Tag Archives: Christian fiction

Guest Release–Innocents Pray by Lisa Lickel

Innocents Pray by LisaLickel

BLURB

Medical ethics lies at the heart of this journey into the dark world of genetic experimentation. A hospice physician conducts test treatments for cancer and blackmails his chaplain into silence. Brother Able agrees through guilt until he encounters a grieving man who asks for prayers for his dying wife. Able must decide whether his own secrets are more important than watching a family dissolve under the pressure of untried experimentation.

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EXCERPT

Able’s heart lurched at the sound of the place even though he had made peace with that desire hours earlier. It no longer clawed; merely caressed him like an echo. He would not go to Milwaukee now. California had been his assignment, his earthly home for the last twenty-five years, compelled by the love of Christ.

“You look far away, Brother Able.”

“Oh?” Able realized he’d been staring out of the window, black with night that reflected the interior of the cabin as much as his thoughts. “I was just thinking about some of the people under our care. What changes might have occurred in my absence.”

“How large of a place is it?”

“We have room for two hundred souls, but that’s including families who come to share their loved one’s last days.”

“So many.” Davis got up and walked to the other side of the cabin, bent and stared out the window, as darkly blank as the one on Able’s right.

“Forgive me, Victor, but you seem burdened.”

Able could barely hear Davis’s reply. “My wife was ill. Not long ago.” The man straightened as far as he could, though he was too tall to stand completely upright. He turned to face Able, but kept his distance. “I had a call from her companion, who thinks she might have relapsed.” Davis gripped the arms of the seat nearest him and bent over it. “Pray with me,” he whispered. “Pray that she’ll live.”

Lisa Lickel A (3) 105 KBLisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. A multi-published, best-selling and award-winning novelist, she also writes short stories and radio theater, is an avid book reviewer, blogger, a freelance editor, and sometimes magazine editor. Visit http://www.LisaLickel.com.

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Guest Interview—Emily Paige Skeen

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

Even though I’ve always loved writing, I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to make a living at it. So, I chose Public Relations as my career goal. But actually, I changed my major several times throughout college. Looking back, I think it was because I knew deep down that writing was my passion, I just didn’t really know where to start and I needed a degree that I could “do something” with.

After college, I worked as the PR and Marketing Manager for a small business, but it never fully satisfied me. I didn’t feel appreciated for the work I did, and the stress level was high. I left that job in search of an organization that would nurture, challenge, and appreciate me – all at the same time. Well, I found exactly that. I landed a job that wasn’t what I went to school for, but that gave me experience in a lot of different things, including writing. My bosses were amazing and we were all truly a family. I moved up the leadership ladder quickly and really loved going to work.

Still, something was missing. I had a three-year-old daughter at home when I discovered that my husband and I were expecting another baby. My heart was telling me to stay home with the children, but our financial situation was telling me it wasn’t possible. But I had to find a way. So, I started completing writing gigs on a content mill platform. It didn’t pay much, but it was the start of my freelance writing career.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with my fiction work. Fiction writing is what I consider my calling, but it’s an incredibly difficult field to break into – and even more difficult to succeed in, as the competition is overwhelming. I had self-published Magnolia Lake while still working full-time, but never got offered a traditional publishing deal until I took a leap of faith and quit my job (isn’t that such a God thing?). And then I stumbled upon Prism Book Group, and the rest is history.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

To be honest, my life tends to revolve around the computer lately. Between freelance writing, working on my newest story, and promoting Magnolia Lake, I get a LOT of screen time.

But when I do tear myself away, I love to play outside with the kids. My youngest got a trampoline from Santa Claus last year, and I get a kick out of jumping on it with her. It may just be fun for her, but it’s quite the workout for Mama! I’ve taught her the games my friends and I used to play on my trampoline as a child, and she loves it.

Other than that, I enjoy bargain shopping (I thrive on finding good deals!), date nights with my husband, movie and dinner dates with my best girlfriends, and reading – I’d read all day long if I could, preferably on a beach somewhere.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

I’d say it’s a mixture of both. I start with a general idea, sort of a feeling. It’s hard to explain, but I get this sense of what would make a good story – almost like a vision. It could be just one scene playing out in my head or a theme for an entire story, and I go from there.

I do like to plan out each character, though. Once I have a story idea, I literally write a description of at least the main characters – everything from personality to clothing style to job, even their flaws. I’ll let you in on a little secret, though. I actually didn’t do this right away with Magnolia Lake. But one day I read an article by an author about the importance of detailing your characters before you start writing. So even though I was halfway through Magnolia Lake, I went back and jotted down a few things about each of my important characters. And it has made a huge difference. It helped a lot during the editing stage. I would read something I had previously written and think, “Okay, Landon would never say that this way. Maybe he’d say it this way instead.”

But other than a general idea of how the story will go and the details about each character, I don’t do a lot of planning. Part of the joy of writing is seeing where each book takes me as it develops. Sometimes I end up with a completely different ending than I’d envisioned, or a new character makes its way onto the page.

I’ll say this, though. I tend to sporadically imagine very specific scenes. I guess you could say inspiration strikes at the most random moments. Whether it’s from a conversation I’m having with someone or something I just observe around me, I’ll get this entire scene playing out in my head. I’ve learned to carry a journal in my purse, because if I don’t write it down immediately, it’s gone.

 

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

Honestly, I was shocked at the sheer amount of editing involved – how many times my editor and I sent the manuscript back and forth! If you know me, you know that I pride myself on grammar and strive toward perfectionism in my writing. So it befuddled me that each time I read the manuscript, I found a new grammatical error or a sentence that didn’t flow well.

Before I self-published Magnolia Lake back in 2013, I personally edited it at least three times, and I had one of my sisters edit it too. I thought there was no way any problems would be found. Little did I know! And not just small issues, but also a rather big time-frame problem. That’s why I’d love for people who purchased the original, self-published version to check out the new one. It’s so much better!

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

Magnolia Lake is Young Adult Fiction, but my current work-in-progress is what I guess you’d call Contemporary Christian Fiction. While I enjoy writing for the YA audience, I’m focusing on a more mature audience for my next few projects. The main characters’ ages are mid to late twenties. The writing is still clean and appropriate enough for a teen to read, but will resonate more with adults who are possibly recently married, have graduated college and are starting their career journeys, or are new parents. I plan on doing more YA work in the future, though.

MagnoliaLake_Ecover copy (1)

BLURB

Popular and beautiful, Cora Stephens has it all – including the perfect football-star boyfriend – until one fateful afternoon. Facing heartache and betrayal, Cora turns to long-time friend, Landon, for comfort. While his love for her grows, she does everything in her power to avoid getting hurt again – including flinging herself into the arms of another boy.

Then, just as Cora’s shattered world starts putting itself back together, life throws something her way that’s more horrific than she ever could have imagined. Through the emotional and physical pain, she begins to lose hope and abandon her faith. Will this once light-hearted, happy prom queen find her way back home?

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The name of a person who comments will be selected to win an ebook of Magnolia Lake.

EXCERPT

As I backtracked through the parked vehicles, I heard footsteps again. Pausing, I looked around. Nobody was there. In fact, the entire parking lot seemed to lack a normal level of activity. There were plenty of cars, but there was not a single person walking around.

I shook my head to clear it, and started walking again—a little faster this time. Suddenly, I heard the sound again. Before I could turn around, something jabbed my back and a hand was over my mouth. I gasped and my whole body shook with fear. The smoothie I held slipped through my hand, splattering all over my shoes and jeans.

Suddenly, hot air blew in my ear at the same time I heard a deep voice say, “Don’t make a sound or I’ll push this knife through your back all the way into your heart.” The gloved hand tightened over my mouth. “Now walk,” the voice ordered.

My legs didn’t move. I was completely frozen with terror. My mind raced as I contemplated what to do next. I knew Kayla couldn’t see me. She was facing the opposite direction and there were too many cars between us. If I screamed I’d get stabbed, but it might give me a chance to wriggle free of this man’s hold. I vaguely recalled a special on TV that said most attackers would back off if you screamed, no matter what they said. I tried to open my mouth, but the assailant’s hold strengthened so that I couldn’t even part my lips. My heart rate accelerated and I couldn’t breathe. I was having a panic attack.

“I said move!” The stranger pushed me so hard I almost lost my balance, but then my legs finally seemed to work. I walked as he directed. We went straight for a minute, then he turned me to the right. After what felt like a thousand years, we were standing in front of a white, windowless work van. It was parked between a big jacked-up truck and a huge SUV. Nobody could see what was going on, if there was even anyone in the parking lot.

The side door opened and I stared into the face of another stranger. At least, I assumed he was a stranger. He wore a ski mask to hide his identity.

The first man shoved me into the van. There were no seats aside from the two in the front, so I fell backward and hit my head on something metal. I cringed and lay frozen for a minute. Then I saw what might be my only chance.

The first man stood in front of me, laughing. The second man leaned against the opposite side of the van, sitting cross-legged and messing with a cell phone.

I took a deep breath and kicked with all my strength, barely missing my attacker’s groin. He doubled over and I scrambled to my hands and knees. My heart raced as I struggled to get out of the van. Just as I had one foot out, the second man grabbed my other foot, dragging me back.

Since I’d been half standing, the force of his pull caused me to thud against the van floor again, this time on my stomach. Then he grabbed my waist and flung me against the van wall next to him.

Tears sprung to my eyes as the first attacker, also wearing a ski mask, climbed into the van and slammed the door. I could only see his eyes, and they were staring at me with nothing but pure evil. Then I saw him lift something round—a paperweight maybe? I couldn’t tell exactly what the object was, but I tried to back away as I realized what he intended to do with it. I closed my eyes, praying the blow would be quick.

Emily Skeen

Born and raised in a small Georgia town, Emily Paige Skeen takes from her own life experiences to create real, relatable characters for her novels. She loves to intertwine small-town charm with deep emotion and intrigue, creating stories that inspire readers.

When she’s not writing or chasing after her two youngsters – both under the age of five – you can find Emily reading, soaking up the sun whenever possible, or shopping. She, her husband, and their kids make their home in a tiny little town an hour south of Atlanta, on a five-acre plot of land right off a bumpy red-dirt road. Emily loves to sit and listen as the ever-present crickets and frogs perform their harmonious concerts in the still, quiet evening hours.

Writing has always been Emily’s passion, ever since she crafted her first sloppily hand-written story plastered over spiral notebook paper at the emotionally-charged age of thirteen. Now, she strives to encourage and inspire girls and young women with her writing. She believes that with a little bit of faith and a whole lot of love, anything’s possible.

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Guest Promotion–Hidden Storms by Nancy Shew Bolton

Hidden Storms

 

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Lilli Clarke. They call her the marked girl. Beginning at her left shoulder, a pink birthmark tracks up her throat just past her jaw, like a finger pointing to her brain. Abandoned by her family, she is ostracized by everyone but her grandmother and cousin Bert, Six years of dust storms have left sixteen-year-old Lilli close to death with dust pneumonia. Now she must leave the only real home she’s ever had, or risk death when the next storm hits.

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EXCERPT

Southwestern Kansas, 1938

My time grows short, while my fevered brain wonders if I’d ever existed to begin with. The inevitable stands before me. The world consists of nothing more than wind and dust, endless storms swallowing all life with their voracious appetites.

If I want to, I can rise from my bed and struggle outdoors in my threadbare, flour-sack dress to stand and release the spark of life within me. To let mind, body, everything, disappear into the whirlwind. Its ceaseless roar can consume me at last and perform the final conclusion left to my imagination. My sixteen years of life at its end. Six years of dust storms had almost done the job anyway. Might as well let them finish it.

But I can’t go. I won’t. I don’t know why.

One more breath. A rattle and rasp scrape in my chest while I fight to draw in air through the wet cloth covering my face. I’ve lost the remembrance of the former blessing of easy breathing. Now, my entire will bends toward the intake of air that will feed the tiny flame of life inside me.
My grandmother’s hands adjust the cloth. I know she sits by my bed and wills me to breathe while the duster pummels our home. She and I, the only ones left in the howling world, are cut off from everyone else as though we lived alone on the moon.

Is Cousin Gerald’s house really down the road, he and Bert hunkered inside? Is the town still there somewhere, standing against the shrieking monster clawing at it? Perhaps, once the sounds cease, anything left alive will creep out to view an endless brown world of dust, all signs of human habitation wiped away. Why do I try so hard to stay alive? Let me go, Gram. Ask me to give up.

But her fingers smooth back wisps of my hair, and the low sound of her murmured prayers gives me something to focus on, along with my labored breaths. Anything but the sound of the wind and the dust scouring the house, trying to destroy our tiny lives and meager possessions.
Gram’s voice rises when she takes my hand. “When you’re better, Lilli, I’ll send you somewhere pretty. Somewhere with trees and grass. Until the land comes back. Then you’ll come back to me, too. And I’ll be here and we’ll plant a garden again.”

Another lifetime ago. Our garden. Greens, corn, and potatoes to have with side meat. Cucumbers for pickling. Berries for dessert.
Oh, Gram, those days are long gone. Swallowed in the dust. I don’t care if there are trees or grass somewhere. I can’t leave you. The only one who ever loved me. I’ll die here, with the sound of your prayers disappearing into the wind, along with my last breath. I’m sorry, Gram.

* * *
Maybe the silence woke me. Had I finally died? My eyes blink open and the ever-present grit hurts my eyeballs while I survey the room. The weathered clapboard walls and roof still stand. I lift a pale hand and study it. I’m still here, too.

The front door yawns open, and the two windows on either side are un-shuttered. A portion of cloudless blue sky shines above the flat, brown landscape. I draw in a shaky breath, relieved that only a slight rattle sounds in my chest. Voices flutter in from somewhere on the porch.

Gram says, “I decided. When she’s strong enough, I’ll send her to my sister.”

“What if Aunt Margaret don’t want her?” Cousin Gerald clears his throat. “Lilli’s bad luck. Cursed. Everybody knows that. She’s marked.”

If I had enough damp in my eyes, I might cry. How unfair people are. It always surprises me, though by now I should have wised up.

Gram’s sweet voice calms my flush of anger. “It’s wrong to blame her for things that happened. It’s not her fault. And I don’t believe in luck.”

“Aunt Helen, open your eyes. When bad things happen, you got to ask why. Cousin Sally lost her wits after she birthed Lilli. She was fine after she had Frank and Jasper. Then, after Lilli, there goes her right mind.”

“It’s not Lilli’s doing. I’ll never believe that.”

“Well, you’re the only one who don’t. This family’ll never live down what happened.” A chair leg scrapes and Cousin Gerald’s boots sound on the porch steps. “I’m glad she’ll be going, though, for your sake. You ain’t had a moment’s peace the years you’ve had her.”

My heart breaks for Gram. Maybe he’s right. Nothing has gone well for her since I came. The few pleasures she did enjoy have been stripped away. Invitations to social gatherings and friendly drop-by visits have dried up like the creek in our back yard. People avoid her, even at church, because she brings me there. They say God marked me, like Cain, though I never murdered anyone like he did. But murder followed me anyway, so they say.
God can smile on her once I leave. The slight, rhythmic thump of her rocker punctuates her humming of “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

His eye is on you, Gram. But He doesn’t care a lick about me. Why do I have to go live with Great-Aunt Margaret? I hardly know her, but she’ll hate me like everyone else does. Everyone except Gram and Bert. I heave out as big a sigh as I can manage and drift back to sleep.

nancy Bolton

Nancy Shew Bolton is a wife, mother of five grown sons, and grandmother to a boy and girl. Ever since she learned to write, she would jot down her thoughts and impressions, and now expresses herself through novels. Nancy loves to write character-driven stories about relationships of love and faith.

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Guest Release–Legitimate Lies

Legitimate Lies

LEGITIMATE LIES

 A Contemporary Suspense Romance, #2 in Hushed in the Storm saga

Jen has a new identity and life, until someone discovers her secret. However, that’s not the one which may destroy her one chance of happiness. When she unravels the family scandal within the walls of an English country manor, will she have to reveal the truth she’s hidden for so long as well?  Or will she choose to live the lie in order to keep the man she loves?

EXCERPT

As I peered into the baby’s face, I shared Marisol’s sorrow. She should be holding this child, not me. Had Marisol chosen to give this sweet thing up? Or had she been snatched moments after birth? I didn’t want to know. I ached inside—for this baby, for her mother, and for me. All naive victims tossed in the treacherous waves of deceit generated in the wake of my husband’s ambition and cruelty.

I drew her to me. “Oh, why on earth did your daddy have Tom bring you to me?”

The infant’s soft eyes blinked the answer straight into my soul. This little girl needed love, no matter how she came into this world. All babies deserved that much. But, was I the one to give that to her?

My little finger stroked her chubby cheek as I cradled her. The scents of baby powder and formula filled my nose. Her shiny eyes twinkled unabashed-trust as they focused upon my face.

Some innate motherhood gene awoke from deep inside me. A tingly, warm sensation spread from my chest to my eye ducts. My heart double-knotted with hers.

A grin crept across to my cheeks as I gently swayed her in my arms. She seemed so innocent. No one had hurt her yet. No one had stomped on her feelings, or lied to her face, or cheated on her. And now, in this new life the government had given me, I had to pretend that none of that had happened to me either.

Maybe, this baby symbolized my fresh start. I’d protect her. Ensure she had a normal, safe life. No one would be the wiser, right? Surely lots of kids grow up in WITSEC protection.

But would I be able to keep all the hurt she’d dredged up hidden? What if somehow, someday, she discovered her past…and mine? Could we love each other, then? Oh, how I hated living a lie.

With a swallow of my now-cold cup of Earl Grey tea, I washed down the tightness in my throat. I traced her forehead with my little finger. The impact of her presence tangled the words in my throat. I swallowed hard to release the question from my vocal chords. It came out louder than I wanted. “What do I do with you?”

“I guess what anyone should do under the circumstances, Mrs. Williams.”

I looked up to see the Bonita Springs’ deputy sheriff, Jorge Hernandez, gaze down at me and the newborn. “Josh told me you two found her on the steps outside. So, that means you have no idea who she belongs to, right?”

One of his thick black eyebrows raised in a tight arch.

I gulped.

BUY LINKS

Prism Book Group

Amazon

Julie’s website

Julie B cosgrove

Novelist, freelance writer and professional speaker, Julie B Cosgrove, writes for several inspirational publications and websites, as well as leading workshops and retreats. Her characters are strong, determined, and face danger head on with a prayer and a deep, cleansing breath. Follow her inspirational blog Where Did You Find God Today or visit her website at www.juliebcosgrove.com.

Web contacts:

http://www.juliebcsogrove.com

http://WhereDidYouFindGodToday.com

Facebook: /juliebcosgrove.tx

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Guest Interview–Julie B. Cosgrove

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I am a native Texan, widowed at the age of 58, who majored in religion and has always been a bookworm. My faith is the most important thing in my life. To be given the humbled honor to write about my Lord and have that touch others in a way that strengthens their faith still amazes me daily.

As a freelance writer, I write devotionals and inspirational articles for several publications and websites. I’ve also authored three Bible studies. I lecture to church groups and lead retreats. But fiction is my passion. Our Lord told stories, because people relate to stories. Each of my novels contains characters with real struggles and doubts, but through the process God helps them discover something in their lives worth redeeming.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

Reading and word games/puzzles. I also enjoy observing nature and the wonderful variety of creation in plants, birds and animals.

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

Plot, though it evolves around my characters’ life struggles and eventual discovering of God’s mercy and grace at work in their lives. I want people to identify with my characters, but in less they can dive into their lives through the plot, I don’t believe they will see my characters three dimensionally. Our experiences and our reactions to them define us greatly.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

Freestyle. I let the creative juices flow and am constantly surprised where God directs my story- always to better plots than my own brain could conjure up. Then I go back and edit, edit, edit to polish it.

If you use music while writing, name your favorite types.

In 1994, when I’d reached a very dry point in my life, a friend suggested Christian radio. I listened for thirty days, and never went back, except an occasional deviation into Bach or Handel. Gosh, has it really been twenty years? Wow. Music is how I get my worship on, which is my Lord’s and my private joke because the radio is the only thing I have talent to play. Whenever I feel I’m starting to sink, Christian music lifts me back into His hands. But I write in total silence, probably more than not. Stems back to my bookworm in the library days, I guess. That’s where I studied the best.

 Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

Yes, many of them. However, I also had the honor to freelance write for a travel site for two years and my assignments were to help people visualize the locations. That has helped my scene-setting immensely. I research until I can put myself there—walk the streets, smell the foods and flowers, and see the people. Thank the Lord for the vastness of the internet!

Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).

I am blessed to work part-time as a church secretary, and they allow me to write when things slow down. But I seem to have “writing cravings” as if God is beckoning me to carve out time to pray and create. In those times, my fingers fly over the keyboard for hours, even skipping meals and sleep. (Not at work, though!)

In what genre do you read?

I love suspense and cozy mystery. Always have, from the age of eleven on. In fact, most of my Netflix list is murder mysteries as well. I am just not at the point to where I can murder any of my own characters…maybe down the road

Are you a pet person? If so, what do you have?

I am a total cat person. I have had cats all my life. I have two and they are my joy. They have made widowhood so much easier. To have another heartbeat to talk to when I get home is so nice. Few things are more soothing than a purring cat on your lap. I call them my “beasty boys.”

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

In all my writing, fiction and non-fiction, there is one underlying theme- the fact that God breaks through the mundane, everyday life in a broken world to reach out and show us His vast love for us. Thus my blog – Where Did You Find God Today? It always amazes me how God chooses to communicate with us. I want my readers to discover it for themselves. From the beginning of creation, God’s greatest desire has been to be with His children. Jesus came and walked among us for just that reason. It is also why He died for each of us.

Hush In The Storm

Blurb /Synopsis:

Jen, a young widow floundering in the storm of mourning, whose only lifeline is her humdrum job, is tossed into a maze of deceit and intrigue by a coworker named Tom…at the request of her late husband, or so Tom says. He kidnaps her and fakes her death to keep her safe from the cartel who he thinks caused her husband’s “accident.” Together, they are thrust into a tempest of danger and deceit where no one is whom they claim to be. The list of people Jen can believe in keeps diminishing. Who can she trust while dodging the Feds, human traffickers and the press who’ve discovered she’s alive? How will Jen rescue the two held-captive girls she befriends without drowning them, Tom, and herself in the waves of betrayal, especially when she’s begun to suspect her husband may not be as dead as everyone thinks..

Genre: Christian contemporary suspense romance

Publisher: Prism Book Group

BUY LINKS

AMAZON

BARNES & NOBLE

to learn more, visit Julie’s website

To add to your Want To Read list on Goodreads

Excerpt:

An eerie thought pressed a clammy hand upon my shoulder. What if all you thought was true never actually was?

Widowed unexpectedly at thirty-one, I naturally longed for what could never be again. Regrets and what-if mantras swirled daily through my mind. I’d learned to push them aside. But this sudden, unsolicited notion surged an icy-hot chill through my body.

My logical side chided me. Don’t be silly, Jen. Of course it was true. The diamond band on my left hand glimmered with proof. Robert had cherished me, married me, spent five loving years with me…that one night didn’t mean a thing.

I shuddered off the question and leaned in to review the balance sheets my boss had emailed.

But the bizarre suggestion whispered once more in the back of my thoughts just loud enough to keep me from concentrating. The numbers on the page became muddled gibberish. I closed my eyes, sucked in a breath, and tried to focus.

I fiddled with the little gold cross I always wore around my neck, more out of habit than any indication of piety. I hadn’t perched in a pew in years, except for our wedding day and at Robert’s funeral. But after the latest in the series of sympathizers walked away, I seethed a semi-prayer under my breath. “Dear Lord. Please. Why can’t everyone just leave me alone?”

I had a job to do. The report was due first thing in the morning. I had to concentrate on the now. Besides, I never wanted to hear the eggshells crack as well-meaning colleagues tiptoed around my mourning. I was stronger than that, at least in public.

One by one, the other workspaces emptied. The buzz of office machines and human chatter diminished until the only sound was the soft hum from the fluorescent lights and the tick of the office clock, like a steady heartbeat.

At last, a welcomed solitude settled around me in a thick hush. In fact, it was too quiet. I tapped my pencil, then my foot, to dispel it.

A short, high-pitched ding pierced the silence.

My heart jumped into my throat. The elevator? The bottom right-hand side of my computer screen flashed 6:05 p.m. It was too early for the janitorial staff. None of the executives or customers ever ventured down to this dingy basement department with no windows and stale, recycled air.

I swallowed. “Who’s there?”

Tom stepped out of the elevator, then pushed open the glass door with the stenciled white lettering proclaiming the owners of this windowless dungeon—Abernathy & Smith Accounting Firm.

“Hey, Jen. Still at it?”

My heart slid back into place.

My jaw set, making a dental impression in my now tasteless chewing gum. Of all people to show up after hours, why Tom? Those piercing blue eyes unnerved me. Many times over the past few weeks, I’d find his gaze on me. And now, he and I were the only ones left in the department.

I wanted him to leave—and for these numbers to make sense so I could do the same. I also wanted my life back, but I wasn’t about to discuss that with him, or anyone else for that matter.

“Back away from it for the night, Jen. It’s time to go.”

His voice took on an authoritative tone. A hint of brogue, no doubt leftover from some forgone ancestor, twirled the last word on his tongue. They called his type the black Irish—dark hair, crystal blue eyes. Right now his windows into the soul darkened to a deep, steel gray. Stern. Inflexible. Like my eighth-grade biology teacher’s stare when I hadn’t paid attention in class, again. That sort of look always made me buckle.

Bob’s Burgers is close.”

Cholesterol-clogging comfort food did sound good. I grabbed my purse off the back of my chair. “Okay.” I raised my finger. “But we’ll go Dutch.”

“Whatever.”

“Well…” I glanced to the office wall clock. 6:15. My stomach responded with a silent rumble to remind me I hadn’t stopped for lunch. I loathed eating alone and didn’t feel like whipping up something at home. Even eating with Tom was better than the alternatives. “The janitors will be here in a bit anyway. Can’t concentrate with them vacuuming, emptying the trash bins…”

I sighed and dug into my purse. “Where are my keys?”

Tom dangled them in front of my nose. “Left ’em on your desk. But, we should take my car.”

I shook my head and opened my palm, fingers cupped. “Uh, no. We shouldn’t.”

“Your choice.” He exhaled through his nostrils, plopped the keys into my hand, and then texted something into his cell phone. I noticed his jaw twitch as he slipped his phone back into his jacket.

Was it me, or had his mood taken a dark turn? Had I ruffled his male feathers by insisting we go in separate cars and pay Dutch? I made an attempt to smooth things over. “Thanks for the offer, though.”

“I was just trying to save you…”

I touched his arm. “Tom, I don’t need saving.”

One side of his mouth stretched into a smirk. “You sure?”

5-star Review comments 

“Suspense and romance touches the shadowy underworld of human trafficking. A recent widow is kidnapped and her death faked, supposedly for her own good. But if she’s really a widow, why does she keep hearing her husband’s voice? Julie B. Cosgrove weaves a tale that both shocks and informs.  Hush in the Storm will keep you reading late into the night.” Mary Hamilton, author of the best selling Rustic Knoll Bible Camp Series

“Hush in the Storm by Julie B. Cosgrove is a tough but compelling read about a woman spirited away into the darkness and harsh reality of human trafficking. In addition to her terror and confusion over this split-second turn in her life is the unspeakable horror that perhaps someone very close to her is involved in her nightmare. This is a page-turner that will not only entertain but also inform and educate on a topic relevant to our time and culture.” Kathi Macias  (www.kathimacias.com) is an award-winning writer of more than 40 books, including Deliver Me from Evil.

J Cosgrove

BIO

Julie B. Cosgrove is a freelance writer, professional speaker and published author. She is a member of Advanced Writers & Speakers Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Authors Network, North Texas Christian Writers, The Christians Writers Group Two, and Christian Writers Fellowship International.

She represents Women at Risk International, a Christian missionary group who sponsor safe houses for women and children snatched from human trafficking and slavery in 13 countries and is actively involved in Prayer For Freedom, a nonprofit anti-trafficking ministry.

Julie has authored three contemporary faith-based novels. Focused, set in the Texas Hill Country, which follows a woman’s journey to find God in her empty nest, was released in 2012. She is working on the other two novels in that trilogy, Grounded and Rooted. The sequel to Hush in the Storm, Legitimate Lies, launches through Prism Book Group in early 2015.

Author Links:

http://www.juliebcosgrove.com

http://Wheredidyoufindgodtoday.com

FB: https://www.facebook.com/juliebcosgrove.tx

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/JulieBCosgrove

Giveaway-  3 Kindle or Nook versions ( commenter’s choice) emailed