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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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Available Now: One Night in Minneapolis by Margie Church

City Nights #29
Margie Church


(99c/99p through 30 April)
Marine Major Skylar Landis doesn’t resemble the demure Catholic high school girl Vince Andersen once knew. They’d dated briefly until she'd patch things up with his nemesis, Ethan Standfeld. After school, she joined the Marines and they’d lost touch.

Their ten year class reunion in Minneapolis brings Skylar face-to-face with Vince, awakening her memories of the past. She asks him to plan a hot, no-strings-attached hook-up to sustain her sexual fantasies while her intelligence unit is deployed to the Middle East. As their adventure unfolds, and he gives her exactly what she needs, Skylar wonders whether she can forget the man who put her desires first and asked for nothing in return.

• • •

He checked his watch, wondering what was keeping her. The days, hours and minutes until their reunion had passed at a snail’s pace. When he glanced up, a rumble of appreciation formed in his throat. He smiled, yet resisted the urge to go to her. This was her grand entrance.

Skylar walked toward him, the picture of confidence and seduction in a black and white sheath dress that clung to her curves. Her coppery-red hair rested on her right shoulder.

Vince couldn’t wait to run his fingers through the thick, luxurious tresses and over every inch of Ms. Landis.

She stood in front of him, a demure smile on her lips. “Vince. Finally.”

He took her hands, drawing her into an embrace. “Welcome home.”

“I can’t believe the day is finally here. We’re here.” Her voice held a gentle North Carolina drawl she’d picked up after years living at the U.S. Marine Corps base there.

When he kissed her cheek, citrus and spice scents grabbed his attention. He whispered into her ear, “You look even more gorgeous than I imagined, and you smell good enough to eat.”

“One can only hope.”

He winked at her. Though it had been ten years since they’d seen each other, the intimate exchanges they’d had and the plans they’d made for this weekend removed the usual dating preliminaries. He brushed the tip of his nose against hers.

Passion smoldered in her green eyes. She didn’t move from his embrace.

He kissed her lips softly, hoping to invoke the same desire unfurling in the pit of his stomach. He noted a slowness in her breathing. Anticipation?

She brought her hand to the back of his head, and slowly moved her fingers in the short hairs there.

Vince held her a little tighter. He teased her lips with the tip of his tongue, silently inviting her to taste him. The sounds of shoppers quieted as only her soft moan reached his ears. He kissed her with strengthening desire, but didn’t rush this first time. Pent-up emotions made his body react like any red-blooded man’s would, especially since she responded with equal passion. If he didn’t end the kiss soon, anyone would be able to see the physical effect she’d had on him. Vince cupped her cheek and gave her one more gentle kiss before stepping back.

He cleared his throat. “You’re lucky we’re in public.”

She glanced down his body, then back to his eyes. A satisfied grin curled her glistening lips. “A little bit of patience is all you need.”

“Patience?” He snorted. “You’ve driven me half out of my mind with wanting you. I think we should continue this reunion in the privacy of your hotel room.”

She reached for his shirt collar, pulling him close again. “I want to enjoy every second of the adventures we’ve planned.”

She’s right. He stuffed away his natural desire to get naked and wreck the bed in every way possible. He pointed toward the hallway while gliding his other hand down her back to rest on her hip. “Our first stop is there. Macy’s is never going to be the same in my book.”

She gave him a flirty grin. “Oh, I like the way you think.”

Skylar had challenged him to organize their weekend together. Of course, they had to attend at least some of the reunion activities. That was half the fun. He’d asked a hundred questions to learn about her sexual comfort zones and expectations. She’d given him few guidelines about what was off-limits. If things went the way he planned, the next twenty-four hours would be some of the most memorable of his life. A long night of lovemaking in a romantic setting such as the Blu was totally in his wheelhouse. The rest of it? Not so much.

• • •

Margie Church writes erotic romance novels with a strong suspense element, in keeping with her moniker: Romance with SASS (Suspense Angst Seductive Sizzle). Never expect the same thing twice in one of her books. She tackles subjects and conflicts that aren't typical in romances. Life is complicated. People are, too. Marrying those concepts makes her work fascinating to read. Margie was 2011 GLBT Author of the Year, and her book, Hard as Teak, was named 2011 GLBT Book of the Year at Loves Romances Café. She is well-known for her BDSM erotic romances as well.

Margie lives in Minnesota, is married, and has two children. Some of her passions are music, biking, walking on moonlit nights, fishing, and making people laugh.

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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Available Now: A Rose Named Vengeance by Stella Whitelaw

Stella Whitelaw


(99c/99p through 23 April)
Ashley Rivers is living a turbulent life. As a young girl, she protected her frail Irish stepmother, Colleen, from the sexual violence of Delbert Rivers, whom she'd married to escape from the Troubles in Ireland, and to protect her son, Ryan. Ashley quickly grew fond of Ryan and allowed him to seduce her. Ultimately, she'd been forced to bury her secret in the parkland of Kerran Hall.

As a woman, Ashley is carving out a career as England's first female professional rose-grower. When Ryan is killed in a horrific car crash, she seeks to find the truth behind his death. Rally car designer and driver, Cameron Ross, is the man she blames for the accident, but when they meet, Ashley falls in love with him, and their love affair quickly ignites in a passionate clash. Despite finally finding love, Ashley still needs to discover what happened to her own mother, and the truth behind Ryan's death.

“And who is that little fairy hiding at the top of the stairs?” a sweet Irish voice asks. Ashley is about to meet the woman who becomes her enduring angel.

• • •

The white car slewed off the hot tarmac, the painted slogans on its doors blurring into a disordered graffiti of words. It veered out of control, ploughing through bales of straw, kicking them out like a mule, screaming a thin protest at the violent distortion of bodywork.

Ashley Rivers barely heard the gasp from the crowd, though she drew in her own breath on a sharp rise of fear. The noise gathered her up into stiff arms, bore her forwards on unfamiliar legs through the spectators. Helplessly, she watched the car roll over and somersault across a subsidiary road into undergrowth.

For a moment, Ashley thought she was watching a film. But the crunching of metal was real, so was the blast of fuel igniting. The heat seared her eyeballs and she couldn’t see, believing the sheet of hot orange across her lenses was a scalding blindness.

As the car turned into a rushing, glittering ball of flame, Ashley began to scream, but did not recognise the sound coming from her throat. None of this was happening. She would wake up soon and find herself in her cool apple-green bedroom at Kerran Hall.

She did not know if the roaring sound was from the burning car or the crowds or the firefighters racing along the tarmac. The men seemed to run slowly, weighed down by equipment, defying gravity. Ashley broke through the barrier, running towards the blazing car, stumbling, her ragged breath gathering into a hard knot in her breast, her dark hair escaping from under her baker’s boy cap.

“No, no! Please God, no…”

The windscreen went wavy then shattered and the glass blew out in streaks of arrowed light. Inside the car glowed, and she saw the outline of the driver’s shoulders. He wore fireproof overalls and a helmet. He was struggling to unfasten the safety belt, moving in slow motion.

“Get him out!” she screamed. “Get him out. . .”

The firefighters had reached the car and were activating their foam extinguishers. People were running from all directions. A tall man in crumpled black overalls, his tanned face ashen, flung his helmet to the ground. He tore at the door handles, the searing heat sending him crashing to the ground, the burnt flesh of his hands escalating the shock.
Somehow Ashley got through the crowds. The image was the worst of all sights. The face within the helmet was Ryan — carbon black, no features, his arms flailing the air, flames licking at his suit.

“For God’s sake, somebody do something!” Ashley shouted, pushing forward. She fought anyone who was in her way.

“Get that woman out of here.” The tall man broke out of the horrified crowd and, despite his hands, caught Ashley’s arms in a vicious grip. “You can’t help, you fool. You’re getting in the way. These people know what they are doing.”

“Leave me alone,” she stormed, prising off his hold with her nails. He flinched, biting on the pain.

“Mr. Ross. . . it’s Ryan O’Hara in the GT3000,” said a mechanic.

“Think I don’t know my own car?” the man said.

The firefighters managed to wrench open the door and Ryan fell to the ground, rolling over, trying to put out the flames devouring his suit. They pulled him away from the car before the reserve fuel tanks exploded. He was howling in agony.

Ashley could smell the sweet scent of burning flesh, and went cold. Her body shrank, repulsed, even though she loved him. A hot dry wind blew across the tarmac like a breath of fire. Her nostrils filled with charred fragments, and ash rose like black snow. She felt the world revolve slowly, and scenes of years ago came back with a clarity that she thought time had long since dimmed.

Meadows, river banks, a barn with hay smelling of wild flowers and herbs, the sun on her bare limbs, and a day that was all sweetness and light as her young body appeared for his gaze and touch. She had moved instinctively beneath him with sensual ease. Their love was a wondrous surprise, new for both of them. Time sailed through layers of sleep and loving, laced with the exhaustion of torn butterfly wings.

Ashley remembered it all while Ryan smouldered and burned in a writhing heap on the ground. Then she heard his voice.

“It doesn’t hurt. I’m all right,” he croaked through a ghastly grin.

He doesn’t know, she thought. He doesn’t know. He can’t feel anything.

The stench of death lingered in the air. What percentage burns killed? Ashley tried to remember. Third degree burns involved the whole thickness of the skin. Rule of nines for the area… fluid loss, plasma loss, strain on the heart. What was the minimum for survival? Were the fireproof overalls efficient? That’s why drivers wore them in events. She wore them.

“Get back!” the firefighters shouted.

Ashley was crushed in the turmoil of retreating bodies. The growling cars came to a halt as word spread round the track. She found herself flung against the tall man in the black overalls. He was like a wall, blocking her escape, looking over her head.

“It’s going up,” he said, without hope.

The reserve fuel tanks ignited and a great arc of flame lit the blue of the sky. Birds flew up from the singed hedges in alarm, pale wings flapping helplessly in the scorching air.

Ashley watched in a kind of stunned acceptance. Somehow, she had always known that their love had no future.

But then, Ryan had often told her so, hadn’t he?

• • •

Stella Whitelaw began writing seriously at the age of nine. She was ill with measles when her father gave her an Imperial Portable typewriter. Covered in spots, she sat up in bed and taught herself to type.

At sixteen, she became a cub reporter and worked her way up to Chief Reporter. She was the first woman Chief Reporter, the youngest, and the only one who was pregnant.

After producing a family, she became Secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery at the House of Commons. Secretary then meant the original meaning, Secretariat, the keeper of secrets. She was awarded an MBE in 2001 but is not sure why.

Like Trollope, she wrote books on the train and in the recesses. The Jordan Lacey PI series is her favourite and the cruise crime books. Her big romances, No Darker Heaven and Sweet Seduction, were a marathon adventure.

Stella has won a woman’s magazine national short story competition and the London Magazine’s Art of Writing competition judged by Sheridan Morley. The Elizabeth Goudge Cup was presented to her at Guildford University.

Homeless cats find their way to Stella’s lifelong hospitality and she has written eight books of cat stories for the 7 – 70 plus

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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Available Now: Gray Places by Julia Byrd

Julia Byrd


(99c/99p through 9 April)
1790s Yorkshire, England - Katherine Gilbert sets out for Wainforth Manor in North Yorkshire to fulfill her father’s last request. The master of Wainforth, Thomas Norcliffe, does not welcome her unannounced arrival, so Katherine must tread carefully around his dark moods while attempting to unlock the history buried in his ancestral home.

After she receives more than one whispered warning from the townspeople in Wainforth Village, Katherine’s initial audacity begins to waver. Deadly secrets from the Norcliffe family’s past are resurfacing, and Katherine begins to realize that the biggest danger lies within herself—the wisest course is to leave, but she wants to stay at Wainforth Manor and uncover the truth about Thomas Norcliffe.

• • •

Rattling down the road in a musty carriage toward a strange man’s home with the intention of introducing oneself and securing an invitation to stay awhile is a good moment to discard concern for societal approbation. So when I heard a female voice holler out from the hedges along the country thoroughfare, I did not hesitate to scramble hastily across the width of the carriage bench in order to trace the source of the noise. I had just stuck my head through the small window when I heard her again.

“Whoa!” she cried, and I craned my neck behind us to catch a glimpse. “Whoa, driver!”

I did not stop to think about whether she might have had ill intentions or been working on behalf of a gang of highwaymen. I pounded on the roof of the carriage interior to alert the driver, Mr. Brown. I had hired him that morning in Peterborough to take me to Wainforth Village, and his courtesy was buffed to a shine by a substantial fare.

Mr. Brown brought the horses up sharply. I had unwisely failed to renegotiate my center of gravity prior to this deceleration and thus slid to my knees on the carriage floor. While giving thanks for the privacy of a hired hack, I clambered back to the bench and untangled my skirts. Mr. Brown was responding to the woman’s hail.

“Yes, sister? What’s this fuss?” he called back as the vehicle jerked to a halt. I decided the situation was safe enough, and curious enough, for me to emerge, especially in my new independent incarnation. To my considerable surprise, our delay was created by a nun in a black-and-white habit who scurried toward us at a swaying trot. Before I could say a word, she resumed her shouting.

“Did you see him? Did you see our lord and master? We must follow his lead, we must not stray from his path!”

She had already trotted past the carriage in the narrow space between it and the hedge, but then she suddenly halted and reversed course. She swung around to face me. Her skin was damp and hectic, her expression desperate. I hung half out of the carriage, clinging with my left hand to a strap just inside the door. The muscle in my upper arm began to quiver as the holy woman hissed at me.

“Cease this delay immediately. You must come with me now, and we will find him together. He cannot elude me much longer.”

I gaped at her for a moment, then fell naturally into my most well-trod mental pathway, which was calm and factual. “Sister, you appear to be overexerted. I am headed to Wainforth Village. Would you care to accompany me these last few miles?”

The nun reached out as if to clutch at me, then recoiled. Her mouth twisted to a sneer. “Foolish woman! We all have only limited hope in this world or the next, and you are too blind to see when hope must be chased.”

With that cryptic pronouncement, she turned and angled for a stile in the stone fence that bordered the road. I caught a glimpse of a sturdy black shoe and pale ankle as she clambered over the gate and off toward a copse of trees between the fields.

Mr. Brown craned his head around the side of the carriage from his perch on the front bench. “Do you want me to go after her, Miss Gilbert?”

I considered the question. On the one hand, clearly the nun should not be left alone overlong in the countryside, even fairly close to the village. It would be dark in another few hours, and the air would surely be much colder overnight. She did not seem, at the moment, capable of undertaking rational thought. On the other hand, I knew neither her name nor anything else about her. She was hardly my business. Finally I shook my head. “No, Mr. Brown, please drive on. That woman is long gone now.”

It was true, I could no longer see her black habit. Maybe she went to pray at a secluded altar hidden in the trees, I told myself, not believing it for a moment.

• • •

Julia Byrd lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York, with her handsome dog, and scruffy husband, although a large piece of her heart remains in her native Illinois. She tells people she enjoys books, wine, dogs, trees, and architecture as plausible cover for her secret double life.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Available Now: Unholy Alliance by Kathleen Rowland

Donahue Cousins series, #2
Kathleen Rowland


(99c/99p through 2 April)
A decade ago, Tori Rourke, and her cousin, Vivienne, ran from the Irish mob after witnessing a brutal murder. Tori was framed by the mob, and while she served time in prison, she worried that the killer, Seamus McGinn, had kidnapped her missing cousin.

Attorney Grady D. Fletcher, defender of the wrongly condemned, appeals Tori’s case and wins her release. Now, going by Victoria Morningstar, she runs a food truck from a seedy waterfront neighborhood, hoping to find her cousin's kidnapper.

When Grady agrees to defend a new client, Samuel Peterson, who’s been accused of beating to death the wife of a noted professor, the evidence mounts. The professor is missing, as well as his laptop that contains data dangerous to national security.

And Seamus McGinn is back, and rumors of a massive annihilation is about to begin. As they race to assist the FBI, the bonds between Grady and Tori are about to be tested. It becomes clear Grady and Tori are falling fast for each other, but what to do about it is a different story. He’s a divorced dad who wants more time with his kid. She brings danger to his front door.

Grady has questions of his own; Is Vivienne at the center of the mob’s operation? How much will it cost Tori before she learns the truth? All Grady knows is the biggest danger is the one standing right behind you.

• • •

Grady stepped out of his Jeep, smoothed down his grey-striped tie and adjusted the cuffs of his white shirt. He let out a breath, spotted Drew Barker of the Los Angeles Globe, and waved to the reporter who was instrumental in sharing his discoveries of fraud and illegal testimony. Other reporters and cameramen shifted and rolled like an ocean of tipsy goodwill. Grady scanned over the waves for Tori Morningstar.

She stood stiffly at the high security entrance and hugged a leather moto jacket wrapped over crossed arms. Dressed in her pre-incarceration style, her defined muscles created a perfect fit for her silk blouse, In prison, she worked the heavy bag, labored hard so that she could protect herself in the yard.

Grady slipped papers into the hands of a guard. “Good morning, sir,” he said without another word, signed his clipboard, and rushed to her side. “Tori. It’s okay to speak to reporters.” The whoop-whoop of a hovering helicopter drew attention, and cameramen angled their equipment upward.

Beside him, she swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “These reporters helped. I’ll answer questions, but the publicity worries me.” She froze where she stood, aware of the potential dangers ahead.

“I know.” Their gazes collided. Her eyes resembled honey-brown gems. Fine cheekbones, a firm chin, and a mouth he found disturbingly inviting. In the sunlight, her dark hair glowed chestnut. She’d skinned her hair back from her face so tightly it had to hurt.

Drew Barker pushed his way in front of the others. “Victoria Morningstar.” The reporter was in his sixties, with a round, open face; wide eyes lent an expression of constant surprise. “Can you tell us what happened the night you were arrested?” He held a microphone close to her face.

“Go ahead. Talk to him, Tori,” Grady whispered.

She stood like a brittle statue. "My cousin and I were having dinner on the Long Beach waterfront. Rhubarb and Ginger, we went there a lot. Seamus McGinn and Timothy Noonan must have tailed us. They’re from Cobh, County Cork." Her words came out in a robotic rush.

“That’s in Ireland.” Grady chuckled for the camera. "For once, Ireland was lucky. Lucky to be rid of them.” He took her ice-cold hand and stepped around Barker, a reporter familiar with McGinn’s government-agro kidnappings. Recovered victims had broken collarbones, fractured limbs, cigarette burns, stab wounds, shattered eye sockets and facial bones, accomplished with a blunt instrument. Casualties had been alive at the time of beatings, with foreign objects jammed down throats. Teeth were found in their stomachs.

“Excuse me.” Another reporter, a tall woman from the Long Beach Beacon, swarmed down on Tori. "So, you saw McGinn and Noonan?"

"Correct." Tori lifted her chin, her vibrant eyes filling with the raw memory. “A half-dozen more stormed in. Carried automatics, ripped through the place. Found the owner, Irene Brennan. Dragged her out."

"The owner refused to pay them for protection,” Barker chimed.

Tori nodded, rubbed her forehead. “Same old deal, a mob upping the ante.”

And then what?" The earnest reporter from the Beacon leaned forward.

"My cousin Viv ran out the back. I was arrested."

“Make room, everybody.” Grady headed for his car, dragging Tori behind him.

Tori shuffled in slow, measured movements, as if shackled.

“One last question, Tori,” Barker called from behind. “You tried to leave the mob. What did they want you to do?"

Tori turned halfway around. "Act as a lure. I refused." She shrugged. “I paid for that decision.”

The woman reporter elbowed Barker out of the way. “Tori. Your lawyer, Daniel McMahon. Didn’t he serve as the mob's lawyer?”

Tori nodded. “Just great for me.” She paused for a few seconds. “I didn’t anticipate a setup.”

The reporter touched her arm. “You’re a fighter. How will you bounce back?”

Tori looked up, her face bleached of color. “I’ll try to accomplish small things. This will help. Little by little, I’ll let go of fear.”

“We’ve got to go, folks.” Grady reached to shake hands with several surrounding him.

Barker popped his thick eyebrows up. “Glad things worked out.”

“Thank you for following the case.” Grady placed a hand on Tori’s trembling back and walked her to the passenger side of his Jeep.

She halted mid-motion. “Where to?”

• • •

Book Buyers Best finalist, Kathleen Rowland, is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with a sizzling love story sure to melt their hearts. Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels.She grew up in Iowa, where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji. Kathleen now happily exists with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California, where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors. While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write while listening to characters’ demanding voices in her head.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Available Now: A Vampire's Tale by Maya Tyler

Maya Tyler


(99c/99p through 26 March)
The best laid plans…

Marisa Clements was never satisfied writing the ‘gossip column’ in the local paper and she quit her job to follow her dream of writing fiction. Floundering in an unforgiving industry, she wrote about vampires, a popular subject she considered fascinating but as real as unicorns, to pay the rent.

Corgan was tired of human misconceptions about vampires and ‘living’ as a vampire. He planned to tell Marisa his story and end his existence. It was no coincidence Corgan selected Marisa to write his story. With the ability to see the future, he knew she would be a major part of it. He knew if they met, she would help him die, but in doing so, she’d be doomed to the same fate. Once they met, their futures would be irrevocably intertwined.

Corgan began to care for Marisa and finally revealed the truth to her. He admitted his quest to atone for his past sins had put her in grave danger from a nest of revenge-seeking vampires. Corgan must claim her for her own protection. But claiming her is not enough, he must ask for help from his wizard friends and his maker in order to destroy his enemy or Marisa will never be safe.

• • •

Under the cover of dusk, the city lights came alive. Her view, slightly obstructed by the rickety fire escape, did not keep her from seeing the flashing neon signs lining the street below.

That’s it. She’d wasted hours on this novel, immediately deleting every word she typed. The cursor blinked mockingly on the otherwise blank page of her document. Write something. Anything.

With her apartment now shrouded in darkness, intermittently illuminated by the street lights, Marisa Clements lit the white pillar candle on her desk. Its orange flame cast long shadows against the wall. So I can see what I’m not writing. An eclectic mix of music serenaded her from the neighborhood, a reminder of Lincoln Park’s active nightlife, a distinct contrast to her quiet Friday night at home.

The candle flickered and a cold shiver travelled down her spine. Then it came to her. Fingers poised over the keyboard, she typed.

And his eyes glowed with unholy flames.

She squirmed in her chair. Marisa could see the dark stranger, clad in black, standing before her like a real being. He blended with the shadows, the dim room serving as apt camouflage, except for his eyes. They bore straight through her.

What do you mean “like a real being”?

She jumped in her seat. Yikes. A little too real. Alone in her apartment, the voice could only be a figment of her imagination. She shivered with anticipation as her fingers flew over the keys of her beloved laptop. This would be her best story yet. To hell with all the non-believers—her wealthy, socialite parents who’d disowned her when she’d left business school, and the “so-called” friends who told her to get a real job. This was a real job… It paid the bills, after all. Sort of. It paid the minimum balance on her credit card.

Why did people choose the mundane office job—she shuddered—plastering themselves to a desk from nine-to-five? Sitting at a desk to write was completely different. No boss, no stress… No money, if she didn't get her head out of the clouds and back to her latest vamp.

He didn't have a name yet, but he had a face. A dark, mysterious face with a century's worth of secrets. Secrets he would tell her, only her, if she would listen.

Marisa took a deep, calming breath. “I’m listening.” She closed her eyes, waiting. A cool breeze shifted her hair and her eyes popped open. The old floorboards creaked, and she spun her chair around. “Who's there?” The candle blew out. “What the—”

Time—and her heartbeat—stood still. Paranoia set in, the consequence of writing too many vampire stories. She must've left a window open. Or something. She re-lit the candle and turned her attention back to her laptop, staring at the last words she'd typed.

Corgan Halton.

She didn't remember typing that.

“Corgan Halton.” She said the name slowly. “I like that.” She'd written a dozen vampire stories and this would be her best name yet. It had an old-worldly feel to it. Like a real name. She'd better look it up to make sure it wasn't a real name; she didn’t need a lawsuit. Did people sue for name infringement?

“Okay, Corgan Halton. Are you real?” She typed the name into a search engine.

“As real as you are.” The distinctive male voice resonated in the otherwise quiet room.

Marisa froze. She didn't dare turn around. It was her overactive imagination at play. There was no one there. She hoped. Maybe one of her friends? Is this a joke?

“Not a joke, Marisa.”

Gasping, she stood and spun around toward the sound of his voice.

As he stepped out of the shadows, she took in the man before her. Pale with black, curly hair, dressed in an impeccable suit. Dark and intimidating, he stood in her living room, shrinking the already small space.

Exactly as she’d imagined. She conjured him from her imagination? No… This is not happening.

She rubbed her unbelieving eyes. There couldn't actually be anyone there. When did she last eat? Did low blood sugar cause hallucinations?

He smiled at her, and the temperature in the room dropped several degrees.

“Who are you?” she demanded.

“Corgan Halton.” He gave a courtly bow. “At your service.”

No… She stared at him in shocked silence. It isn't possible.

“I assure you, my dear, it's entirely possible.”

“Do you read minds, too?” She held her breath and waited for his reply.

“You tell me. You're the vampire expert.”

Vampire? He’s a vampire?

• • •

Maya Tyler believes in happily ever afters and enjoys writing paranormal romances with an unexpected twist. She's been writing since 2010.

She was first published in August 2012 with her short story "Just For Tonight", part of the anthology With Love from Val and Tyne, published by Breathless Press.

She released her debut paranormal romance novella Dream Hunter, published by Just Ink Press, in December 2014.

As well as her own weekly blog Maya's Musings and monthly Newsletter, she is a regular contributor to The Nuthouse Scribblers blog and #SexySnippets.

She enjoys writing, drinking Starbucks French Roast coffee, and, especially, writing while drinking Starbucks French Roast coffee!

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