Excerpt from IMAGES OF BETRAYAL by Claire Collins

Abandoned by her family, Tysan works as a waitress in a cheap diner. One cold evening, a beguiling, rugged young man barges into her life. He possesses the remarkable ability to take photographs of events that have not yet happened. Ty narrowly avoids a harrowing death in a disastrous explosion, only to be drawn into a dizzying cascade of conflicts involving a new family that takes her in, Walker-her apparent savior, David-her new admirer and her own family. Kidnapping, betrayal, obsessive love and courageous lovers co-mingle in this romantic thriller.

Excerpt:

His eyes darted to the envelope on the table. He took a drink of coffee, swallowing too hard. When he turned back to me, his eyes were haunted. He reached out, grasped the envelope, and pulled out another picture. As he handed it to me, his words registered.

“You’re supposed to keep yourself safe.”

The photo I held was taken in the restaurant. I was standing behind the front counter, the picture taken from across the room. A man sat in front of me, only the back of his head visible in the picture. He was covered in soot and ashes. Pieces of his clothing were burned away and blackened. My skin was blistered and the remnants of my hair were singed. My uniform had burned to my body, sticking to me as I stood there, coffee pot in hand. The ceiling of the restaurant was behind me, or at least part of it. Grey, cloudy skies formed a backdrop where some of the ceiling and the wall to the kitchen used to be. The pieces of the restaurant in the picture were burnt; smoke still rising from the embers surrounding me.

The picture was dated two days from today.I dropped the picture like the paper itself was on fire. I didn’t want to touch it. In the photo, I stood there with a coffee pot in my hand, while everything around me and my clothes were in utter destruction. Walker snatched the picture from the table, dropping it back into the envelope.

“I’m sorry,” he said, taking my hand in his again. “Short of kidnapping you that day, I didn’t know any other way to tell you about this.”

***

Claire Collins resides in North Carolina and writes across many genres. She loves reading when she gets the time around her family and her work schedule. She currently has two novels available through Second Wind Publishing and is working on her third, Seeds of September. 

 

Click here to buy: Images of Betrayal

Excerpt From “To Tell the Truth” by Faye M. Tollison

Anna Kayce had faced many difficulties in her life and had carried some heavy responsibilities. When she met Senator Kenneth Levall, her world soared. Until that fateful day when the gun she held fired, and the senator fell on the floor at her feet and died.

Anna had to dig deep to find the strength to endure what followed: the murder of her sister, the destruction of her life, and lastly facing a courtroom full of people, a judge, and a jury in an effort to save the man she really loved. He had confessed to the murder of the senator in order to protect Anna from being charged with the murder.

It was now time for her to stand up and tell the truth.

EXCERPT:

A glint of light reflected from Ken’s hand as it emerged from his jacket. He pointed the gun at her as he rushed toward her and grabbed her wrist. She pulled against his strength, raised her other hand, and brought her fist down hard across the bridge of his nose. With a grunt of pain, he loosened his grip on her. Anna’s shoulder bumped against his hand, and the gun clattered to the floor and slid a short distance away. A quick step brought Anna close enough to pick it up. The gun in her hand, she whirled to face the senator. Her cold, hard eyes held the disdain she felt.

His hand covered his nose while blood seeped between his fingers. She raised the gun and pointed it toward him. The senator’s face paled when he heard the click of the safety being released and watched with wide eyes as she cocked the gun. He lowered his hand from his nose, and his mouth dropped open. A pool of blood dribbled from his nose onto his upper lip. Over the barrel of the gun, she watched it linger there for a moment.

“Anna, don’t!” He cringed back from her.

The drop of blood made its way down his upper lip to the opening of his mouth. His tongue wiped it away, but he still reached up to wipe the blood from his nose. His eyes grew wide as he looked up at her, and he shook his head as she took aim.

“No, don’t. Please,” he begged. “I love you, Anna. Please. Think about what you’re about to do.” He held his hands up in supplication.

“This is for Tina,” she replied.

“No, Anna!” John lunged toward her.

His arms came around her from behind, and she was vaguely aware of the warmth of his body against her back. His hand reached around, fingers opened wide. His arm bumped against her arm, but before he could wrap his hand around her hand, her arm jerked. A shot reverberated through the air.

Ken looked at her in disbelief. His mouth opened and shut, but he didn’t utter a sound.

John released his grip, and the gun hit the floor with a clatter. He took a step back. Anna wrapped her arms around her waist, while the room spun. Unaware of the trembling of her body, she bent forward and covered her face with her hands as nausea filled her throat.

The senator slowly dropped to his knees, a spreading stain turning his white shirt a bright red. Then his body crumpled to the floor, and his blank eyes stared at the ceiling unseeing.

John stared in disbelief at the two people before him. Then his eyes narrowed and his hands clenched into white-knuckled fists. Horror covered his face.

“My God,” he said. “Oh, my God.”

***

http://www.fayemtollison.com

http://www.fayetollison.blogspot.com

Excerpt From “The Doctor and the War Widow” by Viola Russell

Harley Michel is mourning the recent death of her mother and the long-ago death of her husband. On a dare, she ventures onto an Internet dating site and finds unexpected romance with a handsome Egyptian doctor.

Harley thinks she may have found happiness again until her memories of her late soldier husband and the appearance of the doctor’s former flame threaten their peace.

EXCERPT:

“I can’t believe you’re a Republican.” Harley said the words without rancor and gaped, mouth open. She’d seen Abisi through most of June. They were sitting on the couch in her living room on Fourth of July weekend, sipping wine. Nico lay at Harley’s feet, snoring. He occasionally flicked at a fly that buzzed around him with his bushy tail. Harley had opened her windows so they could appreciate the breeze blowing even on a balmy New Orleans night.

“It’s political.” Abisi drew her closer and took a sip of wine.

“How so?” Harley followed his gaze as he took her in. She could sense his desire, and she’d dressed to encourage it. Spaghetti strap flowered blouse, diaphanous wraparound skirt, and white sandals. She’d seen her stylist the day before and had added the auburn tints that drew stares. His arms were strong as he clasped her shoulders.

“In the South, that’s the trend.”

“I don’t follow trends.” Harley grinned at him.

“There’s something appealing about that.” He touched her cheek lightly and kissed her. His gaze met hers and lingered. His smile was so sensual that liquid flowed through every sinew of Harley’s body.

Electricity pulsed through Harley, setting her insides on fire. Her spine tingled as his breath feathered against her hair. “Yo— u…you were saying?” Her voice was hoarse.

“I don’t give them a dime because of their policies on immigration. Isn’t this country, after all, a country of immigrants?” Abisi let his hand slide along her bare shoulders.

“I agree.” Harley let her face brush his own. His beard against her lips tickled. “Then why are you a fan of such a party?”

Harley saw that he was clearly trying to concentrate, but he was losing the battle. His stare rested on her cleavage when he answered in a choked voice. “I wouldn’t call myself a fan, my darling. I guess I just wanted to be accepted down here when I became a citizen.”

Abisi ran his lips along her arm and onto her shoulder. He’d apparently forgotten about Republicans. The sensation of his lips caressing her sent an electric shock wave through her whole being. Trembling with sensual energy, she buried her own lips in his neck and moaned with pleasure as he touched her neck with his hands and then his lips. Nico glanced at them and padded down the hallway. Harley smiled to herself. Smart dog. She disengaged herself from her lover’s hungry kisses long enough to slip her tightly clinging blouse over her head.

***

Viola Russell is a New Orleans writer who teaches by day but spends her nights and weeks at her computer. She used a pseudonym so that her students wouldn’t find her, but they, ever computer savvy, outed her. She lives in New Orleans with her faithful dog.

Links: http://www.violarussell.com
http://www.violarussell.blogspot.com
http://www.redrosepublishing.com

Excerpt from “Love At War” by Viola Russell

On the beach in the summer of 1941, eighteen-year-old Nuala Comeaux reconnects with Keith Roussel, a friend of her brothers’. The attraction between them is electric, but the threat of war looms for Nuala, Keith, and her family. Nuala and Keith marry when Nuala learns she is pregnant. Nuala gives birth to their daughter when Keith deploys. When Keith is killed in action, Nuala joins the WAAC and then OSS.

While working under cover, Nuala discovers the truth surrounding her husband’s disappearance and the treachery leading to his capture and ultimate death. With the help of her brothers and a gorgeous Japanese operative, Nuala vows to take down the AXIS powers and avenge her husband even if she must seek revenge while lying in the arms of the enemy. Not all of them will survive. All will be irrevocably changed.

Who is the enemy and who survives?

Excerpt

Keith became a staple at 2657 Palmyra Street. Magda was famous throughout the neighborhood for her Sunday dinners. She rose early every Sunday for the first Mass, slipping on a pastel cotton dress and lace veil. Her family still asleep, she made her devotions early so she could hurry home from St. Joseph’s and prepare the noon meal. Her husband David, her daughters, and her still single son, George, attended later with her married son, Will, and his family. While the family sat in the pews at St. Joseph’s Church, Magda prepared the brown gravy, spaghetti and carefully seasoned stewed chicken. Since summer, she knew to set two extra plates because Keith Roussel and Sal Pepitone often accompanied them. Nuala and Rose joined the boys’ families later for coffee. Magda sensed that Keith preferred her cooking to his own mother’s, but she was too polite even to hint at such a thing. Sal’s mother was well-known for her cooking skills. She’d once worked in a restaurant. Magda guessed that the two young men would have eaten her cooking even if she’d produced the most terrible slop to grace a table. The draw was her daughters.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Frau. It’s the girls’ Schönheit keeps those boys gulping down your food,” she muttered to herself in the mix of German and English she often adopted when alone.

“Talking to yourself, woman?” David Comeaux stood in the doorway of the kitchen smiling at his wife.

“Just thinking.” She sprinkled crushed garlic and bay leaves into the pot. She turned to him. “Hand me that colander. The spaghetti is ready.”

“Do you mind all this mess on Sunday?” David Comeaux retrieved the colander from a cabinet. He rubbed his wife’s back as she stirred her gravy.

“No, of course not. When have I ever minded it? We always have a full table.”

“You seem nervous lately. Is something bothering you? Don’t you like these boys calling on the girls?”

“Why wouldn’t I? They’re fine young men. Our families have known their families since our kinder were small.” Magda moved to the sink to drain the spaghetti.

“What, then? Is it what’s going on in Europe?” David moved behind her and slipped his arms around her waist. His lips brushed her neck.

Magda turned and touched her husband’s face. “You always knew me. David, I remember what war was. So do you. You remember the trenches, don’t you?”

David looked away and stared at a bird pounding against the window. His eyes briefly glazed over. Then, he smiled at her. “I remember a pretty German girl who helped me while I was trapped in a church.”

“Ja, and you remember the danger. Had I not found you, you would have lost an arm. My family’s house was bombed. People on all sides lost lives and homes. Our sons talk about it like it will be a game. I remember the bombs. I remember the horror. I remember being hungern. It’s not a game. Who can describe Berlin in flames?”

“It’s going to be all right, hon.” David cupped her chin between his thumb and forefinger.

“You just want to say that.” Magda wearily tossed a dishcloth into the sink.

“We can’t do anything about it if war comes.” David sighed and poured the spaghetti into a dish. “We can only pray it won’t come to that.”

“I’ve done nothing but pray since that bastard took power.” Magda threw up her hands. “I’m sorry. I hate talking like that.”

David kissed her cheek. “You never have to apologize to me.”

“Do you think Will and George…”

“If war comes, you know the answer to that. They’ll be taken.” David looked down at his hands.

“Pieter’s last letter was censored. I’m sure of it, but what he did say was careful. That madman has done terrible things to my country. I wonder if I’d even recognize Germany anymore.” Magda bit her lip and concentrated on her gravy.

***

The above excerpt and blurb are from LOVE AT WAR, Viola Russell’s WWII romance available on Amazon and http://www.redrosepublishing.com. Russell is a New Orleans native who writes as Viola Russell. She love delving into the past. Historical fiction is especially dear to her heart. LOVE AT WAR was her first foray into the historical genre, and she wrote it after reading letters her mother’s brothers sent home. She is happiest at my computer, writing with her dog at her side.

Click here for an interview with: Viola Russell, Author of “Love at War”

Excerpt From “A New Life – An Italian Romance” by Beate Boeker

The idea of starting A New Life has sometimes sounded quite tempting. . . only to the heroine of this novel, it’s an ordeal. She has just been acquitted of murder and now needs to build up a new life in Italy, as a secretary in a hotel. Never mind that she doesn’t speak Italian. Never mind that she’s not a secretary but an experienced business-woman. Never mind that Italy comes in a totally different shape to what she expected . . .

Excerpt:

“No, I didn’t kill him.” Anne frowned at the sound of her voice. If only she knew how to say it in Italian.

Then again, no. Anne shook her head.

She didn’t have to know it.

Because nobody would ask.

She had to remember it was all in the past.

The loudspeaker spat out some Italian sentences. Anne tilted her head but didn’t understand a word. Thank God the stewardess continued in English. “Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re now approaching Florence. Please fasten your seat belts, and put your seats in an upright position.”

Florence! Anne swallowed. How often had she dreamed of Florence. How often had she asked her mother to show her the pictures yet again, to speak of the light, of the beauty, of the Italian sun. Anne closed her eyes. She could hear her mother even now, her musical voice and her explosive laughter.

She would never have believed that one day, she would be reluctant to see Florence.

Anne clenched her teeth. She had to stop thinking about it. She had to concentrate on a dream come true, no matter the circumstances, no matter it felt like a nightmare.

She angled her head to get a better view of Florence through the window, but the plane was surrounded by clouds. It looked as if they were cutting through a thick layer of gray cotton wool.

Almost there. Anne’s eyes burned as she fought back a wave of fear. How she wished she could go back to Seattle. But that wasn’t an option.

You’ll be fine, she told herself and stared at the clouds. The red lights from the wings reflected in the towering gray masses before they cut into them. For an instant, Anne closed her eyes. Even if the whole of Europe should turn out to be gray, it had one big advantage.

Nobody knew her here.

That counted more than everything. She nodded to herself. Giorgio had promised she could avoid all Americans at the hotel. Maybe, for once, Giorgio had told the truth.

She sighed. How she wished she didn’t depend on their weak family connection.

The plane dipped lower, and they emerged from the gray cotton wool. Anne’s eyes widened. How close to the ground they were already! For an instant, she could make out a few scattered buildings before the rain streamed along the little oval window in horizontal lines and blurred her view. She might see more if she took off her huge sun-glasses, bought especially to hide as much of her face as possible, but she had kept them on all the way because they made her feel anonymous. She would soon have to face the world without them. All too soon.

Half an hour later, she stared at a huge sign on the wall while waiting for her giant suitcase to arrive on the belt.

Benvenuto da Firenze. Welcome to Florence. Willkommen in Florenz. Bienvenue à Florence. The words reverberated through her. Welcome. Would she be welcome? She doubted it. Anne grabbed her elephant suitcase, hefted it off the belt and dragged it to the exit. Her heart beat hard against her ribs.

The airport was so small, you could walk in ten minutes from one end to the other. It had just one floor and a flat roof, and if you wanted to get lost here, you had a job to do. Somehow, the small size made it sympathetic and manageable. Then again, you could be seen and recognized in no time at all. Anne swallowed, hurried through the glass doors, and took a deep breath. Italy smelled of rain and dust.

It wouldn’t take long to get to the ‘centro storico’, the old city center. Half an hour or so, the guy at the travel agency had said. Anne’s throat felt parched. She would have to face the manager of the Garibaldi Hotel soon. Peter Grant.

Giorgio had told her Mr. Grant would not be a problem. He’d promised to discuss everything with him. He’d promised Mr. Grant would welcome her with open arms. He’d also promised Mr. Grant would be discreet.

Anne bent her head to avoid the worst of the rain and turned to her left, following a sign that said ‘Taxi’. The rain dropped into the small of her neck and ran down her back with chilly fingers. Until yesterday, her long hair had kept her warm. How she missed its familiar weight; how vulnerable she felt. What a stupid idea to cut her long hair only because it would make her look different from the girl on trial. Anne huddled deeper into her coat, but the wind cut through it and made her shudder. She splashed into a puddle, and immediately, water seeped through the seams of her shoes. Darn. You’re so silly. Take off your sunglasses now. Do.

But no. Not yet.

Her thoughts turned back to Peter Grant. She wasn’t so sure about the open-armed-welcome. From all she’d learned the last months, few people welcomed you with open arms if you’ve just been released from custody, and on a murder charge at that.

She bit her lips and stopped next to the first taxi in line. With a forced smile, she bent forward and looked through a dirty window. The taxi driver opened it, his face impassive. Anne summoned up the sentence she had learned by heart. “Nel centro storico?”

The taxi driver nodded. He scowled at her huge suitcase, then at the pouring rain, grunted something she didn’t understand and heaved himself out of his Renault.

For an instant, Anne wanted to say she was sorry to be a bother, then she shook herself. She wasn’t responsible for the weather. Where had all her self esteem gone? Half a year ago, she would have made a joke about the rain. Now every little unpleasantness went straight to the core. She pressed her lips together and dived into the back of the taxi. It smelled of stale cigarettes.

When the Renault started to drive with a rattle that told her the exhaust tube wasn’t going to last much longer, she stared out of the window. Blinded by the rain and her sun-glasses, she didn’t see much. A few trees, thin, straggling. Some low houses, with the typical roofs made of four equal triangular pieces, slanted to meet at the tip. Shutters with peeling paint, closed to keep out the sun that was nowhere to be seen and hard to imagine. Where was the Florence her mother had loved?

Anne shook herself. She had to think positive. She had to take back her life, make it into something good, something clean. She sighed. Would it ever become possible to forget she’d been imprisoned on a murder charge? Would she be able to forget the accusing stare of Alec’s friends, and let’s face it, her own, who believed she had tampered with his car? Would life ever turn back into something sane, something to have confidence in?

She’d been innocent. It hadn’t helped.

The houses got higher, and the streets narrowed until Anne wondered if she could open the door of the taxi without hitting it against a wall. It got darker by the minute. The rain pelted onto the roof with angry blows, deafening her. She felt as if she was sitting inside a clammy tin box. Anne hunched up her shoulders and curled her cold toes.

When the taxi stopped, and her amiable driver indicated with a move of the head that she had reached her destiny, she fumbled out some unfamiliar Euro notes and pressed them into his hands. His fingers were red, like sausages. The sausages disappeared in a black zip-bag and reappeared with some change.

“Grazie.” Anne’s voice trembled.

With a sigh, the taxi driver heaved himself out and went to the back of the car.

Anne clutched her handbag hard. Now. Her new life was about to begin.

Get out, she told herself. Don’t be a coward.

But her legs were frozen stiff. She was unable to move.

Oh, it would be so nice if she could find a mouse hole somewhere. Just a little mouse hole, well hidden; that would do.

II

Peter Grant pulled up the collar of his raincoat and sped past the Dome without a single glance at its marble beauty. He swerved by a Vespa, jumped across a puddle and finally stormed into the Da Marco bar on via de’ Tosinghi. After the call from Garibaldi, he had felt the need to leave his office immediately, to get some fresh air and a change of walls, but for once, the familiar smell of coffee and fresh bread failed to charm him. With an effort, he smiled. “Buongiorno, Marco.”

Marco waved his blue checkered dishcloth, finished polishing the glass in his hands and put it down with practiced care. It clinked on the glass top, only audible because the bar was still empty.

“Peetarrr.” He smiled across his gleaming glass counter that allowed a glimpse of crisp pannini bread and sweet dolci. “Come vai?”

Peter’s reply came automatic. “Tutto a posto. All is well.” Which was a lie. Nothing was well, nothing at all, but he couldn’t very well tell Marco so, who had once declared him to be the only cheerful English guy he had ever met.

Peter shifted on his wooden bar stool and leaned his back against the wall painted in faded orange. The smell of Marco’s panninis made his mouth water. He ordered an expresso and a pannini with prosciutto. “Henry not here yet?”

Marco shook his head without looking up from the hissing espresso machine. “Enrique will come soon.” He slipped the expresso in front of him.

Peter immediately tossed it back. When he looked up, he spotted Henry through the glass front of the bar. His cream-colored raincoat moved like a swift cloud through the rain. With him, the smell of exhaust came into the bar.

Marco shivered. “Che tempo brutto!”

Yes, the weather is awful. Peter sighed. But it’ll go away, unlike the news I got this morning.

Henry smiled at them both, took off his raincoat, shook out its folds one by one, then hung it on the curlicued brass hook Marco had fixed on the wall just for him. He bent across the glass display and gave Marco his order, then came over to Peter. Just as he seated himself, Marco brought Peter’s sandwich and served Henry his usual, a salad with bacon strips.

Henry pushed the plate away until it stood at a neat angle in front of him, padded down his blond hair that didn’t need any padding, slanted a glance at Peter and said, “Everything all right?”

Peter shook his head. “No.”

Henry speared a piece of tomato and lifted his fork. “Is it Maria?”

Peter stared at him. “Maria? Who’s Ma . . .?” He stopped and choked. “Oh. Maria. Why on earth do you think it’s Maria?”

Henry put the tomato into his mouth and chewed. “The last time you looked like that, Maria was the reason.”

Peter laughed without mirth. “It’s been ages . . . I believe I’ve last heard from Maria a year ago.” He took a bite off his pannini and smiled a bit. “And I sure don’t complain.” The smoky taste of the prosciutto filled his mouth but failed to give him a feeling of satisfaction.

Henry nodded and cut the salad into rectangular pieces. “So it’s Garibaldi?”

Peter clenched his teeth. “Lo stronzo.” He hissed out the word.

Henry threw a look at Marco who had moved to the other end of the counter to greet a new customer. “Be careful.”

“Oh, you can trust Marco.” Peter bit off another piece of his pannini as if he wanted to tear it apart.

Henry nodded. “Yeah. But still, I wouldn’t run around and call my employer an asshole. Particularly not if it’s someone like Garibaldi.”

“But he is one.” Peter narrowed his eyes.

“I know. What did he do this time to put you in such a fury?”

Peter took a deep breath. “You remember Angela? My secretary who worked half time?”

“I thought she’d left?”

“Yeah.” Peter finished his pannini and wiped his fingers on the white paper napkin. “She left a month ago, and I’ve been badgering Garibaldi ever since to allow me to employ a full-time secretary.”

Henry winced. “Oh, no. Don’t tell me you’ve been going without a secretary for a full month?”

Peter grinned. “It’s pandemonium.”

“I can imagine. Why don’t you find a half-time secretary until Garibaldi agrees?”

“Because as soon as I have one, he’ll think it’s fine and will stop doing what little he might have done. Besides, it wouldn’t be fair to her, would it?”

Henry took a sip of his coffee and grinned. “And now he said since you seem to manage nicely, you can do without one altogether?”

“No. Worse.”

“Worse? What can be worse?”

“He’s sending me his niece.”

The hiss of the espresso machine almost drowned his last words.

Henry stared. “Did you say his niece?”

“Yeah.”

“Jesus.” Henry arranged his knife and fork in perfect parallels on his empty plate and pushed it away.

Peter looked up. “That all you say?”

Henry blinked. “You’ll have to be darn careful. First of all, you have to stop calling him Stronzo all the time.”

Peter shrugged. “If that was all, I’d be fine.”

Henry waved at Marco. “Un Grappa, per favore, Marco.” Then he turned back to Peter. “What do you mean, that’s not all?”

“He doesn’t have a niece.”

“What’s that?”

Marco arrived and placed the tiny glass with Grappa in front of Henry who pushed it to Peter.

Peter eyed it for an instant, then tossed it off. “Thanks.”

Henry frowned. “Now let’s start again, please; you’ve lost me completely. You say Garibaldi foists a niece upon you, a niece he doesn’t have?”

Peter shrugged. “Lo stro… Garibaldi called this morning, said he had wonderful news; he has found a secretary for me. She’ll work full time. What’s more, she’s already on her way and will arrive tonight.” He drew his hand through his hair. “And while I’m still collecting my thoughts to ask if she has ever worked in a hotel, if she has any references, not to mention that I would like to have a say in the matter as well, he says she’s his niece!” He spat out the word. “When I know perfectly well he has neither brothers nor sisters, so he can’t have a niece, not in a million years!”

“So who do you think she is?” Henry opened his eyes wide.

“She’s one of his floozies, of course. Tall, blond, and so stupid you start to eat your desk in desperation if you have to talk to them for five minutes on end. They’re all like that.” He shrugged. “I guess he got bored with her, for once finds it difficult to shake her off, so he offers her a job in Florence.” He changed his voice to a high-pitched sing-song, “Wonderful city, my dear, you’ll work in a fabulous four star hotel, oh, so exclusive, a gorgeous historical Palazzo,” Peter drew his hand through his hair again and returned to his normal voice. “And I don’t even know if she speaks Italian, for God’s sake!” He beat the top of the bar with his fist.

Henry shook his head. “He wouldn’t send you a secretary who doesn’t speak Italian, Peter. Even Garibaldi can’t do that.”

Peter lifted his eyebrows. “Oh, wouldn’t he?” He grabbed a tooth pick from a white porcelain holder next to his elbow and started to turn it around in his fingers. “Those bimbos are barely able to speak their mother language, let alone any other!”

“Maybe she’s Italian,” Henry said.

Peter shook his head. “No way.” He twiddled the tooth pick in his fingers. “Not with a name like that.” He stared at the glossy table top in front of him.

“Come on, don’t keep me in suspense.” Henry nudged his arm. “What’s her name?”

Peter looked at his friend and drew a grimace. “Elizabeth Tiffany Mary Anne Smith.” He drew out each word. “Doesn’t sound Italian to me.” The tooth pick snapped in two between his fingers. “And she’s never worked in a hotel in all her life.”

***

Beate Boeker is a marketing manager by day and a writer by night. If you mix Latin and German, Beate Boeker literally translates as Happy Books . . . and with a name like that, what else could she do but write romances and entertaining mysteries? Her books are well-known for their touches of humor and mischief. She has published several romances with Avalon Books – and two of them have already been chosen as finalists in writing contests. You can also find several “feel-good” e-books by Beate online. Check out her website to learn more: http://www.happybooks.de

http://www.amazon.com/New-Life-Italian-Romance-ebook/dp/B007B02V18/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1338663158&sr=8-2


Excerpt From “Killer Designs” by Sherre Pratt

Sexy Detective Jake Chess makes Sunny’s heart throb. They could have it all . . . if he wasn’t trying to convict her brother of murder.

Fashion designer Sunny Benning’s world has been torn apart. Her lead designer has been murdered. Sexy Detective Jake Chess makes Sunny’s heart throb, but he’s got his eye on Rick, Sunny’s brother, as the main suspect. Now she’s got to control her desires for the detective while convincing him of Rick’s innocence. When clear evidence comes to light revealing the real killer, Jake and Sunny have to move fast to save Rick from a vicious killer-turned-kidnapper, even as they fall in love in the process.

Excerpt

“I’m gonna kill him for this.”

Sunny Benning stood at the base of her porch steps and stared up into the shadows leading to the front door of her restored 1910 Palm Beach estate. Her brother, Rick, must’ve turned the porch light off when he was there for lunch. She knew she’d left it on that morning in anticipation of coming home late. While the street light at the corner offered some comfort, she could still feel the fear rising.

God, she hated the dark.

With a deep breath, she darted up the steps. The light breeze coming off the Atlantic just yards away usually calmed her. She stood for a moment to get her bearings, glancing nervously left, then right, and then inserted the key into the lock. Finding it already unlocked, she pushed the door open, stepped into the narrow hall, and reached for the wall switch—nothing happened.

The front window, with its sheers, allowed a glimmer of light to filter through. The streetlight lengthened the creepy shadows in the room, turning them into voids of darkness. Perfect spots for Jason Voorhees to hide with his hockey mask and big knife.

“Good thing it’s not Friday the thirteenth.” She started at the sound of her voice. “Can we say, ’scaredy pants’?”

Two steps into the room, she jumped as something brushed her leg and yowled. “Damn it, Loop!” She bent in the darkness to pick up her black Scottish Fold cat, her fingers sinking into wet and sticky fur. “Eew, what’s all over you?” He tensed and struggled to get free. “Hey, hey, what’s wrong fella?” He hissed and jumped out of her hands. She straightened. That wasn’t like him. And why was his fur so nasty and sticky?

Sunny’s gaze jumped from shadow to shadow around the room. Despite the light peeking through, the darkness was still suffocating. She examined the sticky substance on her palm. Even in the semi-darkness, she could see the stain on her hand. She lifted the other one up and it, too, was coated in the dark substance. Moving closer to the light coming through the sheers, she held out both hands, then brought one to her nose, wrinkling it up when her hand got too close. Metallic, she thought and looked at her hands again. Her mind rejected what it saw, groped for another explanation.

Blood.

**

Sherre Pratt lives in Columbia, South Carolina with her parents and her poodle (Fifi). She’s been writing since 2001 when she realized that she could write her own love stories instead of just reading them. When Sherre’s not writing, she enjoys reading some of her favorite authors or doing research for her next book.

 

Excerpt From “Wallflower” by Catherine Gayle

The choice between adhering to a long-held pact and finally accepting love could prove Lady Tabitha Shelton’s unhinging. She is plump, plain, pleasant…and thoroughly unappealing to any of the men of the ton—apart from fortune hunters. A self-appointed wallflower, she has every intention of remaining one. Tabitha made a vow of spinsterhood with her cousins when they were girls, and she refuses to go back on her word. So far, she’s proven herself quite adept at warding off the blasted fortune hunters’ pursuits.

Noah deLancie, Marquess of Devonport, would prefer to marry for love and companionship—he’s a gentleman through and through—but circumstances have forced his hand: he needs money as badly as he needs a bride. When Noah’s brother-in-law suggests pursuit of his sister, Tabitha, a woman with a dowry large enough to cause even Croesus to blush and who is tantalizingly good company to boot, Noah stumbles into the future he hopes to secure. He’ll stop at nothing to convince Tabitha to marry him.

Nothing, that is, except perhaps the barrel of a dueling pistol, held to his face by his ladylove.

Excerpt:

“It won’t work.” The smooth, rich voice of Lord Devonport reverberated at Tabitha’s other side, and she jumped. “He fully intends not to be foiled by you, Lady Tabitha.”

She pinched her eyes closed. Blast, how had she not noticed Lord Devonport coming her way? She’d as soon die of mortification as allow him to hear her plans for Toby. But it was too late for that.

Still, maybe the gentleman would prove himself useful.

“And what, pray tell, is he planning, Lord Devonport?” Steeling herself, Tabitha turned to face him. The laughter in his eyes never ceased to captivate her. Someone ought to find a way to bottle that joy so everyone could experience it. “Surely you know, since you’ve been over there with him this last half hour. What does he intend to do to me this time?”

“Alas, I cannot tell. I’ve been sworn to secrecy.”

“Would it not be more gallant to warn a lady of a plot against her, my lord? Surely you must recognize the difficulty of my position.”

The smile moved down to his lips. They looked soft, like velvet. Tabitha had a sudden, irresistible urge to kiss them, just to find out for sure. But that was a ridiculous notion.

“Ah, but you do not seem to recognize the inherent problems of mine.”

The way Lord Devonport stared at her was more than just a little unnerving. Tabitha realized she was toying with her necklace and forced herself to stop, allowing her arms to fall straight at her side.

“And neither of you recognize the adversity of mine,” Jo said. Her voice seemed much louder than either of theirs had been, though surely no one else could hear her. “If you’ll excuse me, I must go and visit with Lady Crestridge. That shade of evening primrose makes her complexion look downright ghastly.”

Jo strolled away, and as usual, a series of eyes followed her path across the ballroom, Tabitha’s included. When she turned back to Lord Devonport, however, his eyes had not left Tabitha’s person. Oh, why had Jo decided to abandon her? She’d been Tabitha’s one source of protection against…against what, precisely? Surely she didn’t need protection from Lord Devonport, a perfectly agreeable gentleman—one who was essentially family.

So why did she feel like she needed fortification? Why, all of a sudden, did his gaze make her skin tingle? The prickles of goose flesh that had popped up along her arms were perplexing. Tabitha wasn’t cold—rather she was exceedingly warm—and she was experiencing the joint, warring desires to leave Lord Devonport’s presence without looking back and to draw closer to him.

Tabitha had been attracted to men before. More than attracted, actually. She’d thought herself in love with one of her father’s footmen once upon a time. But James Marshall had never made her feel quite like this—nervous and flighty, and somehow even a little bit attractive. On second thought, maybe Jo had been right. Maybe she was feeling ill. No gentleman in possession of his faculties would ever find her attractive. She brushed the notion away and faced Lord Devonport again.

“The inherent problems of your position?” she asked, wishing her words had not come out sounding strangled. Good Lord, it sounded like she was attempting to swallow an entire flock of geese. “And what might those be?”

“Surely you can work that out on your own, my lady.”

He leaned closer to her and the heat of his body wafted a trail of his cologne over her. It was musky and spicy and manly; it tingled against her nose and tantalized her to draw closer to him.

“If I am to maintain my reputation as a gentleman in your eyes,” he said, his voice hardly more than a whisper, “I must divulge secrets that are not mine to tell. However, if I am to maintain the same in the eyes of your family, I may do nothing of the sort.”

His eyes bored into hers. Tabitha felt as though he could see straight into her mind, directly into her heart. Her pulse beat a frantic pace against her neck. She wished he would touch her right there, just below the lobe of her ear, to calm the pulsing, heated flow.

“Indeed,” she said. “That is quite a predicament.”

***

Catherine Gayle has been an avid reader of romance novels (and almost anything else she can legally get her hands on) for as long as she can remember. Her mother might say it started in the womb. When she is not writing or reading, she can often be found buried beneath her sleeping cat or chasing the Nephew Monster.  She’s a reality TV junkie, a hockey addict, and experimental cook.

Catherine Gayle’s books are available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC