Hello, my friends! We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to deliver this important announcement. Locked and Loaded, the final book in the Bullet series, is live today! It’s a little dark but a little sweet, and I can’t wait to hear what you think. Here are all the details, plus a teaser!
Is it too much to believe that someone keeps returning to your life because it’s meant to be?
Zane Carson is an idealistic young man with one big skeleton in his closet when he first meets Jennifer Manders in college. They date only to break up soon after. The sexual attraction is like an electromagnet but they fight like alley cats. The relationship just isn’t worth it.
Zane’s band Fully Automatic breaks big about the same time Jennifer finishes college. One summer afternoon, they meet for coffee and sparks fly once more. It’s off again, on again, but they just can’t make it work and break it off for good, deciding it’s not worth the effort.
But Zane is drawn to her and, during a break in the music action, he tracks her down again, willing to change himself for her and needing to give her one last try. The attraction is as strong as ever, but now Jennifer is hiding something from Zane—something big, something that threatens to extinguish the spark for good. When Zane discovers her secret, will he be able to forgive her or will that be the end?
Excerpt (from Chapter Four of Locked and Loaded):
Zane compromised. When he’d hung up with Valerie the night before, he’d promised to give it two days before calling. After waiting a day, though, he said, Fuck it. She’d had a chance to alert her friend just like she’d asked, and he wasn’t willing to give her any more time. He’d promised to wait…but now that he had Jennifer’s phone number (and no response to the message he’d left her on Facebook), asking him to wait was like asking a little kid with a fresh piece of frosted birthday cake sitting right in front of him to not run his finger along the edge so he could lick the icing off his finger.
So he called Jennifer that night, already prepared to leave a message—something simple, as casual as possible, but also letting her know that she’d been heavy in his thoughts. He might not have the ability like his wordsmith friends to make a woman swoon with poetry, but he did get that she needed to know she was special, no matter how plain the words. To tell her she’d not just been dancing in his head but consuming his every waking thought was to let her know she wasn’t just a bimbo or a quick lay or even a fond memory. She was present in his mind.
Except she answered the call.
That too might have caused him to falter, but this was Jennifer he was calling. Whether she wanted to be or not, she was a huge part of his life, had been with him as he’d been becoming the man he’d be (for better or worse—mostly worse), had witnessed his life just prior to big things happening.
She was an important part of his life.
When she answered with an innocent and quiet “Hello?” Zane almost felt his heart fill his chest. God, he’d missed her—and he hadn’t realized how much until that moment. He always forgot how empty he felt until she filled him up again.
“It’s Zane. How you been?”
“Oh, Zane. Hi. Um…great. It’s, uh, it’s been a while.”
“Yeah, it has. So I wondered if you wanted to get together for coffee…or dinner. Just to catch up, you know.” And, if she remembered all the times they’d gotten together before, she knew as much as he did that getting together also likely meant a wild and crazy fuck session at the end of the first reunion date, reaffirming that, yeah, there was no one else who made him feel the way she did. He hoped it felt the same way for her.
It had to, right?
“I don’t know…”
That felt like a red light. She’d never said that before. Did that mean she was moving on, moving past him? Was she no longer willing to try?
It felt like his heart was literally dropping from his chest into his abdominal cavity, as painful as one would expect. But he wasn’t going to act like a weepy little baby. If she had given up on him for good, he’d find a way to move on…or give up entirely. He wasn’t sure yet, but there was no way he was going to force himself on this woman.
Zane swallowed and took a quick breath, knowing he had to keep his voice light. “What’s not to know? Two old friends, catching up and talking about old times.”
“I’m kinda busy nowadays.”
Oh. He was no idiot. “Gotcha. Boyfriend? Uh, or husband?” God, please, no.
Jennifer let out a nervous laugh. “No. I guess you could say I’m married to my work.”
“Not really…but bills, you know? They kind of keep me in the relationship.”
Zane hated the idea that Jennifer might not love her work but be in it for the money. In spite of all the pitfalls he’d experienced over the years, he loved his job. Yeah, there had been major…problems, for lack of a better word, but he was still doing something he loved. He’d gone to college for a year back when he first met Jennifer, looking for something “realistic,” something his old man had nagged him about, and Zane had jumped at the chance to get away from the bullshit of his home life. His dad had hardly ever been around but, when he was, he used Zane’s head like a fucking basketball. He would have done anything to get away, and going to college with his friend Ethan had seemed like the best, most obvious choice. His mom had told him over and over that he should be a music teacher, but Zane hadn’t felt talented enough. He could play the trumpet and find his way around a drum kit, but he loved the bass. It was an underrated instrument, one that fans had often dismissed as unimportant, but Zane knew better. Some of the smartest guys he’d ever met had been bassists.
In spite of trying out school for a year, he’d lucked out and been part of a great group of friends, led by a hell of a guy with a drive more powerful than a semi, Brad Payne, and with that guy at the helm, there was no way they couldn’t have made it. Brad had known all along that their band would succeed, and so he’d had no backup plan. He’d followed his vision and led Fully Automatic to the top. Thanks to Brad, Zane would never have to work a “regular” job his entire life. So it killed him to think that Jennifer might be doing something because she had to…she was having to work a less-than-desirable job to pay the student loans for the education she’d pursued to get that job in the first place. It seemed like a hell of a vicious cycle.
But weeping over her state wouldn’t win him any points. Humor, though…humor might—or even just a little levity. “You’re telling me you work so many hours you can’t go for a cup of coffee with an old friend?”
She laughed. “Well, when you put it that way…when were you thinking?”
Inside, Zane felt a dark cloud lift. He could hardly wait to see her. She was the light in his life, and he’d been in the shadows for far too long. “How about dinner instead?”
* * *
Jennifer stood looking at herself in the bathroom mirror. She was trying to decide if the pink lipstick worked, but she was distracted by the fact that she was actually going to be meeting Zane for dinner. Again. They’d never worked, never lasted…not once. Why she thought things would be different now was beyond her.
Kara peeked in the open door, Zoe in her arms, bouncing and reaching for her mama. Yes, Zoe was just the first of many reasons why Jennifer shouldn’t—absolutely should not—go on this date with her former on-again, off-again boyfriend. Jennifer could already predict the path their date and ensuing next few dates would go, based on their tumultuous history. First, there would be the honeymoon phase, the time when they’d forgotten how much they loved being around each other, how damned attracted they were to each other. They would likely end up in bed that night, even—she knew how they were, and they’d be lucky to keep their paws off each other for any length of time. And even if they managed to keep their hands off for this date, they’d set a second, knowing in the back of their minds that it wouldn’t be long.
The honeymoon phase could last anywhere from two weeks to three or four months. The sex would be setting-off-fireworks amazing. She knew she herself would be smiling and happy, infused with just-got-laid hormones. The good feelings would surge through her veins, making everyday chores and trials seem light and unimportant. She’d look forward to seeing Zane again, and they would strip down to nothing and be pressing skin into skin, flesh into flesh in seconds.
Then, once the newness wore off, the irritations would begin and they’d start bickering. It would seem lighthearted and maybe even fun at first, but it wouldn’t be long before it turned nasty and vicious, where they truly felt angry and upset with each other, and, just before they completely despised each other, they would decide it wasn’t worth the effort.
And Zane would likely break her heart. Again.
Just thinking about it made Jennifer consider calling Zane and telling him she was sick or otherwise indisposed. Thinking about their relationship objectively and knowing where it would go almost made her not want to bother.
But she had to see him. It had been too long.
So much had changed since they’d last seen each other, though. First off, there was sweet little Zoe. Actually, that little baby girl was the only change, but the child’s presence had been life changing for Jennifer. Now, if she and Zane didn’t stay together (which wasn’t likely, based on their track record), she’d be fine. She wouldn’t feel devastated and hopeless for weeks (or even months) on end like had happened so many times in the past. She wouldn’t take forever recovering, trying to find a way to go on when the one guy she couldn’t figure out how to let go broke her heart once again.
She just had one huge decision to make…
~ ~ ~
I also need to let you know that the two Bullet box sets are on sale for the next two days!
Locked and Loaded: