Excerpt From “Beach Rental” by Grace Greene

On the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, in the small town of Emerald Isle…

Juli Cooke, hard-working and getting nowhere fast, marries a dying man, Ben Bradshaw, for a financial settlement, not expecting he will set her on a journey of hope and love. The journey brings her to Luke Winters, a local art dealer, but Luke resents the woman who married his sick friend and warns her not to hurt Ben—and he‘s watching to make sure she doesn‘t.

Until Ben dies and the stakes change.

Framed by the timelessness of the Atlantic Ocean and the brilliant blue of the beach sky, Juli struggles against her past, the opposition of Ben’s and Luke’s families, and even the living reminder of her marriage—to build a future with hope and perhaps to find the love of her life—if she can survive the danger from her past.

Excerpt:

The Hammonds’ house glittered. Crystal, gold and silver reflected in the numerous floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The men wore tuxedos and the ladies, draped and fitted in their gowns and jewels, rivaled the decorations in the lavish rooms. It was the fanciest home Juli Cooke had ever seen.

Juli wasn’t glittery. She wove her way among the guests with a tray offering canapés. Her white shirt was already spotted with chocolate and red wine. The blotches were right smack in the middle where her black vest couldn’t hide them. Her feet hurt, bound in cheap black pumps. She was twenty-six and definitely not a decoration. She felt like a utility—faceless, graceless, and silent.

She paused as a guest chose a mushroom-capped hors d’oeuvre from her tray.

What were the Hammonds celebrating? It didn’t matter. It was the same for Juli regardless of the occasion—just another slice of unlived-in time spent trying to earn a buck because it was the bucks that kept her afloat, fed, and in her small apartment.

A hip brushed hers as Carla whispered, “What’s up with you and Frankie?”

“Frankie and me? Nothing.” Juli glanced around.

“Then you won’t mind if I ask him out?”

“Sammy’s watching. Move on. I’ll catch ya later.” Juli broke away and walked toward a group of people. Neither she nor Carla needed trouble from Sammy. As a boss, he was a tyrant. It paid to be alert if she wanted to stay below the trouble radar.

Nearby, a woman’s voice erupted in laughter and Juli turned to look. The woman was leaning toward a tall, thin man with her hand on his sleeve as she stared up into his face. Her body language was as revealing as his. Juli felt a little sorry for her. Even as the woman spoke to him, the man appeared to ignore her while he scanned the room.

He had a lean build, light brown hair and sharp features. The woman shrilled, “Luke, you are so…,” then the level of her voice dropped. He, Luke, was the one behaving differently from the rest of the group and should‘ve been the one who looked out of place but, no, he made the other partiers look superfluous.

Juli caught his stare. An unexpected pull, a subtle magnetism, drew her. A tingle raced up her spine. Had he sensed her eyes on him? His gaze passed over and through her and moved on.

That’s right, I’m nobody. It hit her like a punch in the gut. An invisible nobody going nowhere.

A knot of guests moved away and suddenly, she was reflected in a large mirror directly ahead. Unlike her own, muted reflection, everyone else captured in the mirror was sharper and more colorful. Humming began in her ears, growing louder as the room closed in around her. The warm air thickened with a fog of perfume and alcohol. A thousand unnamed scents threatened to choke her.

She tried to beat back the panic and failed.

In the midst of the laughter and glitz, Juli fled to the kitchen, but instead of exchanging the tray for a freshly filled one, she carried it straight out the door and into the night.

***

Luke Winters tuned out the hum of nearby conversations and looked beyond the flushed faces around him. Every man wore a black suit or tuxedo and they all seemed to have dark hair. There was nothing particularly distinguishing about Ben—other than his exceptional good nature—and that was no help here.

He’d told Ben not to come. There was no need. Marcel Hammond threw this party every year for business partners, clients, and friends.

Ben wanted to pretend everything was okay and he wanted everyone else to pretend with him. Ben was his cousin, his best friend and longtime business partner. Luke couldn’t pretend, he was a realist.

He gave his glass to a passing waiter and interrupted the woman who was speaking to him. “Please excuse me. I have to find someone. Very sorry.” He smiled in apology and gently detached himself from the small group.

Winding his way among the knots of people, nodding, waving or stopping for a quick, polite exchange before moving on, he traversed the room looking for Ben.

In the dimly lit hallway leading to the bathroom, two men stood close together. One was dressed as a waiter. Their hands moved quickly as they traded something—each having acquired an object that went directly into the new owner‘s pocket.

The action stopped Luke. He frowned, wondering at the boldness, or the need. They sensed him and looked up. Luke didn’t recognize either of them but the waiter stepped back, nodded and walked past him down the hall.

Was the guy smirking? The other man, a party guest, kept his eyes down and tugged at his suit jacket as he brushed past Luke.

Was it any of his business? No. He’d mention it to Marcel later, in case the incident was as unsavory as it seemed.

The bathroom door stood ajar. Luke pushed it open. No Ben. He returned to the main party room, again scanning the shifting bodies. A hand touched his arm.

“Luke? You look worried.”

Maia. He rubbed his temples. “I don’t see Ben anywhere.”

“Don’t hover over him. He’ll let you know if he needs help. In fact, he’ll ask for help a lot faster if you aren‘t suffocating him.”

She sounded fierce and it brought a sad smile to his face. “He’s sick, Maia. Don’t tell me you’re not concerned.”

“Of course, I am.”

He stared across the room. Sick was an understatement. Ben was dying. Not today or tomorrow, but within a few months. Neither of them wanted to say those awful words aloud. Luke looked down at Maia and touched her arm.

She stood straighter, adding a fraction of an inch to her petite stature. “Get back to work. Go talk to Amanda Barlow again. You left her broken-hearted. Take her a glass of wine.”

“Please, no.” Luke tugged at his collar.

“Please, yes. She’s interested in buying artwork to decorate her new home. Even forgetting your own business interests—if that’s what you want to do—please consider the artists who’d like to make the sales and those of us who work for you.”

She was right. Ben was an adult of sound mind. Luke was here this evening for the business opportunities. He had responsibilities.

He took the hand she’d placed on his arm and squeezed it. “Understood.”

“She’s over by the chocolate fountain.” Maia nodded. “And don’t forget to mention the Bingham hardwood reliefs. They’ll look outstanding integrated with Charlotte’s etchings in Amanda’s window room. She’ll love them.”

“On my way. And you?” He straightened his jacket and tugged at the ends of his sleeves.

“Well, I won’t be going back to the chocolate fountain, that’s for sure, or I’ll need a whole new wardrobe.” She laughed and her dimples deepened.

“Maia, in case I neglected to mention it earlier, you look lovely. You’re right, Ben’s an adult. Go have some fun. In fact, didn’t I see Ed Larson earlier?”

“Ed and I have been past tense for a long time. No worries, remember? Just take care of business.” She turned away.

“Maia.”

“What?”

“Sometimes we take you for granted.”

Her cheeks pinked up. “No problem. Now, go talk to Amanda about those etchings.

***

Grace Greene writes fiction with romance, suspense and inspiration, always with a strong heroine at its heart, and there’s a happily-ever-after ending–most of the time. Her next novel, Kincaid’s Hope, is scheduled for release in January 2012. In Kincaid’s Hope, Beth Kincaid finds that swearing off the Kincaid temper and creating the perfect life free from untidy emotionalism has its own dangers and can even get you killed.

*Remember* Whatever the season, it’s always a good time for a love story and a trip to the ‘Beach’!

Excerpt From “A Dangerous Harbor” by R.P. Dahlke

Bleary-eyed and sleep deprived after a long overnighter into Mexico, solo sailor and SFPD police detective, Katrina Hunter, thinks the mermaid twenty yards behind her thirty-two foot Westsail is nothing more than a sailor’s hallucination But everything she knows about floaters convinces her to turn her boat around for another look.

Now, alone and isolated in the Mexican port’s police station for six hours she’s convinced that reporting the body of a floater to authorities was a mistake. Even the arrival of a handsome, if somewhat dour, Mexican/Italian investigator, does nothing to dispel her growing anxiety that she’s about to be charged with the murder.

Chief Inspector, Raul Vignaroli, is as surprised by the attractive solo-sailor as he is to find that she’s a respected member of the San Francisco police force, and after some well-placed phone calls he’s sure that he’s found the perfect partner to help him solve a murder, if not the cure for his broken heart.

Excerpt:

Baja Naval was expecting her. It was a good working marina and she was looking forward to the respite. Scrub the boat, get the teak work done and leave Mexico and its troublesome problems behind. She nodded thankfully to the sergeant. She could almost taste the late afternoon sun, the fragrance of tacos frying in local stalls. Oh, and there was the fish market. Maybe she could persuade the sergeant to stop long enough for her to pick up some fresh fish, or better yet, some fish tacos. Her stomach rumbled at the thought.

She was still thinking about those wonderful fried fish tacos as the double doors of the police station slammed open with such force that the ceiling fan stuttered in its lazy rotation. Two policemen marched in, dragging a listless prisoner between them.

A thick, sun bleached blond head of hair flopped over half-closed eyes, the buttonholes missing their mark on a faded Hawaiian shirt.

Katy judged him another drunk American giving Mexicans cause to believe everything about privileged yanks with their big wallets and bad manners.

He was a good foot taller than the two Mexican officers, but with his hands manacled behind his back, it was obvious that he wasn’t going to give them any trouble. But before Katy could dodge around him for the exit, he raised his head and a startling pair of aquamarine eyes met hers.

He straightened his back, wincing at the angle of his cuffed wrists. “What the… Whisper?”

Suddenly, the sound of the ceiling fan was terribly loud. Blood pounded in her ears, her mouth went dry, her palms were damp and her feet were nailed to the floor. In a knee jerk reaction, she hissed, “Don’t call me that!”

Then realizing her mistake she backed up and bumped into Inspector Vignaroli

His brief nod to his sergeant indicated there would be a detour in the prisoner’s march for the holding cells in back and Katy’s ride to Marina Baja Naval and freedom.”

***

RP Dahlke. Best selling Kindle e-book mysteries/womensleuths with the Dead Red mystery series http://tinyurl.com/6hdg3bf about a woman crop-duster. This newest mystery, A Dangerous Harbor is the result of her years sailing aboard her 47ft. Hylas in Mexico.
http://www.facebook.com/RPDahlke
now only $.99 on Amazon/Kindle:http://amzn.to/uWzIUl

Excerpt From “Written in Stone” by Viviane Brentanos

Written in Stone: Dumped five days before her wedding.

Cassandra Hall decides not to waste the honeymoon. She sets off to London. What was supposed to be her dream week turns into a nightmare time of introspect, self-doubt. Then she meets James, literally falling at his feet in an attempt to save his Afghan hound from colliding head on with the traffic.

James is witty, charming, too good-looking and also–not available. Despite this, Cassie is captivated by him. What follows is a week of fun, companionship and a bonding that Cassie has never experienced.

James, sensing Cassie’s unhappiness, goes out of his way to make up for her jerk of a fiancé’s rejection. He is drawn to her vulnerability–something he finds disturbing, threatening to shatter all he thought he knew about himself. Cassie, he senses, is falling in love with him. He ought to back away but cannot. Cassie bravely makes her true feelings known and when he rejects her, he knows he has broken her heart. He is left confused, guilty because . . . James has a secret.

EXCERPT:

Cassandra Hall stared across the park. A fresh autumn breeze teased at her shoulders, cool fingers determined to infiltrate the gap between neck and coat. Hastily, Cassie pulled up her collar.

The day was September mellow. Trees whispered to one another, shedding their tiresome load of brown and russet, mocking the aged park attendant as he struggled to keep up with the deepening blanket of leaves. A gentle sky, cream and blue-tinged, held a warm sun. The rays danced upon her knees, and yet Cassie shivered. Her toes felt numb inside her new, wildly expensive boots, but then she was numb all over.

She raised her head, gaze caught by a line of Prussian blue weaving and skipping across the expanse of lush green. Cassie smiled. The frustrated teacher called out, pleading with her pupils to maintain a straight, orderly line, but the excited children ignored her, giggling into gloved hands. A day out in the park was obviously an exhilarating break from the tedium of the classroom. Sighing, Cassie turned her head away. Oh to be five again, innocent, happy, and carefree.

Her gaze drifted across to the lake where lovers made the most of the Indian summer. Gaudily painted rowboats dotted the pewter water, trailed by a lone duck taking his final swim before boarding the last flight south for winter. Cassie wished she could go with him.

The wind picked up, whipping at her hair, carrying with it the infectious laughter of some love-struck couple. Cassie felt sick. Everywhere she turned, reminders of love reared up to slap her in the face. Love. Now that was funny. The way she felt had little to do with love. It was all about betrayal, humiliation. So what could she do about it? Not much. Go home maybe? Cut short her week in London? She dug her hands deep into her coat pockets, clawing at the lining, resentment battling with humiliation in her soul. Martin had paid for this week, and as he oh so generously had pointed out, it would be a shame to waste it. “You should go,” he’d urged her. Generous? No. Insensitive? Definitely.

Jane’s caustic remark bounced around in Cassie’s head. Her best friend had acidly pointed out Martin was just trying to ease his conscience. So be it. A week in London, although alone, beat the alternative hands down. Walking through her home village of Ambury, stoically trying to deflect well-intentioned arrows of sympathy was something she could do without. Besides, Cassie had a sneaking suspicion the villagers’ show of compassion masked their true sentiment. Triumph. Cassandra Hall—prettiest, most popular girl in school—had finally got hers and then some.

“Sod them!” Cassie kicked at a fallen conker. “They can all go to hell.”

Her bravado was short-lived, and a wave of misery crashed over her, seeping into every pore. She wanted to scream out with the unfairness of it all. Once again, she focused on the innocent grey-blue lake. How easy it would be. It must be fairly deep, ten meters or twelve maybe? Who would hear her call out as frigid waters spilled over her head? Would anyone care as the icy depths devoured her?

“Madonna!”

A frantic yell pierced her cloak of self-pity, and she jerked her head around in time to catch a flash of silver-blond disappear into a copse of graceful willows.

“Wait until I get my hands on you, you ungrateful bitch!”

Cassie watched, fascinated, as a man dressed in paisley pyjamas crashed between the trees, desperately trying to catch up with his four-legged prey. She would have laughed except Madonna executed a textbook three-point turn and veered to the right…to the park gates. Cassie’s heartbeat accelerated as imminent tragedy unfolded before her eyes.

He’d never catch up. The dog was much too fast, too agile, as graceful as a gazelle in flight. Gaze flitting to the cacophony of traffic beyond the park fence, Cassie didn’t waste time thinking it through. The glorious silver mane brushed against her legs, and she propelled herself off the bench with hot rod thrust.

Clearly, Madonna didn’t appreciate the heroic gesture. As Cassie and dog rolled among the mulched leaves, the canine yelped its frustration at this undignified rugby tackle. Conveying her pique, she sank sharp teeth into Cassie’s arm.

“Christ!” Cassie gasped. “You little…”

It was evidently a case of “sticks and stones.” The dog strained to get away, her aristocratic head whipping round ready to inflict more incisor damage. Cassie’s arm throbbed, and her knees smarted from being dragged along the ground. But she wasn’t about to give in, and she clung to her prize with pterodactyl tenacity.

“Oh God…hell…bugger!”

Tanned hands deftly unwound her fingers from blond locks and dragged the haughty, unrepentant beast over to the bench seat. Cassie tried to stand, but her legs gave way, and with a painful thump, she fell back onto her backside. Air struggling to fill her lungs, she watched the stranger slide the slip lead over the dog’s patrician head before threading it through the wrought iron latticing.

“Stay there, you revolting animal!”

Madonna, by now, looked bored.

“I’m so sorry…”

Cassie took in a gulp of steadily chilling air and looked up into cerulean blue eyes. Legs still shaking, she took the offered hand and stumbled to her feet.

“Are you hurt?”

His voice was deep, melodious and tender…making her feel curiously vulnerable.

“No.” She bit back a sob of pain. “Yes.”

He scanned her over, eyebrows knotting together when he saw the tear in her sleeve. They were exquisitely shaped eyebrows, fine and yet setting off a very masculine forehead. Cassie wanted to giggle. Here she was, recently savaged by a walking carpet, and she was noticing his eyebrows? His eyelashes were amazing too—long, thick and coal black. Hysteria, she reasoned. I’m in shock.

“She bit you?”

The eyes darkened to indigo, the smooth forehead creasing with worry.

“I don’t think she drew blood.” Cassie pulled at the toggles on her coat and shook her arms free. “No…no blood.” There was, however, a bruise the size of a golf ball forming, two Dracula indents at the centre.

His lips were drawn in concern. “Look perhaps we’d better have a doctor check you over. Dog bites can be dangerous.” He turned and threw the sulking Madonna a malevolent glare.“Even pedigree ones.”

“No.” Cassie shook herself free from his searching eyes. “Really, it’s fine. Look, the skin’s not even broken, and I’m well up to date on my tetanus jabs. I know about these things, you see. My dad’s a vet…” Realizing she was rambling, she clamped her mouth shut. He didn’t look convinced. Probably thinks I’m going to sue, she thought.

“Still…”

“I’m okay. Just wet.”

“You’re a mess.” He raked his fingers through midnight blue hair.

The last time Cassie had seen hair that colour had been on Elvis’s head, and his had come out of a bottle. Not so with this stranger. The soot eyelashes were testament to that. And anyway, who was he to say she looked a mess? He was running around London barefoot and in stupid pyjamas. He smiled then, and her heart skipped a beat. Her pique was forgotten. Why, she didn’t know; only that for a brief moment, she felt faint.

She dragged herself away from those hypnotic eyes to stare down at her legs. Her tight were shredded at the knees, and her boots scuffed to high heaven. The burgundy Wallis coat lay in a crumpled heap, caked in mud. A gust of wind swirled above her chest, and she wrapped her arms around her body.

The boyish smile disappeared to be replaced with concern. “Look my house isn’t far from here. Just on the other side of the park. Come home with me. You can clean up a bit, and I’ll make some tea.”

This time Cassie didn’t shrink from the proverbial hand of friendship. Loneliness filled her heart. She couldn’t remember conveying her agreement, but she must have done because he bathed her in that warm smile, relief radiating from those luminous eyes.

“It’s the least I can do. You’ve saved me from an early grave.”

“Oh?” Cassie hugged herself tighter. In true British fashion, the weather had made another of its notorious U-turns, and dirty grey clouds now scurried above their heads, dragging the sun’s frail warmth with them.

“Christ!” The stranger banged his fist against his forehead. “I’m a prize idiot. You must be freezing.”

With bullfighter panache, he wrenched free of his dressing gown and draped it across her shoulders. Underneath, his chest was bare, smooth, and well muscled. Not quite Spartan warrior fit but pretty impressive all the same. Another giggle gurgled in Cassie’s throat. “Do you always run around London in your PJ’s?”

“Pardon?” The eyebrows connected again. “Oh…” Full lips parted in a wide grin, displaying even white teeth. “No. I was in the shower. I’d just got back from the airport, and I was knac…it doesn’t matter. The stupid housekeeper must have left the door open on her way out, although I’ve told her time and time again. My pyjamas were the first things that came to hand. When Miss Asheera Madonna Blond Ambition over there makes a break for freedom, there’s no time for wardrobe inspection. She’s faster than Carl Lewis on an overdose of energy drink.”

“Yes. Afghans are sight-hounds. Very fast. They are free spirits…” She rambled again.

“No kidding!” He grunted in Madonna’s direction. “I’ve a good mind to leave her tied to the bench all night—except my sister would murder me. The dog’s hers, by the way. I’m just babysitting. Ungrateful walking floor mop. The dog, I mean, not my sister, although she can be a spoiled little bi…sorry. This isn’t getting you warmed up, is it, and it’s starting to rain.”

True. Large splats dropped from the sky, but strangely, Cassie’s chill had melted away. His voice was intoxicating.

“Come on.” One hand on her elbow, he pointed her in the direction of the park gate. “If we run, we can do it in five.”

“And Madonna?” Cassie glanced over her shoulder to where the dog studied the sky with apprehension, bemused expression clearly stating it wouldn’t do to ruin the hairdo.

“I suppose you’re right.” He worked at the knot. “Come on Lady Godiva, and no funny business, or it’s the last Crufts Best in Show you’ll ever see.”

A sharp tug of the lead, and Madonna broke into a stride that would have made Pavlova weep. Graceful, fluid, so regal.

Her owner was pretty good, too, and Cassie struggled to keep up with his long gait. Her knees throbbed, and her head pounded from days of suppressing her emotions. It occurred to her she could be playing a dangerous game here. After all, who was this man in the garish night attire? And how did she know the Afghan belonged to him…or his sister? He could have borrowed Madonna to use as a babe magnet. And then again…Cassie stole a glance at her disheveled apparel and wrinkled her nose. Some babe!

They reached a pillar-box red door just as the heavens decided to quit pussyfooting around and let rip with monsoon ferocity. Cassie was beyond aiming for chic. Water ran in icy rivulets down between her collar and neck. Her hair, she knew, was well on its way to Medusa snake effect. So much for anti-frizz.

“Here,” he slipped the lead into her hand. “Watch her. She’s as slick as an oil spill and just as hard to clean up after.”

He turned the key in the door, but before he could open it fully, Madonna wrenched free from Cassie’s grasp, shot between his legs, and disappeared into the house.

Her hand flew to her mouth, and she stared in horror at the muddy trail now snaking across what she imagined was very expensive flooring. “Oh…I’m sorry.”

His eyes shut in silent curse, and Cassie wanted to die.

“And the ditzy cleaner isn’t back until Friday. Never mind. It’s not your fault. I should have warned you about her Houdini tendencies. Aristocratic blood, my arse. More like fucking peasant. Excuse my French.”

Cassie would have excused Swahili; she only wanted to get out of the rain. She got her wish. Huddling her inside, he slammed the door behind them.

Cassie’s jaw didn’t so much as drop as disengage from her skull. The house was stunning. Awe-struck, her gaze scanned the high beamed ceiling before coming to rest on the huge sash windows. She counted at least eight. The floor was a plank oak expanse, original she imagined, and buffed to a mirror shine. The errant housekeeper might have been crap at dog watching, but she certainly was handy with the beeswax. The furniture was authentic cracked and scuffed cozy. Squashy leather in muted shades of taupe and hazelnut brown. Burnished gas lamps dotted the white-stuccoed walls. Turned to dim, they bathed the room in warm, bronze shadows. The back wall boasted a stone fireplace so vast Cassie imagined you could spit-roast an ox in it. The grate was neatly stacked with logs ready to be lit, and their apple scent mingled with the heady aroma of pine, vanilla, and sandalwood candles. Somewhat feminine touches, she mused, and yet the room was so masculine.

“I love it.” The words spilled from her lips, hushed and reverent.

“Yes, it is lovely, isn’t it?” He pulled the sodden dressing gown from her shoulders. “Alex is a genius at the interior decor. I wasn’t so sure about the open plan thing but it works.”

It was an understatement. Cassie felt as if she’d stepped into the pages of an OK! shoot. Her mother would have been gutted by jealousy. Her efforts at interior design couldn’t really compete. Thinking of her mother brought reality crashing back down on her head. Together, they’d spent hours, painstakingly putting the new house in order, poring over material swatches, deciphering the intricacies of the paint colour code and for what? Her temples throbbed. She could never live in that house now.

“Hey.”

Light pressure on her shoulders dragged her back from the depths of her not too distant past.

“Are you okay? You look a little pale?”

“It’s nothing. I’m…I’m fine.” The sob burst out from its confines. “No. No I’m not.” Hot tears scalded her eyes before spilling down her cheeks. “I should be though, shouldn’t I? I’m on my honeymoon.”

***

Viviane Brentanos was born in Reading U.K. in 1958. Her father is English and her mother is French. although there is a strong vein of Spanish on my maternal grandmother’s side. She was educated at various schools before completing Sixth Form College at St Peter’s Huntingdon. Writing is her passion. She writes romance with a quirky, humorous Brit twist.

Links:
Website: http://www.vivianebrentanos.com/
Blog: http://viviane-brentanos.blogspot.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

Second Wind Publishing $.99 Kindle Sale

Now is the time to get all those Second Wind ebooks on your reading list! Romance, Mystery, Intrigue! From June 1, 2011 until June 21, 2011, the following ebooks will be $.99 on Kindle.

***

ASHFIn quarantined Colorado, where hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death, insomniac Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Her new love, investigative reporter Greg Pullman, is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay. This is a story of survival in the face of brutality, government cover-up, and public hysteria. It is also a story of love: lost, found and fulfilled.

Click here to read the first chapter of: A Spark of Heavenly Fire by Pat Bertram

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***

Bob Stark returns to Denver after 18 years in Southeast Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. He attends her new funeral and sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on? And why are two men who appear to be government agents hunting for him? With the help of Kerry Casillas, a baffling young woman Bob meets in a coffee shop, he uncovers the unimaginable truth.

Click here to read the first chapter of: More Deaths Than One by Pat Bertram

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***

When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents — grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born — she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians — former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Daughter Am I by Pat Bertram

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In a world of fixed fights and mob influence, Ray Ward and his brother, Rex, are two of the only clean fighters in town. With Ray in the corner and Rex in the ring they are headed for the big time . . . until that fateful night.

Now Ray has a score to settle using a lifetime of lessons in how to fight back.

Dean Fokoli is a detective with a new partner, an alcoholic wife, and a guilty conscience. At least the boxer on the radio who just got beat to a pulp won’t end up in his homicide file. But when the dregs of the crooked fight world start turning up dead, Fokoli is on the hunt for the killer. The chase will take him to the underbelly of the Kansas City night and hopefully keep him one step ahead of his past.

One Too Many Blows To The Head is a razor-edged story of revenge, redemption, and what happens when you confront the ghosts of the past.

Click here to read the first chapter of: One Too Many Blows to the Head by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner

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Hollywood, 1941

Ray Ward spends nights thinking about his brother’s death and the blood-soaked days that followed.

Dean Fokoli is off the force, disgraced by his dirty dealings, left to scrape for pennies as a private eye.

When Ray receives a mysterious package from his sister containing a plea for help and a reel of 8mm film, there’s a problem – Ray doesn’t have a sister.

Now two former enemies must team up, travel halfway across the country to search the dark shadow of Hollywood’s spotlight. In for more than they bargained for, Ray and Fokoli plunge behind the silver screen to unearth tinsel town’s dirty secrets. And two men with nothing left to lose can stir up some serious trouble.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Borrowed Trouble by JB Kohl and Eric Beetner

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Hand-Me-Down BrideSophie is far from her German city home, newly married and even more newly widowed. She is left virtually penniless and adrift in post Civil-War Pennsylvania, where she is resented by her dead husband’s family. The last thing she expects is to be is attracted to another member of the scornful Wildbach tribe.

Karl Joseph is still trying to forget the war, as well as the painful relationship he had with his father. He’s the first member of his proud family to want to “just be an American.” The last thing he wants is a German wife!

Click here to read the first chapter of: Hand-Me-Down Bride by Juliet Waldron

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It’s midnight in Minnesota and Jensen Marie Christiansen is dreaming of a rosy future. It’s daybreak in Denmark and Anders Westerlund is waking up to a world full of stark realities. When parchment paper and faded ink meet computer screens and fax machines, the old-fashioned magic of a great-grandmother’s letters sets the stage for a steamy Internet romance . . .

Click here to read the first chapter of: Night and Day by Sherrie Hansen

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An ill wind is brewing up a storm and as usual, Rachael Jones is in the middle of the fray. If the local banker succeeds in bulldozing the Victorian houses she’s trying to save, she’s in for yet another rough time before the skies clear. The only bright spots on the horizon are her friendship with Luke… and her secret rendezvous with Mac…Is Rachael meant to weather the storm with Luke, who touches her heart and soul so intimately, or with Mac, who knows each sweet secret of her body.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Stormy Weather by Sherrie Hansen

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Once upon a very long time ago, Jake Sheffield and Michelle Jones graduated from the same high school.

Jake can’t wait to take a trip down memory lane at their 20th class reunion. Being with his old friends is like guest starring in a favorite episode of Cheers. Everybody knows your name. Everybody’s glad you came.

The last thing Michelle wants to do is dredge up a lot of old memories and relive a part of her past that wasn’t that great in the first place.

Will the murky waters of the past destroy their dreams for the future, or will a water lily rise from the depths and bloom?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Water Lily by Sherrie Hansen

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front-sta-195x304When acclaimed pianist Nicholas Kalman discovers his lover’s dead body, he sets out alone to find her killer. During his journey, he meets an unwitting female accomplice who soon becomes determined to help Nicholas wield his retaliation. Following a parallel path for justice, Steven Hawk, the deputy of a sleepy Southern county, is assigned to the case. Pursuing the investigation, Hawk finds himself entangled in a world of vengeance, greed and manipulation.

Performed against the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Staccato transports readers to a behind-the-scenes glimpse of professional musicians, the psychological twists and turns of its characters, and in the end, retribution that crashes in a crescendo of notes played at the literary pace of a maestro’s staccato.

Staccato is the first novel of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela thriller trilogy.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Staccato by Deborah J Ledford

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A long awaited conclusion to a classic love myth. What could go wrong? Two stubborn, clueless protagonists. Two Greek gods, a town full of meddlesome but loving neighbors . . . And a whole lot of misdirection and finagling. Will it be enough to enlighten and inspire them? Sonya is a smart woman on a mission to get her career started by moving to the Windy City and nothing is going to stop her! Well, that is nothing except a broken down car and a crusty, old mechanic with a soft heart. Thanos is just doing his civic duty when a damsel in distress shows up practically on his doorstep and he offers her a place to stay. Right? Sure, sure they’re sweet on each other, but will they get over their past mistakes and realize they’re meant to be together before it’s too late?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Sonya Recovered by Janette Rochelle Lewie

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Near the end of their honeymoon trip across Oregon, Sam Stanley, his new wife Lynn, and her one-year-old son Andy, traverse a steep mountain road in a rented RV. In the middle of a blind curve they run over a long roll of carpeting angled across the road. Sam barely manages to avoid crashing the huge vehicle down the mountainside. When he walks back up the road to move the obstacle—it’s gone. Upon returning home to Austin, Sam learns that the crushed body of a business executive from Boulder, Colorado has been found at the site of their reported accident. There is no roll of carpet.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Carpet Ride by Norm Brown

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You know Backstop. He plays the catcher’s position for any team in any city in America with a major league ball club. You cheer him when he delivers, and boo him when he doesn’t. Told in his own words during the seventh and deciding game of the World Series, Backstop chronicles his rookie season, takes the reader to Chicago, where he finds romance, and reveals the heartbreak he endured in the aftermath of his one indiscretion. You cheer for Backstop, both on and off the field, as he plays the most important game of his career, haunted by the ghost of his father, and fights to win back the heart of the woman he loves more than the game.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Backstop by J. Conrad Guest

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In One Hot January, Joe January, an emotionally aloof private investigator from the South Bronx, gets more than he bargains for when he uncovers this seemingly impossible plot of time travel and alternate realities by grudgingly agreeing to help a pretty young woman locate her missing father. Her father, a Professor of Archeology from Columbia College, must prevent the secret location of Hitler’s body, which lies in a cryogenic state awaiting a cure for cancer, from falling into the wrong hands. By the end of the novel, January is thrust one hundred years into the future, where he must survive on a century-old sagacity as he endeavors to find his way back to his own time and the woman he loves but lacked the courage to tell. The tale concludes in January’s Thaw, to be released later this year.

Click here to read the first chapter of: One Hot January by J. Conrad Guest

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***

Joe Daniels tried for years to put his military, special op, mercenary past behind him. He married a beautiful woman and settled into a mundane job as a police detective. Then everything came crashing down around him. A terrible accident that nearly claimed his wife’s life not only opened the door to his past, but forced him to recognize all of his perceptions of the world around him were wrong.

Click here to read the first chapter of: False Positive by JJ Dare

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***

The second book in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy continues where False Positive ends as Joe continues his mission to destroy those who have destroyed his life. As the world changes, Joe’s search for justice takes on a global urgency and he races to find answers before deadly answers find him.

Beginning in a secluded town in the middle of nowhere, it is not long before Joe is traveling across the country and, ultimately, across a collapsing world on his quest for vengeance.

The world is not what you see.

And neither is Joe.

Click here to read the first chapter of: False World by JJ Dare

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***

Lg51ROsDmoLXLIn the spring of 1739, Gabriella Deza stands poised on the verge of womanhood. A product of her guarded upbringing, she is naive in the ways of love until dashing Manuel Enriques declares his love for her. Quite by accident, Gabriella uncovers a plot hatched by British spy whose job is to capture the town and fort, Castillo de San Marcos. Armed with her information, Manuel embarks on a dangerous mission to entrap the spy and save the town from being overthrown by the British. Unfortunately, Gabriella herself is caught in the trap and kidnapped. Can Manuel find and save her before it is too late?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Indian Summer by Dellani Oakes

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***

When Private Investigator, Tina Munroe agrees to help out an old friend little does she know the danger she’s put herself and her loved ones in. Billy Hutchins is being stalked by a killer who has a bead on him and Tina’s desire to protect Billy places her squarely in the stalker’s sights. She encounters vandalism, a psycho with a Molotov cocktail, a gangster who has his own agenda for mixing into her case and a high speed chase through the city of Las Vegas. The reader is taken to Laughlin, Nevada, The Lake Mead Marina, the World Series of Poker in Vegas and a trek through the pouring rain in the pitch black of night through a snake infested desert. Time is running out when her friend and assistant, Megan is kidnapped. Have Tina’s actions to save one friend caused another friend to die? Can she stop the killer in time? Could the killer be someone she knows and trusts?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Vendetta by Nancy Niles

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***

Have you ever moved? Have you ever had an encounter you just can’t rationally explain away? Then you know exactly how stressful either of those situations can be. Now imagine moving your entire family to an area considered sacred for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and having a spirit insist you get involved with solving a murder. Welcome to Cerri Baker’s life! Named after a pre-Christian Celtic Goddess, Cerri has spent her life trying to avoid the spirituality and hocus-pocus her mother embraces. Now in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Cerri doesn’t seem to have much choice as a spirit guide insists she find justice for a murdered man. As she struggles with her own destiny, Cerri must also convince the FBI that she is getting her information from another realm and not from first-hand knowledge of the murder.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Ghost Mountain by Nichole R. Bennett

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***

Discovering Destiny was the last thing Andrew Greer expected.

Alone in a desolate cabin, Andrew Greer was perfectly content to wait out the blizzard with his adventurous dog, Shadow, as his only companion. Fate decided differently. When Shadow discovers the unconscious and injured woman, Andrew has no choice but to take her to the safety and warmth of his retreat.

Destiny weaves a tale of kidnapping and murder. Is she the witness and victim to the crimes? Or is she really a conspirator getting away with murder? Andrew is determined to protect Destiny and find out the truth. Can he find the real killer before it’s too late? Or has he already found her? Only Fate knows for sure.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Fate and Destiny by Claire Collins

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***

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.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Images of Betrayal by Claire Collins

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***

n1526866242_30176021_3291She sold her soul for a bottle. He stole it back.

Lacey Grady is “a woman of leisure” and an alcoholic. Andy Warren is a bitter and jaded WWI veteran whose wife and only son died during childbirth. When Andy recognizes that Lacey is drinking herself to death, he kidnaps her out the brothel where she works and takes her to his mountaintop farm.

Besides being a sweet romance, Lazarus Barnhill’s Lacey Took a Holiday is a profound and profoundly moving story of redemption.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Lacey Took a Holiday by Lazarus Barnhill

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***

The Medicine PeopleAfter 25 years as a fugitive, triple murder suspect Ben Whitekiller returns to his small eastern Oklahoma hometown in the company of an enigmatic young woman. Why has he come back? Why are those who sought him so disturbed at his return? What secrets will rookie patrolman Dan Hook find out about Ben and himself?

Click here to read the first chapter of: The Medicine People by Lazarus Barnhill

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***

Anthologies:

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$.99 Kindle sale! Click here to buy: Murder in the Wind

$.99 Kindle sale! Click here to buy: Love is on the Wind

***

Also Available:

June 1 – June 8 Only:
Nora’s Soul by Margay Leah Justice
Murder in Winnebago County by Christine Husom

June 8 – June 15 Only
Buried in Wolf Lake by Christine Husom

June 15 – June 21 Only
An Altar by the River by Christine Husom

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

Click here to buy: Merry Go Round

More Than a Governess by Jerrica Knight-Catania

Becky Thorn has been keeping a secret for more than seven years. A secret that, if found out, could destroy her. So before she gets too ensconced in London society, she accepts a position as a governess for a reclusive Viscount and his wife, far away from the ton.

Stephen Hastings, the third Viscount Hastings, is nothing short of perturbed when the tart Miss Thorn shows up on his doorstep. He is a man with little time and even less patience, who feels his pushover housekeeper is doing a fine job keeping his wards out of his hair. But Miss Thorn thinks differently and needles her way into becoming his governess, and eventually, the object of his affection.

Excerpt:

“Good evening.”

Becky gasped and spun from the bookshelf to find herself face to face with the lord of the manor. She stammered as she fished for an appropriate excuse. Truth be known, she should not have been traipsing about the house at this hour, let alone on a mission to borrow one of the library’s books. She would be dismissed before she’d even had a chance to begin.

“I’m so sorry, my lord, I was just…”

Lord Hastings raised his brows in question and sipped lazily from the snifter he held in his hand.

“I was just leaving, actually. Good night.”

Becky bobbed a shallow curtsy and then backed towards the door, eager to return to her room.

“Miss Thorn, you needn’t leave on my account,” Lord Hastings said dryly. “You interrupted the rest of my day, why not finish it out?”

Becky stood frozen, trying to decide whether she should be grateful for the chance to stay and choose a book or outraged that he’d insulted her yet again. Unable to keep her thoughts or feelings to herself, she opted for the latter.

“Forgive my impertinence, my lord,” she began, “but may I ask why you have taken it upon yourself to be exceedingly rude to me since my arrival?”

A sinister chuckle escaped from Lord Hastings’ lips. “Don’t take it personally, Miss Thorn. You’re a servant. I treat you no differently than I treat anyone else in my employ.”

“Considering I’ve been brought here under false pretenses, I find your behavior reprehensible.”

“Behavior?” he asked indignantly. “Need I remind you that you are governess to my niece and nephew and not to me? However you find my behavior it is none of your concern.”

“It is when it affects me.”

“Then I suggest you grow a thicker skin, Miss Thorn, for I am not in the habit of walking on eggshells for the sake of my servants’ feelings.”

Becky remained silent. She had already overstepped her boundaries more than once today and she would not put it past Lord Hastings to turn her out even at this late hour. Though a thousand retorts swirled in her head, she merely clamped her lips shut and walked to the shelves of books that lined the walls, drawing her robe tighter around her as she did.

But there was no hope of concentrating on the books or their titles. She was outraged and tired and feeling completely lonesome and helpless. All she really wanted was to go to sleep but she was still too wound up from the day’s events.

When the hairs on her neck stood involuntarily, she was certain she was being watched. She turned around to see Lord Hastings regarding her with a cynical smile.

“Would you please stop staring at me? It makes me uncomfortable.”

“Would you care for a drink, Miss Thorn?”

That caught her off guard. She was prone to a glass of wine or a pint of ale from time to time, but only amongst friends, never with intimidating strangers.

“No, thank you,” she said proudly and turned her attention back to the books.

“It might help you sleep.”

He had a point there.

“All right, then,” she sighed. “Perhaps just a little.”

 ***

After obtaining a degree in Vocal Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, and years of pursuing a career on the stage, Jerrica left the “glamorous” life of an actress in favor of writing romance. She continues to reside in the New York City area with her husband, cat, and precious daughter.

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