Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Available Now: One Night in New Delhi by Kemberlee Shortland

City Nights series, #27
Kemberlee Shortland

Length: Novella
Genre: Erotic Romance

Price: $3.99 (99c/99p through 24 October)


Hannah Maguire and Sudesh Kumar had been lovers in Dublin City, both studying for their degrees in similar areas of Archaeology. What she had treated as a college romance, Hannah realized, as he was leaving Dublin for the job of a lifetime back home in India, was she had lost her heart to him.

Now, five years later, Hannah is working as an archivist in the National Museum in Dublin when she's invited to the National Museum of India in New Delhi to inspect a new and rare artefact found on an archaeological dig.

The last person she expects to see when she enters the museum is Sudesh. She didn’t know where he was, or even if he was still in India, but soon learns he's the one who made the discovery, and had been the one encouraging the museum to invite her onto the project.

On meeting, everything they'd shared washes over Hannah—all of the love and passion, and a heart so broken, she still hadn't recovered. To make things more difficult, it's Deepavali/Diwali and Sudesh has promises to make it a memorable experience.

Will this one night really be one to remember, or will it send Hannah into a tailspin she might not recover from this time?

• • •

New Delhi, India


Startled, I spun at the sound of my name and stumbled into his arms, my feet coming out from under me, and the dupatta falling off my head.

As much as I hadn’t expected to see Sudesh while I was in New Delhi, it hadn’t really occurred to me that if I did, it would be in the museum. It was an illogical thought. He was as much an archaeologist as I was.

My flesh came alive as I slid against him, and every ounce of familiarity crashed over me, his familiar scent washing over me in a tidal wave. My heart pounded in my throat, cutting off my air. I was sure I looked as startled as he did.

The weight of my body in his arms compounded our closeness, as he stumbled to keep us both from falling to the floor. A few inches more, and I’d be supine with him on top of me. The thought made that place between my thighs thrum to life.

I’d always loved the way he pronounced my name. His soft accent made the old-fashioned name I never liked sound sensual and beautiful. Even now, after so long, the one simple word was like a punch in the gut that brought up all the feelings I thought I’d cried out of me.


Even to me, his name sounded like a sensual caress on my lips. I clung to him, praying he’d opt for the floor, even as he pulled me up to stand before him.

Namaste,” he greeted.

He didn’t release me but embraced me with tender familiarity. He cupped my cheek in one hand and kissed me. I felt his fingers at my nape as his palm seared its imprint on my face. I gasped against his mouth.

His kiss was too short to be passionate, but also too long to be casual. But it was just long enough to muddle my thoughts. I tasted the Masala tea on his lips, and this morning’s dream flashed before me. The short stubble around his mouth heightened the electricity building inside me.

I fisted the fabric across his back and felt the muscle mass there I hadn’t remembered from our time together in Dublin. I knew every inch of his body. His time working dig sites had obviously filled him out, and I was curious to see him as he was now.

I didn’t push him away—I couldn’t—but I had to fight my instincts to pull him closer. He’d left me heartbroken, but damn it, I suddenly didn’t care.

But as quickly as he’d kissed me, it was over. It was Sudesh who finally ended the kiss though he didn’t take his arms from around me.

His dark eyes, framed with black lashes, darted over me as if searching for something.

I couldn’t look away. Through all of my mixed emotions, I wanted to see all of him too, and compare the man he was now to the man I’d previously known.

His black hair was a little shaggier than I remembered. It fell around his face as if he’d only finger-combed it before searching me out.

The stubble around his mouth was also something new. The short whiskers surrounding his perfectly shaped full lips told me he hadn’t just missed a couple days shaving, but his style.

At college, Sudesh presented himself as a clean-shaven young man with a short hair cut. On the outside, very businesslike. He wasn’t my type of man so reluctantly agreed to go out with him but quickly realized never to judge someone by their looks. It was in the bedroom that his inner tiger emerged. Now, that tiger was very much in evidence. And I liked it.

• • •

Kemberlee Shortland is a native Northern Californian who grew up in Carmel, a community founded by artists and writers, including John Steinbeck, George Sterling, and Jack London. Over the years, Kemberlee has worked with several Carmel notables, including Doris Day, Kim Novak, and Joan Fontaine. It was in 1997, she left the employ of Clint Eastwood to live in Ireland for six months. It was during this time she met the man she would marry, and permanently relocated to live in Ireland. While always writing since a very young age, Kemberlee earned her keep for fifteen years as one of Ireland's foremost travel consultants, and also wrote travel articles about Ireland. In 2005, she saw her first romance sell, and to date, she has thirteen published titles to her name, including the best-selling Irish Pride Series. Her most recent release is Murder in Mornington, is the first book in a new cosy Irish mystery series, set in the community Kemberlee and her family now call home. Kemberlee enjoys hearing from her readers, and promises to reply to every message. Please feel free to visit her on her website or social media sites.

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Monday, 24 October 2016

Available Now in Print: The Dragon in the Garden by Erika Gardner

The Watcher Rising Series, #1
Erika Gardner

Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Digital Price: $3.99
Print Price: $/£


There is magic beneath the mundane and in The Dragon in the Garden, Siobhan Orsini witnesses it all. No lie can fool her, no glamour or illusion can cloud her Sight. She sees through them all and wishes she could close her eyes. Returning to face her past, Siobhan inherits her grandparents’ house in California’s wine country. She encounters a talking dragon, a hot fallen angel, a demon lord, a Valkyrie, and, oh yes, her ex-boyfriend. And that is just in the first twenty-four hours. 

It’s time to find out why she has this power. 

Siobhan seeks out the Oracle and learns that only her Sight can help mankind navigate the travails of an ancient war. Our world is the prize in a battle between the dragons, who would defend us, and Lucifer’s fallen angels, who seek to take the Earth for themselves. Using her gift, she will have to make a choice that will decide humanity’s future.

• • •

The memory has haunted me for years.

In the middle of a bright California summer, dark days came. My mother and grandparents spoke in hushed, serious voices, arguing about my absent father. Was it my fault he left?

A soft whimper escaped my throat and my eyes burned. I needed a hug, but no one paid any attention to me that day. So I ran away to the refuge of my grandparents’ garden where I could hide among its statues and flowers.

My eyes lingered over the familiar garden ornaments. I passed the old birdbath, the statues of gnomes, and a cheerful squirrel. I ran one hand over the stone deer. Its brown paint had faded from years under the sun. Walking with quick steps down the gravel path, I made my way to the center of the garden, my special spot where my favorite statue waited.

A gnarled apricot tree grew there. Right now it was covered with tiny green apricots. Later in the summer the sweet fruit I loved would ripen. I would get to pick them with my parents, no, just with my mother. My lip trembled. My father wouldn’t be here.

The bright-green dragon lay curled at the foot of the apricot tree, partially covered by vines. My mother called the color jade green—the same shade as my eyes. As a child she talked to all the statues, but I only spoke to the dragon. I named her Daisy. Sitting down next to her now, the tears welled up at last, spilling over my cheeks. I wrapped my arms around my legs, making myself into a little ball of five-year-old misery.

“Child, why are you sad?” said a woman’s voice.

“Who said that?” I asked, wiping my cheek.

“I did.”

“Where are you?” I stood and peered at the plants and statues around me.

“Right here.”

“Are not,” I retorted.

A soft laugh filled the air and the woman spoke again. “Perhaps you are right. Easy enough to fix, I suppose.”

The breeze picked up. The space beneath the apricot tree shimmered. Ripples warped the air like the heat over the barbecue when my father cooked. The sweet notes of wind chimes filled the yard. Grandma and Grandpa didn’t have any wind chimes. I whirled around to find the noise.

Under the branches appeared an enormous green dragon’s head. My mouth opened in a silent O and I held my breath.

• • •

Erika is a sixth generation San Franciscan of Irish descent. She attended the University of California at Davis and completed degrees in Medieval History and Biological Sciences. A lifelong lover of books and a scribbler of many tales from a young age (her first story was completed at age five) she turned to writing full-time in 2011.

Erika resides in Northern California with her incredibly hot husband, their three amazing kids, and their chocolate Labrador named Selkie. To reach Erika regarding her books, wine recommendations, or to debate which Iron Maiden album is the best (clearly, it’s Brave New World), you can find her online at

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Available Now: Swallow Hall Murder by Noreen Wainwright

Edith Horton Mysteries, #4
Noreen Wainwright

Length: Novel
Genre: Mystery

Price: $3.99 (99c/99p through 24 October)


What links the dead poet to Swallow Hall? Many lives have been damaged by a controlling mother, and more than one person has ties to the dead man.

Edith has her mind full with concerns about her own relationship and her brother’s health.

But, when one of her old friends returns home, Edith is soon involved in the mystery of the Swallow Hall Murder.

• • •

“She’s on the war path, again. I went into her room with the morning tea, knocked properly, waited for her gracious permission to enter, and all the rest of it. She still bit my head off. Tell the truth, Sylvia, I’ve had about enough of it.” Ivy took off her cap and pulled her hair back off her face, replacing the hairpins with a stabbing movement.

It was only in the safety of the kitchen when they were on their own that Ivy would refer to Sylvia by her first name. In front of the Turner family, she referred to the cook as Mrs. Casey.

Sylvia shook her head, her forehead wrinkled beneath her pinned back, greying hair. “I know. She’s getting worse. I can understand why young Beryl left, though how she could face going back to her mother and a houseful of brothers and sisters with no job, I’m sure I don’t know.”

Ivy, the parlour maid, now doing the work of the departed housemaid, Beryl, on top of her own tasks, took the opportunity to sit down for a minute. She’d been up since half-past five, and her feet were on fire.

“You did your best. I hope I did my best too, but Sylvia… imagine it, fifteen years of age and stuck out here in the middle of nowhere in what must have seemed like a madhouse. Can you blame the kid for hightailing it back to her family? For two pins, I’d go myself…”

“Don’t you dare, Ivy Moss. Look, Miss Hester will sort them out. You’ll see, things will get better, now she’s here.”

Ivy slipped off her shoes and stretched out her legs, in their sensible lisle stockings. She flexed her feet, sighing.

“I hope you’re right, but I have my doubts. It’s gone beyond that, I’m afraid. After Miss Elizabeth had accused me of coming across the corridor like an elephant,” Ivy glanced down at her eight-stone frame, “she started on with her usual nonsense.”

“Saying that you’d moved things around?”

“Worse than that. She said I’d been taking things out of her room and selling them. Ornaments, figurines…stuff that’s impossible to prove was never there in the first place. She’s clever despite it all. That’s the frightening thing.”

“Oh, Ivy. Look, no-one is going to believe her, not in a million years. Everyone knows she’s as mad as a March hare.”

A moment’s silence fell where the only sound came from the big grandfather clock. Ivy put her shoes back on and went across to the window, looking out at the back of the house. Rain pattered on the window and rustled on the ivy-clad walls. The trees were barely coming into leaf, and she could just glimpse the soft-hued stone walls of the kitchen garden. She thought she saw a glimmer of colour, then shook her head. It was nothing.

“A miserable day…outside as well as in.” She smiled at her own words. “Will we have a quick cuppa, Sylvia? Maybe turn the wireless on too? The work will be still there waiting for us when we’ve finished.”

Her friend crossed to the stove and moved the big kettle onto the hob. “Too right, girl. We ‘as to make our own fun, where we can, in this place.”

• • •

Noreen is Irish and now lives in the Staffordshire Moorlands with her husband, a dairy farmer. She works part-time as a mentor at Staffordshire University and the rest of her time is spent writing. Many of her articles and short stories have been published and she has co-written a non-fiction book.

She loves crime fiction, particularly that of the “golden age” and that is what she wants to recreate with Edith Horton’s world.

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Monday, 17 October 2016

Available Now in Print: Marred by Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta

ISBN: 9781311566508

Length: Novel
Genre: Thriller
Price: $4.99 (99c/99p through 18 Oct)
Print price: $10.99/£9.99

Buy Here: Tirgearr Publishing

When a serial killer breaks into the home of bestselling author, Sage Quintano, she barely escapes with her life. Her husband, Niko, a homicide detective, insists they move to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff. Sage buries secrets from that night—secrets she swears to take to her deathbed.

Three years of anguish and painful memories pass, and a grisly murder case lands on Niko’s desk. A strange caller begins tormenting Sage—she can’t outrun the past.

When Sage’s twin sister suddenly goes missing, Sage searches Niko’s case files and discovers similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her sister.

Cryptic clues. Hidden messages. Is the killer hinting at his identity? Or is he trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

• • •

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Even the weather betrayed me. Aqua-blue sky, not a cloud in sight. Niko and I sat in silence during the two-and-a-half hour trip north. Next week offered a new beginning, a chance to leave Boston and never look back.

I lowered the back passenger window. A light breeze ruffled farmland acres, and a full, round sun shined, burned, blazed as though this was an ordinary day. The limousine tires hit cracked asphalt, the road worn from a brutal New Hampshire winter. Birds whistled serenades. Preteens played basketball within the confines of school grounds. Young, adolescent voices carried in the crisp morning air, rustling hues of burnt orange, scarlet, and burgundy through autumn leaves. Mountains stood proudly as if they could protect us. Here, perhaps, but not in Boston, where my nightmare began eight days and six hours ago.

We drove by the Minot Sleeper Library, and my gaze narrowed on the patrons. A middle-aged woman clutched my latest novel close to her heart like a coveted treasure. Scorching heat jagged up my chest. Soon she’d enjoy my words while I endured the harshest committal.

Didn’t she know? Couldn’t she feel my pain, my anguish? Pure evil enveloped my life and then spit me out like bitterness on a delicate palate, leaving me reeling in torment.

The hearse carrying our dreams, our endless devotion, veered right through tall, iron gates and followed a winding road to the back of the cemetery.

My fingers curled around the armrest, and I shifted my sight to Niko.

Splayed hands on his knees, he turned only his head and offered a weak, faint smile. “You okay?” His voice was barely above a whisper.

To demonstrate what I thought of his stupid question, I shot him a cutting glare.

Palms up, Niko opened his arms. “What? I only asked if you were okay.”

“Seriously?” I said. “How could anyone be okay with this?”

Two funeral employees in dark suits dragged a tiny coffin from the back of the hearse. Stark white, the casket rode in their hands as the men marched over burnt, dead grass. Lowering the coffin onto two bands, they stepped away. My baby lingered above the mouth of an awaiting grave—displaying my shame, announcing my cowardice.

“We’ve gotta go.” Niko’s words churned the sickening feeling deep in my gut.

I peered through the side window, the cemetery dark and gloomy through tinted glass. The world now appeared as it should, mourning along with me.
Niko said, “Babe?”

The limo driver opened my door and startled me. He reminded me of a prison guard, hands clasped behind his back, eyes focused straight ahead. Behind him, rows and rows of ghosts, shattered lives buried deep with nothing left but a headstone to mark their existence. In the distance, an emerging sea of blue soldiered toward the grave—Niko’s fellow detectives, the ones who did nothing.

I twisted toward my husband, and a stabbing pain stole my breath. I bit my upper lip, waiting for the pang to subside. “Why are they here?”

“To pay their respects, Sage. Look, if you wanna blame someone—”

“Don’t,” I warned.

My crutches in hand, he dashed around the back of the limo to my door. Jaw clenched, I sneered at my new mode of transportation and steadied my balance with the toe of my splinted leg. I dropped my chin to my chest. Dammit. Why didn’t I fight? Why didn’t I do something, anything?

With a supportive arm around my waist, Niko coaxed me toward the gravesite. I passed him one of the crutches and rested my head against his strong chest. If only he could sweep me away, so I didn’t have to face this devastation.

I squeezed my eyes closed. I couldn’t look, couldn’t witness the finality. It wasn’t fair. I had no memories to savor. No first touch, no tiny fist gripping my finger. No first steps, first word. I never had the chance to admire a newborn’s searching eyes, gazing at the world as a wondrous place. Instead, I had the harsh reality that wicked men roamed free, leaving destruction in their wake.

I had nothing, except the faint recall of precious feet kicking my insides, yearning to break free and experience life. My baby’s lungs never had the chance to expand with oxygen-infused air. He would never know the magic of Christmas, or admire glorious lights dancing on tree limbs. My boy would not have the honor of placing a brilliant star on the top branch as his daddy lifted him so his delicate hands could reach.

For God sake, he didn’t even have a name. The headstone was marked only with, “Baby Quintano.” This was so cruel. Why did we have to endure such torture? There wasn’t much I wouldn’t do for my unborn son. But this? Dear God, not this.

Bob Jordan, the funeral director, recited the opening remarks. I cocked an ear, my grip tightening around the crutch. I slid my gaze toward Niko. Did he notice slight nuances in Bob’s pitch, the unspoken truth I insisted he conceal?

Beneath gauze bandages, sweat seeped through the multitude of stitches zigzagging across my forearms. Pain throbbed from a dislocated knee, and broken ribs labored my breath—my injuries refusing to allow a moment of repose. Thanks to a mass murderer who slipped through Niko’s grasp, tranquility no longer existed.

Tears brimmed in my husband’s red-rimmed eyes and he offered me a reassuring squeeze. “It’s almost over, babe.”

I swallowed, averted my gaze. I didn’t deserve his kindness, his love.

We huddled together opposite six Boston detectives in department dress blues. Cold stares in my direction, foreheads rippled in accusation.

Bob Jordan asked if we wanted to speak. Niko swept my hair out of my face, but I kept my head down, staring at the ground.

“I think we’re all set,” he said, tears hitching his voice.

Bob gave a slight nod and cranked a handle that lowered our child into the maw of nevermore. Hot tears slipped down the sides of my face, salt biting jagged wounds on my cheek, upper lip, and neck. The cemetery became eerily quiet. Soft gasps and muffled cries from my heart fracturing beyond repair pierced a cool September wind.

Inside I screamed, “No! Don’t take our baby! Please, stop! I can’t survive this!” Verbally, as usual, I remained silent.

As we rode through the cemetery gates, I swiveled to peer out the back windshield, a piercing ache deep in my empty womb. If only, somehow, this was just a bad dream.

• • •

Sue Coletta is a member of Mystery Writers Of America and Sisters In Crime. She lives in northern New Hampshire with her husband and four-legged baby. If you catch her strolling on the beach or roaming the rural backroads don't be surprised if she stops to chat with you about her books or her two beautiful granddaughters. Just don't ever call her Grandma.

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Friday, 14 October 2016

Available Now: The War Queen by J.M. Robison

J.M. Robison

Length: Novel
Genre: Fantasy Romance

Price: $4.99 (99c/99p through 2 October)


Altarn is the first woman to hold the position of State Head in Blindvar. When Lord Kaelin, State Head of Ruidenthall, propositions her to merger with their states, Altarn believes it’s his subtle way of taking her kingdom for his own, making himself king. On the cusp of war, she rides in disguise to her last ally, Luthsinia, to ask for help.

During her journey, Altarn is ambushed but rescued by a man called Torren who offers her protection. Quickly they realize they share a mutual attraction. Upon their arrival to Luthsinia, Altarn receives news that an army has invaded Blindvar in her absence and blames Kaelin. Except it’s not Kaelin’s army, because she discovers Kaelin is in Luthsinia for the purpose of spying on her to take her land. And Torren is not who she thought he was.

Taking advantage of the unraveling situation, Kaelin kidnaps Altarn so he can take her land without her in the way and brings her to Ruidenthall. There’s a war ship on the horizon, led by a fallen angel craving mortal worship. Kaelin realizes he needs Altarn’s help to fight this army if he’s to save his kingdom. She’s forced to agree, but how will she react when he’s wounded in battle? If she lets him die, can she fight the enemy on her own? Or if she saves his life, will he still try claiming her kingdom, or try claiming her heart?

• • •

All seven members were already seated, one baron for each major city in Blindvar. There were actually six cities, but there could not be an even number on the court.. The seventh was a random member qualified to be a court official, currently held by a female named Brigot. The idea of females serving in positions of authority was not settling easy.

Altarn walked to the head of the table, sitting in her large, leather chair which felt awkwardly like a throne, reminding her of the last king the Blindvarn citizens had dethroned more than three hundred years ago.

Her seven members waited for her to speak. Perseth pushed his glasses higher up his sweaty nose. Leodin coughed into his sleeve.

Females were not discouraged from positions in politics, but the concept still troubled many. It had been a traditionally male position to hold both the state’s title and to fill the positions in court, but Altarn had been in a particular mood eleven years ago and had broken it. She became the first female State Head and had already served one year out of the three-year session.

Two men had competed for the State Head with her. The background check on one revealed he had a criminal record. The second was leading the election by a large margin until authorities discovered he was born in Luthsinia.

“The minutes will reflect the presence of all representatives from their respective cities,” Altarn began. “On seven Midar, year three twenty-four After the Reign of Kings.” She paused to let the court scribe catch up. “So being, I am unaware as to the nature of the request for court so I will let another member proceed from here.”

Perseth stood from his chair and straightened his buttoned waistcoat over his round belly. “Baron Perseth of the City of Fellsbarren requested this session due to concerns with the present dealings with the State of Ruidenthall.”

His nasally voice made Altarn want to hand him a tissue. She drummed her fingers on the armrests. She had suspected as much.

“May I speak freely, Lady?”


Perseth pushed his glasses higher up his nose. “We all think it is impulsive of you to threaten Ruidenthall with war.”

His eyes, too round and too close to his nose, swept over the other members of the room, who all nodded.

“They have been our friends and allies since the war to dethrone our king. If Luthsinia didn’t cut straight between our two states, we might even be one. A lot of us have family who either came from Ruidenthall or who live there now.”

“Is it so easily forgotten the Lord of Ruidenthall is trying to steal Blindvar from us?”

The members at the table moaned.

“Please reflect on my use of the word ‘impulsive.’”

It pushed on the edges of her serenity to listen to Perseth’s boldness and not respond to it. But she’d been called to court to listen to a problem, not create one.

“Scribe, will you please read us the letter from the Lord of Ruidenthall concerning the matter our lady has just mentioned?”

The scribe pulled a book off the shelf at his desk and thumbed through it, pages snapping crisply. “Seventeenth of Kaidar,” the scribe read. “Year three twenty-four After the Reign of Kings. Addressed to Lady Altarn Shadheing from Lord Kaelin-drath Morrendrake. It reads:

Greetings, Lady of Blindvar.

It is fortunate our two states are such great friends. It has come to my recent attention that a number of Ruidenthall citizens have taken a fancy to your small town of Heathe. So much so, that there are more Ruids than Blindvarns. I’ll have to visit to see what the attraction is. After all, who would sacrifice great Ruid food to live in a small Blindvarn town where the closest city is thirty miles out?

Of course, having this offset of Blindvarns to Ruids must make it a tad more difficult for the yearly census for you, which gave me an idea. Since our states are such good allies, I propose—just as a speculative thought—that Heathe be merged into the State of Ruidenthall in exchange for a small bit of land out of my own good state, if you like.

Maybe this small exchange can start something bigger, and maybe someday Endendre will eventually be one state instead of divided into three. Of course, it is just an idea, and something like this has never been done before between our two states. Please reply with your thoughts. If it is disagreeable, I’ll digress.

Signed, Lord Kaelin-drath Morrendrake of Ruidenthall.

The members at the table watched Altarn like ghosts waiting for the moment they could pounce on the living and suck out their souls.

• • •

Born in small town Bennington, Idaho, J.M. wanted to be just like her big, story writer sister. Big sister paints now, but that initial role model was all the springboard J.M. needed to fearlessly leap into writing the novels of her heart. Getting around the world as a soldier has helped broaden J.M.'s views on cultures and personalities, and settling down as a Deputy Sheriff in Nevada for a time has helped her maintain all the fine intricacies humans are capable of which has helped define her characters into something realistic and believable. Without any prior claims to fame, J.M. is proud to showcase that hard work, even from rock bottom, DOES pay off.

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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Available Now in Print: Dublin's Fair City by Cathy Mansell

Cathy Mansell

Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Print Price: $


also available in digital: $4.99

On her deathbed, Aileen’s mother reveals a secret she has kept for eighteen years, and pleads with her daughter to fulfill a last wish. Torn by grief, Aileen leaves Dublin, the Fair City, and Dermot, the man she has grown to love.

Lonely and vulnerable, she unwittingly befriends a salesman at the seed mill where she has found work. Suddenly, her life becomes entrenched with danger.

On a visit back to Dublin, Aileen discovers a devastating truth, but her mother’s last request is still shrouded in a mystery she is determined to unravel. When she finally decides to return to Dermot, and the family she loves, will the secret she too is now hiding tear her and Dermot apart?

• • •

Aileen Maguire stood up to stretch her back and looked out the bedroom window overlooking the busy Dublin street. Business went on as usual. England had won the World Cup, and men walked out of the newsagents with rolled-up copies of the morning’s newspaper stuffed into their jacket pockets. But, in the bedroom above the haberdashery on the corner of upper Dorset Street, eighteen-year-old Aileen’s mother lay dying.

With a sigh, she turned her attention back to the bedroom where her father was slumped in a chair by the side of the bed, his head in his hands. She picked up a cup of beef tea and held it out to him. ‘Come on now, Da. You’ve got to stay strong.’

He glanced up, exhaustion on his pale face. ‘Your mother’s been rambling again,’ he said. ‘For the life of me, I don’t know what she’s on about.’

‘Look, Da, you go and get your head down. I’ll sit with Ma.’

Jonny Maguire stretched his tall, lean frame and stood up. His hair, the colour of gunmetal, hung limply below his ears and across his forehead. Aileen had given up nagging him to have it cut. Since Ma had taken ill three weeks ago, he had dug in his heels. He cupped his hands around the mug as if he was cold. ‘You’ll call me if…’

‘I will, Da. Now, go on! I’ll nip down and check the shop later.’

Her ma’s eyes were closed but she appeared agitated, as if she was having a bad dream. Aileen pulled a chair closer to the bed and held her hand.

‘Jonny. Is that you, Jonny?’ Jessie Maguire’s voice was but a whisper.

‘It’s me, Ma. Da’s having a kip.’

Jessie turned her head towards her daughter. ‘Aileen! My perfect little girl!’

‘Not little any more, Ma, and not perfect either.’

As her mother gripped Aileen’s hand, the doorbell jingled in the shop below. Her mother tightened her grip and struggled to sit up ‘Is…someone looking after the shop?’

‘Everything is fine, Ma. No need for you to fret.’ Her mother appeared to have forgotten she had recently employed a woman part-time.

‘You’ll look after things. Your da won’t…cope well without me. And watch out for Lizzy. I don’t have long, so…listen to me.’ Her mother’s voice rasped as she struggled to breathe. Aileen stood up, dipped a cloth in a bowl of cool water, wrung it out, and gently bathed her ma’s brow.

‘Don’t try and talk,’ Aileen said, concealing her distress. ‘Da will be fine, Ma, and so will you. So, please, no more of that talk.’

Her mother’s face looked grey against the white cotton pillowcase. Aileen gently lifted her ma’s head and helped her to suck through a straw the nourishing drink recommended by the doctor.

‘I need to confess. Ask…the priest…to call in.’

Aileen placed the glass back on the side table. ‘But it’s only a week since he was here, Ma. What do you need forgiveness for?’ Aileen kissed the side of her mother’s face.

• • •

Cathy Mansell writes romantic fiction. Her recently written family sagas are set in her home country of Ireland. One of these sagas closely explores her affinities with Dublin and Leicester. Her children's stories are frequently broadcast on local radio and she also writes newspaper and magazine articles. Cathy has lived in Leicester for fifty years. She belongs to Leicester Writers' Club and edited an Arts Council-funded anthology of work by Lutterworth Writers, of which she is president.

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Tirgearr Publishing