Exclusive excerpt: Black Hearts by Karina Halle

Coming tomorrow is Karina Halle’s newest novel, Black Hearts – the first of a standalone duet whose second installment, Dirty Souls, releases March 17th. So excited to share with you an exclusive sneak peek into the book!

About Black Hearts

For Vicente Bernal, truth is all he’s known. The son of an infamous drug lord, Vicente was born to help run the family business, which means he’s been raised on a throne of sordid pasts and dirty laundry, violence and pride. But when Vicente stumbles across someone he’s not supposed to know about – a woman from his father’s checkered past – he sets out to California to find her behind his father’s back.

What Vicente doesn’t expect to find in San Francisco is Violet McQueen, the woman’s twenty-year old daughter. Beautiful and edgy with a vulnerability he can’t resist, Violet tempts Vicente from afar and though he promised himself he’d stay away from her, curiosity and lust are powerful forces. Besides, Vicente has always gotten everything he wants – why shouldn’t he have Violet too?

Soon his wants turn into an obsession, one that sweeps Violet into his games as they fall madly, deeply in love with each other, the type of first love that can drive a person mad.

But it’s a love with tragic consequences.

Both the truth – and the lies – not only threaten to tear them apart, but threaten their very lives.

Someone has to pay for the sins of the fathers.

And they’ll be paying the price with their souls.

Excerpt

He’s watching me carefully, his eyes gleaming dark in the low light. He lifts the camera up to his face and suddenly I feel his gaze magnified through the lens.

But he doesn’t take a picture. There’s no click. He’s just observing, bringing the focus in and out, the lens in and out.

Oh, god. I’ve never felt so on display before and I’m fully-clothed. I feel like he’s reading me, sorting through the layers, trying to reach the bottom. He doesn’t realize he won’t like what he finds.

I let out a shaky breath and bring my attention back to the cityscape outside the large windows, trying to relax. “Is this all you want me to do? Just sit here?”

He doesn’t answer me at first. Just keeps watching. Like he’s waiting for something and I don’t know what it is.

“How do you feel?” he asks. “Right now.”

“Right now?” I repeat. My veins feel hot, warming my body from the inside. My cheeks have to be flushed red. “I feel…stupid.”

“And?”

“And? Well. I don’t know. I want to finish the champagne.”

“Then finish it.” He comes closer, the lens still at the forefront. I’ve never felt such scrutiny before, never been the subject like this.

I pick up the glass and drink the rest of it, holding it between my fingers, feeling the cold fragility of the stem. I try and concentrate on that feeling instead of everything else that’s going on.

“How do you feel now?”

“Buzzed,” I admit. “Better. But I still don’t know why you’re not taking any photos.”

“Because I don’t believe in wasting shots. I’m waiting.”

“For what?” I ask thickly. He’s shooting on fucking digital.

“To see you.”

I rub my lips together nervously, watching as a low cloud skirts the top of the Transamerica Pyramid. “You don’t see me?”

Again he doesn’t answer. He puts the camera down gently and walks over to me until his thigh is pressed up against my arm.

My breath stills in my throat. I slowly raise my head to look up at him, trying to steady myself so I don’t fall backward onto the armchair.

He reaches down and carefully runs his fingers across my collarbone, soft like feathers, until his hand slips behind my neck. He holds it gently, firmly.

I can barely breathe. Not because he’s choking me, but because the feel of his palm at my neck is rendering me incapable of anything. Any thought. I’m just here and he’s here and I’m feeling everything sink into my skin.

“There,” he murmurs, his voice so rich and low that it coats me from head to toe. “This is you. No thoughts. No inner world. No voices. Just you. Here with me. This is the you I want.”

“You want?” The words leave my lips in a whisper.

Si,” he says. His hand goes up to the base of my ponytail and his other holds the back of my head still as he slips the elastic band through my hair until its cascading loose over my shoulders.

I have to admit, I feel better with it down, almost like it’s armor.

He then crouches until he’s just below me and reaches for the hem of my dress, slowly raising it above my leggings.

“What are you…?” I start to ask but then realize there’s no point.

“I want to see all of you,” he says softly, his eyes meeting mine as he brings the hem of the dress to my waist.

I should ask him what time dinner is. I should tell him things are getting out of hand. I should probably stop him.

But I don’t want to.

I want things to get out of hand.

I’m scared to death of everything that’s happening.

And I’ve never wanted it more.

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Review: Veiled by Karina Halle

My Thoughts

An intense, chilling standalone romance
brimming with darkness, passion and imminent doom.

4halfstars

Synopsis

VeiledDeath.
It’s something that Ada Palomino has always known so well, having grown up in a house of horrors, surrounded by a family plagued by ghosts and demons and things that go bump in the night.
But after the sudden and tragic death of her mother two years ago, death has never felt so personal.
Or so close.
Now eighteen, Ada is trying to move on with her life and the last month of summer holds nothing but sunshine and promises with her first year at a Portland design school just around the bend.
That is until her increasingly violent and realistic dreams, dreams of other worlds, of portals and veils where her mother is tortured and souls bleed for mercy, start to blend into reality. Ada has to lean on her older sister, Perry, to try and make sense of it all but even then, she’s never felt more alone.
Then there’s Jay. Tall, handsome and deeply mysterious, Jay would be just another stranger, a familiar face on the bus, if it wasn’t for the fact that Ada has met him before.
Every night.
In every single dream.
And the more that Ada is drawn to him in both worlds, the more she’s in danger of losing everything.
Including her heart.
And her very soul.

My Review

Deliciously creepy and romantic, Karina Halle’s Veiled brims with darkness, passion and suspense. A spinoff from her Experiment with Terror series, this story explores Ada Palomino’s fate as her encounters with death suddenly become more intimate and compelling.

I loved this side of Halle. She easily hit her stride from the beginning, stirring up hair-raising chills. Toss in a little forbidden, menacing romance and a beckoning portal to Hell, and well, I was hooked.

“I swallow hard and my heart begins to thud. It’s not my imagination. I’m not asleep.”

Ada Palomino—Perry’s sister—is used a life shaped by unimaginable horrors. Demons. Ghosts. Death. But her dreams increasingly become more violent, more threatening and realistic, more heart wrenching in a way she can’t shake off. She also keeps dreaming of a man with danger etched into his irresistible features. Ada has met him before, she thinks, but now he’s a recurring element of her restless nights.

But then he’s there. Jay is there, in real life, as things start to swirl out of control.

“He could be a ghost, I could be going insane. But there was no doubt he was in my room. A dream brought to life.”

Ada’s dead mother beckons her from the pits of Hell, asking for help. Jay tries to guide her, protect her, dissuade her from giving in to her mother’s pleas. Horrors from the other world begin to bleed into her own and everything becomes murky and difficult to process. Who can she trust? What should she do? Ada was being pushed into her own destiny, one that promised death, loss, heartbreak.

To make matters worse, the truth she uncovers compromises her intensifying feelings for Jay—and if the truth doesn’t break them apart, his role in it all will bring things to an end.

“Sometimes we’re dealt a hand we never see coming. Sometimes there are only two choices. To live. Or die. And sometimes there’s a third choice… To suffer in Hell for all eternity.”

The novel is written as a standalone, but I hope that Halle continues Ada’s story. There’s so much more to explore both with characters and plot.

I loved the edginess, the touches of horror, the suspense and forbidden romance. It’s an exhilarating rabbit hole to fall into. And although Veiled is classified as a paranormal/ urban fantasy romance, I think readers of all kinds who love stories with dark intrigue and intensity will love this book.

*Note you do not have to read the Experiment in Terror series to read this book.

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Exclusive Excerpt + Signed Giveaway: SMUT by Karina Halle

SMUT BANNER

Everyone seems to be talking about Karina Halle’s latest—SMUT! Touted as irresistibly funny and impossible to stop reading, this book seems to have everyone talking… and giggling! I can’t wait to read it!!!!

I’m so excited to share with you an excerpt from this must-read recent release, plus your first opportunity to win a signed paperback—check it out below! You won’t want to miss this!

✦ Order NowAmazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble ✦

Synopsis

SmutWhat happens when the kink between the pages leads to heat between the sheets?

All Blake Crawford wants is to pass his creative writing course, get his university degree and take over his dad’s ailing family business. What Amanda Newland wants is to graduate at the top of her class, as well as finish her novel and prove to her family that writing is a respectful career.

What Blake and Amanda don’t want is to be paired up with each other for their final project but that’s exactly what they both get when they’re forced to collaborate on a writing piece. Since Amanda thinks Blake is an arrogant jerk (with a panty-melting smirk and British accent) and Blake thinks Amanda has a stick up her (tight, round) bottom, they fight tooth and nail. That is until they discover they write well together. They also might find each other really attractive, but that’s neither here nor there.

When their writing project turns out to be a success, the two of them decide to start up a secret partnership using a pen name, infiltrating the self-publishing market in the lucrative genre of erotica. Naturally, with so much heat and passion between the pages, it’s not long before their dirty words become a dirty reality. Sure, they still fight a lot but at least there’s make-up sex now.

But even as they fall hard for each other, will their burgeoning relationship survive if their scandalous secret is exposed or are happily-ever-afters just a work of fiction?

Excerpt

We take our usual seats near the front as I scan the room. Sure enough, Blake is in his corner, headphones on, and grinning at his phone. Probably watching a YouTube video on how to be a douchebag.

I can’t stand his grin. In fact, I hate everything about him. I know, I don’t really know him and hate’s a strong word, but I have my reasons. He’s the type of guy who would have made my high school years a living hell, only now I get to deal with his immaturity in university. Thank god I only have one class with him, otherwise all my time would be spent thinking of witty comebacks to his insults and insinuations.

I don’t even know why he’s in the class at all, mind you. He’s a third year student and transferred from England last year, getting his business degree. Not sure how writing plays into any of it, but however it does, he doesn’t take anything seriously. It’s like writing and books and literature are one big joke, and I’m not the kind of person to take that lightly. Sure, maybe I get a bit too serious at times, whether it comes to writing or school, but that’s because, well…I need to.

Then there’s the fact that he’s a self-proclaimed sex god that every girl seems to lose their damn head over. It’s like the sight of him causes any vestiges of self-respect to evaporate, and girls practically throw themselves at his feet. I’ve seen it happen in this class—first with Monique, then Lisa, then Kendra, now Ali. The only upside to this continuous classmate walk of shame is that at least it makes class more interesting when every tragic poem and angry short story seems to be directed at Blake. It’s like watching one of those train wreck reality shows unfold before your very eyes.

I just don’t get it. Surely they can all see it’s an act. Even if he’s good in bed, how the hell does he even get you there?

Okay, well maybe it’s because he’s not exactly hard on the eyes. I’d be blind if I said Blake wasn’t good looking. He is. I can admit it. I can find men attractive without actually being attracted to them (I used to think that about Brad Pitt, but he’s changing my mind as he gets older). Blake is tall and lean with just the right amount of muscle, thick dark hair that’s always a bit rumpled, and deep blue eyes that sometimes seem black. You know, the kind of looks that most girls want. Maybe even the kind that might blind you to the point of making a string of unhealthy decisions that ultimately help fuel their writing goals. I don’t know.

Unfortunately, all of his beauty is spoiled by his shit-eating grin, which, as I said earlier, is probably his best and worst feature. Best because he flashes it all over the place and women spontaneously combust like matches are struck on their ovaries. Worst because I know what that grin represents: cockiness, arrogance, and one hell of an ego. There’s nothing that bothers me more than guys who think you’d be lucky to have them, though now when I think about it, that’s pretty much Alan to a tee. He was a lot subtler about it, but he did have this air of denigration that made me think he was taking pity on me half the time. Maybe that’s why Blake bugs me so much.

Or maybe it’s because he’s an ass.

“All right everyone.” Marie enters the room with a tepid grin, taking her place behind her desk, her long fringed shawl and beaded bracelets rattling as she puts her hands together and does this thing where she tries to look everyone in the class right in the eye. Marie is pretty much the stereotype of a creative writing professor. Her hair is waist-length and steel grey, she’s always wearing some sort of heavy gemstone around her neck, and she smells vaguely of patchouli. Sometimes marijuana. As I mentioned before, she’s a stickler for certain rules and can turn hard on a dime, even though she speaks with a fairy-like quality and her view toward life is one of both a free spirit and a bleeding heart.

“Who here is excited for your final assignment?”

“Me!” I say a little too loudly. I have to supress myself from raising my arm like some kind of keener. Still, I refuse to look sheepish about it. Everyone here knows that about me by now.

Especially Blake. I can’t help but look over in his direction, and lo and behold he’s rolling his eyes. He doesn’t even glance my way to see if I notice; it’s like an automatic reaction for him.

“Well,” Marie says as she walks around the front of her desk. “I should let you all know that this assignment is a deviation from what you’ve been given so far.” She leans back against the desk and folds her arms, her smile soft and somewhat pitying. Unease prickles the back of my neck. “Being a writer is hard work. Harder than you’ll ever think possible. What makes it even worse is the fact that right now, for nearly all of you, writing is easy. You write down what comes from your heart. All struggle is rooted in the outcome, the fear of the grade, the pressure of the deadline. But not in putting down the words, not in telling the story. At this stage, all of you can just, as Hemingway once said, sit down at the typewriter and bleed. But for many writers, and to borrow a popular cliché, it’s like getting blood from a stone. You have the want and the desire, but with experience and time, your self-doubt becomes louder and your inner critic comes out to play. It silences your creativity. You feel you aren’t allowed to make mistakes.”

Marie’s tone is so serious that even Blake has stopped looking at his phone and is watching her with a furrowed brow.

“Writing is hard,” she continues. “It gets harder when it becomes your career, your job, because it’s no longer a hobby, it’s no longer a manuscript hidden in your desk drawer. It becomes a platform from which the world can judge you. Your soul becomes target practice, and the critics hold the arrows. I’m not saying this to scare or discourage you, because I’ve been teaching this class a long time and I know nothing will discourage a wannabe writer more than harsh reality. I don’t have to say a word. If it’s in you, it’s in you, and you will persevere no matter the cost, no matter how hard it is, because that’s what you are born to do. To throw another cliché your way, the only way to fail is to quit.”

She lets out a long breath of air and stares down at her wrists, adjusting her bracelets. “That all said, you need to know that this class, so far, has been a breeze. This has been about exploring your creativity without fear of judgement or mistakes. It’s been about honing your skills, the craft, about improvement. I have not touched on the actual challenges of writing in the real world…but with this last assignment I will do just that.”

I exchange a quick glance with Rio. She looks just as worried as I do. I hope we don’t have to submit a story for a contest or a newspaper or something that will be printed in public because Marie is right, I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. Baring all to the classroom and sharing our work with each other so far has been hard enough, even though I know I write better than most of them.

“For this last assignment,” Marie says, standing up straighter, “I have decided to push you out of your comfort zone. To force you to take risks. And most of all, to teach you to embrace something, a skill that will become crucial as you make writing your career, even though it seems to go against every anti-social, introverted bone in your body. I know a lot of you in here wouldn’t classify yourselves as such.” She nods at Rio and Blake and a few others, who don’t exactly fit the image of a quiet, lonely writer. “But when it comes to writing, we all shut down and internalize everything. That’s the nature of the game. We reach deep within ourselves to pull up all the muck and the dirt and the roots of who we are. But when you’re working with editors and publishers and marketers and librarians and whomever else comes your way, you realize that though writing is a lonely, isolating, primarily selfish profession, you need to be able to work well with others in order to make this your job.”

“What if we don’t want to make it our job?” Camelia Parsons says, raising her hand. I swear this girl is half the reason why book pirating is so rampant. “Making money has never been an issue. It’s not why I write. I write to bare my soul, regardless if it sells or who reads it.”

Marie shoots her a placating smile. “Then all the power to you. But if that’s all you envision, writing for a hobby, then you can’t truly care about bettering yourself, about learning the craft. We learn so that we may succeed, and that goes for anything in life, including the arts. It’s a falsity that the moment we earn money or wish to earn money for our creations that it ceases to become art. If that’s truly what you believe, that sales don’t matter, then you need to question what you hope to get out of this. After all, art isn’t just about creating. It’s about sharing. And whether you want the sales or don’t need the money at all, what you do need is all eyes on your work. You want to be recognized. You want to be seen.”

“No disrespect, Professor,” Blake says in his British accent, biting his lip for a moment. All eyes in the class swivel toward him. I know that he can’t possibly be one of the artists that Marie is talking about—he’s just another college kid looking for an easy elective to get his final grade. “But I’m curious as to what you’re getting at. Just tell us. We can take it. After all, we’ve survived this long with you as our teacher.”

Marie raises a bushy eyebrow but that’s the extent of her reaction. How he doesn’t get a rise out of her, I don’t know. Marie is always a lot tougher on the guys in the class than the girls, but with Blake she seems to let things slide.

“Right you are, Mr. Crawford,” she says. That’s the other thing. Always calling him Mr. Crawford, as if he’s not just another college student. Must be the accent. It gives him an air of respectability that fogs out all of his other shortcomings.

She clears her throat and eyes us all. “Excuse me. You know I’m prone to a tangent with the best of them. The point of the final assignment is this—to make writing hard. To force you to think outside the box. And to ensure you learn to work well with others. Your final assignment is to write a twenty to thirty-thousand-word novella with another person in class.”

There are a few gasps. I look over at Rio with wide eyes, hoping we can pick our partners. Writing with someone has never been on my agenda, but I think if writing with Rio were an option, we could really make it work. We’re on opposite sides of the spectrum, but that might just bring out the best in both of us.

Marie goes on. “I know you have a short time span, but this will also help hone writing under a deadline. My hope for all of you is to share the work evenly. Whether you trade off chapters or point of views, or collaborate on each and every sentence, you should hope to contribute ten to fifteen thousand words each, which is about the same length as the last assignment. The only caveat here is…” She pauses, and this is when her sympathetic smile comes back into play. “That you don’t get to choose your partner. I will choose them for you.”

Ah. Shit. Rio grimaces, even though I know it’s more for me than for her. She has this easy ability to get along with almost everyone, girls, guys, animals, plants. Me, on the other hand, I’m not so lucky. I’m not socially awkward, but to be honest, most people are total morons, and my tolerance for them isn’t very high. Some have patience. I do not. And especially not when it comes to writing.

Marie twists behind her and picks up a piece of paper, clearing her throat before she starts going down the list. Rio gets paired with Ali, who of course isn’t here. She’s lucky though—Ali is one of the smart ones, and after whatever happened with Blake, she probably has enough emotional torment driving her to take on the whole project by herself.

“Holly McGuire, your partner will be Alice Oakes,” Marie says, and while those two come to terms with it, her eyes meet mine, and not only do I know I’m next, I know I’m in deep shit. “Amanda Newland,” she says, drawing out the pause, “your writing partner for this assignment will be Blake Crawford.”

Silence sinks over the room.

Then someone titters.

“Oh, this should be lovely,” Blake says from across the room, his voice dripping with sarcasm, his accent somehow amplifying it.

I can’t even look at him though. I’m frozen in place, stuck staring at Marie with my mouth open a few inches. She can’t be serious. There has to be some mistake.

Giveaway

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Exclusive Excerpt + Giveaway: Racing the Sun by Karina Halle

RACING THE SUN BANNER

Author Karina Halle whisks us off to Capri in her latest exciting release, Racing the Sun. This is the story of Amber and Desiderio, a sexy, adventurous and thoughtful romance between two people who learn to take chances, let their guards down, and ultimately, learn to love each other. And oooooh… have I got a super steamy scene to share with you today!!!

Racing The Sun: Amazon | Amazon Paperback | Barnes & Noble | iBooks ✦

Synopsis

From the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Where Sea Meets Sky comes a new adult novel about a young woman who becomes a nanny in Capri and falls for her charges’ bad-boy brother.

When I’m traveling, I feel like the secret to my life, to myself, to really becoming, is one step ahead. It’s in the next destination, the next town I get lost in, the next stranger I talk to. It’s always next but never here . . . 

After six months of backpacking and soul-searching across the world, Amber MacLean is flat broke. There are worse places for a twentysomething to be stuck than the Amalfi Coast, but the only way she can earn enough money for a plane ticket home to California is to teach English to two of the brattiest children she has ever met.

It doesn’t help that the children are under the care of their brooding older brother, ex-motorcycle racer Desiderio Larosa. Darkly handsome and oh-so-mysterious, the young master of the crumbling villa tests Amber’s patience and will at every turn—not to mention her hormones.

When her position turns into a full-time nanny gig, Amber grows dangerously closer to the enigmatic recluse. But can she give up the certainty of home for someone whose closely guarded heart feels a world apart from her own?

Excerpt

It’s rough against my skin but not painful, and he grabs on to a ledge with one hand while he yanks down my bikini top with the other. He nips and licks at my breasts and slides my bikini bottom to the side, slipping a few fingers between my legs. Everything feels so effortless, so silky in the water, while the rough cave wall presses against me, a contrast in textures. Though it takes me a few minutes to warm up, soon I’m pulling him toward me as he guides himself inside. He pushes in slowly, his lips going to my ear.

“You erase my fears,” he whispers, his breath hitching as he eases himself inside. “You give me life from all the death.” He kisses me hungrily on the lips and I expand around him, greedy for his words, for his sex, for his love.

His fingers start working my clit and he pounds me harder, my back hitting the wall. I’ll be scratched up later but it’s worth it. Worth it to feel him so deep inside of me, to be floating so freely. In this dark cave, I feel our lovemaking is taking us to another place, somewhere that transcends lust and desire. There is hope and light and as we float in the blue glow; there is hope.

And there is a hell of a lot of pleasure. I can feel my back sting from the salt but I’m so wild for him that the pain feels good. Everything feels good. No, amazing. My legs wrap tighter around him and he works me harder, his hips swiv­eling at all the right moments, his dick hitting all the right places. His mouth murmurs my name and his lips kiss my salty lips and his tongue teases my skin and I am his to have, again and again.

I don’t ever want this to stop, this freedom, this connec­tion. In the blue grotto we are soaring over colors and through light and we are moving as one, feeling as one.

This man has my heart. He has every part of me.

“I am going to come,” he says through a deep groan. “Come with me, mia leonessa. Please come with me.”

I always do.

✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦

Don’t forget to check out Rock Stars of Romance tomorrow for the final episode in the RACING THE RELEASE excerpt chain, and follow along with all the other stops for the full Racing the Sun excerpt!

Day 1 – 7/13: Heroes and Heartbreakers
Day 2 – 7/14: Maryse’s Book Blog
Day 3 – 7/15: Natasha is a Book Junkie
Day 4 – 7/16: Vilma’s Book Blog
Day 5 – 7/17: Rock Stars of Romance

Reading Order

Each can be read as standalone

 

About Karina

karina halleKarina Halle is the New York Times bestselling author of Where Sea Meets Sky, The Pact, Love in English, and other wild and romantic reads. A former travel writer and music journalist, she lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails, and devours a lot of books.

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