PREORDER: Inspired By You

Hey, everyone! We are less than two weeks away from the release of Inspired By You, and I wanted to make sure you all had a chance to preorder before it releases on May 10th, 2018! Inspired By You’s preorders are available everywhere, but you will only find the sample to read early on iBooks!

Grab your preorder today by clicking on your preferred eBook retailer here: Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and Nook!

I’m so excited to share this next Love in the City installment with you! The whole gang is involved, as they have been throughout the series. You’ll read about how they are as parents, how their relationships are continuing to grow, and of course, the hilarity and problems that ensue along the way!

As such, I hope you preorder the book today so you don’t miss Max and Whitley’s story! It’s a single parent/opposites attract romance you do not want to miss!

In the meantime, check out some teasers from Inspired By You below, and feel free to help spread the word by sharing the preorder links and the graphic(s) posted here! Also, I’ve posted an exclusive Inspired By You excerpt in my Nuss’ Navy group on Facebook, so if you’re not a member, please be sure to join and check it out! I’ll also be doing some exclusive giveaways just for my Nuss’ Navy members when Inspired By You releases; another added bonus to joining my group!

More teasers to come, I promise!

I want to give a huge THANK YOU to all the book bloggers who have signed up to help promote Inspired By You on release day and the days to follow. Those who signed up for ARCs will be getting them soon! We have over 100 blogs participating, and I am so thrilled to have all your support! So, thank you so very much for your participation!

To my hometown readers in Russell, I’ve donated signed paperbacks of the first five (5) Love in the City books as well as some adult coloring books as door prizes for the Russell Chamber’s Ladies Night – Vendor Fair that’s happening this coming Friday, May 4th! I hope to see you there!

May you all have a great week and don’t forget to preorder Inspired By You!

XO,

Steph

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COVER REVEAL: Shaded With Love Vol 3

 
Title: Shaded with Love ~ Volume 3 ~ A Coloring Book For A Cause
Author: Jessica Hildreth
Release Date: July 1st, 2017
Genre: Adult Coloring Book
 
 
 
  
Join us in the fight against suicide! Shaded with Love ~ Volume 3 is a special multi author, blogger and photographer collaboration. This adult coloring book includes a unique page designed just for each participant! Enjoy pages by your favorite authors, blogs and photographers…or maybe find someone who is new to you! 100% of proceeds from this book will be donated The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to help fund the battle against suicide.
Participants include (in alphabetical order):
A.M. Johnson, Amanda Lanclos, Amanda Leigh, Amanda Renee “Anastasia Marie”, Angie M. Brashears, Anna Erishkigal, Anne Mercier, Aurelia Fray, Avery Hart, B.L. Berry, Benton Bitches Book Page, Belinda Boring, Books and Boys Book Blog, Brandy Ayers, C.M. Steele, Charlie Lee, Chelle C. Craze, Christine Hughes, Courtney Shockey, Darlene Tallman, Diana Marie DuBois, Diva Does 4 Good, Drew Elyse, Elizabeth York, Em Frances, Erin Lee, For the Love of Books & Alcohol, For the Love of Books & Author Events, Ginger Ring, Gwyn McNamee, Heather Anne, Heidi McLaughlin, HJ Bellus, Hollis Canon, Hot Books & Sassy Girls Book Blog, Imy Santiago, Isabella Rose Norton, Isabelle Peterson, J. L. Perry, J.C. Valentine, J.L. Drake, Jaci Wheeler, Jacquelyn Ayres, JaM Book Blog, Jamie Garrett, Jasmine Carolina, JC Santo, Jennifers Taking A Break, Jillian Anselmi, K. Renee, Kate Benson, Kate Lynne, Katharina LeBoeuf, Kay Thorn, Kiarra M. Taylor Kirsty-Anne Still, Kristine Dugger, Lauren Firminger, Leigh Ann Lunsford, Little Shop of Readers, LK Collins, Loves Great Reads, Lynnette Brisia, M.C. Webb, M.L. Steinbrunn, M.S. L.R., Maria Vickers, MariaLisa deMora Marie Skye, Mary B Moore, Mia Kayla, Mignon Mykel, ML Preston, ML Rodriguez, Muriel Garcia, Nicki Rae, Nikki Sparxx, PJ Fiala, Reading by the Book, Reading AfteR Dark, Olivia Savage, Roux Cantrell, Ruthie Henrick, S. Van Horne, Sam Destiny, Shane Robert, Skye Turner, Stacey Johnston, Steph Nuss, Stephanie Rose, Susan’s Books I Like, Sweet &
Spicy Reads, T.K. Leigh, Terri E. Laine, The world was hers for the reading, Theresa Hissong, Thia Finn, TJ Penn, Tracy Millosovich, Twinsie Talk Book Reviews, Verlene Landon, Vicki Green, Winter Travers, Zach chopchinski
  

 

   
Jessica is the creative mind behind Potty Mouth, the best
coloring book you will ever get your hands on. She is the visual book cover
genius behind many of the bestselling books on the market today.
When she isn’t creating mind blowing graphic arts, you can
find her at local coffee shops, tattoo parlors or more often than not, at home
being mommy to the 6 kids she shares with her husband Scott.
 
 
 

 

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY: Challenged By You

Hey, all! Who loves book giveaways!?

I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve posted a giveaway on Goodreads for a signed copy of Challenged By You (Love in the City, #5), open to US readers. The entry period ends next Sunday, May 7th, so be sure to get your entries in this week! Click here to enter!

Hope you’re all having a wonderful spring so far! What have you been reading lately? I just finished Four Letter Word by J. Daniels and Tessa Bailey’s Too Hard to Forget, and I highly recommend them both! Love those ladies and their words!

Happy reading!

Xo,

Steph

Cover Reveal: Shaded With Love Vol 2

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Shaded with Love Vol.2 Cover Reveal

Release Date: March 15th, 2017

Cover Designer: Jessica Hildreth at Creative Book Concepts

120 authors, bloggers and photographers are proud to reveal the cover for Shaded with Love Vol. 2! We are so excited for all of you to get your hands on this awesome project, and benefit an amazing organization at the same time! 100% of proceeds from Shaded with Love Vol. 2 will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

After the success of Shaded with Love Vol. 1 we decided to carry on the project, with a new coloring book releasing every quarter of the year. Each coloring book volume will benefit a new charity, have new pages and new author, blogger and photographer participants. Volume 1 published in November 0f 2016, Volume 2 will be published March 15th, Volume 3 is due to release in June 2017, and Volume 4 will be in September 2017.

List of participating authors, bloggers and photographers:

A is for Alpha B is for Books, A.K. Layton, Abigail M, AJ Warner, Alexandria Sure, Alice K. Wayne, AM Creations, Amy Marie, Angie M. Brashears, Anna Brooks, Anne Mercier, Aurelia Fray, Author and Reader Services by Lucky 13, Avery Hart, Beantown Bitches Book Page, Belinda Boring, Book Boyfriends Rock, Book Lovers Down Under, Book Teaser Pleaser, Books and Boys Book Blog, Cat Mason, Celia Aaron, Charlie Lee, Chelsea Camaron, Christine Hughes, Courtney Shockey, Crystal Perkins, Danielle Pearl, DD Lorenzo, Delaney Foster, Delilah Frost, Elizabeth York, Ellie Masters, Emersyn Vallis, Faith Andrews, Faith Gibson, FG Adams, Freya Barker, Gia Riley & Marni Mann, Gillian Jones, Ginger Ring, Gwyn McNamee, HJ Bellus, iScream Books Blog, J.A. O’Donoghue, J.L. Baldwin, J.L. Drake, J.M. Walker, Ja low, JaM Book Blog, Jamie Garrett, Jenika Snow, Jennifer Lassalle Edwards, Jennifers Taking A Break, Jessica Gibson, Jillian anselmi, JJ The Book Boss, Kay Renee, Kacey Shea, Kat Mizera, Katharina LeBoeuf, Kayla, Kerri Ann, KL Donn, KL Myers, Kristine Dugger, Little Shop of Readers, Lori Ann Gerlisky, Love Infinity Book Blog, Lucian Bane, M. Dauphin & H.Q. Frost, M. Never, M.A. Stone, M.C. Decker, M.L. Steinbrunn, Magan Vernon, Mandy Bee, MariaLisa deMora, Michelle Rene, Mindy Carter, Molly McLain, Moxie North, Nicola Rendell, Night and Day Book Blog, Nikki Sparxx, Once Upon An Alpha, PJ Fiala, Reading After Dark, Reviews by Reds, Rhonda James, RLS Model Images Photography, Romancing Reads, Rose Silverstone, Rosemary Willhide, Roux Cantrell, RplusMphoto, Ruthie Henrick, Ryan Michele, S. Ferguson, S. Van Horne, S.R. Grey, Shawnté Borris, Southern Belle Book Blog, Stacey Johnston, Steph Nuss, Stephanie Rose, Susan’s Books I Like, Sweet & Spicy Reads, Taryn Steele, TC Matson, Theresa Hissong, Theresa Sederholt, Tiffani Lynn, TL Swan, Tracy Millosovich, Trinity Hanrahan, Twinsie Talk, Verlene Landon, Vicki Green, Xana Jordan

I’m so excited to be part of this amazing group of the writing community, and I cannot wait for you to get this coloring book! Thank you, Jessica, for designing our pages and putting this all together! You’re Super Woman!

Follow us on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/shadedwithlove

For more information on Shaded with Love Vol. 1 click here: http://amzn.to/2lQT8XQ

To learn more about St. Jude’s click here: www.stjude.org

To learn more about Free2Luv click here: www.free2luv.org

Be sure to check out my Facebook page later tonight for a special March giveaway including several authors and bloggers and lots of amazing prizes! If you would please, I’d also really appreciate any shares for our coloring book’s cover reveal to help spread the word! I’ve sent the Amazon gift cards to the winners from my previous post on Sunday. Thank you all so much for participating and for all the love and support; it truly means a lot!

Happy Reading!

Xo,

Steph

Bom Bidi Giveaway

I want to start off by apologizing for not posting in a LONG freaking time! It’s been months and I’m so sorry! I’d like to rectify that by giving away FIVE $5.00 Amazon gift cards to FIVE lucky readers! To enter, just comment on this post with your email! I’ll randomly select the winners, so watch your emails!

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I know you’re probably wondering what I’ve been up, and sadly I can’t say it’s been writing tons of books, though I have been working on Whitley and Max’s story (yes, they’re next, and Cash’s story is last…you know the saying, saving the best for last!) I’ve moved into a different place, and I’m happy to say that Gunner and I have adjusted nicely and we’re loving it! I’ve also been busy with my family and friends during the holidays. I had a brother get married in Mexico (this ginger is never going there again) as well as all the normal holidays. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year (gah! I’ve been gone too long, never again, I swear!). Again, sorry!

I also had my first book signing of 2017 in Maryland at the Rebels Hit the Road event! It was a blast getting to meet so many readers and hang out with my team of editors and fellow authors! Casey Peeler has the best accent ever, so much so that I found myself trying to mimic her (I love it)! It was also so incredibly nice to catch up with Trudy Stiles (I hadn’t seen her since NYC)! I fangirled hard too. First off, Debra Anastasia turned me into a rotten carrot top with one of her maxi pads (she ran out of the color orange), but I felt like framing it anyway because it’s Debra Freaking Anastasia. So I returned the favor by giving her a paperback of Pleasured By You that I screwed up while signing books for a reader (so Debra Anastasia has Fletcher now: fangirl). Then Jennifer Armentrout and I bumped into each other when we were getting together to take our author group picture before the signing. I may have swore to myself to never wash my right shoulder in case her awesome writing vibes transferred over to me during said run-in. I’m sure she doesn’t remember it at all but I do; that’s all that matters right? Ha! Like I said, total fangirl moment!

We also went to see Fifty Shades Darker while in Maryland and it was AMAZING! I’m currently jamming to the FSD soundtrack while I write this post. If you haven’t seen it, get out of the house and to your nearest movie theater!

My next two signings are in March. I have Kinky in Kansas City on March 4th, and Authors in the City in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 11th! The lineups are absolutely stellar! I’m already fangirling over the other authors attending each event. If I run into Laurelin Page and Sawyer Bennett and my other faves, I’ll tell you all about the awesomeness! Can’t wait! Hope to see you there!

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In Love in the City news, like I said above, I’ve been working on Max and Whitley’s story. I know most of you are excited for Cash’s story, and I am too because he’s amazing. But I felt like I needed to give Max and Whitley a story. Remember how the Friends writers never gave Joey a proper happy ending romance? That’s how I feel about Max and Whitley. We all kind of hated Max in Fantasized By You when he kissed Harper! We all hated Whitley for a brief second in Cherished By You when Tessa thought she was doing Justin! Now, they’re getting their own story so we can fall in love with them because I believe they deserve a redeeming story; they deserve to be part of the Love in the City group. So, you’ll definitely get the whole LITC gang like always, and they’ll help Whitley and Max figure out love in Inspired By You.

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Cash’s story will be last because I’ve saved the best for last. I know you’re saying to yourself, how can he be the last, the best, Steph? But you just wait. You’ve already met his woman in Challenged By You. I’m so excited to write his story, Changed By You, and wrap-up the Love in the City series in the best way possible. But the Love in the City world won’t end with Cash’s story. I’ve promised several readers spin-offs and I will deliver.

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I’ve also plotted a new series, The Cutler Family Quartet. It will be a complete 180 from the Love in the City series, and I’m really excited to give you another group of characters to love. My cover designer starts working on their covers at the end of March! Be sure to join Nuss’ Navy to get the first exclusive look at the covers and the series as a whole.

Again, I’m so SORRY for being away for so long! I promise to post more often and keep you updated! Thank you for staying with me! I have some other awesome news I’ll be able to share Wednesday, March 1st! So stay tune! Remember to enter the Amazon gift card giveaway by commenting on this post with your email below! If you’re coming to the two signings I have left this year, come see me and my mom at my table! Happy reading!

Xo,

Steph Nuss

 

PREORDER + Love in the City SALE!

Hey, all! I just wanted to stop by and share the preorder links for Challenged By You! It’s currently available for preorder on Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo (links posted below)! It will be available on Barnes and Noble on release day, September 1st! Find out what others are saying about it below. . .

“Steph Nuss has really sharpened the knife on this one. But it’s so worth all the tissues.” – Adrienne Frances, author of The Mathews Family series

“Steph Nuss delivers her most heartbreaking book so far in this series. I was left emotionally satisfied with love and compassion for Paige & Drake.” – Lauren, CherryRed’s Reads

“I got all the feels while reading this book. And I do mean ALL. THE. FEELS. This was hands down my favorite of the series so far.” – Crystal, Goodreads

PREORDER TODAY!
To celebrate the upcoming release of book five in the Love in the City series, I’ve put the previous three books in the series on sale for 99 cents for a limited time! So, if you haven’t had a chance to read these, now is the perfect time to grab them! If you’ve already read them all and are anxiously awaiting Challenged By You, don’t forget to preorder and maybe consider gifting the other books to a friend, family member, fellow bookworm, and/or co-worker who hasn’t met the Love in the City gang yet! With school just around the corner, I know many readers are eager for their kids to go back to school so they can get back to their quiet reading time! Don’t forget to check out the giveaway I have posted on my Facebook page for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card by sharing the sale!
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Wanted By You – FREE
Fantasized By You – 99 cents

Pleasured By You – 99 cents
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Cherished By You – 99 cents
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Challenged By You – PREORDER
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I’m so excited for you all to read Paige’s story. Thank you again for being so patient with me. I’m so grateful for your endless support. Her story took time, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did while writing it. It is emotional, but I think I’ve hinted enough in the previous four books for all my Love in the City fans to know that Paige’s story would be a heartbreaking one. So, I will warn you: have a hanky around, because a tissue may not suffice. (I actually had a handkerchief beside me the entire time I worked on it). But I promise, your heart will be full once you read, “The End.”

Happy Reading,

Steph

Release Date: Challenged By You (LITC, #5)

Hey, all!

Several of you have been asking when Challenged By You (Love in the City, #5) will be releasing, and I can finally give you a date! Paige’s story will be hitting your eReader devices September 1st, 2016! I’m very excited to share her story with you. It’s the most angsty book of the series so far, but I made sure to throw in enough comic relief so that you’re leaving with a smile instead of some bruises. I actually bawled (yes, you read that right, not just a few small tears here and there, but actually ugly cried) while writing her book. I hope you guys enjoy it just as much! Thank you for being so patient with me. Between a new job and writing, it took me longer than I expected. But the story is at its best, and that’s what matters most to me. I could never release a story I didn’t love or just threw together for the sake of putting out more books throughout the year. I wanted Paige’s story to be perfect because it deserves to be. I know it’s one you’ve been waiting for since we first met Paige back in book one. It’s finally her time, and I’m very proud of her story. So, thank you again for being the wonderful fans you are by standing by me, my team of editors and designers, and my characters, no matter how long it takes for us to deliver! You’re simply the best and we all appreciate your continuous support!

If you’re a book blogger and would like to help promote Challenged By You’s release day blitz and/or blog tour, click here to sign up! Southern Belle Promotions is hosting the events, and I’m very excited to work with them again. They’re organization is simply amazing. Your participation would mean the world to me! Plus you’ll have the opportunity to read the book early!

Stay tune for preorder links as well as some teasers! I’ve already posted the soundtrack to Challenged By You here! (I love making the soundtracks!)

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Happy reading,

Steph

EXCERPT: Challenged By You (LITC, #5)

Hey, everyone!

I know I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought I’d share a little something I’ve been working on. Paige’s story is one I know my Love in the City fans have been patiently waiting for, but I’m here to tell you that I am working on it! Between my new full-time job (that I actually love and enjoy going to everyday, and you know, I’m almost 26 so I needed to get off my parents’ health insurance) and my writing, I am going to bring you Paige’s story soon! I’m still in the process of writing it, so I don’t have a release date for you yet. But in the meantime, I hope this unedited excerpt of the prologue will hold you over for a little bit. Paige’s story is so unlike the rest of the Love in the City books, and I’m trying my best to make sure it’s perfect for you guys. You’ll really get to know the woman you’ve read about in the first four books, and I’m bringing in a new hero just for her. But for now, let’s take a trip back to 2003 where her story truly begins. . .

Prologue

June 2003

Paige

Positive.

Two lines meant positive, but one of the lines looked a little more faded than the other. What the hell did that mean?

Standing in the bathroom, I closed my eyes tight and shook the test like it was a damn Etch A Sketch, hoping the more faded line would disappear altogether. Another fearful glance at it told me the shaking only made the line appear more clearly.

The knot thickened in my throat and tears pooled in my baby blues as I stared back at my seventeen-year-old self in the mirror. In my opinion, I didn’t look the same as I did yesterday. Maybe it was my imagination but my boobs already felt heavier. My long blonde ponytail still kept in its sleek, tight hold felt almost too tight, like it was giving me a headache. The minimal makeup I wore did nothing to hide the fatigue etched into my ivory skin.

With trembling hands, I laid the test back down on the vanity.

This cannot be happening. I’m seventeen years old; I can’t be having a child! Especially when its father just graduated high school yesterday and plans to move across the country to play college football on a full-ride scholarship.

I sighed and looked away from the mirror, talking to myself aloud. “I cannot be pregnant right now.”

A knock on the bathroom door resonated, giving the first tear permission to drop onto my left cheek.

“Paige?” Mom asked in a worried tone. “Everything okay?”

“Uh-umm,” I stuttered nervously, taking a few deep, shuddered breaths to try to calm down. How would she respond to this news? Her baby girl—the head cheerleader and president of her class—getting knocked up by the star quarterback. What a fucking cliche. “Not really, Mom.”

The knob turned and she peeked her head in. “May I come in?”

Turning my back to mirror, I nodded. Rachel Abram in her perfectly pressed jeans and pink cardigan, with the same blonde hair as mine tied back in a poofy ponytail with a scrunchy instead of a hairband, joined me in the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

My mom and I were close. She was almost more like a friend than a parent most of the time. Both of my parents were more friendly than authoritative. They grew up during that hippie era, where it was all, “Make peace, not war”, so they were laid-back but intuitive.

She took one look at me and immediately noticed something was wrong. “Why the tears, baby girl?”

Her comforting voice alone was enough to push me over the edge. I covered my face with my hands and uttered, “I’m pregnant.”

“Oh, sweetie,” she soothed with a sigh, wrapping her arms around me in a hug. She kissed the top of my head and squeezed me tight. “It’s going to be okay.”

Holding on to her, I buried my head into her shoulder and cried harder. “I never missed taking a pill, I swear, and Drake always wore a condom.”

She ran her hand down my ponytail. “Things can still happen even when you use protection, Paige. You know that.”

“I know, but I-I-I didn’t expect this to happen.”

“Nobody ever does,” she replied calmly, dragging her thumbs over my cheeks. “It’s all going to be okay. Just take some deep breaths and—”

“Gah!” I cursed, pulling away from her. “Could you please try to be a little bit angry about this? This. Can. Not. Happen. Drake leaves for California in a few weeks to start football practice! The last thing he wants is a high school girlfriend with a baby on the other side of the country. This is going to ruin his life.”

“Paige. . .” Her brows furrowed as she took a step back. “Drake loves you. Maybe that’s why I’m not upset about this, because I know you love him, too. I knew you guys were serious a long time ago, when all you could talk about was him. You both used protection, but by some miracle, you still managed to get pregnant. This wasn’t just some stupid mistake you guys made; a baby is never a mistake. And I promise, it is not going to ruin either of your lives. Your father and I are here for you, and I know Drake’s parents will support you guys, too. It’s not the end of the world, it’s the start of a life. A life some women never get the opportunity to create.”

“None of that changes how I scared I am about this.” I knew she was right, but at the moment, I could only think about the future. I stared back at her and told her what scared me more than anything. “I’m scared to tell him. I’m scared I’m going to tell him and he’s going to do something drastic, like forget all about his full ride to USC and football so he can stay here and be supportive of us. You know that’s something he would do because he’s one of the good ones.” More tears threatened as I looked down at my flat stomach and fingered the hem of my shirt. “I can’t let him give up on his dreams for us, Mom. I love him too much to do that to him.”

Mom sat down on the edge of the tub and reached for my hand, pulling me down beside her. For the first time, I saw tears glistening in her eyes as she held both my hands in hers and smiled weakly. “You can’t make that decision for him.”

“YOUR MOTHER’S RIGHT!” Dad shouted through the closed door. “YOU HAVE TO TELL HIM!”

“Dad,” I whined, leaning into Mom as a wave of embarrassment washed over me. The door opened up and he joined my confessional. He squatted down in front of us, shot Mom a wink, and placed a hand over ours as he smiled at me. “Could you at least look mad, like you might kill Drake for knocking me up?”

He chuckled to himself, shaking his head. “No way, because I’m going to be the best goddamn grandpa you’ve ever seen, and my grandchild is going to have the best throwing arm in the nation.”

“It could be a girl, Cal,” Mom quipped playfully.

“And she’ll still be able to out-throw all the boys if she inherits her dad’s arm.”

“This is true,” she laughed. “But either way, it’ll inherit our baby girl’s beauty.”

Their excitement caused an honest smile to spread across my face, a smile that wasn’t weighed down with worry, and for the first time today, I thought, I can do this.

“Okay, I’m going to tell him.”

***

I jumped in my Jeep and headed west toward Drake’s house. I nervously tapped on the steering wheel as I drove by the same handful of estates I always did on my way over to his place. Drake and I grew up in Bedford, New York. His mom inherited a dairy farm, and my dad’s writing career had landed us an estate almost as big as theirs. Bedford was known for its estates and rural appeal. It was close enough to the city but still far enough away from the rush of it all that we could see the stars at night when we laid in the back of Drake’s old Chevy truck. Bedford was home for us, but as I drove by the old, abandoned Massey Estate, the one I dreamed of remodeling and calling my own someday, the same place Drake and I frequented for alone time, I thought about where we’d call home if it was just the three of us. A couple of teenagers with a baby couldn’t afford to remodel an estate that had been left to rot.

Pulling into the Wilkins’ driveway, I took a deep breath and then threw the car into park. Their home was just as beautiful on the outside as it was inside. It didn’t look like a farm from the front, but behind the home sat a tennis court and a pool surrounded by barns and acres of farmland that catered to the cattle. Lillian, Drake’s mom, stood at the door, expecting my arrival.

I shot her a knowing grin as she opened the door for me. This had become our routine. She’d greet me at the door and tell me where I could locate my boyfriend.

“He’s up in his room,” she said with a smile.

“Thanks, Lillian!” I said, as I started up the winding staircase.

On the upper level, I turned left and headed down the hall to his room. When I came to his closed door, I knocked softly and turned the knob. On the other side, I found the most beautiful guy stretched out on his bed, tossing his beloved football up in the air. Drake Lyle Wilkins had the best set of muscles a girl could find, buried underneath his creamy pale skin that made my body tingle just looking at him. His short, wavy black hair was pushed back out of his face and his bright blue eyes smiled when they caught mine.

He leaned up and pulled me down on the bed beside him, eliciting a loud giggle out of me as he curled an arm around my waist to snuggle and kissed me on the neck. “Hey there, P.J.”

“Hey,” I replied, before relishing in the softness of his lips as I ran my hands through his silky dark strands. He’d given me the nickname P.J. after learning that my middle name was Jane. “How are you feeling today? Do you feel like a high school graduate?”

He laughed, laying my head on his shoulder as his fingers skimmed up and down my back. “A very hungover high school graduate, but it was well worth it.”

“Good.” The longer I stared at him and the more my hands roamed, the less I wanted to tell him what I needed to say. He’d given me all of my firsts. My first dance. My first kiss. My first boyfriend. My first sexual experience. My first love. Now, my first child. I couldn’t wrap my head around how I wanted this to play out. One part of me wanted him to be elated, but the other part still didn’t want him to know. He had a heart so big, he’d give up anything for me, and I wasn’t sure if I could live with knowing he gave up chasing his dreams to be here for us.

Laying together, the silence grew between us, and I could tell he was thinking about something as his eyes searched every inch of my face. Those bright irises grew darker which told me he was worried; it was the same look he got when he was worried about landing his full-ride.

“Have you thought about how this year is going to play out?” he asked in a nervous tone. “My parents have drilled it into my head that I need to stay focused on school and football, but all I can think about right now is us.” His fingers entwined with mine. “What happens when I leave?”

I swallowed around the same knot that was still lodged in my throat. “I don’t know, Drake.”

“Well,” he started, “what do you want? This past year has been all about me, and all I can think about right now is how you’re not coming with me when I leave for California. Do you still want to go to USC next year after you graduate like we’d planned?”

Of course, I wanted to go wherever he went because I loved him, but things had changed now that I was pregnant. I’d have a baby next year, and I couldn’t imagine trying to raise a baby and attend college full-time, especially on the other side of the country away from my parents.

“I don’t know,” I repeated, turning to stare up at his ceiling, unable to watch the devastation take root in his eyes. “I haven’t really thought about what I want to do.”

“That’s what I mean,” he stated, turning my attention back toward him. “I have no idea what you want to do with your life because we’ve been too busy trying to make sure I get into USC to play ball. We’ve only been focused on my dreams, on my football career, but I don’t want to take away your chance for you to chase after your own dreams. If yours don’t include me, I’ll understand. I just feel like I need to give you the opportunity to figure out what you want to do, especially after all the love and support you’ve given me, Paige.”

Tears reappeared and I struggled to keep it together in front of him after already breaking down earlier at home. This was it. This was our good-bye. He was letting me go, and I couldn’t even try to fight him. But I’d be lying if I said this was what I really wanted. “My dreams will always include you, even if you’re not physically here with me.”

It was a feat that his pillow wasn’t drenched in my tears.

“I know our friends Barrett and Zoey are off to college too come fall, but you should spend your last year of high school living it up with friends and figuring out what you want to do with your future.”

I nodded, unable to speak as the regret trailed down my face.

His thumbs caught the tears, wiping each one away after they fell, and then he pressed a soft, sweet kiss to my lips and rested his forehead against mine. “I love you. You know I will always love you.”

“I know,” I whispered as a sob rattled through my chest. Tightening my arms around him, I tried to memorize everything about him. The way he always smelled of freshly chopped firewood and musk. How he always kept a stick of spearmint gum on hand so his kisses tasted delicious. His infectious smile and the dimples that accompanied it. The cute chin-butt that caught my attention the first time I met him. His baby blues that were brighter than mine. The dark, smooth strands of his hair that felt like silk between my fingers. The hard planes of muscle that corded through each extremity and beyond, creating a man of steel that look magnificent without any clothes. The sound of his laughter and the fact that he couldn’t carry a tune when he sang while driving. But most importantly, the way he’d touched every part of me, even the parts he physically couldn’t reach. “I love you, too.”

He continued stroking my skin as if he never wanted to stop. “You deserve for this year to be all about you.”

Except it wouldn’t be.

It wasn’t just about me anymore.

His comment was like a swift kick in the ass from reality. I pulled out of his embrace and scooted to the edge of his bed where I gathered myself, drying my cheeks with the backs of my hands. I cleared my throat and stood, righting the twists out of my clothes, and then shot him a weak smile over my shoulder. “You’re right.”

In that instance, I’d made my decision: I’d tell him about the baby after it was born, so he could see that I could do this on my own.

I walked out of his room without looking back, and when I walked by his mom on the way out, I smiled politely and said, “Good-bye, Mrs. Wilkins.”

On the drive back home, I focused on coming up with a plan instead of crying my eyes out like I really wanted. My whole high school life so far had been about Drake and me. My friends were his friends, and we attended everything together. I didn’t know how it was going to be without him, or even Barrett and Zoey, but I wasn’t alone even now. I had a baby to raise. A human life that was my sole responsibility. By the time I rounded the corner and pulled into the garage, I had a plan set in mind, but when I walked through the door and my parents greeted me, I completely lost it again.

“What happened?” Mom asked, leading me over to the couch. “How did he take it?”

“We broke up.”

“You told him you were pregnant with his child and he broke up with you?” Dad asked loudly in disbelief.

“No,” I cried, shaking my head. “He let me go, and I let him.”

Mom and Dad shared a secretive look with each other, had a whole unspoken conversation right there in front of me, and then leveled their attention on me.

“You didn’t tell him,” Mom inferred.

For the first time today, Dad appeared genuinely concerned. “Dammit, Paige, you should have told him.”

Drying my eyes, I pushed up from the couch and gazed back at them. “He wanted me to focus on my dreams and what I wanted to do after high school. Well, this is what I want. I want him to play football because that’s all he’s ever dreamed of. That’s why I didn’t tell him. If I take classes this summer, I can graduate early and prepare for the baby. I figure I’ll have it before he’s back for spring break, and I will tell him then, when he can see that we can do this without him, that he can still play ball and know the baby and me are doing fine on our own.”

“Sweetie. . .” Mom said, shaking her head. “He needs to decide if he—”

“Mom, you said you guys would support me,” I interjected, throwing her words from earlier back in her face. “Please just help me keep this a secret until he’s back for spring break.”

Mom shared another apprehensive look with Dad and then pursed her lips together and nodded.

“Thank you,” I said, rushing over to give her a hug.

“On one condition. . .” Dad stated.

Turning around, I saw the smile widen on his face. “Name it, although I’m not naming him or her after you.”

He laughed lightly and threw his arm over my shoulder. “I get to document every moment so Drake doesn’t miss a thing. That means pictures and videos, and I’m probably going to make you keep a journal, and you don’t get an ounce of say over it. You know how I get about the details, being a writer and all. If I’d missed one second of your mom being pregnant with you, it would have crushed me. From one father to another, let me do this for Drake.”

I had the best parents in the world. “You got it, Dad.”

*************************************************
Eek! What do you think so far? Now, don’t forget to add Challenged By You (Love in the City, #5) to your To-Be-Read over on Goodreads, and maybe send some good writing vibes my way while you’re at it so I can keep at it!

Thank you for patiently waiting for this book. It’s one I really am taking my time on because I want you to feel everything when you read it. Every sweet, charming line. Every heart-breaking tear. Every hilarious bit of banter you know someone in the gang will drop. I want you to feel it all.

Xo,

Steph

Amazon Giveaways Galore

Hey, everyone!

Just wanted to share a fun giveaway I’m participating in for lots of kindle ebooks! I’m giving away a kindle copy of Fantasized By You (Love in the City, #2). So, if you’re an Amazon/Kindle user, this giveaway is for you! Forty-five authors are offering 48 books up for grabs! Click here for more information on how to enter! Entry period closes on March 31st, 2016!

Good luck and happy reading!

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