Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Available Now: Black Moon by Tegon Maus

The Chronicles of Tucker Littlefield, #2
Tegon Maus



99c through Sunday, 19 August
Every twenty-eight years, the reign of the old Shalic comes to an end with the arrival of the Black Moon. The symbol of the law is a spear that holds sway over the whole of the Kindred, and is passed onto the old Shalic’s successor with the passing of the Black Moon.

When the old Shalic is murdered, war between those who carried the spear and those who were to receive it divides the Kindred bent on settling old scores.

Only one man stands between them...Tucker Littlefield, and he holds the spear.

• • •

"Damn the luck," Jack said, throwing his cards in disgust to the table. "If I didn't know better, Tucker Littlefield, I'd say you were cheating."

"Why, Jack, what a terrible thing to say, and we've been friends for so long," I answered innocently, raking the pot to my side of the table.

Few things pleased me more than a quiet drink on a Saturday morning and a friendly game of cards. Jack's Tavern had always held that contentment for me for as long as I could remember. There is something comforting in the smell of well-worn wood, stale beer, burnt food, and the dust of an energetic broom.

"I know you, Littlefield, and no one wins this much without cheating. I don't know how you're doing it, but you're doing it right enough."

"Jack, you were dealing; how could I possibly cheat?"

At that moment, the door flew open with a loud bang, startling me, not to mention Jack.

"You'd better come quick, Mr. Littlefield, they're looking for you," a young man called, breathing heavily as he leaned against the door.

"Who's looking for him?" Jack asked, standing.

"They are," he said, pointing nervously down the street.

Slowly, I stood, moving to the door.

"Soul bearer," a deep, angry voice boomed.

"Who the hell?" Jack asked.

"Littlefield," a second voice shouted, almost as annoyed, adding itself to the first.

My heart sank at the sound of it. I was certain who it was before I stuck my head out the door to confirm it.
"Damn it," I said softly, slipping back inside.

"Littlefield!" they shouted again.

Outside, two Jonda, each dressed in nothing more than loincloths, walked down the center of the street as if they did it every day. They stood well over seven feet tall, with long, black hair pulled into a tail at the back of their heads and tied with a thick, red string. Around their necks they wore a small string of blue and white shells. Their near-naked, copper colored bodies had been painted with thin, dull yellow paint in misshapen circles, giving them a turtle-like appearance. Hanging low from their hips were the overly large knives I had seen in action far more than I cared to remember.

It had been two years, and I still trembled a little inside at the sight of those knives, not to mention the men that knew how to use them.

"You better go see what they want before they set fire to the whole damn town," Jack said sternly, stabbing a meaty thumb at the door.

I gave him a distasteful look but knew he was right.

"Here," I shouted. Standing half in and half out of the doorway, I waved an arm to get their attention, bidding them to come this way.

"Better bring some cheese, Jack," I said dully.

His face contorted with concern at my words.

"So help me, Tucker, if they break one–" he began.

"Cheese, Jack, quickly," I interrupted, turning him by his shoulders toward the kitchen.

I straightened my clothes quickly, determined not to let my nervous concern show, and turned toward the door to wait.

After a few moments, both Jonda came to the door, bending slightly to peer inside far more tentatively than I would have thought. The larger of the two was first to enter, bowing slightly to clear the doorway. The second followed his lead to stand next to him. They turned their heads from side to side with distaste as they inspected their surroundings.

At that moment, Jack reappeared with a large wedge of cheese on a cutting board, a knife stuck in its surface quivering next to it.

Jack, not a small man by any measure, stood mouth gaping widely, staring up the length of each man until he tilted back dramatically then passed out, falling with a loud thump.

"Gentlemen," I said, trying desperately to balance the offering I caught from his failing grip. "Nice to see you again."

Without a word, the larger of the two picked it up, sniffed at it hesitantly and then broke it in half, handing one piece to his counterpart. Each sniffed at it several times before devouring it in three or four bites.

"Daneba say come," the largest intoned.

"So, she's still alive," I said with no small level of relief. I owed my life to the woman, hands down. Her fate had kept me up more nights than I cared to count. "Well, give her my thanks, but I'm afraid my schedule doesn't allow me to be–" I began to lie.

"Daneba say Black Moon coming, Soul Bearer must come."


"Daneba say Black Moon…Tucker come in two days or all Jonda come here for Soul bearer," he said, folding his arms across his chest.

"All Jonda?" Jack asked from the floor, looking up to me. "Tucker, that can't be good."

"I'll think about it," I returned, waving him off. It had been two years, and I was determined I wouldn't risk my life in the outlands again for anything in the world…not for anything.

"Soul Bearer come…two days…Black Moon comes soon," the larger of the two men said again, pushing my shoulder to make his point before turning to leave.

I folded my arms in defiance but said nothing.

"Bring more this," the shorter one whispered harshly, before pushing the now empty wax cheese rind into my chest.

I stood there unmoved as they made their way outside.

"Tucker, you have any idea what a black moon is?"

"No, and I have no desire to find out," I said, moving to look out the door. I hadn't realized it until this moment, but I had been holding my breath.

By the time I reached the opening, my Jonda friends were nowhere to be seen.

"You know you have to go, right?" Jack asked, getting off the floor and pushing lightly past me to look outside.

"Yeah, I do," I said in resignation.

• • •

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, 25 July 2018

Available Now: Scathed by Sue Coletta

On a picturesque fall morning in Grafton County, New Hampshire, a brutal murder rocks the small town of Alexandria. In the backyard of a weekend getaway cabin, a dead woman is posed in red-satin, with two full-bloomed roses in place of eyes.

In her hand, a mysterious envelope addressed to Sheriff Niko Quintano. Inside, Paradox vows to kill again if his riddle isn’t solved within 24 hours.

With so little time and not enough manpower, Niko asks his wife for help. But Crime Writer Sage Quintano is dealing with her own private nightmare. Not only did she find massive amounts of blood on the mountain where she and her family reside, but a phone call from the past threatens her future—the creepy mechanical voice of John Doe, the serial killer who murdered her twin sister.

Together, can Niko and Sage solve the riddle in time to save the next victim? Or will the killer win this deadly game of survival?

• • •

October 16, 2008
6:00 a.m.

The unknown shattered my reality. Before entering hospital room 339, I rapped my knuckles on the doorframe. A gentle tap, tap, tap so I wouldn’t startle my husband. “Pup, it’s me.” Deep inhale, and I pushed open the door, with Noah straddled on my hip.

My heart collided with my ribcage.

Niko lay in the hospital bed, the sheet coin-tight across his chest. Clear tubing ran to intravenous medication, hanging by a metal pole, to clear bags secured to the bed frame, below the thin mattress. Five or six tubes in total. His pallid color worsened when he reached for me, his strong fingers grasping air, urging us closer. The fingers that soothed my pain with one touch, the hand I held as we recited our wedding vows—twice. Those very fingers weaved with mine for the last two decades, through agony, through despair, through sorrow, through excitement, through endless days and passion-filled nights. The man in that bed possessed the ability to wash away my darkest fears. Yet, in that moment, the hand that reached for me didn’t look like Niko’s. Its skin was mottled, gray, ill.

Frozen in place, I gaped at his suffering.

“This is not your fault,” he claimed. “Please don’t blame yourself, babe.” Balls of white cornered his dry, colorless lips. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Tears flooded my eyes, my vision clouding more and more with each soul-crushing second that crawled by. “What’re you saying? I don’t understand.”

“Don’t let our son forget me. Promise me.”

“Don’t talk like that.” I rushed to his side, pressed my lips to his forehead, sheathed in sweat. “You’re gonna be fine, pup. You’re the strongest man I know.”

“I love you, Sage Quintano. From the first day you strutted into the Hilltop Steakhouse, wavy hair cascading down your back, to this moment right here, right now, I’ve been helplessly, desperately, in love with you. Always remember that, remember me.”

“Pup, I don’t understand.” I cried harder, my chest heaving so heavily, I struggled for each and every breath. Noah wailed, too. At twenty months old, he was too young to grasp the severity of Niko’s words, but he sure sensed something wasn’t right. “Talk to me. Please,” I begged. “Tell me how and why you’re here. Who did this to you?”

“You’ll find love again, as much as it pains me to say. Consider this my blessing to move forward. I can’t bear to think of you, Noah, and the kids living alone in that big house.”

“Stop talking like that. I don’t want another love. I want you, pup.”

A slight grin arched beneath his straggly goatee, glints of silver more prominent in his dark hair than ever before. “I know you do, babe.”

When he forced the second grin, albeit weaker, the charade didn’t fool me. My husband feared the worst. What happened in the hours after he dropped me off? If Paradox were responsible for Niko’s grave condition, maybe there was a riddle that pointed to a clue to reverse the effect.

“This can’t be the end; it just can’t be. I’ll never make it without you. Hang on. Please, pup.”

“That might be out of my control,” he countered. “Remember how deeply I love you guys. You’re my whole world, my everything. Thank you for so many blissful years together, years I didn’t always deserve. I haven’t always been the best husband, especially when it came to recognizing your fears. Why didn’t I listen?” His warm, caramel-colored eyes rolled closed. From under his thick lashes, tears trickled down to the pillow. “I’m … so … tired.”

“Pup?” I shook him by the shoulder. “Pup?” My gaze shot to Noah, still bundled in my arms, and I fell to my knees, hands held in prayer around our son. “Dear God, no. You can’t take my husband. Not now. We’ve just begun this beautiful new chapter. It can’t end yet. Please, I’ll do anything.” Noah bawled with me as I rose. I pressed an open hand to my husband’s chest. “Fight harder. Don’t you dare give up. Fight for us.” Sweeping my hair around one ear, I lowered my cheek to his heart.

Thump … thump … thump.

Dr. Rollinsford strode up behind me and rested a supportive hand on my back. “Mrs. Quintano, may we talk?”

Without turning around, I said, “Only if you’ll give us hope. Otherwise, save your bullshit condolences for someone else. We don’t need ‘em.” I whirled around. “How did he wind up here? He was fine earlier. Maybe a little rundown, but nothing to indicate his life was in danger. Was he poisoned? Shot? Stabbed? I can’t tell what’s wrong with all these tubes.”

“Let’s go back to my office so Sheriff Quintano can rest.”

“No, dammit.” I stomped my foot. “I’m not leaving him. Whatever you need to tell me, you can say right here.”

With the saddest eyes I’ve ever had the misfortune of witnessing, he started slow. “Your husband ran into trouble earlier today when …” His words trailed off, his voice muffled by my devastation. The doctor’s lips moved, but I was trapped inside my own head, silently pleading with God, begging for mercy. If my husband died, I’d never recover. Not ever.

• • •

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, 18 July 2018

Available Now: Love Begins at 40 by Ann Burnett

Ann Burnett



(99c through Sunday the 22nd)
Maisie McLelland spent ten years building up McLelland Events in Glasgow and has just bought a holiday home in the relaxing small seaside town of Largs on the west coast of Scotland. She immediately befriends her elderly neighbour, the widow of a local fisherman.

When Elizabeth is in need of rescue, Maisie steps in to help. Elizabeth’s grateful son, teacher and lifeboatman, James, takes Maisie to dinner to show his appreciation. Maisie’s not looking for a relationship, and neither is James, as he’s still reeling from the loss of his son. They’re both surprised at the instant connection.

Over time, Maisie and James become friends and their closeness continues pulling them toward each other until emotion leads to intimacy. She agrees to help with the organisation of a Vilking Festival he is planning in the town.

But as Maisie approaches her 40th birthday, tragedy strikes a double blow, and she’s forced to make some important decisions about what she really wants from life.

• • •

‘What on earth have I done?’ she exclaimed as she looked about the half-empty room. This was not what she had planned, what she had looked forward to, what she had imagined in the evenings when the TV programmes were boring and she was sitting at home in her flat in Glasgow.

Where was the wee, whitewashed Highland cottage nestling into the glen, the purple heather-tinged mountains rising all around? Where was the burbling burn to supply fresh, clear water? The black-faced sheep munching close by? The sound of the distant bagpipes drifting through the quiet air? Her bolt hole, where she could escape when the pressures of her work in Glasgow became too much?

Maisie McLelland was 39, a successful businesswoman in Glasgow, with no ties and a bucket-list of what she wanted to achieve before she hit 40. Buying a second home, where she could go to relax away from the bustling city, was top priority. In fact, it was her only priority.

But here she was in another flat – smaller even than her Glasgow one – empty apart from a load of flatpack furniture piled high in the bedroom, and a sofa and two chairs wrapped in plastic sheeting in the lounge. She’d gone ahead and bought the property, despite the fact that it in no way resembled her long-held dreams of a Highland cottage far away from everyone and surrounded by hills.

Instead, this was an ordinary one-bedroom apartment, with magnolia-painted walls and a beige carpet throughout. The kitchen and bathroom were new, and white, and clean, and efficient. Nothing out of the ordinary; in fact, all very, very ordinary. Yet she’d known she had to buy it from the first moment she stepped out onto the balcony attached to the lounge.

‘Maisie McClelland,’ she had said to herself. ‘This is your idea of paradise. This is your dream.’

It was the breathtaking view that had sold the flat to her. Two flights up, she looked west across the glittering waters of the Firth of Clyde to the islands of Great and Wee Cumbrae, with the Isle of Bute behind, and further down the coast, the bulk of the Isle of Arran. Scotland in miniature, the adverts called Arran, with its mountain range at one end, and progressing gently down to rolling green fields at the other. She made a mental note to visit it one day, along with the other islands across the bay.

As she stood there, the sun was beginning its descent, and its rays bathed the islands in a golden light as they rose out of the sea. It was like no other view she had ever seen, and its beauty took her breath away.

So, there and then, she’d bought it. And now she was moving in. Except that all the furniture still had to be assembled.

Maisie wandered through to the bedroom and stared at the boxes, the packages, the pile of which would be her furniture and accessories, whenever she managed to put it all together. She’d got somewhat carried away on her visit to the large Swedish superstore in Glasgow where she’d bought it all, forgetting that most of it would have to be assembled.

First, though, a coffee would sustain her. But where was the coffee machine she had purchased, with a supply of coffee capsules? She raked through various boxes and bags, unearthing a couple of prints she’d thought would brighten up the plain walls, a large glass vase, and a magazine rack. But no sign of the coffee machine. She remembered, too, that she didn’t have any fresh milk or sugar. It might be easier to head out and find a place to sit while she gathered her strength.

Grabbing her coat, she marched out of the flat and pressed the button for the lift. And waited. And waited. Just then, the door of one of the other flats opened and a man came out, shouting ‘Cheerio!’ A large bear of a man, tall and muscular, with thick fair hair and an equally thick fair beard, and wearing a set of overalls. He was carrying a toolbox, and as Maisie spotted it, an idea struck her.

She smiled broadly at him as he approached the lift that had just arrived.

By the time they reached the ground floor, he had introduced himself as James Paterson and they had agreed he would come back the next day and, for a suitable payment, assemble all her furniture.

• • •

Ann Burnett was born in Scotland where she now lives but has travelled extensively and lived in Canada and Australia.

She has published short stories, articles and children’s stories, as well as writing a novel, Loving Mother, as part of her Masters in Creative Writing. She is an experienced Creative Writing tutor and adjudicator for the Scottish Association of Writers.

Her short stories have been published in New Writing Scotland, Glasgow University Creative Writing anthologies, My Weekly, That’s Life (Australia), Woman's Weekly and the Weekly News. Her collection of short stories, Take a Leaf out of My Book, is available on Amazon.

Her memoir, illustrated with her father's photos, A Scottish Childhood, Growing up a Baby Boomer has just been published.

But perhaps she is best remembered for writing Postman Pat stories for a children's comic every week for five years. A labour of love indeed!

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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Available Now: Misfortune of Time by Christy Nicholas

Druid's Brooch, #6
Christy Nicholas



(99c through Sunday the 15th)
In 11th century Ireland, Étaín must hide her pagan magic from her pious Christian priest husband, Airtre. She wants to escape his physical abuse, but she must stay to protect their grandson, Maelan. Over many lifetimes, she has learned how to endure her own pain, but Maelan is young and vulnerable.

When Airtre's paranoia and jealousy spiral out of control, Étaín has no choice but to escape in the night with little more than the clothing on her back, leaving a trusted friend to protect Maelan.

This is not the first lifetime Étaín has fled, and she knows how to survive. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she must make decisions that may result in disaster for her, her grandson, and everyone she loves.

• • •

Cluain Mhic Nóis, early spring, 1055AD

Étaín peered into the cauldron, sniffed the savory aroma of lamb stew, thyme and dill, and added a pinch of pepper. Just a few more minutes and the pot would be ready to swivel off the hearth fire. She tucked an escaped strand of gray hair behind her ear and stirred the stew with the long wooden spoon. With a practiced hand, she filled a small bowl with cream to set outside for the Faeries, careful to hide it where no one would notice. Then she turned her attention to the oat flatbread. She grew anxious in case her husband, Airtre, returned home before she completed her tasks.

A drip, drip, drip made her turn just as she placed the bread on the cooking hearth. She scanned the thatch of the large roundhouse, searching for the telltale dark spot which might betray the leak. She finally spied the culprit, directly above the eating area. With a muttered curse, she shoved and wrestled the heavy wooden table under the leak.

After wiping the damp from her brow, she climbed and stretched, standing on tiptoes to reach the soaked thatch. Étaín pushed daub into the thatch, but the patch would never hold. Still, the patch should serve until morning. She’d do a proper repair when the rain slowed.

Slowed, not stopped. The rain never seemed to stop in the spring.

The faint odor of char sent panic through her blood and made Étaín scramble down from the table to rescue the bread. She pulled back the cloth and grimaced. Airtre would not be pleased. Still, he hadn’t yet come home from the abbey. The other night he hadn’t even come home until much later, but he’d offered no explanation. Perhaps she had time to make another loaf. She usually kept more dough resting in the cool room. The new loaf would be tarragon rather than chervil, but Airtre liked both.

Étaín dusted her hands on her apron, pulled an oiled hood over her head, and hurried past the herb garden. Several round storage structures ringed the south corner of their courtyard, filled with tools and supplies. She rummaged through her herb supplies and found three turnips to mash as well as her precious salt box. A little sweet cream, butter and sorrel, and those would make a nice dish for the side if the new flatbread didn’t bake in time.

She had just returned to the hearth when she heard the horse outside.

Stones and crows, he’s home early. She scrambled to scrape the burnt bread out of her iron pan, burning her hand on the still-sizzling metal.

Étaín had long since learned not to curse out loud, but a grunt of frustration still escaped her lips, knowing her husband hadn’t come in yet. After closing her eyes tight against the painful burn, she plunged her hand into the cold water bucket by the door.

She concentrated on her heirloom brooch and pulled time back a few moments. While she couldn’t use the magic longer without serious illness, a few moments should be enough. Still, a wave of nausea swept over her as she grabbed a scrap of rag to pull the pan out of the oven and saved her hands this time. A sound at the door made her whirl back to her chores.

When Airtre entered the roundhouse, he shook the rain off his oiled cloak and cursed. “Étaín! Pissmires and spiders, what have you done all day? This place is a mess. Is something burning?”

She turned to him after swallowing her distress, her head bowed. “I apologize, husband. I found a leak…”

He stood with his arms crossed on his stocky chest. “A leak? A leak? I don’t care about a leak! What did you ruin, woman? I swear, for someone reputed to be an excellent cook, you are damned clumsy with food, and wasteful at that.”

She busied herself with cleaning the hearth and putting things right. First, she wrapped the new dough in a burdock leaf and placed the package in the warm coals. Then she shoved the table back into its proper place. She rubbed at the scrapes the legs made on the flagstones, but Airtre was busy changing into a dry léine. Hopefully, he would not notice the damage until they wore away.

• • •

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, 27 June 2018

Available Now: Irish Shadows by Paula Martin

Mist na Mara series, #5
Paula Martin



(99c through Sunday 1st of July)
After a heart-breaking experience, Rose Finlay has vowed never to give another man a chance to hurt her – until Liam McKenna arrives at Mist Na Mara Arts Centre to organise an anniversary celebration event. Liam has his own reasons for not wanting to embark on a new relationship. But both fight the mutual magnetic attraction.

Shocks await them when Liam meets the boy his sister gave up for adoption twenty years earlier, and Rose’s ‘ex’ makes contact with her thirteen-year-old son.

Rose then discovers a betrayal which has divided her family since the Irish Civil War in the 1920s.

Will Liam and Rose be able to resolve all the shadows from the past in order to find a future together?

• • •

Rose Finlay let out a grunt of frustration as she flung open the kitchen door. It crashed against the side of the tall store cupboard, and her two assistants jumped.

‘Uh-oh,’ Cait said. ‘What’s up, Rose?’

‘He’s going to use a catering company,’ she snapped, tugging on her white jacket and pushing her fair hair into the cotton beanie cap.

Cait held up her hands. ‘Whoa, hold on. Rewind, will you? Who’s he?’

‘An American friend of Guy’s.’

Amy, the nineteen-year-old kitchen assistant, widened her eyes. ‘You mean Brad Pitt?’

Cait did a double-take. ‘Huh?’

Despite her annoyance, Rose couldn’t help but laugh at Cait’s astounded expression. ‘He came in here this afternoon, asking where Guy’s office was, and Amy thought he looked like Brad Pitt, but I don’t think he looks anything like him. I suppose he has the same shape of face, but his hair’s much darker, for one thing, and—’

And he was better looking than any man had a right to be. Blue eyes, wide forehead, high cheekbones, strong jawline – and a hint of dimples when he smiled.

Picturing him caused an odd fluttering in her stomach, the same fluttering as when he’d appeared earlier at the kitchen door, and when she saw him again at the meeting in the staffroom. She dismissed it as a normal female reaction to a good-looking man, and went on, ‘Anyhow, his name’s Liam McKenna, and it seems he’s some whiz-kid organiser who’s done events all over the world. He’s here to organise a big celebration in May for Mist Na Mara’s fifth anniversary.’

‘And he’s using a catering company?’ Cait frowned. ‘Why can’t we do the catering?’

Rose lifted the lid of the pan in which the tomato soup was simmering, gave it a stir, and dipped a teaspoon in to check the taste and texture. ‘Obviously he doesn’t think we’re capable of large-scale catering.’

‘Huh!’ Cait’s huff mirrored her own displeasure at the apparent snub. ‘Didn’t you tell him we cater for large numbers almost every weekend?’

Rose thought for a few moments and sighed. ‘I didn’t, because he was talking about hundreds of visitors, not the thirty-odd we cater for when we have art and drama workshops. Besides, I’m not exactly tried and tested, am I? I’ve only been here for three weeks.’

‘But everyone’s raving about your meals, Rose. Joyce Daly said the sauce you served with the sea bass last Sunday was the best she’d ever tasted – and believe me, Joyce doesn’t hand out compliments unless she means them.’

Rose nodded. She’d already learned that the buxom, middle-aged housekeeper was a no-nonsense, say-what-you-think type of woman. ‘Aye, she asked me for the recipe.’

‘You should get her to have a word with this Liam Wotsit fella, and tell him he should be using in-house catering.’

‘McKenna. Liam McKenna.’

‘That’s a very Irish name. Wonder if his ancestors were Irish?’

Rose shrugged. ‘Possibly, but I doubt we’ll have much contact with him.’

Which, if she were being honest with herself, was perhaps as well. She didn’t want to think about this American who provoked the same tingling of nerve endings she used to feel every time she saw Harry Taylor.

She pushed the memory back into the dark recess of her mind. Maybe all men weren’t like Harry, as Marina, her one-time landlady in Dublin, had repeatedly told her, but nothing had changed her determination to stay well clear of them.

‘Forty-five minutes, girls,’ she said, eyeing the clock. ‘Cait, are the pies ready for the oven?’

‘Yes, and I just put the potatoes in.’

‘I’ve nearly finished prepping the veggies,’ Amy added. After tossing another handful of cubed carrots into the pan, she went on, ‘Rose, please may I serve in the dining room tonight?’

Cait laughed. ‘She wants to see her Brad Pitt lookalike again. Come to think of it, so do I.’

Rose forced a smile. She and Cait usually took the heated food carts to the dining room, but tonight she was quite happy to let Amy take her place. She wasn’t sure why Liam McKenna had unsettled her. It could simply be because she was angry at being overlooked as a caterer for the anniversary event, but whatever it was, the less she saw of him, the better.

• • •

Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons. She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years.

She returned to writing fiction after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances.

Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places and has travelled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, USA and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.

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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Available Now: The Fountain of Youth by Margaret Pearce

Margaret Pearce



(99c through Sunday the 10th of June)
45 year old widow, Amelia Martin, finds her life has fallen to pieces. Worse, she’s one of three hostages kidnapped by bandits while holidaying in the Amazon jungle.

When her children refuse to pay the ransom, Amelia acquires a ruthless willpower to survive, and unexpected cold and deadly determination awakens in her to aid in her escape.

Months later when she emerges from the jungle, youth and wealth on her side, did she find the legendary fountain of youth, or did she discover the woman she’d always been deep inside?

• • •

Mrs Amelia Martin had coped with her marriage and the grumpy, miserly, complaining years of her husband’s good health like a saint. She had also coped with the grumpy, miserly, and complaining months of his last illness with the same saintly attitude.

Her saintly attitude vanished shortly after his death. She sold the gloomy family home in their newly gentrified inner suburb for a very inflated price. She downsized to a small flat, and fled. She had been to Europe twice, Ireland once, and Hong Kong and Singapore once.

“His half of the family house should have been left to us,” her daughter Angelina had accused. “Daddy knew how we needed a decent stake in Bert’s new business.”

“He had promised to help out with my overdraft on the new house,” her son Brad grumbled. “He knew how important a good address is for my public image.”

“But when he made that will, the house was worth very little.” Which was why I inherited, Mrs Martin reminded herself.

“But he would have left us his half share of the house if he had realized how much it was going to be worth,” her son snapped.

“But he didn’t,” Mrs Martin pointed out. “He left both of you all of his shares and his stamp collection, which was the equivalent price of the full house. The house, paid for with most of my earnings, was mine to sell.”

“But the house value rose to a lot more than the stamp collection and shares,” Brad grumbled.

“Wasting Daddy’s money,” her daughter sneered.

“Your father and I always intended to travel when he retired,” Mrs Martin defended.

“Only to the seaside for his fishing,” her son pointed out. “Not around the world all the time.”

“And with that dreadful woman,” her daughter accused.

“Widowed because her husband was a gangster and got himself shot,” her son said.

“Betty Drakeford is a lovely woman, and as we are both widows, we have so much in common,” their mother defended.

They didn’t seem to have that much in common on first acquaintance. They both owned to being forty-five, but Betty Drakeford fought the onset of age with bright, trendy clothes, and was an eye-catching figure with blonded hair.

Mrs Martin’s clothes were sombre and the acme of good taste for a grieving widow. As their friendship deepened, however, she had taken Mrs Drakeford’s advice, donated her dowdy good taste wardrobe to the Op. shop, and bought clothes with more flattering lines and more cheerful colours.

The united disapproval of Mrs Martin’s two children of her new friend and lifestyle intensified when Mrs Drakeford sabotaged Mrs Martin’s meek and uncomplaining babysitting of her three grandchildren.

“Both your son and daughter can easily afford pre-school and after-school programs for their kids,” she had pointed out. “You are entitled to start having some fun.”

“We’re leaving for Brazil tomorrow.” Mrs Martin rose and opened the front door for them to leave.

“Don’t expect us to rescue you if you get picked up for drug trafficking,” her son sneered.

“Or expect us to fund you when you finish off Daddy’s money,” her daughter warned.

Mrs Martin shut the door on their disapproving faces with relief. South America sounded exciting.

• • •

Margaret Pearce was launched on an unsuspecting commercial world as stenographer and ended up copywriting in an advertising department. She took to writing instead of drink when raising children and was surprised to be published. She completed an Arts Degree at Monash University as a mature age student and lurks in an underground flat in the Dandenongs still writing.

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Available now: Gumshoe Girl by Andi Ramos

Andi Ramos



(99c through Sunday, 3 June)
Sheagan O’Hare got more than she bargained for when her newly inherited detective agency lands its first case; a missing person, embezzlement, and murder. Sheagan’s out to prove she can hang with the pro's, despite the constant reminder of her amateur status from an annoyingly attractive FBI agent, Colin 'Mac' MacEvine, who’s forced himself into her life.

How does she feel when an old high school friend hopes to ignite a new romance?

Will she be able to discover if detective work and love can mingle before someone gets hurt?

• • •

Sheagan blinked back the sting in her eyes as sweat drizzled from her forehead. Her shoulders and forearms cried out as determination inched her body forward through the tin walls that framed her slender figure. The narrow shaft rendered her legs useless as they dragged behind her like dead weight. She made a vow to start working out as she approached her destination, the metal grate that looked down into the sweetheart suite of the Eliot Hotel.

She shimmied her binoculars out of her bag and clutched them in her sweaty palms as she readied herself to delve into the world of private investigating. The friction of her movements caused her mahogany mane to cling to all the surfaces of her temporary confinement. Perched behind the filigree frame, peering like a caged animal, she was a mere 20 feet from her target. Her target? The Rat Bastard, who up until this very moment she’d called boyfriend.

She wasn’t there to kill him, even though the thought had crossed her mind; no, she was there to catch him in the act. She suspected he had been cheating on her for some time, so proof would end her suspicion or the relationship. Spying on her significant other through an air-vent of a swanky hotel room was hardly a promising start to her so-called glamorous career as a private detective. But it snapped her back into the reality that her new chosen profession would often be messy and difficult.

She peered through the grate and envied the spacious room below, but her viewing angle was no good for the task at hand. She could feel the heat in her cheeks rise along with her anger as she scanned the room and soaked in the extravagance–the hardwood tables, the Italian marble fireplace, the opulent sheen of the fabric on the overstuffed furniture that glimmered in the soft candlelight. The Rat Bastard was not known to overindulge on frivolous expenses, unless it was on her dime. Thoughts of killing him resurfaced.

What is wrong with me? Why did I wait so long?

She immediately regretted the fleeting question. She knew why. The answer brought back the pain and significance of her father’s sudden death. He had been the only family she had left, and he was gone. All that was left behind was his detective agency. She had thought about giving it up, but she couldn’t; it was her only connection to him, to her family.

She closed her eyes briefly, realizing that now she was facing more loss–even if he was a lying, cheating Rat Bastard.

No! It’s better this way, stay focused.

She choked in a breath and turned her attention back to the room. His secret love nest was finished with soothing tones on the walls and thick, plush carpeting.

What is that on the end table?

Her gaze was drawn to the bottle label as it bobbed upside down in the melting ice. She sharpened the focus of her binoculars, and her eyes widened in recognition.

Her cheeks flushed. Cristal, she scoffed. Who is this Bimbo, anyway?

As if she had room to criticize this girl’s intelligence, when Sheagan was the one sweating her makeup off in a four-by-four-foot air-duct.

Yeah, who’s the stupid one?

She heard passionate sounds coming from the right of the room and recognized his tone. Leaning sideways, Sheagan pressed her face to the grate, but her limited view revealed only a portion of the bed and unable to make out major details, like faces.

Crap, I can’t see anything. Damn! She needed to get a better look

As she shifted her weight, the metal walls started to reverberate and Sheagan stifled a gasp, willing the rumbling to cease. Her breathing became labored as the musty air stole the aroma of the sweet perfume wafting up waft from the suite below. She stilled her movements and did the only thing she could think of… nothing. Nothing but stare at the heap of blankets and wait.

Come on, bimbo, come up for air. I know he doesn’t last that long.

Her discomfort increased as the noise from their passion became more intense.

Ugh, that’s it, I’ve had it!

She mashed her cheek and upper body against the grate.

I just need a peek to confirm.

She pressed harder, ogling the bed. Finally, she caught a tiny glimpse.

Just a little further.

She pushed and heard a chirring sound, then a scraping. She froze in place, but the grate gave way with a creaking groan and crashed to the ground. Time stood still as Sheagan realized there was nothing between her and the floor except air.

• • •

Andi Ramos grew up in central Massachusetts where she still lives today with her family, goat, and Boston Terriers. Her love for reading grew into a passion for writing. She dabbled with pen and paper for a long time and eventually stopped pushing her amusements aside and started developing those stories into novels. One of her favorite things to do is to hop into her motorhome with her family and write while traveling down the road as they journey to various destinations.

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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Available now: Her Only Option by Paula Martin

Paula Martin



(99c through Sunday, 27 May)
Neve Dalton loves her job as a tour guide on a River Nile cruise ship as much as she values her independence. She isn’t ready to settle down with her Egyptian boyfriend, despite his repeated proposals and his father’s desire to see him married.

Nor is she ready to meet Ross McAllister, a compelling and fascinating archaeologist. She struggles against her growing attraction to him until she can no longer ignore what her heart is telling her.

When she starts receiving cryptic messages, and Ross’s work in the famous Valley of the Kings is threatened, Neve has to make a heart-breaking and life-changing decision which she feels is her only option.

Can they discover whose enmity is forcing them apart before it’s too late?

• • •

Neve Dalton smiled as she changed into her white bikini. Five hours of freedom, and she intended to spend at least four of them relaxing. And woe betide anyone who disturbed her.

Clutching a towel and a canvas bag with her sunscreen, e-reader, and bottle of water, she sprinted up three flights of curved stairs from her staff cabin to the sundeck of the Lady Nadia cruise ship.

The only person there was the barman, who was restocking the large fridges at the stern, and she nodded in satisfaction at the sight of the deserted decks of the cruise ships moored on each side of the Nadia. Although she loved her job, she always enjoyed this peaceful interlude between the departure of one tour group and the arrival of the next.

She chose a sun lounger near the rail, from where she could see across the deck of the neighbouring ship to her favourite view. The blue Nile and the white Theban hills on the far side of the river shimmered in Egypt’s furnace-like afternoon heat.

After daubing herself liberally with sunscreen, she adjusted the large parasol to give some protection from the burning sun, and opened her e-reader to catch up with the latest articles in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. Once she’d done that, she leaned back, relaxed, and closed her eyes.

Less than ten minutes later, conscious of something she couldn’t quite define, she half-opened one eye. A broad chest, partly hidden by an unbuttoned blue shirt, filled her line of vision.

Squinting against the brightness, she saw strong arms and well-formed hands, which curved over the top rail of the neighbouring Lady Amirah’s sundeck. Her gaze travelled down, taking in the chest with its smattering of dark hair, the curve of slim hips in well-fitting red swimming trunks, and long, muscular legs.

Mmm, rather nice.

‘Good afternoon,’ he said.

Embarrassed by her survey of his body, she looked up at his face. Even though he wore sunglasses, she knew he was staring at her.

‘Oh – hello.’ She sat upright and wished she could pull her large towel around her as a shield against his scrutiny.

He slid his sunglasses to the top of his head, flattening his thick, dark hair, and her breath hitched at the sight of his amazing blue eyes. They reminded her of the shimmering ultramarine water of the ship’s swimming pool. His tanned features were as impressive as his strong physique – broad forehead, high cheekbones, the slight indent of dimples in his cheeks, a wide mouth, and a finely chiselled jaw.

Some primeval response stirred inside her.

‘I was admiring your beautiful figure.’ His deep voice held the faint trace of a Scottish accent. ‘I hope you don’t object?’

A shaft of disappointment quenched her initial spark of interest. For some reason, she’d expected him to be different from the smooth-talking posers who sometimes tried to chat her up. Instead, it seemed he was simply another cruise ship Casanova who thought flattering words in a deep, honey-rich voice would make women fall at his feet.

Politeness to guests was rule number one, however, since he was on the Amirah, one of Nadia’s sister ships. Her professional persona surfaced. ‘Not at all.’ She kept her voice casual while giving what she hoped was her best I know your type and you don’t impress me one bit smile.

‘You look lonely,’ he said.

Since her coolness hadn’t put him off, she reached for the bottle of sunscreen from the small table next to her lounger. ‘I’m enjoying the solitude. It doesn’t happen very often.’ Maybe he’d take the hint from that.

He didn’t. ‘Where’s everyone else?’

‘If you mean the guests, they’ve gone to the airport. The next group is due to arrive about five o’clock.’

‘Ah, you’re staff, are you? What do you do? No, don’t tell me—’ His glance slid down her body again. ‘With a figure like yours, you have to be with the Health and Fitness Club.’

‘I’m a tour guide,’ she replied, with as much dignity as she could muster.

‘Oh, one of those.’

She bristled with indignation. Not just a cruise ship Casanova, but a rude one, too. ‘One of those? What’s that supposed to mean?’

He shrugged. ‘You hear them everywhere you go. Churning out half-baked facts from poorly written and often inaccurate guidebooks.’

Her indignation flared into annoyance. ‘And that’s what you think tour guides do?’

‘Most of them, yes.’

The man was insufferable. If she wasn’t so annoyed by his condescending dismissal, she’d tell him she held a degree in Egyptology. But he wasn’t worth the effort. Anyway, he’d probably make another derogatory comment in response.

‘And what do you do?’ she asked with sugar-coated politeness.

‘I’m an archaeologist.’

‘Oh, one of those.’

• • •

Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons. She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years.

She returned to writing fiction after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances.

Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places and has travelled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, USA and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.

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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Available now: The Foes Between Us by JM Robison

The Last Wizard Series, #1
J.M. Robison



(99c through Sunday, 20 May)
In 1842 England, Brynn suspects Reuben's "natural death" had actually been murder. Reuben has left cryptic clues for Brynn to find to help her locate Zadicayn, an imprisoned young man claiming to be a wizard from the Middle Ages.

When Brynn frees Zadicayn, Reuben's murderers now turn their sights on her. Her life grows exceptionally harder when Zadicayn enlists her help him find his magical amulet, stolen by Reuben's murderers. But they know where to find Brynn.

Will Zadicayn's magic be enough to protect her?

• • •

30 October 1518, England

I drop my armful of wood into the closet next to the kitchen. I should have done so more quietly because the clatter alerts Mother to my presence and before I can scurry away, she hollers, “Zadicayn? Would ye go down to the larder and bring up the cheese wheel?”

My shoulders ache from chopping wood for the past two hours. I almost pawn off the chore on my sister who’s sitting at the kitchen table, except Mother keeps the cheeses on the top shelf where my sister can’t reach. Most things are on the top shelf. I think on purpose.

I smother my grumble. “Yea, Mother. I shall.”

I flex my shoulders back as I walk down the corridor, passing the scullery maid who isn’t shy about eyeing me with fluttering eyelashes. I don’t return her hopeful stare. I aspire higher than to marry a servant in Father’s castle, so I’m not about to entertain her fantasies by even so much as nodding a greeting in her direction.

The temperature drops as I descend the curving stone staircase into the larder. The remains of the last hunt hang from hooks driven through its hind legs, the blood congealed in the pan beneath. With how little meat is left on its bones, I foresee tomorrow’s chore.

Two hooks driven into the stone directly above the half cheese wheel make it look like a monstrous grin. I flex my fingers back and forth. I could use magic to relocate that cheese into my hands. Father would never know.

Ye must never use magic to replace manual labor. His past lectures surface. For ye will become weak in the arms because ye no longer chop wood.

I debate long enough that I could’ve already pushed the ladder under the shelf, grabbed the cheese, and been on my way upstairs. I kick the floor with a grumble and grab the ladder.

A flurry of echoing steps on stone reaches me from the stairwell descending down from the larder. I set the ladder in place and wait.

Philowynd flies around the corner, red-faced and puffing, cloak thrown off his head and shoulders so the clasp presses into his throat, his red amulet swinging side to side wildly across his chest. He rolls his eyes back like a spooked horse.


He sprints into the larder, but stops as I call his name as if he just now noticed me. “Where is thy father?” His voice is raspy, as if he’d been screaming.

His panic-laced question spikes fear through me. “In the village. He should have been back before sundown. I do not know what is keeping him. Mother was going to send me after dinner–”

“Where is thy mother?”

“In the kitchen.”

Philowynd shoots for the stairs faster than a bolt out of a crossbow. I abandon the cheese and follow him.

“Philowynd,” I say, “what is the matter?”

He doesn’t respond. I don’t think he’s sparing any breath for himself. He cuts corners as closely as he can without smashing into them. He darts into the kitchen.

Mother’s head rises in alarm, hand paused in mid-stir over the cauldron. “Philowynd?”

Awdrie pauses her game of knucklebones with Wybir. Wybir turns around. Wood pops in the hearth.

Philowynd inhales a massive breath. “Makrick has not returned from Valemorren?”

Her gaze shifts from him to me. “Zadicayn told ye correct. I was going to send him after dinner to look for him.”

“They took me son, Havannah.”

Mother releases her hold on the ladle and covers her mouth.

“If thy husband has not returned, then I fear they have him, too,” Philowynd says.

Mother’s habit used to be signing herself with the cross at the declaration of bad news, but her devotion soured when the church started hunting wizards.

I swallow the bile rising in my throat.

“I shall take Zadicayn with me and make sure the worst has not happened.” Philowynd’s cloak catches the door frame as he turns and sprints down the corridor. I follow. He’s faster, but he waits for me at the double doors on the other side of the Grand Hall, beckoning.

I reach him, panting, and he grabs my arm, stares across the bridge, and relocates us instantly to the other side. The October night buzzes with chilled anxiety, the half-moon spreading a white sheen across the frosted stones of the bridge. Even the night larks warble in distressed tones. I’m panting. Our breath fogs around our heads. I’m so stressed, I don’t feel the chill through my thin tunic.

He looks up the trail, focusing along with me on the white circle glowing in the half- moonlight, pressed against the side of the mountain. We use magic to instantaneously relocate across the distance to the Fae Gate, which responds to the presence of our amulets and dissolves, revealing a tunnel beyond. He lets go of me, and I sprint into the tunnel behind his whirling cloak.

Panic thunders in my chest, making it harder to breath while I run. Wizard killings started a year ago, just after Martin Luther tacked his Theses to the Wittenberg church door. The killings were only rumors from farther up north, so far north they were almost myth. If the church took Philowynd’s son in Nottingham, that myth has dived south into my reality.

We emerge on the other side of the tunnel into the canyon. He latches onto my arm again and uses magic to instantly relocate us farther down the road. It takes six relocations before we arrive in the Village Center. We walk behind the blacksmith, crouching behind his wagon, looking across to the parish.

Philowynd covers his mouth.

I stop breathing.

• • •

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

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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Available now: The Black Hand by Jonathan Dunne

Jonathan Dunne


(99c through 13 May)
In the aftermath of Ireland’s most deadly gang war, Dublin’s ruling family has scattered to the wind.

Into the void steps a criminal genius known only as The Black Hand. His organisation’s powerful grip is ruthless, bloody and barbaric.

With Europe’s biggest crime in play, The Devil needs a distraction. And The Black Hand needs Jacob Boylan to return to Irish shores. He will stop at nothing to provoke Dublin’s most lethal criminal out of hiding.

But has the wily genius misstepped? As all eyes are on Jacob, the Dublin exile carefully plans a gangland wipeout, for he is nobody’s pawn.

• • •

The Hit

The Glaswegian sat sipping his coffee as the St Patrick’s Day parade rolled on by. It always amazed him that the Irish celebrated a man who unleashed Catholicism and all its ills on Ireland. They should be burning the effigies instead of celebrating them. He let the thought linger for a few seconds, then cleared his mind of all distractions. He had a job to do.

It was just after midday and he wouldn’t move until the band marched down O’Connell Street. The Glaswegian needed the noise to disguise the carnage he was about to let loose. Half of his contract had been paid. The other half would be transferred upon completion of the assignment. Fifteen more minutes passed as he calmly ran his thumb over the edge of his cup. The coffee was good; not great, just good.

The band began their journey into the heart of Dublin as the Glaswegian ran a crisp white cloth over every surface he touched. Nothing was left to chance. He slipped off the main street and carefully shielded his appearance from every form of surveillance. His black beard, dark eyes, and protruding teeth were all false. The chances of being identified were negligible, but he was meticulous in that respect.

The old structure rested halfway down a urine-soaked back street. It had a fire escape leading to several windows. He knew the window, the layout, and the schematics of this building intimately. Quietly and deliberately, he made his way into the building and followed the carefully constructed holes that led to the basement. When he reached it, he found an old lift shaft with a long ladder leading down into the vault. From this point onwards, he listened intently as the drumming of the bands outside got louder and louder. Perfect, he thought, as he began his downward climb. The insulation confused him until he realised it was sound-proof—an extra precaution to further disguise the noise of the ongoing construction.

The Glaswegian allowed himself a rare smile. This was a team he admired. They were, like him, professional in their approach to criminality. Slowly, he unsheathed a blade and cut a section of the insulation, large enough to crawl through. As he crept into the vault, he noticed the team of four men working in perfect harmony. One was bagging the goods, another was manning the scanners, and two were emptying the strong-room. The timer was running down, and they were set to leave in exactly five minutes.

Once more he shook his head in admiration. This was like running a blade across the canvass of a masterpiece. He was momentarily saddened as he pulled the pin of the grenade and threw it into the vault. He stood left of the wide hole that had been drilled in the wall. There were slight muffles as the crack of the grenade silenced the team. He threw one more in, just to be sure.

He caught his breath, steadying his pulse before crawling into the vault. This was messy. Nevertheless, he had his instructions. He checked the vitals of each of his victims and the first three were dead. He was happy. Jimmy Boylan, whom he knew well, had a pulse, of sorts. He pulled out a snub-nose gun and pressed it against Jimmy’s temple. Judging by his injuries, Jimmy had borne the brunt of the explosions.

The Glaswegian rarely saw that type of loyalty amongst criminals. It unsettled him. Jimmy was a bloody rag. The odds were stacked against him living the next ten minutes, let alone the next three days when the bank would reopen. He placed the gun back in his holster.

The executioner stepped away from Jimmy before taking two black duffel bags. It was all he could manage, and he wasn’t about to jeopardise his assignment by being greedy. His contract stipulated two bags. He would deliver two bags.

He looked back at Jimmy once more, wondering if he should put a bullet in the man’s head. No, he thought, he’s finished.

Today was a day of rarities for The Glaswegian. He stood in front of the vault entrance with the bags resting across his wide shoulders.

‘You’re dying because of a woman, Jimmy. I owe you that much. Now, let go.’

The Glaswegian doubted the other man heard one word.

Jimmy had heard every word.

• • •

Jonathan Dunne is a native of Dublin’s north inner city. This is his second novel in the crime genre. He is also an avid sports journalist who has penned articles for some of Ireland’s biggest publications. He holds a Degree from the Dublin Institute of Technology and is a strong advocate of lifelong learning and education. Jonathan also holds a 1st Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwondo and is currently a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu student. He lives in Dublin with his wife and two children.

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Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Available now: Tormented by Susan Clayton-Goldner

Susan Clayton-Goldner



(99c through Sunday, 6 May)
Father's Anthony's devotion to God and His Church begins to unravel the moment Rita Wittier steps inside St. Catherine’s Cathedral in San Francisco. He struggles to control his feelings, but two years later, he is a man obsessed.

In an attempt to rediscover the priest he intended to become, Anthony flies back to Delaware to visit Father Timothy. If redemption can be found anywhere, surely it can be found in the church of his childhood and in the soothing Irish brogue of his former mentor.

The months pass, 60 Minutes does a special on Father Anthony and the Shepherd Academy—a school he started for disadvantaged children. He’s become a national hero— nicknamed the Good Shepherd. But he can’t get Rita out of his mind. He wants her more than anything—even God—and can no longer deny it. Six hours after he tell her how he feels, Rita is found dead in her car from an apparent suicide. Or is it murder?

• • •

San Francisco – April 1971

Tormented by thoughts no priest should ever have, Father Anthony rose from his nightly Bible reading and fastened the buttons on his cassock. Behind the dark and rain-streaked window of his ten-by-ten bedroom at the rectory, night closed in on him. He was lonelier than he’d ever been. Anthony prided himself on being a man of principles. But nothing in his world felt principled anymore. It was as if he, the one who knew from boyhood visions he was destined to be a priest, had switched lives with an ordinary man or, worse yet, a lovesick teenager.

It was 8:30 p.m. He didn’t know why he’d agreed to meet her so late. Or, God help him, maybe he did know. There was still time to cancel. He could tell her to come during the day on Wednesday after the regular confessional hours. He hurried down the hallway to his office.

When he flipped on the overhead light, he found her sitting in front of his desk, her head resting in her hands. Dozens of frantic moths flapped their wings inside his chest. He took a step back. He always left the rectory door unlocked when he expected a parishioner to visit. But how long had she been here, and why hadn’t he sensed her presence?

She glanced up at him, her eyes wide, and bluer than any eyes he’d ever seen. “I know I’m early, but it’s urgent. I can’t go another night without…”

He looked away. Seeing her sitting in his office was terrifying and marvelous at the same time. He glanced back again. Her bottom lip was full; the top one thinner, but shaped like a perfect Cupid’s bow. He wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to kiss her. She wore black slacks and a blue silk blouse that gave her eyes a deep sapphire color like Crater Lake in the sunlight. He wanted to dive into them and never resurface.

“Mrs. Wittier,” he said, unable to form any other words. Even as a boy, he’d been afraid of loving a woman, afraid of the wildness it might release in him.

“Please, call me Rita.” She stared straight at him and her eyes caught a spark of light from the ceiling lamp. “I have to confess tonight, before something awful happens to my daughter.”

The fear in her voice unsettled him. “I’m really sorry,” he said. “But we hold confessions on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons. The sacraments are scheduled by the parish.” He was tempted to add, not by the whims of parishioners, but couldn’t make himself say those harsh words to Rita. She’d attended Mass at St. Catherine’s for nearly two years, but this was the first time she had asked for confession. How could he deny her so sincere a request?

Her face darkened. “This can’t wait, Father. God is going to punish me by hurting my daughter. Connie is only a little girl. What I did wasn’t her fault.”

He pulled a chair in front her and sat, their knees nearly touching. “God doesn’t punish children for their parents’ shortcomings.”

“Losing Connie would be my punishment, not my daughter’s,” she said. “Please, you have to help me. God is already tormenting me with nightmares.”

“Have you considered talking with a psychiatrist?” He knew psychiatrists could be helpful. His social worker took him to see one as a teenager when his divine visions first called him to the priesthood.

She shook her head. “This is between me and God.”

What was he thinking? Rita was his parishioner. She was suffering and needed her priest. But he had to obey the tenth commandment that he not covet his neighbor’s wife. He had to keep his vow to the church and to God. He would do what Hebrews 12:1 directed. He heard Father Timothy O’Brien’s voice, the voice of his childhood priest—the one voice he trusted above all others: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.”

He was a priest. The race marked out for him was clearly defined. And he must finish it. “Follow me,” he said. “I’m going to make an exception.”

• • •

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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