Tag Archives: contemporary

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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Escape Publishing 

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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?

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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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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?

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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?

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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

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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.

Web contacts:

Amazon:  (http://bit.ly/1ZLfzto,

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karencoganfanpage

WordPress: https://wordpress.com/post/kecogan.wordpress.com/258

Character Interview from Storm Season by Anna Kittrell

How about you introduce yourself by providing the basics?

My name is Molly Marie Sanders—but, for some reason, my mom thinks it’s funny to call me ‘Molly Lou.’ I live in Redbend, Oklahoma in a two-story house with my dad, mom, three-year-old brother, Max, and little Chihuahua named Boo.

I graduated high school in May, and last month started classes at Redbend College to pursue a degree in elementary education. I’m loving school so far, and have made a ton of new friends. But I miss my two best friends, Bianca and Lenni, like crazy. I can’t wait until Christmas break so that we can all meet up in Redbend and hang out. I mean, we see each other all the time on Facebook, but it’s not the same. I want to hug their necks—although I’ll probably have to catch Bianca, first. She’s never been one for physical affection.

Continuing to live at home while attending school works out well for my family. My dad works for an accounting firm, and Mom runs an online antique business, so I spend a lot of time helping around the house and caring for my little brother—which I enjoy doing.

I attribute my love of learning and interest in the educational field to a very special teacher I had in high school, named Mrs. Piper. Her lessons both inside and out of the classroom are the reason I decided to apply to Redbend College to pursue a degree in education. My dream is to someday co-teach with Mrs. Piper in the same creative writing classroom where she helped me find myself—and Jesus.

Are you a pet person?

Yes! I have a sweet little six-year-old Chihuahua named Boo. He was the baby of the family until my little brother, Max, came along three years ago. But Boo was a good sport about Max’s arrival, and didn’t get jealous. He loves Max, and even shares his dog bowl with him sometimes—when Mom isn’t looking. Lol.

Do you have any hobbies?

Other than running after Max and Boo, I don’t really have many hobbies—unless you count listening to music. Dizzy is my all-time favorite singer. I’ve loved her since I was fourteen, and have every album she’s ever recorded and every DVD she’s ever made. Lenni, Bianca, and I have gone to every single show she’s played in Oklahoma City. Her music embodies so many of our shared high school memories—both good and bad.

And speaking of music, thanks to my mom’s persistence, I even enjoy listening to 80’s music now and again. The two of us have gone to the shows of several throwback hair-bands. Mom’s favorite concert was one we went to last summer, given by a band called SQUALLER. Four guys with tight pants, protruding bellies, and thinning hair, attempting to look like angst-ridden teenagers. To me, they just looked like a bunch of car salesmen squinting into the sun. They pretty much sounded the way they looked, but I didn’t tell Mom that.

What are your reading tastes?

I guess I’m kind of a nerd, because I enjoy old books—really old books, like from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The kind everyone moans about studying in Lit class. I’m especially fond of classic horror—The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, and The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I’m fascinated by the fact that no matter how old the story is, the characters remain relatable. Humanity is timeless. I also love reading the Bible, for that exact same reason. The stories are ageless, and the truth never changes.

List your favorite movie of all time and why.

I’m partial to The Wizard of Oz. I guess it might have something to do with my mother’s obsession over all things Oz related. Maybe she finally rubbed off on me. There was a time in my life when I absolutely hated the film—also a result of Mom’s Oz obsession. In addition to her ruby slipper keychain, Glenda the Good Witch coffee mug, and the flying monkey mobile she hung above Max’s baby crib, Mom had once placed a life-sized Wicked Witch of the West statue on our front porch. We were brand new in town, and you can only imagine the teasing I endured when the school bus pulled up in front of my house. There stood that stupid witch, in all her green glory, and nowhere near Halloween. The thing even added to the wrath and resentment Bianca felt for me back then. She thought I’d put the statue there as a way to make fun of her Witcha’be lifestyle. I’m happy to say I’ve grown past all that now, and love nothing more than to sing “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead,” right along with the colorized munchkins of Oz.

What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you?  

The summer before my freshman year of high school, my family and I moved from Crystal, Texas to Redbend, Oklahoma. Initially, the move wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Our family spent the last two weeks of June at the lake with the Flemming family, which was really cool. Neal Flemming is my dad’s boss, and his daughter, Lenni, and I became instant friends. Lenni told me all about her best friend, Bianca—how beautiful she was, what a great actor she was, and how she made all her own outfits. She couldn’t wait to introduce us.

Unfortunately, the relationship between Bianca and me didn’t turn out quite as warm and fuzzy as Lenni planned. Bianca didn’t take too well to Lenni having a new friend, and strongly felt three was a crowd. Add the fact Lenni somehow forgot to tell me Bianca was a witch in training—aka Witcha’be—and, yeah, things got pretty crazy.

When summer ended, things got even crazier. Not only was I starting my first year of high school, I was going to be the new kid. I didn’t know anyone, except Lenni—and our friendship made Bianca mad. Cursing mad. So mad, she vowed to destroy me while honing her Witcha’be craft in the hallways of Redbend High. (The fact that I’m prone to violently hiccup whenever I’m scared didn’t help matters.)

If it weren’t for my creative writing teacher’s encouragement, I don’t know how I would’ve made it through those first couple of weeks of school. Mrs. Piper taught me that God hadn’t given me a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind. Her faith in God—and in what He could accomplish through me—gave me the courage to become friends with a bitter enemy.

Thankfully, all of that is way behind me now. Bianca, Lenni, and I have remained best friends throughout our high school years, and are now excitedly sharing our college experiences through calls, text messages, and Facebook. I know it sounds cliché, but I truly believe the three of us really will stay best friends forever.

StormSeason copy

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Redbend High school seniors, Molly, Lenni, and Bianca, are enjoying their last spring break before graduation when a massive tornado touches down in the very park they are exploring. From out of nowhere, a courageous stranger appears, risking his own life to save the girls from the deadly storm, and leaving them thunderstruck.

As his injuries heal, the rescuer claims each of the girls’ hearts while reclaiming his strength. Soon Molly, Lenni, and Bianca find themselves caught in a fierce competition for the wounded hero’s affection. One hurt feeling leads to another, and before long their friendship is torn and barely hanging, like a battered leaf in a hailstorm.

Is the friendship Molly, Lenni, and Bianca share strong enough to withstand the brutal winds of jealousy, heartache, and betrayal?

Or will graduation from Redbend High really mean goodbye forever?

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Anna Kittrell

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

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EXCERPT

“What a rush!” Bianca dropped her head back and pushed off in the swing. “The rain feels amazing.” She laughed as she swung, rain soaking her hair and clothing. Lightning tore through the sky. The crack of thunder that followed seemed to shake the earth.

Molly didn’t know which was scarier—the black clouds overhead, boiling like a witch’s brew or the echo of Bianca’s laughter as she soared skyward toward the storm. Red hair flying, she winked one black-lined eye at Molly and swung even higher. Molly’s stomach churned along with the rumbling sky.

“I don’t think this is a good idea.” Lenni tucked her blonde hair behind her ear as the wind whipped more strands into her face. “I think I see a funnel.” She pointed to a monstrous cone-shaped cloud just above the train trestle.

“Seriously, Len? We’re in Oklahoma, remember?” Bianca dragged her feet in the red dirt, slowing the swing. “It’s nothing but a thunderstorm. We’re in for a little rain, at most. You might be sweet like sugar, but trust me, you won’t melt.” Bianca rolled her eyes. “Graduation is only eight weeks away. Relax and have some fun on our very last spring break together.”

Molly hiccupped loudly as the swirling cloud Lenni had pointed out dipped below the others. She always got the hiccups when she was scared. “Lenni’s right. We need to take cover.” She shot her gaze around the park, looking for shelter.

“Geez, not you, too, Mol? You’ve lived here long enough to know there’s constantly a storm on the horizon this time of year. People are always dragging one another to the cellar, only to learn it was a false alarm. Besides, do you think those guys would still be working on the trestle if a tornado was overhead?”

A big raindrop splashed the end of Molly’s nose as she looked toward the old trestle. Five or six men in bright orange vests moved quickly along the tracks, climbing over the rails and scurrying under the bridge as the rain began to pour.

Lenni widened her eyes at Molly, her gaze desperate. “The armory building beside the water tower is a community shelter. Maybe we can get in.” She clamped her hands together over her wet hair, holding it in place.

Molly glanced toward the water tower that pierced the angry sky a football-field length away. Could they make it in time? Hailstones pinged off the large metal swing set like warning shots. They had to try.

“Bianca, let’s go!” Molly screamed, the shriek of the wind stealing the words from her mouth and the breath from her lungs.

“No!”

Molly lunged for Bianca’s airborne legs. Bianca’s heavy boots landed in Molly’s chest, knocking her flat on her back in the wet grass.

Bianca jumped from the swing, landing at Molly’s side. “What the heck? Are you crazy?” Her saturated curls whipped in the wind, reminding Molly of Medusa’s snakes. “You’re lucky I’m wearing motorcycle boots instead of stilettos. You’d have been impaled,” Bianca yelled, yanking Molly up by the wrists.

“Look!” Lenni shouted, pointing toward the trestle. A man wearing a hardhat jogged in their direction, scooping his arms through the air, motioning for them to come.

Through the rain, Molly spotted a blur of orange under the bridge—the neon vests of the other workers.

The tornado siren blasted, tearing through the train-like roar of the storm as the girls took off toward the trestle. Bianca caught Molly’s arm as they ran, jerking her close, putting her mouth to Molly’s ear. “One catcall or whistle from any of those guys, and they’ll get a motorcycle boot upside the head!” she shouted.

Leave it to Bianca, looking to set a bunch of railroad workers straight as the world blew to pieces around her.

“In here!” the guy in the hardhat yelled as they neared the trestle. Bianca glared as he shoved her under the bridge beside the huddled railroad crew. Quickly he turned and grasped Lenni’s shoulder, ramming her into Bianca.

“The ground’s soft here. Watch your step!” he shouted in Molly’s ear as he pushed against her back.

She nodded then yelped as a chunk of blowing debris banged hard against her skull. Stars burst behind her eyes as loose rocks shifted beneath her feet. Hardhat Guy wrapped a strong arm around her shoulders, steadying her as he hauled her under the trestle.

“Hold on!” He pressed her fingers to the rusted steel frame of the bridge, squeezing her knuckles beneath his strong hands.

Molly gripped the rail, the rough metal biting into her palm. Rain trickled down the side of her face and into her mouth, tasting like blood.

Suddenly, Hardhat Guy lost his footing as the embankment began to crumble. He lunged for the railing, wrapping his hand around a steel beam as his hardhat jarred from his head and tumbled down the embankment. Molly turned, peeking over her shoulder to see the hat careening into the shallow creek twenty feet below.

The trestle shook as the wind roared even louder. Molly prayed as she held to the vibrating metal, convinced Satan himself must be driving his long black train over the bridge.

Mingled with the ferocious sound of the wind and clatter of hail, she thought she heard whimpering. She opened her eyes and glanced over. Next to her, Lenni held tight to the same beam Molly clutched. In the near-dark, Molly could see her eyes were squeezed shut, her mouth moving silently in prayer. Shaken up, but not crying.

Molly looked to the other side. With only half his body wedged under the shelter, their rescuer struggled to keep his grip on the steel framing. The wind ripped at his dark hair and yanked at his orange vest. His tensed muscles looked like the exposed roots of a sturdy oak tree. At his feet, a small dog whined, its eyes wide with terror. Miraculously, the animal hadn’t been blown away by the wind.

Molly scrunched her body against Lenni’s. Her stomach cartwheeled as her feet slipped, sending more stones rolling down the steep ridge. No use. There wasn’t enough space on the disintegrating ledge for all of them.

The dog pawed at the guy’s jeans, begging to be held, reminding Molly of her own Chihuahua, Boo. Her heart hurt for the scared baby. She pulled her hand from the beam and bent down to scoop up the little dog.

The rescuer beat her to it, using one hand to lift the dog by the nape of the neck and bring it to his chest. His hand trembled wildly on the rail as the wind tried to wrestle him from beneath the bridge. He needed to hold on with both hands.

“Give him here!” Molly yelled, grabbing for the dog.

The gusting wind distorted the guy’s face, turning his brown eyes to slits. Grimacing like a bodybuilder deadlifting three-hundred pounds, he pushed the dog into Molly’s hand.

And then the rescuer was gone. Sucked from beneath the trestle like a stale, floorboard French fry through a hose-vac.

What Two Elements Do You Include In a Romantic Scene?

Summer's Sweet Embrace

Summertime love is always the sweetest. These eight sweet tales of summer romance are the perfect companion for a day at the lake or the beach.

I asked the authors from the Summer’s Sweet Embrace anthology released by Roane Publishing this question:  what two elements do you like to include in a romantic scene? Sit back and read their answers.

 Michelle Ziegler, author of Truly Paradise:

I love anticipation. The knowing they will kiss, or whatever, but having to wait for it for several sentences and letting the excitement build. I don’t like to drag it out, but I love the subtle and meaning foreplay to make a romantic scene last.

Romance. Is that a duh moment?  No really. If I am going to have my characters be in a romantic scene, I want believable romance.  In real life, stolen kisses are rarely anything to make someone else swoon. So adding details that no one in real life would normally notice, like gazing into someone’s eyes or your breath hitching at each touch makes a scene more romantic for me.

Laurie Treacy, author of Ocean Dust:

Oh, I like this question! I like to include what I consider the ‘little things’ like touches and looks. And the other element I like to include are kisses. Tiny to full-blown lip locks.

Christa MacDonald, author of The Beach Rose:

Dramatic tension, definitely. As a reader there is nothing more boring than the perfectly happy couple having a perfect date ending with a perfect kiss.  Snore…  I love characters that clash despite their attraction and scenes that challenge them.  Not that they should be debating politics while free-climbing a cliff or something, but there has to be an element of tension that moves the scene, that keeps you reading.

Vulnerability.  I like to show that for the characters, this is real.  They have real hearts they’re worried about breaking, real insecurities to fight, and scars from old wounds to deal with.  A romantic moment is an emotionally vulnerable one and I think a good scene shows that.

Jaylee Austin, author of Love’s Nectar:

I enjoy writing the love/sex scene, building up to the moment when they’re connected in their relationship.

It’s fun listening to the characters internal talk when they have doubts about the other person.

Niki Mitchell, author of Love’s High Tide:

In a romantic scene, I include a catalyst and a personal reveal or insight to bring the couple closer.

Melissa J. Crispin, author of Linger:

One element I always try to include is the main character’s emotional state. As things are happening, each action should evoke a meaningful reaction and cause the couple to feel more drawn to each other. I do my best to capture that.

The second element would be the main character’s heightened senses. I feel that this helps to add a deeper dimension to the scene. Whether it’s the smell of the hero’s cologne, a meaningful song that’s playing in the background, or the taste of a kiss, I want to give the readers a strong image of what’s unfolding, with enough detail that it can be pictured like a movie playing in their minds.

Sheryl Winters, author of Above Reproach:

Understanding and tension. The first element is definitely understanding. Without understanding a character, has no depth of feeling and no reader will ever get into the scene. A reader has no reason to care about them. Tension must also be present, either from anger or from sexual tension but without tension even the lightest scene will fall flat.

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25999205-summer-s-sweet-embrace
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Guest Release–Fear Land by Rolynn Anderson

Fear Land 6E_final

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Tally Rosella, acclaimed child psychiatrist, avoids adults because their brains rant at her.  When she begins a child study to connect her findings to PTSD, devious colleagues at a California university block her progress.

Army Major Cole Messer won’t admit trauma destroyed his marriage and ability to lead.  His priorities: enroll his highly anxious son in Tally’s study and return to active duty.

 Someone is dead set against Tally’s presence at the university, and blowback from her battles put Cole and his boy in jeopardy.  Watch what happens when people struggling with shades of anxiety collide with corrupt, revengeful foes.

BUY LINK–Amazon

NOTE: This title is free August 11 and August 12. Save the link.

EXCERPT

“California.  Recycle capital of the world,” Tally muttered as she hauled two big plastic bags across the parking lot to the garbage cans.  “And I have to walk from my apartment to China to dump mine.”

At the beginning of the tricky business of lifting the container lid and hoisting one heavy bag into it, she heard, “Wait!   I’ll help,” from behind her.

Startled, she let the lid drop with a bang.  Owen Harper.  Damn his hide.  Was he watching from his kitchen window to catch me out here?  Now she was cornered behind high walls, at dusk, with a mean-headed man.  Tally pulled in air for courage, inhaling fetid odors instead.

Harper reached for her garbage bag, resting his hand on hers for a couple seconds before he pulled the plastic from her grip and dumped the bag.  She barely had time to compose herself before she faced him and said, “Thank you.”  After her minor victory with her new assistant, cutting off the corners of the woman’s bitterness, why not try it with Harper?

She handed him the second bag.  “How are you doing, neighbor?” Tally avoided his eyes by checking her hands for dirt and dusting off her black pants.  Does he hear fear wobbling my words? 

“Fine, Tally.  Saw you struggling with a heavy load.  Thought you could use some help.”

“Rescue number two,” she said, holding up two fingers.  “Nice of you.”  Neighborly chit-chat next.  “Is SLO home for you?  Do you have family nearby?”

“A half sister is all.  Sad to say we’re not close.”  His neutral expression implied he wasn’t sorry.

With a glance at her watch, Tally tried one more entrée.  “Charles tells me you’re busy all day doing interviews.”

He shrugged.  “At this stage of the study, I’m usually in my car or in a VA hospital.”  When she winced, he gave a wry smile.  “Somebody’s got to do the follow-ups.”

“Right,” she said, unable to think of another response and feeling too isolated from buildings and people.  Tally shivered, rubbed her arms and took two steps toward the opening of the corral.  Harper moved as if to block her exit.

What could she do but look up into his eyes?  Was he teasing her?  Hoping to say more?  Wanting to ask her out?  Ready to attack her?  God knew.

His brain screamed: Die Bitch.  Die Now Bitch!  Loud.  Clear.  With knife-sharp consonants.

“Oh,” Tally said, horrified.  “Forgot.  I’m the test audience for Andy’s bird show-and-tell.  Better go.”

Harper turned, squinting in the direction of Cole’s apartment.  Was he checking for a light to prove she was telling the truth?  While he was diverted, she pushed her way around him and scurried toward the complex.  “Hey, wait,” he said.  “I’ll walk you back.”

“That’s okay.  Thanks for the help.  I’m late.”

She wanted to run from him after what she’d seen in his eyes, but she walked.  Briskly.  She walked because she’d learned something very important about Owen Harper.  He got off on scaring her.  He’d misinterpreted her downcast eyes as a submissive gesture.  Damn it, avoiding his gaze had sent the wrong message.

Instead of tamping down Harper’s rant, she’d just hiked it up to a new level.  Not only did he want her to die, but inadvertently, she’d cranked up his rage to the point he wanted her to die now.

rolynn large color

Scandinavian, Army Brat, 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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