Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Available Now: Bittersweet Alliance by Kathleen Rowland

Donahue Cousins series, #3
Kathleen Rowland



99c/p thru Sunday, 30 June

Free on Kindle Unlimited
Will a snap decision change their lives forever?

Bizarre kidnappings stun the Big Island of Hawaii, pulling Danker Donahue back into the game and forcing him to partner with Jolene Kualoha, the woman who left him seven years ago when his DNA showed up in paternity lawsuit. The prejudice-motivated hate crimes are the wildest anyone has ever seen. Victims are being poisoned then released once the ransoms are paid, many losing their lives.

In the shadow of Jolene's success as a helicopter pilot, a troubled woman develops a fixation on Jolene and imitates her appearance. Matters turn dark when the copycat is shot dead. Was Jolene the target? Threats mount when she barely survives an accident after her brake cables are severed.

When these crimes threaten her sanity, Jolene is forced to trust the one person she thought she’d lost forever, Danker. Instantly, sparks fly between them, and as much as she wants to rekindle their relationship, she must protect her heart.

An old enemy, Seamus McGinn, breaks out of a maximum-security prison and invites Danker to a meet-up. Surprisingly, the kidnapper joins forces with McGinn along with his sick fans. McGinn trumpets his ‘murders by ice pick’, and it’s up to Danker to stop him. The whole island is on edge with a live feed from the maniac’s website.

In a stolen moment, Jolene shows him hope, and he makes a snap decision that will change their lives forever. Will he make it back to her?

• • •

Seven years since their breakup, Jolene Kualoha spotted Danker Donahue, ambling from the parking lot toward the store. She recognized him by his height and long gait. Wind from the north ruffled his hair and brought a bone-biting chill to her heart. Nuts, here he was, ducking his head to miss the bell overhead. It tinkled, and a strange twisting sensation hit her in the stomach.

This happened at the Kalua-Kona Food Emporium on a Sunday morning in July. She stared from where she stood near the avocados. His dangerous edge drew her in, but she turned her back to him. Her body reverberated like when her cell phone was on vibrate in her pocket. Stunned with minor electric shock, she froze. Maybe he wouldn’t see her. Wouldn’t recognize the back of her head or the once familiar shape of her ass.
Was someone waiting for him in the parking lot? Someone like Louella, the baby’s momma who’d summoned him for an immediate DNA test? For a split second, she craned her head around but didn’t see her with him.

She and Danker were a couple when the test confirmed his fatherhood. Her heart ached at the memory. Love hurt, but that wasn’t all. Loneliness hurt. Losing someone hurt. Decision-making hurt when you force yourself to do the right thing.

She’d pulled away, giving him space to work on his previous relationship for the sake of their child. The most shameful thing a woman can do is take parents away from a baby, and this began her year of stubborn steadfastness.

I did the breakup rituals. Got the dramatic haircut. Engraved a piece of jewelry he got me with a new message. Deleted the photos that made me cry.

To have been his woman was like living where the air flowered with jasmine, and the weather day after day was flawless, but the forecast was a hurricane.

Older didn’t mean wiser. All this time she’d dreaded running into him, sometimes dressing in expectation of it. If she did see him again, she wanted to look good. Today she looked like crap, but what did it matter? His reason for being on the Big Island had nothing to do with her, not in a personal way. Tomorrow they’d meet at the FBI field office to collaborate on a serial kidnapping case. She’d wear a sleeveless linen dress, open-toed pumps, and bring the accordion file full of notes and newspaper clippings she’d gathered.

The perpetrator targeted wealthy Hawaiians with social capital, the kind of people seen on television or featured in newspapers when they donated money to charities. The latest missing person, Pua Iona, owned Iona Hawaiian Rugs and was an acquaintance of hers. Not that they shared the same social strata, but they’d volunteered together at an artisans’ market to boost Hawaiian crafts. After Pua went missing and fit the criminal’s modus operandi, Mayor Billy Kim, frustrated with police progress, contacted Jolene’s former boss from California, FBI Agent Gary Guhleman, cowboyish in dress but wise in judgement.

Guhleman didn’t need to tell her Hawaiians resisted outside intrusions. “You know everyone,” he’d said. “Witnesses will share what they know.” The agent and his wife had retired, rather semi-retired, here in Kona. Soon after she and Guhleman had spoken, he called in Danker Donahue to consult. “You remember him, right?”

“Gosh, let me think.” She and Danker went hot and heavy after the Long Beach case that ended with the arrest of mobster Seamus McGinn.

Just then Danker spoke to someone with his rich Midwestern drawl, typical of California transplants. It was the first time she’d heard his voice in seven years after hearing it every day for ten months. She hardened like a turtle on a rock except for a slight turn of her head. He removed an earbud from his right ear and placed it in a protective case.

His longer dark hair, broad shoulders, and square jaw evoked an intense mix of emotions. A car crash of desire. There was nothing more frightening than desiring a freefall. It wasn’t just the sex. Her heart had burst with happiness making her believe love conquers all. It hadn’t.

In profile, the skin of his face was not as smooth. His craggier appearance reflected who he was, a loner with little concern about his well-being. The work he’d chosen reinforced his inclination toward secretive and wary, trusting few people.

She sighed at his beautiful elegance. So beautiful in a manly way, and he was once hers.

She’d let him go.

No, she’d pushed him away and cut all ties. The right thing to do was the hardest thing. She expected Danker to be different, not just older but still having an immensely handsome face. Worst case, with the risks he took, she expected he’d be dead. What she saw was what she’d hoped for. Alive. Succeeding as a top investigator called on by the FBI. She also hoped he’d found happiness with the child he’d fathered.

• • •

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, 12 June 2019

Available Now: Soil and Ceremony by Julia Byrd

Julia Byrd



99c/99p thru Sunday16 June

Free on Kindle Unlimited
A history of loss and a terrible stammer have led gravedigger Benjamin Hood to a life of isolation.

When a rash of untimely deaths sweeps through his small English village, he cannot stand by in silence. To uncover the truth about the lives lost, he takes up a long-neglected role of responsibility among the townspeople.

As Benjamin questions the victims' families, he finds that beautiful widow Juno Stephens has preceded him in each case. She makes no secret of her odd midnight ceremonies and dark powers of persuasion. The villagers are whispering about a woman bearing a lethal hex.

Is Juno the source of danger in the village, or a victim of it? Benjamin must resist her beguiling ways and decide if he can trust her...until another death sets his smoldering worries ablaze.

• • •

Autumn 1840, near Stanmore, England

It was easy to dig the grave for the infant boy. It should have been difficult, the hardest task on earth to accomplish. Instead, I scarcely perspired as I shoveled dirt from a tiny rectangle. The job would soon be done, and I would be no different for it. I should have wept. I should have torn the calluses from my palms. I should have bled into the dirt.

But after it was done, I stabbed my spade into the rich autumn soil of Maida Green and straightened. I would do it again next week, or perhaps the one after. Babes die too often for a gravedigger to weep and rend and bleed each time. Apart from his mother, who carried him for months beneath her heart, nobody really knew the lad.

My apprentice worked on the other side of the path, hacking at a recalcitrant Cornus alba, a red-barked dogwood. He was watched over by the hulking manor house on a hill beyond the cemetery walls, called Maida House. One wing of the house was over two hundred years old, but Maida Green Cemetery was young, with fifty acres occupied by only a few hundred permanent residents. Its acreage had been portioned away from the traditional Maida House property like a severed limb. On quiet days, working in the cemetery was like working in a verdant park. We cut open the ground for more shrubs than graves, and pillars of smoke more frequently rose from burning leaves than burning incense. No smoke ever rose from the chimneys of Maida House.

“T-Toth,” I said, pulling my gaze from the house’s dark windows. His Christian name, Everett, was too much for my traitorous tongue. “L-l-leave some of th-those s-stems.”

My thoughts were clear, or as clear as any man’s, I suppose, but my words were not. As a result, I mostly kept my lips sealed. But Everett did not mind my stammer, and neither did the dead.

“I will,” he said. “They’ll look right cheery this winter.”

“M-more of them along th-th-th—”

“The south wall, I know. I’ll go over there next.”

I did not like being interrupted, but I liked it better than becoming stuck in a repeating loop, words swirling like a leaf in an eddy. I grunted an acknowledgment and turned for the groundskeeper’s cottage. I wanted to put the shovel away and check the log for burials planned for the next week.


I stopped, turned, lifted my eyebrows.

Everett crouched over a patch of dirt, peering intently at something. “What used to grow here?”

The cemetery kept no secrets from me, but I never claimed to have memorized all the plantings. I walked back to him, then sank down on one knee in the grass. There was a little hole in the dirt, right beside the Cornus alba. “D-don’t know.”

“Something was dug out.”

I nodded.

He turned dark brown eyes on me. “Did you dig up anything?”

I shook my head.

Everett touched the crumbling edge of the excavation, then rubbed his fingers together, face tightening in concentration. He appeared much more interested in the hole than I was. When I had saved the money to buy my brother’s farm, Everett would become the head groundskeeper at Maida Green. It was a good thought, a consoling thought. He deserved it, and he cared as much about the place as I did. Maida Green had been conceived when the old London cemeteries reached their fill of occupants. In the city, the dead sifted up through the soil, gleaming skulls and unseemly scapulae sprouting in the grass. But in our village, a few hours’ ride northwest from the dome of St. Paul’s, we had plenty of space. The walls were high and the gate strong—to deter the body-snatchers and anatomists from coming to take our fresh corpses. Families paid well for eternal rest.

“Hmm. No scat or claw marks. Not a mole, then, nor a badger.” Everett smoothed dirt into the hole. “Probably nothing. I do wish that Horvath boy hadn’t died. Making me twitchy and mistrustful, and I’m not the only one.”

I rose and started back towards my cottage. The main gravel path had an offshoot, a narrow track that curved behind a group of young trees and led to the groundskeeper’s cottage. It was snug and dry, with a pump in the yard that delivered cold, sweet water. Sometimes, after the gates were locked at night, I imagined I slept in a manor house with my own manicured parkland spreading around me like a green quilt.

As I returned the shovel to its hook under the sloping lean-to on the side of the house, something made me pause. The cemetery’s huge shears, steel-bladed with leather-wrapped grips, hung in the wrong place. Everett could have put them away incorrectly. I could have done it myself. But neither of us had tied a black silk ribbon around the pivot or threaded onto the ribbon a tiny slip of paper. For a moment I just stared.

The ribbon came loose with a tug, and I unfolded the scrap of paper. On it was written two words in a flowing, feminine script.
Thank you.

I jerked my head up and looked around. Was she still nearby? Surely one of us would have noticed a woman wandering the premises. Women frequently entered the cemetery, visiting graves and leaving flowers. But they didn’t borrow my shears.

The silk ribbon snagged on my rough fingertips, and on some impulse, I lifted it to my nose. It smelled of…nothing. It was just a strip of fabric. Had I expected to catch a lingering whiff of rosewater? Lavender? I snorted at my own fancy and jammed the note and ribbon into a pocket.

• • •

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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Good Old Bones
by Julia Byrd

Cultures around the world honor their dead in myriad ways, but for me, there is nothing better than a good cemetery. Burial grounds have acquired a creepy reputation in folklore and movies—think Stephen King’s classic Pet Sematary, if you dare. However, consider the last time you actually visited a real cemetery. It was probably daytime, and you might have been sad, even distraught. You might have been reflective and grateful, alone or surrounded by family and friends. You were not haunted. (Probably.) I hope that your worries were diminished, as mine often are, by a glimpse of the awesome time scale of history.

Kensal Green Cemetery, London
My next novel, Soil and Ceremony, takes place partially in a cemetery, where our hero is a groundskeeper. If that sounds a bit grim, allow me to persuade you otherwise.

Cemeteries reflect our best selves: the desire to pay tribute to our dead, to remember. A loved one who was fully human and flawed can shed their complications on a marble headstone. We can ask our stonemason to carve Beloved Father, Brother, Husband or Cherished Aunt, Sister, Wife, Friend and display the truest, happiest facets of our lives.

I love the pared-down simplicity of a cemetery. Birth, death. In between, a complication we aren’t forced to examine. The earth itself, by providing soil and granite tombstones, offers us all a tiny slice of immortality.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans
In 19th century London, overcrowding and the temptation of profit led to the creation of the “Magnificent Seven,” private garden-style cemeteries. The earliest of these and my favorite, Kensal Green, was one of the inspirations for the fictional cemetery in Soil and Ceremony. Kensal Green has a non-consecrated section and a Dissenters Chapel that were in popular use by atheists, free thinkers, and others who didn’t conform to the Church of England.

The author in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, New York
The renowned cemeteries in New Orleans, Louisiana, are filled with mini-mansions to house the deceased because the original water table was so high at the foot of the Mississippi River that underground burial wasn’t feasible. You may occupy the shelf within for some time, but eventually you join your ancestors in the pit below, politely creating room for a fresher occupant.

The lovely, historic cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York, is famous by its association with Washington Irving’s story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” It also hosts the mortal remains of Andrew Carnegie, a couple of Rockefellers, Brooke Astor, and three of Alexander Hamilton’s children. Sleepy Hollow and neighboring Tarrytown put on a wonderful, atmospheric public celebration in October every year, complete with lantern tours of the cemetery, reenactments of the Sleepy Hollow legend, and a lot of carved pumpkins.

A new personal favorite is the nondenominational Springdale Cemetery in Peoria, Illinois, where tens of thousands of people occupy a wooded, curving valley alongside the Illinois River. The community has been busy restoring their old Civil War monument to fallen soldiers, one of the first in the United States. This February, my family laid my father to rest in Springdale’s graceful mausoleum in a crypt of his own choosing. (“Feet toward the right!” he insisted, as we rolled our eyes.) It reassures me to have followed his wishes, as so many other families have done. Any of us can visit while we grieve, then look around and see the idyllic cemetery is a perfect type of place to spend an eternity.
Hanwell Cemetery, London

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Available Now: Rich and Gone by WF Ranew

Red Farlow Mysteries, #1
WF Ranew


Free on Kindle Unlimited
PI Red Farlow is on the hunt to find $300 million a Florida insurance executive has bilked out of family and friends.

Woody Cunningham stashed the money in safe havens around the world before disappearing. Has he been done in by one of his enemies? Or did he skip town with his girlfriend to live off the ill-gotten wealth? If that’s the case, where is he?

Farlow must quickly learn how and why people hide their money in offshore accounts if he's to find out what happened to Cunningham.

When a tough guy from Farlow's past resurfaces, wanting to settle an old score, Farlow discovers he also has links to the missing man. Clues lead him across Georgia and Florida, and Europe, to find the answers.

Is Woody Cunningham dead, or just rich and gone?

• • •

We stopped and got out of our cars. Water oak leaves scattered over the ground. A gentle breeze rustled the fennel, sending its pungent odor into the air. I remembered yanking up the fennel weed from days spent on my uncle’s farm. If the cows ate it, which they rarely did, their milk would taste sour. This day, sunny and mild with fall in the air, made me imagine stomping around the fields with a shotgun.
"We received a missing person’s report on two people who were headed up here last Friday night," Tom said as we huddled near the gate. “No one has seen them since. We also got a disturbance call in the vicinity of where they visited in town.”

Tom kicked some rocks. “One caller mentioned Cunningham and a lady traveling with him. She’s Wanda Ramirez. Then we heard from his company. He didn’t show up at his office on Monday, Tuesday, or today. He missed a big meeting with shareholders yesterday morning.”

“Anything on the disturbance?” I asked.

“We sent someone over there to check into it. They found nothing out of the ordinary. We confirmed it was at the home of Wanda’s mother, a Mrs. Gonzalez.”

Tom waved to a deputy, who ambled over. “Willis, this is Red Farlow, a private investigator. We’ve known each other for a few years.” Willis nodded and shook my hand.

“Tell us about the car,” the sheriff said.

"Hit’s a Mer-say-deez Benz.”

"Any signs of any other vehicle?”

"Nawsir. Nothing. We wus careful not to mess anything up. Just looked’s all. No sign of anybody. We did check out the car."

"ID in it?" I asked.

"Yessir. Car's registered to the Oceans South Life Assurance Company. We found an insurance card on the floorboard. Florida.” The deputy held up both documents.

"Who is he?" Tom asked.

Willis squinted as he stared at the card. "Name is Woodrow Cunningham of an Ortega Boulevard address down in Jacksonville," he said.

“Sure confirms the missing person’s name,” Tom said. He wrinkled his brow and looked at me. “Thoughts?”

"Yep. Two things. Old South, deep pockets, well-heeled,” I told them. “Ortega is a chunk of prime real estate, juts out along the St. Johns River, and upon which sits one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Duval County. No, the wealthiest."

“And the other?”

“Cunningham’s wife is my client.”

Tom nodded. “Quite a coincidence. I want to hear more about it. It appears this was the couple’s last stop. Given what we have or don’t have here, I’m calling in the state crime scene analysts. No telling what those guys can turn up.”

It's never too early to assume the worst.

“Do we know anything else about the Wanda woman yet?” I asked.

“Only that she and Cunningham stopped in Badenville to visit her mother,” Tom said. “I’ll talk with Mrs. Gonzalez when we leave here.”

We straddled barbed wire in a low-slung section of the fence and tramped toward the cabin pitched above the languid, black-water river, stained dark by tannins of vegetation. Along its banks, the sugar loaf knees of cypress trees rose up out of the water. An idyllic spot, if you loved pines, mossy oaks, solitude, and an occasional water moccasin basking on a stump. Lord, it was quiet out here. A quiet broken only by the gently moving stream, birds chirping, and fish jumping. In the distance, a mourning dove sang its song of lamentation.

The dark brown chink-log cabin looked rustic enough. Upon closer inspection, modern accouterments stood out. A roof-mounted satellite dish turned up to the southwestern sky, and a surveillance camera pointed in our direction. A deck had been added at some point and wrapped around the original structure. One section, with a hot tub, hammock, and rocking chairs, extended over the riverbank.

Cunningham owned an expensive collection of shotguns for his frequent hunting trips on the property. Had he kept them in this house? Probably not. He was an insurance executive after all.

The car grabbed my attention. A relatively new, big, executive model Mercedes-Benz S class 550. Its steel-gray exterior complemented dark-blue leather seats. There was no better ride for Cunningham than this German-made automobile, which conveyed luxury and smooth driving—the man’s castle on wheels.

I stopped short of going any closer to the structure so as not to disturb any possible evidence. There were footprints of more than one person in the sandy soil around the car and the cabin’s front porch.

At this point, calls to Tom and me indicated people close to Cunningham thought something amiss. One thing for sure, a man had disappeared, and possibly a woman, with no indication what happened to them or where their bodies might be.

I gazed over at the bank and watched the river winding downstream. Possibly a stretch, but a river search could be in order. I had to remind myself of my unofficial status. All this together posed a mystery. The kind you do not usually get in rural South Georgia.

Whatever happened to Cunningham on that fall evening differed little from the fate of a lot of people who disappear. Such events raise a lot of questions and concerns. Where did Cunningham go? How did he leave the place, assuming he arrived there as the car’s presence indicated? A planned vanishing act or murder? Did he flee the country after socking away millions of dollars in the Caymans? Or did an enemy orchestrate a plot to get him out of the way? Finally, was he alive or dead?

Soon enough, some of the answers unfolded, leaving ample room for even more speculation, and revealing more about Wanda, too.

Crime scenes take time to evaluate and analyze for evidence. As I’d done my share of waiting in my years as a law officer, there was no need for me to remain at the site. Before returning to Badenville, I spoke with Tom, and we agreed to meet at Mrs. Gonzalez’ home in an hour. He gave me her address.

It wouldn’t take long for word to get around Cunningham had disappeared. Some luck, Gloria’s call, and my good friend Tom Weltner allowed me to stumble onto this early. Of course, a missing person often hasn’t gone missing at all. His family or friends just don't know where he went. Considering it had been only five days, the sheriff and others assumed he might show up in the next forty-eight to seventy-two hours. He didn't.

Driving away, the cabin receded in my rearview mirror. Someone had left on the porch light.

• • •

W.F. Ranew is a former newspaper reporter, editor, and communication executive. He started his journalism career covering sports, police, and city council meetings at his hometown newspaper, The Quitman Free Press. He also worked as a reporter and editor for several regional dailies: The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, The Florida Times-Union, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Ranew has written two previous novels: Schoolhouse Man and Candyman’s Sorrow.

He lives with his wife in Atlanta and St. Simons Island, Ga.

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Available Now: The Illusions in Between by JM Robison

The Last Wizard Series, #3
JM Robsion



Free on Kindle Unlimited
Still hunted by the church, Zadicayn has remained in hiding with his small family for seven years. But rumors of his location finally reach the Illuminati, a secret underground society of Black Magicians.

Wanting his magic for themselves, the Illuminati lure Zadicayn to Rome where the last wizard is forced to fight, not only for his life, but for his family, his magic, and for the world. Because his next death will be his last.

• • •

Rome, Italy
1 February 1848
Pope Pius IX

The soul is a cavern, much larger than the body containing it. This cavern fills with memories, thoughts, feelings, decisions, and dreams until you are so full of it that surely it bleeds out of your pores and everyone who lays eyes on you while you stand upon the balcony above Saint Peter’s Square can see it. I’m so full of it all that it covers my robes in a blinding white.

The throng below denies seeing it because the head of God’s holy church does not bow to threats and is not easily swept into coercion. Both of those fill my cavern wall-to-wall, so I can’t even feel the love I express to the people below me with my smile and wave of my hand.

I pass through the curtains and enter the warmth of my chambers. Silly how the door to my incarceration is made of heavy red silk. If I had magic, I’d sprout wings and fly out of here like Icarus, even knowing what fate befell him.

But magic is why I’m a prisoner to the Vatican.

I sit at my table, hand shaking as I reach for my hot tea. I cup it in both hands, hoping the heat will soften the shake, though it’s not from the February chill. My recent plight has called to question many things which a devout, sober, Catholic mind would never have questioned. But my mind is not sober. It’s drunk on fear and desperation, the weight of which has deepened the cavern of my soul to reach new depths, new questions. Like, the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, that future popes ought never to come to terms with progress, liberalism, and modern civilization…damning thoughts for a pope of the Catholic Church.

Me. Damning me.

I flinch when the door opens. I spill hot tea over white knuckles. Carlo Vizzardelli enters.

I made him cardinal in January. Hard to turn the position down to a man who was awarded the apostolic protonotary and became the consultant to the Sacred Congregation for Bishops. Three days after I gave him the red beret, he wasted no time outlining his position in the Illuminati and flexing the control over his demon.

It took ten minutes for me to go from Pope Pius IX of the Roman Catholic Church to Slave of the Illuminati. I’d always heard rumors about them, but never that they called themselves Black Magicians and commanded demons from hell to perform wizardry for them. Or threaten me into doing what they want. Which was to rule Rome from behind me.

The same day as my prayer to the Holy Father for rescue, I received my monthly report from Valemorren, England, concerning the status of the wizard they’ve been unable to capture again. I can’t decide if God wanted to double my worries or laugh at my troubles.

“Ready?” Carlo barks.

I nod and sip my tea. He must see the tremor in my hands.

He sits opposite me, laying a fresh sheet of paper and inkwell on the scatter of documents on the table. The other cardinals must see Carlo as terribly ambitious to meet with me one-on-one so frequently. But that oddity is pushed aside when compared to Carlo’s many other ambitions prior to his arrival to me. I see his own cavernous soul through his eyes. Now that I know him, I see the many tunnels and depths he’s bored to fit all his greed, lust, and hate. I don’t know why I was blind to it until after I knew him.

He’s talking while he writes, but I don’t listen. I set my tea cup aside and nod when he looks up for my approval. It doesn’t matter what he writes. I’m going to sign it, whether or not I agree. If I don’t sign, he’ll drag me out to the Belvedere Courtyard where he’ll summon his demon and threaten to rip out my tongue, tear out my eyes, something to cause permanent damage to me while still leaving me alive. His threats are good enough; they keep me doing what he wants. Lord give me strength to resist and not care about any mortal maladies he may cause to fall upon me.

I look at the table, at the documents scattered below the one Carlo writes on. A chunk of Valemorren’s report glares up from the bottom…Ashdowns continue to deny having any contact with their daughter, though we have our suspicions they get into the mountain at least monthly th…Zadicayn must have a secondary way out, as we constantly watch the only entrance we know of, and we have it on good report he appears in Bristol every month



“Have you heard of a Fae Wizard?”

Carlo sets his quill down and leans back in his seat, his short, pointed beard aligned with the center of his body. “I have. What prompts the question?”

I can’t say what prompts the question, only that a damning idea blossoms in my chest because I too, have dug tunnels and depths in my soul searching for the gem which will free me from this man, and I found…this. “There’s a Fae Wizard in Valemorren, England.”

His eyes light up. Every pontiff has heard at least the title of Fae Wizard. But because the pope before me actually had to deal with one six years ago–who was never caught–the task fell on me. I’m familiar with Fae Wizards, and because of Carlo, I’m familiar with the envy Black Magicians have had of the wizards since antiquity.

The light in his eyes darken. He sees my intent to get him out of Rome. He leans forward. The malice he invites into the room prickles heat beneath my zucchetto. “Prove it.”

I’m anxious to divert his gaze off me. I tip my tea off the table without care as I dig through the papers until I unearth the one which has, finally, diverted his gaze.

He snatches it out of my hand. His eyes bump side to side as he scans the entire page. Though when he puts it down, he’s grinning, and I know he’s read every word.

“You tempt, Pius. That’s not a Godly trait you should have.”

I shrug. My heart beats in my throat. If I open my mouth, he’s going to hear a rapid thud.

He looks at the paper again. Black Magicians borrow a demon from Satan, and that demon performs requests for the magician. Since the demons are invisible to everyone but the magician, everyone thinks these performances are magic. Fae Wizards follow a different set of rules. I don’t quite understand the depth myself, but I know they use real magic and it comes from a different entity. And Black Magicians want the same thing.

He folds the report and tucks it into his robes. He stands. He’s lost most of his hostility, replaced by a greedy aura. “I know you’re doing this to get me out of here, Pius, but don’t think you won’t be watched in my absence. I will know if you do something to betray me, and you will suffer the consequences.”

I clasp my hands on the table and nod. Carlo sweeps out of my chambers like he’s already missed the train, leaving his unfinished document on the table.

I slam my eyes immediately in prayer. Dominus vobiscum, Fae Wizard. Defeat Carlo and free me from the Illuminati.

• • •

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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Available Now: The Change by CV Leigh

The Wolves of Faol Hall, #1
CV Leigh



Free on Kindle Limited
Kincaid pack Alpha, Alistair, has called his family back to their ancestral home in the Scottish Cairngorms. His wife, Megan, is losing control of her ability to shift and it has him rattled. When it comes to light that Nathan Trevell, Megan's ex and the lycanthrope who turned her, has travelled from the States and is in the UK, closing in on his family, Alistair is even more determined to keep everyone safe.

Nathan isn't deterred by the Kincaid pack. He's in the UK for a very specific reason, a reason that threatens to turn the lives of the Kincaids upside down - and possibly endanger them.

Being cooped up together in Faol Hall only serves to highlight the differences between the Kincaids, and fighting soon breaks out. Can they put aside their issues and present a united front, before it's too late?

• • •

Faol Hall, Cairngorms

Alistair Kincaid watched helplessly as his wife was taken over by the beast that lurked beneath her skin. She trembled in his arms, her teeth chattering, eyes rolling back until the dark green he longed to gaze into had been replaced by pure white. Her mouth relaxed and opened, her canines elongated and tapered into a sharp point.

“Shit. Hold on, Megan.” He rocked her back and forth, smoothing his hand down her long, brunette hair, still damp from where she’d been in the shower. Strands clung to her face and arms. Sweat beaded on her forehead. She clawed at his bare arms, leaving long scratches.

He looked around the large bathroom, desperately searching for some way to help her. The shower head still spewed into the cubicle. Water splattered against the tiles, droplets raced down the glass screen. A green pouch sat on top of the medicine cabinet, taunting him. Megan needed the drugs inside it, but she needed him to hold her steady as well.

“Jacob!” He could only pray his brother hadn’t gone for a run. “Shit… it’s okay, Megan, it’s okay… I’m here.” He stumbled over the words, each one catching in his throat.

“N-n-n…” A sound, nothing more, tumbled from her lips. “Nay-n-n-nay…” She repeated it over and over again. Coarse, dark brown hairs began to push through the smooth skin of her arms. She released an agonising cry that tore through him, leaving his heart in tattered shreds.

“Jake!” he called again.

“I’m here.” His younger brother filled the doorway, as wide as he was tall; a wall of pure muscle and brute strength. “Fuck.”
Megan’s bones cracked. Bile rose in Alistair’s throat. “Get the sedative,” he said, nodding at the cabinet.

Jacob pulled the little bag down, along with the amber pill bottles that had been stored next to it. A bottle snapped open, and tiny tablets spiralled towards the drain. “Fuck, I’m sorry.” Jacob fumbled with the bag’s zip.

“Just get the damn drugs,” Alistair snapped, spittle landing on his bottom lip. Sweat dripped down his brow. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold her–how much longer it would be before she was taken over completely, lost to him.

Jacob found the syringe. He attached a needle, then plunged it into a vial and withdrew the clear liquid. He knelt beside his brother and grabbed Megan’s naked leg, then tugged it towards him. After sitting on her ankle to stop her from wrestling away from him, he stabbed the needle into the thick muscle of her thigh.

The animalistic growl Megan released was enough to curdle blood, ripping from her throat and filling Alistair with dread. Her eyes were wide, the usually-green irises now burning chartreuse, flecked with gold and amber. She grunted and groaned, panted for breath. “F-fuck… y-you…” Her voice was low and gruff, cracked by the venom coursing through her veins. Her sights fixed on Jacob, watching his every movement.

Jacob stood, syringe in hand.

• • •

Originally from the Nottingham/Lincoln borders, C.V. Leigh now lives in Somerset with her family and pets. She comes from a long line of natural witches, and spent her childhood learning to read tea leaves from her grandmother and Tarot from her mother, so it's no surprise that she has a love for the fantastical and paranormal.

When she's not creating new worlds, C.V. enjoys reading with a hot cup of tea, or exploring the beautiful countryside that Somerset has to offer.

C.V. Leigh's favourite authors include Kelley Armstrong, George R.R. Martin, Douglas Adams, Grant Naylor, Terry Pratchett, and Roald Dahl.

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