Tag Archives: contemporary

Guest Release Promotion–Umbra’s Shadow by Andrea Stanet

UmbrasShadow-Mar13

Got a problem that needs a kick-ass mercenary to fix it? Merc’s your shapeshifter.

It’s been open season on changelings—human/faery hybrids—until word gets around: someone’s got their backs.

Merc relies on her unique shapeshifting talents to defend the poor and disenfranchised hybrids living on the fringes of a modern-day Hudson valley city. Perhaps her past spurs her to help—orphaned, unable to remember her parents or her original form, forced to survive alone until a kindly Changeling couple takes her in. But Merc also dreams of escaping the poverty and rescuing her boyfriend from the environment that feeds his addictions.

Dúl, a mysterious and seductive full-blooded fey, seems to offer Merc the way out. But the job he proposes will plunge her into the political wasp nest of the Dreaming World and its fey courts. Dúl hires her to rescue the female lieutenant of the Shadow Court’s king. But Morgan isn’t the only full-blood that’s disappeared.

Nothing is what it seems. A hidden player is capitalizing on the animosities within the four courts, and Merc must solve the puzzle before anyone else falls victim. Her investigation exposes the web of betrayals and lies ambushing the courts from without, or maybe from within.

No one could defeat this conspiracy alone. Merc must suppress her solitary nature and learn to work with a team, while Dúl enters into a bitter alliance with his most hated enemy. Amid this treachery, the magnetic attraction between Merc and Dúl deepens into a forbidden bond they are powerless to deny.

Even if she unravels the chaos plaguing the Dreaming, can she handle the truth about the full-blood she’s fallen for?

BIO

A dream stalker, shadow man, vengeful steampunk siren, ghost, and now fey court intrigue—while Andrea Stanet doesn’t shy away from any genre, her passion is writing fantasy and horror fiction for various age groups. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies and an online literary magazine. Her most recent releases are The Tradition, a middle grade horror about were-crows, and Song of Vengeance, about a young performer whose father traps her dying spirit in a mechanical bird.

When not fixating on dragons and zombies, Andrea’s hobbies include running (clearly displaying masochistic tendencies), cycling (hills are only fun when going down), reading (anything and everything), and gaming (Cthulhu-themed board games are favorites). Andrea lives in New York with her husband, two kids, a cat that thinks she’s a dog, and another cat that thinks he’s a mountain lion.

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Guest Release Promotion–Bad Lies by Rolynn Anderson

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00002]

Italy’s haunted caves spell danger for an American golfer and a NATO geologist

Sophie Maxwell is a late-blooming, unorthodox golfer, and mother of a precocious thirteen year-old. Determined to put divorce, bankruptcy, and a penchant for gambling in her past, Sophie goes to Italy for a qualifying golf tournament.

Jack Walker turned his back on a pro golfing career to become a geologist. As a favor to his ailing father he’ll caddy for Sophie; off hours, he’ll find caves on the Mediterranean coast, suitable for NATO listening posts for terrorist activity.

Someone is determined to stop Jack’s underground hunt and ruin Sophie’s chances to win her tournament.

On a Rome golf course and in the Amalfi coast’s haunted caves, all the odds are stacked against Sophie and Jack.  In their gamble of a lifetime, who wins?

BUY LINKS

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Print

EXCERPT

A wave of sadness about the chasm separating Jack from his father hit him hard. He covered his discomfort by picking up his water glass.

Sophie lost her smile. “You didn’t know your dad was coaching me, did you?”

“I told you, we don’t talk about golf.”

“Yet now you have to because you’re my caddy.”

He gave her a shrug. “He’s never asked me to do something for him, not since I quit golf. My mother’s been trying to get him to offer an olive branch for fifteen years. Seemed cruel not to accept one when he’s sick.”

“I get all that,” she said. Her expression morphed to calculating. “You wondered how I could afford your father, didn’t you? He told you I’m not paying for coaching lessons and—”

Raising his hand to stop her, he said, “Not my business.”

“I knew it. I could tell you were mad about something.”

Irritated she presumed to read his thoughts, he said, “I repeat—”

“You can’t figure out why he’d work free for a nut like me, but you won’t ask him. And you’re mad at me because you think I’m taking advantage of your dad.”

The sun and Sophie had him pinned down. He’d rather explore a dank cave.

“You won’t ask him and you won’t ask me. Do I see a pattern?”

Jack widened his eyes at her comment. When he saw her teasing smile, he exhaled. “Every time I talk to him on the phone, his motives get muddier. This isn’t about his heart problems or the operation. He’s using something about you or getting back to golf, or both, as catalysts for repairing my relationship with him.”

Sophie gulped. “Yikes.”

Jack nodded. “Like dropping the bomb about you not paying. He keeps upping the ante.” He huffed. “My inclination is to resist his manipulation.”

“So is mine,” she blurted. In the next moment, she looked down, appearing confused.

“Sophie?”

Her eyes met his. “Your father’s a good coach.”

“Okay.”

“I’ve learned what he says works, if I apply it. Like the new Vision 18 concepts.”

“So?”

“I want to win this tournament.”

“Of course you do.”

“I don’t blame you for feeling set up. But for this one week, could you erect a temporary bridge between you and your dad? Could we do exactly what he wants?”

Once again, Jack felt trapped. In the airplane, perpetually facing Sophie, on a dreaded golf course, all engineered by a father he hardly knew. He examined his hands, which hadn’t held a golf club or embraced a father in fifteen years. The tremor in his fingers spoke volumes.

When he raised his eyes to look at Sophie, he read genuine fear in her expression. She thinks if I balk at Dad’s bidding, she’ll fail.

Time stopped for a moment, underlining their separate fears, so strangely entwined. I thought I could do this without really getting involved. Now I’ve got her and my dad to worry about. Give me a cave to spelunk any day; rocks I understand.

Brows knit, she said, “Only five days of staying with your dad’s program.”

“Believe me, I know his philosophy.”

She gave him a not-that-well look.

“I’ll help you in every way I can.”

Sophie added narrowed eyes.

Feeling panic, he let out a breath. “Okay, I’ll talk to him. Later.” He ran his fingers through his hair.  “You, too. I’ll ask you later,” he said, his gut twisting as he made both promises.

rolynn color 1.5mb

Scandinavian, Army Brat, Wife, English Teacher, High School Principal, Golfer, Boater, World Traveler, Author.  She delights in creating imperfect characters faced with extraordinary, transforming challenges.  Her hope: You’ll devour her ‘makeover’ suspense novels in the wee hours of the morning, because her stories, settings and characters, capture your imagination and your heart.

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Guest Release Promotion–Winter Fairy Tale

Winter Fairy Tale

Sometimes, to remember all that is best and bright about love, you must go home.

After being dumped by her boyfriend of two years, there is nothing that Sarah Jepsom dreads more than going back home to her marriage-obsessed mother.  To make matters worse, it’s for her little sister’s fairytale wedding on none other than Valentine’s Day.  The only positive note is it will also be a chance to see her dear friend Mark for the first time in a year.

Sarah’s Bridezilla sister Valerie takes it upon herself to invite Sarah’s old high school boyfriend to be her date for the wedding. Nathan is set on renewing their relationship, but old feelings remind Sarah why it didn’t work the first time. When Mark confesses his long-held feelings for her, Sarah is angry and convinced that romance is not for her. Then, her father reminds her of all that is best and bright about love, that can often be found right under our noses.

BUY LINK

Roane Publishing (other links listed on publisher site)

GIVEAWAY

roane feb giveaway

$25 Roane Publishing Gift Card, Bracelet with charm from Sweet Inspiration, Hot cocoa mixes and mug from The Crimson Curse

a Rafflecopter giveaway

or go the contest link on Rafflecopter site

AUTHOR BIOS

Laura Lamoreaux is a licensed clinical psychologist, and she drew from her work in therapy to show what living with a mental illness is really like.

LINK: Twitter – @laura_lamoreaux

T.L. FRENCH

T.L. French is a Junior High English teacher, and provided all of the teaching details included in the story.

LINK: Twitter – @ticilsmith

Guest Release Promotion—Sparks of Love by Mary L. Ball

SparksofLove-Nov14

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Misjudged and accused, Lynette Cunningham walks away from God and everything she loves. A phone call from her father offers hope. He announces he’s found a clue to the crime that forced her to run. Could this clear her name in her small North Carolina hometown?

Tragedy strikes and Lynette must face the two things that scare her most. The past and a man of God. Someone wants the past to stay buried. Will Lynette stay alive long enough to prove her innocence and accept the Love that is offered?

BUY LINKS

Amazon

Smashwords

EXCERPT

Lynette Cunningham tossed her severance packet on the table and kicked off her sandals. She rubbed her neck to knead the tension. The choices before her would wait. She was sad to be unemployed but excited at the same time. This was her chance to change careers.

Her cell phone chimed. She glanced at the number. “Hi, Dad.”

“How did your last day go?” Her father’s gravelly voice come across the airwaves.

“As planned. All of us employees received our final compensation from

Express Sky. The airline closing has me thinking. I may settle in one place for a while.”

“Honey, often things happen for a reason. The last time I came to see you, I noticed you seemed ready to make a change. Until you decide what to do, why not visit your ol’ dad?”

“I don’t know.” Her words churned as slow as butter.

“Please, come back home. At least for a time. The town has changed since you went away.”

Lynette’s mind drifted to Freedom, North Carolina and the memories of disgust on the faces of the townsfolk when she walked out of the police station a free woman.

“Nothing’s changed, Dad. There’s always going to be talk about that bank robbery.”

“Some folks enjoy the gossip, but you can’t let narrow-minded people rule you. You’re so much like your mother. She held on to a hurt for a long time, too, but I’m certain if Mom were alive, she’d tell you to give them another chance. You need to stop running from the past.” Her father cleared his throat. “I’ve found something which may end all the suspicion.”

Lynette gasped. His words danced around her ears like a buzzing fly.

“What? You discovered evidence to finally prove someone else is responsible?”

“I think so. I wanted to wait until you come back to take it to the sheriff. I realize it’s always been important for you to clear your name from the scandal. Thanks to the Lord’s guidance, this is a chance to help them arrest the real thief. Ten years is a long time for this to go unsolved.”

Her chest rose with a deep breath. “I doubt the Lord has anything to do with it. If God cared, He would’ve helped me years ago. I’m on my own, except for you,” she huffed.

“Darling, your negative talk bothers me. Sometimes, we must accept things and move on.”

“Dad, what did you find?”

“I think someone’s at the door. I’ll call you back later and explain everything.”

Before Lynette responded, silence met her ear. She laid the phone on the table and sat down, her mind on Freedom, North Carolina. As she debated her choices, Lynette drummed her fingers on the glass tabletop. The idea of dredging up the past unnerved her, but proving who was responsible for a crime she was accused of was appealing.

Mary L. Ball-Nov 14

Mary L. Ball is a multi-published author and member of AC FWs. She resides in North Carolina. When Mary isn’t working on her latest story, she enjoys fishing, reading, and singing with her husband at church functions.

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Guest release promotion—Frosting and Flurries, a Christmas anthology

Frosting and Flurries - 3D Final - Med

Frosting and Flurries, is a boxed set of five Christmas novellas on Amazon. The other amazing authors in the set are Kimberly Rae Jordan, Cecelia Dowdy, Clare Revell, and Marion Ueckermann. My book is called Moostletoe and it was a great deal of fun working with other writers I know and love! ~~Jan

Moostletoe Book 1 Medium JPG

BLURB of Moostletoe by Jan Elder

Rev. Samantha Evans lands in Moose Creek, Maine, a backwater town with more moose than men. One of her new parishioners chews up new ministers for breakfast, and he’s hell-bent on sending her packing.

Forest ranger Eric Palmer is done with women. With Christmas around the corner, he runs into Sammie, his best friend when they were teenagers. Unlike most women, he trusts her implicitly. But could she ever be more than a friend?

When Samantha’s career is on the line, Eric saves her job, rescuing his own shattered heart. But how does Matilda the town moose factor in?

BUY LINK

Amazon

EXCERPT

As they headed toward the fence at the back of the large yard, the trapped moose turned her head and fastened Samantha with the longest, most distressed face she’d ever seen. Somehow, the words “there’s a moose stuck in the fence” had not prepared her for the sight of two hooves sticking to the top of tall pickets.

Poor moosie indeed!

The TV news reporter strode toward Eric and Travis, a determined set to his jaw.

Eric took charge. “Dale, you can film, but be quiet about it and keep well back. I know everybody loves Matilda, but she’s a wild animal and she’s scared. You too, Mr. Tremblay.”

“We’ll do our best to behave.” Dale smirked. “But the TV audience is going to eat this up and we’re here to serve.”

Eric grimaced. “She’s just a moose for crying out loud. People in Aroostook County see them every day.”

The TV crew moved into position. Eric glanced at Samantha. “Sammie you asked what you can do. Your job is to pray we can get this moose out of trouble, fast.”

“Will do.” Samantha nodded and clung to the fence line several yards away. Matilda puffed, her breath sending up a cloud of steam. Samantha’s heart went out to the creature, and she unleashed a silent prayer. If God cared for the lowly sparrow, He surely loved the magnificent moose.

Eric’s eyes zeroed in on the television camera as two men continued to edge closer. “Confound it, Dale, stay back. Don’t you have a zoom on that contraption?”

The cheeky, young reporter lifted his chin. “We’ll stay back as long as you give us an exclusive after the rescue.”

Eric planted his hands on his hips and huffed. “Exclusive? Dale, what do you think this is? Portland? You’re the only TV station there is in these parts. Just keep your distance. Hey, Tremblay? You have a small hatchet?”

A protest erupted from the cameraman. “Surely, you’re not going to hurt that wild animal.”

Eric shook his head. “No, of course we’re not going to hurt her. We have to break up the fence.”

Dale cocked his head. “Why can’t you just yard on it until her feet come out?”

Huh? Samantha searched her memory banks. Yard on it. Ah, yes. Pull hard.

“Do I look suicidal? I’m not getting anywhere near those back hooves. We have a crazed five-hundred-pound moose who’s not thinking straight, here.”

The cameraman grumbled and when Eric turned his back, the cameraman made a hand gesture that meant … Samantha wasn’t sure what it meant, but it couldn’t have been nice.

Matilda shifted her back feet, tried to maneuver backward and pitched a bit to the side. The wooden fence scraped against her front fetlocks and she bellowed, a terrible noise that rang hollow in the damp, night air. Terrified, her eyes flicked back and forth, the whites showing. Helpless, Samantha prayed harder and shuffled her feet to keep the circulation moving, her chest squeezing.

The cameraman hefted his camera and aimed it at the reporter. The show was about to begin.

Janice Elder with Pink Flowers

Jan Elder is a Christian romance writer with a zeal for telling real, relateable stories. She strives to write novels that will strengthen the reader’s faith, while providing an entertaining and engrossing love story.

Happily married for thirteen years to supportive husband, Steve, the two live in central Maryland.

WEB CONTACTS

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Guest Release—Nothing to Lose by Darlene Fredette

NothingToLose DarleneFredette

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She has one last hope – a small, family-run bakery that might just be baking up second chances.

Dwindling finances has Jesse Robinson running out of options. With a past filled with failures, she longs for a new beginning. Applying for a job she isn’t qualified for may be another crazy mistake, but at this point Jesse has nothing to lose.

Juggling two jobs, Travis Cooper has absolutely no time for a relationship and isn’t looking for one. But when his mother hires an unqualified baker, he has more to worry about than three-tiered wedding cakes. Like whether to break his own no-dating-employees rule and make a little room in his life for love.

BUY LINKS

Escape Publishing 

Amazon

EXCERPT

‘How hard can baking be? Easy‐peasy. Right?’ She knew her words to be untrue. She’d watched shows on the Food Network. The chefs on television made creating desserts appear simple, yet Jessie’s attempts always ended with opening a window and the lid on the garbage can.

‘I have no choice, and at this point I have nothing to lose.’ Jessie had thought the same before her previous four jobs. Though, she did excel at one particular skill—making bad choices. If only she could include that talent as a positive trait.

She drew in a deep breath to calm her racing pulse. Desperation rolled in the emptiness of her stomach. She’d just go into the bakery and win them over. She had to. The two hundred dollars in her bank account would cover her car payment. As long as I don’t eat or drive anywhere, I’m good.

Darlene resides on the East Coast of Canada with her husband, daughter, and Yellow Lab. When not working on her next book, she enjoys spending time with her family. An avid reader since childhood, Darlene loves to develop the many stories swimming in her head. She writes heartwarming contemporary romances with a focus on plot-driven page-turners.

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Guest Post–The Road To Our New Normal by DiAne N. Gates

We are the object of attention—until the day after the funeral. That’s when everyone’s life returns to normal. Everyone else’s life, that is.

But not ours.

After our twenty-eight-year-old daughter suddenly died of a hemorrhagic stroke, we were left on the outside looking in. We humans want to fit in and we’re miserable when we don’t. And in the aftermath of grief we didn’t belong. Anywhere. We felt like we’d been stuffed in a sack, shaken up and dumped out. Forever changed.

There’s good news and bad news about grief. The bad news? We will never be the same again. The good news? Although we didn’t know it, we were on the way to our new normal.

But that’s a long trip.

The days and the months, perhaps years, creep by and we would often long for the way things used to be. Sometimes I chose to isolate or hide behind closed doors so others couldn’t see my pain. Or I’d zoom here and there, filling life with any and everything. Pretending I was okay. Trying to not think, because thinking hurt.

Family and friends preferred the hyper-active me. Because they wanted their old friend back. But though I tried, the old me was gone. Forever.

Death brings us face-to-face with a life-changing reality: Life in this world is brief and death is final.

Things of this world fill our lives, our relationships, even our worship. Most of us have lived as though this is all there is. And in this age of want-more, get-more, we have tethered ourselves to the here-and-now.

Until someone we love dies.

Our gears were stripped and we came to a screeching halt. We were backed in a corner and forced to decide whether we really believed what we said we believed all these years. Could we look beyond the immediate to the eternal? And that’s a major cross-road for each one of us traveling this road called grief. It’s the intersection of a street called Earthly Delusions with the rough and still-under-construction detour named New Normal.

After Michelle’s death, I wrapped myself in robes of self-righteousness and parroted, “Oh, I know she’s with God and everything is fine. I’m okay. Really. Why no, I’m not angry. With God? Don’t be silly.”

And for two years I walked that I’m okay—you’re okay road ‘til one evening a family dispute raked the scab of the lie off my hypocritical words and I bled rage. A glass full of iced tea flew from my hand and splattered against the wall and I heard my voice scream, “You could have stopped this, God. But You didn’t.”

Ah. There it was. I told Him I didn’t understand and I didn’t like what He had done. But in the deathly silence that followed I had to confess to God, I was angry. Like He didn’t know.

And you know what? God didn’t send a lightning bolt to strike me dead. He didn’t turn His holy back and walk away. He didn’t condemn me.

Instead He opened His arms of love and I crawled into His lap and sobbed. And He comforted me like a loving father comforts his child after the temper tantrum subsides and the child is remorseful.

Because of His truth and my repentance, those moments produced my first glimpse of hope and joy in two years. How? The light of God’s truth shoos away the darkness, it illuminates and cleanses the place where anger and bitterness have thrived. Then the power of His Spirit moves into the open spaces and begins to teach us the lessons, up to now, we’ve refused to learn.

In the following months I learned those first lessons, and my attitude changed. I was convicted of the self-righteous things I had said and the proud ways I had acted in the past. And as I acknowledged my own needs, compassion for others filled my previously cold, indifferent heart.

God brought people into my life who were also experiencing the ravages of grief. I could sympathize with the emotions their losses perpetrated. And I was able to comfort them, because God had comforted me. I saw God work in all of our lives and my emotions were refreshed.

Through a series of unusual circumstances God brought me to GriefShare. Then He opened the door for me to lead a support group. And my new normal became a work in progress.

Did the pain go away? No. But I learned that joy and pain can co-exist in my heart. 

I believe grief’s pain is the roto-rooter God uses to increase our heart’s capacity for the well-spring of joy. Day by day, I chose to trust God to lead me forward into this river of new life. Day by day joy became the key to my endurance. And it still carries me forward, day by day.

When our happiness is rooted in people and things that perish, grief becomes our identity. But when the tap root of our heart’s joy is anchored in Jesus Christ, He carries us safely through the storms and tragedies of life. And we grow and blossom when and where He sets us down to walk along the shores of our new normal.

“The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy. Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, Take courage, fear not.  . . . But the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return, and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 35:1-4a, 9b-10 NAS).

Where are the roots of your joy planted today?

PRESCRIPTION: Go to www.griefshare.org and click on Find A Group. Fill in your zip code and select a group near you. Make plans to attend and let God work that new normal in your life too.

Roped Cover

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Thirteen-year-old Crissy Crosby chases a dream to live up to her parents’ rodeo legacy. But the rodeo championship is two months away and problems beyond her ability to solve stack and teeter like a game of Tumbling-Towers. Meanwhile rival Jodie Lea and her father, Ed Fairgate, contrive to swipe the silver buckles from Crissy’s grasp any way they can. Prejudice, anger, and dark secrets simmer in a pot of family feuds destined to boil over in a tragic nightmare at the rodeo. Will Crissy develop courage and faith to overcome the consequences of her temper? Will her dreams of buckles and titles become reality? Or will the character-building adversities of her life quash her dreams forever?

Amazon buy link

EXCERPT

WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE

I raced to the bus stop the next morning, threw my books on the ground, and grabbed Chun’s arm. “I’m gonna ride Mama’s horse in the rodeo.” The words tumbled off my tongue.

“Star?” Chun’s voice barely squeaked. He blinked and his eyes exploded into enormous circles.

The school bus rounded the corner. I grabbed my books off the ground and gave him a nod. “Yep.”

Chun followed me up the bus steps, leaned close, and whispered, “You are crazy.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m still gonna do it.” I headed for the back seat, plopped next to the window, and stared up at Chun.

He squeezed into the seat next to me and studied my face for a moment. “Are you not scared?”

I blinked and gulped. “Goodness, no.” The voice inside me screamed liar.

Chun shook his head. “You are crazy.”

The thud of my heart beat in my ears. “Well, maybe a little nervous.” Nervous didn’t even begin to cover this pounding. Maybe Chun was right. Color me crazy.

DiAne Gates 

Texas writer, DiAne Gates, illustrates, photographs, and writes for children and YA, as well as serious non-fiction for adults.

DiAne works as a freelance artist and has written and photographed for the East Texas Rodeo Association magazine, which gave birth to the western rodeo adventure series, released by Prism Book Group in August of 2015. ROPED–Available at Amazon.com.  The second book in this series, TWISTED, will be released by Prism Book Group, April 7, 2017.

ROPED had the honor of being selected as a finalist for the Grace Awards this year. And just this past week ROPED has also made the finals for the Christian Literary Henry Awards. Winners will be announced December 2, 2016.

Wife, mother, and Mimi, whose passion is to share those hard life lessons God allows. Lessons she hopes will leap from the page into your heart.

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Crosswalk Christian Online Magazine

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Guest Release Promotion—Blood Stained Memories by Kathy L. Wheeler

The Writing Life: Ha! I’m not sure how I find the time to write. I was a computer programmer, then laid off and all set to get stuff done! Well. One finds it’s not as easy as all that. All of sudden, you are taking care of stuff that you haven’t gotten to for years, and now that you don’t have a “day” job, you find yourself volunteering for other things. Granted, they do relate to your writing life, but still, they are things that take you away from the one thing you are trying to accomplish—writing!

All in all, what you’ve accomplished is creating more stress. So I’m starting a new resolution…(in October). No more extra stuff! Well, except for this blog. Thank you, Linda Carroll-Bradd.

BloodMemories_CVR_SML

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There on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle lies the ruins of a haunted, old armory…

Helena Abigail Evans-Ross remembers nothing from her past except the sting of her Aunt Lydia’s hand almost knocking her head from her shoulders. “Don’t look!” she screamed, just as Abby’s gaze meets her father’s blank stare, and the realization that she is holding the bloody knife that ended his life. She’s home to learn the truth—but can she live with a truth is she is the one who murdered her own father?

Pre-Order Amazon Link

EXCERPT

I glanced over to my handsome chauffeur. Water from his hair dribbled down a strong neck that disappeared into the collar of his rain-soaked shirt. He and Adam must be somewhere in their mid-to-late thirties by now. I knew his dry hair would resemble burnished gold. The light from the dashboard didn’t reflect the tone of his skin.

I leaned back in the seat and let his accent wash over me. Its familiarity settled nerves drawn so tight I felt I would shatter with a sudden move. I cleared my throat. “Where do you call home, Mr. Creighton?” There wasn’t much of him that reminded me of that long ago young man, just the clipped British words, making it easier to remember to refer to him as Mr. Creighton.

He grinned. Most likely relieved I’d finally joined the conversation. “Call me, Ian. Manchester, mostly. I’ve been here since spring assisting Adam with his research. I spent summers here on the island as a younger man until—” He tossed a quick glance in my direction. “Well, I’d planned on returning home by now.”  His gaze dropped to my ringless fingers before he shifted his attention back to the road. “Though I may find my stay here pleasantly extended.”

Until what? I wanted to scream. Instead, heat flamed my cheeks at his not-so-subtle regard. I curled my fingers beneath my tote and out of sight, at a loss for words. My goal on this quiet Gulf Coast island was not to find romance. My sole agenda dealt with the bland contents of the letter stowed in my bag. A letter stained with my own bloody prints.

Facebook page for the World of Gothic series

Kathey Wheeler

Kathy L Wheeler loves the NFL, NBA, musical theater, travel, reading, writing and … karaoke! Kathy lives in Edmond with her attorney and musically talented husband, Al. She has one grown daughter who has an adorable baby boy, and one bossy cat, who acts as if she were the rescuer rather than the rescue-e!!

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Guest Release—Navy Blues by Julie B Cosgrove

LoveIs_NavyBlues May 27

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Her fiancé cheated on her…in paradise. Broken hearted and confused, Emma flies home to Fort Worth, Texas not sure what life without him will entail.

Ryan is being discharged from the Navy to join a gastroenterology private practice in Fort Worth. New city, new life. The last thing on his mind is falling in love. Until a forlorn lady sniffles in the seat beside him on the flight.

A storm, an emergency landing and an out of control ex-fiancé thrusts Ryan and Em into a dilemma. Each must make some tough choices, but will those involve each other?

BUY LINKS

Amazon

Julie’s website

EXCERPT

Just as I mouthed a thanks to God, an eardrum-stabbing wail occurred two rows back. “Why can’t Daddy sit with meeeee?”

The man huffed and twisted toward the sound. “Because the airlines said Daddy’s seat is here. You stay with Mommy.”

The child’s whining persisted as people jabbed and jostled through the claustrophobic cabin. It would be a full flight. My temples began to pulse.

One baritone voice pierced the din. “I’ll trade with you.”

I turned to see sandy hair, a chiseled jaw, and piercing blue eyes on the face of a military man. He held his boarding pass in one hand and a khaki duffle bag in the other. It matched his uniform. The Naval emblem on his brass belt buckle glimmered in the late afternoon light as it streamed through the airplane’s portal. Well, this was Hawaii. A bunch of the men onboard wore Navy fatigues. He was being transferred like the rest of them, no doubt.

“Really?” The father lost half of the worry lines on his forehead. “Thanks.”

The sailor hoisted his duffle and a briefcase into the compartment above us and shrugged. “No problem. A seat is a seat.” His eyes dropped to scan me. I pulled my skirt over my knees and shifted my gaze to the tarmac beyond the double-paned oval window.

From the outer edge of my vision, I saw the two exchange positions. In mid-movement, they shook hands. The Navy man smiled. “You should be with your family, man. It’s only right.”

He sat down, adjusted his position to dig the seat belt out from the cushion, and then leaned into my space to click it. The insignia on his left collar resembled a gold tree with a green stone in it. On the right, perched a silver maple leaf. Even though my father was in the Naval Reserves most of my early childhood, I never mastered deciphering rank and emblems. I did remember those two meant he was an officer of some sort and, by the khakis he wore, he’d been out to sea.

I shot him a semi-warm grin. “That was nice of you to do that, um, Lieutenant, is it?”

“Actually, it’s Doctor.”

My mouth formed a small “O.”

He whispered in my direction. “And it was a purely selfish act. Why would I want to sit next to his kid while she blubbered the whole trip?”

My mouth readied to spill my thoughts about his brash remark, until I saw his wink. Instead, I inched my lips to the right in a fake chuckle. “Very funny.”

“I had you. Admit it.” Those crystal blue pools twinkled with mirth. He extended his hand. “Name’s Ryan MacKenzie. Lieutenant in the Navy, for another 48 hours or so.”

I kept mine in my lap and nodded. “Emma West. My friends call me Em.”

“M? For mystery woman?” The sides of his mouth curled upward. His attention briefly focused on my left hand. It was bare, though it had yet to feel that way to me.

“Hardly.” The words croaked from my throat. I placed my right hand on top and blinked the tears back into my eyes. The white mark around my ring finger where the sun had not hit for four years screamed my plight—rejected for another, not good enough.  The warmth and strength of his fingers covered mine. Soft. Clean nails. Surgeon’s hands. He whispered, “Sorry. Forgive my crassness.”

I bobbed my head, and as quickly as the sensation came, it left as he released his touch. Something inside me wanted to grab it back. But that would be ridiculous. I didn’t even know the guy. I closed my eyes and shut out the cabin noises. The horrid scene, which caused my decision to board this flight, replayed in my mind. I’d tossed the two carat, blue-diamond solitaire— courtesy of my father’s checkbook so his daughter would wear a decent stone—at Trey’s head as it lay tousled on the bed pillows next to another’s, obviously not mine. She scrambled to the bathroom, wrapped in a bed sheet. He pleaded it had been a one time lapse of judgment. I seriously doubted that. Living in two different cities almost four thousand miles apart had taken its toll. How could I have been so naïve?

Above our heads, the seat belt sign dinged off. Airborne. My teeth pinched my lower lip as I observed the island chain disappear amongst the clouds. I always hated good-byes. This one had been final. I’d never be back. The vice grip around my chest crushed my heart some more. Dear God in Heaven, don’t let this naval doctor see me cry. I swallowed the saliva in my mouth in an effort to force the puddles under my eyelids back as well.

He broke the silence. “You okay? Your face seems rather blue.”

Had I put on navy liner and mascara that day? Did it streak down my face? I wiped my finger across my under-eye skin then peered at it. No, not very smudged.

He chuckled. “I meant blue as in down. You know, perturbed. If I offended you.”

I returned my gaze to the wisp of clouds. The sun’s rays infused them with gold. The delicate celestial waves shimmered like a pearl-seed edged lace veil, one I’d never wear now. “It’s not you. I just hated to leave, that’s all.” I turned to him with a forced smile. “But, Spring Break’s over. Back to the grind.”

“Are you, uh, in school?” His eyes narrowed inside his scrunched eyebrows.

“Is that so hard to believe?”

He coughed into his fist. “Well, I mean people go back all the time, I…”

His stumble-stepping over his words brought a chuckle to my lips, though a small one. “I teach at the community college.” With a tilt of my head, I parroted his previous jab. “Admit it. I got you.”

His facial muscles relaxed. “Touché.”

Julie Cosgrove

Julie B Cosgrove is an award-winning novelist, freelance Christian devotional writer and public speaker.  When she is not writing novels, she enjoys reading those by other faith-based authors  while curled on her sofa with her two purring cats and a cup of Earl Grey.  Visit her website www.juliebcosgrove.com and her devotional blog: Where Did You Find God Today?

Guest Release-Betrayal by Karen Cogan

Betrayal cover from John

BLURB

Bethany never imagined becoming the target of a hired killer. Her intent had been to clear her roommate of murder and get her out of jail. After a tip from a neighbor about a ski-masked man leaving the apartment and tossing something in a dumpster, she retrieves a pair of bloody gloves from the dumpster and places them in her brief case for safe keeping. On the way to take them to the police station, she is attacked and injected with a fast-acting sedative. In a desperate attempt to protect the evidence, she thrusts the briefcase at the man in front of her and begs him to take care it.

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EXCERPT

Bethany glanced behind her, heart skittering, as she hastened along the street. Though she hoped to blend in with tourists in southern Staten Island, she couldn’t escape the feeling she’d been followed. She’d told no one except the detective about the evidence in her briefcase. Since it could prove the innocence of her friend, she was eager to turn it in. Fortunately, in two more blocks she would arrive at the station. She could hand it over and stop worrying.

Someone brushed against her and she tightened her hold on the satchel. Pedestrians here were working people with a sprinkling of petty thieves. The last thing she needed was to have an opportunist steal what was valuable only as evidence and discard it in a dumpster where it would never be found and justice would never be done.

She entered the crosswalk with the throng. Half-way across the street she felt a sharp jab beneath her right rib. She grimaced as she stumbled forward, bumping into the broad back of the man striding ahead of her. He turned to study her with striking blue eyes.

Someone touched her hand and whispered, “Let go and I’ll let you live.”

She jerked her hand away as her vision began to blur. The man she had jostled turned with a frown. “Are you all right?”

She held on to the satchel. As his face became hazy, she thrust it towards him. “Take care of this please. It’s important.”

He took it from her grasp as she toppled forward. She heard a buzz of voices as strong arms lifted her, and then, oblivion.

Luke carried the limp woman across the street and cradled her in his lap while he called 911. A crowd gathered while he checked her quickened pulse. What could have happened to her? His thoughts were interrupted as a man leaned towards him.

“She’s prone to fainting spells. I can hold onto the attaché case. I’m her brother.”

Luke evaluated the man and made a quick decision. “She told me to keep it safe. It’s fine with me, for now.”

The man didn’t insist, yet continued to stand by, expressing none of the concern Luke would expect of a brother while Luke focused on the woman, making sure she continued to breathe.

The steady shrieking of an ambulance preceded its arrival at the curb. Luke moved back to allow the attendants to administer to the fallen woman. They took her vitals and loaded her onto a stretcher.

“Where will you take her?” Luke asked. Not only did he need to know where to deliver the satchel, he was curious about why it was important enough to protect.

“Mount Sinai.”

“I’m a friend. Can I come along?”

The man nodded. “You can ride up front with the driver.”

Luke held onto the briefcase as he strode to the passenger door. What possessed him to care about what happened to this stranger? He should send the attaché with her and forget the whole thing.

He glanced into the crowd and saw the man who claimed to be her brother watching from the outskirts of the bystanders. If he had it to bet, Luke guessed the guy knew what was inside that case and had a reason for wanting it. Perhaps he had injured or drugged the victim to steal it. The possibilities ran through his mind as he climbed aboard. He thought about going after the suspect. Yet, he doubted he would catch him, given the distance between them. If he didn’t stay with the victim, it would be harder to locate her and return her property. He shut the door and buckled his seat belt. Whatever the outcome, he was along for the ride.

The driver was a stocky, middle-aged man with thinning hair who asked Luke, “You her husband?”

“No. She fell into my arms. I was complemented until I realized she was unconscious.”

The man nodded. “Sounds like my experience with women.”

Luke’s curiosity about what was in the case burned as they drove to the hospital. When they arrived, he waited for the paramedics to lift the woman from the ambulance and wheel her into the emergency room.

“How’s she doing?” Luke asked the small blond attendant who was pushing the cart,”

“She’s stable.”

Once inside, he was asked her name. “I don’t know. We just met. You’ll have to get identification from her purse. Please let me know when she’s able to have a visitor.”

The rigid, vinyl chair in the waiting area poked against his shoulder blades. He resigned himself to the discomfort and the television comedy that spewed raucous laughter. His thoughts were on the woman who’d passed out in his arms.

He turned the briefcase over in his lap. If she protected something illegal, he refused to be any part of it. He studied the lock, and knew it would be no problem. He fished in his pocket and withdrew the knife set he’d carried all through his stint in the military. With a few quick twists, he had it open. He peered inside the bag to see two bloody gloves staring back. If she didn’t have a good explanation, he was going straight to the police.

Bethany awoke in a narrow bed. She squinted at the bright ceiling light, and struggled to remember why she was hooked to an IV. What had happened? She moved to sit up and her head throbbed. Then, it all came back. He had wanted the gloves. Had he gotten them?

She fumbled for the buzzer as a nurse entered the room. “I had an attaché case. Where is it?”

The young woman knitted her brow. “Don’t be upset. Your things are bagged beside your bed.”

“I need to see them.”

The nurse moved swiftly to her side. “Don’t try and get up. I’ll hand it to you.”

Bethany knew from the weight of the bag it didn’t contain the attaché case. She fought rising panic. “My briefcase is missing. Where is it?”

“I don’t know. There’s a gentleman in the waiting room who wants to see you. Perhaps he has it.”

Karen Cogan

A native of Houston, TX, Karen spent her early years enjoying life along the Gulf Coast. After high school, she attended Texas A&M as well as the University of Houston where she obtained a B.S. in early childhood education. She has written numerous articles and stories, books for children and novels for adults. She particularly enjoys writing contemporary and historical romance.

She now lives in the Southwest with her family and assorted pets.

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