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Just breathe, Kacey. Ten tiny breaths. Seize them. Feel them. Love them.

Four years ago Kacey Cleary’s life imploded when her car was hit by a drunk driver, killing her parents, boyfriend, and best friend. Still haunted by memories of being trapped inside, holding her boyfriend’s lifeless hand and listening to her mother take her last breath, Kacey wants to leave her past behind. Armed with two bus tickets, twenty-year-old Kacey and her fifteen-year-old sister, Livie, escape Grand Rapids, Michigan, to start over in Miami. Struggling to make ends meet, Kacey needs to figure out how to get by. But Kacey’s not worried. She can handle anything—anything but her mysterious neighbor in apartment 1D.

Trent Emerson has smoldering blue eyes, deep dimples, and he perfectly skates that irresistible line between nice guy and bad boy. Hardened by her tragic past, Kacey is determined to keep everyone at a distance, but their mutual attraction is undeniable and Trent is determined to find a way into Kacey’s guarded heart—even if it means that an explosive secret could shatter both their worlds.


EXCERPT: Ten Tiny Breaths

BONUS ALTERNATE POV SCENE: Ten Tiny Breaths

K.A. Tucker

BOOK SERIES: 

2012 was a year filled with so many incredible reads, but one that stood out in so many ways was Ten Tiny Breaths. It moved me, shocked me, made me purr, it broke my heart in so many little pieces and then it put them all back together, leaving me in awe. But what stood out the most in this beautiful book was the writing… It was spectacular. The prose might appear lighthearted but every scene reaches its target, every word has a purpose and every feeling it provokes is intentional. It is so much more than an emotional roller-coaster, it is a ride to the moon and back… And today I get to share with you that scene from Ten Tiny Breaths, told from Trent’s POV, and written exclusively for us. I give you…the “snake scene”.

My review of Ten Tiny Breaths

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Bonus Alternate POV Scene

I’m working on a magazine layout when I hear her screams. I know it’s Kacey right away. I’ve heard her screams too many times not to recognize them. Sometimes I lay awake at night, waiting for them. Waiting to hear how seriously I’ve fucked her life up. The paper-thin walls in this apartment are great for that.

These screams … they sound different. High-pitched, petrified. Somehow dangerous.

My body reacts instantly. In seconds I’m flying out of my apartment and landing in front of hers, adrenaline firing on all cylinders. My hand tests the doorknob. It’s locked. I don’t hesitate. Not for a second. Taking three steps back, I run forward, throwing all of my weight and my apprehension against the door. The wood, the frame – everything – splinters as I plow through it and tumble into her apartment.

I don’t know what to expect on the other side. A psycho with a gun to Kacey’s head? Her sister crumpled on the bathroom floor with her wrists slit? I have no fucking clue what I’m heading into, what could possibly set Kacey off like this and keep her screaming.

The first thing I see is a small child sitting alone on the couch with hands folded in her lap. Her eyes are wide and her bottom lip wobbles as she takes me in but she doesn’t make a sound. There’s nothing amiss in the main area. Except for the idiot who just barreled through the front door.

“It’s okay,” I say as I rush past her to the hall leading to the bathroom and bedrooms. And the screams.

I find Kacey’s sister standing in front of a closed door, rattling the handle furiously with both hands, tears streaming down her cheeks. She seems completely oblivious to my explosive entrance, so focused on getting to Kacey.

I don’t bother saying anything to her. There’s no time for that. I simply grab her shoulders and pull her out of the way. I’m a bit rough and I know it but I can’t help myself. Right now I need to get through this door and find out what the hell is happening to my girl so I can breathe again.

I’m through this door in a split second to find myself in a cramped, steam-filled bathroom, facing a translucent shower curtain and a silhouette on the other side. And Kacey’s still screaming.

I suck in air.

F*ck.

A tiny part of me feels wrong about what I’m about to do. Not the part that is about to yank back the curtain and wrap her in my arms – to protect her, to make her safe. It’s the part that knows Kacey is naked and that I can’t avoid catching at least a glimpse of her. Or that I don’t want to avoid catching at least a glimpse of her. Because I’m a total douche bag and I’ve had so many wet dreams involving a naked Kacey that I should be committed for a sexual addiction.

F*ck.

Inhaling deeply, I grab a towel with one hand and tug the curtain back with the other.

Kacey doesn’t even flinch. She’s too busy screaming to notice or care that I’m standing next to her in the shower. I could probably stand here and stare at her perfect body all damn day.

Thankfully, that desire vanishes the second I see her cowering against the wall, her arms pulled tightly against her chest, her body shaking like a frightened animal. Seeing her like this rips my heart out.

I step one foot into the tub to wrap an arm around Kacey’s slick back while at the same time draping the towel over her front. Her body is soaked and rigid but she still folds into me in response, her face pressing into my chest. I bend to slide my other arm under her knees and I scoop her up.

And – thank God – the screaming stops.

As I’m carrying her out of the shower, my eyes quickly scan the area, looking for some trigger for all this. Something that made her scream like Freddy Krueger and Hannibal Lector were tag-teaming her. But I see nothing. Nothing except for … a red-and-black-striped body coiled around the showerhead.

A snake. Huh.

A snake in your shower definitely would be a surprise but it’s so small. There’s no way that’s what caused this

She confirms it seconds later with a rambling rant into my chest. “I hate snakes. I hate snakes. F*ck! I hate snakes!”

I carry her past a pale-faced Livie and into a bedroom, all the while fighting to keep the smile from spreading across my face because I know I’ll look like a dick if she sees it. It’s not that I find this funny but … now that the drama is over and she’s safe, anyone would have to admit she overreacted, just a bit.

Sure, I’m still going to beat the sh*t out of that scrawny man in 2B because I just put two and two together and this snake has to be the one he was searching the bushes for this morning. Then again, maybe I should shake the f*cker’s hand. Thanks to him, I’ve got a soaking wet, naked Kacey cradled in my arms. In a bedroom.

And now I’m back to being a douche bag.

I haven’t let go of her yet. I don’t want to. Her small, muscular body fits perfectly in my arms, pressed against me. I wish that time would just stop right now so I could hold her like this forever. But I know it won’t. I know that any second she’s going to get over the snake. When that happens, there’s a chance she’ll smash my nuts for storming into the bathroom like a meth head. Until then, I’ll close my eyes and smooth my hand over her soapy hair and enjoy this rare opportunity to be close to her.

She finally starts to shift, her head lifting from the comfortable crook against my collarbone. I glance down to meet her watery blue eyes. By the shocked look in them, she is only noticing me now. I can’t read anything else in them. Is she mad? Embarrassed? I’m pretty sure she’s attracted to me. I laid it on thick in the laundry room and she didn’t dropkick me then. Given the circumstances now though, there’s a chance she’ll make up for that. She’s got one hell of a temper.

Still, I keep a firm grip of her – my one arm around her back, my other one under her knees – and I plead forgiveness with my eyes. I watch hers flicker down at her towel for just a second before moving back to my face. She’s got to be cluing in to her current predicament. And I still can’t read her. F*ck, I wish I knew what was going on inside that brain of hers.

Livie chooses this moment to storm in and scream at me. “Who do you think you are, barging in here?”

I force my eyes away from Kacey to look at her little sister. Her face is as red as Kacey’s hair. She’s normally a sweet kid but by the way her body sways and her hands flex at her sides, I think she might lunge at me. I may have both Cleary sisters beating the hell out of me in a second.

Still … this was worth it.

“Trent. This is Trent,” I hear Kacey mumble in my ear. Her breath tickles my skin and I instantly react. Awesome. She’s sitting on my lap. There’s no way she won’t feel that. She still may try to snap my dick in half.

Thankfully, Kacey doesn’t seem to notice, still hung up on that snake. “It’s okay, Livie. There’s … there’s a rattlesnake in the shower.”

I bite back a laugh. The thing can’t be more than a foot long and there’s nothing about it that says “rattler.” I don’t say anything though. I keep quiet while Kacey continues.

“Get Mia out of here before it eats her. And get Tanner here. Now Livie!”

Livie’s eyes flicker between her sister and me, grazing the bed that we’re sitting on briefly. No doubt she thinks I’m some asshole that’s going to try something on her sister. She also knows her sister could probably cripple me. Maybe that’s what convinces her to finally leave, pulling the door shut behind her.

I tighten my grasp of Kacey, afraid she’s going to escape from my lap any second. “You okay?”

“I’m fantastic. Aside from almost dying,” she mutters.

I lean forward, about to press my lips to her cheek. But I catch myself and hold back, inches away from her. “I heard you screaming from next door. I thought someone was killing you.”

“Not someone. Something! Did you see it?” Now she turns animated, one of her arms flying out as she points back toward the bathroom. Her other hand fumbles to pull the top of her towel back up but not before I catch a glimpse of a pink, erect nipple.

Dammit.  I swallow as I feel another stir. She’s talking about dying and my dick is digging into her leg. Fan-f*cking-tastic. I can’t wait until she tells the blonde next door that part of the story.

I can’t even distract my arousal with thoughts of clowns and dead animals right now. Kacey’s too close and too naked for any sort of diversion. So I try to focus on her face instead, on the way her brow furrows as she exclaims, “I was two seconds away from being eaten alive!”

She’s so sexy when she’s serious … “I think that’s Lenny 2B’s pet snake,” I explain with a chuckle. “I saw a little bald man checking the bushes in the commons this morning, calling its name.”

Kacey’s body goes rigid and she sits up, her eyes wide with alarm as she stares at me. “Pet? That man eater is someone’s pet? Isn’t there a law against owning rattlers?”

My eyes roam over her perfect features – big, beautiful blue eyes, a narrow nose. And those lips. I settle on those for a long moment. Part of me doesn’t ever want to correct her. She can believe there’s an anaconda swallowing an entire cow in her bathroom for all I care because, if she’s busy talking about that, then she’s not pulling away from me. But I also want her to feel safe, right here in my arms. That’s what makes me fess up. “It’s a milk snake. From what I know, the only thing it’s going to eat is a mouse.” My heart is pounding against my chest, like it does every time she’s near me. I lift my hand and let my fingers graze the underside of her chin. “No one’s going to hurt you, Kacey.”

Her jaw clenches in response and I think that I’ve pushed it too far. I prepare myself for the inevitable. She’s going to slap my hand away and then she’s going to throw me out of this room and –

Kacey’s mouth slams into mine.

At first, I’m not sure that it’s happening. I think I might be imagining it. But no … there’s no way I’m imagining this. It’s a million times better than anything I’ve ever dreamed up. Her lips are so soft and yet so forceful that I don’t know how to respond. I can’t even breathe.

Not for a second, anyway. Then I remember how much I’ve wanted to kiss Kacey since the moment I saw her two years ago and all of my restraint vanishes. Suddenly I can’t keep my hands off her body. I can’t get close enough to her. I can’t kiss her hard enough. This is all so wrong and I don’t give a f*ck. I let my tongue slide into her mouth and my hands roam all of her perfect ridges and curves, settling around her pelvis as I position her on the bed. I’m as out of control as a kid with a bucket of candy and a time limit and all the while, I can’t believe she’s letting me do it. All of it.

I’m keenly aware that Kacey’s towel now sits on the floor in a heap and that her thighs clench against my hips. It’s taking every ounce of my willpower not to tear my jeans off and take full advantage of the situation.

This has already gone too far.

I wrench myself away from her mouth. “This isn’t why I pulled you out of the shower,” I say. I have to say it. Even though it’s true, right now I don’t mean it. Right now, all I want to do is feel all of her. But I can’t do that. And so I wait, watching for her reaction. She’s so damn hard to read most of the time.

“No, but it’s worked out rather well for you, hasn’t it?” she finally says, her voice turning husky, her eyes darkening with desire.

I chuckle. I can’t get enough of her wry sense of humor. It makes me smile, it makes my heart swell, it makes my dick twitch, it makes me want to do all kinds of things to her.

And it makes me feel like a douche bag again because I know that, as much as her sense of humor is a part of her, it’s also her defense mechanism. I put that defense mechanism there. I made her the way she is now. Friendless. Detached.

My heart sinks as I slide my index finger along her sexy long neck. “Isn’t it exhausting?” I whisper before I can stop myself.

“What?”

I hesitate; afraid I’m crossing an invisible boundary with her. “Keeping people out.”

“I’m not.” The denial flies out of her mouth so fast I almost miss it. I don’t miss the flicker of amazement in her eyes though. I wonder what’s behind that. Is she surprised by her response? Or is she shocked that others can see through her? I’ll never know. In the next instant, her veil of disinterest drops down, hiding everything. “I don’t want this. I don’t want you.”

Her words are like a simultaneous punch to my stomach and stab to my heart. And yet I know they’re not true. I won’t give her the chance to believe them. So I crash into her mouth, tangling my tongue in hers, pressing myself hard against the apex of her thighs, stealing one more moment of intimacy. And she responds, with her mouth, with her body. I know I’m right. She does want this. She just doesn’t want to admit it.

Maybe it’s for my ego or for further validation, or because I’m going to need a long, cold shower after this, but I break away and whisper, “You don’t want this, Kacey?”

“No …” Her lips trail against my neck, teasing me.

It’s the contradiction of the century and I’m two seconds from exploding in my pants.

Until I feel her body start to shake and I realize that she’s laughing.

Dammit.

She doesn’t even need to say anything and I know that the moment is gone. It was inevitable. I’m surprised she let herself go this far.

“Get out,” she snaps.

I sigh with a mixture of reluctance and acceptance. Laying three light kisses against her jawline, I whisper, “Okay, Kacey.” I pull myself off my dream girl with a heavy sigh.

My dream girl, stretched out naked on a bed.

I doubt I’ll ever have a moment with her like this again. Maybe that’s why I do it. I let my eyes slowly rake over her body, taking in her perfect round breasts, her sculpted torso, the tightness of her abdomen … everything about her. Slow enough that she can’t possibly miss me doing it.

I’m a f*cking asshole.

If I don’t get out of here right now, I’m going to drop to my knees and beg her to let me stay. Every muscle in my body is stiff as I walk toward the door. Time to face reality. “I’ll take the heat for the doors from Tanner,” I say. I’m not sure that I won’t get evicted, as good as my reasons may have been.

“Doors?” Kacey asks and I catch a hint of something like reverence in her voice. It makes me smile. Yeah, that’s right. I busted two doors down to rescue you, damsel in distress. Maybe that will earn me a few points with her down the road. Maybe.

Gritting my teeth, I resist the urge to turn and use my answer as an excuse to ogle her again. “Yeah. Your front door and the bathroom door. If he’s going to boot someone out, I’ll make sure it’s me.” I open the bedroom door and walk out, reminding myself to buy 2B a bottle of Jack after I smack him around.

© 2013 K.A. Tucker

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Ten Tiny Breaths - Recommended Reading Order

(standalone stories with interconnected characters)

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15 Comments Hide Comments

Loved it . Great to get a glimpse of Travis’ mind. (But you should warn people that haven’t read it yet that it may be a bit of a spoiler). Can’t wait for One Tiny Lie.

My God that was better than Christmas!! I agree with you Natasha, I just loved the way this was written. I think it’s time to re-read Ten Tiny Breaths again. Can’t wait for One Tiny Lie. thanks for the giveaway

OH. MY. GOD!!!!! I loved it! I really did not like Trent and thought what he did was completely wrong, but I am slowly starting to understand him and like him more and more. Thank you for posting this and helping me slowly, but surely, fall into like with Trent :)

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