Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hell's Blessing (The Hell Trilogy Book 2) by Martin Kaynan - $0.99 Goodie!

$0.99 or FREE for Prime Members


Hell’s Blessing’s 96,000 words describe the events that cause a Vietnam veteran’s aging process to crash at age 22 and reboot at 54.

It’s 1969 in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. After an ambush, Navy SEAL, MEL STONE has a big problem. Four months after his 22nd birthday, his memory is gone. Scorpion venom, months of drowning in Asian herb therapy and a voltage tsunami have mutated his metabolism and genetic structure to bring his aging process to a screeching halt.

Word of his “blessing” has reached powerful men. Agents of the rich and powerful chase him over four continents. The grab him but can’t hold him. Guile, ingenuity, and brute force are the skill sets of the Navy SEAL.

The story changes from how he eludes his pursuers to the ingenious and brutal methods he uses to eliminate those who have tried to capture him and harm the love of his life

Fast paced, with intrigue, romance, and action, yet lightened by Nelson DeMille type flippant dialogue in the face of peril, Hell¹s Blessing describes the price paid by egos attempting to tamper with Mother Nature.


 “Talking about stallions, let’s take a shower because we’ve some catching up to do, my Italian Stallion. On second thought...no, you’re not an Italian Stallion. No, that’s not it. You’re a…wait. I’ve got it.  You’re a...a…Jewish…Jackhammer.”
Mel cracks up. “Oh Lord, what am I getting myself into?”
Moira thinks for a split–second.
She smirks...and then says,“Mmmmmmm…me.”
Mel falls to the floor laughing as he tries to step out of his pants.

Too Wilde To Tame by Janelle Denison and Erika Wilde - FREEBIE!

Too Wilde To Tame by Janelle Denison and Erika Wilde

FULL LENGTH NOVEL (90,000+ Words)

Mia Wilde has a reputation for being too wild to tame, but that doesn't mean she's going to let someone get away with distributing provocative photographs of her. She needs to find out who is threatening her before her overprotective brothers find out. For that, she's going to enlist the help of private investigator Cameron Sinclair - - the one man who seems immune to her flirtatious and outrageous personality. But Mia soon learns that appearances can be very deceiving.

The moment Cameron agrees to help, he knows he's in deep trouble. Because Mia isn't just your average bad girl. In fact, beneath that wild, untamable facade is a beautiful, too sexy woman who's been driving him crazy with desire. And if he isn't careful, the hot passion sizzling between them might just tempt him to do something he might regret. Like propose something hotter and wilder than either of them had ever imagined . .


Janelle Denison is a USA Today Bestselling author of over fifty contemporary romance novels. She is a two time recipient of the National Reader's Choice Award, and has also been nominated for the prestigious RITA award. Janelle is a California native who now calls Oregon home. She resides in the Portland area with her husband and daughters, and can't imagine a more beautiful place to live. When not writing, she can be found exploring the great Northwest, from the gorgeous beaches to the amazing waterfalls and lush mountains. To learn more about Janelle and her upcoming releases Other places to find Janelle on the internet:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Among the Trees, There are Dreams (A Free Short Story) by Patricia Green


Sondja has chosen to live alone in the forest in order to protect herself from the horrors of her ability to hear the villagers' dreams. Nightmares can haunt her eternally. However, one day, a young man comes to her forest home and she feels compelled to listen to his dreams – of her! Have the fates brought them together, weaving their threads silently and inexorably? Is this man her destiny?

This is a free short story, resident on the Patricia Green Books website.


It was unusual for anyone but her to be out in the middle of Briarwood, where few cottage-dwellers came. They thought the forest haunted, which was not true, but it served Sondja's purposes to let them think that. When she went into the village to trade her fruits and vegetables for fish and flour, she allowed them to think her fey and strange. They kept away, and that was her desire. She didn't want the voices to bring her pain, make her too close to anyone. When they had nightmares, the images and their unconscious screams haunted her for a long time.

But this man, this intrepid man, had come into her forest. Why?

For a while, she sat beside him and listed to his dream. It was erotic, primitive, full of lust touched by tenderness. Although she'd experienced the sexual dreams of other people when she lived in the village, they had never been about her.

Mystery, Murder, & Mayhem Collection: Seven Deadly Mysteries by Best-Selling Sleuths


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Seven incredible mysteries from seven best selling authors in this limited time collection! From sacred to sultry, you'll find a mystery to fit all tastes.

A Carol for Kent by Hallee Bridgeman: A ruthless serial killer seeks to end a love song eight years in the making.

Anything for a Mystery by Cynthia HIckey: For best-selling romance author, Stormi Nelson, switching genres could get her killed.

Between a Clutch and a Hard Place by Gayle Trent: When Myrtle Crumb finds a cryptic note in a consignment store purse, she simply has to investigate. Will she find more trouble than she bargained for?

Building Ties by New York Times Best Selling Author Teresa J. Reasor: Navy SEAL Brett 'Cutter' Weaver is on a mission to Nicaragua when he learns his bride-to-be, Tess Kelly, has been injured in a car bombing. He rushes home on the next available transport and arrives to find Tess embroiled in three controversial stories. There’s a killer stalking her, and one interview at a time, they mean to catch him.

Death By Chocolate by Abigail Keam: Josiah Reynolds is tracking down the disappearance of an old friend’s son. But while she is chasing a missing person, O’nan is hot on Josiah’s trail chasing her. And he is threatening, conniving, and blackmailing others to help destroy the woman he thinks ruined his life. Will he finally succeed?

Dirty Little Murder by Traci Tyne Hilton: Everyone seemed to love Douglas Swanson—just ask his wife, his ex-wife, or the many girlfriends he left in his wake. So when Jane Adler found him dead at the bottom of his hot tub, the question wasn’t how he had died, but whose passion had taken a violent turn.

The Wiles of Watermelon by Lynette Sowell: In Greenburg, TN, someone has been keeping skeletons in the watermelon field that should have stayed stored away in the past. Murder stalks those who would solve the years old case.


Since she was on the lower level, she ought to clean the hot tub room next. It was just down the hall from the garage, in the daylight basement, and had sweeping views of their vast lawns, but the hot tub room gave Jane the creeps. She paused at the door of the room—her least favorite in all of the homes she had ever cleaned.
The walls were papered in shimmery black with gold flecks and topped with a mirrored ceiling. Jane would have guessed this house was less than fifteen years old, but the hot tub room was straight from the 1980s—years before she was born.
A huge wet bar flanked one wall. A light made from wine bottles strung in a row hung over it. The bar stools were topped with leopard print cushions and the rug was a brilliant zebra print—brilliant because the white stripes glowed in the black light that was positioned over it.
Then there was the hot tub itself. It was the maid’s job—therefore Jane’s until the proper maid returned from vacation—to do the pH test and add chemicals as necessary. The tub was a beast. It looked as though it could seat twenty, and she had to climb a set of black marble—could it be real marble?—steps to get to the lid.
Every time she climbed the steps she felt like a missionary being led into the cauldron by cannibals. Cannibals aside, this hot tub water really was people-broth.
The hot tub room was warm and steamy. It smelled like a locker room. From the small pile of towels at the bottom step to the tub, Jane could tell it had been used recently. All lights but the black light were out, so the towels, the stripes on the rug, and the striations in the steps glowed. Jane crinkled her nose. She flipped the light on before she entered. It was better when the lights were on. Not great, but better.
Jane had the water testing kit in her pocket, so she went straight to the tub. Best to get the grossest bit out of the way first.
At the first step, she grabbed the pile of towels—still damp—and tossed them to the laundry hamper by the door. She missed.
Jane knelt at the top step and leaned over to get her water sample.
Something stringy slid through her fingers.
Hair? Short, gray hair that waved around in the water like sickly seaweed.
Jane wrenched her hand back. Her stomach heaved.
Douglas Swanson sat in the tub his face submerged just below the surface of the water.
Jane squeezed her eyes shut, and grabbed his head, trying to lift it from the water so she could find a pulse. Her fingers probed his bloated neck, but she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t hold his head, find a pulse, and not puke.
She turned her head to the side, and wretched.
Her guts were in a vice that wouldn’t stop squeezing, but nothing came out. For the first time ever, she was glad she had skipped breakfast.
She tried again to lift him, so she could attempt CPR, but he was just too heavy. And, she was pretty sure he was dead.
She pulled her phone out of her apron pocket, but her hand was shaking so violently that she dropped it in the tub. She plunged her arm into the water up to her elbow, and the bobbing head butted against her arm as she fished for her phone. The phone lay on Douglas’s knee. She pulled her arm out of the water and stumbled down the steps. She lunged for the door, but tripped on the tangle of wet towels and pitched into the door frame.
Her skull felt like a bell with her brain sounding against its hard sides. She wiped her forehead with her wet hand.
Blood. She was bleeding.
The room swirled around her. She stopped everything and sat down, legs crossed. She leaned forward, her head in her lap, and tried to breathe. “Dear Lord, dear Lord, dear Lord,” she prayed over and over again, thankful that the Spirit would translate her panic into something useful.
When her body stilled she sat up. Her phone, resting on Douglas’s knee, was the only phone she knew of in the house. In the three weeks she had been cleaning here, she hadn’t seen a single land line. Should she run upstairs and search the rooms for one? Or was there a faster way to call the police?
She had seen a bright blue alarm system box in the garage.
With extreme caution, so as not to start the panic back up, Jane stood, and took the long walk back down the basement hall.
The alarm box was above the workbench.
Jane popped the cover and stared at the keys. Could she trip the alarm to make it call the police? Or was there an emergency button she could press?
She held her shaking finger in front of the keypad.
Maybe she should get a neighbor instead.
She turned her head toward the garage doors. The neighbors were so isolated on their acred lots. It would be faster to alert the police this way. If she could figure it out.
But wait.
Do you even call the police when a man drowns?
She pressed her fingertips to her forehead. She needed a phone to call 911.
But she didn’t really need an ambulance, because Douglas was dead.

The Cowboy's Kink (The Billionaire Bachelors Series Book 2) by R.G. Alexander


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Book 2 of the brand new Billionaire Bachelors Series from New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author RG Alexander

Tracy Reyes is a man who enjoys having control. Over his family's billion dollar land and cattle empire, over the women he tops at the club, and over his life. When teacher Alicia Bell drops into his lap with a problem that needs solving and a body that begs to be bound, he can't resist the opportunity to give her the education in kink she needs. But can he walk away from his passionate pupil when it's time to meet his future bride?

The Bachelors

We know every debutante's mama wants a piece of their action, but if you could choose without repercussions, which of the Billionaire Bachelors would be your fantasy? The true hardcore cowboy who has enough land and employees to start his own country, but no dancing partner for his special kind of two-step? The musician with a royal pedigree, a wild streak and a vast fortune at his disposal, who's never been seen with the same woman twice? His best jet-setting buddy who can claim no less than five estates, four degrees and three charges of lewd public behavior on his record? Or the sweet-talking, picture-perfect tycoon-cum-philanthropist who used to be the baddest of the bunch but put those days behind him when he took over as CEO of his family's company? (Or did he?)

Pick your fantasy lover--rocker, rancher, rebel or reformed rogue. Glass slipper shopping is a dangerous sport to be sure, especially with prey as slippery as these particular animals, but I'll still wish all my readers happy hunting.

From Ms. Anonymous

The Billionaire Bachelors Series
1. The CEO's Fantasy
2. The Cowboy's Kink
3 The Playboy's Menage

Friday, March 27, 2015

Keeping Merminia by Emm Cole - FREEBIE



In the concluding sequel to Merminia, Ulric and Selinne are both about to find out just how much they stand to lose.

Upon seizing Dencur with Adessia’s ring, Ulric leaves everything beyond the city walls in chaos. As Selinne tries to save Merminia from ruin, she finds a hesitant group to aid her in the perilous journey to Dencur.

But while Selinne works to stop Ulric from destroying all that she holds dear, friendships are tested to their breaking point. The final battle is brewing between Humans and Enchanteds.

Heiress of Lies (Bloodtruth #1) by Cege Smith - FREEBIE


Barnes and Noble

With the King of Altera on his deathbed, all eyes are on his only child, eighteen year old Angeline Robart. The crown princess spent the last two years finishing her studies in a remote convent far away from the capital city of Brebackerin and the prying public. After being called home to her father's side in preparation for her Ascension, Angeline is kidnapped en route by Connor, a mysterious rogue who has his own reasons for becoming involved in the high stakes game of intrigue.

As the last of the Robart bloodline, Angeline soon discovers that enemies long thought conquered have been doing nothing but lying in wait for just such an opportunity to turn things to their advantage. Worse yet, by uncovering those secrets Angeline is forced to confront the possibility that no one expected her to ever take the throne in anything but title only.

Facing the impossible consequences of a freak accident, Angeline must travel a dangerous path to regain control of her fate and her kingdom even if that means relying on Connor, who epitomizes everything her family hated and tried to destroy. But the more she learns about Connor, the more she realizes they have far more in common than she ever expected, and that could make him just the ally she needs.


Angeline awoke to hear the horses screaming. She yanked the long dagger out from underneath her pillow and shot to her feet. If there was one thing her father had insisted on, it was that Angeline knew how to defend herself. It had been years since she had trained with the dagger, but it was small and light and good for a fight in close quarters.
She heard the men yelling outside trying to coordinate. Then Rhone’s rough voice broke through the melee. “Protect the princess! Guard the perimeter! Don’t let any of the bastards break through!”
Angeline wanted to know what was happening. Her heart felt like it was going to beat right through her chest. The noise outside was deafening, but she didn’t dare step foot outside the tent for fear of getting in her own men’s way. She looked down and realized she had fallen asleep without changing. The lantern above her head was giving out only a weak beam of light, so she knew it was late. She had just enough time to pull her cloak around her shoulders when Rhone burst in through the flap. She saw only the inky blackness of night behind him before the flap fell closed. The perimeter torches were no longer lit.
The grizzled old soldier had blood running down the side of face and he looked like he had seen a ghost. “Princess, we must get you to safety,” he said, breathing heavily.
Rhone, what’s happening?” Angeline asked, trying to keep her voice under control. She had never seen Rhone look afraid. She thought the man was incapable of fear.
We’re being attacked, Princess. I think the men can hold them off so that we can make our escape.”
What do you need me to do?” Angeline’s father had also taught her in times of crisis, action was better than standing around asking questions. At the moment a million of them were swarming through her mind, but there was no mistaking the urgency in Rhone’s eyes. She nodded instead.
You know how to use that, Your Majesty?” Rhone gestured toward the dagger in her hand.
You taught me yourself, Rhone. You should know,” Angeline retorted.
It’ll be a lot different than sinking it to the hilt in a hay bale,” Rhone said.
I am going to be queen someday soon, Rhone. I wouldn’t dare disgrace the Robart name by going down without a fight." It hurt to think that someday was going to be much sooner than either she or her father had anticipated.
Rhone nodded. “Good. I need to go see if any of the horses are still alive. Stay here until I get back. If anyone but me comes through that opening, you use that dagger and don’t think twice about it.” Rhone swung around and slid back through the flap seconds later, leaving Angeline alone again.
Angeline could hear yelling and the clank of metal on metal as the fighting continued outside. It didn’t seem as close to her as it had before, but it was hard to tell. She wished she could go outside and see, but it was still the dead of night and without any light she was as likely to end up on the wrong end of one of her own soldiers’ swords by accident. She had to do what Rhone told her to do and pray that they’d make it out safely. There was nothing to do but wait.
Long minutes crawled by and Angeline could do nothing but pace the tent. Several times it seemed like the fighting stopped and Angeline’s breath would catch, but then the clanging and yelling would continue. Several times screams were abruptly cut off. She wondered what was taking Rhone so long, and what he saw that scared him so badly. Rhone had been fighting since he was a young boy; Angeline thought for sure he would have seen all there was to see on a battlefield.
She walked to the tent flap and considered. She could just peek and see if she could see Rhone coming. Then she’d drop it back. He’d never know, and she wasn’t disobeying him if she didn’t actually leave the tent. She was raising her hand to the flap when she heard a scrape on the ground right behind her. Then the lamp was blown out and the room plunged into darkness. Angeline opened her mouth to scream.
Two hands encircled her, one covering her mouth and the other snaking up and easily sweeping the dagger out of her hands. Suddenly her body was spun around in that tight embrace and she found herself staring into a pair of emerald eyes that burned brightly even in the dark.
Is that a polite way to greet one of your loyal subjects?” The voice dripped with sarcasm.
Her eyes adjusted quickly to the gloom, and she could make out his white face and full red lips. A black curl fell over his eyes. It was like her mind turned to mush and she was mesmerized by how beautiful he was. Then she saw the smudge of red running from the man’s mouth. The dominos in her mind fell over in quick succession: an attack in the middle of the night, the screaming horses, and Rhone’s look of terror. She was a Robart; she knew what that meant. An age-old enemy had reappeared in their midst.

Awesome Reads for Paranormal Romance Fans

Pisces: A Zodiac Twin Flame Novel Book 1 by Rachel Medhurst $0.99 or FREE for Prime Members - Amazon

The bracelet around my wrist was a permanent reminder of my mission. The silver charm that was attached to the leather cord was stamped with my birth sign. Mission: Unite with my twin flame soulmate in this lifetime.

My brothers, sisters, and I were each named after the star sign we were born under. We knew that our soul purpose was to fall madly in love and battle through the obstacles that led to that true love.

Antony crept up on me and caught me unaware. He was nothing like I'd imagined my twin flame soulmate to be. When he started to run, I found that I had to give chase. I had to complete my mission.

Choices: Make Me Paranormal by Cora Maxine
$0.99 or FREE for Prime Members - Amazon

I always wondered which paranormal being I would choose to be, but never thought I'd be forced to make the decision.

As an urban fantasy author, Jupiter Hayes knows all about the things that go bump in the night, but she never dreamed that those beings could be real.

Summoned to a secret paranormal facility within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Jupiter finds out that not only are these beings real, but she's destined to become one of them.

Soon she's cut off from the life she once knew as she spends time getting to know each society in need of new members. But, some of those societies may be a better fit than others, due to her own bloodline.

Throw in a sexy vampire and a gorgeous warlock and it's easy to see that Jupiter Hayes has some tough choices to make.

Chosen: Make Me Paranormal Book 2 Coming Summer 2015!

Grayson Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw
$4.99 or FREE for Prime Members - Amazon

From New York Times bestselling author Cheryl Bradshaw:

When Addison Lockhart inherits Grayson Manor after her mother's untimely death, she unlocks a secret that's been kept hidden for over fifty years. For Addison, it seems like she's finally found the house of her dreams...until the spirit of Roxanne "Roxy" Rafferty comes to call. Who is Roxanne, why is she haunting Grayson Manor, and how will Addison's connection reveal a key to her own past that she thought no longer existed?

River's Recruit by Charlotte Abel
FREE - Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Best Selling Author introduces a 'new adult' paranormal romance.

Jonathan McKnight lost everything in Afghanistan. His left hand, his identical twin, his self-respect and his naive belief that good always triumphs over evil. Burdened by grief and guilt, he searches for redemption on a solo backpacking trip into the remote Sawatch Mountains of Colorado and discovers a secret tribe of shifters.

River, the beautiful young shifter that rescues Jonathan has been promised to a man she despises. A man that does not desire her and only wants to use her to achieve his own political goals. Jonathan is more than a romantic rival. He’s a threat to those goals.

The only way to save Jonathan’s life is for River to take him as her recruit.

As Jonathan learns more about the horrors of River’s cult-like society, he becomes even more determined to escape it, until he learns that River is responsible for everything he does and will be executed if he succeeds.

Escape is not an option—unless Jonathan can persuade River to leave with him. And if she refuses? Well, then, he’ll just have to kidnap her.

Enchantment by Charlotte Abel
Book One of The Channie Series

Paranormal Platinum Award Winner

When Channie Belks moves from her home in the Ozark mountains to a suburban Colorado high school, she tries to hide the fact she's a mage. It might have worked until her parents slapped a chastity curse on her for flirting with "dirty-minded, non-magical, city-boys." She can't even walk by a hot guy without zapping him.
There's a way to break the curse; but one mistake could kill her. It's not worth the risk. Until she meets Josh…a BMX champion with a dazzling smile, washboard abs and the bluest eyes she’s ever seen.
Suddenly, the threat of death isn't such a deal-breaker.

***WARNING*** The characters in this book swear. They also think about, talk about and sometimes engage in sexual behavior. 

Capture the Moon by Tamara Bond
$2.99 or FREE for Prime Members - Amazon

Annabelle Moon has experienced random psychic premonitions her entire life, but she's kept them a secret ever since her parents told her others would ostracize her for them. But when she has a vision that helps the police rescue a kidnapped child, the cat's out of the bag, and it ultimately leads her to take some big steps including a divorce from her rich, powerful and cheating ex-husband.

Anna starts a new life on her own with a big settlement from her ex, but before she can decide on a next step, a friend in England talks her into leaving Manhattan for The Cotswolds to help track down her lost sister. The hope is that Anna can use her psychic gifts, but she has no idea how to control them. Still, she's pretty good at solving puzzles and tries to meld both talents to solve the mystery. Turns out, they're a pretty hot combination.

Then, of all things, Annabelle runs into the most difficult yet mesmerizing man she's ever met. And even though romance is the last thing on her mind after her recent divorce, will this tall, infuriating Englishman wear down her defenses?

Summer's Angel by Tiffany Ann
$2.99 - Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Summer couldn’t believe it when she was offered a job with one of the leading translators of the written word, Walter Addison. Of course, being his great-niece could have had something to do with the offer. She arrives in Marblehead ready to help her great uncle and his partner in any way she can.

Leviah is a Fallen Angel having been cast out of Heaven for not choosing a side. He roamed the world for centuries until he met the first Addison. Since that time he has stayed with the family, helping them in whatever way he could. He never expected Walter to choose a vibrant, strong-willed female to take his place as caretaker of the Addison Estate, or assist in the world of translations.

When Summer meets Leviah sparks fly and the attraction is instant. Now if he can just figure out a way to show her his wings and horns that won’t send her running back to New Orleans. Forget returning to Heaven, he is ready to be Summer’s Angel...

Tall, Dark and Furry by Meredith Allen Conner
$3.99 - Amazon and Barnes and Noble

A powerful werewolf seeking his mate

On the run and about to be captured, Sela seeks safety in a bar where she discovers more than just a chance to keep on living. She meets Mac - a werewolf. Despite having an elemental power, Sela had no idea there were other different beings living among the humans as well. She doesn’t know if she can afford to trust the big werewolf – even if he does call her mate.

A woman who can control the element of water

After centuries of searching for his mate, Mac had almost given up trying to find her. Now that he has found Sela, he will do any and everything in his power to keep her. Including fighting a dangerous fanatical group determined to have Sela’s power over water for their own and tracking down her sisters, also on the run from the group of fanatics. All of which may prove pointless in Mac’s efforts to win Sela if he can’t earn her trust first.

Brought together by chance, only trust and love can keep them together 

Fur, Fangs and All by Meredith Allen Conner
$3.99 - Amazon and Barnes and Noble

A desperate werewolf

Beaten down and exhausted from a life on the run, Livie takes refuge with her sister while recovering from a bullet wound. The only problem is she can’t relax. How can she when she is surrounded by werewolves? Big and powerful with the ability to grow fur and lethal fangs, the creatures horrify her. Especially him.

A frightened woman with an amazing power

All he has ever wanted is to find his mate. The moment he smells her, Roc knows he has finally found his mate. And she is terrified of him. He never expected to have this problem with his mate. But he will do anything to keep her and make her his. If that means chaining her to his bed . . . so be it.

Alone they have nothing, but together they can have it all.

Dark Guardians Trilogy: Cruxim, Creche & Creche Box Set by Karin Cox

Discover the bestselling paranormal romance DARK GUARDIANS TRILOGY by Karin Cox in this all-new box set, all for an amazing discount price.

Book 1 Cruxim: You are Never Alone
Book II Creche: Know Thyself
Book III Creed: All Things Know Where They Belong

Vampires and their plague-poxed brethren threaten to drown Europe in a blood-borne wave. At their helm, is Beltran, a vampire whose malicious nature is as black as his many secrets and sins. Standing between such evil and the destruction of all Cruximkind is Amedeo Aeternus—the immortal half-Cruxim hybrid and dark hunter of an ancient prophecy, the fallen angel Cruor driven on by an unremitting desire for revenge on vampires worldwide. Set in 18th Century Europe, an epic saga of forbidden love plays out amid a mighty battle of good against evil, fallen angel against nosferatu devil, and reason against madness in an adventure fantasy series a critic from Literary R&R described as "like the next Anne Rice series. There's a love story alongside some pretty gruesome and evil stuff " and others have called "compelling ... dark, visceral and not for the squeamish.”

Thursday, March 26, 2015

In Bed with the Bachelor by Megan Crane Excerpt


Barnes and Noble

Our latest bachelor has enough family in Marietta to qualify as an honorary native, but hails instead from Seattle, WA, which is where he’ll fly you for a glamorous weekend on the shores of the sparkling Puget Sound. Jesse Grey will treat you the way a local boy turned construction tycoon should: five star accommodations, gourmet dinners, and celebrated Washington wines. We just can’t promise he’ll smile much. Or at all.

Sold to the highest bidder!

Jesse Grey, notorious bachelor and one of Seattle’s foremost construction tycoons, has been roped into participating in the Marietta Bachelor Auction thanks to an expertly executed guilt trip laid out by his family.

Michaela Townsend already has a fiancé and certainly doesn’t need another man in her life. So when her family buys her surly, sexy Jesse at the auction and wrangles him into driving her from Montana to Seattle, she’s appalled yet disturbingly attracted.

As far as Jesse is concerned, Michaela is forbidden fruit. Even though he knows her fiancé isn’t all he seems, Jesse would never take what didn’t belong to him. But how long can he resist the one woman he shouldn’t touch?


Jesse Grey was taking over the whole of the front hall as if he was a black hole, light and air and energy collapsing into him and simmering there in the set of that mouth of his, that glitter in his milk chocolate gaze, neither of which—she told herself stoutly—affected her. At all.
“I’m your ride,” he said, after a long pause that Michaela thought might have lasted several years.
She stiffened, while her head toppled off into the gutter. She was certain he could hear it. “I beg your pardon?”
Jesse smirked. “I’m your ride,” he said again. “To Seattle.”
When she only stared back at him he sighed, and then jerked his head toward the door behind him and, she supposed, the world outside it she’d completely forgotten about since she’d set eyes on him. Again.
A big storm’s about to hit,” he grated out. “I’m driving west because I can’t get stuck here and they’re grounding planes at the Bozeman airport. Your aunt and my uncle decided you should come along, but you’re more than welcome to stay here snowed in until later this week. Your call.”
She should have some kind of response to that. Michaela knew she should. She should say something, nip that crazy suggestion in the bud, assure this odd and unfriendly man that she absolutely did not need him to drive her anywhere, much less some seven hundred miles west to Seattle.
But instead, she stared. Every vivid thing she’d dreamed about traipsed through her head, kicking up heat and making her face go red, and what little air was leftover in the space Jesse Grey didn’t take up seemed to sizzle.
“I’m not packed,” she said, like the idiot she was in this man’s presence and nowhere else.
And that marvelous mouth of his curved then, as something that might have been humor, if much harder, moved through his gaze.
“You have five minutes.”
Michaela took more like twenty-five. She confirmed that her flight out of Bozeman that evening really was likely to be cancelled, she texted Amos to inform him that the weather might keep her away from the office longer than she’d planned and he should try not to freak out, and she threw her things into her small, carry on roller bag. Then she paused to make the usual series of mild death threats to her meddling, irritating, cackling relatives gathered around her aunt’s kitchen table, until her mother cut that off midstream. Bonnie Townsend sipped at her coffee in that delicate way of hers that made Michaela feel like some kind of lumbering wildebeest in comparison, the perfectly-shaped eyebrows Michaela had been envious of all her life high on her forehead.
“My goodness, Michaela,” she murmured in repressive tones. The same way she’d chastised Michaela for her impatience with her family’s inability to understand every last one of her life choices only last night. They want to know these things because they love you, not because they want to annoy you. I don’t think it would hurt you to try to remember that. “If you’re not interested in having a favor done for you, I’m certain there are more gracious ways to say so.”
Feeling suitably chastened and about an inch tall, as ever, Michaela buttoned her lip and wheeled her suitcase out into the hall, where Jesse Grey was making like a column of granite. Except less approachable and far less sunny of disposition.
“Okay!” she chirped at him like some kind of psychotic kindergarten teacher, as if that might soften him up. “I’m ready!”
He exuded grittiness without seeming to do anything but stand there, and she felt that tugging thing low in her belly again, even more insistent today than it had been the night before.
There was human, she thought than, and then there was straight up destructive, and she wasn’t sure she could tell the difference. It had never been an issue before.
“Are you sure?” he asked in that low rumble of a voice. “Maybe you want to say goodbye to everyone down on Main Street, too? The outlying ranches? The whole of Montana while you’re at it?”
“What’s interesting about you, Jesse,” she said, and it was a bit of a fight to keep hold of her not-entirely-polite smile, “is that you’re possibly the most unfriendly man I’ve ever met. Why did anyone think you’d make a good Bachelor Auction item?”
“Must be you,” he replied, with an almost-smile that didn’t ease the bite of his words at all. “This is the friendliest I’ve been in years. To anyone.”
“Childhood trauma?”
His mouth was lethal then. “Something like that.”
“What fun,” she said, and beamed at him like she meant it. “And we have hours upon hours trapped in a car together! Hooray!”
He moved then, which was something a little more than surprising, or at least that was how she interpreted that liquid thing that washed through her and that jolt that catapulted from her heart to her feet and back up again.
“Be nice,” he growled. “Or I’ll make you carry your own damned bag.”
She couldn’t breathe. Or process that.
“I always carry my own bag,” she informed him, on auto-pilot. “I’m a liberated woman, thank you. My partner isn’t a bell hop. What does that even mean?”
He muttered something that sounded filthy, which Michaela told herself was further evidence that he was terrible in every way, but that wasn’t what that swirling, heated thing inside her felt about any of this. Definitely not.
“It means your man is a douche,” he growled at her.

Merminia by Emm Cole - FREEBIE



In a sea full of hostile dragons, warring clans, and ancient enchantments, Selinne is content to keep to herself. Until the ruthless, Litiant commander, Merconius uses her to further his brutal conquests. As love, friendship, and family loyalty collide, Selinne must choose what is most important to her. Can she ever become her own champion?

"This is the type of read that I believe will convert the mermaid doubters, into mermaid lovers. Cole's writing is as magical as the world she has created and I was immediately drawn in." -Tiffany, Reviewer and Co-Owner of Bookish

Lord Coleraine's Scandalous Offer by Katy Madison Excerpt


Barnes and Noble
All Romance

From the winner of the 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense Historical comes a new gothic historical romance.

Brody Gilvaroy, the Earl of Coleraine, is willing to hang for a murder he didn’t commit to protect the innocent. He struggles to find the real killer before it’s too late. As time slips away, he’s forced to choose between saving his own neck or helping his enchanting neighbor escape her dire situation, even though she wants nothing to do with him. If only she would accept his proposed bargain...

Years ago, Tessa Hall trusted the wrong man. Ever since, she’s fought to regain her good name. She lives on sufferance with her distant cousin as a despised poor relation. Her chances for a respectable life are destroyed when her benefactor decides she should earn her keep as his mistress. Rescue comes from the most unlikely source. Lord Coleraine is a worse pariah than she is. But her only option may be to trust a man everyone else believes is a cold-blooded murderer. His scandalous offer could save them both, if only for a little while...


As the darkness ticked around her, Tessa huffed in frustration. She might as well go down to the kitchen and get a cup of hot tea. Perhaps that would soothe her restlessness enough she could sleep. She slipped her arms in a wrapper, a castoff of her cousin’s and cracked open her door.
The sitting room was dark except for a slight orange glow from the coal fire and she didn’t see him sitting in either of the chairs or on the sofa. She took two steps into the room before she realized her mistake. Coleraine’s bare feet were perched on the ottoman in front of the chair with the back to her door, although his head wasn’t above the back.
She stopped in her tracks.
“Change your mind?” he asked on a low note.
“Of course not.” Her words were loud in the quiet of the night.
“Shhh.” His hand shot out and he patted the air. After a second he added in a whisper, “Every time I lay Eddie in his cradle he wakes up. However he seems perfectly content to sleep on me.”
She tiptoed forward. Coleraine was slouched low in the chair, which was why she hadn’t immediately seen him. The baby was curled across the broad chest, his little head on Coleraine’s shoulder. He supported the baby with one hand while the other rubbed the boy’s back.
Softness flowed through her turning her wanton needs into a yearning for more than just the physical act, but a desire for the rest, too. A baby, a family, a husband. But Coleraine had made it clear that wouldn’t happen. She’d only have a poor substitute that could end at any minute.
“You should try it sometime.”
“Try what?” she whispered pulling the wrapper tighter around her. He was in his nightclothes too. A plush dressing gown only partially hid the stripped nightshirt he wore. And of course the bare feet, which did strange things to her insides.
Coleraine tilted his head. “Sleeping on me.”
“I didn’t think “sleeping” was what you had in mind.” She closed her eyes at the boldness of the statement.
“Well, after.”
His offhand teasing had her flushing. She should leave before she melted in front of him. To turn around and go back into her room seemed silly, but spending time with him in the middle of the night with neither of them dressed was foolish. 

Becoming Somebody (The Witness Series #2) by Heather D'Agostino



What happens when everything you thought you knew suddenly changes with a few simple words?

When Samantha Connelly fell hard for the one person that could rip her world apart she wasn’t prepared for the bomb he would later drop on her. With a few words, Brian completely turned her world upside down and sent her into an emotional spiral.

Forced to leave town once again, she begged him to come with her…pleaded with him to choose her…to love her, but Brian had his own agenda that he couldn’t deviate from.

What happens when two people who are meant for each other are forced apart with no reunion in sight? How do you recover from the reality that you may never see one another again? How do you go back to being a nobody when all you want in life is to be somebody to someone?

This book contains profanity and graphic sexual situations. It is intended for adult readers.

Heaven in for Heroes by P. J. Sharon Audio Book

Written by P. J. Sharon
Narrated By
Erin Mallon
7 hrs and 48 mins

Smart and athletic 17-year-old Jordie Dunn has a bright future planned, but when tragedy turns her life upside down, she begins to question not only her future, but the facts surrounding her brother's death in Iraq. The military's account that his best friend and fellow Marine, Alex Cooper, is at fault, is a notion she refuses to believe. Alex was the careful one - the shy, protective, computer geek she's had a crush on since the ninth grade, and she knows better than anyone that her troubled brother had a dark and reckless side - a secret she's kept for far too long.

With no memory of the incident that killed his best friend, 19-year-old Alex Cooper returns home, shattered and facing a difficult recovery. Determined to go it alone, he pushes Jordie away. No longer the freckle-faced tomboy who followed him and Levi around as a kid, she has become a beautiful and stubborn young woman who believes in him far more than he deserves.

While Jordie's unique approach to rehab pushes Alex to extremes, the two discover that their childhood friendship has grown into more. The attraction has Jordie's head spinning and her heart soaring, but Alex struggles to deal with his guilt, his loss, and the nightmares that continue to haunt him. Even though Jordie is determined to help him heal and even more determined to find the truth, what she doesn't expect, is to find love.

©2011 PJ Sharon; (P)2013 PJ Sharon

Children's Books: The Gnomes of the Night by Itzik Klein

$2.99 or FREE for Prime Members


Picking up his mess is just too much for Ryan.

Between brushing his teeth, taking a shower, and being a kid, Ryan can't be bothered with another chore.

That is until his dad warns him about the Night Gnomes, who snatch up misplaced items and may claim them as their own.

At first, Ryan doesn't listen, but when his discarded shoes go missing, he has no choice but to use his secret detective skills and so he braves the night in search of the mysterious gnomes. What he finds, though, is even more than he bargained for.

In this wonderfully illustrated children’s book, funny, rhyming story, with great children book characters, young Ryan shares a few laughs with his Dad while he unravels this mystery.

✿ Read this book FREE as part of your Prime of Kindle Unlimited Membership.
✿ This story is great as a read aloud book or for beginner readers. could be one of the funniest books for kids 9 to 12 which can be read as one of the original books for kids 4-8 years old in their family.
✿ Try the Audio sample here: http://smarturl.it/gnomes-audio-sample.
✿ This book will be great in a kids bookcase, Use the "Look inside" to preview more of the pages.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

One True Thing: Guest Post by Author Peggy Webb

If I had to tell you one true thing about my writing, it would be this: through thirty years and more than seventy books I’ve have celebrated zany, remarkable female friendships. In Stars to Lead Me Home you’ll want to snatch Maggie and her friends off the pages and take them home with you. You’ll want to sit in the middle of the bed with them at midnight, eating buttered popcorn and Hershey’s bars and telling secrets. You’ll want to hold Maggie’s hand when her long-time marriage breaks apart and laugh with her when she discovers there is life after divorce. But most of all, you’ll want to cheer for all three of these women!

Stars to Lead Me Home is a women’s fiction novel on the order of Steel Magnolias, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, and Talk Before Sleep. Early reviewers call Stars “the kind you can’t wait to share with your friends!” Please do!

I’ll be doing many giveaways leading up to pub day, June 4. Visit my blog for a chance to win a $50 bookstore gift card. Just leave a comment on any post during the month of March. http://elainehussey.com/www/?page_id=49

If you’d love to be part of the street team for Stars to Lead Me Home, contact me through my website at www.peggywebb.com. The Street Team will receive free copies of the book in exchange for an honest review, among other things. I’ll send details privately.

You can save 40% by preordering the book now! Buy links:

Happy reading!

Organized For Murder (Organized Mysteries #1) by Ritter Ames Excerpt


Barnes and Noble

USA TODAY Bestselling Novel!

Organization expert Kate McKenzie is on track to make her new business, STACKED IN YOUR FAVOR, a hit in small-town Vermont. But when her first client, the wealthy Amelia Nethercutt, is found dead, the job takes a decidedly sinister turn.

Kate thought she and her family were making a fresh start in her husband's hometown, but she quickly learns that small towns can hold big secrets. When her first client is poisoned just after Kate leaves her mansion, she knows she's gotten off to a bad start. But things only get worse when the police find Kate's fingerprints on the murder weapon, suddenly putting her in the position of suspect number one. The stopwatch is ticking for Kate to prove she had nothing to do with the murder, and the odds are further stacked against her when items stolen from the Nethercutt mansion start showing up in the McKenzie home. Now, Kate must trust her methodical skills and expert eye to sort out who is trying to frame her and to find the real killer before she's organized right into a jail cell.

Organized Mysteries:
Organized for Murder (book #1)
Organized for Homicide (book #2)


1Kate McKenzie’s 5-Step Organizational Start Method
Begin any de-clutter project by collecting and labeling five large boxes:

reject—items un-repairable, missing parts, past expiration, or like half-a-dozen others already in the house.

recycle—gently used, unwanted items for charitable organizations or Freecycle.

resell—through consignment shops, tag sales, eBay, Craigslist, or newspaper ads.

return—sporting goods, toys, books, tools, etc. that belong to family members, neighbors, or friends.

review—things requiring extra thought before fate is determined.

Next, completely unload the room or closet, distributing discarded items into correct boxes. Return only “keepers” to the target area.

Stacked in Your Favor, LLC,
Kate McKenzie, Pres.
Business Planner for Job # 1 Date Wed., April 7th
9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. -- Meet with Miss Amelia Nethercutt at her mansion to organize her and her late husband’s exotic collections. Magnificent sprawling home and grounds. On phone seemed eager to learn organizational techniques, says she scrapbooks and keeps a daily journal,. Spend time telling how to develop her vision, to make a date with herself each day to keep living space organized and de-cluttered. Also, since she’s a collector, offer the “One-in/One-Out Rule” so old replaced item always goes out when new item is purchased.

Chapter One

“On the second day, I decided widowhood was infinitely better than divorce.”
“Miss Amelia!” Kate McKenzie caught herself, and her teacup, an instant before the Lapsang Souchong escaped over the gleaming gold rim and jeopardized the Aubusson rug’s brave print. While the cream and sienna tones of the carpet would have accepted the tea stain like a distant relative, such an accident threatened to be an uneasy alliance. Especially as Kate courted this new, and particular, client.
Amelia Nethercutt took the still-clattering china from Kate’s hands and settled the pieces on the gleaming rosewood coffee table, then said, “It isn’t as if I don’t know the pros and cons of both marital dissolution options, my dear. This was my fifth, no, sixth marriage—I keep forgetting Joey—and receiving an inheritance is much more liberating than monthly alimony.”
Kate stiffened on the white-on-white Victorian sofa and hoped her smile didn't look like a grimace. She again swatted a irritating flange from peacock feather and gilt-streaked twigs arrangement that invaded the personal space around her left shoulder. While her tentative hold on sanity remained, she wondered where common sense had fled when she agreed to work sight unseen in this procurement madhouse.
Façades could be most deceiving; Amelia’s and the mansion’s. The woman’s exterior resembled that of her home—a sweeping drive and professional styling. Even Kate’s first look inside of the house, the foyer with its elegant mahogany collectible cabinet standing guard against taupe-colored grass-cloth, fooled her.
Then she’d seen this parlor, the study, the bedrooms, the conservatory, the library, and . . . well . . . all the other “treasure rooms.”
This first workday revolved in a repetitive nightmare of list making, supply ordering, prioritizing, and attempts to stem the overwhelming need to hyperventilate. Even her never-fail categorizing system of Reject, Recycle, Resell, Return, and Review periodically failed to keep Kate’s panic at bay. Finally, for the first time ever, she gave up and began dividing the upstairs by what rooms were wholly trash and which might be salvageable. Of course, this never meant she would actually be allowed to throw out anything, but she persevered. Until Amelia called from downstairs and said it was time for a “tea moment.”
Her last ally disappeared as Mrs. Baxter, the Nethercutts’ cotton-haired cook, had bustled in bringing the tea tray and placed it near Amelia. “Nice meeting you, dearie,” she said to Kate, before straightening her pink pillbox hat and telling her employer, “I’m going to the market and the drugstore. There’s a cab waiting. I’ll be back as quickly as I can.”
Amelia nodded, pouring the tea as she spoke, “That’s fine. And I left some budgeting papers on the front table for the garden club vice-president. Please drop them off while doing your errands.” She had smiled at Kate then and added, “I’m president, again, this year, you know.”
Kate didn’t know but assumed the comment was rhetorical.
“The material is out in the foyer,” Amelia called to Mrs. Baxter, and as she waved toward the front door her spicy, nose-tickling scent perfumed the air. “I’ve made some exciting suggestions and changes. They will require a few club members to reflect a bit before complete acceptance, especially our esteemed vice-president, Gabriella Cavannah-Wicker. Your taking the packet will expedite matters admirably, so everyone has adequate ruminative time.”
Mrs. Baxter rolled her eyes heavenward behind her thick lenses. She left via the front door, just as Kate performed her teacup juggle in response to Amelia's disturbing pronouncement. A statement particularly unsettling in light of her late-husband Daniel Nethercutt’s particularly recent demise.
Amelia picked up the sugar bowl and offered, “There’s nothing like a few minutes for tea.”
The smoky smelling brew looked dark. Kate added a liberal dose of milk, and worried about the exquisite teacup, musing whether the liquid was capable of eating through the fragile porcelain.
Once more she should have listened to her instincts, but, as usual, decided to focus on the positive side and be nice and agreeable. Landing a rich client seemed a godsend for her new organizing business, Stacked in Your Favor. Besides, it wasn’t difficult to believe her initial unease due to the fact only a week had passed since Mr. Daniel drifted off to whatever heavenly reward a compulsive collector deserved. At first, Kate worried Amelia was one of those bereaved spouses who too quickly decided to “clean house.” But Amelia insisted. Amelia insisted on everything, and Kate’s backbone turned to butter.
In this room alone, the front parlor, majolica plates competed with marble busts and conch shells. A stuffed and seriously flaking crocodile, missing its right glass eye, crouched in one corner. Beside the door, a stack of piano sheet music stood as high as Kate’s waist, but she’d yet to find any kind of keyboard instrument in the house. The outdoors were brought inside with a collection of faded garden gnomes simulating hopscotch near an overgrown spider plant.
Jeez! What had she gotten herself into? Could she even finish the job by the time her first-grade twins graduated from high school? Amelia didn’t need an organizational expert as much as a designer with the balls of General Patton! Or a bulldozer.
And how should she respond to a comment contrasting spousal death with divorce? She decided to ignore it and try wiggling out of the mess she'd let her size eight flats walk into. “Miss Amelia, I’m not sure I’m the best person for this job. My business is organizing spaces and archiving items. However, you have many precious treasures here needing—”
“Nonsense, Kate. I picked you because you are perfect for this chore.” Amelia rose to her full six-foot stature and glided to the bookcase by the door, the silvery silks of her caftan trailing like the wake behind the QEII. “I’ve known your mother-in-law since college,” she said, flipping pages of a ragged yearbook as she navigated back. “You couldn’t find a woman more in control of things than she, whatever the task. So, I knew I had to hire you.”
Kate’s mother-in-law, Jane McKenzie, did indeed know how to keep things in their place, but this did not mean her son’s wife possessed superhuman talents. With the elder McKenzies currently finishing a Caribbean cruise, Jane had been unavailable for consultation prior to her daughter-in-law accepting this assignment. Kate opened her mouth to try to explain family ties and genetic capabilities to Amelia, but stopped as the scent of Chanel No. 5 preceded a voice in the hall.
“Yoo-hoo, Mummy, where are you?”
A shadow flitted across Amelia’s patrician face, but disappeared so swiftly Kate couldn’t be sure she hadn’t imagined it.
“Ah, my stepdaughter, Sophia.” Amelia smiled as she called, “Darling, in the parlor.”
Seconds later, a trim figure sashayed into the room and Kate suddenly felt fat and shabby in her working twills. Though no taller than Kate’s fit five-and-a-half feet, brunette to the organizer's blond, Sophia’s lean frame and personal trainer-esque, toned body gave the appearance of runway perfect, with no hint of any past pregnancies. Dressed in simple black slacks, a white blouse that whispered money—lots of it—and dark glasses resting atop long, dark tresses, Kate was reminded of a reincarnated Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Until the woman smiled. To her knowledge, Jackie O never resembled a cobra when greeting people.
“Sophia Nethercutt-White.” The viper strode forward, and extended an impeccably manicured hand. “And you are?”
Kate forced herself to move toward the woman, instead of yielding to an instinct to cower back. “I’m Ka—”
“This is Kate McKenzie, Sophia, dear.” Amelia wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders. “You remember my saying I wanted to get an expert to help me categorize and organize. It’s time I put this house into working order. I haven’t seen dozens of my own things for a decade, and can’t possibly know everything your father collected before our marriage. There are probably unknown riches in here.”
“No doubt.” Sophia raised an eyebrow and turned piercing black eyes on Kate. “I had no idea you were going to act so quickly, Mummy. I would prefer strangers not paw through Father’s things.”
Amelia waved the comment away like an irritating insect. “Daniel was an open book about his possessions and loved to share them. I know he would welcome Kate to this project.”
Sophia folded her arms. “We need to discuss this. There are a number of things I can't locate of Father's, and I don't think having a stranger—"
“Nonsense. Missing items give more credence for needing Kate's expertise. My decision has been made, Sophia.” Amelia’s light blue eyes turned icy. “Which reminds me. I have Charles Webster Walker coming later.”
“Your lawyer?” Sophia uncrossed her arms. “Why?”
“I’m making a few revisions to my will. With Daniel gone it’s the responsible thing to do. Your father and I agreed on most things, but how we distributed our estate was always a compromised affair. Now, of course, I can do things any way I like.”
Amelia displayed a frightening smile that personified the Grimm Brothers’ “better to eat you with” line. Kate shivered.
Bending to pick up the tray, Kate freed herself, both physically and figuratively, from the scene by saying, “Since Mrs. Baxter left, I’ll take these tea things into the kitchen. Or would you like some, Sophia? The pot feels heavy enough for another cup.”
“No, thank you.”
“Well, it’s nice meeting you.” Kate nodded as she passed the angry young woman on the way out the door.
“And you,” Sophia returned, arms again locked across her chest and her gaze trained on Amelia.
The galley-sized kitchen was the only clutter-free area in the house, likely due to heroic efforts by Mrs. Baxter. Kate was convinced the mansion had been purchased solely because it was the only residence in town large enough to accommodate the extensive Nethercutt collection. The place brought to mind an eBay warehouse.
She dropped the tray a bit too heavily on the tiled island, near a sleek crystal vase holding fragrant Lily of the Valley blooms. Because the outside of the teapot still felt warm, she used a small towel to cover it in case Amelia wanted another fortifying cup after dealing with her evil stepchild. Two steps to the sink, and she was soaping her fingernails one more time. She knew all lingering dust and grime was probably gone, but . . .
Startled, she jumped back and upset the tall vase with an elbow. The clear glass rocked at the counter’s edge, and Kate, heart in her throat, grabbed the base, making the rescue just milliseconds before a shattering disaster.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. I’m Danny.”
The vase was safe, but Kate felt as if her body had splintered into a billion pieces. She snatched a towel from the countertop, then swiped at her hands and took two deep breaths. Feeling calmer, she turned and smiled at the teen who filled the back doorway. “Oh, hello, I’m Kate McKenzie.”
Danny looked about sixteen, at the gangly stage where all the pizzas and junk food in the world couldn’t possibly fill out that final burst of height. He wore baggy jeans and a flapping flannel shirt over a t-shirt imprinted with the multi-washed logo of a local heavy metal band. He removed the lid from a Hansel-and-Gretel styled cookie jar and added, “Saw the wicked witch of the west go in the front door, so I slipped around back.”
“You mean—”
“My Aunt Sophia.” Danny bit into a chocolate chip cookie. He poked the rest of the cookie in his mouth and lifted the jar, offering a muffled, “You want one?”
“No, thanks.” Kate waved a hand over the tray. “I had tea with your grandmother.”
He made a face. “Did she give you the awful stuff?”
“It was Lap—”
“Yeah, that’s the awful stuff.” He stuck out his tongue. “She always drinks it too strong.”
Kate couldn’t resist. “There’s a little more in the pot if you’d like some.”
They both laughed.
“Well, nice to meet you, Kate McKenzie.” He snatched three more cookies from the jar and clunked down the lid, then nabbed a can of soda out of the refrigerator. “My dad and uncle should be here soon. Gramma gave me her old roadster, a MG, and Dad wants Uncle Thomas to check everything out before I drive it. ” He flashed a dark look. “’Course, that wouldn’t be necessary if Gramma would buy me a new one.” Then he flashed Kate a grin like he was kidding all along.
Or being a smart-aleck teen. Obviously someone in the Nethercutt family was trying to instill a little character in the lad. She hoped it worked since, despite the grin, she noticed the humor never reached his cloudy green eyes. Aloud, she asked, “Is Thomas your Aunt Sophia’s husband?”
She received a snort in reply.
“Sophia would never live with a man who doesn’t mind grease under his fingernails.” Danny shook his head, slipping the cola under an arm to free a hand for the doorknob. “Besides, Auntie is into old geezers who die quickly. Has her current husband locked away right now, drooling in his oatmeal and telling his private nurse about his childhood during the Great War. Uncle Thomas is Gramma’s son. You should see us all together at family holidays.”
I think I’d rather not.
The door slammed shut and she smiled, wondering about this teen and his talkative nature, and couldn’t help but suspect he was up to something. He demonstrated none of the antisocial, sullen behavior other moms warned was in the not-too-distant future for Kate with her own twins. However, she didn't completely trust this first impression persona was the dominant one for Amelia's grandson either. She chalked the feeling up to maternal instinct.
Her twins! If Danny was out of school, then her daughters Samantha and Suzanne had already been dismissed as well. What kind of organizational expert didn't keep track of the time? She should have checked her Master List. Kept up with the time. Too many things to remember, so much running through her head. She had to . . .
Stop! Take a deep breath.
Sanity restored, she snapped the rubber band on her left wrist as she inhaled one last time. Number five for today.
The corner cuckoo clock set her in motion, and she pulled the daily master list from her pocket. No stops on the way home, just hurry to relieve her husband, Keith, from his after-school parental responsibilities, get dinner on the table, and send him off to his job on time. She scooped up her purse and dashed through the swinging kitchen door, offering the women in the parlor a hasty goodbye before streaking out the front, with Amelia calling, “Hug those sweet darlings of yours for me.”
Yet, even as she hustled to her blue van, Kate relished for a moment the heightened view boasted from the Tudor mansion’s lofty setting, the tiny town below gaining a doll-like quality. She saw the distant radio tower for local talk station WHZE, where Keith was evening sports anchor. The station was small, but the management's commitment to New England was sports rock solid, and as a homegrown hockey hero, Keith was approached for the job soon after the new format became public. The four McKenzies had moved to his hometown of Hazelton, Vermont six months before, and lived a few miles from his parents. The move had been a good one so far. Since Kate’s parents were deceased, the girls loved having a doting set of grandparents nearby to spoil them.
Keith had played B-string goalie ten seasons with various major league hockey teams, eight while the couple was married, before blowing out a knee and calling it quits. The timing had definitely been right. All the moving and politics kept a steady strain on their marriage. Before the move she only knew Hazelton from sporadic Currier and Ives-like Christmas visits, but loved its winding rural roads and the picturesque Main Street that unfolded in open friendliness as travelers emerged from a centuries-old covered bridge at the town’s eastern boundary. Kate also found being married to the returning prodigal citizen automatically made her a local. Or close enough, anyway.
Unfortunately, sports-talkers in small New England cities did not make what even moderately-successful hockey players did. With the twins in school all day, Kate finally persuaded Keith to take on more duties around the house and allow her time to start a business. He’d balked at first, but she’d found an advocate in her mother-in-law. Once Jane McKenzie stepped into the discussion, her son didn’t have a chance. When he’d looked to his father, George, for moral support, the elder McKenzie just shook his head and ducked out the backdoor with his pipe.
Kate smiled as she merged into traffic for the short drive home. It’s always said men marry their mothers. At first, she’d felt a little uneasy about the idea, but no longer.
A red Jeep parked at the head of their cul-de-sac barred her from entering. The vehicle was Keith’s and he had the neighborhood kids whooping and hollering as they used the paved circle for an impromptu Rollerblading rink. Two teams, players distinguished by the mismatched shirts they wore of either blue or red, battled a hard rubber puck with street sticks toward opposite goals. Kate’s blond-curled daughters were the masked and dueling goalies. She parked and took her place alongside other parents watching their helmeted offspring, all clapping and whistling over the triumphs and groaning for the mis-skates.
Meg Berman, hair fiery bright in the spring sun and still wearing garden grubbies, waved her over and called out, “You just missed Sam dive for the puck. She saved the red team.”
Kate’s daughter Samantha turned at the words and waved at her mom. The puck flew Sam’s way again, courtesy of Jeremy Hendricks, daughter Suzanne’s crush of the week, and this time the hard plastic flew unhindered into the net.
“Blue team wins!” Half the kids cheered, skating to form a middle line for the best-sportsmanship handshake Keith always mandated.
Her husband took off his helmet, his wavy brown hair tumbling free, and joined one end. “Congratulations, blue team. Red team, nice effort on your part, too. Sam, we have to work on that attention span, though. Don’t forget.”
“But, Daddy, Mommy is here.”
Keith turned his hundred-watt smile Kate’s way. Even after almost nine years of marriage she felt the familiar flutter in her heart.
“Hi, honey. We’re about finished.” He reached out and grabbed a twin with each hand.
“That’s fine. I’ll go in and start dinner. It’s sloppy joes, so hurry.” Kate pointed to her watch. “You don’t have much time.”
The other kids and parents dispersed. Kate walked with Meg. “Looks like you’ve been gardening.” She motioned toward her friend’s gloves and the claw-like hand tool.
“The only way to stay optimistic something flowery will eventually come up is to keep acting like Mother Nature is on-track.” Meg sighed, slipping her hand under one arm to remove a glove. “It’s been too chilly this year, but I have faith the pastels will pop out soon. More important, what’s the Nethercutt mansion like inside?”
Kate rolled her eyes. “You’re not going to believe it. Let me decompress for a bit, then I’ll try to find words to describe the place.”
“Maybe I could come help you on the job and see it for myself,” Meg coaxed, wiggling thin brows in a hopeful look that made her freckles dance.
“You can’t imagine what you’re volunteering for.”
Meg’s two boys, five-year-old Ben and eight-year-old Mark skated up, their wheels making a sizzling sound across the asphalt, then silence and synchronized thunks as they jumped in tandem to the sidewalk. Ben might have been smaller, but was already a match for his big bro.
“Mom, can we go out for pizza?” Mark begged, screeching to a stop just inches from Kate's toes.
“Please, Mom, since Dad’s not gonna be home tonight?” Ben backed him up, his head just grazing Mark’s shoulder. Meg’s husband, Gil, a columnist for the Bennington paper, covered state government and often had to stay in Montpelier.
Meg frowned, but Kate saw a tiny smile fighting to break free. “How can I say no when you tag team me like this?”
“Or, you’re welcome to come share sloppy joes with us,” Kate said, knowing how much the boys loved to talk hockey with Keith.
“Can we?” they chorused.
When their mom nodded, Kate sent everyone toward her house. “Just let me get the van in the garage.”
Five minutes later it was controlled chaos in the kitchen. The kids alternately relived successes and defeats, filling Kate in on the action she’d missed while she browned hamburger and laid out the other ingredients. She handed Suzanne a stack of place mats, then frisbeed paper plates to the boys. “You guys set the table together, okay? Get extra napkins, Sam.”
Everything was simmering nicely, both food and conversation, when the business line rang.
“Stacked in Your Favor. Kate McKenzie speaking.”
“Mrs. McKenzie,” an acid voice responded. “This is Sophia Nethercutt-White. We met today. You were working for my stepmother.”
“Yes.” Kate noted how the woman’s greeting neatly put her into her place. “Can I help you?”
“Actually, no,” Sophia said. “And my stepmother no longer requires your services, either. The police are here. Amelia Nethercutt is dead.”

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