Excerpt From “For the Birds” by Aaron Paul Lazar

No one could accuse Marcella Hollister’s family of being normal. Her gorgeous Native American husband, Quinn, has a compulsive cleaning problem – which works for her, since she gets a pass on housework. Her mother, who insists on being called Thelma, loves picking on Quinn. And then there’s Ruby. Sometimes Marcella isn’t sure who Quinn loves more, his wife or his prized parakeet.

While mourning the death of her stepfather, Marcella and family head for the Adirondack National Bird Show for a much-needed vacation. But when Thelma falls into a hotel pool with Ruby dragging twinkling lights behind her, plans change. Electricity zaps through the water, creating a bizarre psychic link between woman and bird.

When Thelma is kidnapped from her hospital bed, the FBI shows up asking questions about Thelma’s inheritance, which may be linked to the largest unsolved robbery in U.S. history.

Through mountains, rivers, and across the rugged Adirondack Park landscape, a brutal scenario evolves, where the good guys aren’t what they seem, and only Ruby’s newly acquired “Thelma-vision” gives hope for survival.

Excerpt:

The remote Adirondack dirt road twisted and turned into the wilderness, drawing us farther into the boonies. Blue mountains crested the distant horizon, and tall pines hugged the road on both sides. We’d seen no houses, no gas stations, and no people. Our hotel was nowhere in sight, and we’d been on the hilly dirt road for over an hour.

I turned to my husband. “Check the map again, will you, hon?”

The road dipped into a dangerously steep gully. Quinn grabbed his armrest, and I maneuvered the van through the trench at the bottom, hoping no one was coming in the other direction. No way could two cars make it through this stretch.

He unfolded the coffee-stained map. “It’s supposed to be right ahead.”

When we’d started our journey, my beautiful husband had reminded me of an Indian brave on the cusp of a great adventure. This was mostly thanks to his Seneca mother, who bequeathed her dark skin and strong Native American features to her only son. He’d worn the hand-sewn turquoise bolo tie I’d given him for Christmas over an unbuttoned crisp white linen shirt, his favorite old jeans, and comfortable moccasins. His clear turquoise eyes had darted with purpose, excited about our adventure. It was those same spectacular eyes that matched the stone in the bolo—and they were the only part of his appearance that came courtesy of his long dead English playwright father.

But now he sat rumpled and sweaty, and I was sure he was ready to kill me for not agreeing to buy that GPS yesterday. I’d pushed for the free Road-Mapper directions.

Instead, he neatly refolded the map to its original condition. I’d never figured out how he could do that. My map folding skills always resulted in a fat bunched up wad of crinkled paper.

I wondered if I would actually escape the reminder that I’d been a penny-pinching idiot.

No dice. He said it under his breath, but I heard it. “Maybe we should’ve bought that GPS.” He blotted his forehead with his sleeve and cranked up the air conditioning.

I didn’t dare tell him it wouldn’t do any good. The guys at Monroe Muffler told me the system needed to be recharged. I’d decided against that outlay of cash, too, trying to save a few pennies.

I swung the van around the next crater and was about to congratulate myself for my expert driving skills when a series of washboard ruts nearly popped the fillings out of my teeth.

Quinn braced himself on the dash. “Want me to take over?”

We reached level ground again and I glanced at his strained expression. “You hate it when I drive.”

His mouth tightened. He knew it was true. He nagged me about my speed, about traveling in the passing lane, and about my tailgating.

“No. Really. I’m just thinking about you, babe. Aren’t you tired?”

Another giant pothole threw me against the side window, cracking my head against the glass. A slew of nasty words almost came out, but I held them in, gripping the wheel with my sweaty hands. If I swore in front of my mother, I’d never hear the end of it.

I glanced in the rearview mirror to check on her. In spite of the jolts, she was still asleep in the captain’s chair. For a panicky second, I wondered if she’d died in her sleep. She quickly dispelled the notion by trumpeting several ungodly snorts.

I lost focus when I looked back at my mother and reacted too late to avoid the next pothole. The shocks ricocheted and bounced me out of my seat. My seatbelt snapped and I held my breath, half-expecting the airbags to inflate.

“Whoa! Watch it, babe. Don’t blow a tire.”

I jerked the car around a big depression and drove onto the bumpy grass on the side of the road, hoping we wouldn’t sink in and get stuck in the middle of no man’s land.

The partially functioning air conditioner was getting worse. I squirmed on the sticky vinyl seat and repositioned my death grip on the wheel. My dress was riding up, my underarms were soaked, and my head throbbed. I badly wanted a cool swim and a cold Mohito, but especially didn’t want to admit to Quinn that we’d probably never see civilization again.

Our hotel should have been just around the bend—a half hour ago—but the absence of traffic confirmed my fears. We’d never get off this God-forsaken road.

The van chugged along the shoulder like a tortoise mired in molasses. An occasional pristine lake glimmered behind the trees, and I was half-tempted to stop the car, abandon my husband and mother in the van, strip naked, and plunge into the water. I’d swim away from it all. From the dusty road. From my grumpy mood. And from the pain I still felt after the death of my stepfather three months earlier.

Instead, I fumed in my seat and kept driving. After ten minutes of avoiding pits and crevices, I spied a Grand Canyon-sized pothole up ahead where the road had washed out.

Quinn’s eyes widened when he saw it. He pulled back a long strand of his glossy black hair and tucked it behind his ear, trying to look unruffled. “Babe? How about it? Wanna switch?”

I really should have let him take over an hour ago, but if you haven’t noticed already, I’m stubborn. And I always need to prove I can DO it, even if I can’t do it.

I stuck out my tongue and pulled over. “You know you’re a control freak.”

Quinn gave me a good-natured smile. “That’s me.”

Damn him. Always so sweet.

A billowing gray cloud followed us. We’d been kicking up the dust for the past half hour, and I pitied the poor slobs who’d been traveling in our wake. I glanced in the side mirror to check again for the annoying white truck that had been following us off and on since Utica. They disappeared a few minutes ago, but my mother, who insisted I call her Thelma since I was three years old, had been obsessing over the evil intentions of the truck before she finally took a Xanax and fell asleep.

I slid the lever into park and shut off the engine. Grumbling, I unbuckled my seatbelt and caught my reflection in the mirror. I looked like a snarling gargoyle. In a flash, a realization hit me.

Quinn’s not the control freak.

I am.

***

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The award-winning and bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at http://www.legardemysteries.com and watch for his upcoming Twilight Times Books releases, ESSENTIALLY YOURS (MAR 2012), TERROR COMES KNOCKING (FEB 2011), FOR KEEPS (MAY 2012), DON’T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU (APRIL 2012), and the author’s preferred editions of DOUBLE FORTÉ (FEB 2012) and UPSTAGED (JUNE 2012).

Click here for a character interview with: Ruby, Hero of “For the Birds” by Aaron Paul Lazar

Click here for a character interview with: Oscar Stone, family friend of Gus LeGarde, of the Gus LeGarde Mystery series

Click here for a character interview with: Siegfried Marggrander, close friend and brother-in-law of Gus LeGarde, of the LeGarde Mystery series, written by Aaron Lazar.

Click here for a discussion about: Writing Columns and Branding — Interview with Author Aaron Paul Lazar

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Excerpt From “Over Her Dead Body” by Karen Vaughan

 

Take one beautiful vindictive woman….she’s 1 part bimbo and 2 parts lethal gangsta- gun moll.

Watch her try and hold onto her 84-year-old husband by having his octogenarian paramour knocked off. Sometimes greed and jealousy lead to the last resort . . . MURDER!

Laura, Gerry and Gibbons try to stop her from also killing her husband, without getting them selves knocked off in the process!

CHAPTER ONE

I lay in bed, hopelessly trying to peel my eyelids from my eyeballs. I gazed at the clock, barely seven. Rolling to my back, I nearly choked on my own spit as a blood curdling shriek split the morning air, forcing me bolt upright in the bed. I nudged my fiancé Gerry, who hogged the blankets next to me.

The shriek sounded from the apartment directly above in Ethel Peterson’s place. Poor old soul probably found a mouse and got scared to death.

I turned to my significant other. “Can you go up stairs and see if you can grab the poor rodent before Mrs. Peterson slaughters it, or hurts herself trying?”

We had just celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with my family the night before and once again; it was Monday morning; Thanksgiving Day to be exact. The October air was crisp and the trees were changing. However before the day was through there would be very little to be thankful for.

Gerry grumbled and got out of bed, swearing under his breath that I owed him huge sexual favors later on and a cup of coffee. He was thankfully clothed so no one would be offended. My part in coming to Mrs. Peterson’s aid over with, I lay back down and tried to get some sleep.

However, it wasn’t long before I heard Gerry’s exclamation of holy shit through the floor.

Beside the bed, the phone rang.

I answered it.

“ Call the meat wagon!, This was Gerry speak for “something is dead.”

“What?” I said, still sleepy, “that must have been some mouse.”

“Laura, sweetie you’re a bit dim in the morning, it was more than a mouse. Just 9-1-1 and come up here”. He clicked off.

I did as he instructed, summoning help, and got my cute little ass dressed and up the stairs A-SAP. What could have happened now? I wondered. I decided I really didn’t want to know as I took the stairs. Like it or not there I was, rushing into another emergency.

The source of the entire frazzle was in Mrs. Peterson’s apartment directly above us. It seems Mrs. Flannery, one of Ethel’s neighbors, had wandered past her unit on the way back from taking the garbage to the Shute down the hall. Mrs. Peterson’s door was open a crack and when Mrs. Flannery peeped through the door to check on her neighbor she found Mrs. Peterson was facedown in her Shreddies. I could see by the looks of things that no rodents had been involved.

“Holy sheep shit, what the hell happened?” I was standing beside Mrs. Flannery, who was trembling in her slippers. “Is- she dead dear?” Mrs. Flannery inquired of Gerry.

Gerry had felt for a pulse. Finding none, he nodded. “Oh I would have to say she is truly beyond this realm Mrs. F.,” he told her.

With that, Mrs. Flannery fainted.

I managed to catch her, before she hit the hardwood. At the same time, I was trying to compose myself and keep calm. That is, I squelched the urge to hurl before I took care of the woman in question. It was the second time in six months that I’d seen a dead body in the building. There was a lot more blood at this scene though. Last May somebody had been kind enough to deliver the remains of a former co-worker to my apartment. What I saw now was different though, and somewhat more heinous. Someone had taken violent liberties and left an innocent octogenarian with the back of her head bashed in and swimming in cereal. I was becoming a seasoned witness to death whether I liked it or not.

I stayed with Mrs. Flannery, who was coming around. Once she was capable, I escorted her from Mrs. Peterson’s unit; Mrs. Peterson was still soaking in her milk. I would have done something to remedy that but I knew from watching the multitude of police shows I enjoyed, disturbing the scene was a major no-no. Let the Crime scene unit handle it. I had to get the older woman away from the scene.

Flora Flannery lived two doors down and across the hall from Ethel Peterson. She was a creature of habit who took out the trash everyday at the same time. After the brief walk down the hall, she usually knocked on Ethel’s door for a tea and a good ole fashioned chinwag. More like a hen cluck party as Mr. Scanlon would say. Mr. Scanlon had come out of his unit to see what the excitement was about. There was not much in that gone on in the building that Harry Scanlon didn’t know. “Go back to your apartment Harry.” I said with my arm around Flora’s shoulder.

We got into her apartment and I escorted her to the sofa. Flora sat down; I got her some juice, and sat beside her. I asked her what she had seen. Was there anything strange about Mrs. Peterson’s door being open at that time? – I knew the police would ask her the same questions because I had been through a similar situation last May.

I heard the sirens and soon, bedlam was in full swing with firefighters, EMTs and the police all over the building noting that there was no fire, the engines left first followed by the EMTs. The Coroner’s wagon was called in to collect Mrs. Peterson.

Gerry peeked inside Flora’s apartment, and motioned me out in the hall. I followed.

“What’s going on?” I asked him.

“Well,” said Gerry, “from what I heard in the room, Mrs. Peterson had a little help checking out.”

“Murdered?”

“Apparently so, seems someone took liberties with a bat. The weapon of choice is missing but the crime scene crew did find a sliver in her hair. They are assuming it’s a bat but it could be a two by four.”

“It’s amazing what I can hear from the hall while doing traffic control in the hallway”, he said, “I was trying to hold back the rubberneckers. Gibbons has been called”

Inspector Gibbons had been the Chief Homicide officer on the Hodges case and we had become friends; chiefly because he brought Timmy’s and we had built up a good rapport over many a takeout coffee. Seriously, Gibbons was a good person. He treated people fairly and was not common to profile according to certain factors. If there was enough evidence to nail a perp, Gibbons would do the right thing.

With that, Gibbons showed up. He greeted us.

“I should have known it was chaos central, given the address,” he said coolly. Gibbons had developed a black sense of humor when it came to our ‘domicile of death’. Given that, he had spent quite a few hours here investigating Hodge’s death, and fishing our butts out of the fire. The inspector was prepared for anything when visiting.

Gibbons began taking down the particulars about Ethel, next of kin and all that. I asked Flora if Mrs. Peterson had any family. Flora was able to recall a niece from her late sister; Adriana was her name. No children though, Ethel and Howard had never been blessed with kids of their own. Flora also remarked that Howard had been gone for ten years or so. I went in to the office to retrieve Ethel’s rental information to find any telephone numbers for Adriana. There was one, and I gave it to Gibbons. He hated having to contact family about a death, especially where homicide was concerned. I offered to make the call, but Gibbons said under the circumstances, he had to do the deed. Gibbons also needed to ask Flora some questions and wondered if she was up to it.

“I suppose I can” Said Flora, “though I don’t know much accept the fact that I found her with her face in her breakfast. I thought she had just passed out. I had no clue she was a goner ‘til I got close up. When I saw the blood that’s when I screamed. Who would do that? She was so nice; she’d never hurt a flea.

“When you were taking your trash out you didn’t notice anything odd, like a stranger in the hall?” Gibbons was taking notes.

Flora shook her head, and replied that Harry Scanlon was standing in his doorway when she was leaving her apartment. He didn’t say much about seeing anyone weird. Gibbons added this to his notes and said he would ask Harry himself. Gibbons also added that he could supply the services of a grief counselor if people needed closure around Ethel’s passing.

I said I thought folks might appreciate that. Gibbons went back into Ethel’s apartment to talk to the forensic team and his partner Matt Rush. Ethel Peterson was well liked, and would be missed. The coroner had taken her away, and quite a few of the tenants seemed distraught over her sudden and violent demise. One particular resident was ready to have the sorry S.O.B. castrated for killing such a kind soul. Gerry assured him that the Police would seek the appropriate justice. “Police my ass! Look what Laura had to go through last spring when that midget held her and the woman cop hostage… She had to have the little feller hog-tied before the coppers got here. I have no faith in the police.”

“Sam,” I told him, “I took a big risk in doing what I did, and besides Janice was very good in that situation.”

I took the time to go door to door to explain that a grief counselor was at our services to help deal with that morning’s tragedy. After that like, it or not I had to return to my regular duties within the complex. Gerry and I added the cleaning of Mrs. Peterson’s unit to our list, as soon as the police gave permission to proceed. Gibbons had called Adriana regarding her great aunt’s death. He informed her that the crime scene unit was almost done with thapartment and she and her spouse Michael would have to come to see what needed to be moved out.

Adriana and Michael showed up. They quickly perused the contents and matter-of-factly assessed what needed to be dispensed with. She appeared very cold and distant and I found it a bit discomfiting to see a relative be so detached about her aunts’ death and her belongings. Adriana didn’t seem to want anything of Ethel’s and stated that a truck would be by to move the stuff as soon as could be arranged and would call us about the time and day,

As noon approached in what was turning out to be a very long day, Gerry and I were cleaning one of the empty units. I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing though. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure how to mention what was on my mind. Gerry decided the issue for me.

“Okay Laura, speak up.”

I looked at Gerry. He always seemed to know when something was bothering me. “Okay you got me,” I admitted.

“Ethel’s death bugging you?” he asked me.

“Well duh, yeah,” I said, “it’s bugging me the way it’s bugging everyone. However, it’s more than that. When Adriana was here, she was so cold, not the way a bereaved relative should act. If she was my aunt I would have been a little more sorrowful.”

“So, your point is what?”

I stopped what I was doing and looked over at Gerry. “I got the impression from Adriana’s demeanor that the two weren’t close. I remember her referring to Ethel as the “old lady” and her things as “this junk”.”

“Yeah,” Gerry chewed his lip. “That is cold.”

“What takes the cake is she immediately went routing through Ethel’s stuff looking for a Will, and asked me if I knew who her lawyer was. Then she got on her cell phone to a moving company to get a truck here to get the junk out post-haste.”

The mere thought of a relative going through my things so coldly and dispassionately made me so sad that I started to cry. Finally, the events of the day had gotten to me.

Gerry came over and hugged me. “It’s been a long day Hon,” he said gently brushing my tears, “why don’t you go downstairs and take a break”. I knew I needed to keep busy but Gerry was right, I needed a break.

”I’m going to go to the store and get some groceries,” I decided. “Are you okay?” I asked him. I wanted him to know I hadn’t forgotten I wasn’t the only person having a rough day.

Gerry nodded tiredly. “I will be,”

I kissed him and said I’d be back in awhile.

***

Click here to learn more about Karen Vaughan and her books: http://www.karenvaughanbooks.com

Dancing at all the Weddings by Susan Surman

Vivacious and talented Elaine Richman is faced with choices: A risky life in the New York theatre; an exciting life with college sweetheart, actor/director Jake Applebaum in Hollywood; a secure life in Boston with predictable lawyer David Alter, the match anointed by her domineering mother because ‘he’s the kind you marry.’ On the way to a dream, it is possible to collide with another dream’s seduction, only to learn there is no fulfillment on the path to safety. Elaine goes through the wringer to meet herself, proving there is no expiration date on talent or true love.

 

EXCERPT:

Elaine stared at the flames in the fireplace, unable to look at him now. All the romance had gone out of those crackling logs burning in the fireplace.

Jake broke the awkward silence. “You’re choosing your talent as a haus frau in Boston with David Alter over the bright lights in Hollywood with Jake Applebaum.”

“Sometimes on the way to your dream, you can fall into an even better one.” Did she mean it? Was she still sitting on the fence? Did she want him to imitate the final scene of An Officer and a Gentleman when Richard Gere picks up Debra Winger and carries her out of the factory?

“Elaine. Elaine. Elaine.” He wasn’t ready to end this. “This isn’t only about your career. It’s about being with the person you love. I thought that was me.”

“Sometimes love isn’t enough.”

“I thought you told me you weren’t getting what you needed out of the marriage.”

“The receiving is in the giving.”

“You didn’t learn that from me.”

“It’s very Zen.”

“It’s very bullshit.” It wasn’t in Jake’s nature to beg, but he wasn’t giving up so easily. Not like before. “I believe that love is all there is.”

Why did love hurt so much? She loved him with all her heart. But she had other responsibilities. She knew she was turning her back on the true love of her life. Maybe all women had a guy like Jake in their lives. The love they had tucked away so they could move forward and lead sensible, sane, and ordered lives. The lives their mothers picked out for them because they knew better and only wanted their daughter’s happiness.

“I don’t want to re-create you. I won’t make you into who I think you should be. I’ll continue to develop myself; you’ll continue to develop yourself. We’re good apart, but we’re better together. If that isn’t love, my sweetheart, I don’t know what is.” Jake spoke from deep within.

“You can’t dance at all the weddings.” God! Her mother’s words and now hers.

“Where did you learn you can’t have it all? Who taught you that crap?”

Elaine realized she already had the thing she’d been searching for. Constancy.

She would be forever grateful for this time with Jake instead of going through life wondering what might have been. There would always be a place in her heart for Jake Applebaum. But he was her past, not her future. Her mother had been right. David is the kind you marry.

Outside the inn, the cold air stung like an ice pack on their faces. Despite all that had been said, he couldn’t believe it was over. “I have this image of us each going through our lives with other husbands and other wives and then at the end, we’re together.”

She couldn’t let herself be swept up in his movie-esque fantasy. She had made her decision. “We have to go now.” She couldn’t look at him. If she had, she would have seen his lovely green eyes filled with tears.

They sat for a while in the car, watching the ocean waves beating against the sand. Every now and again, the back of their hands brushed lightly, but they didn’t look at one another. They caught the deep orange and blood-red sunset, like none they’d ever seen before. It was an awesome sight as it shifted into amber and then pale apricot before fading away.

***

Boston-born Susan Surman, author of Dancing at all the Weddings, lived abroad for over twenty-three years in London and Sydney as an actress and playwright (Gracie Luck/Susan Kramer), performing in London’s West End, Edinburgh, Sydney Theatre Company, Ensemble Theatre before returning to the States. Dancing at all the Weddings will soon be released by Second Wind Publishing. Surman has also written Max and Friends; Sacha: The Dog Who Made It to the Palace; The Australian Featherweight; The Noble Thing. Plays include: In Between; George; The Australian Featherweight.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Dancing at all the Weddings

Click here for an interview with: Susan Surman, Author of Dancing at all the Weddings

Click here for an interview with: Elaine Richman, Heroine of Dancing at all the Weddings

Lone Wolf by Dellani Oakes

The year is 3032 and mankind has expanded far beyond Earth’s galaxy. Matilda Dulac is a member of the Galactic Mining Guild. With her lover, Marc Slatterly, she works in a small mining ship in deep space. Their well ordered life if suddenly thrown into chaos when one miner arrives with a load of Trimagnite, a highly toxic liquid ore. Enter the Lone Wolf. Wil VanLipsig, known as the Lone Wolf, arrives to take the Trigmagnite off their hands. Is it a coincidence for him to show up on Marc’s ship years after Marc thought he’d killed Wil? Or is this the beginning of something far more insidious? Lone Wolf is the first book in a new science fiction series by Dellani Oakes.


Excerpt:

Their eyes met over the glow of the candle. He started to speak once or twice, but each time he stopped before doing so. Matilda sat placidly, waiting for him to make the first move. She had a feeling she knew what he was trying to say, but couldn’t quite put into words. A playful smile tugged at her lips.

Wil blushed, his gaze dropping to his lap uncomfortably. He couldn’t remember a time he’d felt so awkward in a woman’s company. Probably not since he was a kid. Suddenly, it was very important to him that she say yes to what he wanted to ask.

“I was going to try to be subtle and charming.”  He grinned at her shyly. “But it’s been so long since I tried to be either, I can’t remember how.” He pressed his lips together and the candlelight played along his scar. “This usually isn’t a problem for me. I guess I got used to being irresistible.”

Matilda reached out, tracing the line of his scar with her finger. The skin was warm and silky. He held her fingers to his lips.

“It’s all right, you know,” she said softly. “You don’t have to be subtle with me. You were about to invite me to your room, weren’t you?”

He nodded sightly, looking embarrassed.

“But you weren’t sure what the answer would be.”

He looked even more uncomfortable, silent. The table developed interesting dimensions. He stared at them.

“Where are you staying?”

Trying to speak, he stammered.

“We can’t go to your room if you don’t show me.”

Wil stood awkwardly, nearly knocking the table over. He pointed to a luxurious hotel near the hostel.

“I’m—over there.”

Taking his hand, she tugged pointedly so he’d follow. “Show me,” she whispered throatily. Leaning toward him, the top of her breasts brushed his bare chest. “I want you to show me everything.”

Gulping, Wil followed her eagerly, like a puppy until he caught up with her. Sweeping her into his arms, he carried her quickly to his room. Only after the door was locked behind him, did he kiss her for the first time.

Wil brushed his lips lightly across hers, barely touching.  His tongue flickered between them, teeth nipping playfully as he explored her mouth.  Holding only her cheeks between calloused hands, he caressed her throat, licking the base.  He hadn’t even kissed her mouth and already she was his.

Hungry for his mouth, Matilda brought his face to hers, demanding that he kiss her.  Lips parted, she brought him closer, sure of what she wanted.  Laughing throatily, Wil complied, giving generously, taking hungrily.

He held her gently, his full lips leaving a blazing trail upon her skin. He held her tantalizingly close, their bodies not quite touching. The heat from him set her on fire as the intensity of his kisses increased. Still he held her carefully, treating her as if she were made of spun glass. Somehow, this contrast of passion and tenderness made his touch even more erotic.

After several minutes just kissing her, he took off her bikini top. For the space of three breaths, he gazed at her breasts without touching them. Admiring the firm, fullness, he took one nipple into his mouth, suckling blissfully. Sighing happily, he moved to the other, treating each like the greatest of gifts.

Matilda moaned as his hands moved along her body, pulling her so close to him, she could feel the beating of his heart. His touch was still consciously delicate. She sensed a tension in him, his body fighting with itself for control. Marc had always held her the same way, afraid he’d crush a delicate flower.

Nearly mad with desire, Matilda decided she’d had enough standing around and kissing. She wanted action and now. Shoving his shoulders hard, she pushed him on his back. Wil sprawled on the bed as she removed his shorts and her bikini bottoms. He laughed, glad she had finally decided to take control.

“I admire a woman who knows what she wants,” he chuckled as she made her desires clear. Still laughing, he complied.

Matilda had never been so aggressive in bed. Something about Wil encouraged her to assert herself. She pulled him close, demanding his all. He gave it to her freely, unconditionally, something he had never given to any other woman.

For the first time in Wil’s adult life, a woman left him so breathless, he couldn’t even speak her name. But that was all right, because she couldn’t say his either. He kissed her softly, holding her close, stroking her hair. His fingers played along her spine, sending a thrill dancing down her back.

He wanted to speak, but couldn’t find the words to express how he was feeling. After sex dialogue had never been his strong suite. Anything he said at this point would be trite, or worse yet, silly. Instead, he kissed and fondled her, expressing himself more eloquently than words.

***

An adopted Floridian who fell in love with its culture-both modern and historical-Dellani is a happily married mother of four, substitute teacher and former English teacher. When she isn’t being one of the above, she is an avid writer, spending every possible moment immersed in her other worlds. “Indian Summer” is her only historical romance, but she also has written a series of futuristic romance novels, contemporary romances and short stories. Dellani’s interests include reading, going to the beach, listening to all kinds of music and cooking.

Click here for an interview with: Dellani Oakes

Click here to read the first chapter of: Lone Wolf

Click here for an interview with: Wil VanLipsig from Lone Wolf by Dellani Oakes

The Phantom Lady of Paris by Calvin Davis

In 1968, a year of worldwide explosive protests, Paul Lasser, an American educator, ventures to Paris on sabbatical to write a novel. There he encounters the mysterious “Phantom Lady of Paris.” Though cordial, she conceals a shadowy past that will change Paul’s life forever, a secret history which unfolds amid a backdrop of café bombings, Sorbonne student riots and the drug overdose death of an American “flower child.” But in spite of these events, there blossoms a soulful relationship between the American educator and the walking enigma, The Phantom Lady, all taking place in the metropolis for lovers and dreamers…Paris.

Excerpt:

Riot scene from The Phantom Lady of Paris

Year: 1968. Place: Paris, France; Latin Quarter; Boulevard Saint German. There Sorbonne students mass for a demonstration against “the educational establishment.” The protest leader is a communist-trained revolutionary, “François the Incendiary,” a human fireball of rhetoric and rabble rousing.

One of the leader’s aides handed him (François) a bullhorn, and he pressed its mouthpiece to his lips. Immediately, Boulevard Saint Germain transformed into a sepulcher: total silence. “Fellow revolutionaries,” the Incendiary bellowed, “Patriots of France”—he paused, the intermission accentuating silence like an exclamation point—“hear my words.”

Cheers exploded, followed by a chain of chants: “François…François…François!” The speaker once more signaled for silence.

“Comrades,” he continued, “comrades.” Again, an explosion of cheers.

“Quiet, let ‘im speak,” a man yelled.

“The time,” François said, “has come, the day, the hour; the moment is at hand! Not tomorrow, as the bureaucracy would have you believe, nor some unnamed future date. Fellow revolutionaries, now is the time when we must end once and for all the university’s inequalities, dismantle its archaic bureaucracy and curricula and make known to the world our grievances.” With a raised fist, he shouted into the bullhorn, “Now! Now! Now!

The crowd responded: “Now! Now! Now!” Beneath the din of the throng edged another sound, the wail of police sirens, but the resonance of approaching sirens didn’t deter François. “We have not gathered here,” he extolled, “to capitulate!” His words were now fireballs of passion. “We shall not be moved!”

“Never!” demonstrators responded. “Never!”

“Nor shall we cower,” intoned the speaker.

“Never!” protestors replied.

“Or be intimidated by billy clubs.”

“No.”

“Or tear gas!”

“No! No!” The crowd chanted louder and louder.

The screech of police vehicles slamming to a stop punctuated protesters’ chants as officers with shields, nightsticks, and gas masks, poured from vans. “Form ranks!” barked the commander. “Double time!” Like automatons, lawmen scurried.

“The presence of policemen will not weaken our resolve,” François the Incendiary orated.

“No!” responded a chorus of frenzied voices.

Officers formed lines on the sidewalk across the street from Gilbert’s. “This demonstration,” the commanding officer bellowed, “is unauthorized. You have sixty seconds to disperse.” No one moved. “Fifty-nine seconds…and counting!”

***

An educator, Calvin Davis spent a year in Paris (1968-69), during most of which time he sat at outdoor cafes on boulevards Saint Michel and Saint German, observing the endless streams of passing humanity and writing The Phantom Lady of Paris, all the while downing countless cups of midnight-black java.  The experience taught him a lot about writing and also how to wear out the seats of a half dozen trousers. So, he’s out of six pairs of pants. No big deal. That’s a small price to pay for bringing such a wonder child into the word…the remarkable phantom lady of Paris.

Calvin Davis is also the author of two other novels; Love in Opposing Colors and The Event at Fourteenth and U: A Christmas Story.

Click here to read the first chapter of: The Phantom Lady of Paris

Click here to buy: The Phantom Lady of Paris

Merry Go Round by Sherrie Hansen

Tracy’s supposedly perfect life as a pastor’s wife and mother of three is turned upside down when her husband leaves  her for a man.

Clay Alexander’s charmed existence starts spinning out of control when his father threatens to shut down Maple Valley’s  woolen mill – unless Clay conforms to his family’s expectations.

Is Tracy and Clay’s love meant to be, or will they forever be on opposite sides of the merry-go-round?

Her children. His parents. Her pride. His honor. The welfare of an entire town.

MERRY GO ROUND… Hang on for dear life.

Excerpt:

Their mother went to the door and looked out. “Did Trevor have trouble finding a place to park?”

“He’s not here,” Tracy told her with feigned surprise. “I’m sorry. I thought I told you he wouldn’t be able to make it.”

“I’m sure you didn’t, dear.”

Her mind went blank. Panic clutched at her side. What was wrong with her tonight? She was a master at keeping a straight face when she was trapped in a half-truth and had to find the right words to cover her tracks. She’d been practicing since she was what – eight or nine? She knew hundreds of ways to bend words, to get out of a jam without actually lying. Sadly, the web of deceit she and Trevor had woven since he’d asked her for a divorce had stretched even her reserves.

“Um…” She had already nursed the counseling-a-hurting-parishioner angle to death, and given the excuse about Trevor having to visit a very ill member of the con­gregation too many times over the last few weeks for it to be plausible. Their church wasn’t big enough to warrant such never-ending pain and suffering among its members. Be­sides, the children were still within earshot. Whatever she said now would have to jive with what she had told them ear­lier.

“I’m sure I told you about the conference, Mom.” She kept her tone light. “He’s been gone all week. He did call the other night though, and he told me to give Ian a big birthday hug. Is he downstairs with his daddy?” Tracy was halfway across the spacious kitchen by the time she finished speaking and around the corner before her mother could for­mulate the words to disagree with her again.

“Conference? Something to do with the church?” She heard her dad ask.

“I have no idea,” she heard her mother say.

Tracy gripped the handrail at the top of the stairs and stood concealed from the sight of the others. She could hear Jake’s melodious voice, Mac’s deep, rumbling laughter, and Timothy’s high-pitched squeal of excitement mingling with the noisy clatter of the other children’s voices.

It wasn’t really lying, she tried to convince herself. Keeping your troubles to yourself was just what the Joneses did. Problems, personal flaws, shortcomings, and weaknesses of the flesh were squelched –
squashed if necessary – and made to disappear long before they ever became public knowledge. These people lived victorious Christian lives even if it killed them.

Unless you were taken with a serious disease, of course. No one asked to be sick. There was no shame in sharing your woes when one of you was ill. She certainly didn’t wish Trevor any harm, but him being
sick would have been easier to explain than what was really going on.

She herself was feeling ill just imagining what people would say if they knew their perfect pastor / son-in-law / husband of the year was gay.

***

By day, Sherrie Hansen owns and operates a Victorian bed and breakfast and tea house in Northern Iowa called the Blue Belle Inn. By night, she enjoys not only writing, but traveling, reading, needlework, quilting, and renovating and decorating old houses. She is the author of three additional books, Night and Day, Stormy Weather (Book One of the Maple Valley Trilogy) and Water Lily (Book Two of the Maple Valley Trilogy).

Click here to read first chapter of: Merry Go Round

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She Had to Know by Coco Ihle

After the deaths of her adopted parents, Arran discovers her long lost sister’s name and, despite a terrifying premonitory dream, embarks on a quest to find Sheena. After reuniting in Scotland, the sisters search for the reason their birth father and his housekeeper mysteriously died and why Sheena’s life is being threatened. Led to a cryptic rhyme rumored to map the way to an ancient hidden treasure buried deep in the bowels of Wraithmoor Castle, the sisters follow the clues. A murderer follows the sisters. Will the secret passages lead them to discovery and triumph, or death and eternal entombment?

 

Excerpt:

Hours of compiling, arranging, rearranging and packing had left Sheena’s body fatigued, but her brain wouldn’t rest. She kept thinking about her father’s unknown cause of death. Something distracting would help, perhaps a book to read. Several were on the nightstand, and she looked through them. The Magus, by John Fowles, she’d already read. The next was Barbarians at the Gate, by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. No, not in the mood. The third book was most curious. The aged volume of The Nature Library on Birds, by Neltje Blanchan, seemed especially heavy for such a small size. Sheena was immediately intrigued. The front cover had an illustration of a bluebird family: male, female and chick. How odd. This hardly seemed the kind of book her father would read.

The shock came when she opened the front cover. Inserted in a precisely cutout hole in the pages was a gun. Carefully, she extracted the weapon by the wooden grip and held it in the palm of her hand under the bedside lamp to get a better look. “MADE BERETTA USA CORP” was etched on one side of the blue-black metal barrel. The .22-caliber semi-automatic, just like the one she had learned to shoot a few years ago, was loaded.

As she was carefully returning the gun to the hiding place, she noticed a folded piece of yellowed paper tucked in the bottom of the hole. Laying the gun on the bed, she reached in to retrieve it and noticed the edges of the folds were weak and brittle. As she was carefully unfolding them, she felt a firm lump between her finger and thumb. A cracked piece of cellophane tape was stuck to one side of the paper, and under that, a key. A safe-deposit key. Stamped into the flat surface, were the initials, “CMB.” Chase Manhattan Bank on Madison Avenue, a few blocks away, was the bank on her father’s monthly statements. Why wasn’t this key in Father’s study with his other papers?

Turning the book over, she discovered another surprise. Inside this cover was another cut out section containing a small leather notebook, underneath which, a thick piece of cardboard separated the two compartments. She opened the notebook to the first page. In the upper right corner was written, “Oct./Nov.” Centered below was “This Book Belongs To: J.W.B.,” her father’s initials.

She plumped up two pillows and leaned back against the headboard, excited by this new discovery which appeared to be a journal. The entries were sporadically dated, and the writing, in her father’s hand, was scribbled and barely legible, as though written in a hurry. He had used initials rather than full names throughout. She read aloud the last entry dated the week before he died:

“Have the feeling I’m being followed. Yesterday, a car almost hit me outside the hotel. Driver didn’t stop, too dark to see license plate. Wonder if it has something to do with running into P.S. last week? Never liked that greedy snake.”

Sheena’s intake of breath was followed by an icy chill shivering through her body. With pounding heart she looked across the room at the photograph of her parents, singling out her father’s image and said, “What in the world happened to you? Did you die naturally? Or were you murdered?” 

***

Coco, a product of foster care and adoption, spent over fifty years searching for her sister, whom she found in 1994. Thus the idea for SHE HAD TO KNOW was born. She discovered Scottish roots and plays harp and bagpipes, along with piano and cello. The Florida Writer’s Association published a short story of hers in 2009 in their first anthology. Coco is a member of MWA; SinC; FWA; The Alma Society, which aids in family searches; the DorothyL Digest and the Scottish St. Andrew’s Society.

 

Click here to read the first chapter: She Had to Know 

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