Posted in Book Release, fiction, Historical on June 18, 2017

Synopsis

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth …no matter where it leads.

About the Author

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network.” All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

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Posted in Book Release, excerpt, Fantasy, Giveaway, Urban, Young Adult on June 12, 2017

Title: Scythe of Darkness

Author: Dawn Husted

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Release Day: June 13, 2017

Synopsis

For Mia Hieskety, surviving high school meant focusing on exams and attending the occasional party. After breaking up with her boyfriend, who she didn’t even like, dating was off the agenda. That is, until Thanatos came along.

Mia finds herself lured by the mysterious new student with two-toned eyes. Determined to find out who Thanatos is, what he is, and why he seems so interested in her, she accompanies him to his home where a sinister world awaits.

Discovering the truth, a supernatural connection that intertwines with her past, Mia’s life is at risk—and she doesn’t know who to trust.

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Excerpt

The compulsion to find him made me slightly crazy.

My knees shook, vibrating my full-size bed; my headboard tapped the wall like Morse code. Restlessness overtook my feet. I wished my parents would leave already.

The same moment I tossed another knife, a knock jolted the door. “Mia, we’re going. Sure you don’t want to come? Fresh air,” my mom urged in her counselor voice, an unfortunate result from all the years as adviser at my little brother’s school.

I flung my third knife, whipping it next to the others. Knife throwing calmed my nerves, and mine were buzzing like phones during study hall. Adding to my angst, the anniversary of my kidnapping loomed around the corner.

I slid off the bed, and breathed in a steady breath before opening the door. She flashed a toothy grin, trying to hide the meaning behind her inquiry. I knew what she wasn’t saying: not accompanying them to the county fair was out of character. “Are you feeling okay? Is this about Trip?”

Trip and I broke up last week, but I wasn’t thinking about him in the slightest.

“Mom, really. I’ve a ton of homework … a chemistry test, never mind the essay.” Only eight months left of my junior year. I’d filled out Berkeley’s mandatory questionnaire last week, but the essay portion remained unfinished.

I avoided her eyes. She was good at telling when I was lying. I needed to move, not look her in the face. I stepped from view and plucked the scarlet handles out of the bullseye, one by one. I didn’t want her to think I was up to something. My unusual talent had left a few painted-over scars in the door.

Mom slipped her face further around the side, and squinted as if trying to read my thoughts. Thick dark-brown strands of hair slid over her bronze shoulder. My hair was cursed with no thickness whatsoever, but had instead acquired my dad’s double cowlick. “All right. Love you, Mia,” she replied, then gave me a kiss on the forehead, probably hoping I would change my mind, and left.

I heaved a sigh of relief.

If I went with my family to the fair and ran into him again, my mom would surely be watching over my shoulder, making the interaction doubly weird. She had this uncanny ability to wiggle herself into my measly social life whenever possible.

A little voice in the back of my head—not an actual voice, but something—like a mental itch I couldn’t scratch—compelled me to find Eye Guy. And what better place than at the fair, the same place I first ran into him two days ago? The day I’d smashed a basket of nachos all over his shirt by accident. Did I know him somehow?

Eye Guy wasn’t from my school; I would’ve seen him in the halls. Who was he? He had two different-colored eyes—heterochromia iridium—which was why I dubbed him, Eye Guy.

I snatched my backpack off the round chair in the corner of my room, stuffed my chem book inside, plus the binoculars and the camera Uncle Shawn had given me.

My eyes slid shut and I listened for the sound of the front door closing.

Wham.

Scurrying over to my window, I watched the three of them walk toward the street. My eight-year-old brother, Bennie, yanked back-and-forth on my parents’ hands toward a waiting car. They were catching a ride with neighbors.

With a lightness in my chest, my pulse raced. It was now or never.

I rushed down the stairs two at a time. The aroma of popcorn wafted past my nose, as I swung off the mahogany banister and darted into the kitchen for a little to-go snack, and then out into the garage to grab my bike.

Old boxes of memories lined the edges of the bay, allowing just enough space for our only vehicle. I inched in between the hood of the old van, squishing a box with my butt, me popping out the other end. The bike was important; I needed a faster mode of transportation so I could hustle home before my parents returned.

I glided down Ponderosa, the uneven pavement vibrating from my seat all the way up to my neck, and turned left onto Birmingham—a roundabout way to bypass my parents. Beneath an old bridge, homeless huddled in the dark corners; a few stragglers glared at the lights and sounds singing in the distance, blocks away.

The top of the water tower dotted the sky, beyond the overgrown trees and shingled roofs. The sun clung to life in the clouds, streams of lavender highlighting the horizon.

I peddled faster.

Ten minutes later, I arrived at the water tower. A white sign with red letters warned KEEP OUT along the fence. I looped my fingers through the chain-links and whipped my head side-to-side. People weren’t allowed on government property. But being that I was only seventeen, obtaining a mark on my record for breaking and entering wasn’t as big of a deal.

The weight of my bike became heavier the higher I lifted; the aluminum frame fumbled from my grasp, slamming the wheels to the ground on the other side.

Now it was my turn.

Plop.

I stood at the bottom, gazing up. A shoulder-width ladder looped from the concrete to a narrow balcony that rounded the center of the bulbous top. The water tower looked like an upside-down ear syringe. The red bold letters painted around the tank had begun to fade, but I could still make out the city name: Gaige, Texas.

I halted mid-step. The feeling of a hundred butterflies fluttering down my chest gathered in the pit of my stomach. I lurched forward, gripping the metal ladder for support. The butterflies metamorphosed into thundering dragonflies, their wings beating against my insides.

I squeezed the ladder, my nails digging into my palms. Why had the sudden pain erupted? I wanted it to stop!

The little voice in the back of my head told me to climb. Logically, it didn’t make sense, but somehow, I knew Eye Guy couldn’t be too far away. The right side of my brain advised me of the odds of spotting some random stranger in the chaotic mass of the fair. But I had to try.

I climbed through the pain, finding it hard to breathe.

At the top, I fell over onto the balcony.

The dragonflies in my stomach fluttered away. What was happening?

Breathing in, I shucked off my backpack and grabbed the binoculars. Immediately, I began searching the enormous, far-off crowd. Drums thundered from the streets filled with thousands, and voices clamored into the distance. Triangular tangelo flags waved. Flashes of blue lights glimmered sporadically above the sea of heads. A band’s music boomed from the stage, and the whine of guitars faded in the background.

I reached for the popcorn, remaining fixated on the hordes of people. I stuffed a handful in my mouth without looking away.

A magnetic-like pull, stronger than before, honed my focus to the outer edge of the fair.

Ten heartbeats later, I spotted him; for the first time luck was on my side.

Near the outside, behind the Pig Race tent and in front of the Mirror of Mazes, Eye Guy walked slowly through a group of girls sporting short shorts and spaghetti strap shirts. I watched him in reverence as he squeezed through. He wore a long-sleeve plaid shirt and black gloves, just like two days ago.

Why would he dress so warmly? It was September.

But, I had to admit, he pulled it off. My eyes locked on his back as he meandered through the mass. I tossed another handful of popcorn in my mouth then dropped the binoculars and snapped a few photos. My hands shook, making it hard for the camera to focus. Calm down Mia.

I grabbed the binoculars again and zeroed in. The range of vision was as if I was standing right next to him.

He halted mid-step to chat with a tall blond in a red leathery outfit, a girl as unique and pretty as him but with a body much curvier than mine. Her heels matched her flashy wardrobe, and the dark eyeliner that mapped the outside of her eyes resembled that of a rabid raccoon. My toes wiggled against my rubbery flip-flops.

It was apparent Eye Guy and she knew one another by the way they stood inches apart—he with his arms crossed. I narrowed my eyes. The girl’s hand remained poised on her hip as she scanned the crowd; her serious expression left an unpleasant taste in my mouth. Then his eyes narrowed in midst of their conversation. He unfolded his arms as a group of scrawny kids my brother’s age bounced into a trashcan, toppling it over, spilling rotten contents out next to his boots.

His attention turned back to the girl. Her lips moved too fast for me to make a measly attempt at trying to read them—especially since I lacked skills in that department. But the manner in which his lips pressed together as his square chin jutted downward, one word stood out: Mia.

Unless he said ‘me’ and not ‘Mia.’

The binoculars thudded against my chest, and I froze. Had I seen that correctly? Did he really say my name?

“Of course not.” Many words could appear to look like my name: many, milli, mile, melon if the -lon was left off. Maybe they were simply discussing dinner plans, or whatever other hundred things that I hadn’t thought about. I bet he didn’t have a clue who I was. How would he?

I raised the binoculars back up slowly.

The second I found him again, his face snapped upward—up into the shadows where I was hiding; I jerked back, my hands lost grip and the binoculars slipped from my grasp, whacking the railing.

Was I seeing things?

I grabbed the binoculars and looked again, but he was gone. The girl too. I swam over every head, every face, but he was gone.

And just like that, the magnetic pull faded.

About the Author

Dawn Husted is the author of Scythe of Darkness, a YA urban fantasy novel. She graduated with a BS from Texas A&M University. When not writing, she’s either camping or dreaming about camping. She’s a member of SCBWI, and lives in southern Texas with her husband and two kids.

Her romanticism of the supernatural is well-crafted in Scythe of Darkness. This gripping YA weaves fate and destiny in a new unsuspecting way.

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Posted in Book Release, excerpt, romance on June 10, 2017

Synopsis

From a fall from literary stardom to becoming the heroine in her own romance story, Beth Holmes has turned around her career and her love life. She owes it all to one very special person.

Jarred Watson has loved Beth since he read her first novel and suspected the heroine was the embodiment of the author. But the road to romance was fraught with pitfalls. He almost lost everything because of a conniving agent and a little white lie that got out of hand. At the eleventh hour, with honesty and hard work, their book sales are off the charts and a movie deal is in negotiations.

Interfering families and changed plans take their toll. Will they go their separate ways or will Holmes and Watson continue their literary collaboration and personal partnership in order to find their own happily ever after?

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Excerpt

“Interesting.” He chuckled. “Men are not known for their empathy.” He brought his chair closer to hers. “Like stress,” he said. “Under stress, men exhibit the “fight or flight” response.”

Beth nodded. She hadn’t considered the differences in gender reactions in that context. “Women don’t think fight or flight, at least not initially. Under stress they work to protect the group. It has to do with protecting the young and seeing to the family unit. They also think very differently about sex.”

A sly smile brightened his face. She wanted to slam her hand over her mouth.

“We do?” He dropped his voice to a low raspy whisper and sent chills, the good kind, up her back and to other places.

“For a woman, sex starts in their head, not necessarily between her legs.” Shit. Her face was so hot she was going to go up in flames. Jeez, that’s what her heroine Jo Dee would say, definitely not Beth Alexander.

“Oh really?” If she thought his soft, male mellow voice or his smoldering stare couldn’t get any sexier, she got that totally wrong.

“I’m a romance writer. I write about relationships and emotions,” she replied.

“And sex,” he added. Was he extending an invitation? She wasn’t a loose woman, but she was more than tempted to say yes. And that was her notion, not Jo Dee’s.

About the Author

RUTH A. CASIE is a USA Today bestselling author of historical swashbuckling action-adventure time-travel romance about strong women and the men who deserve them, endearing flaws and all. Ruth also writes contemporary romance with enough action to keep you turning pages. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, three empty bedrooms and a growing number of incomplete counted cross-stitch projects. Before she found her voice, she was a speech therapist (pun intended), client liaison for a corrugated manufacturer, and international bank product and marketing manager vice president, but her favorite job is the one she’s doing now—writing romance. She hopes her stories become your favorite adventures.

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Posted in Book Release, romance, Sale on May 31, 2017

Synopsis

“My dog didn’t like men. Actually that was a lie – she didn’t like the men I chose. The only ones who rocked her world had been my father (who was no longer with us), Ross (who was gay), and the butcher on the high street (for obvious reasons).”

When Jenni Meadows has the opportunity to expand her dog-grooming business she takes it, and when a nice man appears on her horizon but fails to make any sparks fly, she decides she has enough on her plate with her business without adding a boyfriend into the mix.

Besides, Millie doesn’t like him and when her dog doesn’t like a man, Jenni knows all about it. So why does Millie take a very strange liking to the new vet, especially since he has a taciturn expression, wears a wedding ring, and wields a needle?

Under the Cherry Tree is a tale of love and hope, waggy tails, and cold noses.

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About the Author

Lilac spends all her time writing, or reading, or thinking about writing or reading, often to the detriment of her day job, her family, and the housework. She apologises to her employer and her loved ones, but the house will simply have to deal with it!

She calls Worcester home, though she would prefer to call somewhere hot and sunny home, somewhere with a beach and cocktails and endless opportunities for snoozing in the sun…

When she isn’t hunched over a computer or dreaming about foreign shores, she enjoys creating strange, inedible dishes in the kitchen, accusing her daughter of stealing  borrowing her clothes, and fighting with her husband over whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher.

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Posted in Book Release, excerpt, suspense on May 19, 2017

Synopsis

Would you risk everything to save a stranger?

Off the coast of Venice lurks Poveglia, the world’s most haunted isle, steeped in centuries of innocent blood. A deranged doctor who took great joy in torturing his patients in life continues to rule his abandoned asylum after death.

Few go to Poveglia willingly, but medium Kate Carlsson has no choice. It’s her job.

While struggling to retrieve a young girl’s soul, Kate uncovers some shocking truths about the evil on the island that challenges her own convictions and morals—and even her life.

Is saving Lily worth making a deal with the infamous Doctor of Death, or is the price too high to pay?

Excerpt

The woman was hysterical, sobbing so much I couldn’t understand her. As I pressed my cell harder against my ear, the wind sprouted claws and slashed at my meager sweater until I shivered. Phone calls used to be rare, but I’d been getting more and more since Jackson and I had gone public with what had happened to us in China. Now everyone in Vermont seemed to know my name, and they all needed help.

“Hello? This is Kate, please talk to me.”

The crying increased in volume, blistering my ears. I would have hung up if not for the wind. Its power intensified, churning the dead leaves and other debris from the sidewalk around my feet. There was something strange about its sudden force, which drove me against the brick facing of Hildy’s Fine China & Sundries. (Hildy’d had an ampersand before it was trendy.)

“Hello?” The single word contained the edge of my fear. Both my voice and hands were shaking. Something did not want me to talk to this woman. Something did not want me to help her. I’d taken hundreds of similar calls over the past few years, but had never felt anything like this. “Please say something. I’m afraid we’re going to lose our connection.”

Clutching at my sweater to keep it from being blown away, I ducked my head, shielding my face as my hair whipped around in a furious tangle. I huddled against Hildy’s shop, wondering if I should go in, but the older woman wouldn’t be impressed to see me on my phone. Her establishment was a temple, a library. The loyal customers who kept her in business spoke in whispers and walked on tiptoes. By bursting in like this and continuing my shouted, one-sided conversation, I’d have become the proverbial bull. Not good.

“Miss Carlsson? Kate Carlsson?” The woman had regained her composure enough to gasp my name. The grip around my heart tightened, even though I’d known all along the call was meant for me.

“Yes, speaking. What’s wrong?” There was no point wasting time with idle chitchat. Obviously something was wrong—very wrong. Another gust of wind knocked my skull against the side of the building and pain jolted through my brain.

The caller was silent for so long I ordinarily would have assumed she’d hung up, lost her nerve. It happened. It wasn’t easy for people to admit they needed my help. It was a leap of faith, a willingness to open their minds to the possibility that something they’d spent their entire lives denying could be real after all.

But the wind told me otherwise. I waited for her to speak again, raising one arm between my face and the building to protect my head. The chill had seeped into my bones, and what I wanted more than anything was to run home and immerse myself in a steaming hot bath while I drank a cup of the pumpkin spice tea I’d just purchased. I didn’t want to talk to this woman. I didn’t want to hear about what terrible things were happening at her home, for surely terrible things were happening. But I’d learned long ago that my gift was bigger than me, and if this woman needed it, I wasn’t going to turn away from her.

Finally she spoke. I could barely hear her over the gale, which shrieked like a tortured soul. “My mother is attacking my child.” Her voice trembled with fresh tears. “I can’t believe it, haven’t wanted to believe it, but it’s true. I’ve seen it.”

“Is your mother dead, Mrs…”

“Walkins. My name is Walkins. Yes, she died last year. But she was such a good woman. She loved Lily. I can’t believe she would do these things. Why would she do these things?”

I could feel curious eyes burning into me, watching me struggle to stay on my feet. Pushing my hair away from my face, I risked a glimpse and was immediately sorry I had. The leaves around my feet had arranged themselves in the form of a girl, a girl not much shorter than me. As I stared, my pulse throbbing behind my temples, the terrifying apparition raised a rustling arm toward me before collapsing onto the sidewalk.

“Whatever is hurting Lily isn’t your mother, Mrs. Walkins. What’s your address? I’ll be right there.”

About the Author

J.H. Moncrieff’s work has been described as early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure.

She won Harlequin’s search for the next Gillian Flynn in 2016.

Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.

When not writing, she loves exploring the world’s most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.

Get free eBooks and a new spooky story every week here.

Posted in Book Release, excerpt, suspense on May 19, 2017

Synopsis

On the day the villagers were forced to flee Hensu, not everyone got out alive.

Jackson Stone is touring the abandoned Chinese city when he slips away from the group to spend the night, determined to publish an account of his ghostly experiences there.

Then he meets Yuèhai, a strange, soft-spoken woman who can tell him the city’s secrets—secrets the Chinese government would kill to keep hidden.

As Jackson uncovers the truth about Yuèhai and the ghost city, he’s drawn into a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and murder. He must risk everything to save himself and bring honor back to Yuèhai and her family.

Excerpt

It was easier than I thought.

All I had to do was bide my time in one of the less popular temples, crouching behind a weird-ass statue while the guides checked for stragglers. Thankfully, they didn’t do a thorough search, just popped their bobbed heads in and glanced around before returning to their cozy cruise ships.

Guess I couldn’t blame them. It seemed like it was always pissing down rain in this part of the country—at least, it had been since we’d been here—and even though it was mid-September, it was freaking cold.

As I stepped over the temple’s sacred threshold and hurried to the place I’d chosen to camp for the night, I grinned, unable to resist pumping my fist in the air. I’d done it. What would the group say when they realized I wasn’t on the ship?

Only the terminally stupid got left behind on a tour, so they’d probably figure I was hung over again, and in that, they’d be partially right. It takes skill to get a decent buzz on the watery crap they call beer in China, which is why I switched to the rice wine. Doesn’t take much to feel it, but you pay for it the following day.

It was only six o’clock, but the sun was already setting. Flipping up the hood of my jacket against the drizzling rain, I whistled to keep myself company, careful not to slip on the wet path. The place where I’d decided to spend the night was perfect. Even though it had fallen into ruin, this particular temple still had a bit of roof left, so I’d be able to get dry. Since it was open to the air, I wouldn’t have to worry about my campfire burning it down. There was enough junk in there to keep a decent fire going—not that I was worried.

It wasn’t like I believed in ghosts.

China has plenty of ghost cities, but I’d gone for the most infamous. The locals believe spirits actually live here. Now that Hensu was empty of tourists, with their incessant questions and stupid umbrellas hitting me in the head every time I turned around, it had an abandoned feel that was more than a little creepy.

A figure loomed out of the darkness, brandishing a sword at my skull, and I jumped before realizing it was another statue. In the daylight, with its pig-like face and coating of moss, it had been comical.  I wasn’t laughing now. Why the Chinese decided to fill their ghost city with fake ghosts was beyond me. If they really believed spirits lived here, the statues were overkill.

I dug a flashlight out of my daypack and clicked it on, but that just made things worse. It cast an eerie blue glow that danced in the statues’ eyes, turning their grins into leers.

“Chill, Jacks,” I muttered to myself. “They’re rocks, and you don’t believe in this supernatural shit, remember?”

There was no way I was gonna drain my phone battery to see where I was going, no matter how much the blue light spooked me. What the hell was wrong with me? Why had I regressed to the age of ten? Gotta be the hangover. I had to lay off the booze. Who knew what was in that Chinese stuff? I’d probably pickled my brain.

It took me about ten minutes to scrounge enough wood for a decent fire. By then my fingers were numb with cold and my stomach was growling. There hadn’t been time to grab breakfast on the ship, and I’d forfeited lunch when I’d ditched the tour. The sooner I could get a hot meal in me, the better. Maybe then I wouldn’t be so damn jumpy.

A flicker of movement outside the shelter made me look up. The hairs on the back of my neck bristled.

Wait…was that statue closer than before?

It had been a lot farther away when I’d set up camp. I was sure of it.

That’s ridiculous. Statues don’t move.

Still, the way the light danced in the sculpture’s eyes was unnerving. A log cracked in the fire, startling me so much I laughed out loud.

Rustle rustle.

There was definitely something out there, and it was getting closer.

Probably just a dog.

That didn’t make me feel much better. Any dog out here would be hungry. Not to mention ill tempered. Of course the one thing I hadn’t brought was a weapon. Against a ravenous animal, my Swiss Army knife would be useless.

Rustle rustle.

The sound was louder now, and worse, it felt intentional. Peering into the darkness beyond the fire, I couldn’t see a thing. My legs began to tremble, and I really had to piss.

Get a grip, Jackson. It’s probably a frog. Or a mouse. Just a wee rodent, not some gargoyle from the Chinese underworld coming to get you.

I didn’t believe it. Not for a second. For one thing, that sound was too deliberate, too sneaky. I’d lived in a dorm for four years, for Christ’s sake. I knew what it sounded like when someone tried to sneak up on me.

That’s it.

My tour group had returned, spotted my campsite, and now a few of the guys were having some fun at my expense. No doubt they hoped I’d scream like an idiot so they could record it for posterity on their phones and broadcast my humiliation all over social media.

I leapt to my feet. “Stop fooling around, guys. I know you’re out there. Show yourselves, or I’ll come out there and get you.”

The rustling stopped.

Clutching a plank of wood, I tried to seem somewhat intimidating.

Water dripped from the ravaged roof in a slow and monotonous trickle. It was enough to drive me insane, but at least the rain had stopped.

Then I heard another sound—one that wasn’t as easy to dismiss.

The crunch of footsteps on the path, gradually getting louder.

Maybe it was a dog.

A rabid dog.

Something out of Stephen King’s nightmares.

I shone the flashlight down the path, squinting into the dark.

Nothing there.

Still the footsteps moved closer.

“Who’s there?” I yelled, grateful my voice remained steady. My hands were another matter, causing the light to waver. “Hello?”

The path was empty—until it wasn’t.

There was a glimmer of white, and a pale face emerged from the darkness. I stumbled backward, nearly impaling myself on what was left of the firewood. Retreating until I hit one of the posts that held the shelter upright, I willed whoever it was to go away. I hadn’t signed up for this.

It was a prank, just a stupid prank to make some cash.

The air in the shelter changed, becoming heavier and heavier, weighing on my lungs and pulling them down, down, down.

My breath escaped with a tiny squeak.

A young woman stood outside the remains of the temple, staring at me with huge, dark eyes. She wore a coat that was three sizes too big for her and her feet were bare.

Sagging with relief, I pressed my hand against my chest as if I could will my heart to slow down. “You scared the crap out of me, girl. Where did you come from?”

The girl continued to stare at me without speaking. I was getting that prickling feeling on the back of my neck again, and I didn’t like it.

“Were you with a group?”

What happened to her shoes? If she’d planned to spend the night, she certainly hadn’t put much thought into it.

There was no hint of recognition at my words, no indication she intended to reply. Her expression was as blank as it had been before I spoke. And then it dawned on me.

She doesn’t understand a word I’ve said.

Traveling would be so much easier if everyone spoke the same language. Squirming, I was wondering how I was going to get rid of her when she responded.

“I live here.”

“You speak English?”

There was an unbearable pause while she studied me in silence. Finally, I couldn’t take the awkwardness any longer.

“What do you mean, you live here? I thought this place was abandoned.” Then it occurred to me she might be homeless. Hensu would make an ideal hideaway for the down and out.  No one came around at night, and during the day, she could blend in with the hordes of tourists. She’d need some shoes, though.

I do.”

“Yeah, right. Where, in the pagoda?”

In the middle of the town square was a pagoda thousands of years old. The ground underneath was so saturated with moisture that the pagoda could disappear into a hole in the earth at any moment. I knew I was being a jerk, but I was tired of playing games. Being alone in the ghost city had been creepy, but stumbling through this clumsy small talk was much worse.

“My house is down there.” She indicated the hill our group had climbed to reach the ruins of the abandoned city. At the bottom, there was a dock where small boats deposited their cargo of wide-eyed tourists and their cameras.

Sure. Sure it is.

Then it dawned on me.

“Let me guess—you’re one of the actors, right?”

Dozens of costumed performers wandered the site during visiting hours, posing as judges of the underworld. No doubt there had been a few ghosts flitting around as well. This girl, with her pale face and bare feet, would be a natural.

“I’m not an actor. I’m a musician.”

“What do you play?” I asked, though I couldn’t have cared less what this strange girl did for kicks. I wanted to get back to my project, and there was no way a ghost was gonna drop in with all this chitchatting going on.

“I’m a violinist.”

Figures.

“Do you have it here? Your violin, I mean?”

I liked the idea of hearing some strings. From the look of her hands, I was willing to bet she could play something beautiful. Maybe even Vivaldi.

Best of all, we wouldn’t have to talk.

She lowered her head, dark hair closing over her face like shutters. “It was destroyed. In the flood. Along with everything else.”

Then I got what she’d been trying to say. Her tense was off—understandable, considering English wasn’t her first language. What she’d meant was, she’d lived here. Before the flood waters came and her village was evacuated.

“Why don’t you sit down and warm your feet? They must be freezing.” Realizing I was still gripping my pathetic weapon, I tossed the plank of wood on the fire, which sent up a torrent of protesting sparks. She didn’t move, only continued to stand at the entrance of the temple, watching me.

“I wasn’t invited.”

“Well, you’re invited now. Come on in.” I hunkered down next to the fire and stretched my chilled hands toward its warmth. As she hesitated, I waved her in. “C’mon, sit. I don’t bite. Seriously, get closer to the fire. You look cold.”

“I’m always cold.” She finally took a seat on an old floor beam across from me, watching me as if I might, in fact, bite.

“Said every woman ever.” Now that she was talking instead of dissecting me with her eyes, I appreciated the company. One thing our tour lacked was any opportunity for meaningful interaction with the locals. Hopefully having someone to shoot the shit with would make the night go faster, because it was obvious nothing supernatural was going to happen. In order for my book to be a best seller, I’d have to make shit up, but that was okay. Writers did it all the time. I’d call it…I know, narrative non-fiction. “Would you like a Coke? It’s lukewarm, but at least it’s something.”

“No, thank you.”

My mouth was dry—probably from the many times I’d rammed both feet into it—so I drank what was left in my can. As I slurped the flat, syrupy sweetness, I could feel her staring at me again. It took everything I had not to squirm.

“That sucks about your violin. Wasn’t there enough warning to pack your stuff?”

With my excitement over the tour and seeing an abandoned city for the first time, I hadn’t given a thought to the people, the ones who used to call this village home. What they had gone through; what they had suffered? Some of those families had probably lived here for generations, and having to leave everything behind must have been painful.

She stared at me like I was the stupidest guy who’d ever crossed her path, and I was definitely feeling like it. “Pack my stuff?” she repeated with excruciating slowness, as if she were speaking to a mentally challenged child.

“Sorry…gather your belongings? Were you able to gather your belongings?”

“No.”

“You weren’t given any warning?” Her story was giving me chills. Of course I’d heard of people losing everything in a flood, but this particular flood was manmade, the result of rerouting the Yangtze River through a new dam.

Her brow furrowed in confusion. When she wasn’t wearing that you’re-an-idiot expression, she was quite pretty. Not exactly babe material, but she had potential. Too young for me, though. I guessed she was in her early twenties. “Warning? For what would I need warning?”

“To gather your belongings. Your violin and everything. So you could take it with you when you left.”

She sighed. It was the longest, most exasperated sigh I’d ever heard. It seemed to come from her toes and work its way upward, deflating her. “I don’t understand your questions. I never moved. I’ve never gone anywhere.”

Either she didn’t comprehend English, in spite of her ability to speak it, or she was disturbed. Neither scenario was ideal. Time to change the subject.

“So… have you seen any ghosts around here? I’m writing an article about the Hensu hauntings.” With all the stealth I could manage, I nudged my recorder closer to her. If she had a good story, I wanted to capture every word.

“Ghosts?” She raised an eyebrow at me, and fluttered her hands at the nearest statue, the one that gave me the creeps. “Ghosts are everywhere.”

Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this writing stuff, especially if I had to interview the locals. Getting paid to travel was cool, but I could always harvest rice crops or haul garbage out of the ocean. At this point, that seemed preferable.

“Yeah, I saw those, but I’m not talking about statues. I’m talking about the real thing.” When she continued to stare at me without speaking, I exhaled a sigh of my own. Turning on my phone, I checked the time. It was just ten thirty—how was that possible? Ordinarily you wouldn’t catch me going to bed before two in the morning, but it had been an exhausting day, and the after-effects of the previous evening’s rice wine were haunting me. Behind my right eye, my brain throbbed.

Piling the fire high with the last logs and bits of kindling, I glanced over at her. She was still watching me, her face as expressionless as a mask. I wanted to ask her to stop, to look somewhere else, but how do you say that without being offensive?

I regretted asking her to stay. Having her around was beginning to feel worse than being alone.

She cocked her head to one side, as if she were an entomologist and I were some freakish species of bug that had crawled onto her microscope. “You are reporter?”

It took me a minute to get her meaning. “Not really. I’m more of a…creative writer, I guess you’d say.”

My aptitude for bullshit knows no bounds. That counts as creative, right?

“But you write. You tell stories.” An insistent tone crept into her voice, like she was accusing me of lying.

I was getting that hinky feeling again. Even though every pitiful instinct I had was screaming at me to deny it, I chalked up the paranoia to exhaustion and the last of yesterday’s rice wine torturing my beleaguered liver.

“Sure, I guess.” Leaning forward, I stirred the embers with a stick, feeling her eyes burning into me.

“I look for someone to tell my story. You—you could tell my story.”

Oh shit, here it comes. “Maybe. It depends. What’s your story?” At least it’ll help kill a few minutes.

I expected her to launch into an autobiographical tale, or perhaps start talking about her music. Instead, she appraised me through the firelight, her eyes large enough to swallow her face.

Her scrutiny was unnerving.

“The world must know my story, but I am not sure you are the right person to tell it.”

Wow. Keep your old story, then. “Okay.” I shrugged, wondering why she’d brought it up in the first place. “Fair enough. But my tour group is only here until tomorrow. Then our Yangtze cruise ends and we’ll be traveling by bus again.”

Her lips curved in a smirk that seemed to mock me. “Do not worry. I will find you.”

 

About the Author

J.H. Moncrieff’s work has been described as early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure.

She won Harlequin’s search for the next Gillian Flynn in 2016.

Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.

When not writing, she loves exploring the world’s most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.

Get free eBooks and a new spooky story every week here.

Posted in Book Release, excerpt, Giveaway, romance, women on May 12, 2017

Synopsis

She’s never had a home
Growing up in a troubled foster home, Mercy Dane knew she could never rely on anyone but herself. She’s used to giving her all to people who don’t give her a second glance, so when she races to Blessings, Georgia, to save the life of an accident victim, she’s flabbergasted when the grateful town opens its arms to her. She never dreamed she’d ever find family or friends—or a man who looks at her as if she hung the stars.

Until she finds peace in his arms
Police Chief Lon Pittman is getting restless living in sleepy little Blessings. But the day Mercy Dane roars into his life on the back of a motorcycle, practically daring him to pull her over, he’s lost. There’s something about Mercy’s tough-yet-vulnerable spirit that calls to Lon, and he will do anything in his power to make her realize that home isn’t just where the heart is—home is where their heart is.

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Excerpt

From Chapter One

From childhood, Mercy Dane viewed Christmas Eve in Savannah, Georgia, like something out of a fairy tale. The old, elegant mansions were always lit from within and decorated with great swags of greenery hanging above the doorways and porch railings like thick green icing on snowy white cakes.

The shops decked out in similar holiday style were as charming as the sweet southern women who worked within. Each shop boasted fragrant evergreens, plush red velvet bows, and flickering lights mimicking the stars in the night sky above the city.

And even though Mercy had grown up on the hard side of town with lights far less grand, the lights in her world burned with true southern perseverance. Now that she was no longer a child, the beauty of the holiday was something other people celebrated, and on this cold Christmas Eve, she no longer believed in fairy tales. So far, the chapters of her life consisted of a series of foster families until she aged out of the system, and one magic Christmas Eve with a man she never saw again. The only lights in her world now were the lights where she worked at the Road Warrior Bar.

The yellow neon sign over the bar was partially broken. The R in Road was missing its leg, making the word look like Toad. But the patrons who frequented this bar didn’t care about the name. They came for the company and a drink or two to dull the disappointment of a lifetime of regrets.

Carson Beal, who went by the name of Moose, owned the bar. He’d been meaning to get the R fixed for years, but intention was worth nothing without the action, and Moose had yet to act upon the thought.

Outside, the blinking neon light beckoned, calling the lonely and the thirsty into the bar where the beer was cold and the gumbo and rice Moose served was hot with spice and fire.

Moose often took advantage of Mercy’s talent for baking after she’d once brought cupcakes for Moose and the employees to snack on. After that, she’d bring in some of whatever she’d made at home. On occasion Moose would ask her to bake him something special. It was always good to have a little extra money, so she willingly obliged.

This Christmas Eve, Moose had ordered an assortment of Christmas cookies for the bar. When Mercy came in to work carrying the box of baked goods, he was delighted. Now a large platter of cookies graced the north end of the bar.

The incongruity of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” playing in the background was only slightly less bizarre than the old tinsel Christmas tree hanging above the pool table like a molting chandelier.

Because of the holiday, only two of his four waitresses were on duty, Barb Hanson, a thirtysomething widow with purple hair, and Mercy Dane, the baker with a curvy body.

Mercy’s long, black hair was a stunning contrast to the red Christmas sweater she was wearing, and her willowy body and long, shapely legs looked even longer in her black jeans and boots. Her olive skin and dark hair gave her an exotic look, but being abandoned as a baby, and growing up in foster care, she had no knowledge of her heritage.

Barb of the purple hair wore red and green, a rather startling assortment of colors for a lady her age, and both women were wearing reindeer antler headbands with little bells. Between the bells and antlers, the music and cookies, and the Christmas tree hanging above the pool table, Moose had set a holiday mood.

Mercy had been working at the bar for over five years. Although she’d turned twenty-six just last week, her life, like this job, was going nowhere.

It was nearing midnight when a quick blast of cold air suddenly moved through the bar and made Mercy shiver. She didn’t have to look to know the ugly part of this job had just arrived.

“Damn, Moose, play some real music, why don’t ya?” Big Boy yelled as the door slammed shut behind him.

Moose glared at the big biker who’d entered his bar. “This is real music, Big Boy. Sit down somewhere and keep your opinions to yourself.”

The biker flipped Moose off, spat on the floor, and stomped through the room toward an empty table near the back, making sure to feel up Mercy’s backside in passing.

When Big Boy suddenly shoved his hand between her legs, she nearly dropped the tray of drinks she was carrying. She knew from experience that he was waiting for a reaction, so she chose to bear the insult without calling attention to it.

As soon as he was seated, Big Boy slapped the table and yelled at the barmaids. “One of you bitches bring me a beer!”

Moose glanced nervously at Mercy, aware that she’d become the target for most of Big Boy’s harassment.

Barb sailed past Mercy with a jingle in every step. “I’ve got his table,” she said.

“Thanks,” Mercy said, and delivered the drinks she was carrying. “Here you go, guys! Christmas Eve cheer and cookies from Moose!”

One trucker, a man named Pete, took a big bite out of the iced sugar cookie. “Mmm, this is good,” he said.

“Mercy made them,” Moose yelled.

Pete shook his head and took another bite. “You have a fine hand with baking. I’d ask you to marry me, darlin’, but my old lady would object.”

Mercy took the teasing with a grin. The men at this table were good men who always left nice tips. In fact, most of the patrons in the bar were men with no family or truckers who couldn’t get home for Christmas. Every now and then, a random woman would wander in to have a drink, but rarely lingered, except for Lorena Haysworth, the older woman sitting at the south end of the bar.

She’d been coming here since before Mercy was born, and in her younger days she and Moose had been lovers before slowly drifting apart. She’d come back into his life a few months ago and nightly claimed the seat at the end of the bar.

Barb took the first of what would be multiple beers to Big Boy’s table, along with a Christmas cookie and a bowl of stale pretzels, making sure to keep the table between them.

Big Boy lunged at her as if he was going to grab her, and when she turned around and ran, he leaned back and laughed.

Mercy returned to the bar with a new order and waited for Moose to fill it.

“Sorry about that,” Moose said, as he glanced toward the table where Big Boy was sitting.

Her eyes narrowed angrily. “How sorry are you? Sorry enough to kick him out? Or just sorry his money is more important to you than me and Barb?”

Moose’s face turned as red as his shirt. “Damn it, Mercy. You know how it goes,” he said, and pushed the new order across the bar.

She did know. The customer was always right. Trying not to buy into the turmoil, she picked up the tray and delivered the order with a smile.

The night wore on with Big Boy getting drunker and more belligerent, while Barb and Mercy dodged his constant attempts to maul them, until finally, it was time to close.

It was a few minutes before 2:00 a.m. when Moose shut down the bar. There were only three customers left. Big Boy, who was so close to passed out he couldn’t walk, Lorena, who was waiting to go home with Moose, and a trucker who’d fallen asleep at his table.

Mercy headed for the trucker, leaving Moose to wrestle Big Boy up and out.

The trucker was a small, wiry man named Frank Bigalow who fancied himself a ringer for country music star Willie Nelson. He was dreaming of hit songs and gold records when Mercy woke him.

“Frank. Frank. You need to wake up now. We’re closing.”

Bigalow straightened abruptly, momentarily confused as to where he was, then saw Mercy and smiled.

“Oh. Right. Sure thing, honey. What do I owe you?” he mumbled.

“Twelve dollars,” she said.

Bigalow stood up to get his wallet out of his pants then pulled out a twenty. “Keep the change and Merry Christmas,” he said.

“Thanks,” she said, and began bussing his table as he walked out of the bar.

Moose had Big Boy on his way out the door, and it was none too soon for Mercy.

She handed Moose the twenty when he returned. “Take twelve out. The rest is mine,” she said, and pocketed the change Moose gave her.

Within fifteen minutes, the bar was clear and swept, the money was in the safe, and Barb and Mercy were heading for the door.

“Hey! Girls! Wait up!” Moose said, then handed them each an envelope, along with little bags with some of Mercy’s cookies. “Merry Christmas. We’re not open tomorrow so sleep in.”

“Thank you,” Barb said, as she slid the envelope inside her purse.

“Much appreciated,” Mercy added, as she put her envelope in one of the inner pockets of her black leather bomber jacket. It was old and worn, but it was warm.

Then she grabbed her helmet and the cookies and headed out the door behind Barb and just ahead of Moose and Lorena. Once outside, she paused to judge the near-empty parking lot, making sure Big Boy and his Harley were at the motel across the street.

The air was cold and the sky was clear as she stashed the cookies, then put on her helmet and mounted her own Harley. Seconds later the quiet was broken by the rolling rumble of the engine as she toed up the kickstand, put the bike in gear, and rode off into the night.

The empty streets on the way to her apartment were a little eerie, but she was so tired she couldn’t work up the emotion to be scared. The streetlights were draped with Christmas garlands and red bows, but they were all one blur as Mercy sped toward home.

A city cop on neighborhood patrol saw her, recognized the lone bike and biker, and blinked his lights as she passed him.

She waved back and kept going.

When she stopped for a red light and realized she was the only person on this stretch of street, she didn’t breathe easy until the light turned green, and she moved on.

Finally, she was home. She eased up on the accelerator as she rolled through the gates of her apartment complex and parked the motorcycle beneath a light in plain view of the security cameras. She ran up the outer stairs to the second level and down the walkway to her apartment carrying her helmet and the cookies. No matter how many times she’d done this or how many times she’d moved since it happened, the fact that she’d once come home late at night to find out she’d been robbed, she never felt safe until she was in the apartment with the door locked behind her.

She tossed the helmet onto the sofa and took the cookies into the kitchen. Curious as to how much of a bonus Moose was giving this year, she was pleased to see a hundred-dollar bill.

“Nice,” she said, and took it and her night’s worth of tips to the refrigerator, opened up the freezer, and put the money inside an empty box that had once held a biscuit mix.

She wasn’t sure how much money she had saved up, but last time she’d counted it had been over two thousand dollars. It should have been in a bank, but these days, banks cost money to use, and she didn’t have any to spare, so she froze her assets.

The place smelled of stale coffee and something her neighbor across the hall had burned for dinner. She was tired and cold, but too wired to sleep, so she went to her bedroom, stripped out of her clothes, and took a long hot shower.

She returned to the kitchen later to find something to eat. One quick glance in the refrigerator was all the reminder she needed that she still hadn’t grocery shopped. She emptied what was left of the milk into a bowl of cereal and ate it standing by the sink, remembering another Christmas in Savannah, her first all on her own.

About the Author

SHARON SALA has over ninety-five books in print and has published in five different genres. She is a seventime RITA finalist, four-time Career Achievement winner from RT Book Reviews, and five-time winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award. Writing changed her life, her world, and her fate. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

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Posted in Book Release, Giveaway, romance on May 12, 2017

Synopsis

When pro surfer Zach Ellis isn’t traveling the world-wide competition circuit, he works as a Renegade stunt double for the hit TV series, Hawaiian Heat. After years of tangling with the ocean, his body has paid the price. So when he gets a shot at a star roll on the show, Zach’s all in. He celebrates the career opportunity by taking a chance on a woman who’s not his usual island-girl type, only to discover he can’t bear to let her go.

Tessa Drake belongs mired in legislation battles in Washington DC, not standing on the sidelines of a filming set in Maui like a wannabe starlet. But even more important than her law career, Tessa needs Zach Ellis’s signature on legal papers. Papers that relinquish his parental rights so Tessa can adopt the girl who already calls her mommy. When she discovers Zach has slipped out of town before she makes contact, Tessa takes solace in the sexy star of Hawaiian Heat. A man whose warmth and dazzling grin makes her Mensa-level IQ vanish into thin air.

After an electrifying night together, Tessa is horrified to discover just who rocked her world.  Zach is stunned to learn he’s a father. And both find themselves caught in a riptide pulling them in the opposite direction of their dreams.

About the Author

Skye’s New York Times bestselling novels are all about enjoying that little wild streak we all have, but probably don’t let out often enough. About those fantasies we usually don’t get the opportunity to indulge. About stretching limits, checking out the dark side, playing naughty and maybe even acting a little wicked. They’re about escape and fun and pleasure and romance. And, yes, even love, because Skye is ultimately a romantic at heart and a happily ever after kinda gal. Skye also writes romantic suspense as Joan Swan, weaving fast paced novels of passion, danger and suspense.

Skye is a California native recently transplanted to the East Coast and living in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington DC with her husband and rescue pup. She has two grown daughters in college in Colorado and Oregon. In her free time she’s always taking classes in the arts, cooking and knitting or rowing on the Potomac.

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Posted in Book Release, excerpt, Historical, Spotlight on May 11, 2017

Title:  The Pacifist

Author:  Mehreen Ahmed

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Synopsis

In 1866, Peter Baxter’s misfortune ends the day he leaves Badgerys Creek orphanage. Unsure of what to do next, Peter finds himself on a farm run by Mr. Brown. An aging man, Brown needs help and is happy to give Peter a place to live in exchange for his labor. Unbeknownst to Peter, Brown’s past is riddled with dark secrets tied to the same orphanage, which he has documented in a red folder.

During a chance encounter, Peter meets Rose. Peter cannot help but fall in love with her beauty, grace, and wit; however, he fears that his affection will go unrequited as a result of his crippling poverty. But fate changes when Peter joins the search for gold in Hill End, New South Wales. Striking it rich, he returns to Rose a wealthy man. Peter is changed by his new found affluence, heading towards the mire of greed. Will Rose regret her relationship with Peter?

Meanwhile, Rose has her own troubled history. One that is deeply entwined with Brown’s past and Peter’s future.

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Excerpt

At first, Rose was disoriented. She looked around. Her silent whisperers had stopped talking. Sitting up on the bed, she realized that she was in a room with a closed door.  Fear crept into her mind. She looked around, realizing that she sat on a bed covered with frayed sheets and a torn, stained pillow. A lump rose up to her throat.

“Mummy, mummy,” Rose broke down into uncontrollable tears. Before more than a few minutes passed, the door opened. A shadow appeared on its dark threshold. It began to walk towards her. She gawked at the figure through tear-stained eyes. Her lips parted. She gripped the bed cloths until her little fingers ached.

“Come with me, child,” commanded a male voice.

“I … I want my mummy,” she hiccupped.

“There is no mummy here. Mummies aren’t allowed.”

“Where is my mummy?”

“She’s dead, I’m afraid.”

“Dead? What’re you saying?”

“I say the truth. The faster you settle down here, the better. You’ll make it easier for everyone. Now come along.”

The male figure extended an arm towards Rose, asking her to hold it. In the dark, Rose slipped her tiny palm, losing it, into his large one. She wanted to trust him but could not stop sobbing. This sudden news of her mother’s death broke her heart, irreparably. She wanted to break loose, to run as fast as she could. But her hand, now in the clutches of this man, no matter how much she squirmed, could not get out. Nor would her tears stop.

“Did … I … kill … her?” she hiccupped.

“What on earth are you saying?”

“Those voices never gave me any peace.”

“Voices?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s talk about them in my office tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

“You didn’t kill anyone, dear. Make a note of that, okay?”

“Okay.

Her tears abated. She picked up a corner of her dress and wiped her nose with it, the fluids slowly drenched in the seam. They continued to walk through the hall. In the dim light, imparted by lanterns set along the corridor, she could only see their shadows. They walked until they appeared in front of an ornate antique door. It had a big ring hanging outside. The man took out a key. He turned it into the keyhole then pushed the thick door. It creaked around the hinges as it opened. Rose peeked inside, standing in the shadow of the man, looking around in awe. It was a long dormitory with at least five single beds hemmed together. Each bed was covered with a thin blanket and a lumpy pillow. There were small girls, about her age, sitting or lying on their beds. When they saw her, they straightened up, sitting erect on the edge of each bed.

“This is where you’ll sleep every night,” he said.

About the Author

Queensland writer, Mehreen Ahmed has been publishing since 1987. Her writing career began with journalism, academic reviews and articles. Her journalistic articles appeared in The Sheaf, a campus newspaper for the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, between 1987 and 1999.

She has written academic book reviews and articles and has published them in notable peer-reviewed journals in her area of study. Mostly introspective, Mehreen also writes fiction. Set in Brisbane Queensland, Jacaranda Blues is her debut novella, written in a stream of consciousness style. A featured author for Story Institute, she has published The Blotted Line, a collection of short stories. More recently, Snapshots and Moirae were first published by PostScript Editions, UK in 2010 and a second edition by Cosmic Teapot Publishing, Canada in 2016. Her flash fiction, The Portrait has been published by Straylight Literary Magazine, a biannual magazine of the University of Wisconsin-Parkland, English Department.

She has earned two MA degrees. One in English and the other in Computer Assisted Language Learning (Applied Linguistics) from Dhaka University and the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia.

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Posted in Book Release, excerpt, mystery on April 13, 2017

Book Title: REMNANTS

Author: Carolyn Arnold

Series: Brandon Fisher FBI series, Book 6

Published by: Hibbert & Stiles Publishing Inc.

Synopsis

All that remains are whispers of the past…

When multiple body parts are recovered from the Little Ogeechee River in Savannah, Georgia, local law enforcement calls in FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher and his team to investigate. But with the remains pointing to three separate victims, this isn’t proving to be an open-and-shut case.

With no quick means of identifying the victims, building a profile of this serial killer is proving more challenging than usual. How is the killer picking these victims? Why are their limbs being severed and bodies mutilated? And what is it about them that is triggering this killer to murder?

The questions compound as the body count continues to rise, and when a torso painted blue and missing its heart is found, the case takes an even darker turn. But this is only the beginning, and these new leads draw the FBI into a creepy psychological nightmare. One thing is clear, though: the killing isn’t going to stop until they figure it all out. And they are running out of time…

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Excerpt

KILLING WAS THE BEST SEDATIVE. Just knowing that the time was coming had allowed him to fall asleep the second his head had hit the pillow last night, and now the clock on his nightstand told him it was almost noon.

He got out of bed and opened the curtains, letting the sun spill in and blanket him in its warm glow. Closing his eyes, he bathed in its splendor. His breath was calm and deep as he got down onto his knees and spread his arms heavenward, giving thanks for not just another day but for the blessing of life. Not his, but what would be the beginning of another offering.

He remained there in a meditative state, letting his consciousness drift to the other realm, a place far too few visited or were even aware of. But it was in this stillness that he found his true self, his identity, and his purpose, where he became centered and focused on the seriousness of his mission.

He wrapped himself in a black robe and shuffled downstairs and out the back door. He stood on the patio facing the riverbank with his eyes closed.

As the sun warmed his eyelids, he imagined himself being carried up toward the sky, merging with the flames, the source of life, and shedding his human form. He knew that he belonged somewhere else—a different plane of existence—but the physical required roots. So for now, he was grounded.

He remained standing there until the sun ducked behind a cloud, the shadows casting over him. He opened his eyes and knew. It was time.

His stride was full of purpose as he returned inside to where he kept the man in a dimly lit room. He closed the door behind him and headed for the preparation room.

The man was standing, restrained at the wrists and ankles, and held up by a clasp around his neck. His arms and legs were stretched out like rays of sunshine. The offering was free to talk, but his spirit had become broken with the passage of time and he rarely whispered a word.

About the Author

carolyn-arnold-authorCAROLYN ARNOLD is an international best-selling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series—Detective Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher FBI, McKinley Mysteries, and Matthew Connor Adventures—and has written nearly thirty books. Her genre diversity offers her readers everything from cozy to hard-boiled mysteries, and thrillers to action adventures.

Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower.

She currently lives just west of Toronto with her husband and beagle and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime.

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