Friday, October 30, 2015

Her Undercover Defender by Debra Webb and Regan Black Excerpt

$4.49
Coming November 1

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Covert CIA specialist David Martin has his orders. Keep a terrorist cell from using Terri Barnhart as leverage to get their hands on a nearly perfected biotech weapon. Falling for her could compromise his mission and turn the dedicated nurse into a moving target. 

With her brother off the radar for three months, Terri fears the worst. Having the sexy Southerner to lean on helps—except the hospital's new staff member isn't what he seems. To survive, she'll have to trust David with her life—trusting him with her heart is something else entirely.

Excerpt from Her Undercover Defender

David Martin had the training pool to himself. The fading sunlight filtered through the windows near the ceiling, casting long pale slashes across the deck. While other people finished paperwork or made dinner plans, he soaked up the peace and quiet of the water. It was his sanctuary, the one place he could always get away from any worries. The only thing better would be time out on the ocean—or under it. He hadn’t had a real dive in months, and since his boat was stored closer to his family, in Georgia, the pool would have to suffice for today.

He pushed his body through a freestyle sprint the length of the pool, filled his lungs on the turn and then dove deep, dolphin-kicking the return lap on that single breath. He repeated the process until the timer on his watch went off. Switching to backstroke, he let his body cool down. As his lungs recovered, his mind drifted over the implications of his upcoming meeting with his boss, Director Thomas Casey.

The brief email had bordered on cryptic, which wasn’t unusual considering the unique covert operations team he’d joined two years ago. One specific phrase in the email had brought David down to swim and think: lifetime assignment.

He understood commitment as it pertained to career, family and country, having completed his education and given six years to the Coast Guard. Unfortunately, the phrase reminded him too much of the matchmaking his three oldest sisters kept attempting on his behalf. They used words like stability, comfort, nieces and nephews. As if their own kids didn’t keep everyone busy enough. Curse of being the youngest and the only boy in a big Southern family, he thought. He loved them all and appreciated the buffer of distance his skills and career choices had given him. The Coast Guard had been a smart fit, and not even his sisters had ever worked up the nerve to argue about his professional dedication. Now, believing he worked a normal day job in DC, they manipulated blind dates and chance meetings every time he was home, hoping to reel him back in and settle him down near the family home.

They seemed impervious to his personal timetable. At thirty, he wasn’t ready to do the wife and kids thing. He liked the excitement and the challenge of being a Specialist on Thomas Casey’s elite team. While he understood that going out and making a difference in the world didn’t rule out relationships—plenty of Specialists had personal lives—it sure put a damper on permanence. He wasn’t ready for that. Not yet. There was plenty of time to find the right woman.

Lifetime assignment. The two words echoed through his head as his strokes sliced through the water. What kind of threat had Director Casey taking that kind of measure?

Be ready when this title is released on November 1st and preorder your copy of Her Undercover Defender today!

Monday, October 26, 2015

New Release: Rewarding Redemption by Bonnie R. Paulson

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rewardingredemptionSomeone is going to get the treasure – but who’s going to lose their heart?
Jenny has memories of a happy childhood, of love and laughter. Then her mother’s death took everything away and created a monster in the man Jenny called dad. Her father turned out to be one of the worst outlaws Montana has ever seen. On the run for most of her life, Jenny comes full circle. Now there’s a treasure to be found and sisters she didn’t know about to save. And a man that’s hell-bent on getting to them all first. Alone, Jenny can’t survive. She’s taken on too much with very little payoff and she’s been running for years. Jason is suddenly there – the boy from her past, the good and bad. With so much at stake, she needs him more than she’ll admit. And Jason… well, Jason aches to have Jenny but he can’t turn away from the opportunity to save his name and hers. With Jason, maybe, just maybe Jenny can find everything she’s been searching for. If you’re looking for a great western romance, this book is for you
Release Day price of only $.99

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BonnieBonnie R. Paulson mixes her science and medical background with reality and possibilities to make even myths seem likely and give every romance the genetic strength to survive. Bonnie has discovered a dark and twisty turn in her writing that she hopes you enjoy as much as she has enjoyed uncovering it. Dirt biking with her family in the Northwest keeps her sane. Follow on:

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Friday, October 23, 2015

eBook Deals for October 23rd

Scandalous by R.G. Alexander
$0.99

Will it be Scandalous?

If Natasha Rivera is involved, the answer is usually yes. The owner of The Twisted Tart bakery has never been shy about expressing her opinions or her desires. The only secret she ever kept had to do with her feelings for a certain Finn and the details of their unusual relationship.

When reformed bad boy Senator Stephen Finn asks Natasha to join him for a week of political intrigue and kink, there’s no way she can say no. Nothing has changed. His star is still on the rise and she is still too wild to be tamed. Once they get their hands on each other they’re bound to cause a scandal…but it might just be worth it.

Recipe of Warning: Take one outspoken, sexually confident woman and a repressed former bad boy. Combine until sparks fly. Add voyeurism, exhibitionism, spanking, excessive quantities of explicit sex, a kinky house party and whatever pervertible you have on hand…thoroughly shake the mixture until your wrists hurt or your batteries run low. Mmmm. Yummy warning. 



A Heart Full of Christmas by Various Authors
$2.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers

There's no time like the holidays to fall into romance with some of the best-known inspirational romance authors around! No matter what part of the country (or world!) you're from, these tender, holiday themed romances make you feel the joy of a faith-filled Christmas and the tender spirit of angels with every page you turn! Join these authors as they transport you to a "Joy-to-the-World" type happy-ever-after, the kind of joy every couple deserves!

"A Miracle for Christmas", by Debby Giusti

Nurse Brigid O’Grady refuses to open her heart to NYPD DetectiveTony Calabrese, knowing she could lose him to the gang violence that killed her dad. But, while working to save a patient on Christmas Eve night, Brigid is confronted by the very danger she most fears. Can Tony save Brigid…or do they both need a miracle to make the darkness turn merry and bright?

“Home to His Heart” by Ruth Logan Herne:

Being in Ashton, Pennsylvania at Christmas time holds nothing but bad memories for Dr. Tess Cosgrove. Widower Jake Karralis is at a rough professional crossroads. When Tess meets her high school nemesis living across the street with his twin sons, the stakes suddenly change. Can the timing of a young angel and the glory of a newborn king bring peace and happiness to two troubled souls? It can, with a little help from baklava and hand-rolled cannolis!

“Under the Mistletoe” by Tina Radcliffe

Wrap your heart around a cozy little romance that starts with a red wool scarf, an angel or two, and ends with Ben Logan and Lucy Fielding under the mistletoe.

“One Snowy Kiss” by Missy Tippens:

Unlucky in love, police deputy Hardy Greenway has spent his life in the friend zone. But now he’s fallen hard for the girlfriend of his nemesis. Dori Blanchette has been waiting for a proposal. But how could she say yes when she has feelings for Hardy? With Christmas tree ornaments playing spontaneously and secrets being revealed, there’s no telling who will end up together at Christmas!

“Holiday Homecoming” by Sandra Leesmith:

Debbie fell in love with surfer, David Martin. Against her parent’s wishes, she married her first love. Would the help of an angel and the influence of the Christmas season bring forgiveness and redemption? 


Alice in Deadland Trilogy by Mainak Dhar
$2.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers

Alice in Deadland was released in November 2011 and quickly became an Amazon.com bestseller, selling more than 50,000 copies in its first three months. It was followed by its sequel, ‘Through The Looking Glass’ and ‘Off With Their Heads’, the prequel to Alice in Deadland. Now, get all three novels in the Alice in Deadland Trilogy in one single omnibus edition and immerse yourself in this bestselling adventure.

Alice in Deadland

Civilization as we know it ended more than fifteen years ago, leaving as it's legacy barren wastelands called the Deadland and a new terror for the humans who survived- hordes of undead Biters.

Fifteen year-old Alice has spent her entire life in the Deadland, her education consisting of how best to use guns and knives in the ongoing war for survival against the Biters. One day, Alice spots a Biter disappearing into a hole in the ground and follows it, in search of fabled underground Biter bases.

What Alice discovers there propels her into an action-packed adventure that changes her life and that of all humans in the Deadland forever. An adventure where she learns the terrible conspiracy behind the ruin of humanity, the truth behind the origin of the Biters, and the prophecy the mysterious Biter Queen believes Alice is destined to fulfill.

A prophecy based on the charred remains of the last book in the Deadland- a book called Alice in Wonderland.

Through The Looking Glass: Alice in Deadland Book II

More than two years have passed since Alice followed a Biter with bunny ears down a hole, triggering events that forever changed her life and that of everyone in the Deadland. The Red Guards have been fought to a standstill; Alice has restored some measure of peace between humans and Biters; and under Alice, humans have laid the foundations of the first large, organized community since The Rising- a city called Wonderland.

That peace is shattered in a series of vicious Biter attacks and Alice finds herself shunned by the very people she helped liberate. Now she must re-enter the Deadland to unravel this new conspiracy that threatens Wonderland. Doing so will mean coming face to face with her most deadly adversary ever- the Red Queen.

Off With Their Heads: The Prequel to Alice in Deadland

A few months before Alice was born and fifteen years before the dramatic events depicted in Alice in Deadland, there was The Rising. A few days that destroyed human civilization as we know it, reducing much of the world to a radioactive wasteland teeming with hordes of undead Biters and controlled by a shadowy Central Committee.

Off With Their Heads brings to life the final harrowing days of The Rising through four shorts, each depicting events through the eyes of one pivotal character in the Alice in Deadland series. See how Dr. Protima became the Queen of the Biters; feel the pain of a young man’s sacrifice as he becomes the bunny-eared Biter whom Alice later follows down a hole; follow the rise of Chen from a conflicted young Chinese Army officer to a General in the Red Guards; and finally share in the dramatic escape of Alice’s parents from a city overrun by Biters.


Mind Reader by Vicki Hinze
$3.99

From the USA Today Bestselling Author Vicki Hinze comes The Reunited Hearts, a romantic suspense series of standalone novels with couples in dangerous situations who reunite in atypical ways.

She knows a child’s life is in danger but no one believes her.
He knows she is a fraud and is out to prove it.
They seek the truth and discover it can set you free…or kill you.

In Mind Reader, (first released in 1993 and rewritten for release as a clean read in this edition), Caron Chalmers is an empath. A mind reader cursed with imaging only victims. She sees what they see, feels what they feel, endures what they endure and has since she was seven. But even with all the sensory perception and insights, sometimes she fails to save victims. Sometimes she wrongly interprets the signs—and a year ago, she did exactly that. She messed up and a victim died. Caron nearly died with her. Her “gift” shut down.

Now it’s back. There’s another victim—this time, a child—and because of the mistake made last year and the shut-down, her police contact, though aware of her many successes, isn’t willing to stake his career on her. Yet he can’t dismiss her so he calls in help from private investigator Parker Simms: a man with a past as bleak as Caron’s and a specific agenda of his own: proving Caron Chalmers is the fraud he believes her to be.

In a hostile alliance, Caron and Parker seek the truth…and discover a labyrinth of lies and deceptions that require skills and experience they have and trust they don’t but must somehow find before the child becomes another victim lost. Yet trust never comes without costs, and some are too steep to pay.

The situation grows desperate. Time for the child’s survival grows short…and for Caron and Parker, who must live with the consequences of missteps and wrong moves, this is exactly the wrong time to be on the brink of falling in love. The dire situation grows worse, the unthinkable happens, and stakes that couldn’t get any higher soar. 


Life, Soul Being Soul by Carrie Louise
$6.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers

It has been my discovery that no matter how happy, positive, or content I feel, living with more feels better. For me, "Life Soul Being Soul" makes each day feel better.

"Life, Soul Being Soul" is totally UNIQUE to each reader. Unlike the majority of self-help books, it is based on a daily routine of opening the book to a random page. This author's personal understanding of this process is that the page choice is not random but guided by God, Universe, or the user's belief in a higher power. This method means that each person's daily focus will most likely be different from every other user's.

There are approximately 200 word pages. On each page, there is one positive, inspiring word upon which to focus. The interpretation and use of the chosen word is left up to each reader, thus providing a wide-open avenue for self discovery. The book does not request change, although change is inherent in the process. The book does promote the possibility of discovering the inner self (soul) and becoming more content and involved with life.

Twilight Over Moldavia (Moldavian Moon Book 2) by Stephanie Burkhart Excerpt

$2.99

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Desert Breeze Publishing

Romanian unification is on the horizon. Prince Stefan Sigmaringen travels to Ploiesti, Carpathia. He's to be promised in marriage to the Crown Princes Caroline, a spirited young lady who prefers riding horses and archery to embroidery and dancing.

Despite Stefan's initial apprehension, he discovers that his intended is a pleasant surprise with a caring heart. He also learns a strange man named Timon has an unnatural interest in him.

Two years later, Stefan and Caroline are officially engaged. To Stefan's horror he overhears his mother confessing to a dangerous secret – she cursed him in order to conceive him and Stefan owes his body to Timon. There is a condition to overcome the curse, but Stefan will have to draw on all his courage and inner strength to confront the werewolf who desires to posses his soul. Stefan feels it isn't fair to fall in love with Caroline with a foul enchantment hanging over his head. Dare Caroline break the blood bonds of the curse with her love?




ENJOY THIS EXCERPT:

She nipped at her lower lip, and the energy between them surged. He tilted his head and drew her close, their mouths awkwardly skirting each other. Her breath, warm and hinting of apricots from the wine she had sipped earlier, ghosted over his cheek. Their lips brushed, and his pulse spiked. Gently, he continued to kiss her with hesitant exploration. She was the first woman he had ever kissed, and her lips were everything he had expected -- and more.

He placed his hands on her waist and tugged her close, pressing her against the length of his body. She put her hands on his shoulders and trailed her fingers along the nape of his neck.

Stefan groaned and increased the intensity of the kiss. Fueled by their mutual desire, his manhood grew hard. He hadn't known that feeling before. He could lose his head to it.

He broke off the kiss and drew in a breath. Confusion pooled in Caroline's expression.

"No." He paused. "I don't think we should go too fast."

"All right."

"Alina, I don't think it's wise for us to discuss Viktor," Stefan's mother said, her proximity startling him. Nervous energy spiked through him at her tone.

He placed his finger over his lips, and Caroline nodded. He furrowed his brow and gestured for her to hide behind the rose bushes near the bench with him. She did so.

His mother's and Lady Alina's footsteps echoed along the walking path.

"Viktor put all of this in motion," Lady Alina said.

Stefan's mother exhaled. "No, I did," she said, her voice heavy with regret. "I made a poor decision."

"He took advantage of you in a moment of deep pain. You were mourning the death of your son, Hadrian."

"I should have been more guarded."

"Viktor was a cunning wolf. We all thought he could be trusted."

Their footsteps stopped. Stefan prayed they couldn't hear his pounding heartbeat.

"The curse will come to fruition soon," Alina said.

Night Shade (Dreamweaver Book 1) by Helen Harper - $0.99!

$0.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers

Amazon

Zoe Lydon knows there's often nothing logical or rational about fear. It doesn't change the fact that she's too terrified to step outside her own house, however.

What Zoe doesn't realise is that she's also a dreamweaver - able to access other people's subconscious minds. When she finds herself in the Dreamlands and up against its sinister Mayor, she'll need to use all of her wits - and overcome all of her fears - if she's ever going to come out alive.

This is a new contemporary series by the author of Bloodfire.

Of Love and Betrayal by Louise Lyndon Excerpt

$4.99



Aveline de Bondeville is on the run. Determined to keep out of the hands of the cruel Raimbaut de Blois she will do whatever it takes to stay alive. And so when she finds herself in the company of Troy de Gysborne she must quickly decide if she can trust him. But can she confess to murder knowing it would mean her certain death?

Troy de Gysborne did the unthinkable; he tore the bonds of brotherhood and left a path of destruction in his wake. And now Troy must face those he betrayed, including the father who long ago renounced him. But to confess to the crime he committed will cost him everything. Including Aveline. But can he remain silent if it means losing the woman he loves?

Excerpt:

Aveline’s scream burned her throat; she tasted blood. Eudes staggered forward, his eyes wide. He looked at her as he fell to his knees and then slumped forward. Bright red blood rushed from his wound and pooled on the ground. She looked at Raimbaut.

This time you shall not escape.”

She picked up her skirts and ran headlong into the forest and did not slow her speed as branches slapped her in the face and tore at her arms. The ground beneath her feet was icy and uneven. She risked a glance over her shoulder and did not stop even though Raimbaut was nowhere to be seen. He may not have been behind her, but it did not mean he was not stalking her.

Sweat trickled down her face and burned her eyes. Her heart pumped, her lungs gasped for air. She came to a skidding stop and looked wildly around. Should she keep running straight, go left or right, or make her way back to Gysborne? She turned in a circle and shoved her hair from her eyes.

A twig snapped behind her. She stilled and held her breath. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a blur rush by. Was it an animal? Was it Raimbaut?

She ignored the pain in her chest and her sudden need to loosen her bladder. But she could not ignore her trembling. She clutched her arms to her chest. A sour taste flooded her mouth as she did not see how she would be lucky enough a second time to escape from Raimbaut.

AUTHOR BIO:
Louise grew up in country Victoria, Australia, before moving to England, where for sixteen years she soaked up the vibrancy of London and the medieval history of England. She has since returned to Australia and now lives in Melbourne.

In 2013, Louise won first prize in the historical romance category of the Crested Butte Sandy Writing Contest for her story, The Promise, which has since been retitled and is now known as, Of Love & Vengeance.

When not writing, Louise can be found covered in mud, crawling under barbed wire and hoisting herself over twelve foot walls!

AUTHOR LINKS:
EMAIL:  louise_lyndon@yahoo.com
WEB:
  www.LouiseLyndon.com
FACEBOOK:
  www.facebook.com/pages/Louise-Lyndon/1472910852955051
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https://twitter.com/LouiseLyndon1
PINTEREST:
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GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/LouiseLyndon

Celia and the Wolf (Shapeshifter Journals Book 1) by Donna Maloy

$2.99



Winner, 2014 Lyra Award for Juvenile Fiction from Bookstore Without Borders.

The year is 1806. Fourteen-year-old Celia Ashleigh is impatient to become a Deputy of the Crown, like all the other shapeshifting firstborn Ashleighs. When a very handsome French boy asks for her father’s help in rescuing his abducted sister, she doesn’t tell him her father’s away–she takes the mission herself. But Remy Broussard hadn’t told her he and his sister are werewolves, nor that they’re being hunted by the dangerous Guardian of La Cluse. The Guardian’s plan is to have frightened villagers kill Remy’s little sister on the night Lilette “changes” for the first time--the night before All Saints Day.

When a gypsy girl (who can turn invisible) joins Celia and Remy, Celia realizes that, for the first time, she has friends who are “gifted” just like her. But despite her enthusiasm and good intentions, and their help, she makes several crucial mistakes that jeopardize both her mission and Remy’s family.

As she comes closer to finding Lilette, Celia realizes The Guardian is actually insane with hatred… and his hatred extends to anyone who is not completely human. Like Celia.


Excerpt:


Non. You already know too much, Celia. It cannot help to tell more. I am lost and so is Lilette.”  Remy turned his face away.

He didn’t seem quite so rude now or superior. In fact, I almost felt sorry for him. Except he was too distrustful—and stubborn—to believe in the one person who could help him. Why couldn’t he understand we were practically the same, he and I? We both had to hide our true selves from people who wouldn't understand. I would never betray him. Besides, Deputies of the Crown were experts at keeping other people's secrets—and doing what we promised.
“You’re not lost, Remy. I told you I’d rescue your sister and I always keep my word. But you must tell me what I need to know. The ship might reach shore any time now and we have to make plans.”
He turned and looked at me intently. “You can promise? No matter what happens, you will never tell anyone that I am loup-garou?”
“Of course I can promise that. On my word as a Crown Deputy… in training. No one would believe it, anyway.”
“They believe it where I live. At least some do. That is why Lilette is in danger.”
“She’s a werewolf, too?”
“Not yet. But she will be five days from now. The last night of this full moon is also the night of her twelfth birthday. The night she will change for the first time. And then they will have to kill her. They will have no choice.”
Have to? What do you mean?”
He shook his head. “Celia, remember that a loup-garou is completely the wolf. Eh bien. When the moon rises that, Lilette will become the wolf. Then they will let her go.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?”
Non, that is terrible. There will be no one there to guide her first change, or protect her. The man who holds her calls himself The Guardian. But he is a fiend! He will make certain Lilette is hungry when he lets her go. As hungry as only a wolf can get. With many small animals and people around to tempt her. The villagers will have weapons to ‘protect’ themselves.”
Remy’s eyes held mine fast. I sucked in a hard breath, suddenly realizing what he was saying. I could almost picture it in my mind.
“Tell me, Celia, what do you expect those people with weapons will do when they see a girl become a wild, scared, hungry wolf?”
###
Later, two farm hands came walking down the stone road. Calling out merrily, they made their way up to us.   
Both boys were dressed in blue woolen coats and short dark trousers, and each wore a pewter pin on his shirt—a dragon with a sword. An odd sort of jewelry for farmers.
Bonjour. It is you, Monsieur Broussard, non?” The older boy scowled at Remy’s embroidered vest and rudely left his hat on.
Remy nodded tightly. “Alain. Bastien. You are far from your horses and pigs.”
“And you are far from your castle.”
Alain smirked at Remy’s embarrassed look. “We’re going ‘round the villages, inviting everyone to a festival tomorrow night in La Cluse. Will you come?”
“Of course,” Remy said stiffly.
“Good,” said the other one, Bastien. “Don’t forget. It’s to be the night before Toussaint, All Hallow Day. Everyone is to wear a mask of something fearsome, like a warrior or a monster. His excellency the magistrate, your father, is especially asked to come.”
Remy looked ill. I had a sick feeling I knew why.
Bastien nodded farewell, giving me a broad grin as if he had nothing but fun on his mind. Perhaps he didn’t. Perhaps he didn’t know what it all meant.
Alain looked as if he wanted to say something else, but then shrugged and joined Bastien on the road to a cluster of slate-roofed houses.
When they were out of sight, Radilu peeked around Crumpet’s shoulder. “Who was that?”
“I can guess,” I said slowly. “They brought a message from The Guardian, didn’t they? About something more than tomorrow night’s ‘festival.’”
Oui.” Remy slumped. “I think that is when they plan to kill Lilette.”

Filicide by Daniel Zellar Excerpt

$2.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers

Amazon

Like all 17-year-olds, Molly Porter had never heard of the Filicide Program. She learned its name the day her parents tried to murder her. On that day, every parent in her secluded, North Carolina beach town conspired to kill their own children, and many of Molly’s friends did not survive the night.

But what is the Filicide Program? How could an entire community of loving mothers and fathers turn on their own in a day? And why?

These questions will haunt Molly as she scrambles to keep her two younger brothers—and herself—safe from the two people she thought would always be on her side no matter what. Her mom and dad have "switched," and now they will never stop hunting her. Either she must kill her parents or they will kill her, unless…

Unless Molly stays alive long enough to unravel this conspiracy and answer the most important question of all:

How do you stop the Filicide Program?


Prologue:

She drew a smiley face inside of a heart on his paper lunch bag, just as she loved to do for him every morning before school, so she certainly didn't look like a mother who was two minutes away from murdering her own son.
The switch hadn't activated yet. 
Carol Hutchins was still herself when she ambled down the stairs in her slippers and robe that morning. She was still herself when she put on a pot of coffee, and when she let Riffraff, the two-year-old German Shepherd, out in the back yard. She sat at the kitchen table and skimmed CNN on her iPad while waiting for the coffee to brew. Just like every morning. 
There was no need to check on Scotty and make sure he was out of bed. Scotty was one of those 12-year-olds who actually enjoyed school, and she knew he'd be down soon all on his own, excited to seize another day. 
The coffeemaker gurgled to a finish. She poured a mug and took the lunch bag she'd made for him last night out of the fridge. After drawing the heart and smiley face on it with all the care that only a mom can give in such a simple gesture, she returned to the kitchen table. 
Riffraff wagged his tail at the back door, ready to come in, but she ignored him. She didn't let him in because at some point between the counter and the table—
The switch had activated. 
Riffraff was big for his age, already 85 pounds, and she couldn't predict how he'd react to what was about to happen. Better to keep him outside, a non-factor. She'd let him in later after cleaning up the blood. 
Scotty's footsteps rumbled overhead as he bounded down the stairs, then he darted into the kitchen with a backpack on his shoulders and a smile on his face. He had the same smile as her, and the same eyes and the same hair color. Without stopping, he snatched his lunch off the counter and bolted toward the kitchen door leading into the garage.
"Hey, Mom. Thanks for lunch!"
"Hold it. What's the rule about running inside?" 
He halted and turned, speaking fast: "Sorry, Nate and I are gonna race our bikes to school today." 
"Wear your helmets." If she showed any sign of being different after the switch, Scotty didn't seem to notice. She looked and talked like she always did. It's just that now, she was acting. And waiting for the right moment.
"I know," he said, turning back toward the garage.
"Hang on, mister. Give me a hug." She rose from the table and crossed the kitchen, walking within reaching distance of a hammer. The past two evenings after work, her husband had helped Scotty build a Purple Martin birdhouse for the back yard, and last night he'd left the hammer on the counter by the back door.
But Carol passed by it. There were more efficient methods.
She opened her arms to hug him. "I love you, angel." 
He gave her a quick hug back. "Love you, too." He let go, but she did not. He rolled his eyes and hugged her again. "Mooooom, I'll see you after school."  
The counter closest to the garage had a knife block on top of it. As she hugged Scotty tighter with one hand, she drew a carving knife with an eight-inch blade in the other. 
He didn't scream. Maybe he was too shocked or too confused, or most likely, he simply couldn't. The knife entered the right side of Scotty's neck and had no doubt severed his larynx before the tip broke through the left side of his neck. His jaw gaped. Blood pooled in his mouth then overflowed onto his lips and chin. His shoulders shuddered and he would have collapsed, except she was still hugging him tightly with her other hand. 
That's all the force it took—one thrust from one hand, and her one son was dead.
Her fingers relaxed around the knife handle, leaving it impaled through his neck. Scotty's head went limp, bobbing twice, then fell to a rest against the handle. He looked peaceful, as if taking a nap on it.
Carol had to be at the Sands Club for brunch in two hours to make sure everything was set for tonight’s gala, and she still had to shower and put on her face, so it was time to get busy cleaning.
She kissed him one last time on the forehead and eased him to the floor.
She’d meant what she said before—she loved her little angel and always would—it's just that the switch had activated and... well, she didn't know why, exactly, but she knew with every fiber of her being that she'd had to kill her son.
Hadn't she?  
The question loomed in her head as she drifted toward the cleaning closet. Her body ran on auto-pilot, somehow grabbing trash bags and a mop, while her mind replayed everything, trying to convince herself it had to be done. But had it? 
Riffraff barked, still standing at the back door. Only now his tail pointed up stiffly and his ears angled forward, alert. All of his focus on Carol. 
She met his anxious stare and the faintest hint of tears glittered in her eyes. 
"It's all right, Riffraff. Mommy will let you back in in just a bit." 
He barked again and cocked his head the way dogs always do when trying to understand humans. 
1.
The most notorious urban legend about the bridge went like this: a Wall Street banker drove his wife and three kids all the way down from Connecticut to North Carolina for their annual two-week beach vacation, but as soon as they'd parked at their house on the island, he started walking back. After ten hours in the car with them, he'd had it. At some point as he was crossing the mile-and-a-half bridge over Bogue Sound, it occurred to him that the height was likely high enough to kill himself, so he jumped. It was not high enough. A gentleman out for a Saturday cruise on his Hatteras Yacht saw him smack the water, pulled him out and sped him up to Morehead City, where doctors determined he'd fractured his spine in two places and would spend the rest of his life confined to his bed, surrounded by his wife and three kids.  
If the story had a message at all, it was the last thing on Molly Porter's mind as she accelerated her Jeep Cherokee onto the bridge toward the island. She was busy laughing at the bug-eyed expression Claire was making in the passenger seat. 
Claire had Molly's graded test paper and waved it in front of the steering wheel, taunting: "Your dad's going to kill youuu! He's totally gonna kill—"
Molly tried to snag it but Claire whipped it up through the sunroof and held it, flapping in the wind. Molly couldn't reach it and drive at the same time, but she could reach Claire's face—specifically, the sunglasses on Claire's face, which she yanked off and dangled out her own window. 
"Give it back or your Roxys go in the sound!" They were zooming up the bridge's peak now, 80 feet above the water, and that first really good taste of salty ocean air filled the Jeep. 
"Fine, here. Here's your lousy C+." Claire tossed the paper at Molly's chest. Of course, it never made it. The draft between the open windows caught it and Molly's Spanish midterm shot out of the Jeep like a jet ski. Both girls' mouths hung open, then they burst into giggles. The kind of giggles all high schoolers have on their way home from Friday classes, giddy about the endless, limitless weekend before them. 
Molly twirled the sunglasses by their stems. "I should absolutely torch these for that," but she dropped them in Claire's lap instead.   
"Thanks. Sorry about your test. For real, though: your dad's gonna be pissed. How does someone who spent all last summer in Costa Rica only manage a C in Spanish?"
"Don't call him my dad, that's weird." Richard had been Molly's stepfather for two years now, but she wasn't used to the whole "Dad" thing yet. That is, if she ever would be. 
"Just admit it: all you did down there was surf, didn't you?" 
 Molly wasn't yet used to her friends being jealous of Costa Rica, either. She'd be a senior next fall and Richard was obsessed with her earning a merit scholarship to college. All her friends knew he'd sent her down there solely to work in an outreach program, but all they'd seemed to hear was, "Costa Rica: home to some of the best waves on the planet." 
"That was like a year ago and most of my group spoke English anyway. Besides, he's not gonna know about the test since you blew it into the sound, bee-otch." 
Both girls cracked-up again.
The quartz-colored sand of Claire's driveway crunched under Molly's tires. An actual cement driveway was buried somewhere under there, but Claire's house was down near The Point, the southern tip of the island where the ocean met the sound, and where the ever-shifting sand didn't exactly cater to the landscaping preferences of beach residents, even those as wealthy as Claire's parents.  
Claire checked a text on her phone. "Okay, it's for sure: Ryan's parents aren't coming back before the bridge closes tonight." After the ferry shut down a decade ago, the bridge was the only way by car on or off the island, and its wear and tear had started to show. In January, the NCDOT stated the bridge couldn't go another summer tourist season without repairs and they scheduled a maintenance closure for this entire first weekend in April. "They're getting a keg. So are you coming out or what?"  
"I'm supposed to watch Ben and Nate tonight. Your parents are going to that gala-thingy, too, right?”
"Can’t they get a babysitter? They’re not your kids."
"I don't mind. Ben is so cute, you have no idea. He does this thing where—"
“How come you never go out anymore? And when you do you don’t even drink.”
"Claire-Bear, sweetie, you say that like it's a bad thing. Why don’t you come hang out til it’s over? We could watch—"
“You want me to stay in with you and your munchkin brothers... on a Friday night? Wow. Your stepdad has seriously gotten in your head. Maybe we should fish that Spanish midterm out of the water and show it to him." 
"Yo, Spanish is muy hardo. Comprendo, ese?"
"For real for real: you're telling me Mr Tightwad isn't getting to you? You’re so different now. Ever since—“
"Yeah, yeah—ever since I got back from Costa Rica, right?"
"No. I was gonna say you've been different since before you even left." 
Claire looked past her massive, four-story house, out at a lone pelican gliding over the breakers. They usually flew in groups. "I miss my partner in crime." 
And with that, Claire got out, swung her bookbag over her tanned shoulders curving out of her tank top, and trotted toward the steps. Every oceanfront house had a ground floor that was just a garage and stilts, with the actual front door up a flight of wooden stairs on a wraparound porch. When Claire's flipflop clacked on the first step, Molly called to her:
"Hey, maybe I'll see y'all later." 
Claire smiled, but it was one of those forced smiles, like she didn't believe her. Molly couldn't blame her because the truth was, Claire was right: Molly had been neglecting her friends and that needed to be rectified, whether Richard liked it or not. Tonight, she'd find a way to that party.
As she backed out, she thought about how notice of the bridge closure had been plastered all over the island for months. The high schoolers had lucked out—Ryan's party was only possible because his parents decided at the last minute to stay at their mainland house for the weekend. The adults' gala, on the other hand—not only had some genius accidentally planned it for the same night as the closure, but none of the other adults even noticed in time to reschedule it. Really? What morons, Molly smirked.    

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Holidays in Ocean Alley: Special to the Jolie Gentil Series by Elaine Orr

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Aunt Madge is staying briefly in Ocean Alley's Silver Times Assisted Living Apartments. That's what happens when you stand on a stool to hang garland and lose your balance. Her niece Jolie's good friend Scoobie has been known to call the place detention central.

Madge's broken wrist and ankle are healing enough that she hopes to join the family at her Cozy Corner Bed and Breakfast for Christmas. The body that falls into her apartment in the wee hours one morning kind of changes things.

Could the killer have come into the building intent on murder, or was it a crime of opportunity? Madge has a list of suspects, including a woman who wants an apartment vacated so she can move in and a philandering former professor of Scoobie's.

Does the killer think Aunt Madge knows something she shouldn't? Will Madge follow the advice she regularly gives Jolie -- to accept that she may not ever know all the answers? It's not looking like it.

* * *

In this "between the numbers" book of the Jolie Gentil series, the story is told from Aunt Madge and Scoobie's points of view. Readers often say these are their favorite characters, and with Aunt Madge laid up, Jolie has a few other things on her mind.

Catch of a Lifetime by Candee Fick Excerpt

$1.99 - Coming November 2, 2015

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He breathes football. She shudders at the very mention of the sport. After a tragedy involving a football player destroyed her family, athletic trainer and graduate student, Cassie moves across the country looking for a fresh start, but a change in financial aid lands her in the middle of her worst nightmare. Meanwhile, rookie coach Reed worries his dream career will slip away as injuries plague his players and his star receiver teeters on the brink of ineligibility. As the two work together to salvage the season, sparks fly, and Reed must eventually choose between the game and the woman he loves.





Excerpt:

It’s about time you showed up.”
Cassie Parker stiffened and turned her attention from the retreating receptionist to the silver-haired football coach glaring across his desk.
I’m sorry, but I only found out an hour ago that the university hired someone to teach aerobics and eliminated my graduate assistantship position. I understood that I wasn’t supposed to report until classes start next Monday.”
Then I suppose it’s a good thing you decided to report early.” Coach Thomas raised an eyebrow and leaned back in his black leather chair.
He thought it was a good thing to have her hopes crash to the mat? Not exactly. But she’d trained for years to get back up after a fall.
If only getting up wasn’t so hard to face this time.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Just like Mom always said.
She squared her shoulders and removed an envelope from her handbag. “Like your receptionist said, I’m Cassie Parker—a new graduate student in the Health and Exercise Science program.” She unfolded the financial aid packet and slid the paperwork across the desktop.
She swallowed hard as he picked up the papers and read the first page. “You’re our newest academic adviser, since the guy we had lined up left with a family emergency.”
He flipped through the rest of the pages, snatched a pen from his holder, signed the last page with a flourish, and slid the papers back to her. Making the position official.
Feeling a little light-headed, she perched on the edge of a chair with her handbag in her lap. A tension headache pounded in her temples.
Maybe skipping lunch to save her dwindling cash hadn’t been such a good idea.
So, Coach Thomas, what do I need to know?”
We’re a Division I football team with a lot of work ahead of us if we’re going to win our conference championship or reach a Bowl game again. As you said, classes start Monday, and the first game against our in-state rival is less than two weeks away. Your primary job will be to help keep our athletes academically eligible.”
Eligible?
She wanted to ask for specifics on how she was expected to keep them “eligible.” Did they even know what a book was? Cassie bit her lip. Sometimes the fine line between being blunt and being mean challenged her.
The head coach rambled on about NCAA rules and regulations while printing out and handing her more papers. Team schedules for the next two weeks. Instructions to have her classes rescheduled for mornings. She hoped to find everything written down somewhere because, as if performing on the balance beam, she still teetered one misstep shy of an emotional collapse. Why had moving across the country to pursue her dream landed her in the middle of a nightmare?
She rubbed a hand over her aching forehead. In exchange for full tuition and a stipend for living expenses, she would be in frequent contact with football players. She glanced around the room in search of a miracle, but framed photographs or autographed footballs covered every surface. The walls crowded in, looming over her.
Just like in Judge Whitworth’s private chambers eighteen months ago. No miracle in sight. Could she really spend hours around jocks with egos the size of Texas and muscles to match? Of all the programs available, why did hers have to be football?
God, why are you doing this to me?
Not to mention, with your undergrad degree, you can pitch in and help the training staff at practices and games,” Coach Thomas continued.
Games?” Not even her weekends were safe. Her stomach hurt.
What other information had she missed?
Yes, games. That’s what we do around here.” The sarcasm in the air threatened to strangle her. “Unless you don’t think you’re qualified.”
Qualified?” Cassie frowned. “I can tape ankles with the best of them.”
We’ll see.”
Hey, Boss?” A blond giant of a man rounded the corner and stopped. His pale blue eyes surveyed the room and widened when they landed on her—as if he’d never seen a girl in a dress before. A flash of appreciation appeared as his gaze swept over her, and a smile slowly formed. Spread.
Her heart thundered in response. Likely in dismay over the source, she decided. While she had wanted to look nice when meeting her new supervisor, she hadn’t felt the need to impress a bunch of football players. Yet here she sat, facing a handsome hulk, who—based on the Front Range University football logo on his dark green polo shirt—unfortunately counted as part of the enemy camp.
She weighed the benefit of the job against the violent impact of her past and decided she must try to get along.
She forced a weak smile and nodded a greeting.
The man seemed to gather his wits and turned toward the head coach. “I wondered—”
Perfect timing. Cassie?” Coach Thomas stood. “This is Reed Worthington, our receivers’ coach. And, Reed, Cassie is our newest academic adviser and will also be helping the trainers.”
She extended her hand as good manners dictated. Reed’s huge palm squeezed her tiny bones. “Ouch.”
Oops. Sorry.” Reed released her hand. Well-defined muscles bulged from his short sleeves.
Cassie rubbed the sting out of her crumpled fingers while trying to ignore the tingle of awareness his touch sparked. He probably spent hours in the weight room—and equal time staring at himself in the mirror. Probably had girls fawning all over him to ogle his bodybuilder physique. Likely all brawn, no brains.
Reed? I need you to give Cassie a tour so she can find the academic center and training facilities. Then you can finish up that practice film before our staff meeting later.”
No problem, Boss.” Reed’s deep voice was too cheery to fit her mood.
The man behind the desk found his first smile. “I told you to stop calling me that.”
Sure thing … Boss.”
Another glance at the giant—who seemed so unlike a reed—revealed twinkling blue eyes and a dimpled cheek, as if he hid a smile. An expression that almost made her want to like him.



Horror Within: 8 Book Boxed Set - $0.99!

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****8 Book Boxed Set**** For a limited time at
$0.99! Something for every horror lover in this 831 page set.



Armand Rosamilia - Dying Days ~ Sunny
Florida, beautiful beaches, no traffic on A1A... Zombies roaming the dunes in search of the living... Darlene Bobich in a fight to survive



Travis Tufo - Red Sky ~ Joseph
loved life, his farm and his wife. That is until he was torn away to fight in
the war. His easy going attitude quickly died as he became a cold blooded
killer for the Russian Army. His main objective remained of wanting to return
to his simple life, but was this even possible?



Tony Baker - From The Ashes ~ Harold
Lancaster, a retired cop, woke one morning to find himself in the middle of
hell. He had seen many things over twenty-five years in law enforcement, but
that experience had not prepared him for this insanity. In a coordinated
worldwide attack, terrorists had unleased a mutated virus. This virus that did
not kill outright, it did something far worse.



Eric A. Shelman - Dead Hunger ~ Something happened to the
earth. Inexplicable. Not a product of man, but of nature.

Now Flex Sheridan and Gem Cardoza must do all
they can to protect Flex's six-year-old neice Trina and find ways to survive a
massive outbreak that has caused most of humankind to metamorphose into the
walking dead.



Ian Woodhead - The Unwashed Dead ~ The
few law-abiding citizens left alive in Breakspear Gardens have locked their
doors and shut the curtains on this Friday night. They dare not venture out
after the sun goes down. The druggies, drunks, and feral kids rule the streets
in the roughest housing project in northern England - a place where anything
can be had, at a low price - the neighborhood you never want to live in.

Tonight, the streets are strangely quiet. Headaches, nausea, and
sickness are targeting criminals and residents alike. The untainted soon
discover the horror of their plight, as their friends, families, and neighbors
begin to die ... and are reborn as voracious, ravening beasts!



Robert Chazz Chute - This Plague Of Days ~ The war for the future has
begun and the greater numbers are on the side of the infected. Terrorists
created the plague and made ordinary civilians into rabid bio-weapons. The
Ungrateful Living and the rabid cannibals all share one thing in common: they
are just like you.



Mark Tufo - Zombie Fallout + Bonus Short Mayan
Prophecy ~ It was a flu season like no other. With the H1N1 virus running rampant throughout
the country, people lined up in droves to try and attain one of the coveted
vaccines. What was not known was the effect this largely untested, rushed to
market, inoculation was to have on the unsuspecting throngs.

Within days, feverish folk throughout the country convulsed, collapsed, and died, only
to be reborn. With a taste for brains, blood, and bodies, these modern-day
zombies scoured the lands for their next meal. Overnight the country became a
killing ground for the hordes of zombies that ravaged the land.



Scott Nicholson/ J.T. Warren - Meat Camp ~ In a
desperate attempt to save their land from tax foreclosure, Delphus Fraley and
his daughter open a camp for at-risk kids, with the goal of building character
through experience in the Appalachian Mountain outdoors.

But a strange infection contaminating the camp's mess hall soon triggers a violent
rampage. As the isolated camp turns into a bloodbath, camp counselor Jenny
Usher first fights to save the children, and then finds she must fight to save
herself.

Because this infection doesn't just kill, it brings the dead back to
life...

Zombiestan by Mainak Dhar

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From the author of the sensational Amazon.com bestseller, Alice in Deadland, comes another unique and action packed take on the zombie genre.

It began with stories of undead Taliban rampaging through Afghan villages, and faster than anyone could have anticipated; the darkness spreads through the world.

In a world laid waste by this new terror, four unlikely companions have been thrown together- a seventeen year old boy dealing with the loss of his family, a US Navy SEAL trying to get back home, an aging, lonely writer with nobody to live for, and a young girl trying to keep her three year old brother safe.

When they discover that the smallest amongst them holds the key to removing the scourge that threatens to destroy their world, they begin an epic journey to a rumoured safe zone high in the Himalayas. A journey that will pit them against their own worst fears and the most terrible dangers- both human and undead.

A journey through a wasteland now known as Zombiestan.

Make You Burn (The Deacons of Bourbon Street) by Megan Crane

$2.99
    Meet the Deacons of Bourbon Street, bad boy bikers who are hell on wheels—and heaven between the sheets. Megan Crane revs up an irresistible new series co-written with Rachael Johns, Jackie Ashenden, and Maisey Yates.

    Sean “Ajax” Harding’s oaths are inked into his skin. Once second-in-command of the Deacons of Bourbon Street motorcycle club, he left New Orleans to protect the brotherhood, and only the death of his beloved mentor, Priest Lombard, could lure him back. Walking into the old hangout gives him a familiar thrill—especially when he gets an eyeful of the bar’s delectable new owner. A wild ride with her is just the welcome Ajax needs. Then he realizes that she’s Priest’s daughter, all grown up and totally off limits.

    Sophie Lombard loved her father, not his lifestyle. She’s done with bikers . . . until Ajax roars into town—arrogant, tough, and sexy as ever. And although he treats her like the Catholic schoolgirl he once knew, Sophie’s daydreams tend to revolve around sin. With the very real possibility of heartbreak looming, Sophie knows better than to get too close to an outlaw. But every touch from Ajax is steamier than the Louisiana bayou—and heat like this may just be worth getting burned.

    Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
    Excerpt:
    She was an accident waiting to happen.
    To him, if he had anything to say about it. And he usually did.
    Sean Harding—who answered only to his biker road name, Ajax, and he could count the number of times he’d had to correct someone about that on one hand—figured she was his own fucked up Welcome Back card after ten years of exile from the only home he’d ever known.
    And as welcomes went, she’d do.
    She was a lick of sweet sugar on a sweaty Louisiana afternoon like this one, still hot as hell in early October. She wore tight and sparkling gold hot pants that made her fine  ass into a kind of bayou music, sexy and dark. She was in high, high shoes that showed off long legs made to wrap tight around a man’s back while he fucked them both through the nearest wall. She had a giant, golden, feather headdress on her head that moved when she did, a glittery mask across her eyes in case he’d forgotten he was back in the great and gritty pageant of New Orleans and all its masquerades, and most important, she wore nothing but tasseled gold pasties on her perfect, mouthwatering tits.
    None of which would have been worthy of notice or comment on Bourbon Street after dark, in all its edgy commotion and the enveloping, inviting sin on all sides, but it was high noon on a goddamned Tuesday and she was moving gracefully in and out of groups of tourists in pastels and fanny packs who were still sober enough to keep their hands to themselves—if not their eyes. Or their cameras.
    Home sweet fucking home, Ajax thought in a hard kind of satisfaction, following the twitch of her ass as she sauntered straight down the center of dirty, dangerous, sometimes magical Bourbon Street in the direction of the Priory, the bar that had once been the center of his entire world. Almost like she knew he was heading there now, and was leading him home like the horny, not-too-bright but clearly exhibitionist stripper he sincerely hoped she was.
    Well. It had been home until ten years ago when Priest, the only version of a father Ajax had ever acknowledged, much less respected, had issued the order that changed everything. And Ajax might have told his actual, biological father to go fuck himself—a message he’d backed up with his fists, a piece of rebar, and his first arrest for assault when he’d been all of fourteen—but Priest had been the President of the Deacons of Bourbon Street Motorcycle Club and Ajax didn’t defy his MC’s orders. He’d been the VP, a position he’d fucking earned. He’d obeyed and enforced his president’s orders, even the ones he didn’t like, because they’d been good for the club and that was the only thing that had mattered to him.
    It still was.
    Even if that kind of blood loyalty meant he’d had to leave his beloved club, his brothers, and his city behind in the wake of a bullshit deal gone bad, all a part of Priest’s attempts to bring the once-outlaw MC over to the right side of the law. Less hassle, more money, Priest had said, and Ajax had backed him.
    Ajax had always backed Priest. He’d taken an oath to the Deacons when he was sixteen, the youngest full member ever to be patched into the club, and he’d meant every word. He was a man whose oaths were inked into his skin, his promises visible art he wore on his body and had carved into it, proudly. He didn’t break his fucking promises.
    He believed in the life he’d chosen. Even if he’d been exiled from that life for the past ten years.
    But now Priest was dead. And that changed everything. It had brought Ajax home at last. He’d been on his bike and headed east from Houston within the hour of getting that call from the Deacons’ old lawyer.
    He hadn’t particularly enjoyed the life he’d crafted for himself since he’d left New Orleans. Ajax had been an excellent mercenary, mostly because he hadn’t given much of a shit if he survived each operation. And maybe because of that, he and the outfit he’d worked for were damned good at what they did. Sometimes they’d acted as security for shady motherfuckers who wanted the nuclear option at their fingertips should shit fall apart, which it often did. Sometimes they’d operated as their own form of Special Forces for assholes who could afford to buy their own, personal armies. They sold their services to the highest bidder and they didn’t ask any questions. It was nothing Ajax hadn’t done in one form or another for his club, but it wasn’t his club.
    It was never his club.
    Mercenary work was a collection of dangerous men who happened to band together and might at any moment shoot each other in the back if shit went down that way, never a brotherhood. Never any kind of family.
    Never a cause Ajax would consider wearing on his own skin.
    Ajax had always intended to return to his home and his club one day. Preferably by riding his shit-kicking Dyna, black as sin and a hundred times louder, straight into the heart of the French Quarter with his cut on his back and his middle finger held high. But ten years of working as a hired gun in some of the world’s least hospitable places—worse, even, than the shithole shack out in the bayou where he’d been born and beaten on by his drunk asshole of a father for his first fourteen years—had taught him the value of reconnaissance and restraint. Or anyway, how to fake it when it suited him.
    Thinking about ancient history and all the grief that went along with it pissed him off.
    And when Ajax got pissed off, he fought or he fucked until he felt right again, and not always in that order.
    So when Miss Gold Hot Pants pushed her way past a pack of drooling engineer-types, all chinos and narrow shoulders, to enter the Priory, Ajax decided it was a sign. He could keep his grief and his fury to himself. And he wouldn’t mind a quick, hot, satisfying bang in the Priory toilets to take the edge off the only version of mourning he’d allow himself, before he got down to business. It wouldn’t be the first time.
    He stared down the engineers until they dispersed like a cloud of tiny little flies—when he’d hoped they’d be wasted enough to mouth off to him so he could indulge in the great joy of shoving his boot up an ass or two—and then he followed her inside and just like that, he was home.
    There were a lot fewer Deacons in the dim interior than there had been ten years ago. None, in fact. No Priest behind the bar, scowling ferociously around a Marlboro Red and refusing to serve the dumbass tourists who staggered in, drunk off their asses and too stupid to notice that they weren’t in a safe place. Something that was also true of the Big Easy herself, the faithless bitch, but that didn’t seem to stop folks from swarming down to the city anyway like they wanted to make themselves another crime statistic or sad story the ghost tour operators would embellish for tips.
    Ajax could almost see the ghost of the old man down there at the far reach of the bar, could almost smell his cigarette smoke as the ceiling fans moved it around and made it a part of the humid Louisiana air. Fuck you, Priest, he thought ferociously. You weren’t supposed to die alone.
    “I did it,” the girl with the perfect tits announced grandly to the mostly-empty bar, because it was still early in the week and in the day, and only October besides. “I said I would do it and I did.”
    She still had that sculpted back turned to him, a lush, supple thing with intricate angel wings tattooed on each of her shoulder blades. Girly ink, sure, but with a body like that, who was Ajax to question whether or not she was one of New Orleans’s resident saints? He could think of several ways he’d like to pray with a gritty little street angel like this one, and that was just his cock talking. His head had always been far more creative, even after zero sleep and a long, hot ride, to say nothing of the significantly less fun drive in from outside Baton Rouge. Because there wasn’t much left on this earth that Ajax feared, but only a dumbass rolled up into a city after a ten year absence without his brothers at his back.
    Ajax was a lot of things, including a little too hot for a stripper in a Vegas-style headdress at the moment, but he was no dumbass. Dumbasses tended to die ugly deaths in the places he’d been, this one included.
    He moved to the bar, instinctively situating himself at the shortest part of its L, where he could keep his back to the mirrored wall and his eyes on the rest of the Priory with those rolling doors pulled wide open to bring the hectic mess of Bourbon Street inside.
    “I don’t get why you had to do it,” the current bartender said.
    She looked cute and perky, like she’d gotten lost on her way to a sorority house at Tulane, which left Ajax completely cold. He missed the foul-mouthed, big-titted biker bitches and hot little sweet butts who’d worked here back in the day, all dressed in leather and attitude problems and visible ink. It caused him physical pain to think of the Priory—his Priory—as nothing more than a French Quarter tourist trap like that joke Pat O’Brien’s around the way, dispensing watered-down Hurricanes and bullshit to every imported frat boy in a fifty mile radius.
    “But,” Tulane continued with a blinding cheerleader’s smile that was completely out of place here to Ajax’s way of thinking, “I support your right to go topless in the middle of the Quarter if you feel like you have to, Sophie. You know that.”
    Ajax went still. Very still. The way he’d learned to do in far-off jungles where the faintest twitch of a single muscle meant a blown off head, at best.
    No fucking way, he thought. And then again.
    But he’d seen too much to believe in coincidences. What were the chances that another girl with the same name as Priest’s sweet little daughter—an actual Catholic schoolgirl ten years ago and in Ajax’s memory a fucking baby barely old enough to merit a training bra—would wander into the Priory and also happen to have a close relationship with the bartender? He stared at the golden hot pants and the angel wings. That ass. He ignored that roaring thing in him that urged him to clear the bar and put his hands on this girl he’d followed halfway across the city without ever seeing more of her face than a hint of jaw, a flutter of fake eyelashes—
    Keep your hands to yourself, asshole, he told himself harshly, though in his head he sounded a lot like the ghost he still half-saw looming there in the shadows at the other end of the bar.
    She turned then, displaying those perfect fucking tits that should have been illegal on the daughter of a man Ajax respected above all others, and he took his instant, unmanageable hard on as a personal affront to every oath he’d ever made in this sacred space.
    “My daddy told me I could dress up like a drag queen and wander the streets of the French Quarter over his dead body,” Sophie Lombard said as she tugged off the glittery mask—and there was no doubt about it, goddamn it, it was her. “So it was now or never, really.”
    Ajax knew that face, though he took the stripper cosmetics and the hooker lashes as another insult, when the face he remembered had been scrubbed clean and sweet and pure. And when she peeled the acrobatic headdress from her head and sent it skidding a few feet down the dull sheen of the bar, her long, dark, wavy hair tumbled down past her shoulders, a thick and shining rope of it he wanted to wrap around his hands while he took her—
    Jesus Christ.
    He stared at her, willing this to be some kind of homecoming-inspired hallucination, but no. He was sober at the moment, he hadn’t touched the funky stuff in years, and this was Sophie Lombard all grown up. She was a lush little package, all taut curves and a belly ring, just like a couple of his preferred wet dreams. She had the most perfect set of plump, round tits he’d ever seen, even with the stupid tassels jutting from them, and they definitely should not have been on display for the entire fucking city like that. Or ever. What the hell was the matter with her? More to the point, he absolutely could not fuck her in the Priory toilets, no matter what bad decisions his cock was agitating for even now.
    A man did not fuck the daughter of his beloved father figure when said father figure’s body was barely cold. Even if the daughter in question was dressed for a long night on the pole and had basically just advertised that she was for sale to the better part of New Orleans.
    Not in the toilets, anyway.
    When she only slipped onto a bar stool, making no attempt to cover herself or change what passed for her clothes, Ajax decided he’d had enough. It was high time he took control of this shit.
    Before he lost what was left of his.
    “Hey, Sophie,” he said. He didn’t have to raise his voice to command the attention of the entire bar. He saw her stiffen like she recognized his voice and he couldn’t deny that he liked that. He was never meant to go unnoticed, not here. Not in the only place he’d ever belonged. “Is that what you’re wearing to the funeral?”
    She turned toward him slowly. So slowly he had a lifetime or two to remember her as a little girl. Sophie of the big, wide eyes and sparkly little laugh. Sophie in thick dark braids and with skinned knees. Sophie, who Priest would have died to protect, which meant any of the brothers would have done the same. Sophie, who had never been meant for a sticky dive bar and a pair of pasties, no matter how hot she looked in both.
    Sophie, who glared at him down the length of the bar with a notable lack of the respect Ajax was used to receiving, especially from soft, breakable females who usually purred and got silly when they took a good look at him.
    “Oh, hey there, Sean,” she replied after a long moment, her green eyes cool and haughty, like she was a goddamned queen instead of a half naked girl with a death wish, throwing around names she knew better than to use. “Long time no see.”
    “Call me that again,” he suggested, in what he considered a friendly manner given the insult she’d just thrown at him, though he wasn’t entirely surprised when Tulane backed away from him in a wide-eyed rush, “and I might be the last thing you ever see.”
    “Let me guess,” she replied, “you spent all this time in charm school?” Was it his imagination that she sat taller on her stool, then arched her back just enough to make those tits stick out a little further? Like she was trying to fuck with him? “Between you and me, you might think about asking for your money back. I don’t think it took.”
    He forgot who she was for a moment, forgot the respect she was owed because of her father. He grinned at her instead, the way he would any other bitch who got in his face like that, flinging down challenges from across a public bar like he was some dickless frat boy. Ajax had always had a pretty face. No one tended to notice it much after the first time he grinned at them like that, though.
    “No need to resort to all this flirting, baby,” he told her softly. “If you want to hop on and ride my dick, just ask.”
    Sophie smiled at him, and it was not a nice smile. It was all the proof he needed that she wasn’t that sweet little girl he remembered, and he was a sick fuck, because it fascinated him to see she had her father’s fangs when she felt like showing them. He wanted them sunk in his neck. He wanted her to draw blood.
    He wanted her, bad.
    “Noted,” she said, in that snooty drawl of hers that sounded more like High Class Georgia, thanks to battalions of nuns over the years, than the Louisiana swamps that had made them both. Sophie Lombard, the pampered little princess of the Deacons MC, all grown up and bitchy besides. He couldn’t believe it. Much less the way she waved a hand at him, dismissively, which pissed him off—but in no way lessened his desire to get a taste of her. Soon. “Now get the fuck out of my bar.”
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