I met Nazareth Armstrong when I was eighteen years old. From the beginning, my brother warned me to stay away from him. Told Naz to stay away from me.

Our hearts didn’t listen.

I shared one magical night under the stars with my brother’s rival, thinking it was the start of a once-in-a-lifetime something.
But one awful moment ended it all.

Years later when we meet again, we’ve both pursued our dreams, lived a little, found success…but never found love. What began as a tiny flame when we were young now threatens to consume us. I’m more drawn to Naz than ever, but his complicated history with my brother makes whatever this could be…nearly impossible.

But Naz accepts impossible as a dare.

Through his clever maneuvering and dogged determination, I find myself on a yacht with him and his friends cruising through the Mediterranean. It’s a whirlwind set ablaze. Away from reality, surrendering to the tender heat of his touch, I forget that everything could burn.

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The Close-Up
By Kennedy Ryan

Excerpt: The Close-Up

Set in the dynamic worlds of professional basketball and entertainment, two of Kennedy Ryan’s most critically-acclaimed series—HOOPs and Hollywood Renaissance—collide in this tale of forbidden romance. THE CLOSE-UP is the love story of Takira, who first appears in REEL, book 1 of the Hollywood Renaissance series, but there is no need to have read that book to enjoy this latest.

I’m so excited to share an excerpt from THE CLOSE-UP—out this week!

His chuckle is a deep, husky thing that makes me shiver. I fix my eyes to the tile floor, afraid that if I look, I’ll stare. There is just something about this guy. It’s deeper than his good looks and gorgeous body. He seems to be around the same height as Cliff, but broader and leaner. It feels like his arms and legs are still trying to catch up with how his body grew so big so fast. It lends him a ranginess, an almost physical uncertainty Cliff shed years ago.

Silence stretches between us to the point of awkwardness, so I hazard a glance up at him only to find him staring at me. Uncomfortable, I slide my eyes to the side, away from the intensity of that look. Of the way it heats me up inside until it feels like my heart may melt and puddle at my feet.

He clears his throat. “Sorry.”

My eyes snap to his. “For what?”

“For staring.” A rueful grin crooks his full lips. “No wonder Fletcher warned us to stay away from his sister.”

I suck my teeth, huffing out an irritated breath. “That boy works my nerves.”

“He was just looking out for you. He knows how guys are and wanted us to know the shit some of them try with other girls, they better not try with you. Protective big brother. I have three sisters. I get it.”

A roar of laughter from the living room cuts into our conversation. He turns his head toward the sound almost reluctantly. “I guess I better get in there.”

“Right.” I grab one of the red cups on the counter already filled with ice. “Lemme get you something to drink. Soda? Tea? Lemonade?”

“Water?”

I grab a bottle of water and hand it to him. Our fingers brush, and that shiver returns, shimmying down my spine. A slow smile inches onto his mouth, and he looks from where our fingers touch to my face.

“You should go,” I say in a rush. “You’re missing everything.”

“No, I’m not.”

The air throbs between us like a pulse, and we hold each other’s gaze hostage. In the living room, the team claps for something, and it snaps the thread between our eyes, freeing me to look away.

“I better…” He points his thumb over his shoulder and leaves the kitchen.

I slump against the counter, my breath coming out in a stream of forced air. What the heck? I’ve had boyfriends. Kissed guys. Gone all the way a few times. Nothing to write home about. If anything, I made it out to be more than it was when I told my friends because…surely there was supposed to be more? More than fumbling hands and squishy lips and boozy breath and a guy getting his, but never thinking about mine. Besides not getting me off—which I can do in my bed by myself—those guys didn’t touch me. Not with their clumsy, seeking hands, but in my heart. Shoot, in my soul. They were so worried about touching all the parts they got to see, they didn’t bother with the parts invisible to the naked eye. Those parts—the under the skin, stirring in my chest, burning up my heart parts—Naz somehow seemed to touch in a matter of glances, with a few words and a simple brush of my fingers.

“You been watching too much Vampire Diaries,” I mutter, laughing at my own whimsical thoughts.

I know that’s television, fantasy, fiction, but if love ain’t epic, I don’t want it. If it ain’t life and death—not literally, the way it is for Stefan, Damon, and Elena—but if it’s not something that makes you risk, makes you ache, then why bother?

I’m scarfing down some coconut bread when the guys start bringing their paper plates into the kitchen and tossing them in the trash.

“You guys ready to take pictures?” Cliff asks. “For posterity, I think is what they call it. The night before we shook up the world.”

“Wow,” I mutter, tying off a bag of trash. “It’s a ball game, not a revolution.”

“Don’t let them hear you say that.”

I glance up to find Naz standing beside me.

“Oh. I just meant…well.” My words tangle up. “Just meant that, um, you guys think the whole world revolves around that court.”

“I don’t.” He shrugs. “But it may be my best shot at a full ride for college, so it’s important, yeah.”

“How good are you?” I tease, smiling and leaning against the edge of the sink.

“Not as good as your brother, but who is?”

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