Exclusive Excerpt: Wrecked Palace - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

One night was all it took for everything to change.
From college student to guardian in a single breath.
My siblings became my world.

No time for date nights or romantic dreams.
I traded quiet weekends for sleepless nights.
Giving my all to make sure they were cared for.

But Griffin had a brokenness that called to me—one that mirrored my own.
Gruff and just a little bit reckless.
He was the last thing I needed. But everything I wanted.

Only someone isn’t happy about this new life I’m building.
Deciding to set fire to everything I hold close.
And when the smoke clears, there might be only ashes left behind…

Series:

The Wrecked Series

Book 3

Can be read as a standalone

Book Type:

Contemporary Romance

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Exclusive Excerpt: Wrecked Palace
By Catherine Cowles

Exclusive Excerpt: Wrecked Palace

Author Catherine Cowles consistently delivers immersive, small-town romances that sweep you away and her latest promises to do just that. In WRECKED PALACE, we meet a woman whose fate changed when she became guardian to her siblings, whose life collides with a broody hero who can again change everything. I’m thrilled to share a sneak peek from this novel, out January 19th.

 

I turned the wheel of my SUV to round the curve of the island road that led to Griffin’s house. I hadn’t realized it, but he must drive past my home every time he went into town. I couldn’t help but wonder if he knew that the little, sunny yellow house was mine.

I glanced in the rearview mirror. Ava looked out at the rolling landscape around us, but Mia stared intently at her drawing as if searching for imperfections. I swallowed down my chuckle and returned my eyes to the road. Everyone knew where the farmhouse was. There had been countless parties there when I was in high school, but I’d never been to one. More of the hard-partying crowd had frequented them. I had been more of a bonfire-at-the-beach kind of girl.

I pulled to a stop at the electronic gate. There was a keypad and what looked like an intercom with a small camera mounted above it.

“He’s not messing around,” Will remarked.

“A lot of people invaded his home while he was away. It makes sense.” I could only imagine what a betrayal that must have been.

“That sucks.”

“Big time.” I searched for the right button, finding it under what looked like a speaker. I pressed it, and a buzzer sounded.

Griffin’s rough voice came across the line. “Hey, Caelyn. Just follow the main road up to the house.”

“Okay.” My palms dampened as the gates swung open. I felt like I was about to go on a first date. Ridiculous. This was a job. A kindness Griffin had given. Nothing else.

“Coooooool. How’d Mr. Griffin know it was you, Cae Cae? Is he magic?” Mia asked.

Will snorted. “There’s a camera.”

Mia sent a scowl in her brother’s direction. “He could still be magic.”

I eased my SUV up the drive and towards the farmhouse. “You’re right. He could have all sorts of magic. We wouldn’t know.”

Mia beamed, twisting her paper in the air as if it were dancing. “Then he’s gonna loooooooove my magical unicorn.”

I bit my lip. Poor Griffin had no idea what he was in for. Hopefully, an overly energetic seven-year-old wasn’t a fireable offense. I pulled to a stop at the apex of the circular driveway, parking in front of the massive house that had seen better days. The paint was peeling, and a couple of the shutters dangled from one hinge.

Will let out a low whistle. “This place is almost as big as The Gables.”

He wasn’t wrong. The estate Harriet had left Kenna was larger, but not by much. There was something about the farmhouse, though. A sad song that seemed to pull at me. A bone-deep knowledge of what the house could be.

The front door swung open, and Griffin appeared. He wore jeans that hugged his muscular thighs and a t-shirt that clung to his broad shoulders. His close-cropped hair only accentuated the angular planes of his face. I swallowed, my throat suddenly dry.

“He’s totally a magic giant,” Mia whispered.

“Don’t say that, remember?” Ava chided.

Mia threw up her hands. “I know.”

“All right, girls. Best behavior.” I met their eyes in the rearview mirror, and they both nodded. I sent up a silent prayer that we’d make it through this food handoff without any major disasters.

I climbed out of the SUV, stopping at the passenger door behind me to pull it open and help Mia out of her booster seat. As soon as she was down, she ran towards Griffin.

“Mia,” I called, but it was too late.

She came to a skidding halt in front of Griffin and held out her drawing. “I made this for you. It’s an apology drawing. Sorry if I called you a giant, and it hurt your feelings. But I still think you’re a giant and you have magic. But that’s cool. You should be proud of that. Cae Cae always tells me that it’s the things that are different about us that are the most special.”

I sucked in a sharp breath, frozen to my spot. Griffin’s mouth curved, and my lungs released. He squatted down so that he was at eye-level with her. “Can I tell you a secret?” Mia nodded silently. “I am a giant.”

She smiled so widely I worried her face would crack in two. “See?”

Griffin leaned in a little closer. “And I have magic, too.” He made a quick motion behind her ear and pulled out a quarter, depositing it in her open palm.

Mia let out a shriek that would’ve sent all dogs in a hundred-yard radius running. “Did you see? Did you see? Mr. Griffin is magic!” She looked back to him. “Do I get to keep it?”

His blue eyes twinkled. “It came out of your ear.”

“I’m gonna put it in my unicorn piggy bank.”

“A saver. I like it.”

She slid the quarter into her pocket. “I’m saving up for some mats so I can practice more tumbling at home.”

Griffin straightened from his crouch. “Tumbling, huh?”

“Yup. I’m gonna go to the Olympics one day.”

“I believe it.”

My heart gave a painful squeeze. At Mia’s hope. At Griffin’s sweet encouragement. It was all too much. Tears stung my eyes as I tried to force them back.

“Don’t cry now,” Will whispered.

“I can’t help it. It’s so freaking sweet.”

Will shook his head and looked heavenward. “You need to get plugs in your tear ducts or something.”

It wasn’t a bad idea. I cried at everything. Sad tears. Happy tears. Overwhelmed tears. Angry tears. It was as if whenever I had an emotional overload—which was often—the release valve was my eyeballs.

“Hey, are you okay?” Griffin was suddenly in front of me. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I swear. It was just sweet. You and Mia.”

Griffin’s forehead wrinkled. “It was sweet?”

Will stepped closer. “Don’t even try to understand it. She cries at the drop of a hat. The other night, she was full-on sobbing at a humane society commercial.”

I turned to Will. “That song gets me every time.”

Griffin let out a choked laugh. “She has a point there.”

My cheeks heated as I looked back at Griffin. “Sorry about the mass delivery service, but nobody wanted to stay home.”

“It’s no problem.” He looked around at the kids before turning back to me. “You can bring them whenever you need to.”

Mia’s fist shot into the air. “Yes! I want more magic.”

“You might have opened a can of worms with that one,” I whispered. Mia’s zest for life was unparalleled, and when she discovered something she liked, she was all in. My gaze traveled back to Ava, who still hovered near the car. My other girl was more cautious. She needed time to test the waters before diving in.

“Don’t worry about me,” Griffin said. “I can handle a few magic tricks. It’ll give me an excuse to brush up on my skills.”

Even though there was warmth in Griffin’s expression, there was also an underlying pain in his eyes. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was somehow related to his family. If his dad had taught him those tricks. Why was it that the good ones were lost too soon, but the bad ones seemed to hang around far past their expiration dates? “She’d love that.”

Will straightened next to me. “You’ve got a great place here.”

Griffin looked up at the house. “I’ve got a long way to go. But it’ll get there.”

“I don’t know much about repairs, but I can paint and do basic stuff. Let me know if you need any help.”

Pride filled me at Will’s words as I battled tears for the second time in a matter of minutes. He was such a good kid. And he would grow into an incredible man.

Griffin met Will’s gaze, seeming to assess him in a different light. He hesitated for a few beats; the silence just shy of awkward. “I’ve been thinking I could use a second set of hands around here. It’s tough work and it can get tedious, but I’d pay you for your time.”

“That would be amazing. I’ve actually been looking for a part-time job so I can start saving for college.”

“I’d be happy to have the help if it’s okay with your sister.”

Will glanced at me with a pleading look. “What do you think? Is it okay?”

I tugged on a loose string on my jeans. I wanted Will to have whatever would make him happy, but I couldn’t help but notice that Griffin was coming to our rescue all over the place. If things didn’t work out for whatever reason, the rug would be pulled out from under not only me but also the rest of my family. “How are you going to get out here?” Will had his license, but we didn’t have an extra car.

“I’ll ride my bike,” he offered instantly. “It’s only two miles.”

“I can give you a ride home when we’re done at the end of the day.” Griffin looked to me. “If you’re comfortable with that.”

I sighed. “Why not?”

Will gave me a quick one-armed hug. “Thanks.”

“I want to help, too,” Mia whined. “I can paint.”

I rubbed at my temples. If Mia helped paint, Griffin’s house would look like a rainbow-colored Pollock painting. “You know what would probably be a huge help?”

Mia looked at me doubtfully. “What?”

“If you drew lots of pretty pictures for when the house is done.”

She mulled it over for a moment. “Unicorns?”

“Of course,” I answered.

“I’m definitely going to need a lot of unicorns in this house,” Griffin said. “Rainbows, too.”

Will choked on a laugh. “Just don’t say anything about glitter. That shit will be in your house forever.”

Griffin’s eyes widened a fraction. “Duly noted.”

As we stood there laughing and planning all of Mia’s artwork for the farmhouse, with even Ava throwing in a few suggestions, I couldn’t help the warmth that took root in my belly—the sweet simplicity of it all. But I did my best to let the feeling flow through me and not grab hold of it with both hands.

Because this wasn’t my home, and Griffin wasn’t my man.

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In romances, if your characters are infertile, they don't need miracle pregnancy to have a happy ending. Nor does your plus size heroine need to lose a weight, your disabled character be "cured" or your plain character become hot.

Let your characters find happiness as they are.

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