#Blog tour for FORBIDDEN ROSE (Wildflowers, #2)

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Title: Forbidden Rose (Wildflowers, #2)

Author: Vivian Winslow

Publication Date: February 29, 2016

Genre: New-adult contemporary romance – *Can be read as a STANDALONE*

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Blurb

Rosa Cruz, the fiery and ultra-sexy heiress of the Mama Linda Latin foods empire, is determined to create something on her own and not rely solely on her family’s name and legacy.

For her new upscale restaurant in the trendy Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, she enlists the help of her childhood friend, the hot, young Cuban-American chef, Eliseo Perez, who’s already made a name for himself on the New York culinary scene.

Despite Rosa’s reservations about a forbidden workplace romance with her new employee, not to mention longtime friend, the chemistry between them is undeniable.

When the cooking starts, things quickly heat up in the kitchen and the bedroom. But with Eliseo’s troubled past coming back to haunt him, can Rosa and Eliseo hold onto love and keep the restaurant from going up in flames?

 

FORBIDDEN ROSE - teaser 3

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Excerpt

Lily clears her throat again. “So, you want to tell me what you have going on with your new chef?”

Rosa can hardly mask her surprise. “Who told you?”

“Your face,” Lily chuckles into her glass. “You look like some lovesick schoolgirl when you look in that direction.”

Rosa shakes her head and in a low voice says, “You are sworn to secrecy.”

Lily makes an X over her heart. “Absolutely.”

“I’m in love.” Rosa immediately purses her lips, hoping to swallow up the words that just fell out of her mouth.

Her sister-in-law hugs her. “I’m so thrilled for you. You deserve to find someone who makes you happy.”

“Yeah, except it won’t work.”

“Why not?”

“He works for me.”

“And? If you’re really in love, there has to be more a deal breaker than that,” Lily insists.

“It’s just . . . it’s complicated. In any case, it’s over.”

Lily snaps her fingers. “1, 2, 3. Like that?”

Rosa nods.

“I don’t believe you. If you really love him, then you have to find a way to make it work. Like I did with your brother.”

“But you two didn’t have so much baggage or family drama.”

Lily tilts her head at Rosa, as if to say, “Look at who you’re talking to.” Between a double-crossing Brazilian ex-lover who nearly ruined their wedding, and an interfering mother, she’d brought plenty of baggage to the relationship.

“But you made it work.”

Real relationships based on real love always require work. There’s no getting around it.”

“Yeah, but . . . .”

“You’re finding excuses, Rosa, because you’re scared. I turned down your brother at first because I was scared. Consider your life, not as a series of moments, but in a larger context. If you can see yourself with him, experiencing something profoundly satisfying in the long term, I’d say it’s worth the risk. Whatever problems you have in the moment will always resolve themselves in time.”

Rosa leans against the stone pillar, taking a real cocktail off the tray of a passing waiter. She knows Lily’s right. But how to make it work without compromising the restaurant? That’s the question she can’t answer.

Lily kisses her sister-in-law’s cheek. “Unfortunately, I have to go talk to that couple over there.” She nods in the direction of an older gentleman and woman looking admiringly at the sculpture. “Just remember what I said. And keep in mind, a man who could do what he did to your neck may be worth keeping in your life.”

She winks as she walks away. Alejandro separates himself from a conversation as soon as he notices his wife heading toward him. Rosa can’t help but smile at the gesture. That’s commitment.

“If I remember correctly we met somewhere around here,” Juan says approaching Rosa. In his hands are two freshly made doughnuts. The idea that he may break his daily calorie intake by eating one of them makes her grin.

Rosa looks out toward the water and nods. “I think you’re right.” She takes one of the doughnuts out of his hands and takes a bite. The scent and taste of the pastry reminds her of the morning she spent with Eliseo. What she wouldn’t give to relive that time. Maybe when he asks, “Are we?” She’d respond with, “No, we’re not finished.”

“You have a bit of . . . ,” Juan runs a finger over her lip to gather a bit of the guava jelly. He licks his finger.

It’s like a scene from a predictable romantic comedy. The hot leading man standing with a gorgeous woman, who doesn’t realize just how beautiful she is to him, reminiscing over their first flirtation over a warm doughnut. Of course a kiss is expected to follow, maybe a laugh at the memory of how that night was the first of many nights together that led to them falling in love without realizing it—your typical romance trope. It’s all fantasy, Rosa realizes. A very beautiful one, but a fantasy nevertheless.

 

FORBIDDEN ROSE teaser 1

 

Blossoming Flower (Wildflowers, #1)

Amazon US | Amazon UK

BlossomingFLower Horse

In the wake of the collapse of her father’s business empire, Flor, the gorgeous twenty-one year-old daughter of disgraced former Brazillionaire Gustavo de Lima, is forced to forge her own path in life.

Flor decides that none of it—the private jets, the vacation homes and the luxury cars—were real. Or at least they really didn’t matter. The only thing that’s real for Flor is her love of horses and her desire to go to veterinary school.

Heading into her final year of college, Flor seeks out the help of an unlikely benefactor to secure a summer internship working with horses. Arriving at the secluded Belo Horizonte ranch, Flor is awed not only by the majestic beauty of the place, but also by handsome cowboy and skilled horse trainer, Collin Taylor. Yet nothing is quite as it appears on the surface.

When the hidden past is revealed, will love end up blossoming for Flor?

 

About the Author

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Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

Vivian Winslow was born and raised in Southern California. Before becoming a writer, she made a career out of moving around the world every couple of years thanks to her husband’s job and her incurable wanderlust. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and two elementary school age children, and is grateful to finally have a place to call home for more than two years.

New York is the perfect city to indulge her love of fashion, the arts and especially food. If she’s not at home writing or running around the city with her kids, you’ll most likely find her eating at the newest restaurant in her beloved Lower East Side or having a cocktail at her favorite bar in Alphabet City. That said, she’s still a California girl at heart and would gladly trade in her heels for a pair of flip-flops to catch a sunset on the beach.

 

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My Senior Year of Awesome #bookblitz

My Senior Year of Awesome
Jennifer DiGiovanni
Published by: Swoon Romance
Publication date: March 1st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

A girl desperately tries to avoid the boy she was voted most likely to marry by her senior classmates. To prove senior superlative votes are meaningless, she and her best friend create their own list of awesome high school achievements to be completed by graduation.

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EXCERPT:

“What did you win?” I whisper to Jana. “I don’t see your picture.”

Jana bites on her lower lip and points to the very top of the board. “Um, Sadie, I didn’t win. You did.”

Smack in the center of the top row of Senior Superlatives, I spy my junior year photo, blown up to 8 x 10 size, set inside of a glittery heart. Also inside the heart is an 8 x 10 photo of Andy Kosolowski. The caption above the heart reads, “Most Likely to Get Married.”

I want to die. No, I want to puke. I want to puke and then die. Andy, the biggest nerd in all of seniordom? The boy who wore the same Darth Vader T-shirt every day of eighth grade? The guy who passed out at middle school graduation and was trampled on by the rest of our class?

“Is this a joke?” Waves of laughter circulate around me like a bubbling, too-hot Jacuzzi. “I don’t even like Andy,” I say, maybe a bit too loudly. “Not at all.” Eyes narrowed, I whirl around. “Who did this?”

And then Andy’s tall head appears above everyone else. He scans the board and finds his picture. His mouth falls open. His eyes meet mine. A swell of laughter reignites as we stare at each other. When he cracks a small smile, I elbow my way through what feels like most of the student body to confront him.

“You fixed the vote,” I say, poking him in the center of his extra-long torso.

“What? Why would I do that?” Andy looks completely confused.

“Did you think this would be funny? Like, ha-ha, let’s make fun of Sadie who hasn’t been on a date in … a long time.” Exactly how long is personal information.

He shakes his head, acting stunned. “Maybe they mixed up my picture with someone else’s.”

Simultaneously, we redirect our eyes to the Most Likely to Succeed award, posted above a photo of Sophie Min. She’s ranked second in the class, albeit way behind Andy. I guess it takes more than brains to succeed.

“Listen up, people!” I shout, cupping my hands around my mouth like a megaphone. “I am so not marrying Andy Kosolowski. So ha-ha, joke’s on me. Hilarious.” I shoot one final look of disgust at my classmates and stomp off in the direction of homeroom.

 

Author Bio:

Jennifer is a freelance writer and YA author. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, working on home design projects, or trying to meet the daily goals on her Fitbit. My Senior Year of Awesome is her first novel.

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GIVEAWAY!

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  • $10 Amazon gift card + eBook copy of My Senior Year of Awesome

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Alexa Loved by T.R. Cupak #Bookblitz #giveaway

Alexa Loved
T.R. Cupak
(Alexa #2)
Publication date: October 6th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

After her parents died during her senior year of high school, Alexa Morgan is completely alone in the world—except for her best-friend-turned-boyfriend Devin, identical twins Becca and Jessa, and Sebastian, a mysterious associate of her father’s.

Upon graduation, Alexa wants nothing more than to move on with her life, go to college, and forget all the hard and hurtful things from her tragic past. But when her first love, Ethan, shows up at her graduation—it kicks off a whirlwind of events that threatens the good and stable things she’s worked so hard to achieve.

Ethan and Alexa shared one night of passion before he disappeared, leaving her bewildered and confused. But now he’s back, declaring that he loves her and that the only reason he left was to protect her from his malicious stepmother, Olivia.

In her heart, Alexa knows she loves Devin, but her attraction to Ethan is so strong she can’t help but be drawn in by their shared chemistry. Meanwhile, the threat of Olivia lurks around the edges, casting a menacing shadow over everything and everyone Alexa loves.

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EXCERPT:

Although it feels like time has completely stopped it most definitely has not. I am completely oblivious to how long Ethan and I have been standing outside my hotel room when we are startled apart by the sound of a very pissed off, deep, familiar voice.

“What the fuck is going on, Lexi?” Devin’s heated voice booms through the open hallway making me cringe and my body turn to stone at the sound. I’m still partially wrapped up in Ethan’s arms but when I finally detangle myself completely out of his hold, I step to the side of him so I can see Devin. I get a pretty good view of him too since he’s standing only a few feet behind Ethan with hate evident in his normally kind eyes. I know shock is all over my face as I stare at Devin as if he’s just a figment of my imagination. Ethan hasn’t moved a muscle. His back is to his enemy yet he chooses to stay facing me. It takes another few seconds before I finally take notice to what Devin is wearing. He has on running shorts and running shoes. His body is glistening with sweat and his face is red as if he was actually outside running in the Miami heat.

What the hell? My emotions are all over the place. Confused, scared, hurt, happy. I swear on my parent’s urns that Devin was just in bed with the twins. How is he standing here like he was actually out for a run and why can’t I find my damned voice to ask that very question? Suddenly I hear the twins’ door to their room open. I turn my attention behind me just as a random guy, who looks like he could be Devin’s fraternal twin brother or doppelganger, exits the twins’ room. My mind automatically fishes for the memory of my conversation with Jesse. Once I replay what he had said privately plus all of the banter with his buddies, I can see how a drunken person could mistake Mr. Random for Devin. The twins’ guest is wearing gray boardshorts and flips flops and steps out carrying his black T-shirt in his hand. He stops when he sees the three of us standing here. I’m sure we’re quite the sight to see. Me, with red watery eyes and airplane stale clothes, Ethan who has not moved but his irritation is quite evident, and Devin who looks as if he is ready to kill Ethan. The stranger who appears to be very much hung over but oozes sexual satisfaction gives us a half smile, says “Hey” to Devin, and inches past the soon-to-be war zone towards the elevator. It’s usually females you see doing the walk of shame but this morning it’s this wonderful guy, this wonderful guy who isn’t Devin. Shit. Devin.

“Answer me, Alexa.” Devin’s voice is seething and it makes me snap my head back around to face him. I glance briefly at Ethan and I see his eyes are screwed shut, jaw tense, the vein in his neck is pulsing, and his fists are clenched at his sides. Well shit. I can’t explain this because I don’t fully understand it all myself. I look back to Devin who is staring at me with so much anger and hurt that it takes my breath away.

Devin takes two steps closer and Ethan’s eyes snap open. Before either one can do anything I step between both of them. I’ve been in this position once before and just like the last time I have no idea what I could or would do if these two decided to throw down. I take another step towards Devin. He just stares down at me waiting for his answer.

My voice is quiet when I finally speak to him. “Devin, I can explain part of this but I can’t explain Ethan being here because I don’t have that answer-yet.”

“Do you think I’m fucking stupid, Lexi?” There is so much pain evident in his voice that my tears start to spill again.

“No, Devin. I don’t think you’re stupid. Can we please go into our room and talk privately?” I know I sound pathetic but that’s probably because I am. I just want to be alone with Devin and figure out this craziness.

Just when I think Devin is going to concede and go into our room with me I feel one of Ethan’s hands settle on my hip and that one tiny gesture sends Devin flying over the proverbial edge. Everything happens so fast that all I feel is my body being shoved out of the way like I’m a ragdoll. I trip over my bags and my head slams against a solid surface and everything goes black.

AL_J2B Revised Sale Teaser

Author Bio:

T. R. Cupak was born and raised in the California Bay Area. She now lives in a quiet town south of where she grew up with her husband and their shih tzu Harley. She is obsessed with cars, especially fast ones, and enjoys her music louder than anyone should. When she’s not at work or busy writing, you can find her curled up, reading and enjoying a fabulous glass of wine or a Dirty Shirley.

Despite her lifelong love of literature, Cupak lost touch with her creative side in her early twenties. Her passion for reading was rekindled six years ago, however, and in 2013 she started journaling. This practice helped Cupak hone her creative aspirations, and soon she saw her characters come to life. She has rediscovered her passion for storytelling and wants to share her words with everyone who wants to read them.

Please help support my Thunderclap campaign as well: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/36855-tr-cupak-s-alexa-series

Newsletter Sign-up: http://eepurl.com/bM6Evv

Also, join me for my 1 year anniversary and making 1k Likes party on 2/11: https://www.facebook.com/events/1716365018599134/?hc_location=ufi

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#CoverReveal of GENESIS GIRL #Giveaway

Friday Reveal Banner
Today Jennifer Bardsley and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for GENESIS GIRL, which releases September 27, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!


A quick note from the author:

“The first time I saw the cover to Genesis Girl I got chills. Genesis Girl is a psychological, Sci-Fi thriller, and the blood-red cover conveys that perfectly.”–Jennifer Bardsley

 

Fifty years ago cell phones unleashed a Brain Cancer Epidemic.
Terrified by technology, worried parents entrusted their children to a charismatic leader.
Barbelo promised to keep his Vestals safe from the Internet, hidden behind lead-lined walls.
Now, digital purity is valuable and a Vestal named Blanca is auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Blanca is the most obedient eighteen-year-old her purchasers have ever met.
She is a blank slate for the genesis of anything they want.
But too bad for Blanca.
Their new beginning could be her end.
On to the reveal!
 

 

Title: GENESIS GIRL
Author: Jennifer Bardsley
Pub. Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, &eBook
Find it: Amazon| Goodreads

Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet. 

Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. 

By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online. 

Exclusive Excerpt
Chapter One
My boot hits him in the nuts at the same time as the flash goes off, but it’s too late. The Virus has already taken my picture. He was aiming for Fatima, but I pushed her away just in time. I sideswipe his legs and topple the Virus over while he moans in agony from my kick to his groin.
“Nobody takes my picture, you freak!” I stare at his tattooed face. There’s something familiar about the snake inked around his eyebrow, but I can’t quite place it. We’re in the underground parking garage at school, and the fluorescent lights shade everything ugly. I crouch down and flip the Virus onto his stomach, bashing his nose against the pavement.
Ever since I was little, teachers have warned me about Viruses. They’re paparazzi scumbags whose sole purpose in life is to destroy privacy and expose secrets. I’ve never seen one in person until today.
“Hand me your belt,” I tell Fatima. I hold the Virus in place by grinding my knee into his back while Fatima slips off the cinch from her black spandex uniform. I wrestle the man’s arms behind me with both hands. Surprise, surprise—security doesn’t show up until I’m already hog-tying the bastard.
“You’re not so special now, Vestal!” the Virus says as they haul him off.
He’s right.
Until about two minutes ago, I was a Vestal postulant. A blank slate. An Internet virgin. There were no images of my moniker floating around cyberspace. My parents had never blogged about my every poop. It had been planned that way from the beginning. They had castrated my virtual identity for the promise of a better life.
In one week I’m graduating from Tabula Rasa. Today was my chance to shine while I’m interviewed by companies. Only nobody will want me now.
With one flash of his thumb camera, that jerk destroyed my life.
“Don’t worry,” Fatima says, helping me to my feet. “You’ve still got a face that can sell soap. I knew it the first time I saw you. Your skin’s your best feature, and that hasn’t changed.”
The sound of the security gate opening drowns Fatima out. We watch as a white car enters the Tabula Rasa garage. A flash of sunlight taunts me before the gate closes. All my life I’ve lived in this twenty-story fortress of protection. Today was going to be my first day in sunshine, being interviewed by bidders.
But that Virus ruined it all. How the hell he snuck in, I’ll never know.
“You’re the girl next door,” Fatima says, a bit louder. “Couture might not want you, but the average American will.”
I nod because I’ve heard it all before. Not everyone can be the seductress. I’ll never be like Fatima, I don’t begrudge her that. A clear face, green eyes, and brown hair are what I have to work with, and that’s fine. But there’s no fixing a picture of me on the Internet.
“It’ll be okay, Blanca,” Fatima says again.
But we both know that isn’t true.
For a Vestal, a clear Internet history is the most important thing. Without that I’m nothing. Our elusive privacy is what makes us valuable.
I’ve watched our class shrink from two hundred eager postulants to a graduating group of ten. The infractions were usually unavoidable: their memory was spotty, their temperament was bad, or worst of all, they turned out ugly. But once in a while, somebody was thrown out because of an online transgression.
Everyone left is bankable. Ten perfect human specimens who could sell you anything. Even Ethan, with his poufy hair and scrawny build, is a sure thing. He wears glasses now despite his perfect vision, and goes around in bow ties and suspenders. “Nerdy but in a good way,” the teachers say. “This one’s going high-tech.”
Beau can write his own ticket too. He’s six feet tall and can out bench-press every other guy in the group. America will drool.
And then there’s Fatima standing next to me. With her dark eyes and svelte figure, she’ll have her choice of any fashion house.
I had been hoping to sell cosmetics. That’s prestigious too, and I really had a chance. But nobody will bid on me now. The auction is a week away, and I’m ruined!
“Blanca?” A woman approaches us right as a dark black limousine pulls through the gate. “That car isn’t for you. Good luck with your interviews, Fatima.”
Fatima waves at me sadly and slides into the vehicle.“Let’s get this disaster under control,” says the woman as the limo drives away. Her billowing skirt makes her look ethereal in the shadows of the parking garage. I have never seen her before. But she’s wearing white like our teachers and has a platinum cuff, so of course, I follow her.
She takes me to a room on the twentieth floor of Tabula Rasa that boasts a wall of windows. “Darkened for privacy,” says the woman when she sees my apprehension.I approach them hesitantly, unaccustomed to the glass. I see a tiny patch of sky surrounded by glowing billboards. On every rooftop is an advertisement featuring a face I already know. Vestals stare down at me from all vantage point, hawking perfumes, cars, and weight-loss supplements.
“You’ll be up there too, Blanca. There’s still hope.” The woman stands at my elbow.
I peek and study her this time. She’s fortyish with blue eyes and a heart-shaped face. I know she’s a Vestal because of her white outfit, but I don’t recognize her. Weird. I know all the Vestals. Everyone does.The hydraulic doors hiss open, and we both turn to look. The Tabula Rasa headmaster enters in a swirl of white cloak.
“Blanca,” he says, “you have a problem.”
“Yes, Headmaster Russell. I’m sorry, Headmaster Russell.”
“I don’t know how you let this happen.” He strides to the enormous windows, holding a manila file folder. None of the Tabula Rasa faculty are permitted computers, including Headmaster Russell.
“You mean you don’t know how you let this happen, Russell.”
I brace for impact. Nobody talks to Headmaster Russell that way and gets away with it. I know that better than anyone. He grits his teeth. “Security is being questioned as we speak. Sit down, Ms. Lydia. Please.”
“I will not sit down.” Ms. Lydia’s stare could cut glass. “Not until you apologize to Blanca. She deserves better, and you know it.”
There is audible silence. Headmaster Russell rubs the golden cuff on his wrist. “Blanca, I’m sorry that this happened to you.” His eyes don’t meet mine.
Ms. Lydia snaps her fingers. Headmaster Russell clears his throat and tries again, this time meeting my gaze. “I’m sorry that I let this happen to you. I should have protected you better. I will do everything in my power to make sure you are still harvested at the auction.” Then he turns to Ms. Lydia who stands resolute and icy. “Are you satisfied?”
“Perhaps.” She shrugs. “Let’s see what’s in the folder.”A few moments later we are seated at the table in the center of the room. Headmaster Russell shows us the picture of me that is now plastered all over cyberspace. I fight back tears. first look at newest vestal, the caption reads. Then there’s me executing a roundhouse kick, my hair flying back, and my face a perfect mask of rage.“This is what we are dealing with,” says Headmaster Russell. “It could be worse.” Ms. Lydia presses her lips together. Right then an old-fashioned phone hanging on the wall rings. “Well, Russ? Aren’t you going to answer that?”
Headmaster Russell jumps to answer the phone. I can hear him say “Blanca” and “photograph,” but that’s it. My future is muffled as he whispers into the receiver.
Ms. Lydia extends her hand to me. Her touch is very cold, but her shake is firm. “My name is Lydia. I’m the elected agent of all Vestal graduates. I lead the Tabula Rasa board of directors.”
“What was your company?” I ask. I still don’t recognize her. But I notice her platinum cuff. That means she was top pick.
“I didn’t have a company. I went Geisha.”
I try to keep my face blank. Really, I do. But what she said is so shocking that my eyes widen for an instant. Ms. Lydia notices.
“It’s not as bad as you think,” she says. “Maybe it’s better. There are many ways to be a Vestal, and they all have honor.”
“Of course,” I answer. “It says so right in the Vestal Code of Ethics.”
Most Vestals leave Tabula Rasa with major corporations, but on rare occasions they enter contracts with private individuals as Geishas.
Nobody wants to go Geisha. Giving up privacy for another person’s pleasure is creepy. Selling out to a company is so much better.
Headmaster Russell hangs up the phone with a loud click. He smoothes his cloak over his barrel chest. “Blanca has five bidders,” he says. “That picture has whipped up a frenzy.”
“Good,” says Ms. Lydia. “You’re redeemed.”
I’m not sure who she’s talking to, but I brave a smile anyway.
***Barbelo Nemo founded the Vestals fifty years ago after the Brain Cancer Epidemic rotted humankind via cell phones. Bluetooth scanned sensitive neurons. Wi-Fi washed over weakened gray matter. Before the medical community realized what was happening, millions of people were dead.
Scientists promised finger-chips were the solution, but Barbelo forged a different path. Why risk another tech-induced health crisis? Barbelo set Vestals apart and kept us safe. Eighteen years of schooling at Tabula Rasa behind lead-lined walls, and then twenty-five years of service to the Brethren. We have a sacred duty to remain digitally pure.
If it weren’t for Tabula Rasa, I’d be tech-addicted like everyone else. I’d expose my private thoughts to total strangers. I’d be too engrossed in my finger-chips to pay attention to my friends. I’d judge people by scanning their profile before I met them in person. I wouldn’t buy anything or go anywhere unless the Internet told me it was a good idea. I would let my finger-chips rob me of forming real relationships with the actual people who matter in my life. What’s worse, I wouldn’t know I was ruined. I’d willingly give up my humanity one byte at a time.But as a Vestal postulant, I’m sheltered from that. Chaos swirls around us, but Vestals are constant. We are loyal. We keep secrets. We remind the world there is a better way to live. Because we are so trustworthy, the public buys anything we sell.
No wonder corporations lust for us.
It’s been seven days since the Virus stole my picture, and I’ve made it to the auction after all. I’m sitting on stage with the other Tabula Rasa graduates, safe inside the lead-lined walls of school. The Harvest is minutes away. We’re about to auction our purity to the highest bidder. In front of us are Silicon Valley elite. Many of them are flexing their palms, frustrated that their finger-chip connections won’t work.
Fatima’s hand is on my thigh, and my hand covers hers. Sweat trickles down my back, tracing the curve of my spine as I arch my shoulders in perfect posture. I curl my toes inside their black leather boots, trying to release the pressure.
My whole education, my entire existence, has led up to now.
This morning I woke up in the metal bunk bed of my cloister. In a few days I’ll move to my new home, the Vestal quarters of my business sponsor. I’ll represent a company, a product, and a lifestyle. The world will follow my life through carefully released images. Whatever my company chooses to share will become my new identity.
Where I eat, who I date, what I do. It will all be for one purpose— to sell my company’s products.
I’ll never beg my friends to like my pictures. Total strangers will hang on my every word. I’ll be a Vestal, and millions of people will care about who I am. Even better, I’ll have a family. Older Vestals will be my mentors. I’ll join their manufactured family in print, media, and billboard campaigns across America. If I’m lucky, the company will have at least one Vestal in their roster close to me in age. Hopefully a guy. Preferably one who looks more like Beau and less like Ethan. I’ve been waiting eighteen years for a boyfriend, and he had better be good. “Fatima,” the announcer says. My best friend squeezes my hand and winks at me. Then she walks to the stage. She’s gorgeous, like always. Ever since we were little, I always knew Fatima would be the top pick. Fatima has a body that can sell anything. She’s smart too. It will say that in her portfolio. But when Fatima stands up there at the podium next to Headmaster Russell, there is only a shuffle of papers in the audience. Heads are bent over still placards. Fatima glances back at me with panic. No one is bidding. A woman wearing a white suit scrambles on stage and grabs Headmaster Russell’s arm, whispering into his ear. It’s Ms. Corina, from charm and deportment. She doesn’t appear so polished now.
Ms. Corina points to me, and Headmaster Russell looks too. Then he cringes. “There has been a change of plans,” he announces to the audience. “Bidding on Miss Fatima will wait. Bidding on Miss Blanca will begin.”
Fatima gazes at me from across the stage. I know what she’s thinking without her saying one word. Fatima’s the seductress, and I’m the girl-next-door. She’s the one people drool for, not me.
I try to smile placidly, like Charming Corina taught us. But watching the audience freaks me out. I’m used to the black uniforms of students and the white robes of teachers. Now all I see is the ambiguity of color. I try to focus as Headmaster Russell says something about my education.
“Poetry, literature, music,” he says. “Blanca is the perfect package. She’s well versed in the seven liberal arts and entirely ignorant about science and technology. A Vestal Virgin for the modern age.”
Headmaster Russell regards me with dark eyes. Then he turns back to the sea of faces. “Blanca’s the perfect image for your company. Born and bred in Nevada and groomed right here at Tabula Rasa. Let’s start the bidding at five million dollars.”
A deep breath. I fight to be calm when I see arms shoot up and numbers wave. But I don’t think about the auction or my impending future. I think about my past. Until now, I had no idea I came from Nevada.
Were my parents still in Nevada? Were they scanning the news feed on their palms at this very second? Were they trying to guess which name was mine, eagerly anticipating their cut from my sale? My parents were going to make a lot of money off me.
But my so-called parents aren’t important. All that matters is right now: the bidding war. So many people shout that Headmaster Russell appears stressed. He uses the sleeve of his cloak to wipe sweat off his forehead. “Thirty million? Do I hear thirty-one?” he asks. That’s when I feel the skin on my arms prickle. Companies won’t pay that much for a Vestal. But private individuals do.
“Thirty-one-and-a-half?” Headmaster Russell asks loudly. Another arm goes up. Then another. “Thirty-two? Thirty-two going once? Going twice? Sold,” says Headmaster Russell, banging the gavel. “Sold for the highest price ever paid in Vestal history. Sold to Mr. Calum McNeal for thirty-two million dollars.” And just like that I’ve gone Geisha. A middle-aged man stands. His hair is brown but graying and longish around the ears. He’s smiling so hard, it looks like he’s going to burst.
***
I’m finally wearing white, but I don’t feel like I deserve it. Instead I feel dirty inside as I stand with my fellow graduates around the Pool of Purity. My unlit candle weighs heavy in my hand, and I nervously finger its waxy edge. Everyone has been sold to a company but me. Fatima won’t make eye contact. “On this the most private of nights,” Headmaster Russell says, “we celebrate the blessing of one more class of Tabula Rasa graduates. The brothers and sisters who came before you surround you with their guidance and welcome you to our ranks.”
I feel their presence before I see them. Older, experienced Vestals step from the shadows and flank us in a larger ring. Together we form two concentric circles, our billowing white robes hovering over the pavement, reflected in the water. “The candle please.” Headmaster Russell turns to look at Ms. Lydia, who stands nearby. She is beautiful in the moonlight, her heart-shaped face a mask of serenity. When she reaches out her candle to touch his, the sleeve of her gown slips down below her elbow, exposing her platinum cuff against creamy skin. “The beacon of light,” she says. “We are a sacred fire that will not burn out. Those who came before you welcome you into our Brethren.”
Soon the flame is passed from candle to candle. The dark circle of Tabula Rasa graduates illuminates in a warm glow. When Fatima tips her candle to mine, she struggles to smile. She hasn’t spoken one word to me since the auction. My harvest price was double hers. But I know that’s not the real problem between us. It’s because I’ve gone Geisha.
Headmaster Russell’s voice is solemn. “Vestals are a beacon in a dark world. We alone stand together. We are living sacrifices for all that is pure and all that is sacred.” An older Vestal steps forward with a silver tray. Nine golden cuffs sparkle in the candlelight. The single platinum cuff beckons to me. I am the top pick.
Ms. Lydia selects a golden cuff. “It is time for the vows. Master Ethan, do you solemnly swear to uphold the Vestal order?”
“I do,” says Ethan, stepping forward.“Will you consecrate your body? Will you promise to never be marked by ink, stain, piercing, or technology? Will you give your highest self to our cause?”
“I promise,” says Ethan, holding out his arm.
Ms. Lydia snaps the golden cuff on his wrist.
“And now, for the sealing,” says Headmaster Russell, who approaches with a small blue flame. There is total and utter silence for this, the most sacred part of the ceremony. Headmaster Russell singes the metal, searing it shut. Ethan’s golden cuff now marks him for life. The whole world will forever know he is a Vestal.
The sealing happens eight more times until finally, I am the only graduate who remains. Ms. Lydia picks up the platinum cuff and holds it to the light. “There are many paths a Vestal can take, but one thing is constant. The world relies on us. We are the last guardians of private living. When we sell our reputation, it is with purpose and thought. We do not give it away freely like the masses of humanity. To be purchased privately is a holy act within itself.” My tears start when she says this. They roll down my cheeks, washing away the shame. It’s like a window has opened in my heart, releasing all the pressure. I feel joy again. Joy and pride for being a Vestal, no matter what. This is my time. This is what I have lived for. When Ms. Lydia snaps the platinum cuff on my wrist, it is the happiest moment of my life.

 

 
 
 

Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for the Sunday edition of The Everett Daily HeraldShe also blogs at Teaching My Baby to Read with the mission of sparking a national debate on the important roll parents play in education. Jennifer is a graduate of Stanford University and a member of SCBWI. She lives with her husband and two children in Edmonds, WA.

GENESIS GIRL will release in 2016 and is about an 18 year-old girl whose lack of a virtual footprint makes her so valuable that she is auctioned off to the highest bidder, the sequel  will come out in 2017. Jennifer is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Literary AgencyLLC.
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Random on Tour: Los Angeles by Julia Kent book blitz

Random on Tour: Los Angeles
Julia Kent
(Random Series #7)
Publication date: July 19th 2015
Genres: Comedy, New Adult, Romance

BOOK SEVEN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING RANDOM SERIES:

I guzzled another flute of Champagne and froze, the liquid in my throat, waiting to be swallowed.

Tyler was here.

We’d met a few times before, in passing. He was the substitute bass player for the band; I was the lead guitar player’s girlfriend’s best friend. In that weird sort of social circle thing where Venn diagrams get laid over different groups, Tyler and I were bound to be in the crossover once in a while.

He looked so hot. Short brown hair. A few days of beard. Bright green eyes that were more guarded than a Russian mobster’s. He was sleeved, the colorful tattoos a tapestry, but every time I met him I couldn’t quite see them. We only saw each other in dark concert halls, or tonight, under the stars.

He gave Sam a rare smile and a hearty handshake, forearm muscles bulging. I wondered what it would be like to have those hands on me. My fingers tracing those tats. Listening to him tell me the story of his body while he forgave mine.

Forgave it for failing me.

I shook my head fast to banish the thoughts that drew me into places so dark they became black holes of the soul. The gravity of trauma had a way of sucking all the good into it, and tonight I wasn’t going to let that happen. The opposite, in fact.

Tonight I was going to sleep with Tyler.

He didn’t know it yet, but that was okay. He would. Soon.

* * *

Random on Tour: Los Angeles is the 7th book in the New York Times bestselling Random series, the ongoing story of the up-and-coming rock band, Random Acts of Crazy. When the band’s bass player, Joe Ross, gets injured in an unfortunate sex act that gains nationwide coverage, it’s tatted-up Tyler (aka “Frown”) to the rescue for their first big concert.

There’s only one problem: the morning of his flight to L.A. he wakes up to find someone’s stolen all his money, his bass, his ID, and his pride. When he shows up at Maggie’s doorstep to ask her to drive him from their hometown of St. Louis all the way to L.A., these two damaged people learn quickly that being independent doesn’t always mean being free…

Warning: This book deals with the very difficult topic of sexual assault and rape, and I’ve taken great care to address this with the sensitivity and respect it deserves.

None of the scenes in the book contain sexual violence, though the characters do tell their stories of past sexual violence. None of those descriptions is graphic or gratuitous. This book is about hope and healing, but the characters do have past trauma that they discuss.

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EXCERPT:

Maggie

I guzzled another flute of Champagne and froze, the liquid in my throat, waiting to be swallowed.

Tyler was here.

We’d met a few times before, in passing. He was the substitute bass player for the band; I was the lead guitar player’s girlfriend’s best friend. In that weird sort of social circle thing where Venn diagrams get laid over different groups, Tyler and I were bound to be in the crossover once in a while.

He looked so hot. Short brown hair. A few days of beard. Bright green eyes that were more guarded than a Russian mobster’s. He was sleeved, the colorful tattoos a tapestry, but every time I met him I couldn’t quite see them. We only saw each other in dark concert halls, or tonight, under the stars.

He gave Sam a rare smile and a hearty handshake, forearm muscles bulging. I wondered what it would be like to have those hands on me. My fingers tracing those tats. Listening to him tell me the story of his naked body while he forgave mine.

Forgave it for failing me.

I shook my head fast to banish the thoughts that drew me into places so dark they became black holes of the soul. The gravity of trauma had a way of sucking all the good into it, and tonight I wasn’t going to let that happen. The opposite, in fact.

Tonight I was going to fuck Tyler.

He didn’t know it yet, but that was okay. He would. Soon.

“Maggie?” Charlotte handed me another drink and gave me a half-smile. “You look like you’re a million miles away.”

I ran one hand through my orange hair and drank some more courage. Not too much, but not too little. The only action I’d seen in five years involved my own hands and devices with batteries, and that had been torture. I didn’t quite count a few kisses with guys in bars on dance floors that smelled like sour alcohol and bleach. Those furtive attempts to prove I could let someone touch me sexually had been more like mini therapy sessions than anything arousing.

Tyler was definitely arousing.

“I’m ready,” I whispered, willing the shake to leave my voice.

Her already-big eyes widened, like white globes with brown pools in the middle. Charlotte’s dark, straight hair was cut with bangs that were so perfect they were like a blade.

“Tyler? You’re picking a guy whose nickname is Frown for your first…oh, Maggie, are you sure?”

My eyes met hers.

“You are sure,” she hissed, sucking air in through her teeth. Charlotte was nothing if not tactful and cool under pressure as long as she was dealing with someone else’s crisis. She was clearly weighing her judgment. “I know you were thinking about doing this, but…him?”

I just nodded, then shrugged. “It has to be someone, right? He’s nice. Kind of rough in an appealing way. Non-judgmental. Not at all hard on the eyes.”

“No, not at all,” Charlotte said, interrupting me. She rolled her lips in as if fixing her lipstick. I knew she was curating Tyler. Evaluating him. Biting her lips and assessing him like a specimen. Was he Maggie worthy? She was deciding.

“And he doesn’t talk. No feelings to worry about. Easy peasy. How many guys get a one-night stand offer from a chick?” I asked, my tone far lighter than my heart. My palms began to sweat. My face, too. I felt a drop trickle between my breasts. I’d worn actual lingerie today, a bra and panties that were made in this decade and that matched.

Just in case. Just…in case.

Author Bio:

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge. From billionaires to BBWs to new adult rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a men’s room toilet (and he isn’t a billionaire).

She lives in New England with her husband and three sons in a household where the toilet seat is never, ever, down.

She loves to hear from her readers by email at jkentauthor@gmail.com, on Twitter @jkentauthor, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jkentauthor . Visit her at http://jkentauthor.com

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