Em and Em by Linda Budzinski Book Blitz

Em and Em by Linda Budzinski 
Published by: Swoon Romance
Publication date: September 15th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

The last thing sixteen-year-old Emily Slovkowski wants is to move away from her home at the Jersey shore, gorgeous surfer boyfriend Zach, and her entire identity. But that’s kind of how Witness Protection works, and Em must prepare herself for an epic do-over as she starts a new life in the Midwest.
Even as she pines for sandy beaches and the night life of the shore, the newly-named Ember O’Malley finds herself making new friends, taking photos for the high school newspaper, and thinking an awful lot about the paper’s editor, an oddly cute cowboy named Charles.
When Em stumbles upon a shady beneath-the-bleachers exchange between one of the school’s football coaches and a student, she refuses to get involved. The last thing she needs is to be witness to another crime or call attention to herself. Besides, she finally has some real friends – well, real except for the fact that they don’t know a single thing about her – and she prefers to keep it that way until the trial.
But as her day in court approaches, Em begins piecing together what she saw that day beneath the bleachers. And, as her own past secrets start to catch up with her, Em needs to figure out who she really is – Em or Em.


Random Excerpts

Marissa arched a meticulously plucked eyebrow. “We’re not a bunch of hicks, you know. We may not have skyscrapers and traffic and … ” She waved a hand in the air, trying to think of one other thing a major metropolis might have that her cow-infested county did not.

“A decent coffee shop?” Ember offered. It was one of the things she missed most since she’d arrived. Besides the shore. And Zach.

“We have a Starbucks inside the grocery,” Marissa muttered, but it was obvious the way she and the other girls shifted in their seats that they all knew how lame that sounded.

Claire spoke up. “So. Big game tonight!” Her voice was a little too bright, but the change of subject worked. Ember gave her a grateful smile as the girls’ conversation took off into a barrage of plans for pregame warm ups and post-game parties.

Ember nibbled at her sandwich and studied them. Their hair, their makeup, the way they dressed, and the stuff they talked about—they were different from the girls back home, but also the same. She tried to imagine what would have happened if she’d tried to sit down at a table full of cheerleaders at her old high school. Impossible.

*          *          *

Whap! The wave upended the board and Emily with it. The roar of the surf filled her ears and then disappeared as she plunged into a silent darkness. She tumbled for a moment, helpless and disoriented. The scrape of sand against her knees and the amused stare of a snot-nosed boy standing ankle-deep as she surfaced made her humiliation complete.

She turned to retrieve her board and caught sight of Zach riding a wave, much bigger than the one that had humbled her. She marveled as he weaved up and down and around. So beautiful.

“You almost had that one,” he shouted as they paddled back out together. “If you could get up a little more quickly … ”

Emily forced a smile. Timing wasn’t the problem. Fear was. She tried again and again, always with the same result. She’d manage to get her feet on the board and her butt in the air, but her fingers would cling to the edges like a starfish to the rocks.

*          *          *         

Ember hesitated. She should keep her mouth shut. She didn’t need to be a witness to another crime, and she certainly didn’t need to be nark-ing out the one person in Boyd County who knew her real identity and could expose her at any time. Still, a part of her wanted to confide in Claire. She was so sick of lying, of pretending, of keeping secrets.

“Ember, are you okay?” Claire reached out and touched her arm.

Ember grabbed her hand and held it. “If I tell you something, will you promise not to tell anyone?”

Claire nodded, her eyes wide. “Of course.”

“During the homecoming game, I saw something I shouldn’t have. Under the bleachers.”

Claire drew back. “You mean … Tommy Walker?”


Claire jumped up and plugged her ears. “Ew, gross. Don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear it. Ew, ew, ew.” She grabbed Ember’s shoulders. “I realize you can never un-see that, but you have to try to forget. Understand?”

Ember laughed and nodded. Claire had the wrong idea—a very, very wrong idea—but something about her reaction, her sweetness, her innocence, snapped Ember back to reality. No way could she confide in this girl. That huge ball of lies, pretending, and secrets she was living formed the entire basis of their friendship.

*          *          *         

Charles scrambled up a steep set of stairs leading to a loft.

Ember hesitated. Was she crazy to follow him up there? After all, she didn’t know him that well. What if under that sweet geek-boy exterior he was no different from Jimmy and Brad and their teammates? She hadn’t seen another soul when they’d pulled in. Perhaps she was a lamb being led to slaughter.

Charles peered over the edge of the loft. “You coming? You’re going to love this.”

“What is it? Can you bring it down?”

“It’s a surprise. And no.” Charles’s forehead creased, and he nodded toward the stairs. “You’re not afraid of heights, are you?”

“No.” Ember took a deep breath and climbed up. She stopped near the top of the staircase and peered around. The loft was empty except for a few scattered piles of hay. Charles sat in the far corner, a huge grin on his face. Her stomach clenched. He’d said he could “cheer her up.” Was this what he had in mind—a literal roll in the hay? Was that how he thought of her?

Ember gripped the railing so hard her palms hurt. It was as though she had a blinking neon sign hanging over her head. “I’m Easy!” She’d thought she could leave the hot tub, the video, and her whole miserable sophomore year behind her, but maybe she couldn’t. Not even halfway across the country. Not even with new hair, a new wardrobe, a new name. Maybe she was and always would be the Girl in the GIF, Emily Slutkowski.

*          *          *         

Charles leaned toward her. “Come on, tell me. What kind of photographer do you want to be?”

Ember pulled the sleeves of her sweater down over her hands. She drew up her knees and hugged them into her chest. She’d never talked about this to anyone. What if it sounded stupid? “I want to be a portrait photographer, but not the kind that takes pictures in the studio; the kind that takes pictures of people out in the real world, being who they are and doing the things they love to do.”

She glanced at him. He didn’t look as though he thought she was stupid. He looked… interested. “You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, I want to tell stories about people. True stories. Stories of who they are deep down.” Like that picture of Trina. The one that proved she wasn’t too old or too cool to love the thrill of the wind tugging a kite up, up, up into the sky. “I want to take pictures that push past people’s images and uncovers something real.”

Charles whistled. “Now that’s a dream.”

“Sorry. It’s silly, right?”

“No, not at all.” Charles leaned in even closer, his face just a few inches from hers. His voice was barely a whisper. “I didn’t mean it’s an impossible dream. I meant it’s the kind of dream worth dreaming.”

I live in Northern Virginia with my husband, Joe, and our feisty chihuahua, Demitria (also known as Dee Dee, The Puppy, and Killer). I'm a sucker for romance and reality TV and have been known to turn off my phone's ringer when watching "The Bachelor." My favorite flower is the daisy, my favorite food is chocolate, and my favorite song is "Amazing Grace."

I write young adult romance. My novels, both published by Swoon Romance YA, are EM & EM and THE FUNERAL SINGER. I am represented by Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc

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