Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Available Now: My San Francisco Highlander by Aleigha Siron

My San Francisco Highlander series, #2
Aleigha Siron


($2.99 through 27 August)
A love three hundred years in the making — After being knocked out in battle, Angus Cameron wakes in a terrifying new world with flying beasts, horseless carriages, crazy music, and strangely dressed people. Has he gone mad? When Angel Adair discovers a man in 1975's San Francisco Lands End park dressed in little more than a Scottish kilt, is he just a confused drifter or her dream-lover come to life?

• • •

Angel stepped carefully down the slope toward her deerhound. “Simon, come to me,” she commanded more forcefully. As she reached to brace herself against a tree, the form of what appeared to be another dirty, ragged homeless man turned in her direction. His heavily muscled frame, imposing even while leaning against a boulder and sitting in the dirt, halted her. Dried blood crusted along his arms and legs, tangles of debris clotted through his chestnut shoulder-length hair. He wore a dark plaid kilt streaked with mud and more blood. Her breath stopped, could he be Daniel? Of course, only the man’s rugged mien and broad shoulders resembled her brother.

“Oh, Jesus, you’re wearing a kilt, and you’re injured.”

Well, that was about the stupidest response she could have made. She gave Simon another sharp command. With a whine, the dog returned to her side.

She snapped on a restraining leash. "He's not dangerous, really. I think the smell of blood has disconcerted him." She waved her hand in a vague pass toward the man’s battered body and took a step back.

"Are you in need of assistance?" The man's fierce, disturbing appearance should have caused her to run in the opposite direction as fast as possible, but she felt an unexplainable urge to help him.

"My name is Gillian Adair. My father is a doctor. You look as though you might need his help."

The man watched her; an expression of total confusion twisted his face. “Are ye my angel, then? Have ye come to take me from this hell?”

He spoke with a deep, heavy brogue. At first, she could only make out a few words. She thought he’d called her Angel. Only her family and best friends shortened her middle name, Angelina to Angel, and used it as her nickname. However, they referred to her as Angel enough times around members of the St. Andrews Benevolent Society. Could this man be a newly arrived Scotsman who recalled one of them addressing her as such? She didn’t recognize him, but covered in dirt, brush, and blood…rather a lot of dried blood, and wounds still oozing, it was unlikely she’d be able to identify him from any previous brief encounter.

Weary, haunted eyes registered a flash of fear in their deep, green depths. The sudden loud rumble of a helicopter overhead spurred the man to his feet while at the same time ducking his head. He moved with such obvious distress that he lost his already awkward perch and slid further down the steep embankment futilely snatching at passing brush until he caught hold of a sturdy bush.

If he slipped any further, he would tip over the edge and plummet several hundred-feet onto a pile of jagged rocks at the base of the embankment. Angel removed Simon’s leash, issued a harsh command to stay, and scrambled down the slope clinging to rocks and trees as she went.

She’d intended to extend the leash to help the man up, but her good intentions went awry when she slipped, fell on her back, and slid feet first in his direction.

A strong hand latched onto her arm as she tumbled past his precarious position. He pulled her up with amazing strength and anchored a muscled arm under her breasts in a vise-like grip.

• • •

Following an accident several years ago, Aleigha's road to recovery was paved with the adventures and excitement of romance novels, inspiring the creation of her own tales. Recently learning about distant Scottish ancestors, she traveled to the land of craggy peaks, mists, bogs, and the ubiquitous heather, where she fell in love with the setting for her first full-length time-travel romance novel.

In her lengthy business career, Aleigha wrote and derived an array of management and other technical training programs until she turned her writing efforts to her true loves: fiction, and poetry. Her poetry has been published in numerous anthologies and university presses. Most recently, her poetry was included in an Escondido Municipal Art Gallery collection, merging art and poetry, a form known as ekphrastic poetry. The San Diego Poetry Society also selected a poem for publication in their 2015-16 Annual Anthology.

Currently, Aleigha is busy working on two new novels and plans to revisit a Children's Book written years ago for her many nieces and nephews. When not writing, reading, or attending poetry workshops, she often walks along the shore at sunset with her husband and her trusty Labrador helper, Strider, breathing in the ion charged air while seeking inspiration.

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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Available Now: Lullaby for My Sister by Nancy Barone

Nancy Barone


(99c/99p through 20 August)
When Valentina and Lucy Mancino’s mother died, and their father turned to alcohol to cope, Valentina quickly understood it was up to her to run the household and take care of her little sister. But Valentina was only nine years old. And when their new step-mother moved in, along with her two sons, Val also knew things were about to change for the worse.

Fifteen years later, while Lucy is flailing in life, Val is running a successful career, but she’s also hiding a terrible secret. She soon discovers that her former home is suppressing secrets of its own—many unspeakable truths are dying to be told.

• • •

Little Italy, Toronto, 1993

I knew something bad had happened the minute I saw Uncle Tony’s black limousine pull up outside the school gates.

Ma never wanted any fussing over us and always said that even if we were Tony Mancino’s nieces, we were still Luigi Mancino’s daughters who could walk to school like everyone else.

“Hop in, Valentina,” Calogero the driver said, his face mostly hidden behind a pair of huge reflective shades like the ones the police wore on TV. But even if he wasn’t a policeman, I knew he had a gun because I saw it under his jacket once. “Your uncle Tony wants you at his house.”

Now, it’s not that I didn’t trust Calogero, who’s known me since I was a baby and has even taken us to the park, but Ma’s words rang through my mind. “Only trust your family, Valentina…”

So, when I hesitated, he picked up the car phone and punched in a number, passing it to me through the lowered window. “Here, talk to him,” he said.

I’d never spoken into a car phone before. It was very heavy. “Hello?” I said.

“Valentina.” The sound of Uncle Tony’s voice made me feel better instantly, but it was weird, like he’d been running – or crying. I swallowed hard.

“Listen, I need you to be a good girl and let Calogero bring you and Lucy back to my house, okay?”

“What happened?” I asked, and suddenly had to go to the bathroom. “Where’s Ma and Dad?”

Silence. “Sweetheart, your mom’s…in the hospital. She fell. And skinned her knee. Daddy and I are with her.”

“Is she okay?” I squeaked as Calogero got out of the car and took my school bag and lunchbox from me, my heart skipping a beat.

“She’s fine, sweetie. Just go and pick up your sister. Maria will make you a snack when you get home.”

“Okay, Uncle Tony,” I said obediently, and crawled into the huge back seat of the dark car, my chest hurting as if someone had sat on it.

Lucy was the last one out, waiting by the door next to Mrs. Njong, her favorite doll tucked under her arm. Calogero showed the teacher a note as he spoke to her, but I couldn’t hear a word. Why did grownups always talk to each other like that?

Mrs. Njong covered her mouth with her hand and nodded, tears filling her eyes. I swallowed, my face feeling awfully tight, like someone pulling on it from all sides.

“Val, what’s he doing here?” Lucy whispered in her baby lisp as I bent down to hug her. Calogero’s reflective shades always scared her, but then he’d take them off and twirl them around to show her he had eyes just like everybody else, and she’d laugh. Every time. Lucy liked to play around a lot.

“Mummy fell and hurt her knee,” I said. “Daddy took her to the hospital.”

Lucy searched my face and I forced a convincing smile, stroking her cheek like I always did when I needed her to do what I said. When she was satisfied I wasn’t keeping anything from her, she smiled back, assured everything was okay, that it was only a tiny scratch.

I swallowed back my fears that it might be something really bad and tried to act normal, while Calogero saw us into the back seat again and drove off, Lucy waving to Mrs. Njong.

Last year, I fell and skinned my elbow, but I don’t remember any ambulance coming for me. So, it couldn’t be good. And then I started imagining the worst – both my parents lying dead in the hospital and no one at home to greet us, no one to help me with my homework or tuck Lucy in at night. Uncle Tony and his staff would take care of us, I knew, but, as loving and generous as he was, he wasn’t Ma or Dad.

• • •

Nancy Barone is an Italian-Canadian English teacher and writer of rom-com and romance. When not on her laptop, she enjoys long walks on the beach with her loved ones, travelling and visiting the local ice-cream parlour.

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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Available Now: Resolutions by Carol Warham

Carol Warham


(99c/99p through 13 August)
A few days before the New Year, Carly Mitchell returns home to the small town on the Yorkshire moors. Her intention for the short visit is to make her apologies and offer an explanation for her action. A year earlier, she fled, leaving her bridegroom and friends bewildered. She’s met with mixed reactions, ranging from curiosity to open hostility. However, when an emergency arises, Carly agrees to change her plans and stay a little longer. Falling in love with the new local doctor, Ben Thornton, was not part of her original plan either. Especially when it appears his past is shrouded in mystery. Complications and tensions increase during the town’s New Year celebrations and she begins to doubt whether she has done the right thing by coming home.

Can she find the resolution she needs to overcome the challenges facing her, or will she run away again?

• • •

The large, dimly lit sign appeared momentarily through the driving rain.

Carly Mitchell pulled her car over to the grass verge at the side of the road. Indecision gripped her as her heart hammered against her ribs. Did she drive on into the town, back to the place where she believed she was hated, or should she drive straight through and not stop?

Darkness shrouded the long road across the bleak moors. A thick swirling mist was broken only by the beam of her car’s headlamps. The windscreen wipers were the only thing which moved, as if bored, by the effort of clearing the rain. She stared at the sign until the glare of oncoming headlights made her blink and bite her lip. This was her decision, her choice. Could she do this? She nodded to herself. She knew she could now. Twelve months ago, she’d have been in pieces at the thought of what she intended to do, but not now. She had changed, grown up, learned to stand on her own two feet. The old Carly Mitchell wouldn’t have dared make any decision like this, for fear of upsetting someone. But her life had changed for the better, and so had she.

Taking a deep breath, she slowed down her heartbeat and controlled her shaking hands. A few minutes to recover her equilibrium were all she needed. She would do what she had come to do, and then leave. After that people could say and think what they wanted. She wouldn’t care.

It was past midnight when she drove into the quiet town. The wet road glistened under the street lights. Driving down the empty streets of the old Yorkshire mill town, her stomach churned. How well she knew all of these buildings.

A large Victorian mill loomed up before her. The grey stone walls and rows of neat windows were highlighted by the street lamps. It almost resembled a barricade, another warning. Slowing down to look at the building, she smiled at her own foolishness. You’d never know that inside were some charming tourist and gift shops and a little tea shop. She drove over a stone bridge where the road crossed a small river. In the dark, she could hear the water as it babbled and gurgled over the boulders that lined its path.

Would she ever be able to walk through this town and receive a warm welcome? What sort of greeting would anyone give her now? What sort of greeting did she deserve? Yeardon had been a wonderful place to grow up. It was one of those towns where you knew everyone, and they knew you.

Her mind a maelstrom of anxiety, she tightened her grip on the steering wheel. Who would have believed anyone’s hands could shake so much?

Reaching the far side of the town, she turned into a drive, which led down a short, narrow lane to a hotel, a converted mill owner’s house. After finding a space in the car park, she switched off the engine, but remained in the car for a few minutes. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes.

The drumming of the rain on the roof was not reassuring. The weather seemed to be giving a further warning to leave now, while she could. She peered through the rain- splattered screen at the sign above the front door. In copper plate script, it read Resolution Hotel. The building looked well-kept and fresh. Business must be going well for Jim and Abi.

“Well, here goes.”

• • •

Writing has been Carol’s love since childhood. She started by making small comics for her dolls, progressed to training as a journalist for a short while. Once the family had grown up she settled down to writing short stories, poems and holiday articles. Some of which are published.

In recent years she has become a judge in the short story section for the HysteriaUK competition and also for the RNA’s romance novel of the year.

Earlier this year, she represented her book group on BBC Radio Leeds, talking about books and the work on her novel.

Carol lives in Yorkshire, surrounded by some beautiful countryside, which is ideal for her other passion of walking, often with a dog called Sam.

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Available Now: Call of the Morrigu by Christy Nicholas

Christy Nicholas


(99c/99p through 23 July)
Life isn't easy in 1798 Ireland. Rebellions are rising across the countryside, and the English can be cruel overlords. However, this brutality hasn’t reached the country estate of Strokestown.

Theodosia Latimer and her grandfather Reginald are on a mission to discover the past. They're determined to excavate some ancient mounds on the Strokestown estate. But when they discover an imprisoned goddess straight out of Ireland’s rich mythological history, they're both amazed and frightened.

Tasked with integrating this primeval warrior woman into polite society, they develop both respect and fear for the powerful goddess. Will they be able to tame her lust for violence in the upcoming rebellion? Or will they fall victim to it?

• • •

October 31, 1796
Rathcrogan, County Roscommon, Ireland

Finn the Tinker walked along the path on the black night while thick clouds obscured the sickle moon. He stumbled as the velvet blanket of gloom hid rocks and branches upon the ground along the unfamiliar path. Wind howled through the crags and cliffs and he hurried his steps, wiping blown leaves from his face. He shouldn’t be caught outside this night.

For All Hallow’s Eve, or Samhain, was a time of magic and Fae, a night of hauntings and fear. But he had no choice now.

No glow from starlight helped him. Finn had just finished a fruitless mission to the Big House to peddle his wares that evening and he wanted to return to his wife and children in Tulsk.

The wailing wind increased as he approached Oweynagat, the Cave of the Cats. He avoided the place this time of the year, but he was in a hurry to make it to high ground before the storm struck. Legends told of strange creatures coming from the mouth of the cave, magical creatures of the Otherworld. Finn’s own grandmother had told him the tales. Cats, ravens, sometimes bats swarmed from the cave and chased a hapless traveler. Stories told of people, found mad or wounded.

A traveler such as himself.

The wind halted. He looked around, suspicious of the silence.

Red eyes blinked at him from the darkness.

Finn backed away from the glowing crimson points near the cave. The wind howled again, and the creatures fluttered and screeched.

They were getting closer.

An amorphous shape formed in the darkness and he froze. The wings touched his face and arms. With a soundless cry, he dropped his packs and ran back the way he had come.

Over rock walls and burns he ran in fear. With no light to aid his headlong flight over the treacherous path, he fell. He ripped his pants and skinned his knee, but he paid these minor annoyances little heed before he stumbled to his feet again. The terrified tinker didn’t dare glance back at the daemons that chased him, but made the sign of the cross as he pelted across the fields.

Several lights twinkled in the distance. That must be the Big House, Strokestown. If he could just reach that haven…

As he splashed through the muddy river, his worn boots slid into the muck at the bottom and became mired. Finn jerked his feet out and tried to scramble up the far bank, but got stuck again. The wind died once more.

A terrified glance over his shoulder confirmed that the red glowing eyes were hovering, waiting for...what?

A scream ripped through the night, shattering the silence. The wind picked up again as the cry died in a strangled gurgle.

The next morning, they found Finn’s body by the river. His kin barely recognized his face. Thousands of tiny cuts had bled out into the sticky earth.

• • •

Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she's a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were. She loves to draw and to create things. She says it's more of an obsession than a hobby. She likes looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or seeing a fragrant blossom or a dramatic seaside. She takes a picture or creates a piece of jewelry as her way of sharing this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus she writes. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. She does local art and craft shows, as well as sending her art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.

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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Available Now: The Body at Ballytierney by Noreen Wainwright

Ballytierney Mysteries, #1
Noreen Wainwright


(99c/99p through 9 July)
When Simon Crowe’s body is discovered at Ballytierney, old secrets threaten to destroy the lives of the townspeople. Inspector Ben Cronin is coasting towards retirement, so the last thing he needs is a case that threatens to expose the town's dark underbelly.

Maggie Cahill, a priest’s housekeeper, is at a crossroads in her personal life when she receives a letter out of the blue from someone in her distant past. Her peace of mind and her livelihood are at risk as she seeks the truth of what happened to Simon Crowe, and why someone knows secrets she thought she'd buried long ago.

By the end of the investigation, will both Maggie’s and Cronin’s lives will be changed forever? And will Ballytierney ever be the same?

• • •

In the kitchen, she smoked a Gold Flake and drank a cup of tea. About a half-a-hour they’d be finished the main course, what with the chatter and the sipping of the wine—the best claret from the wine merchant in Cork.

Sometimes, living in a small town made you really happy. There was such a feeling of security in it. It wasn’t big-headed, but she knew she was well-respected and generally well-liked, and the two didn’t always go together. But, there were times when Ballytierney would make you want to run away. Want to go as far as you could get, from the nosiness and the narrowness and the hardened ignorance you saw sometimes the kind where the person was so ignorant they didn’t even have the least inkling of it, and they were accepted or at least tolerated too, in the town.

Maggie would think then of London or Dublin or any of those big anonymous places, where there could even be a solace in the loneliness. If you put one of the ignoramuses of Ballytierney, or any other small rural town in there, well you had to wonder if they would even survive a week.

The telephone rang, its urgent sound making her start, stub out her cigarette and stand up, all so quickly, that she felt dizzy for a second, and had to slow herself down.

Duty was duty, though, and it was hers to answer the telephone unless one of the priests picked it up first, in which case, she would be expected to fade back into the scenery. Well, none of them would pick it up now. They were all occupied in the dining room.

Maggie’s heart took uncomfortable leaps around her chest when she heard the gasping and crying tones on the other end of the phone. It wasn’t the first time someone had rang the parish house, in dire straits, not by a long chalk, but maybe it was because her own nerves were all on edge tonight, that Maggie actually sat down on the hall chair.

She needed to take a grip of herself. This wasn’t going to get them anywhere.

“What is it, my dear?” She made her voice calm, concerned, flattened the worry out of it.”

“He’s dead, laid there…dreadful, dreadful…oh, God.”

The voice rose, and you could hear the hysteria just about to take over.

“Can you tell me who you are?” Keep it simple. That was the best.

“Mary, Mary…oh, I’m sorry…I’m in such a state, oh, oh,”

There was silence and tension tugged at Maggie’s throat. She was gripping the telephone receiver so tight that it was making her hand go into a cramp. She made her fingers loosen.

“Mary who?”

There came a loud sigh.

“I’m sorry. I’m better now. It’s Crowe. Mrs. Crowe.”

They lived in that big place, Inishowen House, and the woman was rarely seen out around the town. He was a bit of a mystery, rarely seen and reportedly in bad health. Young Father Tom went out and visited him.

“Father Lally came out earlier didn’t he, anointed your husband, I think?”

It was taking a bit of a chance; overstepping the mark even but she needed to calm the woman and remind her that her husband’s death wasn’t a surprise. Or was that being harsh? It was well known that death, even when expected, came as an awful shock.

“No, you don’t understand Miss Cahill. My husband didn’t die of natural causes. Not at all…” The ragged sobbing started again. What on earth did the woman mean? Not die of natural causes? Wasn’t she just suffering some sort of shock, surely? The best thing might be to get one of the priests. The canon definitely wouldn’t thank her for this, but she was out of her depth. Maybe Father Timothy or even young Father Tom…

“You don’t understand, Miss Cahill. He’s been hit. On the head, blood everywhere. Someone came in here, with an iron bar and beat a dying man to death.

• • •

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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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Available Now: One Night in Washington, D.C. by Jordan Monroe

City Nights series, #30
Jordan Monroe


(99c/99p through 2 July)
Lauren and Adam are two professional musicians living in Washington, D.C. One night after performing together, Adam admits to Lauren that he's been interested in her for a long time. The two share a passionate evening at her apartment in Waterfront SW. However, though they like each other a great deal, their long term desires don’t match up: he believes his next step is to have a family, and she is wedded to her performance career.

After their final performance together, will they be able to, as they say in D.C., reach across the aisle and come to a resolution?

• • •

They sat in silence for a moment, each searching for something to say. Lauren kept sipping her wine while taking stock of her companion.

She and Adam had known each other for about four years, but merely as occasional stand partners; their fingers would sometimes touch as they both reached to turn the pages of music, and Lauren would always momentarily lose her concentration. Gigs would come up in the District on short notice which required professional musicians. They’d met at a senator’s daughter’s luxurious wedding at the Ritz, as members of the small brass ensemble hired to serve the cocktail hour entertainment. Like now, Adam hadn’t been wearing his scarlet Marine Band uniform, opting instead for the standard concert dress of all black. It suited him nicely: he was tall, well-built, with dark hair in the standard crew cut, and had the most piercing blue eyes Lauren had ever seen. It surprised her that even now, at thirty-one years of age, she could succumb to the grips of a crush.

“Can I ask you something, Lauren?”

She blinked, jerking herself from her train of thought, which had steamed into the territory of whether or not Adam would be interested in tonguing parts of her, as opposed to his mouthpiece. “By all means. You know this is a judgment-free zone.”

“Right. Okay then.” He set down his glass and turned to face her. She shifted in her chair; those eyes were unnerving. “You’re single, right?”

She raised her eyebrows. “Wow, just want to get right to it then?” He nodded; she blinked. “Fine. Yes, I’m not seeing anyone. And you?”

“Well, I’m currently seeing you.” His face cracked into a wide grin.

She laughed and gently pushed his shoulder. “How did you know I love silly jokes like that?”

“It was honestly a lucky guess.”

“Well, you got lucky.”

He turned away, reaching for his glass. About a third of his drink was left. “I hope to continue getting lucky, Lauren.”

Lauren nearly spat out her wine. Is he serious? I doubt it; he’s probably talking about gambling or something. She gulped down her mouthful, then attempted to channel her inner coquette. “Lucky at what, Adam?”

He turned back to her. She found it impossible to look away from his eyes. “Essentially, getting to know you better. Spending time with you while not buried in music. Not waiting until the next wedding or gala to see you. Does that make sense?”

Lauren took a deep breath in an attempt to calm her nerves. She hadn’t expected to hear this from Adam. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that she hadn’t been expecting to hear this kind of talk from anyone, not recently at least. Fighting for a chair in the National Symphony Orchestra had eaten up much of her post-Master’s degree life. Now that she had her chair, she’d been trying to settle into a routine. “Frankly, this comes as a surprise.”


“Well, I mean…I’ve kind of been wedded to this whole NSO thing, remember?”

Adam reached over to take her hand. She became stiff, but didn’t move her hand away. “I know you have, Lauren. And it’s completely paid off, right?”

“Sure, but—”

“Wouldn’t you say it’s about time you let loose a little?”

He slowly moved his thumb across the top of her hand; this gesture alone was enough to awaken parts of her that had lain dormant for quite a long time.

Entirely too long. She blushed again, finishing her glass of wine.

“Would you like another?” he asked.

She shook her head, tossing out a twenty-dollar bill onto the counter. Facing Adam straight on, she mustered the courage to be completely honest with him. “All right. You think I need to let loose a little? Perhaps I do. Maybe I’m reading you wrong, but I get the sense that you want to fuck me.”

• • •

Jordan Monroe is delighted to be using her English degrees. She enjoys both listening to and playing music, watching Sherlock while anxiously waiting for new episodes, and buying too many books to fit on her bookshelves. She lives within twenty-five miles of Washington, D.C.

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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Available Now: Oppression by Dianne Noble

Dianne Noble


(99c/99p through 18 June)
When she tries preventing the abduction and forced marriage of 16-year-old Layla, Beth defies her controlling husband, Duncan, and travels to Cairo where she finds the girl now lives in the vast necropolis known as The City of the Dead. She’s hiding from her abusive husband, and incites fellow Muslim women to rebel against the oppression under which they live. Beth identifies with this and begins helping her.

Cairo is in a state of political unrest, and Beth gets caught up in one of the many protests. She’s rescued by Harry, who splits his working life between Egypt and England, and they eventually fall in love. When Harry returns home and Layla vanishes, Beth begins being stalked and threatened with violence. And then Duncan turns up...

Can Beth ever find peace, or will her hopes of happiness remain shattered?

Will Layla's ideals of freedom ever be fulfilled?

• • •

A solitary egg boiled furiously in the pan, billows of steam filling the kitchen. Duncan didn’t acknowledge her, just stared out of the window which ran with condensation, small pools gathering on the sill. Beth’s stomach clenched. The world had turned monochrome, the early morning optimism that today might be better, leeched away. What had she done – or not done – this time? Pointless asking. He wouldn’t answer. Yet another day of silence loomed, a day of sitting in separate rooms, eating at different times. Her gaze shifted from his rigid body to her dog, Jake, slumped in the furthest corner of the kitchen. His tail gave a half-hearted thump on the floor. He didn’t move, watched her with solemn eyes. She wrapped her arms around herself as the hall clock chimed the half hour and wondered how many days it would be this time.

Once she’d been able to focus on Duncan’s great sense of humour, his sensitivity, but now the good days were few. She couldn’t cope any longer with his suspicion if she left the house, the way he criticised, put her down. Was it her fault? Would things be different if she was different? Lost weight? Became a better cook? Went on top more often? She shook her head. When had they last made love? Her fault again, but desire wasn’t something that could be suddenly dredged up just because the other person’s mood had improved. It needed to be a slow build up and there was never enough time between his…episodes. Sex had come to resemble a fading newsreel.

She started as he got to his feet, the chair scraping on the tiled floor. He fished the egg out of the pan onto a plate and sat down again, his back to her. The sound of rasping filled the air as he buttered his toast before he cut it into quarters, the way he always did. He wore the navy blue bathrobe. She should have noticed the white one, the good mood one, had stayed on its hook on the back of the bathroom door. He hadn’t turned off the cooker. She watched the blue flower of gas, heard it hiss, listened to him tap the top of his egg with a spoon, then went into the hall and climbed the mahogany staircase, her feet soundless in the deep pile of the Axminster. Sitting on the edge of the bed, like a guest who has risen too early, she waited until she heard him go up to his studio on the third floor.

Jake rushed towards her, claws skittering on the tiles, when she came back down and opened the kitchen door. He pushed his head under her hand and tears stung her eyes. She dropped to the floor and hugged him, comforted by his warmth, the silkiness of his coat. It had been her sister’s suggestion to buy a Golden Retriever; she’d said they were loving and friendly dogs. Beth had never regretted her decision—she loved Jake to bits.

On the side stood the cast iron casserole dish containing last night’s lamb shanks, coldly congealed. She slid the dish into the fridge and took out a bottle of milk. Then she reached into the cupboard for the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, wrinkling her nose at the neat columns of Duncan’s vitamins, his bowel-opening fibre bars next to her Kit-Kats. A nutritional Nazi, her sister Maggie called him, said he despised anything pleasurable. The red polka-dot cereal bowl seemed too frivolous for the gloomy house so she put it back and took down a dark green one, tipped out a handful of cereal and poured milk over it. Her throat closed and she couldn’t swallow it. All the silent hours, all his rages, settled in her stomach in a single burning spot. She couldn’t do this anymore.

Beth’s spoon clattered into the bowl, splashing milk across the table as she jumped up. Out. She had to get out. A sliver of sunlight angled through the stained glass of the fanlight above the front door, sprinkling a waiting Jake with lozenges of red and gold light.

Beth buttoned her coat, pushed her feet into boots and jammed on a woolly hat. ‘Come on, boy.’

The sun struggled to rise above the elm trees as they set out across the frost-starched field. All around them the Yorkshire Dales rolled out like a gently rumpled bed, the querulous bleats of sheep filling the air. Cold scoured her lungs and she turned up her collar. Jake stretched himself into an excited run, turned and barked, tore back to her. She ran with him, on and on, her boots cracking the skin of icy puddles until the tension left her body.

‘Morning. Bit parky.’ A fellow dog walker, muffled into shapelessness, clutched a pink plastic bag as his spaniel squatted on quivering haunches, its expression embarrassed.

‘Certainly is. A white Christmas, maybe?’


Over an hour later when her fingers and toes had become numb, she knew she would have to return to the house. She dragged her feet while Jake ran backwards and forwards, barking furiously at crows pecking between the cart tracks. She hesitated outside the front door, then took off her gloves and felt in her pockets. Did she still have the car keys with her? Yes!

‘Let’s go and see Dad. You up for it, Jake?’

He’d pushed his way on to the back seat of the car almost before she had the door open. She held her breath as she reversed out of the garage - if she clipped Duncan’s Audi there’d be hell to pay – and edged out of the drive on to the B road which the council never gritted. The light had a raw, sharp edge and frost covered every branch like fur. She drove with caution, slowing right down on corners, only relaxing when she joined the traffic on the main Ripon road, which had been gritted. Now she didn’t have the constant worry of skidding, Duncan came into her mind. Why did she let him terrorise her like this? Had she always been so timid?

• • •

Dianne Noble was on a troopship sailing for Singapore at the age of seven and hasn’t stopped travelling since. Her last trip was to Moscow but her favourite place remains India. The atmospheric settings of her novels reflect her experiences.

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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Available Now: Daughter of Mull by Joan Fleming

Magic of Mull Series, #3
Joan Fleming


(99c/99p through 11 June)
When Anna Ballantyne is devastated by her birth mother’s refusal to meet her, Anna uses her job as a freelance researcher to fund her trip to the Scottish Island of Mull to investigate the story of the Lord of the Isles. While there, she also plans on tracking down her mother who lives there.

Anna quickly falls under the spell of Finn Ericson, the island’s unofficial tour guide. But complications arise when roommate, Robbie, arrives from Glasgow and his feelings for her are soon revealed more serious than she realised.

Torn between Finn and Robbie, Anna’s confused about pursuing a mother who doesn’t want to meet her. Anna has an important decision to make. And captivated by the island, she wonders if there’s a future on Mull with Finn, or is she ignoring the whispers of her heart that it’s Robbie she truly loves?

• • •

‘Anna, are you all right? I don’t know what you’re thinking about, but you haven’t been listening to a word any of us are saying.’

With an effort, Anna dragged her thoughts back to the conversation in the living room.

‘Sorry, Roddie. I was miles away. It must be the effects of all the wine I’ve been drinking.’

‘Jake asked you when you’re leaving for Islay.’

‘I’m not sure. I may decide not to go to Islay.’

‘Oh, you women, you’re always changing your mind about something,’ Jake said, trying to move even closer to Yvette on the sofa, if that were possible.

‘But what about your research?’ Roddie asked, taking a sip of his wine. He leant back, easily filling his armchair. Anna knew his bulk was all muscle, having seen him working out at the local sports centre several times a week.

‘Oh, I don’t know, Roddie,’ Anna said, more sharply than she intended. ‘It’s a bit late to discuss it tonight. I’ll decide tomorrow.’

Anna was aware of his scrutiny. He was looking at her in a puzzled way, as if he was sure there was an explanation for her possible change of plan, but she’d made it clear the matter wasn’t for discussion at this point.

‘Where exactly is Islay?’ Yvette asked in her rather thick French accent. Her guileless question succeeded in taking the tension out of the atmosphere.

‘It’s an island off the west coast of Scotland,’ Anna said. ‘In the Inner Hebrides. The job I’m doing is about The Lords of the Isles, and that was the centre of their operations.’

‘I don’t know much about the Lords of the Isles,’ Jake admitted.

‘They controlled parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland from around 1330 to the 1490s. The title still exists today, but there’s no power attached to it.’ This was Anna’s short version of a complicated era in Scotland’s history, but it seemed to satisfy her flatmate.

‘So, for this project,’ Jake said, pulling the conversation back to the subject under discussion, ‘don’t you have to go to Islay? To do your research and take pictures?’

‘Yes, I do. But… I may have to see to something else first.’

‘What’s your deadline?’ Jake asked.

‘I don’t have one. He’s a private customer, and he wants the information and the photos to use in talks he gives. He’s a public speaker, working with an agency in America. I don’t know much more than that about him. I usually email his secretary.’

‘I thought you were really keen to go to Islay,’ Jake said.

‘Oh, Jake, you can be so persistent at times.’ Roddie stood up to refill their glasses. ‘If Anna wants to talk about it, it’s up to her.’

Undeterred by the tone of Roddie’s remark, Jake continued with his questions. He even managed to take his eyes off Yvette for a moment.

‘So how did you land the commission?’ As a student of business administration, he was interested in small businesses.

‘My client’s name’s Mel MacDougall and he has Scottish ancestors. He’s always on the lookout for interesting topics to use in his speeches, but there are times when he’s unable to come over here to do the research himself. He’d seen some of my work on my website, and his secretary, Cindy, contacted me.’

‘So, you—’

Roddie interrupted at this point.

‘Jake, this is Anna’s birthday and we’re attempting to have a pleasant evening. Stop badgering her with questions, and let’s all relax.’

Jake shrugged and cuddled up closer to Yvette.

‘You look comfortable there, Anna. You’re not about to fall asleep in the chair, are you? Have you recovered from your mishap this morning?’ Roddie asked.

‘Mishap?’ Anna’s tone was sharp.

‘Yes, you banged your toe. How is it?’ Roddie had a cheeky grin on his face.

Anna felt heat rising to her face. In her teenage years, she’d become aware of her inability to conceal her embarrassment when she knew her pale skin could not hide her blushing. Although she loved her red hair, she wished she had the complexion of a brunette or a blonde. She’d even tried when she was in her last year of junior school to erase the freckles across her nose, using a product that promised to turn any hair colour to ash blonde. Needless to say, it didn’t work on the skin of her nose.

‘Oh…’ she mumbled. ‘It’s fine, thanks.’

‘Your toe? What’s wrong with your toe?’ Jake emerged from a tortuous position on the sofa.

‘It had a fight with the doorstop when the postman arrived this morning – and my toe came off worst,’ Anna said.

Jake burst out laughing. ‘Temper, temper,’ he said, wagging an admonishing finger at her.

‘She can’t help it,’ Roddie said. ‘It goes with her hair colour.’

Anna stood up. ‘If you think for one minute I’m going to stay here to be insulted by you lot, then you have another think coming. I’m off to bed.’ Her tone made it clear that she was used to the banter which was part and parcel of the relationship among the four residents in the flat.

Roddie stood up and swept her into his arms in a comforting bear hug.

‘Good night, birthday girl. You know we all love you… and your temper. Life would be pretty boring around here without it.’

‘Oh, I doubt that,’ Anna said, making her way to the hall.

A chorus of ‘goodnights’ rang in her ears as she left the room.

When Anna closed her bedroom door, she stood for a moment, leaning against the cool panelled wood. It was such a relief to be alone. She had spent the day pretending that her only concern was whether or not to arrange a trip to Islay. Now that she was on her own, she could let her thoughts roam over the real issue which was bothering her.

She lowered herself onto the edge of her bed and buried her face in her hands. How could she set off for the island of Islay when every instinct was pulling her to the Isle of Mull? The letter, which she’d received that morning, was on her bedside table; in her mind’s eye, it had become an object of ill-will, hinting she might burn her fingers if she touched it again. How she wished she hadn’t opened the letter as soon as it arrived, hadn’t read the contents, hadn’t faced the unforeseen rejection.

When Roddie’s gentle knock at her door interrupted her train of thought, she jumped up from her bed and let him in.

Almost falling into his wide-open arms, she surrendered to her pent-up emotions and wept.

• • •

Joan Fleming was born and educated in Edinburgh, Scotland. After university there, she became a teacher of French and German for a short period in the London area, then in the West of Scotland.

Since leaving education, she now concentrates on creative writing. She has had short stories and articles published in magazines in both the UK and America, and has won a number of awards for her writing.

Joan is a member of Erskine Writers, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors.

Her interests include: reading, walking, travel, islands (anywhere!) and the life and work of Robert Burns.

She now lives in a flat on the outskirts of Glasgow overlooking the West Highland Way.

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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Audio Available Now: Bob by Tegon Maus

Tegon Maus

Strange lights in the night sky. The baffling case of a woman locked in a basement and two words, repeated continuously by his friend and guide…’IS BELT.’

Peter Anderson is a newspaper reporter with a career on the slide. After 27 years he’s all but washed up and overlooked for the best jobs.

Sent to cover what seems like a mundane piece, about a series of strange lights in the night sky over Arizona, Anderson suddenly finds himself embroiled in one of the strangest events of his life.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the tedious job becomes a puzzling mystery. A mysterious young woman, trapped in a basement, diverts his attention from the job in hand. She is rescued by Anderson then promptly disappears before he can learn any more about her. And there’s still the lights.

As he returns to investigate them he uncovers more questions than answers. And then there is those two words, repeated over and over again… “…IS BELT.”

• • •

The first time I heard it, I thought nothing of it…nothing. I've been in the newspaper game for more than twenty-seven years and that kind of experience gave a guy an edge but even that didn't prepare me for this.

I'd been beaten, shot at, even stabbed a couple of times over the years but I always got the story. Always. But this one was big. Too big perhaps. Maybe we were ready, maybe not. Either way, it wasn't my call.

None of which filled me with the fear, the trepidation, the anguish of five little words that still haunt me today…

"Is okay. I have cousin."

I felt as though I had been in a plane or a car for weeks sent from town to town, story to story without a break or at least a weekend to catch up. At the very least it was nice to return to a hotel I had been in several times before. Tired beyond words I was more than happy to have Carlos carry my bags to my room.

"Carlos, do you know where Payson is?" I asked as I slid the card, opening the door.

"Sure. It's about an hour and a half north of here, why?"

"I have an interview tomorrow at 10:00. I need a car and some directions," I said, tossing my laptop on the bed.

"I can arrange it for you. 7:00 AM good?"

"That would be great," I said, searching my pocket. "Thanks, Carlos," I said, holding out a five.

"Thanks, but that's not necessary," he answered, waving away my offering.

I shook his hand and he took his leave.

Alone at last, I collapsed on the bed, exhausted.

I lay there, staring at the ceiling, trying to control the personal demons that slowly began to chink away at my armor. I hated the quiet time, hated to be alone. I could only hope tomorrow proved to be less frustrating.

By 7:00 AM the following morning, I stood in the lobby, ready for the day. True to his word, Carlos arrived on time.

"Morning, sir," he said, offering his hand in greeting.

"Morning, Carlos," I returned, giving his hand a quick shake.

I followed him across the lobby and then outside to stand in the morning sun. We made small talk as the minutes slowly ticked away. I glanced at my watch several times, becoming more uncomfortable as each minute slipped by.

Carlos made no outward sign he noticed my discomfort. It was clear I was going to have to say something.

"Ah, here we are," he said cheerfully, raising his right hand to flag down a passing car.

I turned in surprise and disappointment as a faded blue sedan sputtered to a stop in front of us, belching out a small cloud of blue smoke with a sharp bang.

A mournful creak of metal pierced the air as the driver's door swung open.

Dressed in a rumpled black suit, a very large, heavyset man unfolded himself from behind the wheel, tucking his shirt into his slacks as he rounded the front of the car.

He ran his fingers through his hair frantically, trotting up the steps to the landing were we waited.

"Carlos, my friend," the man said loudly in a strong Slavic accent, throwing his arms around the young man, lifting him off the ground. At long last he set him down, patting him heavily on the back.

"Mr. Peter Anderson, this is Dimitri Rurik Petrova," Carlos said cheerfully, patting the large man affectionately on the chest as he spoke.

"Nice to meet you," I responded, offering my hand. "My friends call me Pete."

This close to me, Dimitri seemed even larger than I first thought. His face was square, his skin painfully pocked, but pleasant over all, giving him the appearance of an out of shape football player.

"You are friend to Carlos, you are friend to me. We are friends now. Yes?" he said before grabbing me, hugging me, giving me the same hello he had just given Carlos.

"We're late, Mr. Petrova," I admonished, now irritated with having been handled like a rag doll.

"Call me, Bob," he returned, rocking his weight from heel to toe, swinging his arms playfully.

"Bob? How the hell do you get Bob from Dimitri?" I asked, trying not to laugh.

"Bob is American, yes? I now American, so now am Bob."

• • •

Married forty-three years to a woman he calls Dearheart, Tegon Maus lives a contented life in a small town of 8,200 in Southern California. By day, Tegon is a successful home remodeling contractor, but his passion is storytelling.

Tegon's progatonists are frequently wedged between a rock and a hard place, but manage to work things out through the story. Like most when pushed into a corner, it only brings out the best in his characters and become the unstoppable force of a reluctant hero. Tegon's signature style is creating characters who are driven and believable, and who strive to find happiness.

Tegon is the author of The Chronicles Of Tucker Littlefield series.

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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Available Now: The Ash Heap of History by Chris Morgan

Chris Morgan


(99c/99p through 28 May)
Jessica “Blondie” Yuskevich views her career as a private eye as an annoyance that keeps her from smoking pot and watching TV. It’s a pretty boring job, until one day she finds herself on a particularly convoluted missing persons case involving a couple of shady characters and a lot of misinformation.

Can she solve the case, find the missing woman and keeping her safe? More importantly, can she do it without missing an all-new Mork & Mindy?

• • •

Should I go to bed, or should I eat something? Both are pressing matters at the moment. I was up all night, but I didn’t really get a chance to eat anything. Duty called, you know? I wasn’t doing anything cool or sexy. I rarely do. Being a private investigator is not as romantic and glamorized as they make it seem. You know what I did last night? I sat in my car waiting for some guy to leave work to see if he was with his secretary. And when I say “with his secretary,” I mean that in the intimate sense. His wife figured he was cheating. That’s almost all I get. If you think your spouse is cheating, and 99 percent of the time it’s a wife worried about their spouse, you ring up Blondie Yuskevich.

That’s not the name I was born with, of course. Upon entering this world, I was named Jessica, but I quickly earned the nickname Blondie, because my hair is so radically blonde as to justify being called “Blondie.” It’s been a long time since anybody who wasn’t a substitute teacher called me Jessica. It’s Blondie, or it’s Miss Yuskevich. You know, in professional settings, or when a cop is hassling me. When you are a private investigator who also has made smoking marijuana a regular staple of her regimen, you tend to run afoul of the law more often than is comfortable. Not that it keeps me from doing my job. Or from smoking pot.

At this point, you are probably focused in on one specific thing I just mentioned there, and that’s the fact that my name is Jessica. Yeah, I’m a woman. A woman who works as a private investigator. No, you don’t see that very often. It’s some once-in-a-blue-moon type shit. I’ve met only one other woman in my line of work. She was in town from Riverside, following up on a missing teenager case. The girl turned out to be shacked up with some college guy she saw who happened to be next door. We ran into each other in the hall. I forget how our jobs came up. I think her name was Angela. She seemed nice.

When I tell people I’m a private investigator, and I don’t tell them often because I don’t think it’s a very interesting topic, their initial reaction seems to be one of alarm. Private investigating is, in their eyes, a dirty, dangerous business. It’s for low lives, and in particular for low life men. Men who can take a punch and use a gun and what have you. In truth, this stereotype doesn’t bother me, because it makes my job easier. Nobody expects me to be a private eye. They let their guard down around me. Some dude who I’m following sees me sitting in a car and fear is not his initial instinct. I’m just some blonde chick who dresses like a surfer. What harm could I do?

Also, yeah I dress like a surfer even though I don’t surf. They don’t get to own that look, you know? Anyway, the funny thing is that the drive to get women to be seen as equal to men, the notion that women can do anything a man can do, is actually something that’s gonna make my job tougher to do. Gloria Steinem really fucked shit up for me. I mean, she seems cool and all, but . . .

I feel like I’ve lost my train of thought. I believe I was making a point, but what that point was is now lost to me. As I spin the wheels of my mind, I watch a man throw a stick to his dog on the beach. At least, it looks like a stick, but I’m pretty far away. Did he bring the stick with him? I don’t feel like there are a lot of sticks on the beach.

Oh, that’s right, I was explaining why I didn’t sleep last night.

• • •

Chris Morgan is a pop culture writer and the author of The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000: Twelve Classic Episodes and the Movies They Lampoon, published by McFarland Books.

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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Available Now: Redemption Lake by Susan Clayton-Goldner

Winston Radhauser Series, #1
Susan Clayton-Goldner


(99c/99p through21 May)
Tucson, Arizona – Eighteen-year-old Matt Garrison is harboring two terrible secrets: his involvement in the drowning death of his 12-year-old cousin, and a night of drunken sex with his best friend’s mother, Crystal, whom he finds dead in a bathtub of blood. Guilt forces Matt to act on impulse and hide his involvement with Crystal.

Detective Winston Radhauser knows Matt is hiding something. But as the investigation progresses, Radhauser’s attention is focused on Matt’s father. Matt’s world closes in when his father is arrested for Crystal’s murder, and Travis breaks off their friendship.

Despite his father’s guilty plea, Matt knows his dad is innocent and only trying to protect his son. Devastated and bent on self-destruction, Matt heads for the lake where his cousin died—the only place he believes can truly free him. Are some secrets better left buried?

• • •

For the next hour and a half, he drifted in and out of sleep. Cradled by the night sounds of the desert outside the open window, each time a memory emerged, his thoughts thickened and folded back into sleep. At one point, he heard water running for a bath. A little later, he heard a car outside. Oh God, please don’t let it be Travis. He stumbled to the window and opened the curtains. In the street, two long rectangular taillights moved away, turning south onto Oracle Road.

Matt leaned against the wall, staring at the sunflower sheets on Crystal’s bed. The same bed he and Travis had jumped up and down on when they were eight. The digital clock read 10:38pm. His head throbbed. He needed to close his eyes. Crystal would wake him in time to leave before Travis got home. He fell back onto the bed.

When he woke up again, the room was very dark. He wore only his boxers and a white T-shirt his mother had insisted upon—claiming his usual dark one would show through his tuxedo shirt. As if the color of his T-shirt could ruin her perfect wedding. But he’d been ingenious and found another way to ruin things for his mother. He turned toward the empty space beside him. It took a few moments for him to realize where he was. He closed his eyes, shook his aching head to clear it. Crystal was his best friend’s mother. What the hell was he doing in her bed?

He thought he heard the sound of the front door open, then close again. Oh God, please don’t let it be Travis. His eyes adjusted to the darkness. One event at a time, he remembered everything.

Fully awake now, he shot from the bed, rocking for a few seconds before he achieved balance, then hurried to the window. The moon hung over the mountaintop, its light silver and unforgiving. Crystal’s driveway was empty. Whoever he’d heard, it wasn’t Travis. On the other side of the street, an engine started. This time the taillights were round. Definitely not Crystal’s Escort. The car turned north on Oracle Road.

Matt let out the breath he’d been holding and glanced at the digital clock—its red letters told him it was 11:20pm. He needed to get dressed and leave. The dance ended in forty minutes and Travis would head home. He grabbed his tuxedo pants and shirt from the chair. His hands shook so hard he could barely work the fly and the button on his trousers. He slipped into his shirt, then sat on the edge of the bed. As if he had the flu, his head throbbed and his stomach felt queasy.

He rushed down the hallway toward the bathroom. And when he did, he saw the puddle of blood on the floor beside the bathtub.

He hurried across the room, jerked open the pale green shower curtain.

Crystal lay naked in a bathtub filled with blood-colored water. Her hair, her beautiful blonde curls, had been chopped off, shorter in some places than others, as if a small child had done it. Some of the curls were floating on top of the water.

For a strange moment, everything remained calm and slow.

Her head was propped against one of those blow-up pillows attached to the back of the tub with suction cups. The tint of her skin was pale and slightly blue. Crystal’s eyes were open and staring straight ahead—looking at something he couldn’t see. Blood splattered the white tiles that surrounded the tub. It dripped down them like wet paint. One of her hands flopped over the side of the tub. A single thick drop fell from her index finger into the crimson pond congealing on the linoleum floor. It covered her neck and shoulders. Tiny bubbles of frothy blood still oozed from the gash in her neck.

An empty Smirnoff bottle sat in a puddle of blood on the tub’s rim, beside a straight-edged razor blade.

The bathroom was so quiet. Nothing but the sound of his own breathing. He clenched and unclenched his hands. His body grew numb. “Oh no. Oh God, no,” he said, the words thickening in the air in front of him. His head filled with strange sounds—the drone of insects humming, violinists tuning their strings. “What have I done?”

• • •

Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program and has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest. Susan won the National Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings. A collection of her poems, A Question of Mortality was released in 2014 by Wellstone Press. Prior to writing full time, Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona.

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, her fictional characters, and more books than one person could count.

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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Available Now: Cleaved by Sue Coletta

Grafton County Series, #2
Sue Grafton


(99c/99p through 7 May)
Author Sage Quintano writes about crime. Her husband Niko investigates it. Together they make an unstoppable team. But no one counted on a twisted serial killer, who stalks their sleepy community, uproots their happy home, and splits the threads that bonds their family unit.

Darkness swallows the Quintanos whole—ensnared by a ruthless killer out for blood. Why he focused on Sage remains a mystery, but he won’t stop till she dies like the others.

Women impaled by deer antlers, bodies encased in oil drums, nursery rhymes, and the Suicide King. What connects these cryptic clues? For Sage and Niko, the truth may be more terrifying than they ever imagined.

• • •

Bloodied and battered, suspended between this world and hell, I could barely catch my breath. Cool air struck my face and my eyelids fluttered open. Pure blackness enveloped my body, stuffed inside a steel drum. Metal scraped my bare back. Sharp pain shot to my knees, ankles, and neck, bent at such an angle moving was not an option. No longer did I control my breathing, my chest heaving much faster than I could regulate. Within this sinister trap, the oxygen thinned with every patter, patter, patter of my heart.

Animals shrieked outside the barrel. A throaty rattle shuffled in the trees. Croaks and crickets. A far off screech owl’s predatory cry increased the blood coursing through my veins.

Where am I?

A throb pulsed at my forehead. I reached to assess the damage, but pulled back. Part of me didn’t dare. With a deep inhale—not too deep or I’d deplete what little oxygen I had left—I allowed my fingertips to brush my eyebrow, now flopped over one eye. The bridge of my nose seemed off-kilter, shoved over to the right. Tiny bits of bone swam under my cheekbone and my lips swelled to the size of the wax candy Chloe and I played with as children.

With an open hand, I banged the metal wall. A clang from my wedding band echoed in return. “Help.” My voice coiled against the steel. Water lapped against my unforgiving grave—rocking, swaying me from side to side. “Help,” I called out, louder this time, tears flooding my throat. I couldn’t die like this, trapped, no one to discover my remains. If I couldn’t escape, I’d never see my family again. Our thirteen-month-old son hadn’t matured enough to understand death. He’d grow up without a mother, without a crucial piece of his life. Niko would starve. During our nineteen-year marriage, all he ever made were reservations.

Above all else, I must survive. If not for me, then for my family.

Tears warmed my frigid cheeks. Colt and Ruger would never understand why I didn’t come home. Who’d walk them? Who’d keep their coats silky smooth? Did my family know—inherently grasp, deep in their soul—how much I loved them? They’re my whole world, my everything. Their unconditional devotion enhanced the very breath I breathed.

Had I prepared them for the day I stopped walking through the door? No. I’d taken my life for granted, maybe theirs too. How many “I love you’s” did it take to last a lifetime?

Dear God, don’t let me die this way.

With my last unbroken fingernail, I picked at the curved metal walls, clawed at the lid, and scratched the bottom of the steel drum that trapped me from my life, death, or whatever cruel cosmic joke. Nothing worked.

How did I get here? The memory blurred.

A woman’s whispering shriek sliced the crisp evening air. “Help me!”

Hope soared like an unexpected burst of energy on a never-ending hike. “Hello? Can you hear me?”

She pleaded with me to free her.

“You’re trapped too? Do you know where we are? Who did this to us?” I fired off questions faster than bullets left a fully automatic pistol.

She said, “The man.”

Water trickled on my bare shoulder, and my gaze shot to the right. A streak of moonlight lasered through a tiny crack, metal shavings shimmying onto my bent knees. Little by little, inch by inch, I peeled back the layers while my chest constricted like a boa firmed his grasp.

“Are you still there?”

“Yes.” Where else would I be?

“I’m Lisa.”

“Sage, Sage Quintano.”

“The author?”

“Yes, but we need to conserve oxygen.” As much as I adored my fans, talking about my books was the last thing we should do. “Can you find a way out?”

Think, Sage, think. If an average oil drum held fifty-five gallons, then I had about seven-point-three-five cubic feet of air, but with each expelled breath I traded one molecule of oxygen for one of carbon dioxide. I didn’t have long before the confined space won this battle. If only I could widen the crack. Or maybe, if I wedged my fingers under the lid, I might be able to pop it loose. That is, if the metal bung wasn’t secured.

With the back of my head and flat hands against the cold steel, I thrust against the lid, and it moved. Not much, but enough to define my chances of survival. Fortunately, whoever trapped me forgot to lock the clasp. Perhaps he intended for me to escape. Did he lurk outside, ready to ambush me?



“I wanna go home,” she cried, her words laced with panic. “I’m so scared.”

“I know. Me too.”

“The man said he’d be back.”

“Man?” For a moment, I stopped fighting to free myself. “Did you see his face?”

“Not really. He wore some sort of mask. I only caught a quick peek before he blindfolded me.”

“Did you say mask?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Oh. My. God. Where’s Noah?”

• • •

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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