Monday, November 28, 2022

Suspects & Suitors (A Skullduggery Inn Cozy Read Book 3) by Kathy Carmichael

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A Novella. Amateur sleuth and owner of the Skullduggery Inn, Amy Sands, is up to her elbows in anonymous Valentine’s suitors. Problem is, one of them is threatening her life.

Skullduggery Inn Cozy Reads:
Mayhem on the Winterland Express
My Favorite Corpse
Suspects & Suitors
Something Borrowed, Something Deadly

About Kathy's first mystery novel, Diary of a Confessions Queen:
Booklist *Starred Review* "Carmichael (Hot Flash, 2009) has created a thrilling whodunit in her trademark sassy, breezy style. Readers will enjoy her unique blend of humor and suspense." ~ Shelley Mosley

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Enjoy an Excerpt from Murder, Lies and Chocolate by Sally Berneathy

$2.99

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USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR
Book 2 of the Death by Chocolate Series.

Rodney Bradford comes into Lindsay's restaurant, offers to buy her small house for double its value, eats her brownies, and drops dead on the sidewalk in front. Then someone breaks into her house and tries to dig up her basement. Next her almost-ex-husband offers to sign the divorce papers, but only if she'll give him her small, old house and take his big, new house instead.

Suddenly everybody wants Lindsay's house. Is there oil under the basement, plans to bring the railroad through, pirate treasure buried in the basement? A second break-in occurs and causes her cat, King Henry, to launch into full attack mode, taking a few chunks out of the intruder.

Lindsay enlists the aid of her enigmatic neighbor, Fred, to help solve the mystery while trying to keep her police detective boyfriend, Trent, from getting in their way with his insistence on all those silly cop rules.

On the positive side, sales skyrocket for the special dessert Lindsay calls Murdered Man's Brownies. Prisoners, murderers, crazy relatives and strippers are all part of the chaos in this second book of the Death by Chocolate series.

BONUS! Chocolate recipes at the end of the book. Poison optional.


Chapter One



“Are you out of your freaking mind? No, you cannot have my house.” I spoke the words through gritted teeth to keep myself from shouting since it was noon and my small restaurant, Death by Chocolate, was packed. I didn’t want my customers to hear me screaming at my almost-ex-husband. Might ruin their appetite for dessert. I had no doubt Rick deliberately chose that setting so I wouldn’t yell at him.
“Lindsay, you’d have to be crazy to pass up a deal like this.” Rick leaned across the counter and gave me his most engaging, most insincere real estate salesman smile. “You’ll get almost twice what that old place is worth, and I’ll sign the divorce papers the minute you sign the Contract for Sale.”
Rick knew how to work me. He’d convinced me to marry him in the first place and now he’d delayed our divorce for almost a year. Every time I got a court date, he got a continuance. I really, really wanted him to sign those papers and I certainly could have used the extra money, but I’ve learned not to trust a Rick bearing gifts. He was up to something. Had he discovered my house had oil under the basement? Was the railroad scheduled to come through? I was pretty sure those things only happened in old movies, but I was equally sure this deal would have some money in it for Rick, more than was in it for me.
“Do you not see that I’m busy right now? Go away.” I turned to the man who’d taken a seat on the stool next to where Rick stood. “What can I get for you, sir? Our special today is a ham sandwich and a piece of Sinful Chocolate Cake.”
“I’m not leaving,” Rick said. “I’m meeting my client here. Throw a little business your way. We’ll be at that table in the corner in case you change your mind. Give it some thought.” He smiled and winked as he walked across the room.
Had I really once thought that smile was sexy?
Paula Roberts, my best friend and co-worker, was waiting tables while I took care of the counter. That meant she’d have to deal with him. Not that I wished Rick on her, but better her than me. At least he was a good tipper, especially when he was with a client. The old impress.
For the next hour I focused on serving sandwiches and chocolate goodies and tried to ignore Rick. I did notice that an older male joined him. Probably really was a real client. I’d expected him to bring in his latest bimbo. Excuse me…I mean, his latest girlfriend.
The man was likely the client who wanted to buy my house since he and Rick kept looking at me.
When Rick and I split up he moved his bimbo-of-the-month, Muffy, into the big home we once shared, and I moved into one of our small rental properties in the Kansas City suburb of Pleasant Grove. I wasn’t happy about it at the time, but I’d since become quite fond of that house. It has character and personality as well as great neighbors. Paula and her son, Zach, live on one side with my OCD computer nerd friend, Fred Sommers, on the other.
True, with as much money as Rick was offering, I could buy the vacant house across the street and fix it up, thus retaining my neighbors. That was just one of the many reasons I didn’t trust the whole deal. Why would anybody offer that much more than the house was worth? I did not for one minute believe Rick’s story that his client’s grandparents had lived in the house and he wanted it for sentimental value. What a crock.
The lunch crowd began to thin, and I noticed Rick and his client still sitting at the corner table. Across the room Paula cleared the dirty dishes off the table next to them and exchanged a raised-eyebrow look with me. I repressed a sigh as I handed the last lady at the bar a to-go bag with half a dozen gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. Rick was obviously planning to wait until everybody was gone then ambush me. He didn’t like not getting his way. That’s why our divorce was still pending. He didn’t want it, and if he didn’t want something, he’d figure a way to stop that something from happening.
A few months before he had kicked Muffy out and decided he wanted me back in. By that time I’d recovered from the temporary insanity that had induced me to marry him in the first place and got a cat instead. That cat loves my house. Make that, our house. King Henry took ownership the day he moved in.
The last customer left the counter. Besides Rick and his buddy, only one other table remained occupied. An older man and a younger woman sat there, nibbling on their cookies, talking softly and laughing. Probably married but not to each other.
Paula took her load of dishes to the kitchen then returned to where I stood behind the cash register. After her evil ex-husband was sent to prison last fall, she quit coloring her blonde hair brown and came out of hiding, but she still wore her self-appointed uniform of long sleeves and ankle-length skirts to hide the scars he’d left. I’d worn the same uniform for a while to make her feel comfortable but had recently gone back to jeans and white shirts. I’d tripped on those long skirts too many times.
“They didn’t order anything except desert, and Rick gave me a twenty dollar tip,” she said. “Watch your back.”
“He wants my house.”
“What?” Her eyes widened in surprise. “He made you take that house so he could keep the big one!”
“Shhh. Here they come.”
“I’ll just step into the kitchen and eavesdrop.” Paula vanished into the back room.
“Lindsay, I’d like you to meet Rodney Bradford.”
The tall man with gray hair, acne-scarred skin and dark eyes wore a business suit, but he didn’t look like a business person…more like a member of the mob cleaned up for trial. He gave me a big smile and extended a large hand across the counter. “Good to meet you, Lindsay.”
I took his hand automatically. It was thick, hard and callused. He didn’t grip too tightly, didn’t hang on too long, didn’t do anything wrong, but something about him creeped me out. Maybe just because he was hanging with Rick. Or maybe it was something to do with the darkness that seemed to expand out from those eyes and surround the man.
Nah, that was silly. Probably just because he was hanging with Rick.
“Can we talk outside?” Bradford asked, his gaze shifting nervously around the restaurant, looking at the couple in the corner as if they might be spies.
“No,” I said. “The acoustics are just fine in here. Feel free to speak.”
“Lindsay.” Rick spoke my name as if it was a threat, but then he gave a big salesman smile. “Please?”
I considered the situation. Stand there and argue with a man whose ears were tuned to hear only his own words or go outside with the two of them, then run back inside and lock the door. “Fine.” I took a fortifying sip of my current Coke, set it on the counter and headed for the front door.
Outside I led them away from the door but still in the shade of my awning. It was a hot day. I stopped in front of the sign painted on my window, positioning myself directly beneath the words Death by and obscuring most of the word Chocolate. I figured that would make a nice picture, though Bradford was probably too dense to get it and Rick was too self-consumed.
“Rodney is interested in purchasing that little house you’re living in, the one you and I own,” Rick said, ramping up the wattage on his smile.
Jerk. Reminding me the house was still community property, that we were still legally—no, I can’t say the “m” word when it relates to Rick. We were still legally bound.
I smiled with the same degree of sincerity as he did. That would be…none. “You mean my home? I’m not interested in selling.”
“It would mean a whole lot to me,” Rodney said. “My grandparents used to live there. That house has got sentimental value.” He paused, blinked and seemed confused for a second. Was this guy sick? His tanned skin did look kind of pallid. He swallowed, recovered and continued. “I used to visit them when I was a boy. Some of the best memories of my life. Now they’re—” He lowered his gaze, and this time his pause was deliberate. Con job. I’d seen Rick do it too many times not to recognize it. “They’re in heaven, and I’d just like to be able to go to that old house, sleep in my old room, sit on the porch like we used to and remember the good times.”
I was sorry to hear the nice elderly couple Rick and I bought the house from was dead. They’d seemed healthy, looking forward to life in a retirement village. “The house across the street is for sale. You could buy it, get a pair of binoculars and sit on the porch every day looking at my house.”
“Lindsay!” Rick exclaimed.
Beads of sweat broke out on Rodney’s forehead. The temperature was in the 80s, but the shade was cool. Was my refusal freaking him out that bad? “I’ve got a little money,” he said. His voice suddenly sounded creaky. “I’ll pay you more than you’d get anywhere else just so I can have my dear old grandmother’s house.”
“I’m sorry. It’s not for sale. If you’ll excuse me, I don’t want to leave Paula with all the cleanup.”
I took a step toward the door.
Rodney cleared his throat. “Could I have a glass of water?”
A stalling tactic. I sighed. “Sure.”
I went inside.
Paula had come back from the kitchen to stand beside the door. “Don’t sell him your house.”
“Don’t worry.” I poured a glass of ice water and went back out, planning to hand it to the man then run inside while he was drinking.
He raised his head to look at me. His skin was really pale and his eyes had a shiny cast to them. Maybe this was more than frustration at being thwarted. My cookies had nuts. I hoped he wasn’t allergic. If he went into anaphylactic shock and died, it wouldn’t be good publicity for the diner.
He reached a hand toward the glass, his eyes rolled up in his head, he groaned and slowly crumpled to the sidewalk.
“Did you bring a drunk man into my restaurant?” I demanded of Rick, hoping that’s what it was. I didn’t need my place to be quarantined for an outbreak of malaria or shut down because my cookies made somebody sick.
Rick sank to the ground beside the man. Paula rushed out. The couple at the corner table stood and looked through the window. I held onto the glass of water as if it was a glass of Coke and prayed for a verdict of too many beers.
“Call 911!” Rick shouted.
I set the water on the sidewalk, fumbled in the pocket of my jeans for my cell phone and punched in the three ominous numbers.
Paula rose, her face pale, her expression solemn. “Lindsay, he’s dead.”
The couple exploded through the door and hauled butt out of there. They didn’t want to be seen on the ten o’clock news.
This was worse than getting sick. Heart attack? Nut allergies? Please, not poisoned chocolate again! “You don’t know that he’s dead,” I snapped. “You thought your husband was dead just because you shot him, but he was still alive.”
Rick stood. He’d lost his salesman's smile. Damn. That did not bode well.
Someone answered my phone call. “911. What is your emergency?”
I swallowed and spoke into the phone. “I think I just killed a man. I mean…my cookies killed a man. I mean—”
“He had the brownie,” Paula interrupted.
I didn’t correct the 911 lady. Cookies or brownies, a man had just died after eating my dessert. Even if it was a good old-fashioned heart attack, death and desserts just don’t go well together.


Friday, November 25, 2022

Nathan: Brotherhood Protectors World by Regan Black

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When hope is lost, truth is blurred, and your life is on the line,
it’s time to call in the Guardian Agency...

From the privacy of her home office, computer genius Claudia Mitchell offers technical assistance for the bodyguards of the Guardian Agency. Whatever a protector needs, Claudia taps a few keys and makes it happen. When she receives a desperate call from her sister, Claudia can’t use cyberspace or assets to save her. For this case, Claudia has to take the lead. Afraid her secrets will jeopardize her perfect job, she reaches out to Hank Patterson’s Brotherhood Protectors for backup.

Nathan Jennings showed the world what being a hero looked like despite serving time in prison. His selfless actions earned him a place as a protector on the Guardian Agency team. Practically since day one, he’s fantasized about his tech assistant, Claudia, the woman with the sexy voice, quick wit, and razor-sharp mind. When she suddenly disappears and he is tasked with finding and protecting her, will his fantasy finally come true?

Author note: Previously published as Nothing to Lose, this novel has been updated and revised for your enjoyment.

Chapter One

Claudia Mitchell had her agency cell phone on her hip as she moved laundry from the washer to the dryer. If she was lucky, she’d complete the task before the device chimed with another incoming call. As a technical assistant to several protectors within the Guardian Agency, she was on call twenty-four/seven.
The work challenged her and kept her mind sharp, even on the slower days. Working from home gave her a perfect, flexible schedule and although she didn’t personally venture out into the field, she enjoyed living vicariously through the investigators who did. In her role as operational backup, she offered assistance behind the scenes on all kinds of cases from murder to missing persons. With the agency resources and the latest tools and electronic developments at her fingertips, she couldn’t imagine a more ideal career.
Agency protocol prevented her knowing anything beyond the names and cell phone numbers for the investigators she supported. From her perspective, that was one of the best perks. There were no office politics, no judgment in the break room about fashion, bad hair days, who was putting on weight, or who had gotten sloppy drunk at the company end-of-year party.
The only time she laid eyes on one of the protectors was when they were occasionally caught in the unflattering light of a security camera. Her boss knew she was more than capable of digging into the lives and histories of the protectors and the agency at large, but she’d signed an agreement that she wouldn’t snoop.
Only one investigator tested her resolve, but she refused to risk the perfect job because of her natural curiosity. Some things in life were better as a fantasy. She smiled to herself, thinking of how often the protectors teased her during cases, trying to pry out her personal details. It was a harmless game they all played. She’d become adept at evasion and fabrication, lessons she’d learned first in college and honed during her time with the CIA.
No one placed enough value on solitude anymore, Claudia thought as she hung up the few items that needed to air dry. Her task done, she turned into her small kitchen and refilled her bottle of water before returning to her desk. The background check she’d been assembling for one of the agency cases should be done by now.
At the sound of a ringing phone, she reached for the agency cell on her hip, then realized it was her personal cell phone. She raced for the device sitting in the charger. Only two people had that number: her boss and her sister, Diana. If either of them were using this number the sky must surely be falling somewhere.
Her sister’s name and cell number showed on the screen. She took a deep breath and said a quick prayer for patience as she answered.
“Oh, thank God,” her sister’s exclamation barely registered above a whisper. “Claudia, I’m in trouble.”
“What’s wrong?” She tried to keep the exasperation out of her voice. Diana’s definition of trouble rarely lined up with Claudia’s. It could be as simple as a flat tire. Or it could be a plea for another loan to launch her next can’t-miss career endeavor. Claudia had supported Diana during attempts to take the world by storm as an actress, model, and singer. Most recently she’d decided to turn her communications degree into a career as an investigative reporter, but she hadn’t shared the specifics with Claudia.
“I’m at home,” Diana said. “Sort of. North of town. You can trace my phone right?”
“Yes, but—”
“Do it quick before I have to turn it over to him.”
“Him who?” She sat down at her desk and started the trace. “What are you talking about?”
“House rule number one is no cell phones.” Diana groaned. “It’s complicated. Claudia, I’m so sorry. I followed a story and things went bad. Escalated. It’s big. You have to come help me. Please.”
Of course she had to help and, irritated or not, she would. Diana was the only family she had left.

 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

My Kind of Trouble by Kathy Carmichael - NEW RELEASE!

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In the town of Littlemouth, being naughty was never so much fun. Trouble was never so delightful!

Five incorrigible women are members of a library reader's group, The Readers Organization Uniting Book-loving Littlemouth Elites. Their nickname, Trouble, fits them perfectly.

There's no avoiding Trouble. They run every volunteer and civic organization in town and feel justified in creating chaos in pursuit of their own amusement.

Now that they have inherited a wedding venue, they are determined to make a splash for themselves, not only by creating beautiful wedding settings, but also by providing both a bride and groom, if needed. They do, after all, pride themselves on matchmaking!

And they have decided that Blake and Mandy will be a perfect pair. Even though they've never met...

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Enjoy an Excerpt from The Chase by Mary Hagen

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Life hangs in the balance when four women on a backpacking trip are attacked by four convicts running from the law. To survive, they must outsmart the men. To do so, they take an alternate route away from the trail and head for a distant mountain pass leaving back backpacks behind. Without their survival gear, they know they cannot survive.  In spite of the risks, Tannya Hudson returns to their campsite to retrieve whatever she can find and to find Cindy, one of the backpackers who is missing.  The convicts return to the camp and make plans to catch the women. Tanya barely escapes. In spite of her efforts to hide her tracks, the convicts pick up her trail and follow as she climbs to meet her fellow hikers. Will the women meet? Will they outrun the men? Will they survive in dismal weather conditions or will they die?  The Chase begins.

 

Reluctantly, Greg Moore backed his Jeep out of his carport. His terrifying dream about Tanya Hudson and her backpacking trip stayed with him as he drove toward Julie's house. The premonition that something bad was going to happen to Tanya and her three friends never left him. How could he, a civil engineer who dealt in concrete facts, not dreams, reveal his misgivings? He laughed. The dream was real, and he couldn’t put it out of his mind.

He loved Tanya, had from the moment he met her and could not bear the thought of something happening to her. It was his fault that Tanya broke off their relationship, but his marriage and subsequent divorce from Andrea had been painful. He was not ready to make another permanent relationship. Marriage terrified him, but Tanya would not agree to anything else. She chose to remain friends because of his refusal to agree to a permanent commitment. What was he thinking? Tanya was not Andrea.

The premonition haunted him at the intersections, as the sun rising in the east turned the sky a vivid orange and red, at the dark clouds gathering in the west. Blood came to his mind. He could not reveal to anyone his misgivings. Certainly not Tanya. It was only a dream, a stupid nightmare.

He braked at a stoplight, impatiently tapping his fingers on the steering wheel as he waited for the light to change. The dawn accentuated his feelings of gloom. The light changed from red to green and he drove forward, the inner fear never ebbing from his mind.

At the time he met Tanya, he believed he never could fall in love again.  Tanya was the most beautiful woman he knew. Just thinking about her filled him with desire and a love so deep it hurt. She was opposite in every way from the women he usually chose - small, blonde, and blue-eyed, who were dependent on him to make decisions and to take the lead in planning activities like Andrea. Andrea wanted more of everything, money, fun, and adoration from every man she met.

Tanya was tall, independent, with beautiful black hair and eyes. More importantly, she challenged him, his beliefs, and his ideas in ways he did not think possible. Life was never dull with her. She was a free spirit. He did not want her to change even if she did not believe him.

Tanya's words echoed in his ears over their last dinner when she announced the end of their relationship. "You're a macho prude."

Greg smiled to himself. He liked the sound of her voice, the almond shape of her eyes that radiated sparks of light, her high cheekbones, the shape of her mouth. He knew he had blown the relationship. Because of him, it was on hold. Friends, he thought, I can't deal with just being a friend, but at least, he would see her. Could he watch her date someone else? He knew the answer.

His motives in the beginning had been to bring the tall, aloof beauty to his bed, seduce her and drop her. In a short time, he realized she excited and challenged him in ways akin to the feelings he had when he climbed a 5.11 pitch on a mountain or conquered a difficult peak. He had the same anticipatory anxiety every time he thought about meeting Tanya. It was with him now as he drove to pick up Cindy and Rebecca Kerr and Julie Johnson, but it was mixed with dread and concern.

He and Tanya clashed over many things but, in time, Tanya subdued him and changed his mind on several issues about women but never his desire to seduce her. She refused any sexual relationship, demanding a deeper commitment from him than he was willing to give. Look where it had gotten him.

 He loved Tanya but something in him made him want to conquer her first. Their mutual stubbornness, mostly his, was about to break them apart but he could not give up his need to dominate her, first. Stupid, he admonished himself.

As much as he wanted, he could not reveal his premonition, his misgivings, his fears that something disastrous was going to happen on their trip. It was foolish on his part, but the most he could bring himself to do was to call Tanya and say, "The weather's going to change. You could be caught in rain or snow."

Tanya refused, laughing at him as she replied, "You know by now a little wet weather has never stopped the four of us."

Greg called Rebecca and Julie to ask them to reconsider their trip to no avail. In the end, he agreed to drive them to the trailhead and to pick them up at the end of their trip. He would see Tanya, be near her, but the reason he had offered to drive them was with the hope he could persuade her to change her mind.

The light was on above Julie's front door. Greg pulled into her driveway. Steve, Julie's husband, opened the door before Greg was out of his vehicle.

"Julies got her stuff in the garage. I'll be out to load her gear in a second."

People have happy marriages, Greg thought. He only needed to look at Steve and Julie. They had been married five years and still acted like newlyweds in spite of their differences. Julie was like Tanya. They both enjoyed camping, hiking, climbing, and working together on outdoor projects. Steve did not care if he ever went camping except during hunting season. They gave each other space to pursue their interests.

Greg knew he and Tanya would do the same. Why then, could he not marry her? Why couldn’t she agree to a live together with a commitment? Greg clacked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. He had no answer.

Steve and Greg helped Julie stash her backpack into his SUV. Steve wished Julie a safe trip, kissed her a lingering goodbye until Greg interrupted, “Hey, we’ve got to pick up the others.”

Steve slammed the car door, gave Julie another kiss, and waved them on. Greg drove toward Rebecca's house. She and her daughter, Cindy, were on the porch waiting.

“That girl is well-endowed for an eighteen-year-old. She looks more like someone twenty,” Greg said as he turned into the driveway.

"I hope the disagreements between Cindy and Rebecca don’t upset our trip,” Julie said, “Rebecca’s expectations of Cindy are almost impossible. No wonder the poor kid resents her. She absolutely insisted Cindy go with us.”

“This is a farewell trip for Cindy before she’s off to college. Good thing,” Greg said.

“I know.” Julie paused. “I can’t understand the two of you.”

Greg glanced at Julie. “Changing the subject?” Greg stopped the motor.

“When are you and Tanya going to stop playing this little game of friendship and get back together?” Julie asked. “She’s my best friend. I hate to see her hurt by you or anyone for that matter.”

Greg shrugged his shoulders. He opened the door and climbed out of the SUV. “Jim must still be asleep, lucky dog,” Greg said.

“Who needs him? Rebecca manages everything. Now that’s catty of me. Rebecca’s my friend,” Julie said.

The sullen expression worn by Cindy announced her displeasure over the backpack. Greg relieved her of one pack and shoved it into the space behind the seat.

"You look unhappy," he said.

"You know Cindy," Rebecca said. "She's never happy at the beginning of one of our trips. She'll cheer up as we get into it."

Greg caught the hostile glance Cindy gave her mother. He sympathized with her co-workers, and her friends, except Tanya and Julie. For ten years, she had worked as office manager in their consulting business. They considered Rebecca the reason their business succeeded, but Tanya could work with anyone without conflict.

Julie stepped out of the car to let Rebecca and Cindy into the back seat. Cindy barely acknowledged her greeting as she buckled her seat belt.

As they drove away from the Kerr home, the inner fears surfaced in Greg's mind to plague him the remainder of the distance to Tanya's house. He could not stop them. He had even risked Steve's teasing and tried to convince him that he should discourage the trip.

A bolt of lightning flashed above the mountains to the west. "You know, the weather gets better in a few days. Why not wait?" he said.

"You still at it, Greg? You might as well give up. We're packed and moving. Wet weather isn't going to hold us up. Besides, you know as well as we, the weathermen are wrong half the time with their mountain forecasts. The mountains make their own weather," Rebecca said.

"I'd be in favor," Cindy said. "I don't even want to go on this dumb trip, and I wouldn't if it wasn't for Tanya and Julie."

"We're going to miss you when you leave for college,” Julie said in an effort to appease Cindy.

The sun appeared briefly on the eastern horizon under the clouds as Greg parked in front of Tanya's townhouse. Before he could open his door, Tanya came out of her house with her pack and her miniature poodle, Figwort, named for the plant family Greg knew Tanya loved. Figwort pranced ahead of Tanya furiously wagging his tail and ran to Greg.

"Hey, old buddy, miss me?" Greg stooped to the dog's level to pet him. Figwort licked his face and gave Greg a smile showing his canine teeth. "At least, you still love me."

He opened the back door of the SUV and said, "I’ll take that pack.” He removed the straps from Tanya’s shoulders, restraining the desire he had to hold her. Her hair, braided and tied with strips of leather, smelled fresh and clean, surfacing his feelings of loss and misery.

He took a deep breath to control his emotions. "Ouch. What’ve you got in this pack, the kitchen sink? It weighs a ton. Are you sure you’re going to be able to meet me in six days?"

Tanya's laugh sent stabs of discouragement through him and shredded his insides. If only he could talk her out of this trip.

"I decided to take my rope and a few carabineers just in case we need them for a river crossing or as a climbing aid on one of our side trips."

"Thought you were going to just backpack, not climb." Greg struggled to keep his feeling of anxiety out of his voice, the dream sharp in his mind. He put her pack in his vehicle and slammed the door. "I've missed you," he said as he held open the right door.

Tanya said nothing. A cloud blotted out the sun and a black chill enveloped him.

Figwort jumped into the front seat of the SUV. He wagged his tail at the three women sitting in the back seat.

"Hi, everyone. I decided to take Figwort. Hope you don't mind but when I took him to the kennel, he looked at me with such a pitiful expression, I couldn't leave him."

"Come, Figwort, sit on my lap," Cindy called. "I don't care. I love Figwort. I just wish I could have a dog, but you know Mom. She's Mrs. Neat, Neat, Neat. No animals at our place. They might dirty her floor."

"Lighten up, Cindy. I don't want us to be in constant disagreement on this trip. Think of Julie and Tanya if not me. They want you to have a good time."

Cindy hugged the poodle. "Sorry, guys.”

 

Tanya sat quietly, aware of Greg's after shave, her gift to him on his birthday, the warmth of his body, and the soft sound of his breathing. She missed him, felt lonely when he wasn't with her, but she was determined to end a relationship she saw stagnating. Her unhappiness weighed heavily on her mind when she was alone, and she had buried herself in her work to keep from thinking about him.

She had been burned once, and she was not about to let it happen again. Jack Egger had been her Mr. Right, who turned out to be Mr. Wrong. Lately, her relationship with Greg seemed headed in the same direction.

For months, she and Jack, her former lover, shared dinners, spoke of their futures, and planned joint holidays. Abruptly, he did not call. Finally, Tanya with reservations swallowed her pride and called Jack. His words cut her to the core. "I've met someone else." The real reason, Tanya realized, was that she was half Blackfoot, an orphan, and Jack’s parents were against his dating her.

She was not going to let that happen again. Difficult as it had been, she told Greg of her decision over dinner at Suhiro’s. He protested but refused to make a commitment. To bury her disappointment, she spent hours in the field on any project she could, and she vowed no one was going to destroy her hopes and dreams of the future, including Greg.

She smiled as she recalled his words. “Remain friends! I don't like that." It was his problem. He had to understand, she needed more than an ongoing affair. As a foster child, she had moved from house to house never knowing how long she would be in one place. Permanent friends and relationships were important to her.

The voices in the vehicle hummed around her, but she was only aware of Greg. She glanced at him. Something bothered him. The set of his jaw revealed his moods to her. Still, she had no right to ask.

Figwort jumped into Tanya's lap. Her breath caught in her throat as a blue Buick with four men passed them on a double line, blind curve. "Wow! That was stupid."

"A bunch of idiots," Greg responded. He slowed his SUV.

"I need to put my heart back in place after that," Julie said. "I do want to live.”

As Greg turned off the main highway and onto a narrow, one-lane road the same blue Buick roared past them. He shook his head. "They must have a death wish for themselves and someone else."

"Tanya, you haven't uttered a word this whole drive," Rebecca said.

"I've been mulling things over in my mind, trying to remember if I've forgotten anything," Tanya answered. She felt but did not see Greg's glance.

"Hope you're weighing the odds of having a miserable trip," he said.

Tanya chuckled. "It's not going to be miserable. We'll have perfect weather. Fall is a beautiful season to be out."

"Take a look above you. Those clouds are building. We can have terrible weather in September, the fall equinox."

"Come off it, Greg. We're going. You're as bad as Steve. He thinks I'm nuts every time I venture out in bad weather, but I actually like it," Julie said.

"I'll go home with you. I hate bad weather, and I hate being forced to go on backpacks," Cindy said. “Look at those black clouds. We’re going to be wet the whole trip. I’m already shivering. Come, Fig, sit on my lap and keep me warm.” The dog jumped over the seat and licked her face.

"Cindy, shut up," Rebecca ordered. "I'm tired of your constant complaining. You know you always have a good time once we’re on our way."

“Hang in there, Cindy. We’ll see to it you have fun. It won’t be the same without you around to keep us in tune with life,” Tanya said.

Greg stopped the SUV at the end of the road. "Sure you don't want to change your minds and wait a few days. Sky's pretty heavy," Greg said. He looked at Tanya, his eyes conveying a message to her she could not read. Her heart banged against her chest just being next to him, and she gulped to rein in her emotions. She turned away and went to the rear of the vehicle to reach for her pack. Figwort followed her.

One by one, Tanya handed packs to Julie who stacked them by the side of the SUV.

“I’m going to put my rain gear on top of my pack. I know I’ll need it before we’ve gone a hundred steps.” Cindy laid her pack on the ground, opened it, and scrounged around for her rain jacket and pants.

“Good idea,” Julie said. “Though, I hope we don’t have to wear them. I get so hot with mine on.”

“I’m optimistic. The weather’s going to clear,” Tanya said. She reached for her pack.

"Let me help you," Greg offered. His six-foot, two-inch height made her feel small even though he was only six inches taller than she. His arm around her as he helped her into her pack sent pulses of warmth through her veins, his nearness sending her heart racing. She gritted her teeth to keep from uttering words that would undo her vow to herself to end her ties with Greg.

Tanya slipped one arm and then the other into the straps. Before she could stop him, Greg pulled the belt around her waist and buckled it. His closeness brought her heart to her throat. She gulped to regain control of her emotions and took three backward steps. He looked into her eyes.

“Sure you want to make this trip?”  Do you have your cell phone?"

"No. Stop fretting.  You know, we don't take them on a backpack.  Half the time they don't work.” Tanya moved her shoulders from side to side to settle her pack and pulled the straps closer to her back. “Feels comfortable.” She moved her arms in a half circle.

Rebecca shouldered her pack and offered to help Cindy who brushed her aside. “I’m not helpless.”

“If everyone’s ready, we should hit the trail. Want to lead, Cindy, and set the pace? I’ll bring up the rear,” Tanya said.

"Have a good trip,” Greg said. "I'll see you in five days."

"We will. Thanks." Tanya hitched the waist belt of the pack tighter and turned up the trail, Figwort at her heels.

The cheerful voices of the women carried to him, but he could not rid himself of the remorsefulness that flooded through his mind and engulfed his body, leaving him deeply depressed as the dream returned.

A rag bundle of blue and red cloth lay at the base of a cliff. As he turned it over to examine it, he looked into unseeing eyes, Tanya's deep brown eyes, lifeless and vacant. A moan escaped him, but he uttered no words, no calling out for Tanya to come back. Greg shook his head to rid himself of the black memory, the dream of her fall so real. Still, the alarm and the fear pumped through his veins.

"Tanya," he whispered.

As though hearing him, she turned and waved.

 


 

 

Mommy Heiress by Linda Wisdom

$3.99

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Toto, I Don't Think I Want to Be in Kansas Anymore…

Stranded without her credit cards, heiress-on-the-run Cori Peyton had nothing to depend on but her wits—and Dr. Benjamin Cooper. When the feisty blond beauty fainted in the car repair shop in a backwater Kansas town, she woke up to the sexy doctor's bombshell: she was pregnant.

Ben was perfectly happy mending the bodies and breaking the hearts of the women in his small town. And he delivered babies all the time. Why did this woman and this pregnancy affect him so much? And when the rumor hit town that her baby was his, why did that sound so good?  



Tuesday, November 22, 2022

BRINGING HOME CHRISTMAS by Vicki Hinze

$3.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers

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Saturday, November 19, 2022

Death by Chocolate by Sally Berneathy

 

FREE

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USA TODAY BESTSELLER! First book in the Death by Chocolate series Lindsay loves chocolate. It tastes good, it makes her feel good, it never cheats on her like her almost-ex-husband. It's her best friend. But someone wants her dead and uses her weak spot—chocolate—to try to murder her. Lindsay's only secret is the recipe for her chocolate chip cookies, but she is surrounded by neighbors with deadly secrets. Suddenly she finds herself battling poisoned chocolate, a psycho stalker, and a dead man who seems awfully active for a corpse. Her best friend and co-worker, Paula, dyes her blond hair brown, hides from everybody and insists on always having an emergency exit from any room. Secrets from Paula's past have come back to put lives in jeopardy.Determined to help Paula, Lindsay enlists the reluctant aid of another neighbor, Fred, an OCD computer nerd. In spite of his mundane existence, Fred possesses tidbits of knowledge about such things as hidden microphones, guns, the inside of maximum security prisons and how to take someone down with a well-aimed kick to his chin. As Lindsay battles the elusive stalker, poisoned chocolate, and the dead man, she will need more than a chocolate fix to survive. But that’s always a good start.

Review:


Cozy mysteries have become one of my favorite genres. I especially love mysteries that feature pets or great food. Death by Chocolate by Sally Berneathy not only has an amazing plot with an unexpected ending, but delicious sounding food and an adorable cat named King Henry. What's even better are the recipes found at the end.

I found this book very easy to get into and read through it rather quickly. There were a couple areas of the book that gave me an uneasy feeling. The book does feature a woman who has been beaten in the past by her ex-husband and when she finally tells the story to her best-friend (the lead character), it's a chilling tale. However, the scene really adds to the overall feel of the book and wouldn't be the same if readers didn't have the whole story. In other words, it stirs the right emotions in the reader to make the book even better.

Death by Chocolate by Sally Berneathy was one of those books that actually made me laugh out loud several times. And made me hungry on more than one occasion. If you love cozy mysteries, this one is a must. I can't wait to read the rest of the books in the series.

Friday, November 18, 2022

BLOOD STRANGERS (BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: FAMILY SECRETS Book 2) by Vicki Hinze

$3.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers

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In this heart-wrenching suspense, Gabby Blake, the estranged daughter of a single-parent father who has always kept his distance, is summoned. Her father has had a stroke and he insists Gabby help him by doing work that will cost her not only her job but her life. Yet she cannot refuse. She’s craved her father’s approval, longed to just once feel that she isn’t alone in the world and unloved. Maybe through this work they can finally bond.

Her hope is short-lived. Her father is murdered . . . and Gabby is advised to vanish. No one can protect her. Disappearing is critical to her staying alive and avoiding assassination.

Aided by an online friend, Gabby disappears and starts a new life. An unknown past rips open old wounds and family secrets that cut deeper than she believed possible—and unleashes a new betrayal from the one man in the world she had dared to trust with her life and her heart.

Even betrayed, they must continue to discover, reveal and accept secrets. They must untangle the past from the present to shield themselves from the wrath of ruthless, powerful people with secrets of their own. People determined to inflict twisted revenge and then to kill them, knowing they are Blood Strangers.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Bourre Brouhaha: The Big Uneasy 8 by Pauline Baird Jones

$5.99

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He’s a firefighter. She’s the daughter of an arsonist. What could possibly go wrong?

Eddie Baker doesn’t know it yet, but he’s ready to fall in love. The only thing standing in his way are his family, a couple of mob bosses, and a cast of dubious characters.

Audrey Goodheart isn’t a witch or a fortune teller, though she sometimes plays both in her working life. All she wants is a good man to love and a criminal-free life.

What’s in her way? A wide variety of the criminal friends of her father, the person trying to burn down her life, and, oh, those people who think she’s a reincarnated witch.

Audrey is incurably honest. Eddie is irrevocably decent. They are a match made in heaven, if they can survive hell.

Join them for the eighth installment in the popular and exciting Big Uneasy series!

Mike: Brotherhood Protectors World by Regan Black

$4.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers

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When hope is lost, truth is blurred, and your life is on the line, it’s time to call in the Guardian Agency...

Actress Lauren Marie Woods just witnessed her agent’s murder. Now his killer is after her and the police are sure she pulled the trigger. More alone than ever in Hollywood, Lauren needs the kind of help only the elite Guardian Agency can provide.

Mike Stone is beyond jaded when it comes to actresses and Hollywood. But one thing is immediately clear: rising star Lauren Marie Woods will end up dead without his help. The real question is whether or not the former Navy SEAL can guard his heart from the beautiful actress.

Lauren must give the performance of her life to survive and help Mike catch the killer. But what will it take to crack the tough shell of the man who makes her want far more than his protection?

Author note: Previously published as Too Far Gone, this novel has been updated and revised for your enjoyment.

Prologue

Relaxing on his surfboard, Mike Stone floated out in the Pacific Ocean, watching the water for one last good wave to ride into shore. He started most days out here, breathing the salt-tinged air and feeling the ocean move him. The habit kept his mind level, his body fit and ready.
He felt the wave he wanted driving closer and popped up on his board, riding the powerful curl until it spit him out near the shore. Wading in, he shook out his hair and let the wind dry him off as he walked to the battered Jeep he kept running just for surfing.
Securing his board, he climbed into the driver’s seat and immediately reached into the lock box for his cell phone. He cringed at the flashing light of a waiting message. As a Guardian Agent bodyguard, he was expected to be accessible and ready to answer at all times.
The hour he allowed for surfing was the only time he was away from his phone. He checked the text message and relaxed. Instead of the single-word command of ‘protect’ that indicated a new assignment, this message was from Hank Patterson, a friend and fellow Navy SEAL, retired.
Seemed Hank was going to be in town for a few days while his wife Sadie, an A-list actress, dealt with some business. Mike replied immediately with a couple of times and suggestions for places they could relax.
It would be great catching up with one of the few who understood life after the adrenaline-rush of SEAL teams.

Chapter One

West Hollywood, California
Tuesday, December 9, 5:45 p.m.

Lauren Marie Woods finished reading the script and turned it upside down on the small table as if hiding the title page would somehow make the entire mess go away. She’d chosen to read through the project alone and in public at a popular diner. It was the most effective way to keep her reactions—good or bad—in check. In Hollywood someone was always watching, eager to take an embarrassing photo or to start rumors that stirred up trouble.
Everyone interested in success played the game, but she preferred to go about it more quietly than most. Lauren saved the drama for the set instead of allowing it to seep into every nook and cranny of her personal life. According to her agent, Desmond Trinity, that was part of the problem. Desmond insisted her need for privacy was the reason her career wasn’t punching the right high points. If only she’d cut loose occasionally, seek out some bad-girl publicity, and develop her inner diva, she would be in demand.
On that, they disagreed. Lauren believed there were better ways to stand out than a creating a trumped up drug charge at Hollywood’s hotspot of the week or throwing a bogus tantrum on Rodeo Drive. Lauren wanted to be known as the impeccable professional among her peers. She cultivated a reputation as a dedicated and competent actress that directors and producers could count on. Everyone in town knew she showed up on day one and gave her best effort until the project wrapped. Still, she consistently got offers from directors who wanted nothing more than her generous curves on screen or her ability to scream on cue in low-budget horror films.
In time, Lauren had pinned down the real problem: Desmond. Her agent, and on-again-off-again boyfriend, never suggested her for more substantive projects. Sure, she held the choice role as fan-favorite Dr. Loveless on the Harper Cove daytime drama. She and Desmond agreed one hundred percent on the benefit of steady work. For her, it was the security of the paycheck padding her bank account and for Desmond, her success on the show boosted his talent agency’s reputation.
Trinity Talent represented some of the top television and film stars. She’d been luckier than most new faces in Hollywood when she’d shown up ten years ago at the tender age of eighteen and landed his representation. He’d arranged her first auditions and she’d been working regularly almost from day one. Truly a stellar success story for a girl from small-town Kansas.
She glared at the offensive waste of paper on the table. With this script, far from stellar, Desmond had done it again, damn him. He’d told her this could be her breakout role, but obviously he’d been referring to her ability to break out of a demon’s lair wearing only skimpy underwear. Why couldn’t he—just once—support her vision for her career?
She gazed through the diner window at the glittering city lights along Sunset Strip until the surge of anger eased. Her arrival in Los Angeles had been like all those lights: bright and exciting, full of hope and dreams. If she wanted to push her career to the next level it was clearly time to sever her contract with Trinity Talent. The task would have been far simpler if she hadn’t allowed their relationship to become personal along the way.
Not for the first time, she regretted giving in to his romantic overtures all those years ago. He’d been charming and smooth, and she’d been young and naïve. Lust and a grudging mutual respect weren’t a solid foundation for love and weren’t nearly enough to change Desmond. Without her role as Dr. Loveless and the self-imposed psychology research that went along with it, they wouldn’t have lasted six months under the same roof. The research allowed her to deal with the highs and lows without losing her mind. Too bad her long-running performance as the ‘adoring girlfriend of Desmond Trinity’ would never be recognized with an Emmy or Oscar award.
Angry again—with both of them—it seemed her inner diva was suddenly willing to burst into the limelight with a world-class fit. What a scene it would be if she indulged the urge. For a moment, she imagined it. She could call him to meet her here, pour coffee over the useless script and toss it in his face. She had worked too hard, invested too much in her career to keep playing the bombshell screamer or ditzy girl-next-door. She wanted real roles. She wanted to dig into substantial parts that her fans would embrace.
Desmond was at the top of the echelon in Hollywood, and he consistently found those roles for other clients. For reasons he refused to explain, he’d never sent her to an audition for a part that had the potential to lift her out of the current rut and onto the A-list. He had several big-name clients and she understood she wasn’t right for every script that crossed his desk. Still, as the longstanding man in her life, she’d expected a certain level of emotional commitment and professional support.
After all this time he had to know it wasn’t about fame or being more popular than other actresses, not for her anyway. The more meaningful roles would allow her to grow creatively and provide the challenge she craved. She tapped her French manicured nails on the script. Obviously, he had no intention of opening his eyes as either her agent or her boyfriend. Or maybe he was afraid she’d outgrow him and move on. Either way, he was cheating her. And cheating on her. Again.

 

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