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They say first loves are oftentimes the end of one’s innocence.

Those words couldn’t ring truer for Everlynne Lawson, whose first brush with romance came with a heartbreak…and the thing that seems to follow her everywhere she goes. Death.

After a great tragedy, Everlynne loses all she cares about—her dreams, her family, and her soulmate, Joe.

Guilt-ridden, Everlynne decides to isolate herself in Salem, Massachusetts. A shell of the woman she once was, she takes her days one at a time, careful not to allow herself the joy she believes others in her life were robbed of. But when the mysterious, handsome Dominic storms into her life, it becomes more difficult to stay in solitude. Dominic is different: adventurous, joyous, with lust for life and a passion to make her his.

Everlynne is on the cusp of reinventing herself once again when the old wounds of her past are resurrected, rawer than ever. There is nothing worse than being in love with two men.

Especially when one of them hates you.


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Beautiful Graves

L.J. Shen

Expected Release Date: 4 October 2022

An angsty new romance about a woman caught between a secure relationship and a once-in-a-lifetime spark with her muse is out this week from author L.J. Shen, and I have a fabulous sneak peek for you.

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Excerpt

The closer I get, the more I feel hope gathering behind my rib cage. Suddenly, a pair of arms grabs me from above. The arms pull me up by the armpits. I become slack and heavy inside them as they sling me honeymoon-style, and I’m pressed against a warm, dry chest.

“You have her?” a Spanish, smoke-filled voice asks.

“Yeah.”

“Is she . . . ?”

“I don’t know.” The other voice is American. “Help me get her to that tree, and we’ll take a look.”

A few moments later, I’m wrapped inside a warm blanket. I’m too exhausted to open my eyes. A flashlight illuminates my face behind my eyelids.

I wince. “Please stop.”

“How long were you in the water?” Spanish Voice asks.

“Seven or eight minutes.” I’m coughing out my words. My eyes are still closed. I feel arms wrap around me. Normally, I would recoil at the proximity to a stranger, but there’s something about the arms that hold me that feels right. Like this is exactly the place I should be in.

“Did you swallow water?” Spanish Voice is speaking directly into my face. His breath, of chewed tobacco and beer, is warm against my flesh.

“Not too much.” I cough some more.

“Are you hurt?”

“No, not hurt. Just . . . tired.”

“Open your eyes for me, chavala.”

My eyes flutter open. A tan man with a sheepskin-like white beard and a flashlight glares back at me.

“I’m okay,” I say. I start to move my hands, my feet, rolling my neck from side to side. I’m breathless, and in shock, but everything seems to be intact. I just had a scare.

“Ah, no. I didn’t save you.” He shakes his head. “He did.” He points a mud-caked fingernail to the human blanket that is holding me. I twist my neck so I can look at the person, but it’s making me dizzy.

Not dizzy enough, though, to miss the important part.

The pinnacle of my trip.

The person who is holding me is Smoker Dude.

And he doesn’t look like he is about to let go.

* * *

Smoker Dude saved me.

He is here, on Gran Canaria. At the same beach party. What are the odds?

I pinch my forearm, in case I’m hallucinating. He is still here, and now I’ve given myself a bruise. He notices and bites down a grin. I shake my head. Maybe it’s a concussion. But he looks so real, so alive, so warm, wrapped around me.

For a few moments, all we do is stare. No words seem adequate enough for what is happening here. We’ve beaten all statistical odds. Things like this only ever happen in movies.

Instinctively, I put a hand on his cheek. One last test to make sure he is not an illusion. His skin is rough and hot. I’m surprised I don’t burst into flames. I don’t know what it is, but I feel a hundred times more alive right now than I did a minute ago.

“You.” Smoker Dude cups my hand in his. His voice is hoarse. Thick. He didn’t know. Up until our eyes met, just now, he didn’t know it was me in the water.

“You,” I murmur back. “What’s your name?”

The suspense has been killing me. I’ve been obsessing about his name from the moment we met.

“Joe.”

“Joe.” I test his name in my mouth. Joe! Good ol’ Joe. Such a simple, unassuming name. I’m a little disappointed at his parents. That’s all they could come up with? Do they not know how rare and special their son is?

“Thank you for saving me, Joe.”

The Spanish man, whom I’ve forgotten all about in the last few minutes, salutes him. He stands up and ambles toward the promenade, disappearing into a cloud of people. I look around us, finally remembering that we are a part of a larger universe. We’re under a tree, somewhere secluded. The party is still in full swing. They’re doing the limbo now.

“What’s your name?” he asks.

“Ever.” I drop my hand from his face, realizing that it’s not cool to randomly grope strangers. “Everlynne.”

“Thank you for saving me, Everlynne.”

“I didn’t save you . . . ?” I say.

“Yet.” His smile is slow and teasing and screams trouble. “But now you owe me one. And I always collect.”

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