Monday, 30 September 2019

The Devil and Dayna Dalton by Brit Lunden


Title: The Devil and Dayna Dalton
Series: Book 9: A Bulwark Anthology
Author: Brit Lunden
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publication Date: September 30, 2019
Publisher: Chelshire, Inc.


Reporter Dayna Dalton’s reputation has been ruined since birth. The daughter of wild child, Becky Dalton, is expected to follow her mother’s footsteps; never given a chance to prove she’s different. Dayna’s been in love with Clay Finnes since she was a teenager. Her unrequited love for Sheriff Finnes leaves her empty. He’s happily married and unavailable. Instead, Dayna finds herself stuck in the revolving door of bad relationships. But this is Bulwark, Georgia, a town where strange things are always happening. Dayna is doomed to this loveless life until she can find someone who will appreciate the depth of her character. Can she overcome her fears and look beyond her own perceptions to accept a greater love?

*Contains Sexual Content*



Excerpt:

Chapter 1
“I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.” Marilyn Monroe

The crisp, clear sunlight was not her friend. Dayna Dalton winced at the bright light that squeezed in through the slats of the venetian blind. She reached over and gave the cord a hard tug, sending the pint-sized bathroom into near darkness. Behind her, the shower head dripped with a steady plop, plop that reminded her of the exposé she did on water torture in Guantanamo Bay that never got published. It was deemed too harsh to print.

The Bulwark Advance preferred her to write…fluffy pieces. She sneered thinking of the crap on her computer, the half-written article about the elusive Easter Bunny that awaited its final edit. She hung her head in shame, thinking of what her sorority sisters from Georgetown would feel if they knew where Dangerous Dayna Dalton had ended up. There’d be hell to pay in the form of eternal humiliation.

Dayna twisted the faucet, her freckled knuckle turning bone white from the effort. It was no use; the leak continued relentlessly, driving a hole in her throbbing head. Oh, that last round of shots was totally not necessary.

No matter how hard she wrenched the faucet, the dribble continued. She thought she should ask her guest to fix it before he left. He was a plumber, after all. She was sick of this place. Dayna peered at her reflection in the mirror. She was sick of her life.

Skip Benson’s bearlike yawn turned into a growl from the bedroom. “Dayna.” His voice grated on her nerves.

Dayna rolled her kohl-smeared eyes.

“Dayna, come on back to bed.”

Dayna took a steadying breath and used both hands to grip the sink as if it were holding her up. What was she thinking last night? Skip Benson? How low could she go? A shudder ran through her lithe frame. That left only Trout Parker, and she could now report she had officially and irrevocably scraped the bottom of the barrel of Bulwark, Georgia.

She rubbed her forehead where a hammer banged against the inside of her skull.

Skip wailed for her to return to the warmth of the bed. Dayna wrinkled her nose, thinking about Skip’s performance, or rather what she remembered about it. Oh yeah, too many tequila shots will make anyone desirable, even stupid Skippy Benson.

She ran her fuzzy tongue over her dry teeth, fighting the urge to gag.

Skip Benson had never been on the football team, the basketball team…Hell, he’d never even made the chess team. He had been the school screw-up, and now he could brag that he and Dayna had…

Dayna turned away from the mirror with disgust, her cheeks flushing. She staggered to the doorway of the bedroom. Using the frame to hold herself erect, she shouted, “Get up!”

“Wha–?” Skip rose, the comforter bunched at his flabby waist, his chest bare and the pathetic tattoo of a red devil across the front of his right bicep.

Vague memories of kissing that image flitted through her foggy brain. Dayna picked up a pillow discarded on the floor during their frenzied arrival and threw it at his head.

“I said, get up and get out of here!”

Skip ducked, then slid off the bed, his behind exposed, another image of a werewolf on his left butt cheek. Dayna convulsed at a hazy memory of talking to that tattoo.

“You weren’t so eager to get rid of me last night.” Skip stood in all his naked glory, which wasn’t much.

“Ugh. I’m never drinking again,” Dayna muttered under her breath. “I said get dressed and get out of here.” A shoe sailed past Skip’s head.

Her unwanted guest scrambled to find his clothes. “Hey, cut it out, Dayna!” Skip was living up to his namesake as he struggled into his work pants, bouncing toward the door.

Dayna’s face split into a demonic smile that was known to strike fear in the hearts of single men everywhere. Here, she thought, was the elusive Easter Bunny. She watched Skip hop toward his escape as though he were in the Fourth of July potato sack race.

Dayna picked up a shirt that had been discarded on the floor and threw it at him. The garment appeared to have a life of its own and engulfed his head. Skip’s muffled cries were nearly smothered by the material. His hands tore at the shirt to no avail.

His fingers—Dayna looked closer, grimacing at the dirt under his nails, and watched his wrestling match with the clothing. She pushed him into her shabby living room, then out the door of her condo. Mrs. Sweetpea, an antonym for sure, watched in revulsion as Dayna shoved her guest out of her apartment.

Dayna lived in Shady Oaks, a rundown condominium community, where she reluctantly shared a front porch with her neighbor. The building was a connected row of apartments that bordered undeveloped land, as though a builder had left the project unfinished halfway through. It was hot real estate when they released the first phase, and half the town bought investment properties. Then the real estate bubble burst, and the whole thing came tumbling down.

Dayna had an inside scoop about what was really going on, but once again, the paper wouldn’t print it. The mayor had sold the land and gotten a back-end deal for it. He made a ton of dough and then skipped off to Colombia—the country, not Columbia, South Carolina. The builder had used inferior products, and once he went to jail for money laundering, the whole place went to seed. There was no one to call when things broke.

Dayna cast Mrs. Sweetpea a jaundiced eye, daring the nosy neighbor to say something about her guest. While the old crone might have appeared to be like the proverbial sweet grandmotherly type, Dayna knew her to be an ornery bitch with a sting as sharp as an angry wasp.

She hated her; had for years. Thelma Sweetpea had been her babysitter back in the day when she was a small child. Dayna’s mother had dropped her off at the old lady’s house for the first nine years of her life.

Dayna looked at Mrs. Sweetpea and shivered. The old woman had moved into the complex a year and a half ago, cutting up Dayna’s peace. What were the odds they’d end up living next door to each other? She was a mean old woman, and Dayna felt judged every time those beady eyes settled on her.

Dayna considered moving but was so underwater with her mortgage, she couldn’t think of selling. She was stuck at Shady Oaks, and she was stuck with the prying eyes of Thelma Sweetpea.

Mrs. Thelma Sweetpea took out her aggression with a broom and started to sweep as though the hounds of hell had just taken a shit there. Dayna fought the urge to say something. Speaking with Mrs. Sweetpea usually ended up in a hissing contest. Dayna’s compressed lips turned up just a bit with a smile at the result of this morning meeting. Mrs. Sweetpea was in a frenzy of spring cleaning, as if she could wipe the interlopers from reality.

The sky was overcast, and even though it was springtime, the air was decidedly chilly. A wave of cold air stole under Dayna’s shirt, making it billow out. She fought the urge to shiver. Her bare feet felt the shock of the freezing concrete. She’d be damned if she would show that old biddy any weakness, even if it was unseasonably cold.

Dayna looked up at the watery sky, searching for a glimpse of the sun. Global warming was playing havoc with Georgia’s weather. Either it was extremely hot when it was supposed to be cold or freezing when the time of year dictated heat. It didn’t rain anymore; it stormed with funnel clouds that touched down, ripping homes and trailers from their moorings.

Mrs. Sweetpea stopped her sweeping to look at Dayna, her lips pursed as if she’d eaten something sour. Dayna returned the stare, her eyes observing the wrinkled face, watching the older woman judge her half-naked form.

Dayna’s freckled shoulder peeked out from an oversized tee shirt. It was paired with her long, bare, coltish legs underneath. Dayna looked down and cursed when she realized she was wearing Skip’s tee. Glancing up, she realized he was struggling with her shirt from last night.

Watching her neighbor’s shocked face, Dayna ripped Skip’s shirt over her head and tossed it to him. He paused in his scuffle with her clothing to admire her perfect breasts.

“I don’t have to leave,” Skip said with a broad smile.

“Oh yes you do, and don’t come back here.” Dayna turned around, her shoulders straight. She paused to look at the older woman, who stood with her jaw hanging in shock.

“Have you no shame?” Thelma Sweetpea sputtered.

Dayna looked back at the gawking plumber, then her scandalized neighbor. She shrugged indifferently. “Apparently I have no shame at all.”



About the Author

Brit Lunden is a prolific author who’s written over 50 books in assorted genres under different pen names. Bulwark was her first effort in adult fiction and was chosen by several of her fellow authors as the basis for a new series, A Bulwark Anthology.  Using her characters, they are creating new denizens in spin-off stories to this bizarre town. Brit Lunden lives on Long Island in a house full of helpful ghosts.






Saturday, 28 September 2019

Strangers She Knows by Christina Dodd



Title: Strangers She Knows
Series: Cape Charade #3
Author: Christina Dodd
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publication Date: September 17, 2019
Publisher: HQN Books
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 1335468331 (ISBN13: 9781335468338)


Perfect for fans of Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, and Jayne Ann Krentz, New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd returns with the chilling finale to the Cape Charade trilogy.

I have three deadly problems:

  • I’ve seriously offended a maniacal killer.
  • I just had a bullet removed from my brain.
  • My new daughter is growing up too fast—and she's in the line of fire.

Living on an obscure, technology-free island off California means safety from the murderer who hunts Kellen Adams and her new family…or does it? Family time becomes terror time, until Kellen finds herself alone and facing an all-too-familiar psychopath. Only one can survive, and Kellen knows who must win…and who must die.

Be sure to also check-out the rest of the Cape Charade series, starting with DEAD GIRL RUNNING and WHAT DOESN'T KILL HER, available now wherever books are sold.



Excerpt:

Yearning Sands Resort Washington’s Pacific Coast This Spring


Rae Di Luca stacked up her Level Three lesson books, opened the piano bench and put them away. She got out the Adult Course Level 1A book, opened it to “Silver Bells,” and put it on the music rack. “Mom, you have to practice.”

Kellen didn’t look up from her book. “I know.”

“When?”

“When what?”

“When are you going to do it?”

“I’m at the good part. Let me finish this chapter.”

“No, you have to practice now. You know it helps with your finger dexterity.”

When had their roles reversed, Kellen wondered? When had ten-year-old Rae become the sensible adult and Kellen become the balky child?

Oh yeah. When she had the brain surgery, her right hand refused to regain its former abilities, and the physical therapist suggested learning the piano. But there was a reason Kellen hadn’t learned to play the piano earlier in her life. She loved music—and she had no musical talent. That, added to the terrible atrophy that afflicted her fingers, made her lessons and practices an unsurpassed agony…for everyone.

She looked up, saw Rae standing, poised between coaxing and impatience, and the Rolodex in Kellen’s punctured, operated-on and much-abused brain clicked in:


RAE DI LUCA: FEMALE, 10YO, 5‘0", 95LBS. KELLEN’S DAUGHTER. HER MIRACLE. IN TRANSITION: GIRL TO WOMAN, BLOND HAIR TO BROWN, BROWN EYES LIGHTENING TO HAZEL. LONG LEGS; GAWKY. SKIN A COMBINATION OF HER ITALIAN HERITAGE FROM HER FATHER AND THE NATIVE AMERICAN BLOOD FROM KELLEN; FIRST PIMPLE ON HER CHIN. NEVER TEMPERAMENTAL. KIND, STRONG, INDEPENDENT.

Kellen loved this kid. The feeling was more than human. It was feral, too, and Kellen would do anything to protect Rae from threat—and had. “I know. I’m coming. It’s so much more fun to listen to you play than practice myself. You’re good and I’m…awful.”

“I’m not good. I’m just better than you.” Rae came over and wrapped her arms around Kellen’s neck, hugged and laughed. “But Luna is better than you.”

“Don’t talk to me about that dog. She howls every time I sit down at the piano. Sometimes she doesn’t even wait until I start playing. The traitor.” Kellen glared at the dog, and once again her brain—which had developed this ability after that shot to the head—sorted through the files of identity cards to read:

LUNA: FEMALE, FULL-SIZED POODLE/AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG/AT LEAST ONE OTHER BREED, 50LBS, RED COAT, BROWN EYES, STRONGLY MUSCLED. RESCUED BY RAE AND MAX WHILE KELLEN RECOVERED FROM SURGERY. FAMILY MEMBER. RAE’S FRIEND, COMPANION, PROTECTOR. MUSIC LOVER.
Luna watched Kellen in return, head resting on her paws, waiting for her chance to sing a solo protest to Kellen’s inept rendition of “Silver Bells.”

“Everybody’s a critic.” Rae set the timer. “Come on. Ten minutes of scales, then you only have to practice for thirty minutes.”

“Why do I have to practice ‘Silver Bells’? Christmas isn’t for seven months.”

“So you’ll have mastered it by the time the season rolls around.”

“I used to like that song.”

“We all used to like that song.” Rae took Kellen’s left hand and tugged. “Mom, come on. You know you feel better afterward.”

Kellen allowed herself to be brought to her feet. “I’m going to do something wild and crazy. I’m going to start learning ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ It’s the next song in the book, and I like it.”

“You can learn anything you want after you practice your scales and work on ‘Silver Bells’ for fifteen minutes.”

No one wanted to be inside today, certainly not Rae Di Luca, certainly not Kellen Adams Di Luca, certainly not upstairs in their private quarters in the Yearning Sands Resort. Not when spring had come to the Washington state Pacific Coast. April and May’s drenching rains turned the world a soggy brown. Then, on the first of June, one day of blazing sunshine created green that spread across the coastal plain.

Kellen made her way through the ten minutes of scales—the dog remained quiescent for those—then began plunking out “Silver Bells.”

As she struggled with the same passage, her right hand fingers responding only sporadically, Luna started with a slight whine that grew in intensity. At the first high howl, Kellen turned to the dog.

“Look, this isn’t easy for me, either.”

Luna sat, head cocked, one ear up, one ear down, brown eyes pleading with her.

“I would love to stop,” Kellen told her and turned back to the piano. “How about a different tune? Let’s try ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’”

She played the first few notes and out of the corner of her eye, she saw the dog subside. Then, as she worked on a tricky passage, made the same mistake, time after time, the dog sat up again, lifted her nose and howled in mourning for the slaughter of the song.

Rae giggled, and when her mother glowered, the child controlled herself. “Come on, Luna, I’ll take you outside.”

The dog didn’t budge.

“She thinks she’s helping you,” Rae explained. “Come on, Luna. Come on!” She coaxed her out the door, turned back to Kellen and said sternly, “Twenty more minutes!”

“Yeah, yeah.” Kellen struggled on, trying to make her recalcitrant fingers do her bidding. Even when she finally got the notes right, it wasn’t a piano tune so much as jack-in-the-box music. When at last the timer went off, she slumped over the keyboard and stared at the fingers of her right hand.

They were trying to atrophy, to curl in and refuse to do her bidding ever again. But the physical therapists assured her she could combat this. She had to create new nerve ways, train another part of her brain to handle the work, and since two hands were better than one and her right hand was her dominant hand, the battle was worth fighting. But every day, the forty minutes at the keyboard left her drained and discouraged.

Behind her, Max said, “Turn around and let me rub your hands.”

She noticed he did not say, That was good. Or even, That was better.

Max didn’t tell lies.

Kellen sighed and swiveled on the piano bench. Again that Rolodex in her brain clicked in:

MAX DI LUCA: MALE, 38YO, 6'5", 220LBS, ITALIAN-AMERICAN, FORMER FOOTBALL PLAYER. HANDSOME, TANNED, CURLY BLACK HAIR, BROWN EYES SURROUNDED BY LONG BLACK LASHES. ONCE HIGH UP IN THE DI LUCA FAMILY CORPORATION, STEPPED DOWN TO RAISE HIS DAUGHTER, NOW DIRECTOR OF THE FAMILY’S YEARNING SANDS RESORT ON THE WASHINGTON COAST. KIND, GENEROUS, RESPONSIBLE, LOVING. A STICKLER FOR DUTY. FAR TOO MUCH WILLPOWER, WHICH WAS IRRITATING TO KELLEN IN MATTERS RELATING TO THEIR MARITAL STATE.
He took her right hand gently in both of his and, starting at the wrist, he massaged her palm, her thumb, her fingers. He used a lavender-scented oil, and stretched and worked the muscles and bones while she moaned with pleasure.

He listened with a slight smile, and when she looked into his face, she realized his lips looked fuller, he had a dark flush over his cheekbones and his nostrils flared as he breathed. She looked down at his jeans, leaned close and whispered, “Max, I’m done with practice. Why don’t we wander up to our bedroom and I’ll rub your…hand, too.”

He met her eyes. He stopped his massage. Except for the rise and fall of his chest, he was frozen in that pose of incipient passion.

Then he sat back and sighed. “Doctor says no.”

“Doctor said be careful.”

“Woman, if I could be careful, I would. As it is, nothing is best.”

“I am torn between being flattered and frustrated.” She thought about it. “Mostly frustrated.”

I’m just fine.” Max didn’t usually resort to sarcasm, so that told her a lot. Married almost two years and no sex. He was a good man, but he was coming to the end of his patience.

“If we’re refraining because we’re worried I’m going to pop a blood vessel while in the throes of passion, I’d like to point out there are solutions that you might enjoy.”

“That isn’t fair to you.”

“You’re massaging my hand. That’s pretty wonderful.”

“Not the same.” Again he took her tired hand and went to work.

Bitterly she said, “Kellen’s Brain. It’s like a bad sci-fi fantasy.”

He laughed. “It’s improving all the time.” When he had made her hand relax and Kellen relax with it, he said, “I’ve been thinking—the Di Luca family owns Isla Paraíso off the coast of Northern California. The family bought the island seventy years ago with the idea of placing a resort on the island, but now that doesn’t seem likely. Someone needs to go there, look things over, make decisions about its fate.”

Kellen nodded. “You want to go there? See what you think?”

“Actually, I thought we should all go there.”

He was still working her hand, but with a little too much forcefulness and concentration.

“Ouch,” she said softly.

He pulled away, horrified. “Did I hurt you?”

“Not at all. Except that you’re treating me like a child.”
“What do you mean?”

“You’re not telling me what’s really going on. Why do you want to go to this island?”

“I told you—”

“I don’t doubt that what you told me is the truth. But it’s not all the truth. Max, what’s wrong?”

Max sighed, an understatement of a sigh, as if he dreaded what he was about to say. “You’re not going to like it.”

“I gathered that.”

“Mitch Nyugen.”

“What about him? He’s dead.” She remembered she couldn’t always trust Kellen’s Brain. “Isn’t he?”

“Yes. He was buried in the Cape Charade cemetery.”

“Was buried?” Unease stirred in her belly.

“This week, his widow arrived from Wyoming.”

“He wasn’t married.” That brain thing. “Was he?”

“No.” Max was as sure as Kellen was not. “Yet the woman who claimed to be his widow had all the necessary paperwork to have his body exhumed.”

“Oh, no.”

“She had the coffin placed in the chapel. Last night, the undertaker, Arthur Earthman, found her there, with the coffin open. She murdered him, and almost killed his wife, Cynthia. The widow escaped ahead of the sheriff, and she left her calling card.”

Kellen knew. She knew what Max was going to say. “She cut off Mitch’s hands.”

“And took them.” Max looked up at her, his brown eyes wretched with fear. “Mara Philippi is back. And she’s here.”



Series STARRED reviews from Booklist:

"From the unforgettable heroine with a past to the incisively etched cast of secondary characters to the brilliantly imaginative plot, Dodd is at her most wildly entertaining, wickedly witty best." -Booklist STARRED review on DEAD GIRL RUNNING

"Featuring an unforgettable protagonist…who makes Jack Reacher look like a slacker when it comes to dispatching trouble, and an ingenious plot that includes plenty of white-knuckle twists and turns as well as some touching moments of mother-daughter bonding." -Booklist STARRED review on WHAT DOESN'T KILL HER

“Dodd continues her addictively readable Cape Charade series featuring Kellen Adams with another white-knuckle tale that simply begs to be inhaled in one sitting. With a fascinating island setting that includes a spooky old mansion, a secondary storyline involving World War II, and an antagonist who could give Villanelle from Killing Eve a pointer or two, this is Dodd at her brilliant best.” -Booklist STARRED review on STRANGERS SHE KNOWS

My Review:

This, the third and final book of the Cape Charade series, works well as a standalone book as there is enough information for you to understand some of what has gone before. That being said I'm sure that reading the first two, would've given me more insight into the characters, their relationships and the circumstances leading up to the events in this book.

Max, Kellen and Rae Di Luca flee to a remote island to avoid being caught and killed by Mara Phillipi, a psychopath from a previous book, who has escaped from prison. They take with them a cook and their dog, Luna. The only other inhabitants on the almost deserted island are a husband and wife team of caretakers, and a friendly 'ghost'.

With no way of communication with the outside world, apart from the radio in the helicopter they arrived in, it takes a while for the family to settle into their more relaxed way of life. They pass the time by exploring the island on bikes, and by reading the journal of one of the islands previous residents.

Mara finds them, wrecks the helicopter and drugs Rae, who Max has to take off the island in a small boat during a storm, leaving Kellen on the island to deal with the killer. The final showdown between the two women is tense and terrifying, with Kellen being at a disadvantage as she's still recovering from brain surgery.

The book is a thrill ride, packed with action, suspense, and mystery. I've added the first two books of the series to my to-read list.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.)


Author Bio:

New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd writes "edge-of-the-seat suspense" (Iris Johansen) with "brilliantly etched characters, polished writing, and unexpected flashes of sharp humor that are pure Dodd" (ALA Booklist). Her fifty-eight books have been called "scary, sexy, and smartly written" by Booklist and, much to her mother's delight, Dodd was once a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle.



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Christina Dodd and HQN Books. There will be one (1) winner. The winner will receive an Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on September 17, 2019 and runs through October 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.


On Tour September 17 - October 1, 2019
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Friday, 27 September 2019

Kingdom Cold: The Complete Series by Brittni Chenelle



Series: Kingdom Cold
Author: Brittni Chenelle
Genre: Fantasy


Book I: Kingdom Cold
Book II: Kingdom Soul
Book III: Kingdom Untold


Beware: a binge awaits. 

Deliciously dark, romantic and gripping, the Kingdom Cold trilogy now can be yours in a dazzling collection.

Kingdom Cold follows the impulsive, teenage princess, Charlotte, as she attempts to murder her betrothed. But an arranged marriage is only the beginning of her problems, for the world as she knows it is falling apart. Her kingdom faces total destruction at the hands of Merlin and Lancelot, leaders of power-crazed Camelot.

Will wicked King Arthur prove, once and for all, that ruthless deeds create the legend? Can Princess Charlotte sacrifice love to save her home?

Only one can reign.



Excerpt:

Come on, Charlotte," I said, kneeling. I tilted her head up to look her in the eyes. "We're almost th—" I froze. A heavy stream of tears flowed down her cheeks, dripping from the bottom of her chin.

She sobbed. "I don't want to marry you."

It wasn't news, but I'd never seen a woman cry before. She seemed so fragile it made something ache at the bottom of my stomach. This was not the girl who shot the arrow or the girl who showed her disappointment upon our first meeting. This was someone new.

I sighed. "I know." I felt fear seep into my skin before my next question manifested. "Do you want to marry my brother?"

She shook her head. "I don't want to marry anyone."

I nodded as her breakdown worsened. It was a terrible reality, but somehow it made me feel better. I hadn't exactly been a disappointment, she just didn't want any of this. I had a lingering urge to reach out to her, to wipe her tears, or hold her in my arms, but I didn't. I let her cry.

“I don’t want to be a princess,” she sobbed. “I just want to be free.”

Afraid to touch her, I inched back and settled into a more comfortable position on the floor.

“I’m sorry this happened to you,” I said.

“Stop the wedding then!” she cried.

My body stiffened. “I too am bound to honor my father’s agreement.”

She wiped her face and looked me straight in the eyes, her swollen cheeks red and brimming with emotion. “What do you want?” she asked.

I shook my head.

“My kingdom? You can have it,” she breathed.  “Let me go.”

Frozen, I begged my body to tear my gaze from hers.

Her lips parted and she breathed in like it hurt, before she spoke. “Aren’t you afraid of what you’ll be giving up?”

My brow furrowed as I contemplated what she meant. I bit the inside of my bottom lip.

“Do you honestly think you could ever love me?”

The word “love” struck me, like an arrow masked by dusk.

She studied my face, my silence burning away her last seeds of hope. Her tears began to fall again, this time slow and sorrowful.



Author Bio:

Brittni Chenelle currently lives in Seoul, Korea which inspires her multicultural fantasy books.

Her favorite genres to read and write are Young Adult Fantasy, Young Adult Romance, Fairytale Retellings, and Young Adult Dystopian novels.

She's very passionate about equal representation and makes a point to include characters from different backgrounds and cultures in her Fantasy stories.







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Thursday, 26 September 2019

Merged by Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl


Title: Merged
Author: Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: September 17, 2019
Publisher: Month9Books
Number of Pages: 293
ISBN: 978-1-948671-34-7
ASIN: B07P7ST29L
Cover Artist: AM Design Studios


Great minds don’t always think alike.

Seven of our country’s most gifted teens will become Nobels, hosts for the implantation of brilliant Mentor minds, in an effort to accelerate human progress.

But as the line between what’s possible and what’s right draws ever blurrier, the teens discover everything has a cost.

Scientists have created an evolved form of living known as Merged Consciousness, and sixteen-year-old Lake finds herself unable to merge with her Mentor.

Lake, the Nobel for Chemistry and Orfyn, the Nobel for Art, are two from among the inaugural class of Nobels, and with the best intent and motivation. But when Stryker, the Nobel for Peace, makes them question the motivation of the scientists behind the program, their world begins to unravel.

As the Nobels work to uncover the dark secrets of the program’s origins, everyone's a suspect and no one can be trusted, not even the other Nobels.

As the Mentors begin to take over the bodies and minds of the Nobels, Lake and Orfyn must find a way to regain control before they lose all semblance or memory of their former selves.


Excerpt:

         Mr. Blue points to the document. “Sign this and change your life. Or don’t. It’s up to you.”
         “What happens if I say no?”
         “The Darwin Corporation will remain your legal guardian, but you’ll lose the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become one of humanity’s greatest hopes.”
         So basically, he’s saying I’m stuck here either way. “Will I always be locked up?”
         “That depends on your choices.”
         I wait for him to crack a smile. He doesn’t.
         I break eye contact and flip to the last page. There’s one short paragraph stating that I’ve read the forty-one-page document (which I haven’t), I understand the risks (which I don’t), and I buy into the idea that two minds are better than one (or something like that). At the bottom, there’s a line with my name printed below it.
         “Is it dangerous?” I ask, really wishing my voice hadn’t cracked.
         Mr. Blue hesitates, and for a moment he almost appears human. “Every medical procedure has its risks, but the end result could change the world. And you’ll be one of the few who have the ability to change it.”
         What if I could become the next Michelangelo? I’ve been given the chance to create art that makes a difference. For now, and even hundreds of years to come. “What else can you tell me about Bat?”
         “He’s very successful,” Mr. Blue says, taking a pen from his suit pocket. “And he’s dying.”
         “Can you give me a little more than that?”
         “He specifically chose you.”
         Nobody has ever chosen me.
         I grab Mr. Blue’s pen and sign the document using the name I’m adopting. If I’m going to share my brain with someone and become a ground-breaking artist, I’m doing it as Orfyn.


About the Authors:

Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl are a husband-and-wife team who write stories of mystery and adventure from their cabin in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. When they aren’t dodging moose, their story ideas appear during their walks with their dog, who far prefers chasing balls to plotting novels. Jim and Stephanie are world travelers who seek out crop circles, obscure historical sites and mysterious ruins.














Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Binding Circumstance by Kelley Griffin


Title: Binding Circumstance
Author: Kelley Griffin
Genre: Romantic Suspense/ Romantic Thriller
Publication Date: July 29, 2019
Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Number of Pages: 209
ISBN: 978-1-897445-98-3
ASIN: B07V3ZBFFD
Cover Artist: OliviaProDesign


To save the life of the man she loves, she’ll have to risk her own.

Costume designer, Leslie Carroll has mastered the art of flying under the radar. She’s had to, or risk being found by the psychopath who almost killed her.

When she literally falls into Hollywood heartthrob Charlie Erickson’s dressing room on her first day of employment, their mutual attraction is instant and undeniable. Despite his star status, Charlie is a sweet southern boy at heart, and for the first time in a long time, Leslie begins to think she has a chance at happiness.

When her harrowing past catches up to her and targets Charlie, will she run to save herself, or face her monster to save the man who is her future?


Excerpt:

      When Leslie emerged, her anger remained, although most of it was aimed at herself. She’d let Christine’s words get under her skin. Truth was, she had become mousy. In high school, she’d been headstrong, bold, and daring. Then in college, thanks to unwise decisions, unspeakable things happened. Because of those things, she’d become paranoid and cautious. If she was being honest, more than a little mousy.
      That was the next item on her bucket list to change.
      As she walked back toward the line, the drone of machines had lessened.
      Frank’s skinny arms flailed around. He looked like a chicken fighting a snake. He spoke to a man, but because of the crowd gathered, the back of his head was the only visible body part. Angela too, appeared wild-eyed and pointing in her direction. Coffee churned in Leslie’s stomach. The crowd turned to stare as she trotted up.
      Mr. Miller stood like ice. His eyes narrowed. A hush came over the crowd of extras. Folding his arms, he glared.
      Great. What now?
      She swallowed hard. Mr. Miller cleared his throat and grinned like a cat. Slowly, as if he had nowhere to be, he sauntered toward his prey, ready to pounce. “Miss Carroll,” he said, steepling his fingers, “how pleasant of you to join us. Did you have a relaxing break?”
      She opened her mouth to explain. He held one finger in the air to silence her, then circled like a shark claiming its lunch. “Did you get autographs from anyone famous? Is that why you’re here, dear—to attract an actor? I hired you to do a job, not to fraternize with the famed.”
      The thirty or so extras gaped with delight as the torture unfolded. Frank’s face was lined with pretend sympathy yet smug, while Angela’s seemed more humbled. Blood drained slowly from Leslie’s face, and her fists balled. Damn. Her only crime was not finding the bathroom. It wasn’t as if she sought out the crazy.
      Mr. Miller circled one last time. He strutted a few feet from her, head cocked sideways. A faint smile drifted across his lips. Enjoying his assault, he resumed, “Miss Carroll, please share with the group precisely where you went for an hour and what you were doing?”
      She opened her mouth to speak, but everything she wanted to say, sounded crazy. Then it hit her. Leslie cleared her throat and forced a smile. “Mr. Miller, I’d love to tell you where I’ve been, but, you see, I signed a non-disclosure agreement. I’m sure you’ll understand, the actors I ran into would appreciate my discretion.”
      He reeled. Anger rolled off his skin like fog. His nostrils flared as he stomped back toward her. His face was inches from hers. “I had such high hopes for you, Miss Carroll. You came with such recommendation. Now I know you are not a team player, but someone who enjoys the spotlight. I’m afraid, I am going to have to ask you—”
      Gasps from the crowd rang out before he finished. She knew. Knew someone walked up and stood behind her. Normal range, but again, too close for her.
      “Mr. Miller?” Charlie’s familiar voice boomed.
      Her back straightened as if someone poked her. Perhaps it was her imagination, but the warmth from his body radiated through the back of her thin shirt. Or she was having a hot flash twenty years too early.
      His signature cologne, designed by someone else but stamped with his name, filled the air. A body-awakening musk mixed with a fresh rain. She shuddered. Instinct caused her to whirl around and step to the side, gaining a foot of distance between them. As she did, their eyes locked. Another chill racked her body. If she was lucky, he didn’t notice.
      One quick look at Charlie’s head cocked to the side and the question in his eyes—he’d noticed.
Mr. Miller’s demeanor and voice changed, as if someone flipped a switch on his back. “Mr. Erickson, what a pleasure! To what do we owe this visit? Oh, I remember, you were to be measured today, weren’t you? Let me get my top assistant, Dana, and we will get that underway right now.”
He brushed past Leslie, shooting daggers, when Charlie stopped him.
      “Mr. Miller, I’ve already been fitted by this young lady here.” He moved toward her, holding out an arm like an invitation for a side hug.
      Great. He was a hugger. When she mirrored his movement, only backward, she crossed her arms and shot him an apologetic nod. Questions arose again in his eyes. But this time, a sign of understanding accompanied it.
      Charlie shoved his hands into his pockets and examined her yet spoke to Mr. Miller. “She saved me time and embarrassment today.” Charlie’s gaze darted from the gawking crowd to Mr. Miller’s aggressive stance. Then he added, “I hope she was being commended for her efforts, rather than reprimanded.”
      Charlie slid a long look at Mr. Miller.
      Frank gaped, star struck, while Angela’s stare switched from the famous actor to Leslie and back.
      Charlie turned toward her. “I didn’t realize—wait, did you say today is your first day?” He shook Mr. Miller’s hand. “Nice catch. She’s an excellent hire.”
      Mr. Miller stammered, “Why…thank you, Mr. Erickson. That is generous of you. So Leslie measured you already?” Confusion laced his voice.
      “Leslie,” Charlie repeated her name.
      His slow, smooth voice rumbled with a touch of his southern drawl. Nothing could stop the flaming in her cheeks. Heat spread all the way to her ears. She wanted to disappear under the concrete floor. Her mind logged and registered all the exits. An old survival habit she couldn’t break.
      Fidgeting, she moved a baby-step farther out of his reach. He’d already made her shudder and his mind-numbing scent mixed with his unwavering stare had her terrified he’d touch her, and yet wanting him to at the same time.
      Yes, she was aware a costume professional by design must touch people. But it wasn’t her touching others that bothered her. It was not having control of someone else touching her. As long as other people stayed in their bubble, she was fine. But somehow, Charlie seemed unaware of the bubble rule.
      “Yes, Leslie did an amazing job of putting up with my shenanigans.” He turned toward Mr. Miller. “Could I have a private word?”
      Mr. Miller puffed up like a peacock. “Me? Well, of course, you can, Mr. Erickson.”
      Chin raised a notch, he walked a few feet away from the crowd for their chat. When he returned, he waved his hand in dismissal of the crowd. Frank shrugged and turned. Angela actually smiled toward Leslie. She beamed back. They’d not be getting the better of her today.
      Mr. Miller turned. His normal intimidating presence softened. “Miss Carroll, I owe you an apology. It was my understanding you’d gone missing.” He glared over at Frank and exhaled. “I should have considered the source. I had no idea you were recording measurements. Will you please accept my request for forgiveness?”
      “Of course, sir.”
      She offered her hand. Mr. Miller shook it as if it might bite him. Letting go, he raised one perfect eyebrow and added, “Interesting first day, wouldn’t you say?”
      “Yes, sir.” She exhaled, deeply grateful to still have a job.
      Straightening his suit jacket, he reverted to his more formal speech. “Mr. Erickson requested a private word with you as well. When you are finished, I would like for you to find Mrs. Godwin again and speak to her about your next assignment. That will be all, Miss Carroll.”
      “Of course, sir.”
      What does he want now? Leslie made her way from the crowd toward Charlie. He leaned against the edge of a drafting table. Strong arms were folded across his chest, his golden hair still messy, and his legs stretched out. He surveyed her as she came toward him, his eyes questioning, as if figuring out a puzzle. His I-told-you-so smile was enough to make anyone swoon, but she took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and pressed her eyebrows together as she neared him.
      He chuckled. Then in a low, sexy voice he said, “There she is. My elusive friend, Mousy—I mean Leslie.”
      “Mr. Erickson.” She nodded.
      “Charlie,” he stated, looking her dead in the eyes.
      This was a strong-willed chess match she was determined to win. “Mr. Erickson—was there something you needed from me?”
      “Not a fan, I take it?”
      “Fan of what?”
      “Me.”
      She shrugged. “I guess so, why?”
      He mimicked her shrug. “Just wondering. I know you’re not a fan of being touched.”
      He’d nailed her in five seconds flat. Her hackles rose. “Did you need something?”
      “You’re a mystery, that’s all. Most people in this town fight to stand next to an actor, name drop, snap pictures, you know the whole not-real fame thing.” He slid her a curious look. “But not you. It’s refreshing.”
      She nodded, then raised her eyebrows as if to say, your point?
      His smile faded, then rebounded as he mouthed the word “lunch.”
      Her eyes narrowed. She cocked her head to the side as she placed both hands on her hips. “You expect me to fetch your lunch?”
      He pushed off the table and took a cautious step toward her. Both hands raised in surrender, he looked hurt. “No, I want to take you to lunch. You know, for being discreet and not telling the world about the arrogant, pompous, windbag actor and his lunatic ex-girlfriend.”
      She bit her lip. She wanted to full-out cackle. An unstoppable grin fought its way through. It radiated across her lips, erupting into giggles she had zero hope of controlling. He lowered his arms. His warm eyes danced with laughter along with her.
      “I guess I should apologize for the pompous-windbag comment, eh?”
      “No way,” he said. “Besides, it was cute.”
      He examined her—too closely. The heat in his eyes caused warning bells to clang in her mind. Her laughter faded fast.
      Clearing his throat, he continued, “Please let me take you to lunch. Come on, Slim, you gotta be hungry.” His boyish grin made her smile. “What do you say? They make a mean salad at the Canteen downstairs.”
      Frank watched them with a mixture of respect and jealousy in his eyes. Perfect. Obviously, he was a fan of Charlie’s. Charlie didn’t notice. In fact, he didn’t seem to notice anything in the room but her. A few short years ago, she would’ve jumped at the chance to go to lunch with a famous actor.
      Not now.
      Shaking her head, she backed up. “Sorry. I just can’t. We’re slammed. Thanks anyway.” She turned on her heels toward the sea of human mannequins.
      “Hey, wait.”
      She turned back as he stepped close.
      “I’m sorry you had to listen to all that—you know, before with Christine. She’s such a…” The struggle between being honest and being kind washed over his face. Charlie tilted his head up as if his answer hung in the rafters. He gave the impression he was searching for the vaguest, yet most correct word in the English language.
      “Bitch?” Leslie offered, her lips curved upward.
      “Yeah. That’s probably the best one.”
      His wholesome laugh softened his jawline and lit up his eyes. She didn’t want to look away. He didn’t seem so intimidating or so famous anymore.
      Charlie bent toward her. “Listen, can I buy you coffee and a salad to make it up to you? Please?”
      She allowed no one except Nate and her father to touch her or be in her space. Charlie had weaseled his body closer to hers. Back inside her bubble. Breathe. Tiny beads of sweat trickled around her temple. He was only being polite, she reminded her brain.
      “No thanks, I’m more of a peanut butter and jelly type of girl anyway.” Leslie backed away, winning and grinning. She spotted Dana waving from the other side of the room. “Mr. Erickson, I gotta go.” Walking away, she sensed a gaze on her rear. Something about him staring both excited and terrified her.
      “Leslie?” he yelled.
      She stopped in her tracks and turned, hating how it thrilled her when he called to her. Turning on his Hollywood charm, he declared, “It’s Charlie—and I will see you around.”


About the Author:

Kelley Griffin is an author, mom to five sons, wife to a marine and a teacher. Her romantic suspense debut, Binding Circumstance, is the story of a young Hollywood costume designer on the run from her college captor who literally falls into an A-list actor's dressing room and into his heart. That is, until her harrowing past catches up to her and targets him.

Look for Kelley's Kirin Lane series in the fall of 2019.










Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Simon Says by Jo Wesley


Title: Simon Says
Author: Jo Wesley
Genre: Domestic Thriller
Publication Date: July 2019


Her life may not be perfect but she’s happy. Until she makes a terrible decision - and learns the hard way that home is not a place of refuge.

Not while Simon lurks in every shadow.


He groomed her as a teen: terrorised her into fleeing, leaving her baby behind. Now the man who destroyed her childhood has become the perfect father to her teenage daughter. And her return threatens his future.

A desperate man is a dangerous one.


Simon says she must leave or suffer the consequences. She refuses.

Now it’s his move. Because it's not enough to face your demons.

Sometimes, you must destroy them.



Author Bio:

Simon Says isn’t my first thriller. Several unpublished novels went before it, but there was something about this story that made me come back to it time-and-time again. Although it was written in 2015, recently a few author friends encouraged me to publish it as they remembered reading it years before.

I used to work in an office where the wider team comprised people working with drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and general community safety. I wrote Simon Says during this period and my team provided information and advice. Also, the Red Watch team at the local fire station read my first chapter during their tea break and advised on a couple of points to make it more accurate (I thought it would be one person, not the whole team reading it!).

Currently, I am completing a novel in another genre but I really enjoy writing thrillers, so I am planning my next one.



Guest Post by Jo Wesley:

Badges and adages

‘Working class to its core’ was a comment in one of the reviews for SIMON SAYS. Often an author is told to ‘write what you know’ and, although this adage is simplistic, there is some merit in this (note the ‘some’). Like Cindy, I remember the mildew on the bathroom ceiling or foam poking through holes in the sofa fabric.

Years ago, I used to gaze at the stunning patterns created by frost on the inside of my bedroom window and scrape my fingernails across the crystal swirls to peer outside. Most social housing has central heating now, although whether a family can afford to put it on is another matter.

The council estates in SIMON SAYS are taken from my childhood through to my mid-twenties, before I upped sticks and moved several hundred miles so I could provide a better lifestyle for my children. I was lucky to have a job where they allowed me to work from home.

Cindy’s mum wears her class as a badge of honour set against the likes of ‘them with money’ but there may be a hint of self-preservation in this type of thinking. When living in council housing in a wealthy area, I came across shocking attitudes. At school, children from wealthier families would call me names, while their parents wouldn’t let me inside their houses. In my early twenties, a friend asked why I lived in a place where only ‘single parents and drug dealers lived’ and, years later, a county councillor told me that the people who lived in a certain block of flats were ‘absolute scum: nothing but drug dealers and car thieves’, not realising I had lived there once. The adage ‘kicking a man when he’s down’ was ne’er truer. While there are some wonderful and kind people out there, bigoted attitudes further disadvantage people who are already struggling due to low wages, illness or disability.

I did worry that Cindy’s family portrayed benefit-dependent households badly but there are toxic people and families in all walks of life. Government figures show the tax evasion is by far the greater scourge in this country than benefit fraud. But it benefits the extremely rich to play everyday people against poorer people.

Talking about money, Cindy’s steals from her mum. She smokes and swears too. She’d be the child an unthinking parent asks to stand outside their garden gate, but until Cindy implicates Troy by her silence, his mother Marion bothers with her. She sees Cindy for what she is: a child fighting to do well against the odds.

Cindy is kind-hearted. When she worries about well-spoken Troy, she has no idea that it is she who is at risk. Her family life makes her easy prey for the likes of Simon.

Just as some people in this country blame poor people for not having money, I’ve read newspaper articles insinuating that a child ‘asked’ to be groomed. I don’t have direct experience of being groomed but I can see how easy it could be to entice a vulnerable child. I hope I’ve done Cindy justice and shown that, like so many others, she had little control over the path Simon chose for her.

‘Before you judge, walk a mile in her shoes’.






Monday, 23 September 2019

Guardian of Angel by Lanie Mores



Title: Guardian of Angel
Series: Book 2 of the Father of Contention series
Author: Lanie Mores
Genre: Science Fiction and Fantasy, Paranormal
Publication Date: July 29, 2019
Publisher: Tellwell Talent


When evil finds a way, man becomes beast.


In the small town of Thunder Bay, 2002, Angelika Juris becomes unexpectedly linked to her guardian angel, Gavin, after a suspicious near-death experience. While trying to figure out the complicated nature of their connection, they uncover a plot so disturbing, it threatens to shift the delicate balance between life and death and eradicate the precious human gift of free will.

When her sister goes missing, Angelika must search the unforgiving terrain of the Rocky Mountains, with her guardian angel as her guide. But they find more than just her sister—a familiar face, Renner Scholz—and a secret lab teeming with his ongoing, unhindered experiments, including the most powerful of his offspring—the triplets.

Now, Angelika must find a way to free her sister from her evil captors, along with a newfound love interest—Anthony—Renner's only normal son. Will they be able to thwart Renner's malevolent schemes and escape with their lives, or will they suffer the same fate as so many of his previous victims?

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Tomas – 1984

Tomas Scholz sits upon a throne beside his father above the stones of fire. Surrounded by splendour, he bursts with pride as all bow down and honour them, bestowing gifts of great riches: precious gems and stones—sardius, topaz, diamond and onyx—silver and
gold, and the rarest of artifacts collected from all over the many realms. This destiny, although not yet achieved, awaits him after this world has passed away, or so the shadow has promised. 
 In time. He must be patient.

A three-toed woodpecker, normally a quiet, shy, little bird, hammers out a tune on a  nearby dead spruce, redirecting Tomas’ thoughts away from his daydreams and back to the matter at hand. Carrying the device with painstaking care, he reaches a clearing
 in the mountains. This flat fold of land has been carefully selected for the job, unchartered territory, a place no man has previously travelled. The device is light despite its enormous potential for destruction, light enough for his nine-year-old hands to carry.

The wind swells in unpredictable gusts sending uprooted weeds and debris to tumble across the dry landscape. It is not ideal weather to test out his experiment, on the contrary, but he is impatient, insistent. If it were anyone else attempting this feat they would be prudently dissuaded, encouraged to wait for more opportune conditions. The summer had been a dry one, and the arid conditions mixed with the gales of wind are a recipe for disaster. 


But Tomas is not like other children. His abilities are powerful enough to defy even the wind.

Besides, Tomas is too excited to see how it finally works, unable to wait a moment longer. Adrenaline almost palpable as he flits and floats across the glade despite his clubbed foot, preparing for the initial trial of the weapon he has designed and built all by himself.

He is a genius. Wisdom doesn’t grow on trees; it is inherited. Or prepared in a lab. Both methods are responsible in Tomas’ case. Born of Renner’s sperm, he has inherited the genes for brilliance, but his earthly father further manipulated Tomas’ genetic structure
to enhance his potential for genius. In this Renner has been successful.

Just a child, Tomas is already capable of recombinant DNA technology and minor medical procedures. Always the perfect pupil. Always eager to learn more. Technology and inventing advanced weaponry are his preferred hobbies, skills that come to him naturally, and had he been allowed to go out in public to submit these innovations for patenting, he would earn millions, perhaps billions. But they are billionaires and have no need for more money. And he is not ready to go out in public, to be exposed to the world—the world not ready for him yet. For Tomas’ talents don’t stop there.

Surpassing his higher level of intelligence are his supernatural abilities, having both fathers to thank for this gift. By the shadow entering Renner’s body that fateful night in the abandoned chapel, his DNA changed, which was then passed on to his offspring.
These changes increased the development of DMT produced by the pineal gland and the subsequent presentation of supernatural abilities, the like of which have never been seen in humans. Renner had also manipulated Tomas’ genes, splicing them with favourable animalistic traits to increase his special abilities. The final product is a boy who has powers that are both profound and intense. Unrestrained. In this Renner has also been successful.

Tomas is a telepath, able to read other people’s thoughts and desires with great ease. Most impressive are his telekinetic capabilities, able to teleport any object, from the size of a grain of sand all the way up to a massive Gothic castle to any location he so desires. Able to transport his own body.

But impressive though this is, Tomas is not perfect. None of them are. Flaws remain in Renner’s recombinant DNA techniques, glitches he still struggles to correct with each series of experiments. There is always an element of trial and error when it comes to
experimenting in new unexplored areas, but he has faith he will overcome these limitations and the supernatural abilities that all the offspring display prove he is on the right track.

Tomas is the most handsome of them all if you could call him handsome. Hair, worn long and unruly. Taller than most nine-year-olds, he is more muscular as well but not a giant like some of his brothers. He prefers to wear mostly jogging pants, jeans, T-shirts, and sweaters for there is no need to dress up here. No one to impress. His eyes are as black as pitch and empty. Dead embers.

Born with a cleft palate, Tomas underwent corrective surgery as a young baby, but enner being untrained in cosmetic procedures, the repair didn’t go as well as planned. Tomas can feed and communicate much better than he would have without the surgical procedure, but a resultant lisp when speaking words that contain the letter s has Tomas training extensively to articulate his words. The lisp now more of an extended, exaggerated s sound. The speech impediment isn’t as bothersome as the thickened scar
tissue between his nose and upper lip. Tomas plans on visiting a real cosmetic surgeon who will correct the botched effort his father performed and eliminate the scar—when he is older, when he is permitted to venture out into the real world. He also has a clubbed right foot that gives him a mild limp. These deformities are considered minor compared to his brothers’. So, he has little to complain about, this he knows.

His brothers, on the other hand, have not fared as well. The flaws in Renner’s experiments far more evident. The deformities more intensive, requiring massive reconstruction, the likes of  which do not yet exist. Tomas is already working diligently on this limitation, inventing his own brand of prosthetics that will help the remainder of his triplet brothers—his womb-mates—and other siblings to help them be more aesthetically pleasing to the eye or at least less abhorrent while simultaneously helping them to channel their own gifts. Augment them.

But again, in time.

Tomas’ preparations slowly come to completion. He lopes across the field through tussock grasses and stunted shrubbery to the location he has deemed most beneficial for his test. He stops amidst a patch of denser grasses and wildflowers, adjacent to a stand of tiny gnarled aspens. Mounds of rhododendron underbrush proudly display their yellow and white puff ball-shaped flowers tinged with pink and lavender.

Soon their beauty will be extinguished.

The sound of a river rushing at highs speeds can be detected from this vantage point, an important proponent for this experiment to function smoothly.

He looks over to see if the shadow—his other father, the one that matters most—is watching, desiring his praise. A moment of insecurity?

But, the moment of weakness is short-lived. As soon as Tomas senses approval, he commences, extending his right arm towards the surrounding rhododendron mounds and dry grasses. Clumsily, he fastens the contraption to his extended right wrist with plastic straps and buckles. The weapon, a flame thrower, is like no other. It is controlled by Tomas’ mind alone, lacking buttons or switches, with nothing to turn it on or off, no dials to increase or decrease its power, except by his mind’s will.

Abruptly he stops, eyes fastening on the shadow as the sound of a woman’s scream pierces his mind. The sound is heard through his gift, although the actual source is not much further than their location, yet still safely out of harm’s way. Their eyes make contact, full of mutual understanding. It is Milena, once more in the throes of labour.

“It will be a boy,” he tells the shadow.

“Yes, yes, I know,” the shadow responds.

They are all boys, so it is a natural conclusion. However, Tomas knows this on another level, knows it for a fact as the baby’s thoughts can already be heard, although he is not yet born. “He is different,” Tomas adds, before returning to his task without further explanation.

A shiny, black crow bursts out of the shrubbery and furiously flaps its wings, escaping barely in time, somehow anticipating the fire that will quickly follow. Tomas telepathically transmits a message to the weapon to eject a far-reaching rope of flame from its tip, and the contraption immediately obliges, bathing the mountain glade in fire. He slowly spins in a circle creating a ring of fire around him, the flames dancing and rising as if in adoration and worship. The intense orange from the fire’s light is reflected in his black eyes as if tiny flames have been sparked from within the lifeless black embers.

“It works!” he exclaims. “Father, can you see it?”

The flames continue to rise.

And rise. And rise higher still, the flames licking and lapping at Tomas’ face and body and limbs. Searing, melting, binding. Until flame and skin become one.




About the Author:

Lanie Mores enjoys travelling to alternate realities, often found with her head buried in a book, binge watching Netflix, or playing video games. Although fantasy and science fiction are her obsession, she enjoys most forms of literature, and has been writing poetry since she was a wee bairn.

She has worn many hats throughout her life: cashier, medical records secretary, psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, personal trainer, and most importantly, mom. Her son is the moon of her life, her sun and stars, and she would do anything for him…destroy Terminators sent from a future realm, deflect an Unforgivable curse with her motherly love, and travel through the Upside Down to find him, even if she had to face the Demogorgon himself.

Inspired to write by Stephen King, Diana Gabaldon, Jean M. Auel and Margaret Atwood, she has big shoes to fill, but has always been a huge dreamer and has the determination to aim higher than the stars. Guardian Of Angel is the second novel she has written and published, book 2 in the Father Of Contention series.






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