Ten Tiny Breaths (Ten Tiny Breaths Series #1)

( 162 )

Overview

Just breathe, Kacey. Ten tiny breaths. Seize them. Feel them. Love them.

Four years ago, Kacey Cleary’s life imploded when her car was hit by a drunk driver, killing her parents, boyfriend, and best friend. Still haunted by memories of being trapped inside, listening to her mother take her last breath, Kacey wants to leave her past behind. Armed with two bus tickets, Kacey and her fifteen-year-old sister, Livie, escape Grand Rapids, Michigan, to start over in Miami. They’re ...

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Ten Tiny Breaths (Ten Tiny Breaths Series #1)

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Overview

Just breathe, Kacey. Ten tiny breaths. Seize them. Feel them. Love them.

Four years ago, Kacey Cleary’s life imploded when her car was hit by a drunk driver, killing her parents, boyfriend, and best friend. Still haunted by memories of being trapped inside, listening to her mother take her last breath, Kacey wants to leave her past behind. Armed with two bus tickets, Kacey and her fifteen-year-old sister, Livie, escape Grand Rapids, Michigan, to start over in Miami. They’re struggling to make ends meet at first, but Kacey’s not worried. She can handle anything—anything but her mysterious neighbor in apartment 1D.

Trent Emerson has smoldering blue eyes and deep dimples, and perfectly skates that irresistible line between nice guy and bad boy. Hardened by her tragic past, Kacey is determined to keep everyone at a distance, but their mutual attraction is undeniable, and Trent is desperate to find a way into Kacey’s guarded heart—even if it means revealing an explosive secret that could shatter both their worlds.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
"Ten Tiny Breaths is a touching, gorgeous read. I laughed, cried, swooned, and took ten tiny breaths of my own!"

“Loved it!! A MUST READ! I won't say any more. The shock value from the very start to the very end must be experienced blindly for full impact. Just know I think you should read it.”

“This is one the best contemporary novels to hit shelves this year, and a must-read for those who love realistic stories about strong females.”

New York Times bestselling author of Losing It - Cora Carmack
"Ten Tiny Breaths is a touching, gorgeous read. I laughed, cried, swooned, and took ten tiny breaths of my own!"
Maryse's Book Blog - Maryse Black
“Loved it!! A MUST READ! I won't say any more. The shock value from the very start to the very end must be experienced blindly for full impact. Just know I think you should read it.”
Hypable.com - Jen Lamoureux
“This is one the best contemporary novels to hit shelves this year, and a must-read for those who love realistic stories about strong females.”
Maryse's Book Blog - Maryse Black
“Loved it!! A MUST READ! I won't say any more. The shock value from the very start to the very end must be experienced blindly for full impact. Just know I think you should read it.”
Hypable.com - Jen Lamoureux
“This is one the best contemporary novels to hit shelves this year, and a must-read for those who love realistic stories about strong females.”
Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-15
After a drunk driver kills her parents, her best friend and her boyfriend, Kacey Cleary is left with her younger sister, a phobia of holding hands and a deep-seated hatred for the man who survived the car wreck. She turns to drugs and sex until Livie begs her to stop, afraid that an overdose will kill her older sister. Kickboxing helps ease Kacey's anger, but life at home is tough with Aunt Darla's Christian fanaticism. When Uncle Raymond begins to cross the line with Livie, she grabs her sister and heads for Miami to start a new life. They end up in a funky apartment community, complete with Storm, the Barbie–look-alike neighbor. Storm, however, turns out to be a struggling single mom, running from an abusive ex-husband and trying to make ends meet by working as a rather acrobatic stripper. There's also the very hot boy next door: Trent Emerson, who instantaneously pushes every one of Kacey's buttons, chipping away at the shell protecting her from ever feeling anything. Soon, Kacey snags a job bartending at Storm's bar, and Livie is enrolled at school, babysitting Storm's 5-year-old daughter and getting her feet back under her. Author of the best-selling Causal Enchantment series, Tucker (Allegiance, 2012, etc.) parlays her success with YA paranormal fantasy into this adult romance series. She relentlessly ups the erotic ante with every encounter between Kacey and Trent. Breathless meetings in the laundry room lead to heroic rescues from snakes lurking in the shower and creeps lurking in the bar, yet Trent frustrates Kacey with his determination to take things slowly. Inevitably, the revelation of his secret devastates both of them and leads to some interesting--if implausible--plot twists. Steamy romance and quirky supporting characters make this an appealing start to the series.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476740324
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 9/24/2013
  • Series: Ten Tiny Breaths Series , #1
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 78,033
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

K.A. Tucker published her first book at the age of six with the help of her elementary school librarian and a box of crayons. Today, she is also the author of Ten Tiny Breaths, One Tiny Lie, Four Seconds to Lose, and Five Ways to Fall. She currently resides outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.

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Read an Excerpt

Five Ways to Fall

Chapter 1

■ ■ ■

REESE

I’ve never seen that look on Daddy’s face before.

He’s had it since he walked back from the pay phone. “Go on, now,” he urges, his gruff voice cracking. “Go on inside.”

“But . . . why?” I whine, casting wary eyes at the truck-stop diner, empty but for a man with a Santa beard.

Daddy rests his hand on the steering wheel and turns his body to face me. “Reesie, baby.” I don’t like his tone. It’s that serious one that makes my bottom lip wobble. “I need you to go back inside, sit down in our booth, and ask that nice waitress for another piece of that pecan pie you like so much,” he says slowly, evenly.

I swallow back my tears. “Alone?”

His face tightens, like he’s mad. “Only for a little bit.”

“And then you’ll come in?”

He squeezes his eyes shut and I’m afraid I just made him really angry, but . . . I’ve never gone anywhere alone. I’m only five. “Remember that Daddy loves you, baby girl. Now go on.”

Stifling back a sob, I slide along the old bench seat and push the heavy old Ford truck door open.

“Reesie,” Daddy calls out as my red shoes hit the sidewalk.

Turning, I see his hand wiping at something on his cheek before he gives me a wink and a smile. The truck door makes a loud bang as I swing it tight. Holding my breath, I climb the steps and push as hard as I can against the diner door, the jangle of the bell ringing in my ears. I dart across the black-and-white checkered floor and climb into our booth—the one we were sitting in before Daddy called Mommy; it still has our dishes on the table—just in time to see the taillights of Daddy’s truck disappear.

When the nice waitress with the big hair comes by, I tell her my daddy will be here soon and I order that piece of chocolate pecan pie with a please and thank you. I sit in that booth and gobble it up, thinking how lucky I am to get two pieces in one night.

And I wait.

With my chin resting on my palm, tucked into the corner of the booth, I stare out that window, watching for the familiar blue truck to reappear, checking the door every time that bell jangles. When the kind policeman sits down across from me and asks me where my daddy is, I tell him he’ll be here soon.

■ ■ ■

There’s no kind policeman to comfort me now. No nice lady bringing me a piece of chocolate pecan pie to combat the sourness in my mouth. But at least this time I wasn’t abandoned.

I’m reminded of that the second I see my stepfather’s face through the small glass window in the door.

His salt-and-pepper hair is more salt than pepper and he’s gained at least ten pounds around his waist since I last saw him—nine years ago—but there’s no mistaking Jack Warner. I don’t think he recognizes me, though. The way his steely blue eyes wander over my violet hair . . . my piercings . . . the giant “Jared” tattoo that coils around my right shoulder, I think he’s wondering if the police officer led him into the wrong room.

I’m lucky that I’m even in a room this time. Normally they throw you into a holding cell or make you sit in an uncomfortable chair next to a drunk named Seth who stinks of malt scotch and body odor. I’m pretty sure the female arresting officer felt sorry for me. By the lethal glare she threw at Jared and Caroline as I was escorted out of Lina’s apartment, past their apartment door, on my way to the cruiser, the officer wasn’t impressed with what she’d heard of the situation.

She didn’t hear it from me, of course. Growing up around lawyers, I’ve learned not to say a word to the police without one present. It was my best friend and next-door neighbor, Lina, who declared that the apartment I trashed earlier today is still technically mine—even if my name isn’t on the lease—and that they should be arresting the thieving, heartless bitch who stole my husband.

Unfortunately, I’m the only one sitting here now.

I hold my breath as I watch Jack take a seat, adjusting his slightly rumpled suit jacket on his large frame as he tries to get comfortable in the hard plastic chair. It’s ironic—in this moment, it feels like he’s both an integral part of my childhood and a complete stranger.

I can’t believe I called him.

I can’t believe he actually came.

With a heavy sigh, he finally murmurs, “Reese’s Pieces.” He’s looking down at me the same way he did when I got caught rearranging the letters of a Baptist church sign to read something no nine-year-old girl—or twenty-year-old, for that matter—should have in her vocabulary. Despite the severe strain in our once close relationship, warmth immediately spreads through my chest. I haven’t heard that nickname in years. “So . . . destruction of private property?”

I guess the cops filled him in. “I prefer to call it artistic expression.” The canvas included Caroline’s prissy clothes, her pretentious throw cushions, and that damn pornographic picture of them hanging over our bed. “Besides,” I raise my hands, stained in crimson, and offer in a deadpan tone, “they can’t prove it was me.” When Lina found me sitting quietly in the dim kitchen light of her apartment, where I’ve been staying for the past two weeks, she let out a single yelp before realizing that I hadn’t turned into a homicidal maniac and was in fact covered in red paint. I probably should have made the cops’ job harder and showered before they arrived.

A tiny sad smile creeps over his face. I wonder if my attempt at humor adequately hides the crushing heartbreak and rejection that I’m drowning in after finding out my husband was having an affair with his high school sweetheart.

“I phoned Barry on my way here. Sounds like you’ve kept him busy these past few years.” By his clenching jaw, I see that wasn’t an easy call for Jack to make, even nine years later. Not surprising. Friends since they could barely walk, Jack and Barry were once equity partners together in his law firm. Until Barry had an affair with Jack’s wife.

My mother.

All relationships instantly dissolved in a bath of bitterness that obviously hasn’t fully drained yet. Glancing at his hand, I can’t help but notice the absence of a wedding ring. I guess he hasn’t remarried. After what my mother put him through, I don’t blame him.

“And I understand why you called me now. You didn’t have a choice, did you?”

“Not really,” I admit, focusing on the stars and circles I’m finger-drawing over the table’s cold metal surface. Barry is a high-priced, successful criminal lawyer who has gotten his unruly stepdaughter out of more than one debacle. The last incident was on my eighteenth birthday when I decided it would be funny to go retro and moon cars.

One of those cars was a police cruiser.

The cop was an uptight prick.

And I was drunk.

After helping me avoid indecent exposure and underage public drunkenness charges, Barry announced that my juvenile record was sealed, I was now an adult, and he was officially washing his hands of me. Three months later, when my mother left him for husband number four, it really became official.

“I’m surprised Annabelle’s new husband didn’t want this swept under the rug quickly.”

“I didn’t phone Annabelle. I don’t want her to know about this.” I stopped calling her “Mom” when I was eight. We both agreed it wasn’t fitting for a woman whose true passions lay in exclusive club status and dirty martinis.

My doodling finger freezes suddenly. “You didn’t phone her, did you?” That would be like handing her torpedoes for an effective insult air strike. She had called it after all. She’d said I didn’t have what it took to keep my “blue-collar pretty-boy” husband happy for long.

Jack chuckles softly, though there’s no mirth in it. “No, I definitely did not phone her. What would I tell her, anyway? You weren’t exactly informative on the phone. Sounds like you’re in some hot water, though.”

My sigh of relief slides out and I’m back to doodling. “That’s what they tell me.” When the cops started throwing around words like “larceny” and “threats of bodily harm”—things that sounded excessive and unfitting, but permanently damaging to my fresh and clean adult record should they stick—I knew I wasn’t going to talk my way out of this one. It didn’t help that I used the picture of Caroline for target practice during my rampage, leaving a pair of scissors strategically placed through her eyes. “It’s a good thing you still have that same law firm. You were easy to find.”

Jack folds his arms over his chest and regards me with an unreadable face. A tiny part of me—the angry little girl lost somewhere inside—is ready to burst, to demand, “How could you have left me? I know why you left my mom, but how could you have shoved me out of your life so easily, too? I didn’t cheat on you!” But I bite my bottom lip. Pissing off the one person who can help me right now wouldn’t be smart. And I need to be smart.

Finally Jack leans back in his chair and says, “Okay, Reese. Start from the beginning and let’s see how we can solve this.”

I press my lips together to keep from smiling. Not because this is amusing. It’s just that we’ve been here before. This really is starting to feel like days long since lost, when we’d meet up in the kitchen around midnight—after Annabelle had gone to sleep, when Jack was finally home from work—to contemplate my latest mischief over bowls of ice cream. He’s even adopted the same hypnotic tone that always got me talking when my teachers, my guidance counselor, or anyone else really, couldn’t. I’m pretty sure he uses it on all of his clients.

Twenty minutes later, after I’ve given him a rundown of my situation, I hear his disappointed sigh. “Working in a pet shop, Reese?”

“Not anymore.” After leaving work early with the flu and coming home to the big discovery of Jared and her in the shower—oddly enough, the more it replays in my mind, the more it begins to resemble the shower scene from Scarface—I spent a week in Lina’s bed, heavily sedated with Jim Beam and Nyquil. My boss fired me over the phone.

I don’t care.

“And eloping in Vegas with a guy? At nineteen years old? After knowing him for six weeks?” I know that the chuckle that fills the room now isn’t directed at me, even before his words confirm it; Jack’s laughing at the irony of it all. “And you were always so adamant that you’d never get married.”

I have no answer to that, except a quiet “I loved him,” as the painful knot forms in my throat, as I fight the sob from tearing out of me. I did. I think I still do, despite how much Jared has hurt me. Since that day eight months ago when I stepped out of my best friend Lina’s apartment and quite literally ran into her neighbor, a reincarnation of a mint-eyed Greek demigod, I knew that I had met my soul mate. Fireworks exploded, lightning struck, electricity coursed. All that love-at-first-sight bullshit that I didn’t believe in—I instantly became a poster child for it. Common sense flew out the window with a cement block tied to its ankle.

Jared said he felt it, too.

And now, after six months of marital bliss, without a single warning sign, he’s back with her.

That rotten illness festering inside me enflames with the thought, the humiliating reality a burn that doesn’t want to subside.

“Look, Reese. I know you’ve always had a wild streak in you, even as a little girl. These choices you’ve made since I saw you last, though,” his head is shaking, “possession of marijuana . . . trespassing . . . underage drinking . . . a fistfight?”

“It’s not really that big a deal. A lot of people drink and smoke pot in high school,” I argue, adding, “I’m just the one who kept getting caught.”

“Drag racing?” He stares at me questioningly.

“Those were derby cars and that was totally blown out of proportion,” I clarify.

Jack slides his glasses off and gives his face a rough rub, looking exhausted. It’s a four-hour drive from Miami to Jacksonville and he arrived here five hours after I called, meaning he pretty much dropped everything to come. I can’t help but wonder why he’d do that.

“At least I didn’t get knocked up,” I joke.

By the look of exasperation he shoots me, he doesn’t find that remotely funny. “I had hoped you were too smart to get into this kind of trouble.”

“I guess even smart girls can make a clusterfuck of their lives, can’t they?” I mutter, though his words sting.

Because they’re true.

There’s a long pause, where Jack’s mouth twists in thought as he regards me. “What are you going to do with yourself now, Reese? How are you going to make up for this?” When I was little, Jack always asked me for suggestions as to how I should be punished for my various childish misdemeanors. I think it was his way of getting me to agree on the outcome without looking like the harsh stepfather. I was pretty good at coming up with suitable penances and it was definitely preferable to sitting in a chair while my mother shrieked about what an embarrassment I was to her, the gin sloshing out of her martini glass with her mad hand gesticulations.

But I’m not a little kid anymore and Jack’s not asking me to come up with a suitable punishment. He’s asking me how I’m going to fix my life.

All I have for him is a defeated shrug.

Because that’s how I feel right now. Defeated. “I don’t know. Get another job, I guess.”

“What about college?”

The eye roll happens before I can stop myself. Jack always hated my eye rolls. “My transcripts aren’t exactly going to woo the administrative offices.” Neither will the private school expulsion, earned when I broke into a teacher’s office and stole a midterm exam.

“Because you couldn’t do the work?” My arched brow answers him. “Because you didn’t do the work,” he answers for himself, shaking his head, his face a mask of extreme disappointment. “Is this how you want to live your life? In and out of police cars? Working minimum-wage jobs? In unstable relationships?”

“Does anybody ever really want that?”

Jack’s right. I was smart. Some may say I’m still smart. But I’ve made so many wrong turns along the way, I don’t know how many right ones it will take to course-correct.

I don’t know if that’s even possible.

I sit in silence, listening to the monotonous tick-tick-tick of the second hand on the wall clock above, watching Jack as he spends an exorbitant amount of time playing with the gold Rolex on his wrist, his breaths deep and ragged. I don’t know that I can count on him. I mean, he forgot about me once. Looking at the twenty-year-old version of who he once knew, he’s probably ready to stamp “lost cause” across my forehead.

And then he settles those kind gray eyes on me. “I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, but I had a long car ride up to think about it.” Folding his hands together on the table in front of him, a stern expression settles over his face. “I have a proposition. It comes with conditions, though.”

A small exhale escapes me as I chew the inside of my mouth, relief and wariness dancing together. “Okay. I guess?”

“No more, Reese. Not even the harmless stuff.”

“This is my first time here in years, Jack.” Ironically, I convinced myself that meeting Jared was a turning point in my life, leaving me the sated and smiling wife who was happy hanging out at home and keeping out of trouble.

“Yes . . .” His eyes graze the walls of the police station room. “And yet here you are again.”

He doesn’t get it. He must not have heard me. “This was different, Jack! She moved in! I haven’t even moved out yet! All my stuff is still in that apartment!”

He raises his hand to silence me. “You should have turned around and walked out. That would have been the mature, responsible thing to do. Instead, you let your emotions get the better of you.”

I smirk as another wave of familiarity washes over me. “You always said I was too emotional for my own good.”

“I did say that,” he acknowledges with a sad smile. “And I’m still right. No more, Reese.”

Picking at a loose thread on my sleeve as if the topic isn’t cutting into my heart, I offer casually, “Well, I can definitely promise that I won’t be getting married again. Ever.”

That earns a soft chuckle. “You and me both, kiddo.” A pause. “You remember Mason, don’t you?”

My geeky stepbrother who used to spend half his time scowling at me and the other half staring as if my head were about to revolve on my shoulders. I recall that the day we moved out, he watched with a bitter smile, condemning me to follow in my mother’s footsteps.

He despised my mother from the very first day that he met her.

My pursed lips at the mention of that name has Jack smiling. “Oh, yes. How could I forget? Your nemesis. Well, he’s finishing law school this spring.” Jack takes a deep breath and then holds it, as if he’s hesitating. “Why don’t you come and live with us until you get back on your feet.”

What?

Jack continues, not addressing the bewilderment that must be plastered over my face. “I can get you into the paralegal program at Miami U. If you finish that, you can work for me. It doesn’t have to be forever, but at least you’ll have something solid to put on a résumé. It’s a fresh start.”

“I . . . uh . . . ” Did I just hear all that correctly?

His eyes drift over my hair again. “You should think about a more natural color for an office environment and . . .” His focus settles down to the tiny diamond-encrusted septum ring in my nose and he cringes. “Maybe a few less piercings.”

But . . . My tongue has somehow coiled itself into a useless ball inside my mouth as my mind grapples with this offer. It’s far from what I had expected. “Why are you doing this, Jack? I mean, it’s great and all, but why?” He really doesn’t owe me anything. It’s enough that he came all the way out here to bail me out.

“Because I shouldn’t have turned my back on you, Reese. I let—” A flash of pain betrays his otherwise calm demeanor. “Let’s just say I’m making amends.” He pauses. “What do you say? I need to get out of this town. I can feel Annabelle’s shadow looming.” He shivers for effect, making me snort.

“Well . . .” My fingers rap across the table as I give my current situation—that of a police station room—another once-over. I have no job, no home, a shattered heart, and a pending criminal record. I should probably make the first smart choice I’ve made in a long time. But . . . “Not sure the cops will let that happen, Jack.”

“You leave that with me.”

Another pause. “I’m riding my bike down.”

His mouth twists with displeasure. “I assume you’re not referring to one with pedals.”

“No pedals,” I confirm with a small smile. I got my motorcycle license when I turned eighteen and bought a bike a few months later. Another element of my “badass” self that Jared loves.

Loved.

Jack heaves a sigh. “That shouldn’t surprise me. You always did threaten your mother with getting one. Anything else I should know?”

“I’m a slob,” I warn him. “And a certifiable bitch in the morning.”

“Well, I guess some things just don’t change, after all.” Reaching up to give his neck a slow scratch, he mumbles, “Mason will be thrilled.”

■ ■ ■

Six months later

“Could we have picked somewhere more commercial?” I ask dryly, draining my fourth margarita in record time as my gaze drifts over the beachside bar, complete with canopies, twinkling Christmas lights—in July—and too many happy, laughing people. Even with the sun setting and the light ocean breeze passing through, a light sheen of sweat coats the back of my neck. It’s a typical summer night in Cancún, Mexico—hell-hot.

“Commercial is safe,” Lina answers in her distinctive flat tone. She always sounds bored to tears.

I roll my eyes. “You’re safer in this country than you are in our own nation’s capital—you do realize that, right? That’s all just media hype.”

“Tell that to the American couple who just had their heads lopped off a month ago.”

“If I were going to tell them anything, it would be to not run drugs for the cartel,” I retort.

She acknowledges that with a lazy shrug as she sips on some frothy calorie-laden pink thing with an umbrella sticking out of it.

“Why don’t we put on a pile of diamonds, jump into a random cab, and get the guy to drive us through the quiet, dark back streets of Mexico City?”

Lina’s thin lips purse together tightly as she regards me. “It’s never fun to discover your best friend has a death wish.”

With a snort, I wave the server down for another drink. “But it would be fun to watch someone try to take Nicki down.”

As if hearing her name from across the lounge, Nicki—who I met when I answered a “roommate wanted” ad in the newspaper—and the third member of our little “Reese is turning twenty-one and is still bitter as hell so let’s go to Cancún” entourage, turns her head to catch our gaze from her seat on a swing by the bar. She winks as she downs another shot of tequila.

“How does she make that work so well?” Lina mutters with a hint of envy. I know exactly what she means. All around us are flirty girls in pastel barely-there dresses and sun-kissed skin. Not Nicki, though. She sits by that bar like a femme fatale in a skin-tight leopard print dress and four-inch black heels, her platinum-blond hair coiffed like Gwen Stefani’s, her red lips glaring against her pale skin, and sparkly chandelier earrings dangling from her ears. All that femininity oozing from her is counterbalanced by a full sleeve of ink and the muscular physique she’s honed through her latest passion: dead-weight lifting. The tall guy talking her ear off right now? She could bench-press his two-hundred-odd pounds without breaking a sweat. That, coupled with her three-year stint cage-fighting before she switched hobbies, makes her one badass twenty-five-year-old woman.

“It works so well because she’s beautiful and mysterious and she’s not stupid enough to run off and marry some guy she met in a hallway who’s still in love with his ex,” I mutter around my straw, catching the wince flash across Lina’s face. It’s the first time I’ve made any open reference to Jared since leaving for Miami, perfecting the art of denial while I impatiently waited for my heart to freeze.

Our waiter places a fresh margarita on the table next to me with a wink. I force a smile and I’m sure it’s altogether hostile by the way he hightails it back to the bar. I can’t help it. He has dark, shaggy hair and olive skin. Just like Jared.

“You have to let it go, Reese. It’s been six months. You—” My flat glare makes her voice falter, her words a dishonor to the very real, very raw pain I still feel. Especially today, on what would have been our one-year wedding anniversary.

And is instead Jared and Caroline’s wedding day.

Because karma hasn’t been cruel enough.

She quickly changes tactics. “You’ve started a whole new life. New city, new home. Soon, a new look . . .” Her free hand reaches up to flip strands of my hair, reminding me that the purple will be gone the day that I return. “You’ve got that great new job.”

I roll my eyes.

“It’s not cleaning up puppy shit and getting bitten by snakes.” She taps the puncture marks on the meaty part of my thumb. A physical reminder of the day I made the idiotic mistake of sticking my mouse-scented hand into a cage to freshen the aspen chips and ended up with a two-foot-long ball python’s fangs embedded in my flesh.

That happened the exact same day my sky fell. A very fitting scar.

“Not literally. But I’ll be working in a law firm, Lina. Plenty of snakes.”

After we made our agreement, Jack quickly went about throwing all kinds of legal jargon at the cops. In the end, it was unnecessary. Given the epically huge lack of judgment that Jared used sending me into that apartment unprepared to collect my things, he convinced Caroline not to press charges. So I walked out the police doors without any record of my moment of crazy.

Jack let me wallow in his spacious Miami house for one week, wearing my pajamas and gorging myself on Ben & Jerry’s Butter Pecan ice cream out of the tub for twenty-one consecutive meals, before he tossed a bunch of application papers my way. He said, “It takes four to six months for most students to get through, depending on how hard you work. You can do it all online if you want and I have a paralegal spot waiting for you when you’re done. Decent pay, good people. It’s just a start, Reese.”

I’ve never had any interest in working at a law firm—especially the one tainted by my mother—but I had made a deal with Jack and I am smart enough to see a good opportunity. So I immersed myself in the program, using it as a distraction. Once I got into it, I actually didn’t mind the course work. It took me five months to complete and I ended up finishing with a near-perfect score.

I start my new job the Monday after I get back from Cancún.

“Oh, no. You’re having doubts. You’re going to bail on Jack. If you do, you’re dead to me,” Lina says.

“Oh, ye of little faith.” Surprisingly, as unreliable as I can be at times, the thought of bailing on Jack has never crossed my mind.

“Fine. Let’s talk about happier things. How’s Annabelle?”

“Okay, see this?” I gesture to my face, which has contorted into a mixed pucker of disgust and loathing. “Sour face. Do not speak of she who must not be named.”

“Do you want me to break into her place while she sleeps and turn her fans on? Guaranteed death, according to my people.” Lina was adopted by a lovely Korean couple as a baby and raised to fully embrace their culture, including all of their death-by-fan superstitions. The fact that she’s a five-foot-eleven-inch willowy blond who towers over both her parents means nothing in the Chung household. Her name is actually Li-Na, but she Americanized it in high school to make life easier. She speaks Korean fluently—throwing more than a few people off—and can shovel food into her mouth with chopsticks like the best of them.

We’ve been best friends since sophomore year, when I discovered Lina crying in a bathroom stall after Raine Higgins and her posse of bored and bitchy juniors had been bullying her. I did what any naturally spiteful high school kid who hates bullies would do. I spray-painted Raine’s car with Korean expletives that I found on the internet. That, along with a picture of her giving her boyfriend a blow job in a parking lot that I covertly took—after stalking her at a party—and glued to the inside of the windshield of her locked car with Krazy Glue, was enough to keep Lina from ever being bothered by her again.

The tightness in my chest suddenly lifts with Lina’s attempts to sway my mood. “Are you sure you and Nicki don’t want a third roommate?” Lina and Nicki moved down to Miami about a month ago, into a condo that Lina’s parents bought for her as a college graduation present.

“Absolutely sure,” she confirms without missing a beat, her focus intent on the little pink umbrella twirling between her thumb and index finger. Lina’s living habits are about as opposite to mine as the Arctic Circle is to the Sahara Desert. Everything in her apartment—from her linen closet to her pasta jars—is tidy and labeled accordingly. Those two weeks that I sought refuge in her apartment after breaking up with Jared nearly destroyed her.

“Okay, enough about bad stuff. Didn’t we talk about finding you a fling?”

I groan as I survey the crowd. “I remember you talking about it and me ignoring you. I’ve tried. Three strikes is enough for me.”

“You have not tried, Reese. Admit it.”

Either there’s an influx of douchebags or Lina’s right and I’m subconsciously sabotaging myself. First there was Slick Steve, a senior at Miami U who showed up to our date with perfectly coiffed hair and an outfit right off the set of Grease the musical. Then there was Metrosexual Mark, a blind date from Nicki’s work who picked his teeth with his fork and had a weird habit of adding “if it were me” to 90 percent of the sentences that came out of his mouth.

The final straw, though?

Emilio. Good ol’ Spanish I-look-enough-like-your-ex-husband-that-if-you-dim-the-lights-this-might-actually-work Emilio. I might have been willing to see where it went had he not opened his wallet and laid it out on the table to proudly display his collection of extra-large Trojans, and then propositioned me in Spanish.

I shudder with the memory. “I’m starting my harem of cats.”

“You hate cats.”

“True. But I also hate limes, and look at me now!” I hold up my glass. “Besides, I’ve already found my Cancún fling. Lina, meet Mr. Cuervo. Mr. Cuervo . . . my best friend, Lina.” Leaning in, I waggle my brow and whisper, “If you’re nice, he’ll let you call him Jose. I plan on spending the next six nights with this naughty little Mexican.” I wave a hand at the server as he whizzes by, letting him know that I need another drink by pointing to my nearly empty glass, as I add, “He can be a bit of a whiny bitch in the morning but he makes up for it by dark.”

“Great. Because you’re not emotional enough when you’re sober,” she mutters, adding with a sigh, “Well, an incessantly drunk Reese should make for an interesting trip, at least. Just try not to get arrested. I hear the cells here aren’t as nice as the ones you’re used to back home.”

Nicki must have been monitoring my drink levels from her perch by the bar because she saunters over with a fresh margarita in hand, either oblivious or ignoring the attention she naturally garners. “Here you go, señorita,” she offers in a deceptively soft voice as she flicks her tongue piercing. I automatically roll my tongue, sensing the absence of mine. Jack hasn’t outright demanded that I remove my piercings but I knew, by the way he kept cringing, that the barbell through my tongue was truly freaking him out. I removed that one out of respect, but I’m holding out on the others until the last possible moment.

“Jose isn’t complaining about my level of intoxication,” I respond to Lina, giving the rim of my glass a slow, sultry lick. I have a high tolerance for alcohol, borne from years of underage partying. It would seem, though, that lame, tourist-trap Cancún serves strong margaritas and the warm and fuzzies are really kicking in.

“Who the fuck is Jose?” Nicki asks, her pretty face scrunching up.

“It’s Mr. Cuervo to you.”

She finally clues in and that musical laugh of hers rolls out. “Oh . . . oh, buddy! No! That’s so sad. We need to fix that.” Her curious eyes scan the lounge. “You promised me you’d exorcise Jared from your vagina if you met a hot guy . . . There. The one in front. Perfect.” She raises her inked arm, signaling someone as if she knows him.

Oh, God. I suck back a large gulp. “Seriously, Nicki. After the tooth picker you set me up with, I think I’m done. And exorcisms take at least two days to prepare for. Can’t I just drown myself in frozen green goodness for tonight? I’m not even dressed for it.” I’d thrown on a pair of shorts and an old faded rock concert tank. I don’t even have makeup on.

“What do you wanna be this time? Architect from L.A.?” she asks, ignoring my opposition completely. Her eyes twinkle as they flash to me. “Stripper from Pasadena?”

I nod with appreciation. “That was a good one.” Before Jared, the three of us used to head out to the bars on the weekends—Lina and I with fake ID. We’d make up identities: jobs, cities, sometimes names, and see how long we could keep it going while guys bought us drinks. Once, I had a guy completely sold on me being a goat herder from Iowa. He was as dumb as a bag of bricks.

The shuffle of approaching feet stirs an anxious flutter in my stomach. I really don’t want to carry on a conversation tonight, fake or otherwise. “Helloooo boys,” Nicki purrs playfully. I feel the eyes of women around us as they sit up to take notice, their rays of envy scorching my skin. I decide I can’t play disinterested just yet. I need to know what type of fiend Nicki has targeted. As casually as five margaritas will allow, I turn and . . . slide right off my chair, my shorts providing my ass with little protection against the hard tile floor.

“I have shamed Mr. Cuervo,” I mutter, ducking my head, the night air carrying mocking giggles my way as I accept that it’s only eight o’clock and I’m way more drunk than I realized.

A large hand appears in front of me, palm up. “Well, I’m impressed.” I hear the smile behind the masculine voice and I can’t decide if I like that or not. Accepting the help—because the sooner I’m off the floor, the better—I’m pulled to my feet and into the broad chest of a blond with a big, obnoxious grin.

Wearing a fucking red shirt.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 162 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    LOVED this book! ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVS!

    I rambled a bit when writing this one...

    When I say whoa! I mean whoa! Heaven help me this book had me all kinds of crazy by the time I got to the 'shattering' moment towards the end of the book. And by then do you know what happened? Hubs rolls over in bed and tells me to turn off my nook and go to bed. Yeah, yeah I understand it was 2am. But sheesh! Someone's life was hanging in the balance here. Doesn't he realize that fictional characters are people, too?

    So we have Kacey...poor messed-up-in-the-head-beyond-any-kind-of-help Kacey. I don't even know where to start with her. Girl has so much baggage a pack mule looked at her and said no. But gosh, I hurt for that girl something fierce. Yeah she had a crazy, broken life…but she had a younger sister to look after so she stepped up and became the person her sister needed her to be. Social life be damned. And her witty outbursts are like music to my ears. Girl has a sarcastic tongue and isn’t afraid to use it. The things she calls people is hilarious and I couldn’t get enough of her character.

    Then we have Trent. Oh lordy, the angels had to be singing the day he was made, cause dude is hot. Shhh, do you hear that? Oh that was just the sound of Kacey’s heart beating; her returning from the dead so to speak. Trent makes her feel things she hasn’t felt since the death of her parents. But Trent’s baggage is just as heavy. And the moment his past and hers collide…lives go beyond shattered.

    You know what I loved a lot about this book? The secondary characters are just as great as Trent and Kacey. They all play a pivotal role in the story and Tucker did an awesome job with them. I actually cared quite about the secondary characters, more so than I usually do with other books. Livie, Storm, Mia and even Dan and Tanner are no back seat passengers. Their characters stand out so much in this book.

    The last part of the book with Dr. Stayner I think was some of my favorite Kacey moments. Both her and the Dr were hilarious together. But during this time I was also a blubbering mess. Too. Much. Emotion. Like I said before…this book had me all kinds of crazy and I absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way.

    To say I was floored with this book is a huge understatement. I was utterly in love with it. And I will let you in on a little secret…I think I am more in love with Tucker as an author writing this than I was with her Casual Enchantment series. That is definitely saying something for this book…because I adore that series. I also did a lot of bookmarking. Too many sentences caught my eye; too many quotes I didn’t want to forget.

    Tucker did a phenomenal job with this book. I can’t say that enough. This whole book…from the beginning, to the middle, up until that ending…was done to complete perfection. Do I recommend this book? Abso-freakin-lutely! Ten Tiny Breaths is most definitely one of my favorites this year and will be at the top of my must reread list. You must read it and then I dare you not to gush about it.


    These are just a few quotes I loved from the story...too many others to share.
    *******
    To say that she's fanatical would be an understatement. She won't come to Miami unless Jesus himself is holding a convention.
    *******
    "It's okay. I figured it was all a bit too much, too fast." One finger hooks into mine, buckling my knees with waves of excitement.
    I think I am going to fall in love with this man.
    *******
    "I'll make you whole again, Kacey.

    16 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I am so glad that this came out on audiobook because I had been

    I am so glad that this came out on audiobook because I had been meaning to get to this for a while and just didn't have time to read it. Luckily audiobook are easy to fit in and this one was great! This was an emotional story and I loved taking the journey along with Kacey and all the other characters involved. I felt like I was making friends right along with them and I really, really wanted to help Kacey. Luckily, so did everyone else. I also really loved how this was separated into the stages of grief. That was a nice touch!

    Kacey is rough around the edges. She went through a tragic situation and she has basically let it rule her life. She is suffering from PTSD even though she doesn't realize it, or more importantly, doesn't want to admit it. To her, it's easier to just put up her walls, and deal with it in her own ways. It had been drugs, alcohol, and random sex, but for her sister Livie, she stopped all of that. She begins to let people in, but it's a very slow process and it seems like she takes one step forward, then about five back. She is an incredibly strong, but stubborn, and broken person. I loved watching her finally start to heal and be the person that she has hid away for too long.

    Now Trent. He was fantastic, but I didn't know what to think of him for a while. He almost seemed too nice and perhaps stalkerish. I admit that I fell for him right along with Kacey. He was really great for Kacey, though he was a bit pushy at times trying to get her to talk to someone or seek help. I knew he was doing it for her, but I think he went about it all wrong. And OMG when we find out what his secret is, I was a freaking mess!! I didn't figure it out much before it was revealed, though I did suspect for a while I guess. I can see why he kept the secret, even if it doesn't make it right.

    Now onto the other characters. I don't always mention them, but I think that they are a huge part of this story. Storm and her daughter Mia were awesome and really became important and like family to Kacey. Nate and Ben who she worked with were also really awesome. And Livie, her sister of course. She was Kacey's rock. Basically the only thing keeping her from falling completely apart. Though she is her younger sister, she really was more the one taking care of them. I loved that Livie would do what she had to for Kacey, even if she knew it would make her mad. She always did what was best for them!

    I listened to the audio of this and I think the narrator was awesome. You could easily tell one character from another. And also she did great with the males. A lot of the time female narrators make males sound too husky or not masculine enough, but Elizabeth Louise did them great! She was also very good at making sure the emotion was in there too. She wasn't just someone narrating a book, she made the characters and the story come to life.

    This was such a great story about love, loss, and healing. I thought the characters were developed really well, the story flowed perfectly, and the emotion aspect was spot on. I was a sobbing mess listening to parts of this. My heart hurt with theirs. I wanted to jump into the book and hug them. This was the first book I have read from this author and I will definitely be reading more.

    *A copy of this was provided by the publisher for an honest review. I did not receive any compensation.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2013

    i cant not say enough good things about this book. there were t

    i cant not say enough good things about this book. there were times i cant to scream and then times i wanted to cry. kacey is a fighter she has been through so much in her short lifetime. i love the other charcters in this book. this is a must read!!!! be prepared for a shock!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 30, 2013

    Good, but too cookie-cutter for me. This was a good book and a

    Good, but too cookie-cutter for me.

    This was a good book and a good start to a new series. I don't normally read series until they're complete, but I loved this cover and the description, so I plunged in. And I liked it. Unfortunately, I don't like it enough to continue with the next book.

    There isn't a whole lot to distinguish Ten Tiny Breaths from other New Adult books: stereotypical characters; tragic pasts; and insta-love.

    The writing is good and it's a quick read, but it's very cookie-cutter.

    I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2013

    I wasn't sure what to think when I started reading this book. I

    I wasn't sure what to think when I started reading this book. I did not read any of the reviews but wow!!! I wish I had read this book a long time ago. The story is very refreshing and different from what is currently out there. This book touches on drunk driving and the reprecussions on both sides. I would def recommend this book and now I see that there is a second book comming out...cant wait!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2013

    Missing info

    The 2nd page of chapter 14 is whited out. Is it like that with anyone elses copy? I am addicted to this book, i cant put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2013

    Must read

    I really enjoyed this emotional read! This book is so much better than I thought it would be. There is language & sexual situations but also a great learning lesson. Don't pass this up.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2013

    Okay I Expected Great

    This book was okay, I expected it to be great based on the reviews. I loved both Kacey & Trent they were cool but I didn't get the chemistry. She meets him twice & let's him touch her face when she won't even let anyone touch her hands. I didn't get it they were obsessed & dependent on each other, it was weired because they knew nothing about each other only that the other was hot. Kacey was kinda annoying & selfish I felt sorry for Livie for being stuck with her. Livie was so strong & mature Kacey acted liked she was the only one who lost her parents. Acting out, drinking, drugging & the random sex but what made it worst for me was the fact that her sister who is 5 yrs younger knew all about it. What kinda example are you setting that this girl who was 12 at the time. I figured Trent out at chapter 7 exactly. I kept reading because I wanted to see what he was trying to accomplish & his reasoning behind it. Let me just say its pretty sick & twisted. I won't go into details because I don't wasn't to spoil it. It was an okay read I've read all of K.A. Tucker books & this one is the only one I wouldn't recommend to people. The main characters were really self destructive & should not have been together even after they finished their treatment they should've moved on with their lives if you ask me. There's a sequel coming out but about Livie called One Little Lie I might check it out because I really loved Livie in this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    Great book!

    I read a lot of books and I must say this one will stick with me. Great characters and a heart breaking story. Mix in some awesome humor and you have a gem. I felt the pain and heartache as well as the joy of rebuilding a life in ruins. Great book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    Read it in one day!!

    I could not put this book down...good thing I had the day to relax and read. Towards the middle I figured out Trent...and what was going on with him so the ending wasn't really a surprise...but I liked the book regardless.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2013

    Just WOW :/

    Very good!!!"""!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    another great book from the author!

    gah, i loved this book! it's added on to my favorite books! kacey's life has changed ever since a drunk driving accident. she closes herself off to people and doesn't want to get close to them. also all that is left is her and her sister livie. they booked it very quickly to florida because of their creepy uncle. she meets her hot neighbor trent there. as much as she fought to stay away, that didn't really happen. well of course something happens. i won't go into it.
    i loved this story not because it was awesome, but it has meaning to it. it could be based on a real life situation.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2013

    A MUST read!!!!  Very well written!! Absolutely loved it!! 

    A MUST read!!!!  Very well written!! Absolutely loved it!! 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2013

    Very good book. It's a bit heavy but very well written. This i

    Very good book. It's a bit heavy but very well written. This is the first I've read this author and I really really liked it. I think i'll read it again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2014

    Why'd I wait so long to read this book?  This book was first pub

    Why'd I wait so long to read this book?  This book was first published in December 2012. Guess who buried her head in the sand and ignored everything she saw about this book and didn't read it until June of 2013?  If you guessed me, you're right.  Sometimes I can't believe what I miss out on because of myself.  I could have had an a print copy with the original cover.  Now I'd have to pay a kidney for it, but sometimes think it's worth it.




    I'm not sure why I wasn't willing to read this book when I first heard about how good it was. After all, it passed the one chapter test. As in, that's all it took to grab my attention and then not let it go.  I was shocked at Kacey's and her sister, Livie's, circumstances and their flight to Miami from Michigan.  




    I want to be Kacey.  She's strong, determined, quick-witted, and just all around awesome.  I have no idea how she was able to hold herself together and be after all she'd experienced and lost.  I love Livie too.  I want to take a baseball bat to anyone who'd hurt these two.  Trent was an enigma.  I wanted him, especially since he was so hot.  I loved the back and forth between Trent and Kacey.  They had some hilarious and smoking hot scenes.  There's a certain *ahem* shower scene that had me fanning myself and wiping away tears of laughter.




      
    Ten Tiny Breaths is so awesome.  There's all the different emotions I experienced. The story is gripping and will leave you guessing what's going to happen next.  I'm an avid reader and I sure as heck didn't see the end of the book coming, or a number of the twists.   You're gonna have to read the book to see what makes it so good.  

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 30, 2014

    What can I say? These characters are all sooooo amazing! Honestl

    What can I say? These characters are all sooooo amazing! Honestly, who wouldn’t like them? Kacey is a little hard to get use to, but closer to the end you’ll find it’s been worth it to stick it out with her. She’s had it hard, but I’m not sure I buy her overreactions to everything and her pushing people away, but like I said, be patient. She might surprise you. 
    The rest of the characters made the story worthwhile for me. There’s Kacey’s younger sister, Livey, who is a people magnet and adorably naive, Kacey’s next door neighbor, Barbie-lookalike-stripclub-bartender, Storm, with her lovable five-year-old daughter, Mia, and stripclub owner, Cain, who is not a sleazebag by any means. And then my favorite character of them all, Nate, the mountainous bouncer with a heart of gold. You hear the word “stripclub” and already it forms a negative impression (unless you’re a man), but this stripclub is not like that at all. These are all just people with their own problems, some of them running from something, others needing to pay bills, working at a reputable establishment where they can make the money they need. All of them have a specific reason why they’re there and each of them a story. 
    Trent, Kacey’s love interest, is also a great character and for some reason I connected with him instantly, the same moment Kacey did. I mean come on, that one scene in which he hands five-year-old Mia roses? That won me over completely. The romance between him and Kacey is nothing short of sizzling. Yet, they both have to face a lot of demons if they want a happy ending for both of them. Each with their own horrendous past, they have to face many trials and tribulations that would test them to the max. 
    So now you know about the amazing characters, I also have to mention that the story has its flaws – though more ups than downs. The romance between Kacey and Trent is unbelievably corny, and countless times I released an exacerbated sigh when Kacey was having one of her many breakdowns. At the same time, the romance – when not being passé – had its sincere moments that tugged at my heart and brought on the feels. The story contained a lot of elements that is already so overdone in this genre as well as in the YA genre, but to be fair, at the heart of this story there’s a very important message about drinking and driving. Yes, of course we all know the consequences of what happens when you drink and drive, but have you ever considered what the lives of the survivors who have lost loved ones in a drunken driving accident are like five years or more after the accident? Do you really understand the far reaching consequences of such a careless decision to drive, or to let someone else drive, who is inebriated? 
    If you’re the type of reader who avoids angsty, overdramatic protagonists with anger issues, and cliché-filled romance, then this book is probably not for you. But if you’re into meeting a few truly remarkable characters and being gripped by a story with heart, then do get yourself a copy of Ten Tiny Breaths. I’m certainly planning on reading many more of K.A. Tucker’s books!  

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2014

    Not recommended

    It dragged at times and did not hold my interest. I was glad to finish the book

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  • Posted July 19, 2014

    Ten Tiny Breaths is an all-around feel good book. Kacey and Tren

    Ten Tiny Breaths is an all-around feel good book. Kacey and Trent have an incredible and unique story that I quickly found myself completely caught up in. There are plenty of interesting and relateable characters in this book and I found myself wanting to know the story behind each and every one of them. Kacey has been shattered by a tragedy that still haunts her every moment. Despite everything she has been through, K.A. has crafted Kacey to be a survivor, a fighter, a rock. Kacey is stubborn, strong, hard working and she never asks anyone for anything. She has a good heart and when she loves, she loves deeply. It was easy to connect with her and grow to care about her because she was so real and raw and unexpected. 




    This storyline is one I think everyone can relate to. Kacey is learning to heal and K.A. makes sure the reader is there every step of the way. Her path to happiness is genuine through and through. She has to learn how to trust, how to let people in, how to believe in herself and how to live again. These things aren’t easy and you’re there with Kacey every time she stumbles, backtracks and breaks down. I loved the surprise twists and turns this story took. When I thought I had this story figured out, K.A. turned it upside down and made me re-think everything. Ten Tiny Breaths is poignant and uplifting. K.A. Tucker is an incredible writer and she created a story that had me completely invested from the beginning. Caring about these characters came easily and I enjoyed every awkward, tear-filled, hilarious and completely devastating moment this book had to offer. I can’t wait to dive in to the rest of the series and unravel some of the other characters. If you’re looking for a sweet, emotional read then Ten Tiny Breaths is one you can’t miss.

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  • Posted July 18, 2014

    Captivating Read

    Wasn't sure what to expect but wanted to give it a try. I am glad I did. Great storyline and characters you want to love and care for. I would not classify this as a romance, more of journey of healing that leads to love.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2014

    Unexpected twist!

    .

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