Saturday, August 31, 2013

RUIN by Rachel Van Dyken


I'm not your typical girl. I've been running away from the memories that haunt me for so long that depression has become my only comfort. I was content in the darkness...until Wes Michels offered to be my light.

I didn't know that time wasn't my ally -- that every second that ticked past was one step closer to the end of something that was beginning to mean the end of myself. He tried to warn me. He promised me all he was able to offer--each moment as it came--but it would never be enough.

Sometimes when you think it's the end, it's only the beginning. Wes thought he could save me, but in giving me everything, he ruined me. Because after one kiss, one touch, I couldn't--I wouldn't ever be the same.

And from that moment on, his heartbeat became my own.

5 star REVIEW:

Don't let this cover fool you.  RUIN is not just about a HOT guy, there is a very powerful story behind this cover.  I have read and reviewed a TON of books, but there are few that have brought me to tears and have truly touched me in ways that I could not imagine.  There are few books that I will always remember that have left a footprint on my heart and RUIN is one of those books.  I absolutely LOVED this book!!   It actually took me a few days to get my emotions under control to write this review.  I want to tip my hat to Rachel Van Dyken and congratulate her on this fabulous book. Ruin is full of raw emotions

Kiersten's parents died an accidental death two years ago.  The only family she has is her uncle, who she went to live with her the death of her parents.  Kiersten struggles with nightmares and is on antidepressants.  Kiersten's life changed on her first day of college.  The moment she wasn't paying attention and ran face first into a "warm tree " with an 8 pack of abs.   Those abs belong to Weston Michels a/k/a Wes.

Kiersten is immediately attracted to Wes the moment she sets eyes on him.

"I had no idea that one look would devastate me. Weeks from now I would regret that one look, for one reason and one reason only.

His eyes held my ruin." ~ Kiersten

Wes is the 
senior star quarterback for the University of Washington. Wes comes from a very wealthy family.  Wes has it all, the good looks, the body of a sex god, a great personality, and a heart of gold.  Wes looks like the stereotypical rich frat boy.  But in reality, he was anything but that. Wes was labeled, and people assumed they knew everything about him.  They believed the "rumors".  Few people knew the real Wes.  Wes is battling an illness, that is all I will say, you will have to read RUIN for further details.  

Wes is drawn to Kiersten from the moment he laid eyes on her at Freshman orientation.  There is just something about Kiersten that makes him want to get to know her.  Was it her innocence, her purity that drew Wes to her?  Weston does everything is in power to spend time with her.  

Kiersten was Weston's lamb, but was Weston Kiersten's Big Bad Wolf?

"And then the lamb tempts the wolf." Wes said in a low tone.
"And Wolf rises above temptation." I sang.
"Wolf loves temptation."
"Wolf needs to watch the movie."
"Lamb needs to stop talking before wolf silences her with his teeth."

The connection between Wes and Kiersten is immediate.  I love the relationship that they have, it seemed so effortless.  The love they had for each other was unconditional.  What started off as a friendship blossomed into a great love story.  There were times that I was laughing out loud with the conversations between Wes and Kiersten, as well as with Gabe and Lisa. 

Kiersten creates a bucket list, a list of things she wants to experience. Wes being the great guy he is, offers to help her complete her list.

"If I remember correctly, your list said 'kiss a hot guy'."

"Yeah, but--"

"I'm changing it. You see, all guys want to be kissed by a girl. But you? You deserve to be the one receiving the kiss, not giving. That's not how this works. So I'm deeming myself the hot guy, and I'm going to kiss you. I'm going to kiss you so hard that you forget everything but my lips pressed against yours."  ~ Wes

Kiersten really wasn't living life to the fullest, as she was struggling with events from her past.  Kiersten was succumbing to the darkness of her past, and Wes was her guiding light.  Wes wanted to show Kiersten that there was so much to live for, so much to look forward to.  Wes understood first hand what Kiersten was feeling, after experiences the loss of love ones himself.

"You rescued me and I found my ruin." I bit down on my lip. "I'm ruined for you -- and I won't ever be the same.  It's the greatest gift anyone's ever given me." (Kiersten)

He wiped away my tears. "Ruin?"

"Yeah, a ruin, because in helping me knock down all those demons, you built me back up again. And for that, I'll never be able to repay you." ~ Kiersten

The sub characters in this book are very well developed.  Lisa is Kiersten's roommate and she is hilarious. Her cousin Gabe pretty much spends all of this time with Lisa and Kiersten. Kiersten is lucky to have Lisa and Gabe as friends.  I wasn't sure what to think of Gabe at first, if his intentions were pure, but he always had Kiersten's best interest at heart.  I grew to love Gabe.  He is so funny and he looked after Kiersten like a big brother would. 

Throughout the book, Wes is keeping his illness a secret from everyone. The only person that puts two and two together after over hearing a conversation is Gabe.  Gabe vows to keep Weston's secret and leaves it up to Wes to tell Kiersten.  Kiersten begins to notice things about Weston, but never really pushes the issue.  She asks once and Wes tells her he will tell her after a specific event.  I was surprised Kiersten didn't push the issue a little further.  I know I would have... 

When Weston's secret is finally uncovered, I felt like the ground dropped out from under my feet.  I could not stop the tears from flowing.  Wes has stood by Kiersten and helped her face her demons. Weston and Kiersten conquered fears together, they learned together, laughed together and loved together.  Weston wanted more than anything to be part of Kiersten's life. But sometimes life isn't always fair.   Will Kiersten be strong enough to stand by Wes?   Will Kiersten be able to face the uncertainty with Wes?   Will Wes have a future with Kiersten? Will Weston be strong enough to beat this?

RUIN took me on a journey that I wasn't ready to take. Emotions that I wasn't sure I was ready to tackle.  Those of you that know me, know that this subject matter hits me very close to home.  My best friend has been battling a similar disease for 6 years now.  There is not a day that goes by that I don't pray for her and beg God to heal her.  She is stronger than I could ever be.  Every day she wakes up and lives life to the fullest.  When you stop and think about life, it is truly a blessing, because in a blink of an eye, the people you love the most could be taken away.  Stop and appreciate those you love and don't let a day go by that you don't tell them that you love them.   

I highly recommend RUIN to EVERYONE.  I think this book is FANTASTIC !!!

I LOVE this quote:

"Don't give up yet. Sometimes when we think God has written The End, what he really means is The Beginning." ~ Wes

This review was prepared by Heather.
I received an ARC for an honest review. 


Friday, August 30, 2013

Zeus and Poseidon ~ The God Chronicles by Kamery Solomon REVIEW


The God Chronicles Book One 
by Kamery Solomon

Vegas is not where Karly had imagined herself to be at this point in her life. She was supposed to be living in California, soaking up the sun and enjoying the life of an artist. Instead, she's just moving out of her parent's house and going to a school that could loosely be called her second choice. When she meets Zeus Drakos, owner of the new hit casino and resort in town, he seems just like every other jerk guy out there. How was she supposed to know who he really was?

Zeus has been exiled from Mount Olympus, because he has broken a vow and divorced Hera.  He cannot return or get his powers back until he falls completely in love and he must be loved in return.

Karly, a 21 year old college student, moves to Las Vegas to finish college.  She is greeted by her three roommates (triplets) who take her to a popular night club to celebrate the end of summer.  There, Karly meets the dark and mysterious casino owner, Zeus.  His behavior is rude and obnoxious.  Karly wants nothing to do with him.  Zeus attempts to apologize to her and she finally agrees to dinner.

When Karly begins to develop feelings for Zeus, Hera steps in to cause trouble between them, so Zeus won’t be able to regain his powers.  In the meantime, Kronos has taken over Mt. Olympus.  All the while, Karly has no idea that Zeus is a god.

Will Karly and Zeus fall in love? Will Hera get in the way of their romance?  Will Zeus loose his kingdom to Kronos?  Only the Fates know!

Zeus has just the right amount of mythology and modern romance to make this book interesting.  Even though this isn’t the genre I normally read, I enjoyed it very much.  There is a complete lack of sex in this book, however, the conflict between the gods and how they play a role in the lives of mortals gives the story enough excitement to keep you engaged in the story.  I couldn’t stop reading and at the end I found myself wanting more!


The God Chronicles Book Two
by Kamery Solomon

Audrey has everything she's ever wanted. When it all gets torn away in a tragic accident, she begins to spiral out of control. How can she get back to where she was after everything that happened? Thankfully, Sy steps in to save her-literally. Over time, strong feelings begin to battle within her, feelings she does not want to have. Will she be able to let go of her past in order to secure her future?

When Audrey loses her husband to a tragic accident at sea, and soon after miscarries their baby, she feels everything has been taken from her.  In a fit of anger she goes to the ocean to yell at her dead husband for leaving her and accidentally slips into the ocean.  Luckily, she was rescued by a handsome swimmer.

After a period of mourning, Audrey slowly begins putting her life back together.  One morning while walking her dog, she notices her new neighbor, Sy.  There is something very familiar about him.  Sy develops feeling for Audrey but she isn’t ready to give her heart away. 

Audrey finds out that Sy is the god Poseidon and he was the one who rescued her.  He knows he is responsible for her husband’s death.  She is conflicted with feelings for Sy and the love she still carries for her husband.  When Sy’s life is threatened, Audrey must choose between saving him or letting him go forever.

Will love lost and secrets held keep Aubrey and Sy a part? Only the Fates know!
Poseidon is the second installment in The God Chronicles. There isn’t as much mythology as in Zeus, however, there is enough to keep it exciting.  There is also no sex in this book, but I really enjoyed how the romance developed between Audrey and Sy.  I’m not usually a fan of young adult romance.  Once again, I couldn’t put it down.

I was provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by: Stephanie, NNBB Guest Reviewer

TEMPORARY BLISS (Bliss # 1, New Erotic Romance Series)

Makenna Lewis cringes at any mention of the word commitment. She doesn’t want or need a relationship, but she does like sex (who doesn't). 
That explains Noah, Sean, and Zander, her three 'friends with benefits'.

They know the score, they know they're not the only one, and each of them provide her with a different physical need that she craves and enjoys.  
Until a late night encounter with the delicious Daniel Winters turns her preconceived notion of no-commitment completely on its head.  

Soon she finds herself feeling things she vowed never to feel again, and when Daniel pushes for more than she’s willing to give, she falters.

What do you do when something that you’ve known to be so wrong in the past feels so damn right?

If you’re Mac, you run and hide.
But is Daniel the type of man who takes no for an answer?

Add to Goodreads:
Author Bio:

I’m 31 years old and live in New Zealand, the most beautiful country in the world.
I love reading, and started writing my first novel, Lost in Distraction in December 2012. Before that I’d written business and website articles professionally but never fiction. I love the indie community, authors, bloggers and readers alike and have met so many awesome people that I now call dear friends.
I’m a huge music lover as well. I REALLY love music. If there isn't music playing, something is wrong. And it’s a wide range of music too, I might surprise you with my eclectic tastes.
I'm also a wife, mother of two gorgeous girls and currently working for myself as well as studying full time to become an accountant of all things. I also have a Bachelor of Communications.
My author inspirations are: Michelle Leighton, Barbara Elsborg and Kristen Ashley.

Author Links:

We reach the park about fifteen minutes later, our progress hindered by my sky high boots that my feet are now complaining to me about...a lot! Pier Park closed early for the night, scuttling our plans to take a few rides on the Ferris wheel. “Are your feet sore? Do you want to just take a slow walk around the pier?”
“Sounds good, but I’m gonna take these torture devices off my feet,” I say as I find a park bench and sit down, bending over to pull them off.

“Let me.”
He gets down on one knee and holds my ankle, unzipping the boots and sliding the first one off. He then starts rubbing his hands into my feet, kneading them firmly. I can’t stifle the moan that escapes me as I lean back against the bench and enjoy the blissful foot rub I’m currently being given.

“That feels so good,” I groan as he continues his massage. He then turns his attention to my other foot, his touch on my skin so light, yet his heat burns through me in a direct line to my now aching core. This is the most drawn out foreplay I’ve ever experienced, and I almost don’t want it to end.
Once he’s finished, he stands back on his feet, my super pretty boots in one hand while he pulls me up with the other. “Better?” he asks, kissing my temple.

“Much. You better watch out, though. I might have to keep you stashed in the corner of my bedroom as my personal foot massage slave,” I say with a laugh.
His eyes grow dark, full of hunger and desire. “You wouldn’t have to force me to stay in your bedroom, Mac.”

“The idea of it makes me hot,” I reply with a wink.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Life's Perfect Plan by Sarah Goodman


"First comes love…then comes marriage…then comes a baby in a baby carriage.” We’ve all heard this saying. In fact, Elizabeth lived and planned her life by this children’s nursery rhyme. What happens when life doesn't go according to plan? What happens when the life you created falls apart? How do you pick up the pieces? When do you finally realize what life handed you is indeed perfect, even if it was never part of your plan?

Elizabeth “Beth” Thomas is a thirty year old senior associate at a law firm. Married to her college sweetheart, Grant, they have traveled, built their dream home, and are ready to become parents. They struggle with infertility. Grant wants a normal life again. He wants to go back to the way it was before trying to have a baby consumed their lives. Once they agree to go back to a “normal” life, life hands over a different plan for Beth.

Beth struggles with loss and heartache. She leans on her family, her two best friends, and her doctor. What Elizabeth doesn't see is that her life is going according to plan, only it took a different route to get there.

 "Sometimes we plan our perfect life, but life tends to give us life's perfect plan.”


Is there such a thing as a "life's perfect plan"?  Yes, most little girls dream about having a husband, a baby, and beautiful house with a white picket fence.  Do those things really make a perfect life? 

Elizabeth "Beth" had a gorgeous husband Grant, a beautiful home, but she lacks one thing that she wants the most, a baby...  Beth and Grant had been trying to have a baby for years, and the countless attempts to conceive were wearing on Grant.  Grant would give anything for Beth to carry his child.  Grant wants to take a brake from the cycles of fertility drugs and just enjoy having "normal sex"; sex that isn't scheduled. Grant wants to enjoy his wife.  Beth wants to try one last time, so Grant agrees. 

When an opportunity arises, Beth cannot pass it up.  Beth doesn't inform Grant of her plans, since he is away for the weekend with the boys.  Should Beth have told Grant?  If Beth had told Grant, would things have been different?  Life is full of "what ifs"...  If Beth had done things differently, would her life's plan still been perfect?

After a tragic event occurs and ruins Beth's "perfect plan", her life is turned upside down.  God had a different plan for Beth, the only question is, would Beth be able to accept God's new life plan?

Life is full of the unexpected.  People leave and enter our lives unexpectedly all the time.  When Jacob enters Beth's life, her plan was about to change, again.

Throughout the book, I was drawn to Jacob.  I was standing on the sidelines routing for Jacob.  Jacob came into Beth's life at the imperfect "perfect" time.  The relationship that developed between Jacob and Beth was heartwarming.  At times, I thought Jacob came on a little strong, considering he had only known her a brief time, but who I am to judge when someone falls in love.

Jacob was Beth's knight in shining armor.  Jacob loved and cherished Beth.  He stood by Beth when she needed someone the most.  Jacob loved Beth unconditionally.  He was totally swoon worthy!! Beth struggled with opening her heart and allowing herself to be loved by Jacob.  By loving Jacob, would that diminish the love she has for Grant?  Could Beth open herself to the possibilities of a life without Grant, and a new life with Jacob?  Could Beth learn to love again? 

This story will make you stop and think of life and what is really important.  Don't take anything for granted, because it can all change in a blink of an eye...  There is no such thing as a "life's perfect plan"!  Life is full of unforeseen obstacles, we can only hope that we can make it through them and learn from life.

I would recommend Life's Perfect Plan.  There were times in the book that I was crying tears of sadness, as well as tears of joy.  Beth is a firecracker to say the least and I think the character development was very good.  I think Sara did a great job with her debut novel.  Keep up the good work.  I will give you a hint.  There is one scene that no matter how many times I read it, I cried...  The scene was very touching.....

Visit Sarah at

This review was prepared by Heather.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review!!


RELEASE DAY BLITZ - "Good" by S. Walden



Cadence Miller is a good girl.  She just happens to make one terrible mistake her junior year in high school which costs her ten months in juvenile detention.  Now a senior, she's lost everything; her best friend, the trust of her parents, driving privileges, Internet access.  it's a lonely existence.
But there is one bright spot: Mark Connelly, her very cute, very off-limits 28-year-old calculus teacher.  She falls hard for him - a ridiculous schoolgirl crush headed nowhere. She can't help it.  he's the only good thing at Crestview High.  She doesn't expect him to reciprocate her feelings.  How inappropriate, right?  But he does.  And he shows her.
And that's where her life goes from bad to good.


They couldn’t pick a busier road? Let’s just broadcast to the world what pathetic criminals we are.

I was out on Highway 28 dressed in my juvie garb finest—orange jumpsuit with bright yellow vest—walking along the shoulder picking up garbage tossed out of the car windows of other lawbreakers. I’d been assigned to a community service-based juvenile detention center. I guess I wasn’t hardcore enough to make it into the locked-down facilities. And I should have counted myself lucky: I actually got to leave the building on work assignments.

Yeah . . . whatever. I was freaking embarrassed. I was embarrassed every time they dumped me on the side of some road to pick up trash. My long blond hair was pulled up in a required ponytail highlighting flushed cheeks that turned a darker shade of red when a truck passed by slowly, honking obnoxiously, its passengers hanging out of the windows yelling at me.

“Cadence!” one shouted. “Nice outfit!”

I looked down at my jumpsuit. It was unflattering, clinging to my petite body like a baby onesie, but I could get over that. What I couldn’t get over was the hideous color that washed out my fair skin.

“Do not respond,” Officer Clements ordered.

“I wasn’t going to,” I mumbled, stabbing a Styrofoam cup with my trash stick.

“What was that?” Officer Clements asked, towering over me.

“Nothing, ma’am,” I replied, and continued my work. Just one more month, I thought, walking and jabbing, walking and jabbing.

I didn’t realize I had walked and jabbed my way down the road next to a car parked on the side, hoisted up on a jack. It was an old black Volkswagen, its owner a young man bent over changing a flat tire. Trash was littered about his work area, and I wasn’t sure if I should pick it up. But he seemed so wholly concentrated on screwing in the bolts that I was positive he’d take no notice of me.

I speared a burger wrapper near the back of the tire, and his face shot up.

My immediate reaction was to turn and run. I was afraid. I remembered a discussion in youth group a while back about angels and how every time they’re mentioned in the Bible, the first thing they say is, “Do not be afraid.” My youth pastor said that this was because angels were scary looking—eyes all over their bodies and under their wings. First of all, how did he know what an angel looked like? And second, why would God make his angels look like a bunch of freaks?

No. I didn’t think angels looked like that at all. I thought they looked like perfect symmetry, and that’s what scared the hell out of people. A form too beautiful to look upon. Like this young man bent over his tire, staring at my orange jumpsuit and trash stick, wondering what a little girl like me could have done to land in juvenile hall. Because I was little, after all. I stood at 5-foot-2 and weighed 100 pounds.

“I’ll be out of your way in a minute,” he said, wiping his brow with the back of his hand.

I nodded and watched him finish tightening the bolts, then stand and stretch his back. He wore the male version of skinny jeans and a black T-shirt that read “Midnight in a Perfect World” across the front in stark white letters. He sported red Converse All Stars, and a bunch of braided bands of various colors were wrapped around his left wrist. His black wavy hair stuck out in all directions, and I couldn’t tell if it was by nature’s blessing or hair product. I hoped it was natural. I didn’t want to think he spent a lot of time styling his hair.

He smiled at me, revealing soft dimples on both cheeks. I smiled back. His eyes were light. Good combination, I thought. Dark hair, light eyes. He was sexy. No doubt about that. Tall and lean. He looked like an intellectual. I figured he was some scholarly Emory University boy. Probably a philosophy major, I thought, smirking. I imagined he sat around chatting about existentialism with his hipster friends in some dive coffee shop (never Starbucks) sipping cappuccinos.

I giggled.

He stood at the trunk of his car putting away his tools and turned around when he heard me.

“What’s funny?” he asked. The smile still lingered on his mouth. “Did I split my pants or something?” He strained his head to look behind him at the butt of his jeans.

I laughed harder. “No. You didn’t split your pants.” I tried not to look at his butt.

“Phew!” he replied. “You know, I’ve done that in the past. Squatted on the ground to change a tire, and rip! Right down the middle. I happened to be on a date at the time.”

“No!” I cried, feeling just the slightest bit sorry for this stranger.

“Well, the date was on shaky ground once the tire popped. The pants-splitting sealed the deal, though. I guess she equated both of those things with ‘loser’ or ‘no money’,” he said.

“That’s awful,” I replied.

“Atlanta women are tough,” he went on, leaning against the trunk of his car. He looked me over and grinned.

“No, I’m not tough,” I replied to his unspoken question. “Don’t let the jumpsuit fool you.”

He shook his head. “What in God’s name could a little thing like you have done to wind up in juvie?”

I tensed. His demeanor. The way he talked to me. Like he’d known me for years. And he used “little thing” like a term of endearment. I knew I wasn’t imagining it. He did.

I opened my mouth to reply then shuddered at the sound of my name.

“Cadence Miller!” Officer Clements yelled.

“Shit,” I whispered, and turned around.


S. Walden used to teach English before making the best decision of her life by becoming a full-time writer.  She lives in Georgia with her very supportive husband who prefers physics textbooks over fiction and has a difficulty time understanding why her characters must have personality flaws.  She is wary of small children, so she has a Westie instead.  her dreams include raising chickens and owning and operating a beachside inn on the Gulf Coast (chickens included).  When she's not writing, she's thinking about it.

She loves her fans and loves to hear from them.  Email her at and follow her blog at where you can get up-to-date information on her current projects.

Twitter: @swaldenauthor


Three days only on AMAZON !!  S. Walden is dropping the price of ALL of her books on AMAZON to help celebrate the release of Good during the Release Day Blitz from August 27-29 !


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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cover Reveal: Four Years Later by Monica Murphy

(subject to change):

Guilt. That is all I ever feel when I think about my mom. Now she's back in my life, always wanting something. Having her around makes it so easy for me to fall into those bad habits that get me into trouble. Skipping class, smoking weed, fooling around with girls that mean nothing to me...I'm messing up. The last thing I need is my sister on my case.

So I keep my mom's return a secret. But promising I'll get my grades back up on my own isn't enough. Fable makes me see a tutor. And Chelsea is the smartest girl I've ever met. She's definitely not my type but there's something about her that I'm drawn to. She's sweet, she's shy and she seems completely immune to my usual moves.

Chelsea has her own secrets and she's not talking. Like I have any room to judge. How can I get her to open up to me? And will I ever be able to convince her that what we have could be something real?


About Monica Murphy:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Monica Murphy is a native Californian who lives in the foothills below Yosemite. A wife and mother of three, she writes New Adult and contemporary romance for Bantam and Avon. She is the author of One Week Girlfriend and Second Chance Boyfriend.


Author Goodreads:  
Amazon Author page:


Amazon Preorder:

Barnes and Noble Preorder:


COVER REVEAL: Running in Place (Mending Hearts #2) by L.B. Simmons

Expected release date: Late October 2013


Tatum O’Connell:
Some call me a party girl. People see me as happy, full of life, with absolutely no cares in the world. They see what I want them to see. But no one knows me - really knows me. Not even Noah Reese.  Mr. Perfect is always watching me, most likely judging every single imperfect thing I do. But, if Noah wants to keep an eye on me, that’s just fine. I definitely don’t mind. I just hope he doesn’t have any plans to save me from my new-found life of self-destruction because in order to save me, he will have to see me…

And I’m never going to let that happen.

Noah Reese:
Perfect. That’s me. That’s the only acceptable way to be, according to my father. Perfect grades. Perfect manners. Perfect athlete. Perfect SAT scores. Perfect college. And recently, I was accepted into the perfect med school. My future has already been mapped out for me and there’s nothing that can change that. Not even Tatum O’Connell. That girl is out of control, yet for some reason, I can’t seem to keep my distance from her. I watch her closely, hoping that one day she’ll let me in, but watching her lead her life down the dangerous path she’s on right now isn’t easy…

I have a feeling I’m about to find myself swept away by the hurricane that is Tatum O’Connell.

“Two fleeting souls,

Unknowingly tethered.

Too slowly drawn,

Impatient fate calls.

The jolting collide intertwines their lives

And splinters their walls.”                                              

“Catalyst” – Noah Reese

Goodreads link:

Mending Hearts #1 - Running on Empty:
Mending Hearts #1.5 -  Recovery:
Mending Hearts #2 - Running in Place

“Seriously, why are you even with him, Tatum? You never seem happy when you are.”
Well, that sure turned her smile upside down.  It also caused her to glare back at me.

“Like you have room to talk, Noah. Why are you with Piper?  You sure as hell never look happy when you’re with her, either.  You usually look irritated, actually.”

“Touché.  You’re right,” I shrug as I lean back against my chair, “We kind of have an agreement. So, it is what it is. But, it’s nice to know you’ve been watching.” I give her a quick wink.
She narrows her eyes as she sits back in her seat and crosses her arms over her chest.  “Well, you might want to explain that to her, because I’m pretty sure she thinks otherwise.  Like, she probably has the church booked and wedding magazines all over her apartment.”

It seems that even the mention of marriage also has an adverse effect on my cardiac system. Or maybe it’s just any reference to Piper?

We are getting way off track here, so I scoot my seat underneath the table, getting closer to Tatum and shift toward her, crooking my finger for her to lean in as well. After a slight hesitation, surprisingly she does.  I shield the side of my mouth with the back of my hand and lower my voice to a whisper. “Let’s drop the Piper topic for a second, it’s giving me heartburn, and concentrate on you for a second.” Her hardened mask breaks and she laughs even though I couldn’t be more serious.
“I’m going to give you a loser lesson.  Let’s call it, ‘Loser 101: Introduction to All Things Loser.’” Another small smile breaks across her lips and I’m once again momentarily distracted by her mouth. 

Glancing back up, I look into her eyes and grin.  “Okay, so number one.  His name isn’t really Cash, you know this right? His name is Herman. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if he’s not man enough to even stand behind the name his mother gave him, well?” 
Tatum’s eyes widen and she covers her mouth. “How did you know that?” she whispers back from behind her fingers. She looks like an adorable little girl with her huge blue eyes gaping back at me. It’s captivating.  I burn the image into my brain before letting her in on my secret.

“I’m a bartender.  I’ve seen his I.D.  In fact, I make him show it to me every time he comes into the bar because it makes me laugh.”

She drops her hand, huge smile displayed.  “You’re evil.”

“Yes, yes I am.” I hold up my pointer finger.  “That’s number one.  Number two…” I draw out, “He’s what? Twenty-four? You know what I see every time he hands me that I.D. other than his name and age? His goddamn huge-ass senior ring … from high school. He really needs to learn to let go of what were probably the best years of his life and just move on. So, if they still feel that their high school years are relevant – loser. Lesson number two.”

I count it on my fingers as I lean in even closer and whisper my final lesson in her ear. “The third one is the most important, so listen closely.” I take a discreet whiff of her hair before continuing. “You may not believe this but it’s the truth.  You deserve to be treasured.  You should be with someone who respects you, who makes you a better person, and most of all who makes you happy.  He, however, treats you poorly. I see it every single time I’m around the two of you, and I have to say it takes a lot of restraint on my part not to beat the shit out of him when I see him do it.” I lean away from her and hold up three fingers in front of her shocked-as-shit facial expression.  “So, they don’t respect you and treat you how you should be treated – loser. Lesson three.”
I clear my face of its smartass smirk so she understands that I’m completely serious.  “Never settle for less than you’re worth.  You don’t give yourself enough credit.  Hopefully, one day, you’ll see what everyone else sees.”

She graciously accepts my compliment with a half-smile and after sliding herself back into her chair, she studies me intently.
“Interesting lesson there, Noah.  Thank you for the wise words. But, as I clearly displayed last night, I have issues.  Not everyone would take me back after what I did last night. But he did.  Because, he loves me. We all have our faults, not everyone can be perfect, like you.  I hope you know that’s not meant to be an insult, so please don’t take it that way.  I just mean that some of us are flawed and have to deal with what we’re given.” She breaks from my eyes to watch the waitress pick up the empty plates from our table.  Once they’re cleared, she begins again, still gazing off in the distance.

“Broken hopes and expectations can leave very, very broken people. So, after a while, you learn not to aim so high, because when people fail you, you land hard and there’s only so many times a person can be shattered before they’re beyond repair.”

She brings her eyes back to mine.  “What you’re so quick to label as settling, I simply call survival,” she finishes with a defeated shrug of her shoulders.
After her statement, she casts her glance away from mine to smile at the person passing by.  Although as usual, it’s not genuine. It’s the same one she plasters on her face to appease everyone around her.

What the hell happened to her? 
The waitress conveniently drops the check off at our table, providing Tatum the perfect way out of this conversation and therefore any further interrogation.  She stands and pushes the chair out from underneath her with the backs of her knees. “Ready?” she asks, purse already in hand and stepping towards the direction of the register.

Well, I guess that’s all I’m getting from her for now. I know it’s not much, but I’ll take it.
It’s not like I can actually concentrate on asking her any more questions, because there’s one gigantic conclusion I’ve just drawn and it’s currently blocking any other thoughts from entering my mind.

A person who judges someone without really knowing them, without walking in their shoes, or without at least attempting to understand what they’ve gone through or experienced during their lifetime – loser.
Lesson number four.


Author Bio:

L.B. Simmons is a graduate of Texas A&M University and holds a degree in Biomedical Science. She has been a practicing Chemist for the last 11 years. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Texas and writes every chance she gets.

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