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 excerpt, Giveaway, paranormal, romance on May 10, 2017

Title: Dating the Undead

Author: Juliet Lyons

Series: Undead Dating Service, #1

ISBN: 9781492645306

Pub date: May 2, 2017

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Synopsis 

WOMAN SEEKING VAMPIRE:

Likes to keep things casual

Absolutely no poetry

Zero romance required.

Silver Harris is over clingy men—maybe men altogether. But when she shares a toe-curling kiss with a sexy Irish vampire on New Year’s Eve, she wonders if maybe it’s human men she’s fed up with. Silver turns to the popular vampire dating site, V-Date, only to discover that vampire men are just as unimpressive as their mortal counterparts. And her mysterious hottie? He’s nowhere to be found.

Can’t a girl catch a break?

Logan Byrne can’t get that sassy redhead—or that kiss!—out of his head. When his boss assigns him to spy on V-Date, he meets Silver again. Turns out, the police are recruiting humans to snitch on vampires through the dating site. As the snark and sparks fly, feelings between Silver and Logan deepen. But, when old demons resurface—literally—Logan isn’t sure he can shield either of them from the dangers that have been lying in wait for centuries.

Buy the Book (multiple formats)

10 ways to tell if your date is actually a vampire

1. They only want to meet at night, using the excuse that they’re not ‘a morning person’.
2. On a date to the beach, you catch them harassing the lady in the mini mart to check the stock room for Hawaiian Tropics factor 500.
3. When you get a papercut, they’re oddly excited.
4. They’re still not over their ex. Even though the latter has been dead for two hundred years.
5. Every time you mention a church wedding they recoil in horror*.
6. They often refer to Eric from True Blood as someone who ‘has their shit together.’
7. They drink a lot of red wine, but never seem drunk. Wait—is that actually wine?
8. They have pale, flawless skin despite the fact you’ve never once seen them cleanse and/or moisturise.
9. When watching any kind of sporting event, they constantly scoff and sneer at the athletes. ‘Please! Is that the best they can do?’
10. They are particularly keen to remind you that the neck is a top five erogenous zone…

*Does not necessarily mean they are a vampire. Mortals—particularly males—are also prone to behaving in this way.

Excerpt

I freeze in terror. What a waste of Dad’s money those self-defense classes turned out to be.

“Silver, it’s just me,” a lilting Irish voice says at my ear, the hand dropping from my shoulder.

I turn around to find myself nose to nose with my vampire from New Year’s Eve, his bright green eyes piercing mine.

I’m struck by several conflicting emotions all at once—anger, relief, and in a tiny measure—happiness. Anger wins out. On impulse, I slap him hard across the face, pointing with a white, clenched hand to the garden I’ve just sprinted across.

“I thought I was about to be murdered, asshole,” I hiss through my teeth. “I ripped my coat. My heels are ruined. All because you thought it might be fun to follow me home.”

He smirks, nonplussed, sliding his hands into the deep pockets of his navy pea coat. “I wasn’t following you,” he says, eyes twinkling.

“Oh, that’s right,” I say, voice dripping with sarcasm. “You were just walking me home again. Except this time from fifty yards behind and without me knowing.”

Before he has a chance to reply, the front door flies open and my landlady Vera emerges in a long, silky, oriental dressing gown. She is wigless for once, a Pucci scarf twisted into a makeshift turban covering her head. In her right hand, she holds a meat cleaver.

“Step away, you rapist bastard!” she yells, holding the large knife shakily aloft.

I glare at the vampire, expecting him to either throw his hands in the air or take a step backwards. Instead his brows knit together and his mouth drops open. “Etta Marlow?” he asks, staring at her as if she just walked on water.

The meat cleaver lowers a fraction. “What’s it to you?” Vera demands, her voice losing some of its previous menace.

I roll my eyes. Of course he remembers her. He’s probably seen all her films.

“It is you!” he erupts, wagging a finger in her direction. “You’re Etta Marlow! You played Susie De Sousa in Girl Uptown with Gregor Lane. I love that movie.”

The meat cleaver drops, forgotten, to her side as she pats her turban, eyelashes fluttering. “Fancy you recognizing me,” she mutters happily.

“Excuse me, Vera,” I interject, “but there’s still a potential rapist on your doorstep here.”

Vera looks back to the vampire, who shakes his head, smiling. “A misunderstanding, Etta. I was making sure Silver here made it home safely. She got the wrong end of the stick.”

Vera, or Etta as she was once known, glances over at me. “Do you know this charming fellow, dear?”

I scowl at them both. “Well, yes, but— “

“Well then, you must come in, dear boy. I could show you my Oscar, if you like?”

The Vampire looks as if he’s about to pee himself with excitement. “You mean the one you got for Days Like These with Vic Stevens?”

She holds out a thin hand towards him, gold bangles jangling on her wrist. “The very one, dear. Come, come in.”

I watch, stunned, as he takes her hand, green eyes lit up in excitement.

Before stepping through the door, he hangs back. “Ms. Marlow, I’m afraid it’s only courteous to let you know before I enter that I’m not human. I’m a vampire.”

Vera’s tinkly laugh echoes around the street like a bicycle bell. “Oh, you’re so sweet. Didn’t you know I’ve met dozens of vampires? They’re two a penny in Hollywood, darling.”

Following her across the threshold, he flashes the cockiest of grins. “Coming, Silver?”

My jaw drops in disgust. I’m tempted to sulk off to my basement flat, but instead, I trail after them and slam the door.

We follow Vera along an elegant gold and cream hallway into her immaculate, monochrome front room. Even though I’ve been here on numerous occasions, I’m always mesmerized by the sheer extravagance of the place—buttery white leather sofas, cream fur rugs, one wall is painted black and white to resemble piano keys. It should look tacky, but somehow, it works.

“You two make yourselves at home whilst I go and make myself presentable.” Vera says. “Then I’ll dig out that old Oscar of mine.”

I know, of course, the Oscar will not have to be ‘dug’ out of anywhere. It’s always on display in the den, alongside her film stills and other memorabilia.

“I didn’t catch your name,” she croons to the vampire before she leaves.

He puts a hand on his chest. “Forgive me, I should have introduced myself. Between the meat cleaver threat and getting slapped by Silver here, I seem to have forgotten my manners. I’m Logan. Logan Byrne.”

For strange and unfathomable reasons, my stomach flips. Logan. It suits him.

“Charming,” Vera says. “Don’t you go anywhere, Mr. Byrne.”

As soon as Vera disappears from the room, Logan collapses into one of the white leather arm chairs and puts his crossed feet onto the cut glass coffee table.

I’m still standing, one brow arched, arms folded across my chest. “So, Logan,” I hiss. “What the hell is this?”

He grins, dimples putting in their first appearance of the night as he gazes up at me. “Did anyone ever tell you, you’re particularly beautiful when you’re angry?”

“Oh, cut the crap,” I say,  ignoring the hot flush climbing my neck. “Why did you follow me?”

“Like I told Etta, I wanted to make sure you got home safely, that’s all. Though I’m a little confused as to why you have three houses.” He holds up fingers to count. “The one I left you at on New Year’s, the one Nathaniel dropped you at, and now this—cohabiting with an aged 1940’s screen siren.”

“It’s none of your business,” I say, chin in the air. “And anyway, how do you know Nathaniel?”

He shrugs. “I know most of the vampires in London.”

I humpth. “I bet you do.”

In the blink of an eye, he is towering over me, face inches from mine. I inhale his clean, masculine scent like a drowning person coming up for air, and as he leans closer, I find myself gravitating towards him—a flower reaching for sunlight.

He pulls the collar of my coat aside and peers into the gap. As his fingers brush my jaw, an uncontrollable shiver zings through me. I disguise it by stepping out of reach and batting his hand away.

“He did a messy job on your neck,” he says, in a low voice.

“What’s it to you?” I snap.

Before I realize what’s happening, he closes the gap between us. One hand cupping my cheek, he bends over, lips brushing the place Nathaniel bit me, tongue gently swiping the puncture holes.

“That should stop the bleeding,” he says, pulling away. “But you’ll still have a bruise in the morning.”

I rub my neck and look at my fingers. No blood. “So, you can heal wounds? Just another of your unique skills along with beating up drunk men and following young women home for kicks?”

He sinks back into the armchair. “You’re a sexy girl, Silver. I’m glad we’ve met again.”

I snort incredulously, trying, without success, to forget the warmth of his hand on my face. “Well, you certainly made sure we did.”

“And of course,” he continues, pretending to examine a photo on the coffee table. “I’m hugely flattered I’ve managed to turn your head towards my kind.”

“You didn’t turn anything,” I say tartly.

He cocks a brow, gaze burning through my clothes like a laser. I feel a sharp twitch between my legs, as though he’s controlling my private areas by some invisible string. “Are you sure about that?”

About the Author

JULIET LYONS is a paranormal romance author from the UK. She holds a degree in Spanish and Latin American studies and works part-time in a local primary school where she spends far too much time discussing Harry Potter. Since joining global storytelling site Wattpad in 2014, her work has received millions of hits online and gained a legion of fans from all over the world. When she is not writing, Juliet enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance, Spotlight on May 9, 2017

Title: Nothing Like a Duke

Author: Jane Ashford

Series: The Duke’s Sons, #4

ISBN: 9781492621652

Pub date: May 2, 2017

Genre: Historical Romance

Synopsis

He wants her.

She has no intention of wanting him.

But even Flora has to admit…

There’s nothing like a Duke.

Lord Robert Gresham has given up all hope that the beautiful and independent Flora Jennings will ever take him seriously. He heads to an exclusive country house party to forget about the beauty haunting his thoughts.

Too bad the lady in question has no intention of being forgotten.

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Excerpt

A protruding bit of bramble caught the side of Flora’s pelisse. She twisted to reach for it, and a whole raft of briars shifted with her, entangling the other side of her skirts, her right arm, and the brim of her bonnet. If she pulled away, it would rip the cloth. She struggled a little; more thorns dug in. “Blast it, I suppose you were right, you wretched dog,” she exclaimed, and discovered that Plato was gone.

Flora lifted a hand to free her hat. The movement tipped another part of the bush, which swayed and seemed to grab at her. A second branch lodged in her bonnet. She felt several claw at her back. A stem lashed across her neck. That one drew blood. She tried to step back, and was pricked by more thorns, through her clothes, from all directions.

Flora went very still. She saw that the path petered out just ahead. Or perhaps this hadn’t been a path at all, but merely a deceptive opening in the vegetation. She hadn’t been paying attention. She tried again to move. She was trapped in a sea of briars. The thorns were long and wickedly barbed. They pricked the skin of her neck, her arm, her back, her side.

She became aware of a rustling in the leaves near her feet. What next? The badgers? Snakes? No, of course not snakes. It was far too cold.

A small black-furred head poked through an opening at the base of the briars. Evading the thorns with no visible effort, Plato emerged and stared up at her. “Oh, you’re back, are you?” said Flora. He sat down at her feet. “Come to gloat? Point out that if I’d followed you, I wouldn’t be in this predicament?”

Plato looked at her. Not judgmentally, because that was impossible.

“Go fetch help,” commanded Flora. The dog didn’t move. “Some clever gardeners. A footman from the house. Anyone. Go!”

“Plato? Where are you, you dratted animal?” called a voice nearby.

“Lord Robert?” she called.

There was a short silence. “Flora?”

“Yes. I’ve, ah, become entangled in some brambles. Plato doesn’t appear to care in the least. Or, actually, he’s staring at me as if it was all my fault.” She frowned down at the dog.

“Does he ever blink? He’s really a bit uncanny, don’t you—”

Robert appeared on the path. “Good God!” He started forward.

“Be careful! It’s very easy to get caught. If you touch one branch, the whole mass moves.”

“I see.” He examined the arching stems. “You really are caught, aren’t you?” His lips twitched.

“If you laugh, I’ll…make you sorry,” Flora promised. Plato made one of his odd grumpy gargling sounds. “And you! I’ll find a badger and hand you over to him.”

Robert choked. “So, would you say you’re in need of rescue?”

“Just get me out!”

Robert moved a few steps closer. He could see that the thorns had barbs like fishhooks, ready to rip and tear if not removed very carefully. There was a trickle of blood on Flora’s neck. After a moment of calculation, he eeled between two branches. He had to stop once and detach thorns from his sleeve before he reached her side.

“These things are diabolical,” she said. “When I turned to pull loose, they seemed to…sort of lunge at me.”

“Stay very still.”

“I know!” She let out a huff of breath. “I beg your pardon. This is…rather irritating.” She smiled an apology.

Robert felt a catch in his chest, as if his heart had stumbled briefly. “Right then. Move back, Plato,” he said. For once, the little dog obeyed him, slipping easily out to a more open spot.

He began on the closest branch, embedded in the skirts of Flora’s pelisse. He had to kneel to reach it properly. His knife was small for the tough fibers. The bush swayed as he sawed at the branch. A spray of thorns rasped across his hair, but didn’t catch hold.

Robert soon pricked his skin. There was no way to hold the branch still without being stuck, and he’d left his gloves indoors when he’d seen Plato shoot wildly out of the bushes and then go haring off again.

Blood made the blasted thing slippery. Robert got out his handkerchief, used it to wrap the branch, and went back to work. At last, he was through. The severed stem sprang back a little, he was glad to see, giving him a few inches of working room. He looked up. “One down,” he said with a smile.

The heated gaze he encountered went through him like a thunderbolt. He was suddenly acutely aware of his position, right in among her skirts. His shoulder rested against her thigh. The scent of her—flowery perfume and sheer female—enveloped him.

“You’ve hurt yourself,” she said.

“It’s nothing.” Intensely aroused, Robert eased to his feet. Flora smiled at him again. Her fierce blue eyes raked him. He knew, absolutely, that she was remembering their kisses.
The next branch was wrapped around her far sleeve. He had to press close to her to avoid the briars at his back as he reached for it. And stay there while he cut through the stringy fiber of the bramble. The feel of her—curve of breast and hip, her cheek resting on his chest—made him clumsier. At one point a thorn drove deep into the pad of his index finger, and he stifled an oath.

Flora was having trouble breathing. She could feel his heartbeat, so near her ear, accelerating in tandem with her own. She could feel his muscles shift against her as he cut at the brambles. If she looked up, carefully, she could see his face—handsome, intent. The lips that had thrilled her were only inches away. But she couldn’t move enough to offer her own again. She had to remain very still, plastered against him.

About the Author

Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight led her to study English literature and travel widely in Britain and Europe. Her historical and contemporary romances have been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, Slovenia, and Spain, as well as the U.S. Twenty-six of her new and backlist Regency romances are being published by Sourcebooks. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She is currently rather nomadic.

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Posted in excerpt, Inspirational, memoir on May 7, 2017

BENDING ANGELS

Living Messengers of God’s Love

By Jack H. Emmott

 

  Genre: Memoir / Inspirational / Faith

Publisher: Carpenter’s Son Publishing

Date of Publication: January 1, 2017

Number of Pages: 176

Struck by polio at age six, Jack H. Emmott began learning the difficult spiritual lessons embodied in paralysis, shivering loneliness, and dark despair. Fortunately, Jack had help― people of all ages he calls his “Bending Angels,” those who have spread their wings of love and inspiration to walk the journey of faith as the devastated little boy became one of Houston’s celebrated attorneys, a loyal husband, and a devoted dad. Each chapter of this book will relate the story of a Bending Angel―from Brownie, the pup, to Mr. Ochoa, the baseball coach who understood how much of a heart it takes to win and how much of a soul it takes to lose your most precious dream. This book will inspire and uplift you as Jack H. Emmott, a life-long Christian, shares his spiritual wisdom and lessons learned.

Amazon * Bending Angel Website

PRAISE FOR BENDING ANGELS

“The power of ‘Let go and let God’ is personified in this inspiring story. Also, that we are given guidance in the most unsuspected forms when we but look, and that a flood of grace is behind every surrender. What a joy.”  — Lindsay Wagneractress, author

“With gentle humor and no small amount of faith, Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love tells the story of Jack Emmott’s life and of the angels who have appeared in his life, just when he needed them the most.  Do I believe in angels? Absolutely.  Was Jack himself an angel to me during the darkest period of my life?  Absolutely.”  — Debbie AdamsPast President, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Houston/Galveston; Chair, Advisory Council UTHealth School of NursingTrustee, St. Edward’s University

Bending Angel is a beautiful inspiring book about faith and prayer and the angels that surround us. Jack shared his life journey of trusting in God and drawing strength that was needed to help him. I learned a great deal from this book and have thought about it over and over again since I read it.” — Amazon reviewer

“If only I could get through a chapter without crying…very moving and touching stories.” — Amazon reviewer

 

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When You Need One the Most, God Always Sends You an Angel

Excerpt from Chapter 7 of Bending Angels

It was the first Tuesday after Labor Day, 1960. I was a boy of twelve. My first fearful day of sixth grade had arrived.

This first school day had started at seven o’clock in the morning in my childhood home in Emmottville. The whole house smelled of my mother’s breakfast cooking–eggs sunny-side up, honey-cured fried bacon, buttered toast–which my brother Charlie and I rapidly ate.

Charles and I quickly walked out the front door to Emmott Road. I had no time to waste—my short, struggling gait from polio took extra time and effort as we went down the oil-soaked shell road to the bus stop. I had to hurry to catch the yellow bus driven by Mr. Bubba Willbern.

To anyone on the outside of my life and struggles with polio, the destination of my daily school bus ride would be Post Elementary School. But as I learned that year, my daily bus ride was always and forever to be inexplicably headed somewhere else deeper in my heart and soul.

As Charles and I walked across the cattle guard, I saw the bus coming to a stop at the end of our road. I made it just in time. The bus door opened. I lifted my left leg up to the lower step of the bus. I stiffened my left leg and body so Charlie could push me up into the air to the left until my weakened right leg could swing under me by gravity alone. A pendulum amidst paralysis. An embarrassment of awkwardness viewed by a long line of onlookers at the windows on the bus. I felt like an ugly fish in a fish bowl. Then the leg-lifting process repeated itself up to the second and third steps until my two feet found the floor of the bus next to Mr. Willbern. There I stood, tired and very embarrassed. I felt unlike any other student on the bus. I was certain everyone on the bus saw that my left shoe was built up two inches higher than my right shoe. My legs were of different lengths. A bulky Milwaukee brace made of steel and leather was around my torso. The brace held me straight as my spine continued to curve with scoliosis. A white football helmet was worn on my head to protect the brain God had given me in the event my knees collapsed and my head crashed to the floor.

As I looked down the center aisle for an open seat, all the seats on the left were taken. Where would I sit? Fearing rejection and indifference, I asked myself, “Who would want to sit next to me, a crippled boy?” I looked with anguish to the other side of the bus for a place to sit.

Then, something unexpected occurred.  On the right on the sixth row of seats, I saw a sweet little girl smiling at me. She did not look away from me like the others did. She moved closer to the window. With her right hand, she patted the seat next to her inviting me to sit beside her. She looked about seven years old with wavy brown shoulder-length hair illumined with highlights from the summer sun. Her skin was tanned from playing outdoors; her eyes were as blue as the waters of the Cayman Islands. Her spirit was as peaceful, poised, gentle and cooling as a soft summer breeze on a warm afternoon. She wore a brown skirt with a plaid cotton short-sleeve blouse with a Peter Pan collar, brown leather shoes, and white cotton socks.

I sat right next to her. “Hi. I’m Cheryl.”

“I’m Jack,” I replied.

“I know you. You are the boy who has polio like my Aunt Margaret did,” she said.

I looked into Cheryl’s face again. I saw much more than a pretty, younger girl on her way to class. I unexpectedly felt whole again, like before I had polio. I somehow knew she saw me as a whole person, a child of God, and not as a crippled boy. That is the way I believed that God saw all children. “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Cheryl seemed to have that way of seeing me just as I saw her.

Author Jack H. Emmott contracted polio at the age of six.  Before polio, he knelt at his bedside with his mother Lucile and said evening prayers.  With paralysis, Jack could no longer kneel.  But he could still pray to God for guidance, comfort and healing.  The grace and love of God transformed all the bad from polio and paralysis into good.  Jack is a life-long Christian and successful family lawyer in Houston, Texas.  He is married to his wife of over forty years, Dorothy, who works alongside him in his calling.  Jack is father to two children and grandfather to three grandchildren.

Jack is the author of Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love by (Carpenter’s Son Publishing, 2016) a memoir of the living angels that touched his life.  He wrote Prayerful Passages:  Asking God’s Help in Reconciliation, Separation and Divorce (Outskirts Press, 2016) to help couples in struggling marriages ask God’s help through prayer for the same guidance, comfort and healing he has received from our Almighty Father for over sixty years following polio.

Website * Prayerful Passages on Facebook

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Posted in excerpt, Military, nonfiction on May 4, 2017

Synopsis

Compassionate Soldier illuminates some of the most fascinating and yet largely unknown stories of men and women whose humanity led them to perform courageous acts of mercy and compassion amid the chaos and carnage of war. Arranged by war from the American Revolution to the Iraq War and global in perspective, it features extraordinary stories of grace under fire from valiant soldiers and noncombatants who rose above the inhumanity of lethal conflict and chose compassion, even knowing their actions could put their lives and liberty at risk.

Included in this collection are the stories of Richard Kirkland, a Confederate soldier during the Civil War who disobeyed orders and brought blankets and water to the wounded from both North and South during the Battle of Fredericksburg; Patrick Ferguson, a British soldier during the American Revolution who had the chance to kill George Washington, but refused to shoot a man in the back; and Oswald Boelcke, a German WWI flying ace who was one of the most influential tacticians of early air combat, but was known for making sure the airmen he shot down made it to the ground alive.

These inspirational stories illustrate that even in the midst of unspeakable horrors of war, acts of kindness, mercy, compassion, and humanity can prevail and, in doing so, expand our conventional thinking of honor and battlefield glory.

Excerpt

Introduction

Imagine you are on the battlefield and in the throes of fighting a war. Your chance of survival is uncertain. Suddenly, you find yourself with a crucial decision to make – you have the opportunity to save someone’s life, but trying to do so may put you in harm’s way. Do you risk your life to help save another’s?

How often do we think about eh welfare of others before our own?  The dictionary defines compassion as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

In war, compassion also requires courage.  That is why, in a situation where cruelty is the norm, compassion is so unexpected.  Soldiers are taught to disregard the humanity of the enemy so they can act against them.  When individuals act generously for someone who is in danger, even at the risk of their own life, such actions are noteworthy and inspiring.

The following remarkable true stories show that a real hero is a compassionate one.  We may never be a soldier on a battlefield, but every day we are offered choices: to be kind or unkind, to show love or ignore someone who needs our help,to forget ourselves or live selfishly.

Compassionate Soldier honors brave men and women who showed compassion when it was not expected or required. In most cases, this compassion created peril for the ones who offered it, but they proceeded in spite of the risk. In all these situation, it is humbling to witness their actions, even from a distance, because the question inevitably arise, “Would I have behaved as well as they did?” Perhaps that is the most important trait of real heroes – their ability to inspire the rest of us to do a little better.

About the Author

Jerry Borrowman is a best-selling author of fourteen published books, most military fiction and co-authored biography. He and Rudi Wobbe, co-authors of Three Against Hitler, are recipients of the prestigious George Washington National Medal of the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge,”for their contribution to the cause of freedom.”

Jerry is known for his meticulous attention to historical detail, including the technology that is unique to each story.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Spotlight on April 26, 2017

Synopsis

Undercover cop Clay Navarro left the Sultans biker gang a changed man. Its ringleaders may be awaiting trial, but he wears the memory of every brutal act he was forced to commit tattooed across his skin. He doesn’t have space in his messed-up life for anything gentle—not now, maybe not ever.

Dr. Georgette Hadley is drawn to the damaged stranger’s pain, intimidated but intrigued by the warmth that lies beneath Clay’s frightening exterior. But when the Sultans return looking for revenge, she finds herself drawn into the dirty underbelly of a life forged in violence…that not even her touch may be able to heal.

Excerpt

He’d fallen asleep. Either that or he’d gone to that place, wherever it was, that he seemed to go on her table. Only this time, George’s hands were on him. She felt heavy and warm, and his back was big and strong and supple, but so sweet, laid out for her, waiting, needing…

Dear God, what’s wrong with me?

He was numb by now. He had to be—as numb as the cream would make him, which wasn’t very. Another dip, another swipe, and his flesh rippled beneath her touch. Maybe not asleep?

She wanted to put her hand on his head again and push him down, but there was nowhere to go. She wanted to lean into him and over him and maybe just stretch herself across all that muscle and bone. Desire settled into her pelvis as she stroked his shoulders, ran a hand a little too far down an arm that had absolutely no need of numbing cream. None.

What the hell is wrong with me?

But still, she couldn’t quite convince her body to stop. Slowly, she kneaded her thumbs around those beautiful scapulas, felt him shudder slightly, and pulled away, hyperaware of how strange her actions were—how unethical and wrong, but maybe…maybe just…

“Don’t stop,” he mumbled, and honestly, that was all she needed.

His back—this solid, robust plane—was like the culmination of all of the backs she hadn’t had the pleasure of touching over the years, and goodness, she wanted it. She wanted his back.

Wanted his back?

Was this how it felt to go crazy?

George stepped away, embarrassed and more than a little worried for her sanity. Was she really, truly, going to cave in and do things she might very well—no, would definitely—regret over some stranger’s back?

He grunted—or maybe it was more of a groan—and twisted his neck so one shadowed eye peeked out at her.

“’S the best thing that’s happened to me in fu…frickin’ years.” His voice came out low, almost on a whisper.

“This is…” George couldn’t get the words out, she was breathing so fast. “This is weird. I can’t… I don’t—”

“No. Feels good. So damn good.”

“Just…me touching you?”

“Yeah.”

There was hardly any hesitation at all, and then the succubus wearing her skin stepped forward. Closer, until her belly was level with his hand. “Are you numb?”

She reached out and stroked him, right on that horribly defacing burn, wondering if he could feel her.

Wanting him to.

“No,” he said, even breathier now. “No, the opposite. Numb when I walked in. Now. Shit. Now, it’s all nerves.”

The weight in George’s belly turned liquid, spread out on a wave of shivery sensation that she hadn’t felt since she’d been just a kid, squished in the backseat of Dylan Dean’s bright-red Mustang with nothing between her legs but his hand, and nothing in her head but blind teenage lust.

“Here?” Her fingers caressed him where his skin had melted into unsightly whorls, tracing the jagged surface and wishing he’d let her do more. Although, even as she thought that, she wasn’t sure if she meant more as in treatment for the burn, or more right now, to his body.

To him.

“Yeah. There. Just…” He groaned, then begged, “Please.”

Possessed, she caressed him, up his side, almost to his armpit and its tuft of dark hair. It looked sexual, that hair, like something she wasn’t supposed to see. Then tracing along the top of his shoulder to the back of his neck and down, down, down his spine, the bumps adding texture along the way, the rocky road of his body the most enticing thing George had ever seen.

More sounds escaped him, little grunts that said he liked what she did, and those fueled her even more.

Lord, she wanted to flatten herself on top of the man, to cover him, and… What? Hump him? No. Not really.

Make him feel good? Touch every little bit of him? Heal him? Protect him from whatever hell he’d been through?

With a snap that surprised even her, she removed the glove that separated his skin from hers and lightly—oh so lightly—felt the reality of his flesh without the barrier of Nitrile in between. The noises were hers this time, and the contact was kinetic, burned the air, turned the heat up, ate out her brain.

His hand, right there on the edge of the table, somehow turned until his palm rested flat against her belly—not pushing, just…absorbing, fingers taking in her softness, exploring her the way she was him.

Before she knew it, she’d curled her palm around that hunk of a shoulder, leaned in until more than her lab coat pressed against the man, her breathing shaky and short. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” she whispered, in a dream. The bridge of her nose skimmed his hairline, and she took him in, smelled him, got a bigger dose of what she’d only guessed at until now. And it was good, elementally good, unexplainably, animalistically perfect. A smell she could dive into and live off of.

She pulled back. “Got to stop. I’ve got to stop.”

“Hang on.” His hand reached for hers, grasped it, skin to skin, and held on tight. “Don’t know what the hell you’re doing to me, but it’s making me crazy.”

“I don’t know; I don’t know. I’m not… This isn’t me,” George muttered, eyes clearing. She pulled hard at her hand, blinked hazily at the man laid out before her, and moved toward the door. “I’ll be…I’ll be right back.”

About the Author

Adriana Anders has acted and sung, slung cocktails and corrected copy. She’s worked for start-ups, multinationals and small nonprofits, but it wasn’t until she returned to her first love—writing romance—that she finally felt like she’d come home. Today, she resides with her tall French husband, two small children and fat French cat in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she writes the dark, gritty, steamy love stories of her heart.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Guest Post, Thriller on April 25, 2017

Title: Chasing Hindy
Author: Darin Gibby
Publisher: Koehler Books
Pages: 284
Genre: Thriller

Synopsis

ADDY’S DREAM AS a patent attorney is to help bring a ground breaking energy technology to the world. Addy’s hopes soar when she is wooed by Quinn, an entrepreneur, to join his company that has purportedly invented a car that can run on water using an innovative catalyst. After resigning her partnership to join Quinn, Addy discovers things aren’t as they seem. The patent office suppresses the company’s patent applications and her life is threatened by unknown assailants if she doesn’t resign.

When she is arrested for stealing US technology from the patent office she realizes Quinn has used her. Now, Addy must find a way to clear her name while salvaging her dream of propelling this technology to the world, all while powerful forces attempt to stop her.

Guest Post

How I Come up With Book Ideas

(Or, How I Came up with the Idea that a Car Could Run on Water)

Ideas for books come in the strangest ways. For me, they often just seem to fall out of the sky, usually at the most unexpected times. I’ve written books or articles from ideas that woke me up in the middle of the night, from thoughts that came to me while running triathlons, and while taking hikes deep in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve even had some ideas come while sitting on a ski lift during a freezing blizzard.

The genesis behind Chasing Hindy came from a surprising source—a hypnotist. When I was in high school, we had an assembly where a hypnotist put a group of volunteers under hypnosis. One of the questions he asked them was what would be the fuel of the future. What fuel would people pump into their tank? Almost without exception they all said, “water!” The hypnotist then told the audience that every time he asked that question he received the same answer.

That was several decades ago, but I’ve always wondered whether that could possibly be true—and why all these people thought we’d all be driving cars that used water. In the following years, I realized that a car wouldn’t run on water per se, but from hydrogen that is extracted from water. The question, of course, is that if we know how to produce hydrogen, why aren’t there hydrogen cars? The answer is quite simple. As an engineer and patent attorney I know the science behind extracting hydrogen from water. The problem is that it takes more energy to do this than to just run a car on gasoline, or even electricity.

But what if somebody invented a way to make it happen? That’s the germ of an idea that led to Chasing Hindy.

Then, of course, is finding an idea for a main character. For me, a good character is far more difficult than finding a story idea. Not only does the character need to make the story line happen, but the readers need to relate to what the character is experiencing. I struggled with such a character for years, and, in fact, rewrote the book several times with other characters that just didn’t seem to work.

What made the story finally click was my discovery of Addy—a patent attorney with a dream to change the world. I decided on a female character (who was also a patent attorney) for several reasons. Perhaps the main reason was that female patent attorneys are in short supply and I wanted to encourage women to enter the profession. So I created Addy to hopefully show what a difference one person can make, and through her experience more women would want to become patent attorneys.

Excerpt

ADDY FELT LIKE jumping out of her car and doing a quick happy dance in the middle of stalled traffic. Her excitement at becoming  the  newest—and  youngest—partner  at  the intellectual property law firm of Wyckoff & Schechter was nearly overwhelming.

She grinned at the shadow on the hood of Hindy, her treasured retrofitted cherry red Shelby Mustang. The shadow was created by a barrel-sized, hydrogen-filled balloon that floated above the Mustang’s roof. Gawkers pointed and laughed as the Shelby eased down El Camino pulling the tethered balloon as if in a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The balloon—which on one side sported her law firm’s logo, and on the other Hindy in giant cursive script—was just an advertising gimmick to show her passion for alternative energies. It was only strapped to the roof on calm, sunny days when she was travelling at slow speeds using routes that avoided overpasses. The retrofitted Mustang was  really powered by four electric motors using electricity produced by solar panels and a conventional fuel cell.

At first, the Wyckoff partners questioned Addy’s prudence in strapping a floating balloon to the roof of any vehicle, but they’d come to admire the effectiveness of her marketing innovations. They even lifted their champagne glasses at the end of her mentor’s welcome speech acknowledging that her Shelby was responsible for bringing in increasing numbers of the “green” companies sprouting like weeds all over the Silicon Valley— inventive, entrepreneurial companies in need of legal advice and support for their patents.

While  the  traffic  inched  forward,  Addy  chuckled  with excitement. “Hindy, ol’ pal,” she said, patting the dashboard, “you and I are going places now! Next time some overzealous cops accuse you of being a traffic hazard, I’ll stare them down and inform them they’re messing with the partner of a highly prestigious law firm.”

Traffic  momentarily  loosened  and  Addy  eased  Hindy forward, careful not to snap the lines tethering the egg-shaped balloon. Addy sang along with Zissy Spaeth, pop rock’s newest and most flashy star, as Zissy belted out her latest hit, Light in Your Eyes, over the radio. In the corner of her eye she noticed a blaze of neon orange.

Her heart stopped. In the car next to her someone was pointing a bazooka-sized gizmo at her balloon. She blinked, trying to clear her vision.

A  flare shot  out,  aimed  straight  at  her  floating ball  of hydrogen.

Even in the late afternoon sunlight, it was impossible to miss the explosion. The dirigible burst into a giant fireball, then slowly deflated and floated down toward the Shelby’s crimson hood.

Addy  stomped  on  her  brakes,  hoping  the  balloon’s momentum would shoot the flaming mass forward. The fireball, safely secured by its fluorescent yellow nylon tethers, crashed down onto the windshield, blocking Addy’s view. She screeched to a halt, slammed her shoulder into the door, flung it open, and darted out, catching the heel of her pump on the doorjamb, which sent her sprawling headlong onto the pavement.

She heard tires squeal and at least a half dozen blaring horns. Stinging pain shot up from her elbow and knees. Thank goodness traffic had been just inching along.

Ignoring the pain, she bolted forward, arms raised, ready to yank the still-burning fabric off the windshield. Before she got close enough to grab it, the sweltering heat from the flames scorched her cheeks, and she shielded her eyes with her forearm. Just when she reached the hood, a breeze lifted the infernal blob and propelled it directly at her, the nylon cords now seared through.

She braced herself for the fireball when she felt arms wrap around her chest and yank her back, barely in time to avoid the searing molten mass of goo about to descend on her head, threatening to fry her face and melt her hair.

“Are you crazy? What are you thinking?” a deep voice bellowed in her ear, still holding her tight.

Together they watched what was left of the blimp float like a falling leaf onto the grassy shoulder, just like the Hindenburg did almost eighty years ago.

“Someone clearly doesn’t like you, short stuff,” her rescuer said, now standing next to her stroking his goatee, his face hidden behind dark sunglasses and a low-riding Dodgers cap. “More like out to get you. That was some kind of flare the driver shot at your blimp. I tried to spot his license plate, but it was covered up. Snapped a picture with my phone, though,” the man said fishing it from his pocket. “You can kind of see a tattoo on his forearm. The police will love this.”

Before she could thank him, someone cried out, “Call a fire truck! The grass!”

Brush fires in California were no joking matter. Addy could smell the smoldering grasses. A strong breeze fanned the flames, pushing the fire toward a row of redwood trees.

Then she heard a whiny voice coming from the milling crowd of stranded passengers who’d gathered to find out what was holding up their homeward commute. “I’ve seen that blimp before. I knew it was trouble,” the whiner complained.

“Yeah, but at least she’s part of the solution,” said someone else. “Her car doesn’t use gasoline. Look at what you’re driving,” he said, sneering at the whiny woman’s crossover SUV.

Addy’s knees buckled, her head spinning. She plopped down onto the pavement and hugged her bare legs. This couldn’t be happening.

Why would someone try to destroy her car?

About the Author

In addition to a thriving career as a novelist, author Darin Gibby is also one of the country’s premiere patent attorneys and a partner at the prestigious firm of Kilpatrick Townsend. With over twenty years of experience in obtaining patents on hundreds of inventions from the latest drug delivery systems to life-saving cardiac equipment, he has built IP portfolios for numerous Fortune 500 companies. In addition to securing patents, Gibby helps clients enforce and license their patents around the world, and he has monetized patents on a range of products.

Darin’s first book, Why Has America Stopped Inventing?, explored the critical issue of America’s broken patent system.  His second book, The Vintage Club, tells the story of a group of the world’s wealthiest men who are chasing a legend about a wine that can make you live forever. His third book, Gil, is about a high school coach who discovers that he can pitch with deadly speed and is given an offer to play with the Rockies during a player’s strike. Gil soon discovers, however, that his unexpected gift is the result of a rare disease, and continuing to pitch may hasten his own death.

With a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering and a Master of Business Administration degree, he is highly regarded in Denver’s legal and business community as a patent strategist, business manager, and community leader. He is also a sought-after speaker on IP issues at businesses, colleges and technology forums, where he demonstrates the value of patents using simple lessons from working on products such as Crocs shoes, Izzo golf straps and Trek bicycles.

An avid traveler and accomplished triathlete, Darin also enjoys back country fly-fishing trips and skiing in the Rocky Mountains. He lives in Denver with his wife, Robin, and their four children.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Science Fiction on April 21, 2017

Title: Wanted and Wired

Author: Vivien Jackson

Series: Tether, #1

ISBN: 9781492648161

Pubdate: April 4, 2017

Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Synopsis

A rip-roarin’ new snarky, sexy sci-fi paranormal romance series with the perfect balance of humor, heat, and heart. Now that Texas has seceded and the world is spiraling into chaos, good guys come in unlikely packages and love ignites in the most inconvenient places…

Rogue scientist • technologically enhanced • deliciously attractive

Heron Farad should be dead. But technology has made him the man he is today. Now he heads a crew of uniquely skilled outsiders who fight to salvage what’s left of humanity: art, artifacts, books, ideas—sometimes even people. People like Mari Vallejo.

Gun for hire • Texan rebel • always hits her mark

Mari has been lusting after her mysterious handler for months. But when a by-the-book hit goes horribly sideways, she and Heron land on the universal most wanted list. Someone set them up. Desperate and on the run, they must trust each other to survive, while hiding devastating secrets. As their explosive chemistry heats up, it’s the perfect storm…

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You might be a futuristic biohacked hottie if…

When dieting, you no longer weigh yourself. The mechanical augmentations in your body skew weight anyhow, and your health stats and biometrics are tracked on the cloud. Put down the artificially sweetened protein bar. Put it down.

Excerpt

She popped her bubble gum and leaned against a Plexiglas route map. Cool as a daiquiri was Mari.

He waited for the bus to pull away from the stop and then rolled his car to the curb, about a meter from her mud-caked wellies. Green ones, with tiny sunflowers on the pull loops. He moved one hand off the steering wheel, signed a command, and her door shished open.

She leaned in, twirling the parasol, flinging errant raindrops all over his contrast-piped leather interior. Cool sprinkles, like cupcake dusting. A dimple tucked itself next to her flirty smile. “Hey, stranger. Goin’ my way?”

Heron pressed his lips into a line. “No funning, please. Get in. Quickly.”

“No kiddin’ no fun,” she muttered under her breath, probably forgetting that her com was subvocal. Although she was sharp as a shiv when her hands were on a gun, she could forget crucial things on planning and extraction. Or she deliberately relied on him to keep all that sorted.

Either way, Heron didn’t mind. He reached through the wireless and shut down her com.

She closed the umbrella, tossed it to the floorboard, and folded herself into the passenger seat. Heron had the door down as soon as her skirt was clear of the seals.

He’d examined this sector extensively in planning and had every escape route timed down to the second. He hadn’t counted on the law enforcement response being so fast, though, almost instantaneous. Road blocks and drones were popping up like dandelions every time he polled the mirror, and he had no defenses set up to counter them.

He knew precisely the speed at which information flowed, and there was no way within normal parameters the authorities could know her identity and location this quickly. Clearly, Mari had been set up. He even had a good idea who’d done it. The cloud, with its delicious glut of information, hovered just beyond his vision, tempting. He could see her doom erupting, 33.3 milliseconds behind real time, and he couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it.

No, that wasn’t true. He had a range of options, but the only one he allowed himself, the only one that made sense, was to get her away from here. Get her somewhere safe. Hide her.

Traffic became a torment, not just because his escape was slowed or capture crept closer with each passing second, but also because…she was here. Close. Too close. Within touching distance close. He could practically feel her vibrating with postjob adrenaline. Just eight blocks to the expressway entrance ramp. He endured them. Every bloody inch. Every stroke of her naked hands on the cushion. Every drip of skin-warmed rainwater from her ponytail, teasing its way down between her shoulder blades and along the seatback. Every push of her breath against damp synthetic cashmere. Every distant siren, every rolling update from his mirror… Interpol had her bios now, but he suspected the UNAN agents would find her first.

No. Over his goddamned corpse they would.

He hit the entrance ramp at 120 and blew into the cruise lane. The wireless exchange with the bus earlier had reminded him of another closed system, off-cloud. A bigger one. Private. Safe.

“Thought our exit vector was south. Cabana down in Cabo San Lucas and an endless tab of mojitos? This ringing a bell, partner?” Mari craned to see a road sign too blurry to read with naked eyes.

Heron cataloged the sign, crossed three lanes, and slung the car onto a flyover, taking them decidedly not south.

“I told you our plans had changed. No cabana this time, but don’t worry. I’m taking you someplace safe.”

“What place? Your place?” She waggled her eyebrows.

He inhaled deliberately. She doesn’t mean it the way it sounds. It is not an invitation. You know how she is. Bald come-hithers and poor timing were typical of her postjob process. Everybody had a different way of ramping up and down for jobs like this, and hers was invariable. A peek at her biometrics showed elevated hormone levels in her blood. Flight or fight or f*, and Mari had an unnatural ability to suppress the first.

Any other job, he’d have her on a plane by now and off to the hired harem of cabana boys she needed to seduce to prove she was still alive. But this wasn’t any other job. This was a botch. On a contract held by Texas. She was in danger, and he didn’t have time to wrestle with her attempts to make him into another of her temporary playthings.

Temporary, because the only time she’d be able to stomach f*ing a post-human would be right after a job. And then she’d hate herself after. He knew what she thought about people with implanted tech. Cyborgs. No better than machines.

And he sported a metric shitload of implanted tech.

So he’d kept their relationship purely professional, and there had never been a reason to alter that structure. Until today. Now, to keep her safe, he was willing to suffer a lot more than her derision. He was willing to lay bare his most deeply held secrets and hope she didn’t heckle. Or worse, send him away.

He accelerated through fourth gear, and the car lowered, uncomplaining, hugging the asphalt.

F* it all—he was taking her home.

About the Author

VIVIEN JACKSON is still waiting for her Hogwarts letter. In the meantime, she writes, mostly fantastical or futuristic or kissing-related stories. When she isn’t writing, she’s performing a sacred duty nurturing the next generation of Whovian Browncoat Sindarin Jedi gamers, and their little dogs too. With her similarly geeky partner, she lives in Austin, Texas, and watches a lot of football.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, women on April 18, 2017

Title: Back to Your Love

Author: Kianna Alexander

Series: Brothers of TDT, #1

ISBN: 9781492646983

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

Genre: Contemporary

Synopsis

Xavier Whitted, CPA and city council candidate is excited to get away to the Crystal Coast for his best friend’s wedding. He is shocked when he runs into his high school sweetheart there, the only woman he ever truly loved.

Dr. Imani Grant is just about ready to open her own dermatology practice when a serious wrench is put in her plans—in the form of Xavier Whitted. Old feelings resurface along with old secrets from the past. Imani isn’t willing to go there, until Xavier starts a new campaign: win Imani back—no matter what it takes.

Buy the Book here

Playlist

There are lots of ways to say “I love you,” but which actions are part of Imani and Xavier’s love language?

Most Saturdays Imani wakes up to breakfast in bed.

Excerpt

Xavier stepped to the glass door and swung it open. “After you, Imani.”

She stepped outside, and immediately lamented the loss of air conditioning. The air was thick with the heat and humidity customary for early summer in North Carolina. The tart aroma of the salty waters lying just beyond the hotel property permeated the air. Lush tropical plants filled the small courtyard, some blooming with bright-colored flowers. In the center of it all, three stepping stones led to a wrought iron bench positioned among the leaves and vines.

He sat, patted the empty space next to him. “Come sit with me. I won’t bite unless you ask me to.”

The sexy wink he threw her made her traitorous nipples pebble again beneath her dress. Ignoring her body’s reaction as best she could, she eased into the spot.

Gently, he draped his arm around her bare shoulders.

The feel of his touch radiated through her, the growing warmth inside her far exceeding the temperature of the sultry June night. Being in his arms again didn’t feel foreign, the way it should have after so many years. His touch felt as natural and familiar as her own heartbeat. She noticed the rapid pace of her breathing, and wondered if he noticed it as well.

The low timbre of his voice broke the silence. “If I’m making you uncomfortable, just say so. That’s the last thing I want to do, baby.”

So he had picked up on her nervousness. She shook her head. While her mind told her not to let him get behind her defenses, her heart didn’t want him to withdraw his touch. Instead, she answered him, but kept her eyes directed at her lap. “No. It’s all right.”

“If you say so. I brought you out here to talk, so let’s talk. What have you been up to these last ten years, other than growing more beautiful?”

She felt the smile creep over her face at the smoothly-delivered compliment. “Let’s see. I did undergrad in biology at Spelman, then med school at Meharry, then my dermatology certification—”

“Whoa. Are you telling me all you’ve been doing for the last decade is being a student?”

She shrugged. “I guess so. But I had a goal in mind, and hard work and lots of school were the only ways to reach it.”

That drew a low, rumbling chuckle from him. “I can’t say I’m surprised, you always were intelligent and determined. I’m glad to see you’re accomplishing your goals.”

She took a chance and raised her gaze to his. His rich, dark eyes held the same sincerity she’d detected in his words. “Thank you, Xavier. I appreciate that.”

A silent moment passed between them, their gazes connecting.

When his scrutiny became too intense, she broke the silence. “So, uh, what have you been up to? I heard from Mama that you’re doing a lot of good work in the community.”

A broad smile spread across his face. “I’m glad to know Ma Alma speaks of me so highly. When I’m not in the office handling the books for my clients, I volunteer at a youth center in the old neighborhood, and I do a little work at Second Harvest Food Bank from time to time. I’m no saint, but I do what I can for the community.”

Listening to him talk about his good works in such a modest way, she realized he still had a wonderful heart. In the few weeks she’d been home, her mother had gone on and on about Xavier’s activism. As an all-star athlete and scholar in high school, he could have chosen any career path he’d wanted. But instead of taking some high-paying, high-profile position, he’d chosen to make a modest living so that he could give back to the community that had nurtured him as a child. Yes, Xavier Whitted was a rare bird, and if the look in his eyes were any indication, he was ready to build a nest.

There, beneath his searching gaze, she could feel her very soul opening up. Once upon a time, she’d been certain she’d marry this man. Now, she felt like an inexperienced adolescent. No matter how she tried, she couldn’t look away from him.

The heartbreak she’d suffered at Xavier’s hands had colored her perception of men. He’d been her first love, and had shown her a first glimpse of real pain. Maybe she should thank him for that, because it had allowed her to focus on her goals, rather than be consumed by chasing after a suitable mate.

“Imani, I’m going to kiss you. Is that all right?”

She heard his soft words, and even as her brain yelled at her to back away before she lost her heart to him a second time, no words would come. All she could manage was to look into the endless pools of his eyes.

An instant later, his lips touched hers. The sweetness of his kiss and the buttery softness of his lips made her eyes shut. Her body overtook her brain once again, and she pressed herself closer to him. He pulled her close, surrounding her with his strong arms, and she loved it, God help her. The kiss deepened, and as his skilled tongue stroked against the interior of her mouth, she felt her insides melting down into her shoes like hot wax.

About the Author

Like any good Southern belle, Kianna Alexander wears many hats: loving wife, doting mama, advice-dispensing sister, and gabbing girlfriend. She’s a voracious reader, history nerd and craft fanatic. Kianna lives in North Carolina with her husband, two kids, and a collection of well-loved vintage 80’s Barbie dolls.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Romantic Suspense on April 14, 2017

Synopsis

The hero we’ve all been waiting for…

Ethan “Ozzie” Sykes

Former Navy SEAL

Underground operator for Black Knights Inc., the covert government defense firm disguised as a custom motorcycle shop

In a black-on-black international mission that went seriously sideways, Ozzie was badly injured—now he’s stuck at BKI headquarters in Chicago, champing at the bit to get out into the field again. To his disgust, he’s tasked with distracting Chicago Tribune ace reporter Samantha Tate, who’s been trying to dig up the dirt on BKI for years. Turns out Samantha’s beauty, intelligence and sense of humor are a seriously big distraction, and Ozzie’s losing his desire to keep her at bay.

Ozzie’s tired of hiding, and Samantha may be the best—and worst—person to share his secrets with…

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Excerpt

Ozzie’s pounding heart jumped into his throat when the Basilisks’ sergeant at arms slid from his chair at the high-top and bolted after her, reaching into the back of his waistband for the weapon he’d stored there. Reaction time for men in Ozzie and Christian’s business was faster than the speed of thought, so a split second later, they were off their stools, weapons out, and barreling across the room.

Samantha!

Ozzie wasn’t sure if he screamed her name aloud, or if that was just his soul crying out in terror.

“Stop!” he yelled, blasting through the back door and sighting down the barrel of his Beretta 92 FS at the Basilisk’s beefy back. The biker had an eight-inch hunting knife fisted in his hand, and he was closing the distance to Samantha.

“I said stop!” Ozzie shouted again, plowing down the dark alley and darting around a big, blue dumpster that, from the overpowering smell of it, was in dire need of a visit from the trash man.

The pounding of his feet on the dirty asphalt sent daggers of pain slicing through his injured thigh. The agony traveled up his spine to stab into the base of his skull.

Neither the biker nor Samantha bothered to glance back, prompting him to make his intentions crystal-fucking-clear. “Drop that pigsticker, asshole! Or I’ll put a bullet in the back of your skull and then piss on your corpse!”

That did it. The biker skidded to a stop, slowly lifting his hands in the air. Ozzie blew out a relieved breath when Samantha made it to the mouth of the alley and escaped around the corner.

What the hell have you gotten yourself involved in this time, Samantha?

“Was the pissing-on-his-corpse bit really necessary?” Christian asked as they slowed their momentum to stalk toward the Basilisk.

“I don’t believe in pulling my punches.” Ozzie skirted around the biker so he could get a good look at the man’s face. And conversely, let the man get a good look at the business end of his Beretta to discourage the dickwad from attempting any funny business.

The light from the street lamps in the parking lot filtered into the mouth of the alley and lit the Basilisk’s hairy face. Ozzie could see the words forming in the guy’s beady black eyes before he hissed them aloud. “Who the f* are you?” His vocal cords sounded like they’d been marinated in years of bad bourbon.

“Friends of the lady,” Ozzie said. The sound of the biker’s heavy breathing filled the alley. His robust middle said he wasn’t a stranger to milk shakes and cheese fries, and it’d likely been years since he’d managed more than a brisk walk.

When the biker smiled, it revealed his front teeth, all of which were gold and speckled with flecks of chewing tobacco. To call the dude ugly would be an offense to the word. He was f*ing ugly. “Aw, I wasn’t gonna hurt her,” Fugly said, adding a wink that set Ozzie’s blood boiling.

His finger twitched against his trigger. The day they’d pinned his SEAL Budweiser to his chest was the day killing had become a part of his life. But taking out jihadists in the backwoods of Afghanistan was a far cry from punching a fat biker’s ticket in a Chicago alleyway. Through gritted teeth, Ozzie managed, “Drop the knife.”

“Now why would I do that?”

“Because if you don’t, you won’t be able to see or pee straight by the time we’re finished with you.”

“Big talk.”

Ozzie wiggled his Beretta from side to side. “Backed up by a big gun. Now drop the blade.”

“You won’t shoot me,” Fugly declared, his smile stretching to reveal back teeth yellowed not by gold but by poor dental hygiene. Just looking at them made Ozzie feel filthier than the floor of a taxicab.

“Look, rotten mouth.” His patience was stretched tight. “I’m trying real hard to be polite, but I have to tell you, it’s not something I excel at.”

“F* you.”

“Oh, now see?” Ozzie shook his head. “That just got you removed from my Christmas list. You’ve got two seconds to comply before I add you to my other list. It’s titled: Dickheads I’ve Shot in the Gut.”

The biker eyed him for a good two seconds. Then he uncurled his fingers from the hilt of the knife. The blade caught the light and glinted as it somersaulted through the air, hitting the asphalt at his feet hilt-first.

“There,” Fugly said. “Happy now?”

Getting there. “You hiding any other weapons?”

“Just my dick.” The dude spit a huge glob of tobacco juice on the ground next to Ozzie’s boot. It was a visual f* you.

“Comedian, huh?” Ozzie asked.

Now that Samantha was safe and the adrenaline was letting down, he realized he was sweating. June in Chicago usually went one of two ways. Either spring held on with a fierce grip, keeping temps mild. Or summer came on like a she-devil, setting the city on fire. This year was the former, but since there wasn’t a breath of wind in the alley, the coolness of the night barely penetrated the insulation of his biker jacket. What little air there was felt thick…expectant, like an electrical storm rolled in the distance.

A trickle of perspiration slid from his temple to his chin. He was using his free hand to wipe it away when a noise from the parking lot had his blood running cold and goose bumps crawling over the back of his neck. It was a squeal of alarm. And it came from Samantha.

“Watch him!” Ozzie shouted, turning and running for the mouth of the alley without a backward glance.

 

About the Author

Julie Ann Walker is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.

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