Friday, March 7, 2014

Blog Tour: Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken


Everyone has a secret...

Gabe Hyde is on borrowed time. He's been hiding his identity for over four years-hidden from the world that used to adore him--obsess over him--driven to the edge of insanity by one poor choice. 

But that one choice, altered the course of his life forever. 

Pretending isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when pretending means hiding your real self from the people that care about you the most. But if anyone ever discovered the truth it wouldn't just be his life at risk--but hers. 

Saylor doesn't hate men. 

Just Gabe. 

Only Gabe. 

He's a reckless, happy-go-lucky, silver spoon fed pain in her ass. Everything about him makes her more and more confused. Unfortunately they both donate time at the same Group Home. If she wasn't afraid of flunking, she'd be long gone. She hates that she's attracted to him almost as much as he hates that he's attracted to her--and she can tell, especially since their first encounter ended up making her knees so weak she couldn't form
coherent sentences for weeks afterwards. But the closer she gets to him, the more confused she becomes. He isn't who he says he is, and he's hiding something big. 

What happen when two worlds collide? Two worlds that never should have met in the first place? Some secrets are too big to be hidden forever--the only question? Will his destroy everyone he loves? Or finally bring about the redemption he's been craving for the past four years?

Everyone has a secret...What's yours?


Life has two stages.
Birth and death. That’s it. What you do in between the two? Well, that’s up to
you, isn’t it? —Wes M


Behind me, Gabe ceased all motion. The only way I knew he was
still there was from the heat that seeped into my back from where his body
touched me. More warmth rolled off his hands where they seemed fused to mine.
Any minute now, I expected him to pull away, to slip into mask number one or
mask number two. Instead, he flipped my hands over, gripping them with his
fingers and exhaled, long and slow. Seconds went by, but they may as well have
been years. Each time he let out a breath, my heart skipped a beat of longing,
needing more of his touch — more of something. My back tingled as the hard
planes of his stomach pressed against me. I was in a Gabe cocoon.
And I loved it.
Until the music started.
With slight pressure, Gabe moved my hands to the piano, slowly,
effortlessly placing them on each key.
He was playing through me, using my body as an
instrument to convey the story of his life. Each time he pressed down on one of
my fingertips or guided me to another area of the piano, I felt the sadness of
the song clench deeper. The notes became floating tendrils of pain, each one of
them slowly invading my body and taking hold until it hurt to breathe.
He moved faster and faster, my hands couldn’t keep up. I pulled
back as he continued the song, in such a rush it was like he was yelling but
doing it with music. Unable to convey it in any other way.
With a final burst of movement, he lifted his hands off the
piano and smashed them against the keys, causing a chaos of notes to burst
Gabe’s breathing was uneven, ragged as he leaned heavily against
me, his chin resting on my head, and he whispered brokenly, “I can’t.”
“You were doing so good.”
“It’s like getting into a car with suicidal tendencies. You keep
going faster and faster, needing the adrenaline to keep you alive until
suddenly you turn the wheel and everything goes black. The notes, they go
higher and higher, and right when I feel like I can change the outcome — I
panic. Some things…” He sighed and pulled away. “Some things are better left in
“Are you sure about that? Are you sure about perfection?” I
folded my hands in my lap, but didn’t turn around.
“Sure.” He moved from behind me and sat on the bench. “If life
was perfect, how in the hell would we ever learn to depend on someone other
than ourselves? If anything, that’s what life’s taught me. The need to be
perfect is stemmed in the very belief that it’s actually something we can
achieve. Self-actualization — doesn’t exist.”
I licked my lips and looked down at the keys. “Does that mean we
don’t try then?”
“No.” Gabe tickled a few of the ivory keys in front of him, the
music note tattoos on his fingertips looking darker against the white of the
piano. “It just means when you reach the end of your rope, you shouldn’t regret
a damn thing, but applaud yourself for trying to do the impossible.”
I felt like he was using double meanings. The philosophical Gabe
was a bit terrifying because he made me feel more insecure than the jackass
Gabe. But the guy sitting next to me right now? I was beginning to understand,
he wasn’t just one person. He was every person, everything, whatever he needed
to be, he was.
Like a chameleon.
And suddenly the ending to the story made sense.
Ten different notes all clamoring at once.
Gabe was Chaos.
“So.” He sniffed and cleared his throat. “Now that I’ve totally
ruined the moment by talking in my serious voice and scaring the shit out of
you — why don’t we work on one of your performance pieces?”
“Okay.” I placed my hands on the piano again, careful to angle
my wrists at the perfect degree and keep my eyes on the music ahead. Sometimes
I wondered if my posture was better than my playing.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asked in calm voice.
I turned and gave him a firm nod[L1] . “I’m getting ready.”
“To go to battle?”
“What?” I relaxed my hands a bit. “No.” I straightened. “This is
the right posture, it’s—”
“If you say perfect, I’m going to kill myself.”
“Someone should have majored in drama.”
He burst out laughing. “Oh, honey, you have no idea.”
“So?” I lifted my wrists again and looked ahead.
“Fine.” He smirked. “Play just like that.”
“Okay.” I started one of my harder pieces, Piano Sonata 14. It
felt exactly the same. The movement wasn’t as fast as some of the others, but
the timing for it had to be perfect.
“Close your eyes,” Gabe instructed.
He swatted my wrists. “No arguing with your piano master.”
“Say ‘yes, master’.”
I smiled tightly, my eyes focusing on the music in front of me.
I started slowly playing. “Not in this lifetime.”
“Bet I could make you say it.” His voice had an arrogant lift to
it, which made me all the more irritated. Master? Um, no.
“Eyes.” He growled again.
With a resigned sigh, I closed my eyes. “Better?”
“Immensely,” he said smoothly.
Darkness enveloped my world. All I had were the notes at my
fingertips. All I had was the music — that and Gabe.
He wasn’t saying anything.
Which killed me.
It also made me want to open my eyes, but I knew he’d probably
just tell me to close them again, so I kept playing.
And then, with a teasing touch, his fingers grazed my chin,
slowly tilting it down toward the piano while his other hand went to my upper
back then slowly moved down until it was in the middle, with a gentle push, he
urged my body closer to the keys.
Eyes closed, posture completely off, I leaned over the piano.
Everything felt wrong as I continued playing.
“Slower,” he said softly.
With a sigh, I started playing slower. His hands moved to my
hips. And stayed there. Other than jumping a foot, I was still able to
“The music,” he whispered, “It’s not just your story — it’s your
“Okay,” I squeaked. Heat washed over me as the word lover bounced
around in my brain. I knew it, but I’d never experienced it. How was I supposed
to use something I didn’t know how to use? And how embarrassing was it that I
was stuck in that tiny room having never been… stuck in a tiny room with any
guy? Lover. I’d take him. If I got a choice. It would be him. But people like
Gabe, beautiful people who had music in their soul, who knew how to speak
without words… they weren’t for girls like me.
“Each stroke…” His hands pressed against my hips making me gasp.
“You need to feel it not just on your fingertips — but everywhere.”
Holy. Crap.
“Feel it here,” he squeezed and then ran his hands lightly up my
sides, then resting right underneath my breasts, he pressed again. “And here.”
My breathing picked up speed, as did my music.
“Slow down,” he commanded in that same irritating patient tone.
“Where is this story taking me? Where are you taking your lover?”
“Huh?” I breathed.
“Use your hands to tell me the story — use your body to propel
the story forward, what happens next… Tell the story, Saylor. Make me feel it
without even touching you.”
“But — that’s impossible.”
“You can feel a kiss without touching someone’s lips.”
“I’m confused.”
“Concentrate.” Gabe’s voice was firm. “I want to kiss you.”
“What?” He was lucky I didn’t actually collapse against the
piano this time.
“In the story.” He chuckled. “I want to kiss you in this story,
so kiss me.”
“You want me to get up and kiss you?” Mind you, I was still
trying to play a difficult piece as he was asking me this, which basically
meant I must have had talent, because my body was on fire.
“Without our mouths meeting.”
“Through the music.” I clarified in a doubtful voice.
I could hear the smile in his tone as he answered. “Yes, through
the music, show me what the kiss would feel like. I want to taste it.”
“But how?”
He laughed softly. “I’m touching them.”
“My lips,” he countered. “They’re soft, open, wet…”
I squirmed on the piano bench, squeezing my eyes shut. “What
“As I part my lips… I wonder what your tongue tastes like, what
type of pressure you’d use as you pressed your velvety smooth mouth against
mine. I imagine exploring your mouth not just because I want to — but because I
can’t help it. I’m lost. And your kiss is my salvation… so, Saylor, will you
save me?”
My fingers glided effortlessly over the piano as I imagined his
mouth — the way he smiled, the way he took his lower lip hostage when he was
deep in thought. The dark look he got in his eyes when there was something he
wanted. Our kiss would be epic.
The music picked up speed as I leaned over the piano, pounding
each note with the rhythm of my footsteps as I approached him.
His hands would reach for my hips as he pulled me closer. My
hands hovered over the keys making my hesitation known.
And then I pressed softly against the ivory, leaning forward as
if I was leaning into Gabe with my body pressed against his. My breasts brushed
the keys. I moved closer to the piano and then slowed the music.
His eyes would close.
His lips would part.
And we’d meet in the middle — because both of us wanted the same
thing. Both of us wanted to taste, to explore, to feel.
I slowed my left hand as my right hand moved quicker across the
keys, to show the anticipation.
And then, our mouths would touch.
I pounded the keys with my left hand, making it the loudest part
of the piece which wasn’t normally how it was done.
Our tongues would tangle.
I pounded the piano harder.
His fingers would dig into my arms as he lifted me into the air.
I pulled back from the piano, stopping the music, and then
gently started the rhythmic cadence again.
Our kiss was the perfect joining of music.
He was the left hand, I was the right.
Separate they sounded like silly scales.
Together — they were beautiful.
When I stopped the piece, I was sweating.
“Open your eyes,” Gabe whispered.
He was breathing so heavily it looked like he’d just run a
marathon. With a smile he tucked my fallen hair behind my ear and tilted my
chin toward him.
“That…” He leaned in. “…is how you perform. Like every kiss is
both your first and last — like you’re saying both hello and goodbye — like
you’ve just been born… like you’ve just died.”

Kathy says

Toxic is the story of Greg (Kiersten's friend from Ruin). Gabe is tortured from an event in his past. He has secrets no one knows about. It was interesting discovering so much about him that we had no knowledge or hint of in Ruin.  He really is an honorable character who was dealt a bad card in life and now lives with his guilt every day.

The opening was a little slow for me - living in Gabe's head with his sad and depressing thoughts takes its toll... yet, that makes his happily ever after even more sweet in the end.  Once we meet Saylor and Gabe meets Saylor the book heats up exponentially. Saylor is a wallflower but boy does she bloom around Gabe!  I loved their witty and sexy interactions together. Their mutual musical affinities were engaging to read. 

Revisiting all of the characters from Ruin was a treat.  They featured prominently in the story and immediately invited Saylor into the group.  Saylor fit perfectly into the circle of friends and was perfect for Gabe. 

I was a little bit torn towards the last part of the book when Gabe's history gets resolved, but I understand that it is a hard topic to venture in to (I can't say more without spoiling major parts of the book). Overall I enjoyed this sequel. 4 stars for Toxic! 

Van Dyken’s Bio:

Rachel Van Dyken is the New York
Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and
contemporary romances. When she's not writing you can find her drinking coffee
at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.

She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband and their snoring Boxer, Sir
Winston Churchill. She loves to hear from readers!

Author Links:




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