Saturday, 29 February 2020

The Walls We Build by Jules Hayes

Title: The Walls We Build
Author: Jules Hayes
Genre: Historical, dual timeline, family saga/mystery
Publication Date: 23rd March 2020

Three friends… 
Growing up together around Winston Churchill’s estate in Westerham, Kent, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable. But as WW2 casts its menacing shadow, friendships between the three grow complex, and Frank – now employed as Churchill’s bricklayer – makes choices that will haunt him beyond the grave, impacting his grandson’s life too.

Two Secrets…

Shortly after Frank's death in 2002 Florence writes to Richard, Frank’s grandson, hinting at the darkness hidden within his family. On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light, including a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill during the war and the existence of a mysterious relative in a psychiatric hospital.

One Hidden Life… 

How much more does Florence dare reveal about Frank – and herself – and is Richard ready to hear?

Set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Churchill’s country home, comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption, reverberating through three generations and nine decades.

For readers of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore, Katherine Webb, Lucinda Riley and Juliet West.

Passion, intrigue and family secrets drive this complex wartime relationship drama. A page turner. I loved it.” #1 bestselling author, Nicola May


Author Bio:

Jules Hayes lives in Berkshire with her husband, daughter and a dog. She has a degree in modern history and holds a particular interest in events and characters from the early 20th century. As a former physiotherapist and trainer – old habits die hard – when not writing Jules likes to run. She also loves to watch films, read good novels and is a voracious consumer of non-fiction too, particularly biographies.

Jules is currently working on her second historical novel, another dual timeline story.

Jules also writes contemporary thriller and speculative fiction as JA Corrigan.


JA Corrigan

Friday, 28 February 2020

MISSING, Past and Present by Diana Jackson

Title: MISSING, Past and Present
Series: A Mystery Inspired by History
Author: Diana Jackson
Publication Date: Friday 28th February 2020

Is life just a roll of a dice?

Following the mysterious disappearance of her husband, Dorothy Gibbons, affectionately known as Lady Pink Hat, trudged the lanes around Drumford, homeless and directionless. Alone she rolled a dice, reflecting on her life, times both painful and pleasant. She stumbled upon The Grange, which changed the course of her life. In her isolation Dot began to write …Millie, an 18th Century aspirant nun, ran away from The Grange …Jamal Hussain, a Syrian refugee and asylum seeker, was fostered under the careful wing of Dorothy until leaving school and finding work. He and his brother settled in a nearby flat until the misguided Ahmed Hussain also disappeared. With three missing people, who will discover the truth? Is Millie still haunting The Grange until her story is told?

My Review:

MISSING, Past and Present is a wonderful book, with two captivating stories.

In the first we follow Dorothy's journey as she becomes homeless following the disappearence of her husband and the arrest of her foster son. This story is told by Dorothy as she thinks back on her life, family and friends, and how she ended up in her present cicumstances.

The second story is Millie's, which is written by Dorothy after a chance discovery of a journal in the Grange, the uninhabited house she occasionally squats in.

The book is well written and the characters are dimensional and belivable... including those from Dorothy's imagination.

MISSING, Past and Present was an enjoyable read. Both stories were fascinating and held my attention throughout.

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

Meet The Author:

Diana JacksonDiana Jackson now lives in Fife where she and her husband have become deeply committed to community life in Kinghorn. Diana enjoys working with the ‘Kinghorn in Bloom’ crowd, ever improving the beautiful areas of Kinghorn and Pettycur, she is a volunteer at Kirkcaldy Foodbank and also helps her husband at various Rotary events through the year. Her book, ‘The Healing Paths of Fife’ tells her story of relocating to Fife in the form of an allegory ~ a walk along the beautiful coastal path.

Until winter 2015 they lived in the heart of Bedfordshire, UK, where Diana was a teacher of English and Business Studies. Having been made redundant, (probably due to being too old at 55 years!) Diana decided to launch a writers’ collaborative publishing company and through this she is still in touch with many authors back in Bedfordshire. She took eighteen months off to settle into her new life in Scotland, but now she has taken up the mantle once more, both in writing and publishing.

Diana’s initial inspiration to write her first novel ‘Riduna’ was her great grandmother, an Alderney girl, leading to the conception of the ‘Riduna Series’. Having said this she stresses that her novels are purely fiction. She takes the reader from the mid Victorian era through to 1920 and plans a third in the series to the mid thirties.

Her other projects include compiling a memoir and writing a murder mystery, ‘Murder, Now and Then’ which was inspired by a true story ~ an unsolved murder in Bedfordshire in 1919. From Today, February 28th 2020, her new novel ‘MISSING, Past and Present’ is available, the second in her ‘Mystery Inspired by History’ series.

What links Diana Jackson’s projects? ~ Her fascination for social history, her love of research and using her imagination to create believable characters living in the periods she is studying.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

The Rescuer by Kari Veenstra

Title: The Rescuer
Series: The Krador Kronicles
Author: Kari Veenstra
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Publication Date: February 27, 2020
Publisher: INtense Publications LLC

Prok Zandin has two chances to qualify for advanced cadet training and he just lost one.

Stuck at the bottom of the class system on the underwater planet Krador, fifteen-year-old Prok needs this training to become a Sea Warrior, a position with automatic social advancement into Krador’s upper class plus a hefty paycheck to fund his disabled sister’s medical procedure.

Prok is determined to win his final qualification fight until his best friend Makky disappears. With time running out for both his future and his friend, Prok embarks on a dangerous deep-sea rescue and discovers Makky’s life isn’t the only thing at stake. It’s up to Prok to prevent disaster, but action will cost and the price may be everything.

About the Author:

Kari Veenstra grew up climbing trees in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea until the day she stuffed all her belongings in a suitcase and traveled to America for college. In the process of studying to become a crack defense attorney, Kari discovered writing was her true passion. This led to a journalism internship and a career in copywriting until Kari switched to writing fiction so she could spend more time with her family. Kari now lives in the deserts of El Paso, Texas, with her husband and two children, and is always on the lookout for a good tree to climb.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Death and Betrayal by Seeley James

Title: Death and Betrayal
Series: Sabel Security Thriller #8
Author: Seeley James
Genre: Thriller
Publication Date: February 18th 2020
Publisher: Machined Media
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 978-1-7333467-2-6

Jacob Stearne, ex Army Ranger and current Sabel Security operative, is about to propose to his girl when he discovers that "next generation" weapons are being shipped to our enemies. Some factions in the US government ask him to find the perpetrators while others work to make sure he fails. His intended fiancé does not understand his disappearance and he can’t give an explanation. When Jacob sets out to expose the billionaire intending to auction off national secrets, he is fired, expelled, and hunted by the government that once awarded him medals. If he ever wants to return to his homeland, he must insert himself into the dangerous world of technology smugglers. It’s a place where only the aggressive and ruthless survive. In the cutthroat world of modern-day pirates, every breath he takes may be his last. He must ask himself, can he outsmart the most corrupt billionaires in history before democracy is destroyed? Can he lose the woman he loves to save the nation?


Chapter 1

The man they called Ra stood on the Savannah’s main deck, staring hatred into the eyes of the general’s emissary. The smug bastard needed to learn a hard lesson about respect. Ra took several deep breaths, tamping down his growing agitation without betraying his emotions. The general had a good deal of money to spend. Ra held the emissary’s gaze as he cooled off. He said, “We’re talking about an auction for the most advanced weapon system the world has ever seen. An auction the general could easily win. What concerns could he possibly have?”

Ra resisted the urge to glance over the sea toward Monaco’s harbor. He was dying to see if his darling’s tender was on its way back from town, but he wouldn’t allow himself to be distracted.

“The general does not believe you have what you claim.” The emissary said in his heavily accented English. He gestured with his arms wide, encompassing Ra’s superyacht. “I do not see it here on your little skiff.”

Behind his left shoulder, the emissary’s sycophantic lieutenant made an insolent face to match his boss.

The dig was childish. Ra had the biggest yacht in Monaco, a present to himself after making billions in commodities. Too big to dock in the harbor. Sure, it was post-season, and the Numina would drop anchor due east of him in a few weeks. Until then, the Savannah reigned supreme. He felt like gutting the slimy emissary for his rudeness. Instead, he smoothed his Kiton sport coat and puffed up his thin frame.

“Don’t be a fool,” Ra sneered. “If I kept Alvaria onboard, sleezy generals from around the world would send commandos to take it from me. In case that’s what you’re thinking, rest assured, I have security. We call them ‘the dogs.’ You’ve met two of them.” He gestured to two bulky men in black suits standing close by. “Fido and Rover. Spot keeps watch with a rifle in case someone approaches uninvited. There are more. I have a whole kennel.”

Ra turned his back on his guests and checked the harbor. He couldn’t wait for his darling to return but he needed to conclude this delicate business before then. He didn’t want her to see the kind of men he dealt with. The emissary wore a ludicrous uniform without insignia yet festooned with medals. His black hair was greased straight back with what might’ve been motor oil. The lieutenant dressed and groomed himself to match. The very definition of a toady.

“The general does not believe the system can do what you claim,” the emissary said.

“Oh, my misguided friend. Alvaria is the stuff of autocrats’ dreams.” Ra laid his hands on the railing, keeping his focus out to sea. “Imagine what it can do. At the push of a button, a hundred drones leap into the air, locate their target, and annihilate whoever you choose. Each drone on a single-purpose mission, never stopping until one of them achieves the objective.” He straightened up and turned to face the emissary. “No more political rivals. No more annoying reporters asking inconvenient questions. No more adversaries across your western border. Everyone doing as they’re told, all under the general’s control. As it should be. It’s science fiction—and it’s here today. If your general doesn’t want to bid on it, he won’t get to see the show we have scheduled.”

“The general is skeptical you can obtain this system.” The emissary crossed his arms and widened his stance. “The Americans have impenetrable security.”

“I stand on my reputation. Many times your poor general has failed to pay me in a timely manner, yet I have never failed to deliver what he needs. From rocket launchers to automatic rifles, they arrived on time and under budget. He would still be a lieutenant were it not for me making good on my promises. He knows damn well my word is gold. My plan has been in the works for years. I have all the right people in all the right places. Alvaria will fall into my hands at exactly the right moment. If he does not believe me, he won’t see the demonstration.” Ra paused before making a sympathetic face. “Until his rival uses it to target him.”

To his credit, the emissary didn’t flinch.

“Think about this,” Ra said. “If Iran acquires Alvaria, they could destroy the ruling classes of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in an afternoon. The next morning, they could annihilate Iraq’s parliament. Then, they invade. The price of oil skyrockets because they would control 24% of the world’s production. Sanctions are lifted under threat of an oil embargo. And just like that, the Persian Empire is reborn.”

The emissary thought while he took a long, deep breath. He pressed a finger to his lips and looked at the deck. After a long moment, he lifted his finger and shook it at Ra. “The general does not like the glimpses of the future you have illuminated. He does not want to participate in your auction. Instead of bidding for it, he will report you to the Americans. That way, no one will have this system.” He paused and smiled. “There will be no resurgent Persian Empire.”

Ra flicked a quick glance at Fido, who sprang into action. To the emissary, Ra said, “I am most disappointed to hear you say that. On a different subject, do you recall meeting my man Bonham in a café last month? Bonham is my second-in-command. He offered you money to turn against the general. Ah, I see from your surprise that you do recall the encounter vividly. Well, sport, the problem for you is that when you turned him down, your lieutenant did not.”

As the emissary’s surprise turned to shock, his gaze swiveled to his lieutenant. At that moment, Fido knelt at the emissary’s feet and clamped leg irons on his ankles. In disbelief, the emissary looked down at his shackles, then followed the attached chain to find Rover standing at the railing, holding a very large, very heavy stone. “Do you think you can scare—”

“You’ve been paid,” Ra said to the emissary’s lieutenant. He held out an old, razor-sharp dagger. “Slit his throat.”

The lieutenant stared at Ra in disbelief. “Now?”

“Yes, now. Or die with him. Your choice. Ah. You’ve seen the light. Good man. Right here, above the collar. Stand behind him so you don’t get blood on yourself.”

As the young man weighed the knife in his hand and moved behind his former boss, Ra took out his phone, set it to video, and pressed record. The knife slashed through the stunned and wordless emissary’s neck. Blood sprayed forward. Rover dropped the rock overboard. The chain’s slack disappeared and yanked the emissary’s body with it, over the railing and into the deep.

The young man looked up at Ra, who kept the video rolling. The psychological weight of his first murder began to contort the young lieutenant’s expression. As he pondered his rapidly changing allegiances, he looked down to find Rover placing leg irons on his ankles. Behind him, Fido stood at the railing with another rock. He looked back at Ra and squeaked, “Why? I did what—”

“I think it’s obvious, isn’t it?” Ra asked. “You can’t be trusted.”

Over his shoulder he saw the tender bearing his darling returning from shore. She would be onboard in five minutes. No time for long goodbyes.

He turned back to face the lieutenant as Rover slit the young man’s throat. “There are four more of your kind in the general’s private guard. He’ll be dead by morning, so you’ll be in good company.”

The stone dropped. The chain tightened. The lieutenant’s body flew over the railing into the deep.

Ra looked at the pool of blood covering the deck. He snapped his fingers. A steward appeared. “You see this ugly mess? Scrub it clean.”

Excerpt from Death and Betrayal by Seeley James. Copyright 2020 by Seeley James. Reproduced with permission from Machined Media. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Seeley James' near-death experiences range from talking a jealous husband into putting the gun down to spinning out on an icy freeway in heavy traffic without touching anything. His resume ranges from washing dishes to global technology management. His personal life ranges from homeless at 17, adopting a 3-year-old at 19, getting married at 37, fathering his last child at 43, hiking the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim at 59, and taking the occasional nap.

Seeley's writing career began with humble beginnings including publishing short stories in The Battered Suitcase leading to being awarded a Medallion from the Book Readers Appreciation Group. Seeley is best known for his Sabel Security series of thrillers featuring athlete and heiress Pia Sabel and her bodyguard and operative, veteran Jacob Stearne. One of them kicks ass and the other talks to the wrong god.

Seeley's love of creativity began at an early age, growing up at Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture in Arizona and Wisconsin. He carried his imagination first into a successful career in computer technology sales and marketing, and then to his real love: fiction.

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Seeley James. There will be two (2) winners. Each winner will receive an Gift Card. The giveaway begins on February 17, 2020 and runs through March 22, 2019. Void where prohibited.

On Tour February 17, 2020 - March 20, 2020

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
These are the stops on the tour as of February 4 and are subject to change.

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Tuesday, 25 February 2020

The Wrath of Leviathan by T. C. Weber

Title: The Wrath of Leviathan
Series: BetterWorld, Book 2
Author: T. C. Weber
Genre: Science Fiction (Cyberpunk) / Thriller
Publication Date: September 1, 2018
Publisher: See Sharp Press

In Wrath of Leviathan, the second book of the BetterWorld trilogy, Waylee faces life in prison for daring to expose MediaCorp's schemes to control the world. Exiled in São Paulo, her sister Kiyoko and their hacker friends continue the fight, seeking to end the conglomerate's stranglehold on virtual reality, information, and politics. But MediaCorp and their government allies may quash the rebellion before it takes off. And unknown to Kiyoko and her friends, a team of ruthless mercenaries is after them, and is closing in fast.


This excerpt from The Wrath of Leviathan is from Gabriel’s point of view, and set in a Japanese neighborhood in São Paulo, Brazil. Gabriel is a former Brazilian special forces sergeant who works for a private security company now. He’s been assigned as Pel and Charles’s bodyguard. He and Kiyoko are at their neighborhood’s weekly street fair when they receive an emergency message from Pel that they are under attack.

      Gabriel bolted for the apartment building. He dodged around people, trying to get through the crowds.
      They didn’t always move as expected. He bumped into a man his age, who spilled a half-full plastic cup of beer.
      “Filho da puta!” The man hurled down his cup and swung a fist.
      No time for this. Gabriel grabbed the man’s arm, twisted, and threw him to the ground. He took off again.
      I can’t believe this is actually happening, he thought. And timed while he was away—it had to be deliberate. He tried calling Pel while running. “DG, call Pel,” he commanded his augmented reality glasses.
      No answer. He shoved his way through a food line blocking the street. More curses thrown his way. “Police! Out of the way!” he shouted.
      Seemed to work, even without having a badge.
      He kept running, the rows of overhanging white lanterns marking his progress. “DG, call SSG emergency dispatch.” His company had set up procedures in case of trouble he couldn’t handle himself.
      The connect icon flashed. “Serviços de Segurança Globais,” a woman’s voice said. “Please state the nature of your emergency.”
      “Da Silva. Condition Red. I need backup in Liberdade immediately. You have the address. Unknown number of assailants attempting to kill or kidnap Demopoulos and Lee. Need a helicopter team.”
      He turned onto Rua dos Estudantes, their street. No tented stalls, but it was still crowded with pedestrians. Only a few more blocks, though.
      “Helicopter?” the woman asked.
      He abandoned the crowded sidewalk for the street. “Yes, Condition Red. Possible kidnappers, probable head start. Hurry, I am alone!”
      Gabriel kept running. He dodged between groups of people bound for the fair. With luck, the SSG helicopter would arrive from their Congonhas base in fifteen minutes. They always kept at least one on rapid response, and it was only an eight kilometer flight.
      He called the state military police, Águias da Cidade, next.
      No answer. What was the problem? And no police visible. Where was that Inspector De Barros when they needed him?
      Gabriel approached their six-story apartment building and zoomed in on his data glasses. Nothing unusual. No smoke, no noise, people walking up and down the sidewalks as if it were any other day.
      Two white cargo vans were parked on the street, one next to their building and another three spaces up. Also not unusual, except for the tattooed girls standing next to them and glancing back and forth. Both wore dark data glasses with wraparound mikes, unzipped leather jackets, and bulging cargo pants. The closer one was young, with cinnamon skin and black hair tucked under a red bandanna. The further one was older with dark skin and long purple box braids.
      Were they armed? His data glasses couldn’t identify Bandanna Girl, but Purple Hair had a long record, including an arrest for illegal firearms. The two women stared at him and tapped their data glasses.
      Gabriel turned away and pretended to look at building numbers. “DG,” he whispered, “display feed from Pel 2SQ1BZ23.” Pel’s emergency activation streamed his security camera feeds to a Comnet site that Gabriel and SSG headquarters could access.
      Swiping a finger along the right arm of his data glasses, Gabriel panned through the camera feeds. Five were out. Still transmitting but no picture.
      But the hallway camera showed people emerging from Pel and Charles’s apartment. The door was off its hinges and smudged black. Seven people exited, four of them carrying Pel and Charles, who looked unconscious. The intruders wore street clothes, not uniforms, wore gloves, and were masked as telenovela stars. Three moved slowly and stiffly. They entered the stairwell through a shattered door frame.
      Shit. They’re already leaving. It would take them a while to get downstairs, though.
      Gabriel was outnumbered at least nine to one. But all he had to do was delay them until reinforcements arrived from SSG and the police. Should he pin them in the stairwell? Or take out their transport?
      I’ll go for the transport. Gabriel strode toward the closest van, which had no windows in the back.
      The tattooed women stared at him, then reached into their jackets.
      Gabriel whipped out his pistols. In his right hand, a Glock semi-auto with dampened recoil and a full clip of hollow-point. In his left, a long-barreled needlegun with a big magazine of guided flechettes with explosive heads. Both guns had laser targeting systems integrated with his data glasses and able to adjust for range and wind.
      Purple Hair drew a polymer submachine gun. Bandanna Girl, who was less than ten feet away now, pulled out a sawed-off shotgun.
      Holy shit. Gabriel’s arms acted on reflex. He swung the needlegun toward the greater danger, the girl with the shotgun, red crosshairs in his augmented vision sweeping toward her chest. He flipped the switch to full auto. At the same time, he swung the Glock toward Purple Hair. He pulled both triggers.
      Neither gun had much recoil but they made plenty of noise. Just as Bandanna Girl leveled her shotgun, half a magazine of explosive flechettes ripped into her torso and exploded in a spray of red. He hit Purple Hair too. She staggered backward.
      Bandanna Girl dropped to the sidewalk, blood gushing out of her jacket.
      Wide eyed, Purple Hair shot back, spraying bullets in his direction. Plinks sounded against parked cars and thwacks against concrete.
      Gabriel felt a sharp pain in his upper right arm. He fired the Glock at Purple Hair again and dashed behind the nearby van.
      People screamed and ran. On the sidewalk to his right, a middle-aged Japanese woman lay on her back, bleeding from the stomach. On the street, a school-age girl grasped her forearm and wailed. A lanky teenage boy tried to pull her away. A familiar image flashed into his mind, a dead girl in the Tropical Breeze dining hall, blood soaking the carpet around her.
      Gabriel glanced at his arm. It burned like fire and blood dripped from his torn shirt sleeve, but it wasn’t bad enough to worry about yet.
      The bystanders would most likely survive. “Everyone get out of here!” he yelled.
      He glanced around the side of the van. Purple Hair was gone, either retreating or reloading. Bandanna Girl lay in a spreading pool of blood, motionless.
      “Gabriel!” Kiyoko’s voice. He turned.
      Kiyoko was running toward him in her pink kimono. Her eyes were wide.
      I thought she was staying put. Gabriel waved his arm. Pain. Wrong arm. “Get out of here!” he yelled in English. “Take cover!”
      She nodded and veered toward the minimarket where they did most of their shopping.
      Gabriel peered around the van again. Purple Hair was waiting for him. He snapped back behind cover.
      Purple Hair fired her machine gun again. More plinks and thuds and screams.
      Kiyoko was in that direction! His heart seized. He whipped his head around and saw her just outside the grocer’s. Unharmed but exposed. Someone had pulled down the corrugated metal shutter door that graced every store in the neighborhood.
      Kiyoko banged on the shutter door. “Let me in! Me deixe entrar!” She followed with something in Japanese.
      “Take cover damn it!” Gabriel shouted.
      She ducked behind an old Camry hybrid next to the market. Safe for now.
      Gabriel looked around the other side of the van. Someone shot at him with a pistol. The bullet whizzed by his ear.
      It was the driver, leaning out the window. A girl, light skinned with long dark hair.
      Gabriel holstered his Glock and tried the back door of the van. The handle was unlocked. Made sense, they were expecting passengers. He whipped the door open, needlegun in his left hand.
      The girl turned around, face rigid with surprise. Too late. Crosshair on her head, Gabriel fired a short burst.
      Her head exploded, blood and bone fragments and brains splattering the windshield. Gabriel almost gagged but emptied the rest of the magazine into the console. Plastic and metal fragments flew everywhere. The dashboard lights went out.
      One van down. He could take out the tires of the other. He couldn’t see them from this vantage, though; he’d have to cross the street. “DG, call SSG emergency dispatch.”
      “Serviços de Segurança Globais,” the dispatcher began.
      He interrupted her. “I need that backup.”
      “On its way.”
      “Patch me through.”
      “Pistario here.”
      First good news. Nicolas Pistario was an old comrade from the special forces, team leader, damn capable. SSG didn’t have ranks like the military and although Nicolas supervised more people, he and Gabriel were equivalent in the field.
      “Da Silva. Eight to ten assailants, heavily armed. Two white cargo vans. I took out one, will try to get the other.”
      “Copy that. We are loading, and airborne soon.”
      They hadn’t even left the base yet, and then they’d need another few minutes to get here. “Couldn’t get through to police,” Gabriel said. “Can you give it a try?”
      “Copy that. Will pass it to dispatch.”
      Da Silva clicked off. He slapped another magazine in the needlegun.
      More shop owners closed their shutters. Lots of people would be calling the police. And nearby patrols would hear the gunshots and radio headquarters. For a shootout, they’d bring armored vehicles, maybe helicopters.
      Gabriel crouched, ready to dash across the street. Wish I had a smoke grenade. He glanced around the left side of the van.
      An automatic rifle fired at him. He ducked back behind the van. The shooter was another teenage girl, standing in the street with an AK-47. She was bronze-skinned, with blonde-streaked hair tied in a bun. Not the type you’d expect to carry an AK-47. What’s with this gang?
      An icon of Kiyoko’s face popped up. “Are you safe?” Her voice trembled.
      “Yes. Stay behind cover. Don’t stick your head out.”
      “Please don’t die,” she said.
      “I won’t.” He tapped his glasses arm, terminating the connection. If I try to cross the road, I’m dead. If I stay here, they might get away.
      Someone peered from the glass front doors of the apartment building, just ahead and to his right. “DG zoom,” he commanded.
      It was a man wearing a Tony Santos mask, everyone’s favorite telenovela billionaire. Holding a matte-gray submachine gun. He peered out the door but made no move to exit.
      What was he waiting for?
      The side entrance. If Gabriel were running their gang, he’d send some men out the side to flank him. He’d be surrounded. And dead.
      Gabriel abandoned his position and ran back up the street toward the plaza, keeping the van between him and the machine gunners. He glanced into the side street between the apartments and the building with the grocery store, seeing two masked men with pistols. They saw him too and fired.

(scene continues...)

About the Author:

T. C. Weber has pursued writing and music since childhood, and learned filmmaking and screenwriting in college, along with a little bit of physics. Trapped at home during the "Snowmageddon" of 2010, he transformed those interests into novel writing. His first published book, Sleep State Interrupt, was a Compton Crook Finalist for best debut speculative fiction novel. By day, Mr. Weber works as an ecologist and has had a number of scientific papers and book chapters published. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife Karen. He enjoys traveling and has visited all seven continents.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Revelation by Jo Fenton

Title: Revelation
Series: A Becky White Thriller
Author: Jo Fenton
Genre: Crime Thriller
Publication Date: 24th February 2020
Publisher: DarkStroke

Manchester, 1989

A student, Rick, is found dead in halls of residence.

His friends get caught up in the aftermath: Dan, who was in love with Rick; and Becky, who is in love with Dan.

Their fraught emotions lead them into dark places – particularly a connection to a mysterious Kabbalistic sect.

Will Becky discover who killed Rick in time to save her best friend?

Author Bio:

Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire. She devoured books from an early age, particularly enjoying adventure books, school stories and fantasy. She wanted to be a scientist from aged six after being given a wonderful book titled “Science Can Be Fun”. At eleven, she discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, and now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.

Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.

When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her husband, two sons, a Corgi and a tankful of tropical fish. She is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and a reading group.

Giveaway to Win A signed copy of The Brotherhood (Open to UK Only)
*Terms and Conditions - UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize
Schedule pic (XL-centre)

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Hattie Goes to Hollywood by Caroline James

Title: Hattie Goes to Hollywood
Author: Caroline James
Genre: Cosy Crime
Publication Date: 14th February 2020

A Cumbrian Village...
Three suicides...
A red-hot summer...

Join super-sleuth Hattie as tempers and temperatures rise in the Cumbrian village of Hollywood. With mischief and shenanigans aplenty, will Hattie discover the truth?

A funny and intriguing mystery – the first in a new series by Caroline James

When recently bereaved Hattie Mulberry inherits her aunt’s dilapidated cottage in the village of Hollywood in Cumbria, she envisages a quiet life. But retired hotelier Hattie is bored and when her neighbour asks her to investigate a suspicious suicide, Hattie’s career takes a new direction and H&H Investigations is born. During the hottest summer for years, Hattie discovers there have been three recent suicides in Hollywood and she determines to find out why. Temperatures rise as she throws herself into village life and, with mischief and shenanigans aplenty, Hattie has her work cut out. But will she establish the truth?


Hattie Goes To Hollywood

Hattie is bored and having relocated to an old cottage in the Cumbrian village of Hollywood, is wondering what to do with the rest of her life. Her handyman, Alf, steps in and helps her make a decision…

   Hattie was bored. Bored with the inactivity of having nothing purposeful in her life. It was all well and good watching Alf set about his jobs around the cottage, but she had no interest in gardening, painting walls, sealing windows or mending cracks in the ceiling. Hattie was quite happy to let him get on with it.
   She’d cleared away Marjorie’s carrot cake, resisting the temptation to finish it off. Half-heartedly, Hattie made a stab at cleaning the floor and dusting surfaces. There was a pile of washing to be done but she didn’t feel like doing it and stuffed it in a cupboard, out of sight. She was glad that Marjorie had gone. The woman made Hattie feel frumpy and she wished that she’d been wearing something smarter than a shabby old dress when her neighbour had unexpectedly arrived.
   Hattie stared out of the kitchen window. Alf was in the garden now, digging the border nearest the wall. He was under strict instruction to have it finished by teatime. Ness was glued to his side, tail thumping and body tense. She looked for robins to chase away, as fat tasty worms surfaced from the newly turned soil. Hattie was pleased that Alf was making a good job of tidying things up but even the garden couldn’t capture her imagination for long, despite her spasmodic attempts to show interest. The previous day she’d been to the garden centre in Butterly to purchase a few plants then spent an afternoon digging them in. Now, she could see that Alf had abandoned his spade and, with a grimace, was inspecting her efforts.
   Hattie dried her hands and stepped out.
   ‘What’s this all about?’ Alf pointed to the newly purchased plants.
   ‘I thought I’d stick a few flowers in.’
   ‘Tha’s hopeless.’ He shook his head. ‘Did you not water them after planting?’
   ‘It rained…’ Hattie lied and shuffled about on the path in her slippers as she watched Alf lift a watering-can and pour.
   ‘Hmm.’ Alf shook his head. ‘You can leave the planting to me in future.’
   ‘Like everything else.’
   Hattie was grumpy as she strutted around the garden, pulling at a shrub here and there.
   ‘What are your plans for this place?’ Alf called out as he walked over to a brick outbuilding, adjacent to the cottage. ‘There’s plumbing and electricity out here and plenty of space.’
   ‘It was probably the outside lavatory and wash-house in a previous life,’ Hattie said, catching up with Alf. They opened the door and jumped back as a pile of abandoned packing cases and boxes tumbled out. Hattie had flung them in there as she’d unpacked, and Alf swore under his breath as he shoved them to one side and went in. Battered old trunks, piled ceiling-high, were packed with treasured bits and pieces from Hugo’s home.
   ‘It’s a damn mess,’ Alf said and began to throw the empty boxes onto the path. ‘But it’s a decent space and it’s been renovated. You could do something with it if you got rid of all this crap.’
   ‘What’s the point?’ Hattie followed Alf into the space he’d cleared. ‘I’ve enough room in the cottage.’
   Alf stood in the centre of the large room and took stock. ‘It would make a grand office and you need to find a job.’
   ‘I know.’
   ‘You’re bored and it’s not a good thing.’
   ‘I’m aware of that.’
   ‘You’ll age before your time, having nothing to do.’
   Hattie spun around and stared at Alf. ‘Age?’ Her hands flew to her face.
   ‘Aye.’ Alf grinned. He’d hit a nerve.
   ‘But what could I do?’
   Hattie sat on a trunk as Alf paced the room and pondered the opportunities.
   ‘There’s a vacancy for a barmaid at the pub,’ he said, ‘but with you having your eye on the landlord, that might not be a good idea.’
   Hattie began to protest but he went on.
   ‘Robert’s Convenience Stores need someone to help-out with cleaning and working the till; the proprietors are struggling to recruit.’
   Hattie argued that she couldn’t see herself working alongside Joan, ‘It would be a tight squeeze behind that counter,’ she said, ‘and I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than spend a day with Arnie.’ She paused, ‘I could help with your handyman business?’
   Alf laughed, ‘You haven’t a clue what to do and would be more of a hindrance than a help.’ He produced a tin from his back pocket and, with skill, rolled tobacco into a paper and lit-up. ‘You could set up an investigation service.’
   ‘A what?’ Hattie pulled a face and waved smoke away.
   ‘Tha’s always been a nosey bugger, you could go undercover and help folk out.’
   ‘What, like a detective?’
   ‘Aye, why not, it might be a bit of fun being a private dick.’ Alf chuckled and drew heavily, the smoke billowing into the room.

Author Bio:

Best-selling author of women’s fiction, Caroline James has owned and run businesses encompassing all aspects of the hospitality industry, a subject that often features in her novels. She is based in the UK but has a great fondness for travel and escapes whenever she can. A public speaker, which includes talks and lectures on cruise ships world-wide, Caroline is also a consultant and food writer. She is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association, the Society of Women’s Writer’s & Journalists and the Society of Authors and writes articles and short stories, contributing to many publications. In her spare time, Caroline can be found trekking up a mountain or relaxing with her head in a book and hand in a box of chocolates.

Books by Caroline James:
Coffee Tea the Gypsy & Me
Coffee Tea the Chef & Me
Coffee Tea the Caribbean & Me
Jungle Rock
The Best Boomerville Hotel
Hattie Goes to Hollywood

Giveaway to Win a cuddly Drake toy! (Open INT)
Be in with a chance to win Drake, Hattie’s faithful pet duck! Tall Drake & Handsome
– A gorgeous soft toy who will be your friend for life.

*Terms and Conditions - Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Her Secret Master by Samantha Calcott


She will never bow.

Avery Lourdes is a romance writer, specializing in BDSM culture. Once a week she attends a popular, secretive BDSM club. Not to participate, but to gather ideas. She watches the people and the scenes performed, jotting down notes for her next project.

When famous but problematic actor Geoffrey Underwood begins attending the same club, he immediately sets his sights on the young author.

While she's flattered, she has no intention of becoming wife #5, or helping the sexy Dominant divorce wife #4. But the attraction grows, and Avery soon finds herself stuck in the middle of a love story riddled with pain, lies, and plenty of pleasure.

What is one to do when they've accidentally stepped right into one of their own plots?

Pre-order now for 99c!

Cover design by S.L. Perrine of Mayhem Designs


      “Miss Lourdes, what a coincidence.”
      Oh fucking fuck, she thought, ignoring the stab of lust in her lower belly. She swirled around on the barstool, her knee brushing against his hip by accident. “Mr. Underwood, this is becoming redundant.”
      “Is it now?” he asked, sipping something from his glass. He was sober, so she hoped it was just a Coke. “I thought it was serendipity.”
      “Great movie,” she said, hoping to deflect him.
      His smirk widened. “Have you changed your mind about my offer yet?”
      “Not unless you’ve changed your history,” she replied.
      He moved his head, brushing a lock of hair from his face. “History doesn't change, but people do, Miss Lourdes. In case you haven’t noticed, I have transformed greatly in the past few years.”
      She scoffed. “If you had, you wouldn’t be badgering me.”
      He was so close again. Even closer this time, as his body brushed against her legs. He leaned against the bar on one elbow, his eyes never leaving hers. His gaze captivated her, and like a good Dom, he could have asked her to do nearly anything and she would have obliged.
      “Tell me, why do you come here if you don’t participate?” he asked.
      “Who says I don’t participate?” she asked.
      “The first night I saw you, you were at the bar and then left. The second, your hair was still perfect. No one participates in BDSM and comes out looking picture perfect. And tonight, you have been writing in that damned tablet for the past hour. It doesn’t appear to me that you have any interest in letting your hair down,” he observed.
      “You have no idea what my interests are, Mr. Underwood,” she said to him. Her poker face was amazing; no one would ever know from her face or her voice that she was struggling not to get up and throw herself at him shamelessly.
      “I would understand if you were a voyeur,” he said. “But I can assure you, nothing beats participating when you have the proper partner. Or do you already have a Master, and you’re just being polite?”
      She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. I won’t be doing anything with you, Master or no Master.” She moved to stand, expecting him to step back. He did not, and now that she was standing, she was eye-to-eye with him, and nearly chest-to-chest. She could breathe in the subtle scent of his musky cologne, his spicy aftershave, and something sweet just below that. His scent alone was intoxicating and she hated herself for being so damn virtuous.
      “Can you tell me why?” he asked. “I realize you don’t owe me anything, but I am curious.”
      “Did I not lay it out for you the other night?” she asked. “You’re married, and you have the reputation of a Casanova. I’m not going to be another notch on your belt, Mr. Underwood. And I would appreciate it if you would stop pestering me. The fact that you can’t take ‘no’ for an answer tells me all I need to know about you.”
      With that, she turned on her heel and went to walk away. She had to walk away, or else what remained of her resolve would vanish, and she couldn’t let that happen.
      However, he grabbed her arm lightly. She turned back to face him questioningly. He tugged her closer, within kissing distance, and she began to feel dizzy with want. It was absolutely unfair.
      “Do you want to know why I refuse to take a ‘no’ from you?” he asked, his voice low in her ear. “It’s because I know your refusal is insincere. If you can look me in the eye right now and tell me that you have absolutely no attraction to me, then I will walk away and never bother you again.”
      His thumb began to caress her skin, moving in slow circles as if to relax her. “I can read you like a book, pet. Your resolve is admirable, and if it is true, if you would never submit to me, tell me now. I promise I will leave you alone if you can tell me to my face that you don’t want me to take you upstairs and fuck you to within an inch of your life.”
      If he hadn’t been holding onto her, there was a distinct chance that Avery would have fallen with the force of heat that washed over her at his words. And he had her, damn him. He knew she wanted him, and had put her in an awkward position: outright lie to his face, or give in to a sin that would surely send her straight to Hell.
      “I…” She couldn’t finish the sentence, because she had no idea what she was going to say. “I can’t.”
      “Can’t what?” he asked. “Come on, little girl. Use your words. What can’t you do? Tell me.”
      “Can’t be around you anymore,” she said, nearly breathless.

Samantha Calcott is a secret lover of romance when it's done right, and after years of writing under another pen name in the horror and paranormal genres, she decided to dip her toe into a brand new genre.

She's a Midwestern girl who spent nearly a decade in the gritty heart of Los Angeles, where sex, drugs, and rock n' roll reign. When not writing, she's reading, at a concert, or cooking.

She currently lives in Illinois. She also writes horror and paranormal books as USA Today bestselling author Lily Luchesi.

Trust in You by Julia Firlotte

Title: Trust in You
Author: Julia Filrlotte
Publication Date: 6th April

From the moment she met him, Ella Peterson had questions. As always, though, she’s too shy to ask.

Older and sexy as hell, mysterious Adam Brook soon sweeps sheltered Ella off her feet; but is he as perfect as he appears to be, or is there more to him than he’s telling her?

Ella’s world has already turned upside down after moving from England to rural Kansas. She and her sisters were hoping for a more secure future, but instead find that life can be tough when jobs are scarce and the stakes often higher than anticipated.

When events spiral out of Ella’s control, she learns the person she needs to rely on most is herself and her instincts on who to trust in the future.

It’s just that her instincts are screaming at her to trust Adam; it’s what he tells her that makes that a problem.


Author Bio:

Julia is an avid reader of all things romance, and she has read hundreds of books across a variety of sub-genres and began writing her own novels in 2018. Four books are currently in various stages of editing and completion, the first of which is finished and will be on sale in spring 2020.

Julia has always been passionate about languages and fiction and has a degree in Languages And Trade and an A-Level in English Literature. When Julia is not writing or editing her own novels, she usually has her nose in books by other authors and is otherwise kept busy caring for her family, going to the gym and carrying out her day job. Julia lives on the South Coast of England with her two children, husband and cats.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Dangerous Ground by Susan Hunter

Title: Dangerous Ground
Series: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 6
Author: Susan Hunter
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: November 19, 2019
Publisher: Himmel River Press
Number of Pages: 364
ISBN: 1698530994 (9781698530994)

A Murder Among Friends …

Everyone is anxious to connect with actor Ryan Malloy when he returns to town for his 15-year high school reunion. Everyone except crime writer Leah Nash. She doesn’t have many fond memories of Himmel High’s golden boy. But it turns out she’s not the only one who isn’t a fan. Before the weekend is over, Ryan Malloy is murdered.

The hard-headed but soft-hearted Leah is unwillingly drawn into investigating his death by the pleading of Ryan’s terminally ill mother. She soon discovers that Ryan’s self-absorbed journey through life trampled on the dreams of a number of people. His old girlfriend, his best friend, his own brother, a local businessman—there’s no shortage of suspects—or secrets. But the solution eludes Leah, until the past and the present collide in a dangerous confrontation that threatens one life and ends another.


Chapter 1

I parked my bike just inside the cemetery gates. It took only a few steps down the tree-lined path for the heat and humidity of a mid-summer Wisconsin day to slide away into the cool dark shade. Overhead, the soft murmur of thousands of leaves stirring in the light breeze accompanied me as I walked slowly toward my sister’s grave. Both of my sisters are buried in the cemetery just a few miles outside of Himmel, Wisconsin. My father is as well. But today it was Annie I’d come to visit.

My heart beat a little faster as I neared the gravesite. I’m not afraid of the dead. It’s the memories they leave behind that haunt me. Quiet Annie with her soft voice and big blue eyes, too shy to join the other laughing, shouting kindergarteners at recess—but the first to run over to comfort a little boy struggling not to cry on the first day. Imaginative Annie, commandeering our wide front porch as a sailing ship for her and her cat, Mr. Peoples, to travel around the world. Kind-hearted Annie, sharing her Halloween candy with me when I’m forced to surrender my own treats as penalty for talking back. Sweet, brave, compassionate, eight-year-old Annie, who ran into a burning house to save Mr. Peoples twenty-two years ago, and never came back.

Over all the years since, people—my mother, my aunt, my therapist (yes, I went that route once), my best friend—have reassured me that her death wasn’t my fault, that I was just a child. But, I was older. I should have been watching over her. I should have seen her slipping back to the house after we’d all escaped. In my deep heart’s core, I can’t ever forget that.

Now and then, and always on her birthday, I go to the cemetery to see her. I know that she isn’t really there. But her grave is an anchoring spot for me. I catch her up on the good, the bad, and the ugly happenings in my life. She knows what hurts me, and she knows what frightens me—secrets I don’t share with anyone else. I tell her what our mother is up to, and how others she knew in life are doing. I say all the things to her that I would if she were still here. I try to make up for the fact that I’m alive, and she isn’t. But, of course, I never can.

When I’m talking to her at the cemetery, it feels as though she can really hear me. And I know that she answers. Not right there, at the grave, but later, in unexpected ways. Sometimes, I hear Annie speak to me through a chance remark a stranger makes, or a phrase that leaps out at me from a book, or a sudden flash of insight on a problem I’m wrestling with. I don’t share that belief with very many people. If I did, I might be forced to resign my membership in the Doubting Thomas Society, to which all good journalists should belong. But I can’t accept that those occurrences are just coincidental. I really can’t.

So, on the anniversary of her birth, once again I sat down on the bench in front of her grave and told her how sorry I was that she had died. That I hadn’t saved her. That I still missed her. And then I told her what was really going on in the seemingly successful life of Leah Nash, former small-town reporter, current true crime author, and soon-to-be business failure.


When I say I talk to Annie, I mean that literally. I have a one-sided, out-loud conversation with her, though only when I’m sure I’m alone. Some people already think I’m crazy. No need to give them additional proof. On this particular day, I had a serious problem weighing on my mind.

Not long before, I had made what seemed, at the time, like a brilliant decision. The Himmel Times Weekly, the paper where I’d started out in journalism, and where I’d found a home again after a self-inflicted career injury, was closing. I decided to buy it. I asked a wealthy, community-minded, local attorney, Miller Caldwell, to invest with me. And then I asked a lot of other people—reporters, an editor, stringers, office and sales staff—to work very hard, for very little money, in the hope that together we could keep the Himmel Times alive.
It was exhilarating at first. But it had become an increasing source of anxiety for me. Just as we were getting off the ground, Grantland County Online, a digital-only news site (and I use the term “news” loosely), had gotten a major infusion of capital and a new publisher. Now GO News, as it’s more commonly known, was kicking our butt.

“The scariest thing, Annie,” I said, “is that we’re barely keeping our heads above water, while GO News keeps getting bigger. They don’t have the expenses we do—no print edition, no delivery costs, and they don’t spend a lot of staff time fact-checking. Plus, they started Tea to GO. Did you know that the cool kids say, ‘spill the tea,’ when they mean ‘what’s the gossip?’

Tea to GO is full of ‘What married school official was seen in Milwaukee with a very attractive staff member last Thursday night? Did we say late, last Thursday night?’ That kind of garbage. It’s almost all blind items—the better to avoid lawsuits, my dear. But people are eating it up. Every time you go into the Elite Café, someone is trying to figure out who the latest gossip is about.”

I paused for a bit of a wallow in self-pity. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t tried to shake things up at the Times, to get us moving ahead, but so far nothing I’d done had made much difference.

“We have a good team. Miguel is much happier since he gave up the managing editor job. He really didn’t like bossing people. And Maggie McConnell is doing great in that spot. She’s got the instincts, the skills, and forty-five years in the news business behind her. If she could only spin straw out of gold, she’d be perfect. But since she can’t, we’re making do with a budget so lean it might as well be made out of turkey burger.

“I gave Allie Ross—you remember, I told you about her. She’s the high school kid we’ve been using as a stringer. Anyway, I gave her a part-time job for the summer in the office. She’s doing the routine stuff, obits and inside pages copy—weddings, anniversaries, club news. She’s got promise, but she’s only fifteen. Troy, the other reporter besides Miguel, is a little bit of a suck-up—and his news judgment isn’t quite there yet. Still, he’s a hard worker. The stringers are a pretty mixed bag.

“Now, here’s a twist I bet you didn’t see coming. I hired Mom to take April Nelson’s place as office manager. I know, I know, it’s a dicey move. But she’s smart, and efficient, and she gets the job done. Plus, she comes cheap. It’s been a little challenging, I admit. Remember when I used to get mad at her and say, ‘You’re not the boss of me!’ and she’d send me to my room?

“Well, now I’m the boss of her, only I don’t get to send her to her room. Yes, OK, I’m not supposed to be doing the day-to-day. That’s Maggie’s job. I understand that. But I can’t just hide away in my office and write my next book if the paper is falling apart two floors below me, can I?

“Everybody took a leap of faith when we reopened the Times, and everyone is putting everything they have into it. I can’t let them down. I have to find a way to keep us afloat. I just didn’t know it would be so hard, Annie.”

I paused for a breath before I wrapped things up.

“And then there’s Gabe. I don’t know. I like him as well—no, probably better than—anyone I’ve gone out with in a long time. He makes me laugh, and he’s really smart. And he likes strong women who speak their minds. In my experience, a lot of men don’t. So what’s the problem, right? Well, it’s not exactly a problem. It’s more that I’m afraid a problem might be coming. Lately, it feels like he’s pushing me a little, like for a commitment or something. Can’t we just enjoy each other? Can’t we just be without getting all serious, and defining things, and making plans? I don’t want to change things. That’s when things go bad, when you try to change them.”

I slumped back against the bench with a sigh. Usually, when I lay everything out to Annie, it makes the issues seem a little more manageable. This time it all still felt overwhelming.

Then, a voice spoke.


Fortunately for my mental health, it wasn’t Annie’s. I turned and looked behind me.

“Coop! How long have you been standing there?” I asked, trying to remember exactly what I’d said out loud. It’s not that Coop and I have major secrets. He’s my best friend, after all. Still, I don’t tell him everything I tell Annie.

“Long enough,” he said with a grin that didn’t offer me much comfort. I tried to move the conversation away from my chat with Annie, particularly the Gabe part.

“What are you doing here?”

“Your mom said you were here. I called your cell, but it didn’t go through.”

“Yeah. It’s a dead zone—pun totally intended—in the cemetery, except for the hill. What did you want?”

“Nothing. I brought something for Annie.”

I looked down at his right hand and saw that he carried a small pot of pink flowers. Pink was Annie’s favorite color. Tears sprang to my eyes. I quickly blinked them away.

“That’s so nice. Why?”

He shrugged. “I know what today is.”

I’m all about keeping my tough outer shell polished, but I was so touched, I couldn’t keep up the facade.

“You’re a pretty great friend, you know that?”

He smiled, but he looked embarrassed, and tried to cover it by moving to put the flowers next to Annie’s headstone.

“Did you really come just to put flowers on Annie’s grave?”

“No, not just for Annie. I took some to Rebecca, too.” He was kneeling, positioning the flowers, with his back to me. I couldn’t see his expression.


Rebecca had been Coop’s wife and my nemesis until she was killed last year. I wasn’t happy that Coop had lost someone he loved, but I couldn’t pretend I was sorry she was gone. She’d done everything she could to break up our twenty-year friendship and came close to succeeding. I couldn’t think of anything nice to say about her. So, I employed the Thumper rule, and didn’t say anything.

Coop apparently didn’t want to get into the subject of Rebecca either, because as he stood and turned to me, he said, “I’ll walk out with you. I’ve got my truck. We can throw your bike in the back and you can ride home with me.”

“Yes, please. I didn’t realize it was so hot. I just about sweated to death pedaling out here.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” he said, taking in my damp, bedraggled hair, slipping from its hair clip, and the beads of moisture coalescing into a river of sweat running down the side of my forehead. “You kind of look like you just took a shower.” He sniffed the air, “Except you don’t have that shower-fresh scent.”

“Shut up,” I said. “I’m a head-sweater from way back. Deal with it.” I smiled though, because there’s something very nice and very easy being with a person who really doesn’t care how you look—or in the present situation—smell.

We walked together in companionable silence, until I’d decided he hadn’t heard any of my one-sided conversation with Annie. That dream died in the next minute.

“So, what’s going on with you and Gabe? He’s a nice guy, Leah. You’re not getting ready to toss him overboard, too, are you?”

“No. Why would you say that? And what do you mean by ‘too’?”

“You really want to go there?” He cocked an eyebrow. It’s a not very funny running joke between Coop and my mother that I always find a reason to cut my romances short.

“No, I don’t. I thought you didn’t believe in illegal surveillance, and what do you call lurking around cemeteries where people are having a private conversation? It’s nothing. Really.”

He looked at me for a second, but all he said was, “OK.”

Our conversation was cut off as a tall woman in her fifties, her hair pulled back and hanging in a long, gray braid down her back, appeared and abruptly crossed the path in front of us.

“Hello, Marcy,” I said.

She looked up as though surprised we were there.

“Leah. Coop.” She nodded but didn’t stop to talk. We knew where she was going. To the top of the hill on which sat a small granite building that resembled an ancient Greek temple. The family mausoleum held Marcy’s grandparents, her own mother, and Marcy’s baby daughter, Robin. One day, it would hold Marcy, too.

We watched in silence as she reached the building, pulled a key out of her pocket, unlocked the door, and slipped inside, like a ghost gliding through a wall. It had been sixteen years since Marcy White’s baby had died, and she still came every week. People said she brought a different book each time and read it to Robin. They said it like it was something weird, or even crazy. Not me, though. I understood why she did it.

“You know what, Coop?” I asked, as we continued on down the path.


“I’m calling bullshit on death.”

Excerpt from details

Author Bio:

Susan Hunter is a charter member of Introverts International (which meets the 12th of Never at an undisclosed location). She has worked as a reporter and managing editor, during which time she received a first place UPI award for investigative reporting and a Michigan Press Association first place award for enterprise/feature reporting.

Susan has also taught composition at the college level, written advertising copy, newsletters, press releases, speeches, web copy, academic papers, and memos. Lots and lots of memos. She lives in rural Michigan with her husband Gary, who is a man of action, not words.

During certain times of the day, she can be found wandering the mean streets of small-town Himmel, Wisconsin, looking for clues, stopping for a meal at the Elite Cafe, dropping off a story lead at the Himmel Times Weekly, or meeting friends for a drink at McClain's Bar and Grill.

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