June 19, 2019

Risking It All Blog Tour: Excerpt + Giveaway


Risking It All
Author: S.M. Koz
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Publication Date: June 18, 2019
Publisher: Swoon Reads


A high-achieving teen who’s determined to become a fighter jet pilot is matched up with an accused criminal at an elite military boarding school in SM Koz’s YA novel, Risking It All.

Paige knows exactly what she wants—to graduate from Wallingford Academy and become a pilot in the US Air Force. She’s inherited her father’s no-nonsense attitude and whip-smart intelligence, all of which have made her the perfect Wallingford cadet.

Wallingford Academy is the last place in the world Logan wants to be. But after his girlfriend borrows his car and commits a crime, Logan takes the fall and ends up there with hopes of striking a decent plea bargain. For him, graduation can’t come soon enough.

When Paige is asked to mentor Logan, it’s the perfect opportunity to prove her leadership skills—but she doesn’t account for the feelings that start to develop or the baggage from Logan’s past which could threaten both of their futures.

After finishing, I start toward the gym, but stop and watch Evans instead. Something has changed. Over the past week, he hasn’t been nearly as disagreeable. He still says rude things occasionally, but it’s not as bad as it was.

It almost feels like he’s starting to accept Wallingford.

Have I done it? Have I transformed him into a respectable cadet?

He stops drinking and straightens up.

“What?” he asks after wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“You’re coming around,” I say. “I like it.”

“You mean you like that I’ve given up? After days of constantly being ordered around and ridiculed and made to feel like a third-class citizen, it was bound to happen sooner or later.”

His words cause my self-congratulatory back patting to stop. Yes, he’s supposed to be ordered around, but not be ridiculed. As a mentor, I’m supposed to build up his confidence and show him he can succeed here. If he thinks I’m demeaning, then . . . I’m not doing a good job at all.

“You think I’ve ridiculed you?”

He shrugs and waves off the comment as he steps back inside the gym. “I know it’s your job. Tear me down to build me up, right? You can’t fix us until we’re at rock bottom. The good news is I’m about there. Any day now I should be a crying mess, lying in the fetal position on the floor of my room.”

I give him an intense stare. Is he serious? Or trying to be funny? I wish I could read him better. He certainly doesn’t look like he’s on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. We had one cadet reach that point, and he was not rocking the guitar at band practice or rolling

around on the ground as puppies licked him during our community service. Of course, I still don’t know what Evans did to be sent here. It’s serious, that much I know, so could the combination of those troubles along with Wallingford be enough to push him over the edge?

“I can’t read you,” I say bluntly. “Are you serious or joking?”

He cracks a smile and laughs, which makes me lean toward joking.

“That,” he says, pointing his finger at me, “may be the only thing we have in common. I can’t read you, either.”

“I’m confused right now,” I say so there will be no ambiguity. “If you’re serious about reaching rock bottom, we should go to the nurse. If you’re joking . . . well, that’s not something to joke about.”

“I’m joking,” he says before leaning against the wall with his foot propped up on it. “I would never melt down on the floor—it’s much too uncomfortable. I’d at least do it in my bed . . . or maybe that big blue mat they use for high jump. That looks nice and comfy.”

I continue watching him, feeling unsure of myself. It’s an unfamiliar and uncomfortable feeling I don’t much care for. “I need you to be absolutely, one hundred percent, serious with me right now.”

He laughs again. “I’m good,” he says.

“Your problems from home aren’t getting you down?”

He shrugs.

“Am I being too tough on you?”

He shrugs again.

“Okay, come on,” I say, waving my arm. “We’re visiting the nurse.”

He smiles and shakes his head. “I was trying to be funny. I’m not going to off myself if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Mental health is not a joking matter.”

His face becomes more serious. “You’re right. Sorry.”

“There’s usually some truth to what people say when they’re trying to be funny.”

He looks out the doorway, takes a deep breath, and then meets my gaze. “You want the truth? The truth is I’m homesick,” he says. “I miss my mom. My cat, Coconut. My girlfriend. My friends. My body is exhausted from our ridiculously long days and all the push-ups and pull-ups and lunges and running and everything else I have to do when I’m used to being a couch potato. My mind is exhausted from having to learn how to change everything about myself. I’m tired of constantly being on guard whenever Jernigan is within ten feet of me, I’m tired of fighting with you, and I’m tired of wondering when my girlfriend is going to break up with me.”

He starts to run his hand through his nonexistent hair but stops when he seems to realize it’s been shaved off. “I’d love to have my hair back,” he says, confirming my suspicions. “I’d love to escape these prison walls for ten minutes for something other than community service. I’d love to be able to take a shower again without forty other naked guys walking around and I’d love to be able to sleep in until even eight o’clock at least one day. And would it kill the school to have a vending machine? Do you have any idea what I’d give for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup right about now?”

I shake my head.

“Like fifty bucks! I’m worn out and angry and frustrated and sad and lonely and have a serious chocolate deficiency.” His shoulders slump, and he takes a deep breath. “But I’ll make it

because I have no other choice. I just need to do my best to keep my head above water as I tread from one day to the next, making as few ripples as possible.”

“That I believe,” I say quietly.

SM Koz was born in Michigan, but moved to North Carolina for college and never left. She enjoys traveling, camping, hiking, photography, reading, spending time with foster kids who call her house home, and learning new things. When she’s not creating online training for pharmaceutical companies (her day job) or writing, Koz can be found at the local community college taking courses on various topics ranging from digital art to HTML to desktop publishing. SM Koz has written six novels. Although her stories differ by genre, ranging from contemporary realism to sci-fi to fanfiction, two things they all have in common are a young or new adult focus and romance. If you’d like to learn more about SM Koz, check her out on social media.


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