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No Broken Beast
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Fierce. Scarred. Ginormous grump.
Brilliant life decisions—falling for the bad guy.
But the man they call “Nine” isn’t the villain they think.
I’m not here to kiss and make up. I’m looking for my missing sister.
The best part? He doesn’t have a clue what I’m hiding.
From Wall Street Journal bestselling author Nicole Snow – old promises and jaw-dropping secrets collide in a small town love-storm. A punished mountain of a man retakes the girl who hasn’t told him he’s a dad. Surprise! Full-length romance novel with a Happily Ever After that’s even crazier than you think.
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It’s Not the Beginning (Clarissa)
I always thought déjà vu would be like the books and movies.
Seasick, blurring vision, sound coming down a wind tunnel of slow, sleepy voices.
Everything swaying back and forth.
On TV, déjà vu is this slow thing that whirls you around like a merry-go-round grinding to a halt with your stomach left somewhere far behind your bobbing horse.
But in reality, déjà vu comes quick.
It’s a slap to the face, a gut punch, a falling elevator.
And right now it’s hitting hard enough to leave me breathless as I stand in the ruins of my once proud candy store.
Can I even call it my store?
My stores are back in Spokane, where I started this chain. Sweeter Things shops pepper Eastern Washington and branch west to Seattle.
Technically, I co-own the Heart’s Edge branch, too, but I haven’t even seen it until now. Not beyond a few photos when my sister Deanna first bought the property to bring our franchise to Montana.
I’ve never needed to see it before. I trusted my baby sister to keep the business running just fine.
Especially when seeing it means returning to this cursed town, after I swore I’d never, ever come back again.
Last time I was here, I stood in the ruins of a life, watching everything I love burn down around me.
There’s no fire here in the candy shop.
Just displays tipped over, supplies strewn everywhere, glass and dishes and cookware smashed and thrown across the room.
But I can smell phantom smoke anyway. It makes my chest so tight I feel like I’m choking on memories, the worst night of my life.
“—iss Bell? Ms. Bell. You listenin’ to me?”
I blink, shaking myself.
There it is. The wah-wah voice, that Charlie Brown’s teacher trombone thing, and I realize Sheriff Langley has been talking to me through his thick handlebar mustache, looking at me quizzically with his pad held awkwardly in his hand while I just stare numbly at the shop’s carnage.
For his sake, I nod, never taking my eyes off the scene.
All the pieces are still here, just broken. Everything except my sister.
That’s part of the sucker punch, too. Remembering that awful night, trying to find her, trying to save her, to be the big sister she needs and protect her, only I was so much younger then.
I’m older now.
Old enough to realize, far too late, that I should’ve been here in Heart’s Edge to help watch over her, instead of running away while she meddled with things better left alone.
I press my fingers to my mouth, closing my eyes, taking a shaky breath as I remember our last phone call, how excited and yet frantic she sounded as she said, I think I’m onto something, Rissa. Something big. Something that’ll finally let us take back our lives and move on.
Don’t, I’d told her. Our lives were never taken, sis. We’re alive, and I’m grateful for that every day. I don’t need anything else. I’m happy now.
She’d been so angry with me for saying that.
Called me passive, scared, a liar, said she was going to—
I don’t even know.
The phone cut off with an ominous crackle. I thought she’d hit her limit for tough sisterly love and ended the call.
Then the next time it rang twenty-four hours later, it was this small-eyed sheriff with his peculiar way of squinting and his familiar drawl, telling me somebody broke into the shop, and Deanna’s nowhere to be found.
“Ms. Bell?” Langley whispers again. “You don’t look so good. You sure you don’t just wanna–”
“No.” I take a deep breath, open my eyes, force myself to focus on him with my head swimming and my heart so heavy it crushes everything inside me into a massive ball of pain. “I’m listening. I’m sorry. I…you’re sure she’s not at home?”
“I searched up and down, ma’am. Even know where she keeps the spare key. Them fake rocks don’t fool nobody.” He tries to smile, but it’s a sad thing, a confused line, like he wants to try to make me feel better but knows he can’t. “I looked all over her apartment, Ms. Bell. Everything’s all neat and tidy. If anybody’s been in there, they weren’t looking for loot. And it doesn’t look like she left in a hurry. And…”
He clears his throat and looks out the front display window.
The shattered front display window, open to the slowly cooling air of early autumn whisking inside. Not far from my sister’s car, an Easter-candy-pink vintage VW bug, sitting in the lot.
It’s surrounded by the shards of glass from the broken windows. They’re mixed with the broken window pieces of the shop that used to say Sweeter Things in curly gold letters garnished with pink and green flowers made to look like they were sculpted out of fondant.
Jesus, is that blood?
Is that glinting red edge along one glassy fragment blood?