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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

✯BOOK BLITZ:✯ In the After by Elisa Dane {EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY!}





In the After by Elisa Dane

Release Date: February 2nd 2016 by Swoon Romance
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Sadie Reynolds is a liar with secrets. At school, she’s part of the popular crowd known as AE, despite being broken inside. She hides it well. She has to. The slightest bit of imperfection will land her in the same shoes as her Geeky neighbor named Ian. 

Ian and his only friend are the object of Sadie’s friends’ ridicule, ire, and entertainment. The AE rule the school with intimidation and retribution against anyone who would dare question their supremacy. 

Sadie steers clear of most of it, terrified someone will find out her secret. She isn’t the least bit perfect. In fact, she suffers from PTSD stemming from the murder of her mother right before her eyes when she was a child. She can barely cope from day-to-day, hiding her truth and trying to fit in. But she knows it’s only a matter of time. 

Hayden is a “Waverly,” a kid with the misfortune of living in the small farming town of Waverly that borders the very affluent Lexington Parrish. The AE doesn’t mix with “Waverlies.” Ever. 

Desperate to get away from her oppressive friends, Sadie crashes into Hayden at a bonfire and the attraction that sparks between them is nothing short of electric. But Hayden’s an outsider and when things heat up, Sadie will be forced to choose between her friends and her new boyfriend. 

Only Queen Bee Britt isn’t having it. She will not allow Sadie to cross her. Sadie can either do what Britt wants her to do or she will reveal Sadie for the PTSD freak that she is. 

Sadie does some soul searching about who she is and who she wants to be. She can’t live her life like this. Not any more. One fateful night will help her see how much things have to change. 

She’s determined to no longer allow the AE to rule her life. She will be strong, stand up for Ian and love who she wants in Hayden. Determined and invigorated, Sadie goes to school feeling hopeful for the first time in forever. 

But, the unthinkable happens. 

Shooters attack dozens of students before the two eventually take their own lives, leaving the school a decimated shadow of what it once was. 

Suddenly who lives where, wears what or loves whom seems like the least of Lexington Parish’s problems as everyone and everything changes forever in the after. 


Purchase: Amazon

{EXCERPT}

@MasterTrashy327: Not all pretty people are jerks. Thank u, Scarlet Angel <3

An icy chill seized through me as I crouched behind the immaculately sculpted rose bushes decorating the front of Ian’s house. I didn’t particularly want to begin my week skulking around my neighbor’s yard in the wee hours of the morning. However, I’d been playing Assassin for over a week and I’d yet to even come close to taking out my target. My early morning stakeout was necessary. I didn’t need Britt riding my ass about a stupid game on top of everything else.

Had it not been expected of me, I wouldn’t have signed up to play Assassin. My father, who’d taken a lateral transfer into the police department when we first moved to Lexington Parrish, hated the game and had lobbied to put a permanent stop to it in our small town. According to him, the city suffered enough traffic accidents without adding a bunch of crazy teens driving at high speeds trying to flee their make-believe killers. He’d also argued how easy it would be for the public to mistake the excited players lying in wait near homes and cars as real criminals. The game of Assassin created a plethora of problems for the police, but neither the school, nor his superiors at his department seemed to care. Lexington Parrish was an old, affluent town, rich with tradition, and the newbie cop didn’t stand a chance when it came to changing things up. Even in the name of safety.

I tugged the hood of my sweatshirt lower over my face and hunkered down in the small space between the bushes and the house, hoping against all hope I wouldn’t leave my hiding spot with spiders or some other gross creepy crawly clinging to my clothing. Dirt didn’t bother me much. Bugs did. The sun was just beginning to rise over the tops of the houses, the soft, early-morning light a comfort I clung to with silent desperation. Had it been dark, I wouldn’t be stalking my neighbor. Regardless of the fact I was out in the open.

The clock on my phone read 6:12 am. I slid the device into my pocket and palmed my Nerf gun with both hands. Our newspapers were delivered shortly after five each day, and I knew from memory that Ian fetched it for his parents every morning after he fed his dog. Flash barked every morning at six on the nose, which meant my opportunity to take Ian out was imminent.

Come on, Ian. Open the damn door. Come outside so I can take you out and get back to the warmth of my own home.

Mr. Pratt’s garage door creaked open across the street, and his obnoxious Pomeranian, Lucia, barreled down the driveway with an aggravating yip that made me want to tear my hair out. I loved animals, and obsessed over my Chihuahua, Mocha, on a daily basis. But, Lucia? She’d attacked Mocha twice and pissed on my dad’s newspaper on a regular basis. I couldn’t stand the little rodent.

So engrossed in the tiny puff ball bouncing on top of my neighbor’s newspaper, I didn’t hear the person sneaking up behind me. Stinging pain lit up the side of my face the moment the Nerf dart hit my cheek.

“Gotcha!”

I jumped at the sound of the deep voice. My heart slammed against my ribs, my body stiffened, and I flailed forward into the rose bushes with a garbled scream. Razor sharp thorns flayed open the skin on my hands, and tore open the exposed patch of flesh on my cheek. I fought against the hands gripping my feet, and kicked as my attacker tugged me out of the bushes. My surroundings bled away with the last remnants of dawn, my mind sending me back to the night that forever changed my life.

Cruel hands wrenched my arms behind my back and bound them together with plastic ties. The man’s breath was sour and his body reeked of sweat. He shoved my face against the hardwood floor and pressed his knee into my back while he tied my ankles together. I couldn’t lift my head, but I could see my mother’s limp body out of the corner of my eye. I saw the pool of blood seeping from the bullet hole in her leg. Her hoarse screams echoed in my head, a sound I knew I’d never forget.

“Shit, Sadie. Your face.” Dane’s voice yanked me out of the blackness holding me under, his large eyes and worried expression anchoring me to the present. “I’m so sorry, babe. I didn’t expect you to dive into the bushes like that.” He reached out and brushed his thumb across my cheek, and that’s when the pain returned. A searing ache lit up my cheek and hands, each of the cuts throbbing in time with the rapid beat of my heart. I pulled away from Dane’s touch and scrambled to my feet.

“I’m not your babe.” I stared at the blood trickling down the tops of my hands and winced, afraid of what I’d see the next time I looked into a mirror. My cheek felt like someone had taken a hot poker to it. I glared up at Dane, my discomfort fueling a heated wave of anger. “What are you doing out here so early?”

Dane stared at me like I was a loon. “Duh. Same thing you are. Stalking my target.” He twirled his Nerf gun, his lips curling up into a smug grin. He widened his stance and jutted his chin in my direction. “So, uh … You should totally let me take you out on Friday. You know, since I took you out of the game and all.”

I resisted the urge to puke. Having neither the patience, nor energy to tell him he wouldn’t be taking me anywhere, ever, I spun on my heels without answering him and high-tailed it back to my house. Please! Dane was the last person I wanted to spend any kind of time with. I needed coffee and quiet. Neither of which I’d get as long as I was near him. The porch light illuminated my reflection in the glass cutouts decorating my front door and I flinched. Crap. I’d most likely earn a load of snide comments from Britt and the gang later regarding the nasty gash on my face, and the fact I’d been taken out during the first week. But, on the flip side, I was officially out of the game. Jenna cared about Assassin as much as I did, so I expected nothing but relief from her when I spilled the beans we’d been eliminated. We, or rather, I, had been granted a reprieve, and I was more than a little thankful for it. Guilt about Ian’s poor treatment ate at me on a daily basis. I didn’t need the added responsibility of taking him out of Assassin on top of it.

***



“I’m going to kick Dane in the nut sack. It looks like a serial killer came at your face with a hacksaw.”

I watched the students milling up and down the school’s main hallway toward their first period classes feeling as though I were encased in some sort of bubble. Britt’s words cut deeper than the rose bush that marred my face, but I didn’t let it show. I’d never give her the satisfaction of knowing she’d hurt me in any way. So, I did what I always did—I readjusted my invisible armor, reminded myself I’d put on my Big Girl panties that morning, and donned a fake smile. “Please … The stupid jerk scared me to death! If anyone’s busting his nuts, it’s gonna be me.”

Jenna closed her locker with a giggle and scooted in alongside me while we waited for Britt to finish primping. Decked out in Victoria’s Secret bling sweats, with her hair pulled into a stylish side braid, Britt looked both comfortable and cute, which irritated the crap out of me. I’d worn a similar pair of sweats to school three weeks before and was told I looked like a frumpy hobo. Clearly Britt was the only person at Atwood who was allowed to rock hobo chic.

She smoothed on a fresh layer of gloss and eyeballed us from the mirror hanging inside her locker door. “Party at my house this Friday. Both you bitches better be there,” She rolled her lips together, spreading her newly applied gloss, then shut her locker door. Brow raised and lip quirked into a devious smile, she hugged her folder between her arm and her body and faced me full on. “About Dane … I know he wants to take things to the next level with you, so maybe we should leave his balls intact.”

My eyebrows shot up into my hairline. “Next level?” My gaze darted to Jenna, who was straining to keep a blank face, then back to Britt. “I didn’t realize we’d reached any kind of level.” I didn’t bother to mention the fact Dane made my skin crawl, or that I’d rather suck face with a pile driver than experience any sort of “level” with him. My single status was safe where he was concerned.

Britt rolled her eyes and blew out a frustrated breath. “Jesus, Sadie. It’s like you were born without a brain, or something.” She stepped forward and crossed her other arm over her chest, her body language revealing her growing irritation with me. “Dane likes you. Like, really likes you. You’ve been single long enough, and he’s a good match for you. Besides, it’s a couples party.”

The bell rang out overhead, effectively saving me from saying something that would surely get me in trouble. If Britt liked Dane so much, why the hell didn’t she date him? I wasn’t interested, and I didn’t need a plus one. The only person I was interested in was unavailable to me except for a one-night stand per AE rules. I didn’t hook up like that, so I was ass-out when it came to finding someone to pair up with.

Unease wormed its way through my gut as I thought about Jenna’s date for the party. She’d dated Jason Weathers on and off for the past two years, and though they were more off than on, she always took him back regardless of the crappy way he treated her. A manwhore to the core, Jason was a key member of the Atwood Elite and Jenna was expected to play his other half and project a happy, perfect couple vibe. Those two were anything but and I worried what dealing with his bullshit would do to her precarious mental state. I needed my best friend healthy as well as happy.

We parted ways, the hall that had been bustling with students just moments before thinning out as kids hauled butt to their first period classes.

The library was quiet and empty, and I took a moment to bask in its comforting ambience before storing my things behind the front desk. Mrs. King’s familiar chicken-scratch handwriting scrawled across a sheet of notepaper placed on the desk in front of my chair.

Taking another conference call this morning. Please shelve the books on the cart, then go through the returns.

I sucked in a shallow breath, blowing the air back out slowly as I rounded the desk. The metal cart was overloaded with books, which meant I’d spend a better part of the hour placing them back in their homes. Eager to get the menial task over with, I pushed the squeaky cart into the stacks, wishing I could get lost among the books and just spend my day reading. I never felt as relaxed as I did when my nose was in a book, and I desperately needed the escape after Britt’s party announcement.

Encyclopedia in hand, I rounded the corner into the reference section, the familiar tingling I always felt when Hayden was near suddenly inching across my skin like a hot flush. I peered down the aisle, frowning when I saw it was empty. He wasn’t behind me either, much to my dismay. Had I imagined his presence? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have Hayden on the brain. I’d thought about him almost constantly since our brief conversation at the diner. Jenna and I had gone back to Moe’s every day for the rest of the week, but aside from a few sidelong glances and a handful of beautiful smiles, we hadn’t spoken again. I was dying to get up close and personal with him. To talk with him about things other than Ian, and Britt, and all of the high school BS we dealt with on a daily basis.

I plucked another book off the cart, this one a biography of Marilyn Monroe, and headed toward the rear of the stacks. I was just about to place the book in its resting place when a large hand reached over my shoulder and snagged the book out of my hand.

My skin tingled, my pulse hummed, and my knees felt as though they might give out at any moment. I didn’t bother hiding my grin. Hayden was behind me.

“Did you know Joe DiMaggio delivered half a dozen roses to her crypt every week for twenty years?”

His warm breath tickled my ear, and sent my blood boiling beneath my skin. I turned around, nice and slow, and glanced up at him through my lashes with a shy smile. “Is that so?” I took a step back and leaned against the tall shelves, thankful for their unwavering support. His crisp, clean scent, and Bad Boy aura were sending my poor body into a full on snit. If I didn’t get hold of myself I was likely to end up a boneless sack of flesh marring the library floor. My palms began to sweat and my chest felt like it had a billion hummingbirds flapping their wings inside of it. I quirked a brow. “So, you’re an expert on Marilyn Monroe, then?”

Hayden leaned forward, his intoxicating scent captivating every molecule in my being as he deftly slid the biography back onto the shelf behind my head. His body hovered just centimeters from mine, the low-level buzz I felt whenever he was near sparking like a downed wire—hot and dangerous. He dropped his head, his lips a hairsbreadth from my ear. “I’m a fan of baseball, and she was married to Joe DiMaggio.

My breathing felt stunted, the air my lungs had so thanklessly taken for granted just moments ago, sparse and non-existent. Something told me, some inner voice deep within me, that oxygen wasn’t necessary when Hayden was around. Just being near him was enough to sustain me.

He gently brushed my hair away from my face, his eyes darkening when he took in the angry scratch on my cheek. Taking care not to touch the still-painful wound, he slid a calloused finger across the skin beneath the cut and shook his head with a frown. “I heard about your execution this morning.” His finger and thumb lingered on my chin for a moment before he dropped his hand. “That’s twice now you’ve damaged your pretty skin because of Dane Whittier.” The muscles in his jaw rippled, his flirtatious demeanor quickly shifting to something dark and dangerous.

We’d had so little time together, I couldn’t bear the thought of wasting whatever time we had now talking about Dane. I needed to change the subject, and quick.

“Is your class in the library for research again?” My question was stupid, but hopefully it would do the trick.

Hayden shook his head, the budding anger I’d seen in his eyes washing away with the movement. He treated me to a heart-stopping grin, but said nothing as I gazed up at him, with a renewed feeling of breathlessness.

“Then, what are you doing here?” There was no power to my voice. It had flown away and joined the hummingbirds swarming inside my chest. Please. Please say you’re here for me. Feel what I feel. Tell me this attraction isn’t one-sided.

Hayden inched closer, lifted his left hand, and gently ran the back of it down the length of my arm, eliciting a tremor and a horde of goose-flesh that danced across my skin. His touch was magic. Just like his smile. And his beautiful cerulean eyes.

He cocked his head to the side, his eyes filled with warmth, his smile confident. “You came back to the diner after we talked last week.”

I bit my bottom lip, the action doing little to diminish the ridiculously huge grin crossing my mouth. I huffed out a soft laugh. “That I did.”

His calloused finger slid back up the length of my arm, trailing up the same path it had just descended, and I silently bartered with God, offering up my firstborn child and all the money in my father’s bank account if He’d make it so Hayden would never stop touching me.

He leaned forward again, his warm, minty breath swirling inside my head and chest like a powerful drug I couldn’t get enough of. “I liked seeing you outside of school every day.” His magic fingers found my hair, the gentle tug he gave the red strand as he played with the softly curled end making me want to purr like a kitten. He carefully placed the curl back with the rest of my hair and fixed his gaze onto mine once again. “Think we can arrange for that to keep happening?”

I nodded once, unable to speak. Unable to do anything but melt beneath his mesmerizing stare. High. I was literally high off his presence. Having an out-of-body experience. My heart and mind floating on a cloud somewhere, my feeble body and Hayden’s close proximity the only things tethering me to the earth.

He felt it. The connection. The pull. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. I wanted to press my lips to his and lose myself in what would surely be the most pleasurable experience I’d ever had. If a simple touch from him could undo me like this, then a kiss would surely kill me.

I couldn’t think of a better way to die.

“Sadie?” Mrs. King’s one-word question floated through the stacks, her normally pleasant voice a sour buzz-kill. I wasn’t ready for my time with Hayden to be over yet.

“Just finishing up, Mrs. King!” I glanced down the long aisle of books, then back up at Hayden, unable to hide the disappointment in my eyes. “I, uh … better get back to work.”

He swiped his thumb across his mouth before jamming his hands into his pockets. He stared down at me through his lashes, the combination of his expectant smile and the hopefulness in his eyes a heady drug I needed more of. “See you at Moe’s later?”

I breathed out a weak “yes” at which point he chuckled, popped me on the nose with his pointer finger, then spun on his heels and strode away.

I had no memory of the last fifteen minutes of first period. My head, my every thought was on the dangerous hottie from the wrong side of the tracks. One thing was certain: the rest of the books never got put away.

***

A wave of anxiety smothered me as I entered the lunchroom. The normally raucous space was eerily quiet save for a low rumble of hushed whispers, and soft gasps. I narrowed my eyes as I passed several tables, wondering what was so interesting online that everyone was glued to their cell phones. I slid onto my normal seat alongside Jenna and reached for my phone as I searched her face for clues. “Did someone we know die?”

Jenna frowned. “Pull up Atwood’s Assassin Facebook Page.”

Focusing on the device in my hand, I did as she told me. I scrolled through the long list of benign posts, wondering what it was that had everyone so enthralled. “I don’t see anything, I—”

And there it was. Glaring up at me from my tiny cell phone screen, the bold text and sickening threat sending a wave of ice rushing through my veins.

My wrath is coming, you AE fuckers! You should’ve backed off. Now you’re going to pay. Blood’s gonna flow, and I’m finally gonna be free.

The post had been made an hour earlier by someone named “The Equalizer”, their profile picture an AK 47.

“What is this shit?” Britt snapped from across the table. She held her phone between her thumb and forefinger and glared at the rest of us as though we were supposed to have an answer for her. “Who the fuck is The Equalizer, and how were they able to access the game’s Facebook page?”

“Whoever set up the game’s page made it so that anyone can act as an admin. All this nut job had to do was create a new account and add him- or herself to the page.” Jenna leaned forward, resting her arms on top of the table as she peered down at Britt in silent challenge.

I sat in quiet shock, surprised at Jenna for being so bold where Britt was concerned, the blossoming pride I felt for my friend outweighed by the magnitude of the situation. A clear threat had been made against the AE, and it needed to be addressed.

Britt slammed her phone on the table and stood, brows narrowed, face pinched into a mask of anger. “It’s not my fault some psycho loser decided to grow a pair and threaten us.” She crossed her arms over her chest and scanned the lunchroom with a scowl. “I’m going to find out who made this post,” she said, voice raised. “And when I do, this person is going to pay. Mr. Patrick!” When the vice principal didn’t respond, she palmed her phone and stormed over to the opposite side of the room where he stood amidst a group of students.

I set my phone down alongside my homemade salad, my appetite long gone. Vice Principal Patrick was a man of action and I liked him. I’d no doubt he’d make sure the right people investigated the threat.

“What type of person makes a post like that?” Jenna muttered beneath her breath.

A spasm rocked through me, my subconscious fighting to suck me back to a time I desperately wanted to forget. Those words. I wished I’d never looked at my phone. I couldn’t get them out of my head.

Blood’s gonna flow …

A vivid picture of blood seeping out of the bullet wound in my mother’s leg onto our hardwood floor flashed behind my eyes. I gripped the edge of the table and fought to pull air into my lungs as I rode out my memory’s attack on my conscious mind.

Jenna gripped my upper arm. “Sadie?”

“I know exactly what type of douchebag person would post this kind of shit.” Dane slammed his hands onto the table as he stood up, his gaze zeroed in on the double doors leading into the room. His jaw clenched and his body shook with rage. “The same person who threatened us at the bonfire and warned me to back off his cousin.”

Prickly awareness swept across my skin, my heartbeat quickening. I didn’t have to turn to know Dane was referring to Hayden. I followed his gaze anyway, panic seizing my already tense muscles when I saw the boy I liked stroll into the room with Jesse, and his other Waverly friend whose name I still didn’t know.

Dane was across the room and crowding Hayden’s personal space before I had a chance to catch my breath. The sea of whispers echoing throughout the room silenced, all eyes in the cafeteria focused on the escalating conflict.

Fists clenched, Dane lunged forward, bumping his chest against Hayden’s. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, threatening me and my friends, asshole?”

Jesse and the other Waverly kid closed in on Dane, arms raised, only to back off seconds later at Hayden’s signal. They sank back, while Hayden glowered down at Dane, seemingly unfazed by his adrenaline-fueled outburst.

Hayden’s eyes blazed with controlled anger. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll back away from me right now, Whittier.”

Dane stood his ground, his entire frame pulsating with unleashed adrenaline. “You threatening me, Pope?” He leaned closer, chest puffed out, muscles coiled and ready for attack.

Hayden’s face was an icy mask of contempt. He shrugged once. “I’m just stating the facts, asshole. You need to back up off my shit, before I break you.”

“Screw that, dick! You threatened me last Saturday night.” Dane shoved Hayden, his voice rising from a menacing growl to full on shouting. “Just like you threatened to kill my friends today, you piece-of-shit loser.”

Unlike Dane, who’d completely lost it, Hayden remained in control. He reared his arm back and cracked his fist against Dane’s jaw with an unholy amount of force.

Dane went down like a falling tree, at which point Hayden jumped on top of him and continued punching him with deadly force. “I warned you to back away, asshole. You shove me, I break your face!”

The cafeteria broke into an uproar. Students screamed, while others cheered the fight on. Vice Principal Patrick beat feet across the room, bumping into kids and shoving them out of the way in order to get to the fight. He dove into the melee, his crisp gray suit getting wrinkled to hell as he yanked Hayden off Dane, whose nose was gushing blood onto his clothes and floor.

Mr. Rhodes, the burly campus supervisor, came running onto the scene moments later, huffing and puffing, round face sweaty and purple from exertion. He hauled Dane off the floor while a couple of teachers broke up the crowd of students who’d gathered around the fight.

The two boys were escorted out of the cafeteria moments before the bell rang. Hyped and eager to pounce on prime gossip fodder, Britt immediately began flapping her gums about the fight. “Dane’s a big boy, but my money would have been on the hot Waverly. I don’t think he was the one who wrote the threatening post, but he’s so damn hot, I’d probably sample him anyway.”

I single-filed it behind Jenna as we exited the lunchroom, wishing I had a muzzle, or some sort of mystical mute button that would shut Britt up. While I agreed with her—I didn’t believe Hayden was responsible for the Facebook threat, I wasn’t so sure the school’s faculty would feel the same. Hayden’s choice of words this past Saturday, and just a few moments ago, were strikingly similar to the ominous message left on the Assassin game page. He was bound to be questioned, and possibly suspended, for his fight with Dane. The idea of not seeing him at school for any length of time sent a hollow ache into my chest.

I pulled my history book from my locker and fell in among the sea of students milling to their next class. My day was shot. There was no way I could concentrate on learning after Dane and Hayden’s fight. I couldn’t get that ominous threat out of my head either. The AE had a ton of enemies. We were hated by just about everyone who wasn’t a part of our social circle, which meant any one of my classmates could be after us. After me.

I swallowed thickly as I entered my history class, unable to squash the sick feeling whirling inside my chest.

AUTHOR BIO:

ELISA DANE is a self-proclaimed book junkie. A lover of handbags, chocolate, and reality television, she's a proud mother to three All- Star cheerleaders. Writing is her absolute passion, and it's her mission to create stories that will not only take you on a romantic journey that will warm your heart, but help you find a new respect and interest in the sport of All-Star cheerleading. 

Elisa is no stranger to the publishing world. She writes steamy paranormal romance under her real name, Lisa Sanchez. Her adult works include the Hanford Park series (Eve Of Samhain, Pleasures Untold, and Faythe Reclaimed), Obsessed (an erotic suspense), and a paranormal novella, Cursing Athena. Elisa lives in Northern California with her husband, three daughters, and a feisty Chihuahua who stubbornly believes she's human. 


{GIVEAWAY!}



Thanks for stopping by! :)

1 comments:

Bridgett wilbur said... Best Blogger Tips

This book sounds great and I would love to read it. ty

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