Blog Tour and Giveaway: Locke: Harper Sloan

Locke (Corps Security #5)
Harper Sloan
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Darkness is the only thing I see. Ever since the day my life changed. The day that everything and everyone I held close to me ceased to exist. The day I lost it all and the demons of my past consumed my every waking moment.

I tried to keep others at arm’s length. Tried not to let my darkness taint them. Ruin them. Harm them. And whether I want to admit it or not, as much as I wish I could keep them locked out, they refuse to leave. Refuse to let me suffer alone.

If I hadn’t been so focused on keeping those demons from flying free, I wouldn’t have missed how one perfect angel was able to sneak her way under my skin—refusing to let go. Making me want things I don’t deserve.
She consumes me. Her beauty knows no end. The love she promises tempts me every time she’s near. But that pure heart that makes her MY Emmy is the one thing I’m convinced I’ll destroy if I ever let her close.

I’m a broken man. A broken man with too much darkness in his soul to ever let her light shine upon me. But even that doesn’t stop me from craving her with every single breath in my body.

Six weeks.  It’s been over a goddamn month since Emmy ran from me.  
Just gone.
It took me three days to find her—thanks to the tracking device I had placed on her car—down in some small Podunk town in south Florida.  Even if she had been trying to hide, she’d done a shit job of it.  One search for her parents would have brought me right to her. 
It took me longer to actually get eyes on her than it had to find her.  She was holed up in some cheap-ass hotel for three weeks.  She called in her meals and never left the room.  And unfortunately, I had to leave and rush home when things out of my control needed attention and I again had to pull Asher’s head out of his ass.  Now I’m back and I’m not leaving until I get my hands on her.  
She doesn’t want to be found.  I know that, but damn if I’m going to let her run off and get away for good.  I’ve pushed and pushed her away.  Every bone in my body has screamed at me to take what she’s been offering for years.  I’ve seen her, I know what she wants, but I won’t let my demons hurt her.  Not my Emmy.  
Since day one, she’s been the greatest temptation, but I refused to take everything innocent that is Emmy and let my blackness take her.  Because that’s what will happen.  It will wrap around her soul and slowly choke the life out of her.  Just like every other person I’ve allowed in.  
I’ll taint her.  I’ll ruin her.  And in the end, it will destroy her.
One smile from her made me fall.  So I pushed her away.  I told her that she would never be what I need—that I would never want her.  God, if she only knew.  I crave her and everything she keeps trying to hand me.  I crave her and everything she could give me.  My very being calls out to her, and I work daily to refuse it.
So I pushed.  
Until she ran.
But that ends right now.
Looking up at the gaudy neon lights thrown on the top of this hellhole, I know that was my first mistake.
A motherfucking strip club.
This is not a place where my angel belongs.  Just the thought of her inside this club makes my skin crawl.  I can feel my anger becoming a force of its own as the blackness in my soul threatens to burst through.  It’s burning inside my veins and demanding blood.  My nostrils flare, making my breaths come in loud pants.  My fist clenches—demanding something to pound into, something to destroy.  My skin feels tight.  Every vein in my body is pulsing with each wild beat of my heart.
I’m going to explode.
The bouncer doesn’t even give me a second thought.  He gives me a brief glance as I pay the twenty bucks to gain my access into the hellish place.   I immediately rip my sunglasses off, taking in every inch of the room.  Black walls with dim lighting, stereotypical red carpeting and leather booths lining the room.   They have the name right with the smell of this place—sex and sin with a mixture of smoke and sweat.  There are three stages set up around the room, the center one being the largest and two smaller ones to the left and right, with a bar against the back wall and one on the top floor.   
The whole top-floor bar area is set up on a glass floor, giving these douchebags around the room the perfect view between the barely dressed servers’ legs.  Taking my eyes off the top floor, where the bartenders are clearly working the glass floor to their advantage, I scan the room again, squinting my eyes to see through the dim lighting and heavy smoke.  
That’s when I spot her.  
“What. The. Fuck,” I snarl under my breath.
The anger I felt earlier burning through my body starts to boil.  It’s almost as if my body becomes a force of its own.  The monsters inside me wanting free.  
There she stands, not even five feet away, looking exhausted, wearing next to nothing.  Her skirt—if that’s what you want to call it—is more like a napkin someone cut in half.  From the way she stands—slightly to the side—I can just make out the perfect roundness of her ass peeking out the bottom of the hem.  Her pert tits are pushed together and held in a tight bikini top, the fabric so thin that I can see the outline of her nipples clear as day.
My eyes take in every inch of her exposed skin and I want to roar with rage.
No one should see her like this.  No one but me.  And even though I don’t have the right to feel this way about her, there isn’t a damn thing that can stop me now.
She hasn’t seen me yet, so I stalk over to where she’s standing.  She turns right when I’m about to reach out for her and her eyes go wide, shock and alarm clear in her beautiful, honey-brown eyes.
“What the fuck are you doing, Em?” I bite out.  
She shrinks back at my tone before she catches herself and goes stiff.  I can tell instantly that I’m not going to like anything she has to say.  
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me, Emmy.  What in the hell are you doing in this place?”
She tilts her head slightly, taking me in.  Her eyes leave mine and roam the room before she gives a stiff nod.  When she turns her focus back to me, I go stock-still at her words. 
“I’m exactly where I should be, Maddox.  I’m home.”  Her tone is submissive, and that fury inside me goes from a boiling fire to ice cold.
With that, she turns and stalks off towards the bar.  And I see that not only is her ass hanging out, but so are her hot-pink boy shorts.  
“Dude.  She’s a fine piece of ass, right?”  The man she was just talking to speaks in awe.
“Shut your fucking mouth,” I growl, feeling that rage return like a switch has been flipped.
“Ah, you’re new here.  Just sit back, my friend, and get ready for the show.”  He laughs, takes a deep pull from his beer, and turns his attention back to the main stage, where the current entertainment is doing her best to swallow the fucking pole with her pussy.  She’s working so hard for it that she might as well be fucking the damn thing.  
I’m no stranger to strip clubs.  Back when the guys were all single, we would hit some local ones around California.  No better way to let off some steam from the shit that is constantly swirling around in my head than to sit in a room full of naked woman.  Where the music pounds into your body, the drinks are always flowing, and the pussy is in abundance.  
One thing’s for sure: This isn’t a place for Emmy.  Hell no.
Without taking my eyes from Emmy, I drop my body into the nearest booth.  She’s in a heated argument with the bartender and an older man who looks about as run-down as this fucking town.  She throws her hands in the air, her head moving wildly, and if I had to guess, her stunning eyes are burning bright.  She points over to me a few times, and all the older man does is shake his head, obviously not giving her what she wants.  I just scowl at them from the booth, waiting for her to walk her ass back over here so I can explain to her that it’s time to go.
“Hey there, handsome,” a raspy voice says to my right.  “Looking for some fun tonight?  I bet a big man like you would be up for something wild.”  
“No.”  I don’t even look at her.  My eyes never leave Emmy—who is now looking at me.  A mix of ire and hurt is written all over her face.  Even with the shit lighting in this place, I can see it…and I hate it.
Fucking hurt?  Is she serious right now?  Pissed I can understand.  She didn’t want to be found and I found her.
“I won’t bite, baby.  That is unless you want me to.”  Her hands snake around my neck and down my chest.  
Turning my attention away from Emmy, I look at the bleach-blonde hair, weathered skin, and fake tan of this bitch in front of me.  I’ll give her credit—she tries to hide it with more than enough makeup for about ten women, but this piece of work in front of me has to be pushing fifty.
“I said no, woman.  What part of that didn’t you understand?  And for the last time, do not touch me.”  I reach up and pull her hand off my stomach before she can go any further.
Moving my eyes back to where I last saw Emmy has me coming up empty.  What the hell?  I scan the room but she is still nowhere to be found.
“Ah, sweet cheeks.  I know what you want.  Good luck with that one.  Rose doesn’t play around, and honey, why would you want her when you can have me?  After all, I taught her everything she knows.”  She leans down and, before I can guess her intent, licks my neck, clearly taking my distraction at her words to her advantage.
I turn swiftly and move into her space, making sure she doesn’t mix this shit up in her head to think that I would somehow ever want her ass.
“Do. Not. Touch. Me.  You got that, sweet cheeks?”
She looks me in the eyes for a few beats before throwing her head back and laughing.  The sound of it hits my ears like nails on a chalkboard.
“Your loss.”
When she walks off, I start my scan of the room again.  No Emmy in sight.  I run my hand over my buzzed scalp before settling in for the wait.
Thirty minutes later and I still haven’t found her.  The crowd is getting restless.  The chicks taking turns on the stage now haven’t been impressive and they undoubtedly want more.  The pole humper has moved on to one of the smaller stages.  The last act on the main stage was slightly better, but all she did was basically finger-fuck herself on the stage before fumbling to get to her feet on her ridiculous heels.
Jesus Christ.
I wait, determined not to leave until I have her with me.  Another thirty minutes and two more rotations on the stages have my frustration levels going up even higher.  How the hell did she just disappear?  I know she didn’t leave.  The tracking device on her car, which is sitting right next to my truck in the parking lot, hasn’t alerted me of any movement.  I’ll be damned if she takes off on me again.
After signaling over another server, I order a beer and check my phone again to make sure the tracker isn’t malfunctioning.  I’m just putting my phone in my pocket when a deep voice cuts over the music.  
“Gentleman of Syn.  It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for.  The one your dicks have been begging for all fucking night.  The Princess of Syn herself.  The one and only, Rose!”
The Princess of Syn?  What an idiot.  I laugh to myself, placing my beer to my lips for a long pull.  The music starts and the first few notes of Lollipop by Framing Hanley fill the air.  Got to give this chick props—at least she picked a good song.
The house lights go down, plunging the room into darkness, before a spotlight hits the main stage.  The smoke clinging to the air gives the stage an eerie glow.  I take my eyes off the action and attempt scan the darkness of the room again for Emmy.  Movement by the back corner catches my attention at the same time that the crowd goes electric.  Idiots start throwing their money left and right, calling to this Princess of Syn to take them.
What morons.
I focus on the corner again and see the blonde from earlier smiling her wicked smile at me before pointing to the stage.  Turning back to the stage, I watch as a woman, who I assume is this so-called princess, spins effortlessly on the pole, her movements all but blurring her body from the men wishing she were spinning on their dicks.  It doesn’t take me long to see why the bitch from earlier is telling me to look.  
With one quick spin, her hands are placed at the center and her legs are spread wide and parallel to the pole, showing off her barely there G-sting, I see my Emmy.  It takes a second for the shock to wear off, and in that second, she gracefully drops from her spin with a guarded smile to the men crowding the stage.  Lifting her small hands from her side, she drags them up her flat stomach to take her tits in hand and jiggles them.  
Fucking jiggles them.
I can’t control my body at this point.  I’m focused on one thing—the best way to get her off that stage and out of this place.
She reaches up and, in a move that is obviously practiced, removes her top, throwing it in to the crowd.  There she dances with her body on display, caressing her naked tits until her nipples pebble.  Turning her back to the room, she bends at the waist and starts to slowly pull her G-sting down her long, toned legs.
This is when the reality of this situation hits me.  I’ll fucking kill all of these motherfuckers in the room.   
Then she drops to her knees before getting on all fours and crawling towards the end of the stage.
Hell.  No.
I’m on my feet in seconds, stalking through the crowd, pushing any man who stands in the way of my woman and me.  I don’t even lift my arms from my side.  I just barrel through the bodies with one goal in mind.  
She doesn’t see me coming since she’s back on her feet and walking to the pole again.  With a leap that would make my high school track coach proud, I’m on the stage, and a second later, I have a naked Emmy thrown over my shoulders before I jump off the stage.  The sharp pain up my leg does nothing to extinguish my determination.
I can see the bouncers coming, and with one hand on her slick ass, I reach out and punch the first one in the face, taking great pleasure watching him instantly buckle to the floor.  The other one comes at me from the side, but he doesn’t get far before I pick up the chair to my left one-handed and crack it against his fucking head.
Emmy is struggling with such vigor that I’m forced to put her down.  She looks up, ready to spit fire at me, before snapping her mouth shut when she sees the expression on my face.  I have no doubt that I look just as feral as I feel.
“Don’t you open that sweet fucking mouth, Emersyn.  I swear to Christ, now is not the time to fucking piss me off any further.”  
I rip my shirt off and roughly pull it over her head.  She struggles and puts up a fight, momentarily distracting me from the third bouncer coming at full throttle.  His fist takes me by surprise, but not for long.  Grabbing her wrist so she doesn’t get away, I turn to the motherfucker stupid enough to get in my way.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” I seethe. 
He goes to punch me again, but I duck and pop up before he realizes he failed.  Bringing my head forward, I head-butt him right between the eyes and almost smile when he falls instantly.  
I’m stopped at the door by the last bartender she was speaking with earlier.  He goes to make a move but pulls up when he sees the look in my eyes.  I’ll fucking kill and I’m sure it’s written clear as day on my face.
“Do it.  I dare you.”  My tone leaves no room for argument.  I’m leaving with her and there isn’t a person on this Earth who can stop me.
Since day one, she's been the greatest temptation, but I refused to take everything innocent that is Emmy and let my blackness take her. Because that's what will happen. It will wrap around her soul and slowly choke the life out of her. Just like every other person I've allowed in. I'll taint her, I'll ruin her, And in the end, it will destroy her.

I have been eagerly awaiting Maddox and Emmy's story as it has been teased throughout this entire series. It was obvious Maddox had issues that  kept him from opening up. And Maddox and Emmy had danced around each other for years with her longing for him, him longing for her but completely holding back. But Holy Hell! I never expected some of the past issues that are finally revealed...not only for Maddox, but Emmy as well. Wow! 

My very being calls out to her, and I work daily to refuse it. So I pushed. Until she ran. But that ends right now. 

We start in the present (where we last left them when Emmy ran off) then hop back to their pasts in both points of view. I am not going to lie...some of the subject matter is rough, uncomfortable, infuriating, and heartbreaking. Both of these two have been through  so much at the hands of others, and are so damaged. Despite having traumatic pasts,  Emmy can look towards the light and see the positive, but Maddox focuses on the darkness. 

"I know exactly what I'm talking about. I know because my soul recognizes its mate. Its kindred spirit. We both have our pain, Maddox. We both have the shame of our past and the fear it holds on the future. The only difference is you let that pain and fear rule your heart. And the difference in me is that I am willing to risk it all day in and day out for just a second of your love."

The only one who can really get in and heal them is the other one. But Maddox has walls so high and strong that he does not want to let her in for her own protection. He has been conditioned to believe he ruins everything he touches. And Emmy has finally given up on Maddox being the one to help her escape her past forever. Their push and pull continues, but now we are seeing a bit more balance. Emmy is no longer satisfied sitting around hoping and waiting for Maddox to get it together. She is determined that she is going to either let him go or he can start fighting for her too. 

There is  anger, frustration, fighting, sexual tension, hurt feelings, and volatile reactions. It was maddening, frustrating, painful, and kept me on edge. Maddox is one of the most broken, closed off alphas I have ever read about and he just keeps reinforcing those damn walls. But it is not for selfish reasons, he really believes it is best for her....again those dark thoughts of his. And Emmy has been hurt and has reason to wonder if she will ever get what she truly wants from the enigma that is Maddox Locke.

His mind keeps telling him no, to stay away and keep me out. But his heart--God, his beautiful heart--keeps calling out to me, and like a glutton for punishment, I keep going back for more. 

Every glimmer of hope, every setback, every little battle won, every heartbreak had me anxious and hurting along with them. This couple had to really fight themselves, their demons, toxic people, and their fears. I truly felt for them as their secrets were gradually exposed and they opened themselves up to judgment. But as the layers were peeled back and they began to open up, it was really an emotional and beautiful thing despite the ugliness that it stemmed from.

"Please, don't give up on me."

I was happy to finally get to know and understand the motivations and inner workings of these characters more. I admired Emmy's sass and loving nature, and Maddox's protectiveness and big heart when he showed it. They both had such inner strength and determination,  and when they were on the same page, they made a formidable team. It just took a lot of effort and understanding to figure out where they could possibly find middle ground.

"We all have baggage, Maddox. I wish that you could understand that I'm not asking for perfection. What you fail to realize is that I have two arms just begging for you to let me held you carry that baggage."

This is about trust, opening up, the power of unconditional love and healing. We have seen them go through so much and it took a long time to even begin the process. But I was totally enthralled watching it all take place...from avoidance, to fights, to making up, to sharing, to taking a stand, coming together, and finding small blessings. It was a dramatic and emotional journey that required a lot of determination, patience, forgiveness, and true love. And in addition to their internal and relationship struggles, they also had to face outside influences causing pain, danger, and trepidation. I think I hated some of the antagonists in this book more than many I have read about. They seriously made me so angry and disgusted me so much that I wished them serious harm and for karma to come back on them. 

The  gang is all back in all of their alpha and tough chick glory with their kids in tow...and of course the flamboyant, glitter wielding Sway is back as well...and in the past we even get to visit with a friend that we have lost. I love all of their interactions and rapport between these characters and it is always fun getting updates on their lives. This is a tight group that illustrates that family is what you make it and consists of who you love.

I could not put this book down and felt like we got all of the answers and resolution that we have been seeking. Even though this is officially the end of the Corps Security series, I am excited about the tease for the next chapters in their lives...the alpha dads having to deal with the kids growing up in the spin off with Cohen Cage and Dani Reid in Unexpected Fate.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

As the final book in the Corps Security series, Locke was a bittersweet read to approach. We have seen so much of Maddox and Emmy’s tension building throughout the series, so the anticipation of being inside their heads was well developed. But at the same time, it’s the last one! There won’t be more down the road (well, not from the original Corps men anyway). That being said, I loved the development of this story from start to finish. 

I couldn’t help but love the back and forth that Emmy and Maddox experienced throughout the book: while Maddox chases Emmy, Emmy tries to break down Maddox’s walls, and Maddox battles his demons, and so much more. It has been clear for a while that they both cared for the other, but Maddox keeping himself closed off from everyone and Emmy’s disappearance after Coop died has continued to keep them apart. Watching them finally start to tear down walls, start to give a little, run a little less was exactly what I was looking for from them. 

Emmy’s parents and past have me feeling ill. But Maddox’s mother takes the cake. She has me fuming with her judgement, hate, and animosity. Everything she does in relation to Maddox is absolutely abhorrent. I am left with an awful taste in my mouth after reading both their pasts, but at the same time so much light is shed on what we’ve seen from these two in previous books.

Neither of them had an easy journey to go from the individuals they were to the couple they wanted to be. Maddox especially had some deep seeded ghosts he needed to deal with before he could open up to another person. 

Part of me thinks Emmy had a pretty smooth journey to heal her emotional scars. But the other part of me recognizes that she has a completely different outlook on life than Maddox does and that her past didn’t leave the same scars his did simply because she wouldn’t let it. And that is pretty amazing in and of itself. Her past with Coop is also clear. I didn’t think I could love him any more, but I was proven wrong in this last book in the series. 

As with all the Corps Security novels, Axel, Cage, Beck, and Asher are involved in the story as much as Maddox and Emmy will let them. This group has formed themselves into such a cohesive extended family that their absence would have been more surprising than their presence. The women they have all brought to the group are exactly the same way, giving space or support as each situation calls for (whether Maddox and Emmy want that space or support, or not). Even Cooper, in the scenes from the past, was such a bright spot of support and though he isn’t in the present scenes, his influence lasts and I loved seeing some of that fun-loving, easy-going man that we all loved so much. 

Reaching the end of the book was as cathartic as it was sad. Cathartic because it really was a perfect resolution. Sad because this is the last of the Corps Security boys to find their peace. But it also left me excited for Harper’s next book which will be Cohen’s book. Cohen has played a big role in the family lives of the Corps men since Caged, and we’ve seen hints of him that I can’t wait to read his own book.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Titles linked to info on author's website

Harper lives in small town Georgia just a short drive from her hometown of Peachtree City. She (and her 3 daughters) enjoy ruling the house they dubbed 'Estrogen Ocean', much to her husbands chagrin. Harper has a borderline unhealthy obsession with books; you can almost ALWAYS find her with her eReader attached. She enjoys bad reality TV and cheesy romantic flicks. Her favorite kind of hero--the super alpha kind!

Harper started using writing as a way to unwind when the house went to sleep at night; and with a house full of crazy it was the perfect way to just relax. It didn't take long before a head full of very demanding alphas would stop at nothing to have their story told.
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