than just you keeping him here. Or perhaps I should say, you weren’t the original reason why he came here.”
    “Of course not,” I report incredulously. “He came here for his work. He didn’t know I existed until he just happened to come in to get a bite to eat here.”
    “Somehow, I really doubt he didn’t know you existed,” Vincent asserts confidently. “What I really do doubt is what that old dog is still doing here. I came looking for something. It was only after coming here that I knew Michael was here. But you…you might be the reason he came here to begin with.”
    “Vincenzo” I hear Michael’s voice call out calmly. I didn’t notice him appear next to us. Even though Michael speaks low, his voice still booms, almost menacingly, to Vincent. “That’s enough.”
    Vincent smiles and winks at me before standing up to face Michael. Michael towers over Vincent, who, in his own right, was pretty tall himself.
    “Playing games as usual?” Michael asks, his tone and expression deadly serious. What kind of relationship did these two “friends” have?
    “Ah, I see it now,” Vincent answers suavely as he measures Michael’s body language. Vincent isn’t backing down. It was clear he wasn’t intimidated at all by Michael’s presence. “You did come for the keeper. That’s extremely interesting. I assume you know why I came?”
    “To ruin my life, as per usual?” Michael answers with a hint of hostility.
    “I came for the ring,” Vincent answers calmly. “I’m sure you know why I would do such a dumb thing?”
    “That’s unimportant right now,” Michael says as he diverts his attention to me. “I’m sorry if he bothered you. It’s his way. He gets a kick out of playing with people’s minds. Are you okay?”
    Amidst this confusion, I don’t know if I am okay. What in the world are these two talking about? And for old friends, they really do act oddly with one another. I shake my head nervously in hopes that the attention can focus away from me. I want and need an explanation, but Michael can enlighten me later. I have the feeling this should be discussed in private.
    “What did you tell her, Vincenzo?” Michael asks, as if he was an interrogator.
    “Elizabeth?” Vincent asks coyly as he turns to me once more. “We were just talking. We were getting to know one another. I found out about your…philanthropic work here and your concerns with a Russian businessman. I must say, your work with nature sure has you working a very…unorthodox angle this time.”
    “It’s not an angle,” Michael defends his stance as he aggressively grabs Vincent by his shirt. Vincent does nothing to engage or even resist Michael’s grasp. “You know the truth. You also know the danger of finding the ring by yourself. You should have told me, sought me out. Even you shouldn’t take on a circle of this size by yourself. And why did you involve her in all this? She has nothing to do with it.”
    “Oh, but Michael,” Vincent says as he turns to face me with a large, comfortable smile even while still gripped by Michaels large and overpowering hands. He stares at me, right in the eyes again. “I think she has everything to do with this, and I bet you knew all about it.”

Author Bio:
O.L. Ramos was born in Miami, Florida to Cuban immigrant parents. From a very young age he found himself drawn to books and telling stories to anyone who would hear it. His job titles have been so diverse, from being a sales manager to a retail giant to even being a deputy sheriff, but his love of the written word never left. After a work related injury as a deputy sheriff forced him to tone down his workload, he was able to use that as an excuse to finally dedicate his sole focus to writing