Mike Haddican is a proud small-town gym owner, a renowned karate instructor, and all-around good guy. He’s never needed much to be happy: his family, his friends, his girl. Especially his girl. But when Kyra left him seven years ago to chase her dreams, she all but destroyed him.
Contemporary dancer Kyra Brims made it big, but it cost her dearly. With her life and career in shambles, she doesn’t need a do-over, she needs a friggin’ miracle. Injured, broke, and out of options after going through hell, she’s come back to Alden, the town she swore she’d never return to and home of Mike Haddican, the man who ripped her soul to pieces, to lick her wounds and recover.
Forgetting and letting go proved impossible when they were worlds apart; now that they’re stuck together they don’t stand a chance, especially with Mike’s grandma and her partners in crime plotting, meddling and refusing to give up on them.
As the passion that never died burns out of control, so do old hurts and unresolved issues. Both have reasons to be angry and feel betrayed, but now that they’re older, are they wise enough to make things work?
“This is a bad idea, Grandma,” Mike said as he walked out of the dressing room at the community center, wearing nothing but his boxers and an intimidating scowl that, unfortunately and as usual, had no effect whatsoever on the old lady.
“Nonsense. The girls are anxiously waiting. Let’s roll,” she said as she pushed him forward and down the corridor.
Scratch bad. This was a shitty idea.
His grandmother was barely five feet tall and a hundred pounds when drenched. How she got the strength to push his big frame while he was literally dragging his feet was beyond him.
“Besides, you promised you’d do it.”
He snorted. “No, I didn’t. I promised I’d help you with your senior courses. Meaning I’d drive you around, do your shopping, and stuff like that. I didn’t agree to pose for your male-anatomy painting lessons. You know I’m too busy for this.” He’d stopped working as a foreman several years ago to run the family gym full-time with his dad, but last month Cole had taken on the renovation of the town’s library pro bono, and Mike had volunteered to help. That plus the gym and the martial-arts classes in the afternoons had taken up all his time. Fuck it if now that the library was almost ready he was going to invest whatever was left of the summer in this. “Can’t you guys use, I don’t know, a statue? Or better yet, a picture. There are plenty of books and—”
“Live human-anatomy painting, Mike,” she interrupted, emphasizing the word “live,” “and one is never too busy to help his grandmother.”
Well, it depended on how nutty the grandmother was, didn’t it?
“What about Mr. Honbacker or Mr. Stilt from bingo nights?” he asked, trying to get out if it. “I’m sure they are free and willing.”
His grandmother clicked her tongue. “The idea behind these classes is for us senior citizens to enjoy ourselves. We do know we have a foot in the grave. We have enough of a reality check every time we look in the mirror, honey. Besides, Mr. Stilt’s prostate is acting up again. He can’t stay still fifteen minutes to save his own life. And about Mr. Honbacker,” she added, lowering her voice, “Greta had a…fling with him. They are not on speaking terms. Some kinky thing he did with his false teeth, I hear.”
Oh man. There was an image he wouldn’t be able to erase from his mind even if he lived to be one hundred.
That was what he got for being nice—permanent brain damage.
“You’re a flawless specimen in the prime of your life,” she continued, reaching for his arm and squeezing his biceps appreciatively. “Handsome and fit. A perfect Michelangelo’s David.”
He turned his head to her. “You’re kidding me, right? Come on, do I look anything like Michelangelo’s David?”
She pondered his words as her gaze traveled over his bulk and tattoos, then settled on his face. “Well, your hair isn’t curly.”
He rolled his eyes. Trust her to focus on the most insignificant things.
For one, his hair was cropped so short it was barely there. And two, he was heavily tattooed, weighed around two hundred forty pounds, and a lifetime of practicing boxing and martial arts had granted him a body that had little to do with that of an effeminate boy.
“You’re a bit rougher than Michelangelo’s David,” she finally conceded, “but you’ll do nicely, I’m sure of it. The girls will be pleased.”
For the love of God.
“I’m your grandson, and you’re pimping me out. Don’t you see anything wrong with this picture?”
“Just humor us. We’re a bunch of women in our eighties. Half of us are blind; the other half won’t remember what we did today tomorrow. And you only have to pose. The girls voted for body oil to highlight your muscles, but they couldn’t agree who should help you rub it on, so I vetoed.”
“Fuck me,” he muttered as he dug his heels in.
That was what he got for going along with her wacky ideas. For not putting his foot down. Like when she decided her girls needed self-defense classes. They needed an extra edge, she’d said. Extra edge for what? What were those grandmas going to be doing? Strolling around Southie sporting colors? Considering their age, the best bet if anyone tried to rob them would be to hand over the purse. Better that than risk any injury. His grandmother hadn’t agreed, of course, and now, every Tuesday, there was a self-defense class for seniors down at the gym, where Mike was supposed to teach those charming ladies how to knock down a potential assailant without breaking any bones of their own.
“Come on, Mike, you know we’re harmless.”
Yeah, harmless his ass. He’d rather face a bloodthirsty firing squad or, better yet, the Hulk in a no-holds-barred underground fight than deal with all the guilt-tripping of the OGs—the Original Grandmas—what his grandmother and her partners in crime, Greta and Wilma, had fittingly named the messenger group they shared.
“Besides, you’ve been fooling around with too many women to count. I bet half the continental US has seen you naked. What does it matter if a bunch of grannies see you in your undies? Oh, look, I got a rhyme. Sort of. I need to remember it. For my creative-writing course. I’m compiling my memoirs.”
“Your memoirs? Why do you need creative writing for memoirs?”
She let out a soft snort. “You wouldn’t believe it.”
Next time Mr. Bowen came for a visit, Mike was so bribing him into taking her to Eternal Sun Resort in Florida. From what he’d heard, the senior community was more than adequately equipped to keep his grandmother entertained and the rest of the world out of trouble.
In the meantime, he needed to do some damage control.
Probably sensing he was about to hightail it out of there, she pulled out the big guns. “You promised, Mike. You can’t break your promises to me. For all you know, I could drop dead tomorrow, and you’d have to carry the guilt of breaking my heart for the rest of your life.”
God grant him patience.
“Oh please, you’ve been using the same I-could-drop-dead-tomorrow line to get away with whatever you wanted for the last twenty years.”
She shrugged. “I’ve just been lucky, but clearly I’m running out of time. The probability of me kicking the bucket becomes higher and higher with every passing day. You shouldn’t risk it.”
Right. She was in great shape, not only for her age but for someone ten years younger.
“A shameless blackmailer, that’s what you are,” he muttered as they approached the room, following the sound of animated chatter. “No oil. No rubbing. Heck, no touching at all. And the boxers are staying on, are we clear?” He wasn’t sure if Michelangelo’s David was a complete nude or if he had something covering his junk, but Mike had his suspicions, and no way in hell was he risking it.
She patted him condescendingly. “Of course, dear. It’s not our intention to make you uncomfortable in any way.”
Really? Thank fucking God, because he’d been nothing but damn uncomfortable since he’d set foot in the community center.
“For the record, Mike, none of us has had sex during this century, granted, but equipment-wise, I doubt you have something we haven’t seen before.”
He choked on the breath he was taking. He wouldn’t bet on that.
The second he entered the room, a perfectly heart-shaped ass clad in barely there boy shorts that left the undersides of the ass cheeks in plain view welcomed him. Well, maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all. The girl was bent over, so he couldn’t see her face, but what he could see was very promising.
“I thought you needed a model for the male-anatomy painting class,” he whispered as he lifted his chin, greeting his grandmother’s blue-haired posse.
“No, I needed a male model for the anatomy painting class.”
She should have started with that. As an incentive if nothing else. He was still pissed he’d be spending every Wednesday posing in his damn underwear—hopefully—but at least he wouldn’t be alone in his misery and could entertain himself with eye candy.
He caught his grandmother’s gaze drifting away to the floor, a flash of unease on her face, and his joy took a nosedive.
Oh boy, why did he have a shitty feeling about this? Before he could ask anything, the owner of that glorious ass straightened, turned around, and his fucking heart jumped to his throat and stopped.
There, standing in those sexy-like-hell shorts and a sports bra, showing off her toned, curvy, and mouthwatering body, looking surprised as all fuck—and displeased as all fuck too—was Kyra.
No, not his Kyra anymore, he corrected himself.
He instinctively took a step back, the air suddenly too thick to breathe.
She’d been back in Alden for a bit over a month now, and this was the closest he’d been to her.
Much closer than he wanted to be ever again.
“A word?” he growled to his grandmother while moving back to the hallway, dragging her along.
Hoping he was out of earshot, he stopped and turned to her, his jaw clenched so tight he had trouble getting any words out. “Are you crazy?”
She thought for a second. “Is that a trick question? Because I warn you my admission won’t have any legal validity, in case you’re having funny thoughts.”
He ignored her. “Kyra? Really?” He hated the raw bitterness dripping from his voice, but there was nothing he could do about it.
She lifted her shoulders. “I had nothing to do with that. I was in charge of bringing a male model. Greta is the one who got Kyra.”
Sure she had nothing to do with Kyra being in there. His grandma, Wilma, and Greta made the Three Musketeers look like total strangers.
“Not doing it. No fucking way.”
“What’s the problem? You told me you were over her.”
Sure he was over her.
Over and fucking done, but that didn’t mean he wanted to spend any time around her. For one, because even now, seeing her or hearing her voice still sent a surge of pain through his chest, which, considering how fucking badly she’d crushed him all those years ago, pissed him off to no end. That, of course, he wasn’t going to explain to his grandmother.
Not that she needed any explanations to read him.
“I thought we could be mature about this,” he heard her say.
Fuck mature. He was running for the hills.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that he’d promised Cole he would help with the library’s renovation, he would have gotten the fuck out of Alden the very first day she came back. Then again, his father couldn’t manage the gym by himself, so he was stuck.
Since her return, out of pure self-preservation, he’d become a master at avoiding her, which in a place the size of Alden was a damn feat. Posing with her for a couple of hours in a confined space, without immediate means of escape, would blow to hell and back the frail status quo he’d managed to achieve. Not to mention he would lose whatever little was left of his frigging peace of mind. He’d have nothing to do but stare at her. At those gorgeous gray eyes of hers that he, once upon a time, used to wake up to. At that bee-stung, luscious mouth he used to spend hours kissing. At that sexy hourglass body he used to love fucking.
He shook his head. “Grandma, I—”
She sighed. “I understand. If you can’t take it, you can’t take it. I’ll walk right back in and say you can’t do it. You shouldn’t feel like any less of a man for it. It’s okay your feelings are still tender, my boy,” she said, patting his chest. “Nobody will think less of you.”
He groaned in exasperation. Fantastic. Now he’d look like a fucking pussy if he backed down.
Whatever. Worse things to look like in life than a pussy, even for a born fighter like him. Not sure what exactly, but he was sure there were some.
He turned around and began walking away.
“Michael Haddican, if you leave, we have to cancel the class. The whole course, probably. If we cancel, she won’t get paid. She needs the cash. She’s in trouble, my boy. In two days—”
“Don’t want to hear it,” he said through gritted teeth, his tone harsh.
He didn’t want to hear a damn fucking word. Not a one. The sight of her and Sam was painful enough. He didn’t need a sound track to go with it, thank you very much.
He got a handful of steps more before he stopped and let out a low, pissed-off growl.
“Mike, please,” he heard his grandma say.
He slung his head forward.
Fuck. Shit. Crap.
He hated being played, but for the life of him he couldn’t walk away knowing he would be directly responsible for making Kyra’s situation more difficult than it already was. And why that mattered to him after all that had gone down, he couldn’t fathom. Well, he could; he was a moron in dire need of a lobotomy. Pronto.
After a long pause, his back still to his grandmother, he muttered, “I thought you said this was volunteer work.”
“For you it is. I’ve donated your pay to the church.”
He shook his head. He was so going to regret this.
God protect the unsuspecting soul who would spar with him in the gym later on. He was going to have so much pent-up aggression he would annihilate the poor bastard.
He turned around. “Just this once,” he said as sternly as he could muster. “You better find a substitute for next time. I don’t care if you have to make do with Mr. Honbacker and his kinky teeth or Mr. Stilt and his prostate. You either get someone else next time, or your classes will be canceled. You hear me?”
She beamed. “Yeah, yeah. I hear you.”
He drew in a deep breath and walked back inside.
He could do mature.
The second his gaze landed on Kyra, he felt his cock stir. Jesus fucking Christ. Didn’t the little fucker have a smidgen of dignity?
He should not only be lobotomized, he should be castrated too, for good measure.
Her voluptuous mane of black hair was twisted back in a knot, two hair sticks haphazardly holding it up. Thanks to her mixed Hispanic ancestry, she had sun-kissed skin, raven hair, and almond-shaped eyes. That they weren’t black but smoky gray made her even more exotic.
They stared at each other for a long second.
Man, to him she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
How the fuck was he going to pull this off?
“Mike,” Kyra greeted him, her voice clipped.
She wasn’t happier than he was at this moment. She stood stiff, eyeing the door as if she might bolt at any second. But he knew she wouldn’t. Like him, she’d always had a soft spot for his grandmother. Never mind how badly Kyra might need the money, she would be running out the door if this gig didn’t involve the OGs. Or maybe not. Who the fuck knew her now? Certainly not him. He wondered if he ever did.
Shaking those thoughts away, he nodded in her general direction. His cock followed suit.
Christ. He had to get the fuck out of here.
He threw a dirty glance to his grandmother, who now was shamelessly smiling. Wilma and Greta, her sisters in mischief, were smiling too.
“Let’s get cracking,” the evil woman said, grabbing him by the arm and pushing him forward. “Come stand here in front of Kyra.”
He lifted his gaze up, chanced another look at Kyra, and his dick twitched again. Oh hell. These boxers were no barrier. At all. They were going to start tenting in three…two…one.
And cue public humiliation.
Well, if his cock burst straight through his pants and gave her friends a collective heart attack, his grandmother would have no one to blame but herself. Then again, sending half the senior population in Alden to the ER would be a hell of a way to end his Wednesday. He would never live that one down.
He took in a slow breath, and reaching deep inside into the place where he kept it all locked away, he released every ounce of pain that came hand in hand with Kyra, allowing the memories to flood into his mind. And with that, he felt his dick retreating.
Now he could do this.
Elle loves to hear from readers!
It’s New Years Eve and time for a resolution. Time for decision and self-discovery.
After all, isn’t that what starting over, in a new year, is all about? Forgiveness. Clean slates?
Finding beauty in heartbreak and pain, and finding yourself along the way?
We hope so.
Because we’ve immersed in the anonymously published Dear Life program, designed to help us step outside of our comfort zones and start anew. Forced to face obstacles and relinquish our demons we’ll come together–or fall apart– to prove our existence:
Hollyn: The perpetually hurt
Daisy: The sheltered and naïve
Jace: The athlete with a heart of gold
Carter: The bitter and pained dreamer
Win big or lose it all, we’re at a crossroads in our lives; four strangers meeting in the middle.
Do we have what it takes to use this one chance and start over? Or will we fall apart?
Author, wife, adoptive mother, and peanut butter lover. Will dance for laughs, won’t eat anything spicy because you asked, but will squeeze boobs in replace of a hug. Grew up in Southern California (Temecula, anyone? Anyone?) lived in New York (the armpit of NY, not the city) and now resides in Colorado with my wife, son, two dogs, three cats, and my multiple book boyfriends. Loves love, anything romantic, and will die if I ever meet Tom Hanks. Yay, books!
Teagan Harper is barely ten years old when she finds herself orphaned and sent away to live at Raven’s Peak, a Gothic estate on the seaside cliffs of Maine. Soon, though, her heartache and loneliness are tempered by a blossoming friendship with the only other child living at Raven’s Peak: Kane Doyle, only two years older than Teagan and abandoned by his mother. Over the years, the pair grows inseparable. First they’re pranksters and confidants, but eventually their feelings change, and best friends turn into soul mates. On the cusp of Teagan’s departure for a university in Boston, they share a glimpse into their happily-ever-after and make promises of forever.
But Teagan and Kane’s engagement and dreams of the future are shattered when Teagan returns home to find Kane gone from Raven’s Peak—and living with someone new. Devastated and heartbroken, Teagan cuts ties with her beloved adoptive home and tries to move on with her life. But years later, when the shocking truth behind Kane’s betrayal comes to light, Teagan must decide whether to embrace her new life and let go of her past once and for all, or fight for her dream life with the only man she’s ever wanted.
Successful restaurateur Lucien Black’s blue-green eyes and unattainable attitude drive women wild. But his abandonment issues and criminal past have left him emotionally closed off. When a familiar face shows up for a job interview at his nightclub, the ache he has tried to forget tears at his heart—it’s the girl who once healed him…and then abandoned him.
Darcy MacBride still remembers Lucien’s delicate touch when they were both wildly in love teenagers. His gorgeous eyes had soothed her hurt after she’d been dumped off at the orphanage where Lucien lived. Darcy felt his jagged edges fit perfectly into her own, and she’d planned to spend the rest of her life with him—until a mysterious man warned her away. Now, fourteen years later, she’s ready to endure the torture of Lucien’s indifference and having him as her boss…just to be near him. But when it seems that they might finally take up where they left off, a devastating secret buried in their past threatens to tear them apart again.
L.A. Fiore’s story of smoldering love recaptures the tormented romance of Beautifully Damaged.
After grieving the loss of her husband and son, TV host Morgan Marshall is ready to embrace life again. But she won’t risk a relationship with the father of her favorite cooking student, Avery, since the girl’s happiness is more important than her own.
Advertising executive Alex Blake never thought another woman could pique his interest after losing his wife to pneumonia, a complication of her cancer. Yet every time he’s in Morgan’s presence, she brings sunlight into the room. Plus, she’s a role model for his daughter. But if he asks Morgan for a date and then she refuses a second one, the person he loves the most, Avery, could get hurt the worst because she adores Morgan.
When Alex is injured in a fall, Morgan insists on caring for him and Avery. As they share holiday fun, Avery topples Morgan’s beloved crystal bell collection, shattering it to pieces. Together are they able to discover love of one another is more priceless than any object money can buy?
Freak. Witch. Crazy. Schizo.
Ember Brycin has been called them all. She’s always known she’s different. No one has ever called her normal, even under the best circumstances. Bizarre and inexplicable things continually happen to her, and having two different colored eyes, strange hair, and an unusual tattoo only contributes to the gossip about her.
When the latest school explosion lands her in a facility for trouble teens, she meets Eli Dragen, who’s hot as hell and darkly mysterious. Their connection is full of passion, danger, and secrets. Secrets that will not only change her life, but what and who she is—leading her down a path she never imagined possible.
Between Light and Dark, Ember finds a world where truth and knowledge are power and no one can be trusted. But her survival depends on finding out the truth about herself. In her pursuit, she is forced between love and destiny and good and evil, even when the differences between them aren’t always clear. At worst, she will incite a war that could destroy both worlds. At best, she will not only lose her heart but her life and everyone she loves. Once the truth is out, however, there will be no going back. And she’ll definitely wish she could.
Zoey Daniels has been tossed from foster home to foster home, where she grows up fast and tough. When she is placed in her “last-chance” home, she finds a reason to stay and turn her life around: her foster sister, Lexie, who is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Zoey will do anything to keep her safe.
After high school, Zoey is hired by a special government agency, the Department of Molecular Genetics (DMG), where she meets the other reason to remain: Daniel, her co-worker. The man she loves.
But there is something unique about Zoey. She can see fae. Because of this, the DMG hires her to work as a Collector: catching, researching, testing, and using the fae to save human lives. The work never registers on her sympathy radar. She was raised to think of fae as beasts that feed on humans and want to destroy them.
When devastation hits Seattle, Zoey’s whole world is turned upside down. The electric storm connects her to a ruthless fae, a Wanderer named Ryker, whose dealings expose them to even more trouble and danger. They embark on a journey, running and hiding from both the government and fae, both of which threaten their lives and those they love.
Being a big deal in a small town ain’t easy. Being a football star in a small Texas town, where football is king, is even tougher.
Boomer (yes, that’s his given name) Kendall has always had a thing for his best friend, Marsh’s little sister. She’s smart, she’s sassy, and she sprinkles F-bombs around like Tinkerbell throwing fairy dust.
Too bad Matilda blames him for everything that’s gone wrong in her life since she was 17 years old. The death of her parents, her brother’s football injuries, and the fact she ended up working as a lunch lady to put herself through college while Boomer got drafted into the NFL and struck it rich.
Needless to say, it’ll take a Christmas miracle to convince Matilda that he isn’t just looking to score, but Boomer’s more than up to the task.
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Kylie was influenced by her Scottish heritage to become an independent British history buff. She has a small library dedicated to Tudor history and is lover of the Arthurian legends. She also has an intense love of the supernatural, theological, paranormal, and mythological worlds.
Kylie is also an Audio Book Narrator with over 50 titles under her belt and a member of the APA.
Kylie lives in Dallas, TX with her husband and fellow voice actor Eric Rolon, and their two cats, Asuka and Haru.