Tag Archive: Excerpt


About the Book

Title: Layla

Author: Colleen Hoover

Release Date: December 8, 2020

Publisher: Montlake

Summary

When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

Colleen Hoover Introduces a Scene from her New Paranormal Romance Layla!

This month bestselling author Colleen Hoover released her very first paranormal romance, Layla. Today Colleen shares one of her very favorite parts of the book and introduces the scene. Colleen, take it away!

“Leeds and Layla have just met about an hour before this scene takes place. I wouldn’t say they experienced insta-love, but it was definitely an immediate attraction. Leeds is lonely and withdrawn from life, while Layla is the opposite. She’s over the top and fun and everything Leeds isn’t. He’s a musician who has never released any of his own music due to insecurities and doubt. But Layla lights a fire in him and uncovers the confidence about his music that he keeps buried.”  

Excerpt from Layla by Colleen Hoover

Layla leans in and I expect her to kiss me, but instead she whispers, “Play me something,” against my mouth. Then she moves to the couch and lies down. “Play something worthy of that piano,” she says.

She crosses her legs at her ankles and lets one of her arms dangle off the couch. She runs her finger against the hardwood floor while she waits for me to start playing, but I can’t stop staring at her. I’m not sure there’s another woman on this planet who could make me want to stare at her without blinking until my eyes dry up, but she’s looking at me expectantly.

“What if you don’t like my music?” I ask. “Will you still let me kiss you?”

She smiles gently. “Does the song mean something to you?”

“I wrote it using pieces of my soul.”

“Then you have nothing to worry about,” she says quietly.

I spin around on the bench and place my fingers on the keys. I hesitate for a moment before playing the song. I’ve never performed it for anyone before. The only person I’ve ever wanted to sing it for is my father, and he’s no longer alive. His death is the reason I wrote this in the first place.

I’ve never been nervous while playing Garrett’s songs onstage, but this feels different. This is personal, and despite the fact that there’s only one person in the audience right now, it feels like the most intense audience I’ve ever performed for.

I fill my lungs with air and slowly release it as I begin to play.

That night I stopped believing in heaven

I can’t believe in a god that cruel

Can you?

That night I stopped praying on my knees

But I don’t pray standing either

Do you?

That night I closed the door and closed the window

I’ve been sitting in the dark

Are you?

That night I learned happiness is a fairy tale

A thousand pages read aloud

By you

That night I stopped believing in God

You were ours, he didn’t care, he

Took you

So that night I stopped . . .

I stopped . . .

I just

Stopped.

That night I stopped.

I stopped.

I just stopped.

That night I stopped.

I . . .

When I’m finished playing the song, I fold my hands in my lap. I’m a little hesitant to turn around and look at her. The whole room got quiet after I played the last note. So quiet—it feels like all the sound was sucked out of the house. I can’t even hear her breathing.

I close the cover to the piano and then slowly spin around on the bench. She’s wiping her eyes, staring up at the ceiling.

“Wow,” she whispers. “I wasn’t expecting that. I feel like you just stomped on my chest.”

That’s how I’ve felt since I first laid eyes on her tonight.

“I like how it ends,” she says. She sits up on the couch and tucks her legs beneath her. “You just stop in the middle of the sentence. It’s so perfect. So powerful.”

I wasn’t sure if she’d realize the intentional ending, but the fact that she does makes me all the more enamored of her.

***

Author Biography

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of several novels, including the bestselling women’s fiction novel It Ends with Us and the bestselling psychological thriller Verity. She has won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance three years in a row—for Confess (2015), It Ends with Us (2016), and Without Merit (2017). Confess was adapted into a seven-episode online series. In 2015, Hoover and her family founded the Bookworm Box, a bookstore and monthly subscription service that offers signed novels donated by authors. All profits go to various charities each month to help those in need. Hoover lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys.

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.colleenhoover.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorColleenHoover/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/colleenhoover

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5430144.Colleen_Hoover

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In Deep

by Blue Saffire

Publication Date: 8/4/2020

I’ll do anything to protect what’s mine…

The last thing I needed was a call from my old precinct letting me know my knucklehead nephew had been picked up for skipping class. Still, I figured it would be an in-and-out visit. Quick. Simple. But the moment I heard her voice, I should’ve known it would be anything but easy. 

I wasn’t expecting the feelings that came roaring back the moment I laid eyes on the saucy detective with the gorgeous smile, but I probably should’ve seen it coming. Our history is one for the books, and it’s a page-scorcher. And now here she is, standing in my way, and I can’t seem to remember why I ever let her leave my side.

It looks like the sparks between me and Detective Danita Moralez are as intense as ever, but she’s also more guarded than before. Two years ago, she walked out of my life because she wasn’t willing to reveal the dangerous truth about her undercover work. This time, she’s not going to get away so easily.  

ABOUT BLUE: As a young girl, Blue’s mother introduced her to the world of love and music through movies, but once she got her hands on books, an author was born. With more than thirty contemporary romance novels and novellas under her belt, she’s now an award-winning, bestselling author. She lives with her husband on Long Island.

Author Website: http://bluesaffire.com/

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Excerpt: 

“Man, we miss having you and Quinn around here,” Stevens says beside me.

I hear him, but I’m too busy following Moralez with my eyes. She’s gorgeous. Smart and sexy. I love it.

Cal talked about her bust the entire ride here. You would think he had some part in her victory. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the woman I’m staring at isn’t it.

Her tight blue jeans hug her hips with the affection of a long-time lover. Those sexy heels on her feet have me tilting my head to the side as I study her. Damn, the sway of her hips is perfection. I noticed earlier that she has a great pair beneath that T-shirt.

Her voice hit me in my gut from her first word. That smoky rasp is seductive in its own right. Soft, yet a bit hoarse.

Her warm, deep-brown skin is a rich espresso tone. Her eyes are the color of amber whiskey, quite the contrast to her skin. Her dark hair is pulled back in a tight bun.

I can’t help wondering what her locks look like down. Would they fall in her face as she looks at me beneath her? From the waves in the strands brushed from her face, I bet it’s wavy when it’s loose.

Her last name is Moralez, but she looks like she could be of mixed heritage. Not that I’m naive enough to think she couldn’t be fully Latinx. My trips to Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic alone have taught me better than to make that assumption. Which is why I want to get to know her better. I want to ask questions and find out all about her.

“You know that’s not going to happen, right?” 

I turn to Jennings, another of the good guys around here. “You think not?” I say with a grin. 

“I know not. She’s been around here for what? Two or three years. Not one guy, or girl for that matter, has been able to bag her. Forget it.”

“Just because you failed doesn’t mean I don’t have a shot.”

Stevens groans beside me. “I don’t know. I’m with Jennings on this one. You don’t stand a chance. At first, I thought it was a cop thing. You know, like she was against dating one of us. Then I thought it was a White, Black thing, but I’ve seen her turn down everyone. White, Black, Hispanic, male, female, cop, lawyer, bartender. She’s a closed case.”

“Are you assholes sure she’s single? I didn’t see a ring, but that means nothing,” I think out loud.

“I thought that too,” Jennings says. “We were partners for a little bit. Before I moved to the special unit. It’s just her and her dog. She’s single, single.”

I sit back and think on that. It’s not enough to deter me. I want her to tell me she’s not interested. From the vibe I got from her earlier, I don’t think I’m up for as big a challenge as these guys think.

“Good luck,” Stevens says.

“I got twenty that says he crashes and burns,” Jennings snorts, slapping a twenty on the table.

“What do you say, Kev? You think you can win me a twenty?” Stevens says to me.

“You should double the bet,” I say as I watch Moralez and all her sexy curves disappear into the ladies’ room.

***

Excerpted from In Deep by Blue Saffire. © 2020 by Blue Saffire. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

Once in a Blue Moon

by Sharon Sala

Publication Date: 8/25/2020

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Sharon Sala brings you back to Blessings, Georgia

How often do you find a love like this?

Cathy Terry is tired of running. Full of fear and hope, she backpacked across the country to Blessings, Georgia, not knowing if or when her abusive ex-husband would catch up to her. In Blessings she glimpses a safe haven and the closest feeling to home she’s had in a long time—even more so when she meets Duke Talbot. The sweet, strong, and handsome rancher provides a shoulder to lean on. The stakes get higher as the community embraces her and her relationship with Duke deepens—but can Cathy claim a new home and family before her past claims her?

SHARON SALA has over one hundred books in print and has published in five different genres. She is an eight-time RITA finalist, five-time Career Achievement winner from RT Book Reviews, and five-time winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award. Writing changed her life, her world, and her fate. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

Author Website: https://www.facebook.com/sharonkaysala/

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Excerpt: 

Duke loved this time of year. The leaves on the trees were as varied and colorful as the old patchwork quilts they’d slept under as children. And the sky today was a clear, cloudless blue—the same color as Cathy’s eyes.

The cows saw him driving across the pasture and looked up, hoping to see he was slowing down, which meant they would get fed. But when he kept driving, some moved beneath a small stand of shade trees, while others moved to the feeders with the big, round bales.

Duke had put up the cameras within a couple of hundred yards’ radius and facing the direction where the rustlers had come in before.

He walked a few yards into the trees to pick up the first cam and took it down. Out of curiosity, he stopped and rewound it to watch some of the footage and grinned at the view he’d caught of the backside of a boar raccoon waddling through the woods. He fast-forwarded through the minutes with nothing, then watched the footage of two black squirrels foraging on the ground.

There was more to be seen, but he could watch it at home if he wanted, so he packed it up, then started walking through the trees to the next location, where he retrieved the cam and put it in his backpack before moving on to the last.

As Duke approached the tree where he’d mounted it, he noticed a lot of paw prints in the area. They were from either dogs or coyotes, and if there was a pack of dogs running in the area, he wanted to play the tape back to see.

He was all the way on yesterday’s footage before he saw the coyote, and then it turned to face the camera. Duke gasped, watching as the coyote started staggering toward the camera, its head down, swinging slightly from side to side and foaming at the mouth. At that point he groaned, then stopped the camera.

The hair stood up on the back of his neck as he looked around at where he was standing. He’d only seen an animal with rabies maybe twice in his life, but the coyote he caught on the trail cam exhibited all of the symptoms.

They had to find it and put it down before it spread the disease to other animals. Something like that could easily become an epidemic. He needed to get home and call the county wildlife department and then notify the neighbors.

Duke drove home as fast as he could, then ran into the house carrying the cameras. He dumped them on the kitchen table and headed for the office. He had a friend who used to work for the county wildlife department and would know what to do and who to call.

He sat down without bothering to take off his jacket, found the number on an old business card, and made the call, then waited for someone to answer. This was the last number he’d had for Will, and he hoped it was still good.

And then the call was answered.

“Wildlife Animal Control, this is Carol.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m trying to locate a ranger by the name of Will Polson. Does he still work there?”

“Yes, who’s calling please?”

“Tell him it’s Duke Talbot.”

Duke was put on hold, giving him time to put his cell phone on speaker. And then he heard a familiar voice and smiled.

“Well, hello, Duke Talbot! How the heck are you? Are you still out on the family farm?”

“Hi, Will. We’re doing good here, and yes, I’m still here. Listen, we have a problem out here. We had some trouble with cattle rustlers on the farm, so I put up some trail cams in the area, hoping if they came back I’d catch them. But they recently got themselves arrested. Today I went to take down the cameras and had quite a shock when I saw what was on the last one. It was a very obviously rabid coyote, and the last thing we need to have happen is to let this disease spread. There are a lot of farms around here, and people with kids and pets who roam the hills and creeks, not to mention the other wildlife that could get infected.”

“Oh man, this isn’t good. We haven’t had to deal with a rabies case in months,” Will said. “What were the date and time when you caught it on film?”

“Yesterday about this time of day,” Duke said.

“There’s no telling where it is by now, but I’ll get a crew together and head your way. You might notify as many neighbors as you can about the problem. Tell them to keep their dogs up until we find it. You said you’re still on the family farm?”

“Yes. Do you need an address?”

“Nope. I still remember how to get there. Can we drive up to the area?” he asked.

“Yes. To a point, and then the trees will be too dense. It will all be on foot from there.”

***

Excerpted from Once in a Blue Moon by Sharon Sala. © 2020 by Sharon Sala. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

Highland Gladiator

by Kathryn Le Veque

Publication Date: 8/25/2020

Gladiator meets Fight Club in the Scottish Highlands in a new romance from USA Today bestselling author Kathryn Le Veque

“The epic Medieval Romance is back—thanks to Kathryn Le Veque!” —Claire Delacroix, New York Times Bestselling author

When Lor Careston’s quiet Highland village was attacked and burned, he felt helpless against the raiders who destroyed his home. Seeking revenge, but lacking the fighting skills needed to execute his mission, he sets out to find the Ludus Caledonia—a mysterious fight guild that turns men into warriors.

Lor trains hard, proves himself in the ring, and earns a place within the very clan that decimated his home. He knows he can set his plan for revenge in motion from the inside. But his plan didn’t include Isabail Keith, a beautiful warrior lass who prefers broadswords to embroidery. Lor thought the Keiths were his enemies, but when Isabail is threatened, he’ll have to decide what he’s willing to risk for the woman who has captured his heart and the clan that has become his home.

Truth. Justice. Revenge. Behind these stands the Scotsman’s sword.

With over one hundred published novels, Kathryn Le Veque is a critically acclaimed USA Today bestselling author, a charter Amazon All-Star author, and a #1 bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author in Medieval Historical Romance and Contemporary Romance. She lives in California.

Author Website: https://kathrynleveque.com/

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Excerpt: 

The village of Brechin, Scottish Highlands

Year of Our Lord 1484

He’d seen her before.

Lor knew that the moment he looked up from the business he was conducting with his grandfather’s friend. In the midst of a busy marketplace on a glorious spring day, he caught sight of a woman he recognized, which wasn’t unusual in itself, but with this woman, it was.

Lor and the old man with the missing eye had been going over the purchase Lor was making of slag material for his grandfather’s blacksmith stall when he glanced up and saw her. In truth, he saw her only from the back; it was the hair that had his attention. In the sunlight, the red curls glistened like molten fire.

Everything about her caught his eye. She was dressed in a long tunic and braies from what he could see, unusual for a lass, but she’d marched down the road with her basket of skins in her arms in a cadence that seemed much more like a man’s than a woman’s.

Purposeful.

Confident.

He’d seen that walk once before.

“Lor?”

The old man next to him was trying to get his attention, but Lor couldn’t take his eyes from the woman as she walked down the dusty avenue. She was weaving in and out among the villagers on this busy market day, and Lor didn’t want to lose sight of her.

He put up a hand to the old man.

“Wait a moment,” he said. “I’ll return.”

He didn’t wait for a reply. Quickly, he headed out into the street while the old blacksmith watched him with some frustration.

“Where are ye going, lad?” he called after him. “If ye dunna come back, I’ll rob ye blind. I’ll tell yer grandfather that it’s yer fault he was cheated out of a good price for his iron!”

The old man meant it as a jest, hoping Lor would return, but the young blacksmith simply waved him off as if he didn’t believe him, which he didn’t. His grandfather, Nikolaus, and old Albe had been doing business since before Lor was born. He didn’t much believe anything the old liars said.

At the moment, he was on the hunt.

The red curls were up ahead, and he followed them like a cat tracking a mouse. There was something about the woman that he remembered from long ago, and as he politely stepped aside to let a woman and her children pass by, it began to occur to him just where he’d seen that hair.

Gleann Deamhain.

The Vale of Demons.

It was difficult to say why an incident from eight years ago suddenly stood out for him. It had been a fleeting moment as far as moments in time went. But it had stayed with him: the young lass who had practically saved him from a band of bloodthirsty cutthroats. Never mind that they were only children; Lor remembered being as afraid of them as if they’d been the mightiest army of men.

Gòrach, they’d called him.

He’d been stupid once, but he wasn’t going to be stupid again.

This time, he was going to be careful.

Lor continued to follow the lass. She finally came to a stop at a merchant who dealt in hides. As he hid back in the crowd, watching, Lor could see the lass holding up the fine pelts she’d brought, negotiating a price with an old man who seemed to be smiling at her too much. At one point, he reached out and pinched her cheek.

She slapped him.

Lor laughed softly.

***

Excerpted from Highland Gladiator by Kathryn Le Veque. © 2020 by Kathryn Le Veque. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

Up, close and personal with the author herself……and the new book in the wings…

About the Novel

Title: If You Must Know

Author: Jamie Beck

Release Date: June 1, 2020

Publisher: Montlake

IfYouMustKnowGraphic

Summary

Sisters Amanda Foster and Erin Turner have little in common except the childhood bedroom they once shared and the certainty each feels that her way of life is best. Amanda follows the rules—at the school where she works; in her community; and as a picture-perfect daughter, wife, and mother-to-be. Erin follows her heart—in love and otherwise—living a bohemian lifestyle on a shoestring budget and honoring her late father’s memory with a passion for music and her fledgling bath-products business.

The sisters are content leading separate but happy lives in their hometown of Potomac Point until everything is upended by lies that force them to confront unsettling truths about their family, themselves, and each other. For sisters as different as these two, building trust doesn’t come easily—especially with one secret still between them—but it may be the only way to save their family.

Author Biography

JamieBeck

Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Jamie Beck’s realistic and heartwarming stories have sold more than two million copies. She is a two-time Booksellers’ Best Award finalist and a National Readers’ Choice Award winner, and critics at Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist have respectively called her work “smart,” “uplifting,” and “entertaining.” In addition to writing novels, she enjoys hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah and dancing around the kitchen while cooking. Above all, she is a grateful wife and mother to a very patient, supportive family. Fans can get exclusive excerpts, inside scoops, and be eligible for birthday gift drawings by subscribing to her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/b7k7G5. She also loves interacting with everyone on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JamieBeckBooks.

Social Media

Website – https://jamiebeck.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/JamieBeckBooks/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/writerjamiebeck

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8020971.Jamie_Beck

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******

Q&A with Bestselling Author Jamie Beck

How do you describe your newest novel If You Must Know?

This book is a “beach book” in the best sense. It’s not angsty, yet it has a page-turning plot and a bunch of interesting, relatable characters. I think it’s entertaining and heartfelt at the same time, which is exactly what many enjoy reading while on vacation.

What inspired the novel?

The external plot came to me as a result of the influence of two people in my life. My dear friend’s husband is a forensic accountant, so some of his stories about how people hide money and flee their families provided one point of inspiration. The second is my mother’s best friend who, in her seventies, sold her house and bought a boat, which she and her husband live on full-time. The impetus for the oil-and-water sisters was to provide myself an opportunity to explore the sibling-rivalry dynamic.

Tell us about the two main characters in the story—sisters Amanda and Erin.

Amanda is the middle child. She’s diligent, earnest, hard-working, and generous. She wants the people she loves to be happy and feel her love. Her weakness is a deep-seated insecurity—a sense that she is not interesting enough to be lovable. This leads her to overlook when she is being taken for granted because her need to be pleasing is omnipresent.

Erin is the baby of the family and her late-father’s pet. She is outgoing, fun-loving, and views her average intelligence as a blessing (rather than lamenting that her siblings are smarter). She is willful and has her own way of moving through the world. The big weakness she has is her impulsiveness, whether with jobs or relationships. As she approaches her 30th birthday, she’s looking to mature and create a more stable life for herself.

What kind of relationship do the sisters have?

I think they share a typical relationship insofar as their differences cause many misunderstandings and instill in each a sense of being judged by the other, and yet they do care about and love each other, too. They simply do not know how to be true friends and trust the other—at least not at the outset of this tale.

This book focused on the main female characters growing and learning about themselves. What prompted this ‘women’s fiction’ approach to the story?

Partly market forces and partly my own need to stretch. At 53, it was becoming more difficult to write a 20-something woman facing the challenges of dating. The shift to women’s fiction allows me to write late-30 and early 40-something characters, which comes more naturally to me. I also enjoy exploring family and friendship dynamics, and absolutely love having endless options for story arcs (as opposed to having to follow a traditional romance arc).

What does your new Potomac Point series have in common with your previous books?

All my books to date have focused on critical relationships and some type of redemption theme. I find damaged people to be very interesting and believe that there is good in most everyone, so I prefer to populate my stories with flawed people who must confront their inner demons in order to be happy. My new books will also focus on relationships and redemption, but the non-romantic relationships (or even the relationship with one’s self) will be more central.

********

IfYouMustKnow

Excerpt

I rolled onto my side with a groan, coming face-to-face with one of my favorite family photos. We’d taken our annual family summer trip to Hilton Head—the one real splurge my dad had made sure we enjoyed every year. We had a tradition of having lunch at a little open-air cabana bar and restaurant called Coco’s on the Beach.

Between the deck and the volleyball court in the sand stood a tall pole with colorful arrow-shaped signs pointing in different directions. Each one was painted with the name of a different city somewhere on the globe, along with the mileage to get there. We’d dream about all the places we might go, and after high school I’d had the chance to see many. In this picture, our whole family is standing around that sign, smiling at the camera. My dad has his hand on my shoulder, and if you look closely, you can see Amanda holding my hand. I must’ve been only five or six—young enough that she hadn’t given up trying to be my second mother. At the time, I’d felt smothered by her attention, but looking back, I’d also felt loved.

I grabbed my phone and called my sister, but it went to voice mail. A heaviness pressed on me, but I couldn’t tell if it was from looking at that picture of our family that would never again be whole or from the fact that I’d disappointed my mom and sister today.

They loved me in their way even if they couldn’t love and accept me as I am. My dad had, though, and to honor his memory and wishes for our family, I couldn’t continue to drift out of their lives as I’d been doing.

After the beep, I said, “Hey, it’s moi. Surprise! My plans have changed and I’ve got a little time. If you get this message, let me know where you are and I’ll try to catch up.”

I hit “End,” my feet restlessly kicking the foot of my bed. The small bedroom seemed claustrophobic, but I didn’t want to talk to Max. Not that I could avoid him in here, either, where his dirty laundry, sandals, and other items lay about. Rather than take a match to it all, I decided to organize some of his things to help with his packing. Hauling myself off the bed, I then went to the armoire to get to the vintage albums my dad had left me in his will.

Some were fairly valuable, like the Beatles collection box set from 1982, valued at roughly a thousand bucks. Or the Led Zeppelin first pressing with the turquoise label, which should net around eight hundred or so dollars. U2’s Joshua Tree collection box set from 1987—maybe worth six or seven hundred. Then there were others worth less than one hundred dollars. But each one had infinite sentimental value.

Every song resurrected a specific memory of time spent with my father playing cards, washing cars, grilling hot dogs … anything. Whatever he’d wanted to do, I’d done with him, and he’d always chosen the perfect background soundtrack for every activity. Those stolen moments had also been a great way to escape my mom’s endless lectures and demands. She’d never yelled at me for skipping out on chores or being messy when I’d been spending that time with him. Probably because he wouldn’t let her.

At present, my restlessness matched the mood of a typical Bob Seger song, so I grabbed Beautiful Loser and slipped the record from its sleeve, resisting the urge to hug it as if it were my dad. I set it on the old turntable he’d also left me. As the few first drumbeats clangored, my heart kicked an extra beat or two—partly happy, partly sad. I glanced toward the bedroom door, picturing Max on the sofa, and then got to work.

It didn’t matter where life led me next. I had faith because my own personal angel was looking out for me now.

Que será, será.

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