Thursday, May 30, 2013

New Release: My Life As A Lumberjack {Or How I Fell For the Wrong Guy(s)} - Sarah Olds

Me, Mercedes Bennion? Working for the US Forest Service? I’ve never thought of myself as the outdoorsy, hard-working type. But one quick glance at those mouth-watering forest rangers and oh, baby, sign this seventeen-year-old up for a whole summer of fresh air, mountains and starry, starry nights!

“Oh,” breathed Adrienne as she stood next to me.
“What?” My stupid overstuffed pack was caught between the van seats, and because it weighed at least sixty-five pounds, I couldn’t get it to budge. I yanked on it again. My focus had turned to releasing it from the aisle’s death grip.
“Benz,” she whispered. What was up with that?
“What!” My irritation had grown into a growl. I swear if my pack strap tore — or worse yet, the stinking fabric ripped — what in the world would I do for the rest of the week?
“Benz!” Her hand fluttered against my leg.
Swatting like one would a pesky mosquito, I tried to push away her attempts to get my attention.
“What!” I spun away from the van, nearly toppling Adrienne as I rotated. Before me stood an unfamiliar man.
I’d been expecting another Forest Service uniform, but this man wore jeans, work boots and a plaid cotton shirt — open midway to his chest. The bright sunlight brought out glints of gold in his longer than shoulder-length tawny curls, which displayed many shades of browns, reds and blacks. The front of his hair was pulled back and bound in some way, leaving the rest to hang to his shoulders. Dark metal aviator glasses sat on his nose as he peered over the top. Despite the angle of the sun, which made me squint, I could clearly see his brown eyes studying us. Whoa.
“Now that I have all your attention.” His focus bored into me. “My name’s Dan.”
Dan=rugged. Dan=tall, tan and oh my goodness! Dan=maybe better than Norm.
I felt a slow easy smile creep across my face. It’s official. I love Away Camp.

New Release: Called To Arms Again - J.L. Salter

Grit doesn’t fade away ... it just becomes crusty. With harrowing elements right out of today’s headlines, this story reaches back into the sturdy heartbeat of people raised during the Depression and tested during World War II. Though the old uniforms haven’t fit in many decades, their resilient spirits still have that same intensity which helped save democracy.

Needing only a fresh angle to write her Veteran’s Day special, Kelly discovers first-hand that the Greatest Generation still has enough grit to fight back. While all the authorities are occupied during a massive Homeland Security drill, an urban gang of thieves targets an isolated retirement subdivision ... figuring the crippled geriatrics would offer no resistance.

Though Kelly’s widowed boyfriend came along only for a post-funeral luncheon, Mitch soon finds himself leading a mis-matched flanking team. Kelly’s good friend Wade has his own assignment, with a home-made mortar and lots of illegal gunpowder.

Maybe it’s difficult to remember everyday things like taking pills, but these octogenarians have never forgotten it was up to them to defend family, home, and community. The outcome of their courageous stand depends on the resolve and resourcefulness of an unlikely ensemble of eccentric elderly neighbors, several American Legion members, and others spanning four generations.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New Release: The Super Spies & the Pied Piper - Lisa Orchard

Sarah Cole and her sister Lacey are at it once again when they learn their missing parents’ cell phone has been traced to Alden, Michigan. When the FBI declines to continue the investigation, Sarah takes matters into her own hands. She calls upon the Super Spies and they delve into the situation. Suddenly, the teens find themselves immersed in small town intrigue and mystery involving a menacing stranger, who Sarah dubs “The Stalker." But when Sarah learns he’s connected to her parents’ disappearance, she’s determined to find out what that connection is. The Super Spies embark on a journey that leads them into a web of corporate corruption at its highest level that leaves innocent victims in its wake. Can they find the proof they need to stop the greedy corporation before it’s too late?

Chapter One

“What do you mean you lost them?” Sarah Cole fidgeted as she waited for Agent Gray to answer. I can’t believe it! He lost the only clue to our parents’ location. What is wrong with this picture? Agitated, Sarah shifted in her seat and chewed on her lip. She was uncomfortable in the folding chair and rearranged her petite frame so she wouldn’t feel the cold metal against her bare legs. Shivering, she glanced around the all-too-familiar room.

The gray cement block walls no longer gave her that creepy, closed-in feeling she’d used to get when she first came to the interrogation rooms. She remembered the first time she’d been in that tiny space. It had been the day she’d discovered the Cat Lady’s dead body. Sarah shuddered at the memory and then smiled when she remembered forming the Super Spies and bringing the Cat Lady Killer to justice. Glancing around the room again, she realized she’d been in this room quite a bit these last few weeks, not only during the Cat Lady investigation, but the High School Bomber investigation as well. Shivering again, Sarah rubbed her arms but she really wasn’t cold. Her mind filled with the image of the bomber the Super Spies had helped apprehend just a week earlier.

Wow! Was it just last week?

She tugged at a lock of her honey colored hair, then brushed it away with an impatient hand. She sighed and glanced at her younger sister. Lacey sat beside her with her legs crossed, jiggling her foot at such a rapid rate it seemed like her whole body was electrified. She caught Sarah’s eye and for a moment her eyes glittered like emeralds before she shifted her gaze to Aunt June, who had placed her hand on Lacey’s leg in what appeared to be an attempt to quiet her. Sarah shifted in her chair and sighed again. Are we ever going to find Mom and Dad?

A commotion out in the hall drew everyone’s attention. Sarah leaned forward and craned her neck to see what was happening.

“Chief, we’ve got an OD!” An officer yelled.

“What?” Chief Johnson yelled as he rushed by. “An OD on what? Give me the details.”

“The parents found their son unconscious in his room this morning, and an empty bottle of prescription medication on his bedside table.”

“What was it?” Chief Johnson asked.

“It’s Myodine.”

“Who makes it?”

“Ah… Piper Drugs.”

“Call Poison Control with the name and manufacturer and ask them what to do about an overdose. Instruct the parents to get their son to the hospital pronto,” Chief Johnson ordered.
“They’ve brought him here.”

“What?” Chief Johnson exclaimed.

The sound of policemen rushing through the hall pulled Sarah and her sister out of their seats. They hurried to the door, unable to stifle their curiosity. Peering down the corridor, Sarah caught a glimpse of a young man sagging between two officers as they desperately tried to keep him on his feet. One officer gently slapped his face while the other officers held him up. The young man blinked and then gagged, puking on the officer in front of him.

The rancid stench of fresh vomit filled the air. While plugging her nose, Sarah ducked back inside the interrogation room, followed by her sister. Sarah closed the door, hoping it would keep the smell from penetrating the room.

“Did you hear that, Lace? Piper Drugs! That’s the company Dad works for,” Sarah whispered in her sister’s ear before proceeding back to her seat.

Lacey opened her mouth to speak, but closed it when Agent Gray cleared his throat and motioned for them to sit down.

He continued his conversation as if they hadn’t been interrupted. We were on our way to the location of the ping… but before we got there it disappeared.”

“So, what does that mean? Did you find our parents or what?” Sarah blurted out as she sat down. She stared into Agent Gray’s icy blue eyes, trying to read his mind.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Promo Post & Excerpt: The King of Threadneedle Street - Moriah Densley

On sale for .99 Kindle! THE KING OF THREADEENDLE STREET Historical Romance with a "new twist" on star-crossed lovers, by Moriah Densley - RWA Golden Heart & National Reader's Choice Award finalist!

The King of Threadneedle Street

Blurb: He owns three shipping companies, a diamond mine, and his own castle.

He knows Portuguese, Hindu, Mandarin and Morse code.

His assets net thirteen million.

Andrew Tilmore, Lord Preston, the financial prodigy dubbed “The King of Threadneedle Street” wants the one prize out of reach: his childhood sweetheart. The papers can waste a sea of ink scandalizing over his lavender-eyed Alysia; so what if she is the daughter of his father’s mistress?

Alysia Villier learned the craft of the courtesan from her infamous mother―by osmosis apparently. A gifted artist who almost won the Prix de Rome, Alysia is not interested in following in her mother’s footsteps, since Andrew ruined her for any other man. But with her legal guardian—Andrew’s father―in control of her inheritance, she has little choice in the matter.

Keeping Alysia out of trouble and away from eager suitors becomes a cross-continental quest for Andrew. Not his old-fashioned family, the disapproval of the ton, nor even

Alysia’s dedication to duty and propriety will stop him. Playing newspapers and investors like pawns, tumbling world markets, inciting riots . . . has he gone too far?

Excerpt: After being threatened with ruin by Andrew Tilmore Lord Preston’s parents, Alysia Villier runs away to Paris. With the help of people she thinks are her friends, she makes a living as a painter and an artist’s model. The same night she learns she’s in danger, her knight in shining armor comes to the rescue…

Perhaps the people around her were speaking; she couldn’t say, for she was momentarily stunned and not sure why. Then she heard the voice again. A British, bass voice. “Excuse me, pardon.”

Was it her imagination? She shook her head.

Evigny and Ramsgate were pushed aside, and there stood Andrew, a head taller than the others and gloriously angry. Her heart stalled then kicked. She couldn’t breathe.

He gave her a low, formal bow. Pressed a slow kiss on the back of her gloved hand before turning it to press the palm to his face. Closed his eyes and inhaled deeply at her wrist. Grazed his nose along the inside of her forearm, as though hundreds of eyes were not observing.

One of the men nearby, probably Ramsgate, scoffed, “And without an introduction! Such presumption! Come now, who is—”

“We have met,” Andrew took her glass, and for the second time that evening, Leduc found himself holding it while another man cut in.

“Andrew.” Her voice caught, and her throat felt swollen. A dozen gasps sounded around her, seeming to echo.

She became aware of a chorus of lowered voices. “That is Lord Preston!” or jealously, “How does he know Miss Villier?” said as though her name meant horse manure.

“Lord Preston, The King of Threadneedle Street.”

“Lord Preston, youngest peer to sit in the House of Lords.”

All hail Lord Preston, the demi-god. Who should not be here.

She was suddenly conscious of how she must look to him, no longer the plump, modest country maiden to whom he had bid farewell over a year before. After a year of Madame Desmarais’ strict diet of vegetable juices, sprouts, and deprivation of sweets, Alysia was a noticeable one or two stone lighter. She thought she was an inch taller, as well.

But that wasn’t mortifying. Alysia resisted the urge to cover herself with her fan. She didn’t want him to see the pleated silver bodice in translucent gossamer, wasp-waist corset and low Parisian décolleté. Wisps of gossamer—a poor excuse for sleeves—sat low on her arms, exposing her shoulders and half her back. The cosmetics, the exotic perfume, her hair coiffed in semi-dishabille topped with jeweled combs…

She must truly look a harlot to him. Did he think so? He was certainly staring.

Ignoring the protests of her so-called admirers, he led her to the dance floor just in time for the next waltz, oblivious to her wooden movements. He pulled their dance position completely closed. Pressed against him from shoulder to knee — oh, the shock! His thighs rubbed hers, leading the steps as he had over a year before at his sister’s wedding. It seemed ages ago.

Constrained in the corset, she couldn’t draw a clear breath. If the dizziness grew worse, she would faint in his arms. At least his shoulder blocked her view of the room. Alysia had no desire to survey all the curious and accusing glares she knew were aimed at her.

Oh, why did Andrew have to appear this evening? She felt like an opium addict locked in a closet saturated with the scent, smoke, and juice. Tentatively his fingers moved over the exposed skin of her back, across her shoulders, blazing a sensation strangely like fire and ice together. His head turned a little and rested against hers. He hummed softly in her ear as though it was perfectly ordinary that they should be waltzing at a ball in Paris on a random autumn evening.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Short Story: The Sensitive Ball - Nancy Brandt

Princess Progenna Mariana, fourth child of Queen Alexandria and King Jonathan of Valborough, watched the couples twirling around the dance floor. Beneath their feet, colored mosaics
representing the eight magical elements danced as well, the patterns changing in time with the music. The annual ball in celebration of the queen's birthday was in full swing.

Mariana smiled as her brother, Crown Prince Ramone, Heir Apparent, danced with his wife, who would be delivering their first child within the next month. The white sash draped from Grand Duchess Victoria's right shoulder to her left hip indicated Air Sensitivity and explained how she could be so light on her feet even with such an advanced pregnancy. Mariana idly ran her fingertips along the fold of her own black satin sash, narrower than any the rest of the royal family wore. Traditionally, black was for children whose sensitivities haven't manifested yet, or the rare Insensitive Commoner invited to royal celebrations.

The color of her sash shouldn't bother her anymore. Everyone in the kingdom knew that Mariana had no sensitivities. In fact, even her title, "Princess Progenna," had been created especially
for her. With no magical abilities, she had no place in the line of succession, but she was still the daughter of the King and Queen. Every part of her life marked her as different from the rest of the family.

The music from the quartet of stringed instruments stopped, and the couples paired up in two lines in the center of the floor for the next dance, a lively reel. Mariana moved along the tapestry covered walls toward the three sets of double doors that led to the balcony.

She had to find March Darius, son and heir of Margrave Sasoin, and as he didn't appear to be dancing with some other woman, she assumed he was outside, getting some fresh air. As she passed by, guests bowed their heads and muttered greetings. However, she ignored them all, her interest only in finding the March and secure a third dance with him. Suddenly, her progress was halted by a black wooden cane thrust horizontally in front of her. On the other end of the barrier was a short bald man with one eye who smiled at her, his yellow chipped teeth nearly the color of one of his sashes.

"Sahdeer Valentine," Mariana said, making a small curtsey in greeting. "How nice to see you this evening."

"My dear Progenna Mariana, I have been hoping to dance with you."

Her stomach roiled at the thought of touching him, even if it were only his hand. Sahdeer Leo Valentine was a Fauna and Flora Sensitive, as evidenced by his silk green and brown sash.
While he was a wealthy man with several estates throughout Valborough, he was old enough to be her grandfather. He had a puckered scar running from above his right ear, across his empty eye socket, his nose and left cheek and down his neck to below the collar of his shirt. The same battle that had given him that scar had also taken his left hand, leaving a stump that was now covered by a custom made velvet and lace cap.

"Thank you, Lord Leo," Mariana said with a small curtsey, "but this dance is promised to March Darius."

The lopsided smile on the elderly man's face disappeared, and Mariana took an involuntary step back from the angry glint that sprang into his good eye.

"I didn't realize the King had given permission for your relationship with young Sasoin to become public here at the Queen's birthday celebration. I am sure you wouldn't attempt to force the
King's hand by declaring your intentions without his knowledge. You may be merely a Progenna but--"

Mariana scowled and interrupted him. "I was not aware that your counsel with my father had extended to family matters. Who I dance with and how often is really none of your business, Sahdeer Valentine. Now, if you will excuse me, I believe our conversation is at an end."

"Of course, Progenna." The man bowed as protocol demanded but he never took his eye off her face, giving her the sensation that someone had slipped ice down the back of her gown.

Quickly, she turned away from him, and unfortunately, the path to the balcony as well. She decided to slip into the ladies' dressing room and wash her hands, as that was the only thing she could think of to rid herself of the feeling of being covered in some kind of ooze.

Sahdeer Valentine had been a figure in her life since she was a child, and he had always frightened her. The Queen had explained the circumstances behind the horrifying injury to his face
when she was ten. That was long after the first time she'd seen him, when she had run away to hide in the butler's pantry behind a barrel of apples. Mariana's father trusted Valentine's counsel on matters of kingdom defense, so the Sahdeer was often included at family meals. Mariana still found him frightening, even though she was almost twenty years old.

The dressing room was empty, fortunately, so she quickly washed her hands and adjusted the jewels in her hair. Those small routine behaviors returned her to a sense of normalcy, and she left the dressing room, head held high and all thoughts of Sahdeer Valentine dismissed from her mind.

"Princess?" A tall, slender man with dark hair and eyes stepped in front of her before she got halfway across the ballroom, blocking her view of her destination.

"Frederick. My title is Progenna." Normally, Mariana hated the way that word set her apart, but Frederick had stepped outside protocol. He was her brother's chief of staff and certainly knew better. A man she'd practically grown up with, he was like an annoying older brother who tried to dictate her behavior, and she enjoyed taking any opportunity to put him in his place.

Unfortunately, Frederick ignored the jibe. "I assume you're looking for March Darius. Do you think a third dance would be wise this evening? I'm sure you don't want to take the spotlight from the Queen."

"Have you been watching who I dance with, Sahl Mindenwall?" Mariana smiled. He would bristle at his formal title as heir to the estates owned by his father, Lord Hakon, especially coming from her. "Are you calculating the value of aligning with the King's Insensitive daughter?"

Frederick rolled his eyes, and then, apparently realizing how immature that action was, he straightened his spine. He stood about half a hand taller than she was, but his proud manner made her feel much smaller.

His brown eyes grew darker as they met hers. "Mariana, you are like a sister to me. I don't want to see you get hurt. Perhaps it would be better for you to find a different young man to dance with." He looked over her head toward the crowd.

"Baron Purchon seems to be without a partner. I'm sure he would be happy to dance the next set with you."

Marian bit back a growl. "Why does everyone in the kingdom think they can dictate who I dance with?" She tried to push by him, but he stopped her with a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"Someday, your brother will be king and who you marry will be of extreme importance. You would do well to choose more wisely."

She glared at him, wishing she didn't have to tilt her head up to do so.

"Darius is the son and heir of a Margrave," Mariana said. "He is entirely suitable as a husband, especially for a princess who is not in line for the throne. That is, if he were to ask the King for my hand." She added the last bit quickly. Even with few people overtly listening, the ballroom was filled with Air Sensitives, who could, potentially, listen in to the slightest whispers even from the other side of the room.

"There is more to suitability than birth status," Fredrick said. He took her arm as the music changed again to a waltz. "If you are not interested in dancing with Purchon, perhaps you would do me the honor?"

Mariana wrenched her arm out of his hand. "No. I have no intention of dancing with you. Don't you have some woman more suitable to consider marriage to?"

"I am not considering marriage to anyone at the moment, Princess Progenna. You know this. I serve at the pleasure of the Crown Prince, and right now, I am trying to keep you from making a mistake that could cause embarrassment to the throne."

"What kind of embarrassment?" Mariana narrowed her eyes. "Surely, you don't believe the court gossip about what the Marches do when they go into town."

Frederick actually blinked in surprise, and Mariana raised her eyebrows.

"You didn't think I'd heard it?" She shook her head. "I am not a child anymore, Frederick, but you would be surprised at how many people forget that. Apparently, it is easy to ignore an Insensitive. People talk much more freely around me than perhaps they should."

"What have you heard?"

With a sigh, Mariana took a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. "Just disgusting speculation about what Darius and his friends do at the taverns at night. Dice and card games and lots of drinking." She shrugged. "I don't see how any of this affects me."

Frederick looked around, and she followed his gaze. Several of the lesser nobles of the court had stopped their conversations and were not hiding their interest in Mariana's.

"Let's continue this somewhere a little more private," Frederick said and took her arm.

She pulled away. "No, let's not. I understand you are concerned but I questioned Darius...the March." She looked around, meeting the eyes of the eavesdroppers. As she expected, most had the good sense to look chagrined and turn back to their companions.

"What did he tell you?" Frederick asked.

"He said some of the other sons of landholders enjoyed spending time with serving wenches and other women who...ply their trade at night. Being...with a commoner doesn't affect their ability to bond when they wed a Sensitive."

"And does March Darius...approve of this?"

She shrugged. He hadn't really answered her when she asked that question, but obviously, she couldn't tell Frederick that.

"He doesn't do that sort of thing." Mariana couldn't meet the Sahl's eyes, so she found a spot of lace on her sleeve hem that needed her attention.

Frederick sighed. "He's out on the balcony, Progenna, but he's not alone. There are two women with him. He may not be interested in shop clerks or tavern wenches, but there are commoners at court as well."

Mariana's heart began to beat so loudly she wondered, briefly, if Air or even Water Sensitives would hear it. "Only maids or those in the kitchen. Surely, you don't believe that he would dally with the likes of them when he is practically promised to a daughter of the King." She raised her head proudly.

"Promised, Progenna? Has there been an understanding?"

He knew there hadn't been one. Mariana clenched her jaw. Why was she letting him get to her like this? He might be the Crown Prince's Chief of Staff, but he had no say over her life.

"I am going to the balcony, to get some fresh air," she said, dropping into a curtsey. "It has suddenly become quite stuffy in here."

Frederick did not bow, meaning that he did not regard their conversation finished. "Progenna, I am only thinking of your welfare. I saw Darius go outside with the women, both of whom are
daughters of minor nobles. I heard their laughter and some of their conversation. I promise you, you do not want to go out there. I would hate to see you humiliated."

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Excerpt: Crossing the Deep - Kelly Martin

“Rachel, are you going to hate me forever?” Sid asked as he draped his arm around her shoulder. His dark red coat matched his hat so perfectly that Rachel wondered how long he had searched for a coat the exact same shade as his favorite headpiece.

“I don’t hate you,” she said, shrugging him off.

“Sure you do. You both do. Carly told me you did.”

“She did what?”

“Yeah, in the van. She said both of you royally disliked me, and I wanted to hear it from you.”

The soft sound of the running water echoed through the trees. It sounded peaceful, tranquil. If only Sid would be quiet long enough for her to enjoy it.

Rachel held on to the flimsy, wooden handrail as she started across the swinging, single person bridge across Deep Creek, which ran perpendicular to the trail. Deep Creek wasn’t very big; maybe fourteen feet across, and appeared more of a trickle than a creek. She didn’t even see a waterfall. It kinda bummed her out.

“Deep Creek,” Sid read the sign at the beginning of the bridge and followed behind her. “Original. Misleading, but original.”

Rachel couldn’t argue with that. A few boulders were scattered across the creek basin. To Rachel, it looked like if something bad did happen and the water actually covered those rocks, then the creek would live up to its name.

“I don’t know what Carly told you, but I don’t hate you.

Carly is her own person and can think or feel what she wants,” Rachel said once she reached the other side of the bridge. ”But I don’t hate you. I don’t like what you did, but I don’t hate you.”

“Look, I know I messed up. I more than messed up. I screwed up and hurt someone I care about. I know that. If I could take it back, I would. Can you just please talk to Carly when we get to the picnic area? Make her see that I’m not a bad guy.”

Rachel didn’t know what to say to that. She had always heard once a cheater always a cheater, but she also knew it was her Christian duty to forgive.

“Come on. Help a guy out,” he added in a pitiful voice. “I told her I was sorry. What more does she want?”

“You’ll just have to figure that out yourself,” Rachel said, unsure of how to help him.

“Just talk to her. Pleeeeeeeeeeeease…”

“Okay!” she said just to shut him up.

“Thank you!” His face lit up like a Christmas tree, and he kissed her on the cheek before running up the trail toward Asher, who was leaning on a tree. “You’re the best!” he yelled back at her.

Rachel stopped walking. What had she agreed to, and what was Sid thinking kissing her like that? It wasn’t like he was letting his intentions be known, as her grandma liked to say. But still, being kissed — even in a chaste way — wasn’t something that happened to her every day.

She watched as Sid slapped Asher on the shoulder before running by him, and without thinking, her fingers went to the little spot on her cheek where his kiss had landed.

“If you get that riled up from a little peck on the cheek, I’d hate to see what would happen if you got a kiss on your lips,” Asher yelled, folding his arms with that same smirk he’d had at the snack machine. Rachel’s cheeks burned like fire, knowing what she must look like, staring all swoony--‐‑eyed at Sid. When did she start swooning?

“On second thought,” Asher said, narrowing his eyes, “maybe it would be a fun thing to see.”

“That would imply that I’d let you.” Rachel made her legs move again.

“Very true.” Asher laughed, falling in step beside her.

“What are you doing on this trip anyway?” Rachel asked, harsher than she meant. Her mouth was in defensive mode.

He shrugged, not seeming to take any offense. “Didn’t have any other place to be.”

Awkward silence filled the space between them as they walked. Rachel just wanted him to run ahead with Sid and leave her alone.

“You should cut him some slack, you know?”

“Who? Sid?”

“Who else? Yeah, Sid. He messed up, sure. He cheated. We all mess up. Even perfect little Christians like you.” He had a lot to learn about her. “I’m by no means perfect,” she said, her voice hard.

“And neither is Sid.”

“I’ve never cheated on a boyfriend.”

“Have you ever had a boyfriend?”

Ouch, that stung. “That’s none of your business.” Sure, she had never had a boyfriend, but she knew without a doubt she wouldn’t cheat on one.

“I’m sorry,” he said, almost like he meant it.


“And Sid’s sorry too,” he said without skipping a beat. “Making out with Easy Emily wasn’t the smartest move. One, because her lips should be retired for excessive use, and two because it hurt someone he cares about a lot.”

Rachel knew he was right. She’d even used the same argument with Carly. For some reason, she just wanted to stay mad at Sid, more so after he thought it wise to buy her help with a little peck on the cheek. The kiss had irked her. And her reaction to it irked her even more.

Asher spoke when she didn’t. “You Bible types are all about forgiveness,” he shook his head, “until it'ʹs you who has to do the forgiving.”

“What do you know of the Bible, Asher?” she spat. “Do you even own one?”

Without warning, Asher stepped in front of her. She could either stop or run over him; she chose to stop. Her eyes came up to his chest, and she tilted her head up to see his face. That close, she could see how blue his eyes were and the little moon--‐‑shaped scar on his chin. He didn’t look amused anymore, and the twinkle was gone from his eyes. “You think you know it all, don’t you? It’s all black and white with you. No gray areas. All or nothing. Well, guess what?”

He moved his hands to her shoulders and pushed her windblown curls back. “The world doesn’t work like that.” Asher lingered a moment, staring into her eyes. He stared so long, Rachel wondered if he was going to kiss her too, but that was stupid, because he obviously didn’t like her. Without a word, he turned and walked away.

Watching him go, her mind raced and felt completely empty at the same time.

She had no idea what in the world was happening on this trip.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Excerpt: Waiting Fate - W.B. Kinnette

As he walked her to her door, she slid her small fingers into his, and he ran his thumb across the back of her hand. The night was cool. At the door she turned, smiling up at him. “Thank you Archer. It was… fun.”

He couldn’t see clearly, but he could swear she was smirking. Yeah, you blew your chance. Way to go. So he hugged her, wrapping his arms around her waist, like he’d done a hundred other times before. They were a huggy group.

He was surprised when she rose on her toes and slid her arms around his neck, holding tight like he was a lifeline. He pulled back, just a bit, hoping but afraid to hope as he searched her eyes. They sparkled, just a bit, and then she leaned forward, closing the gap between them and brushing her lips against his.

Time stopped. The world stopped and he froze in shock. It took him several seconds to realize what was happening, and then he kissed her back, holding her tight against him. He could feel her heart racing, matching his. When she relinquished his lips, he sucked in a breath, struggling to breathe. “I’ve wanted to do that since high school,” he muttered, almost without realizing it.

Short Story: If You Ever Come Back - Zanna Mackenzie

Meri Fairweather pulled her lace wrap more tightly around her shoulders. Out on the water the breeze was quite strong causing the little launch boat taking the next group of guests out
to the island to sway alarmingly.

A fellow passenger stumbled and Meri offered a hand to help her. Fortunately Meri had good sea legs thanks to a childhood growing up on the coast, most of her school summer
holidays spent in the little boat belonging to Patrick’s parents. Their deal had been that she had provided the picnic and bars of chocolate whilst he had rowed them to their destination of
the day – either along the coast or inland, up the little waterway creeks.

“Oh, I’m so sorry.” The woman smiled apologetically. “I’ve never been one for boats but when you get invited to the Royal Hythe Grant Charity Ball you forget that a rowing boat
on the lake in the park makes you nauseous and just hope you manage to reach Hythe Island without being sick!”

The woman, now gripping the railings of the boat so tightly her knuckles were white, added: “Is this your first time at the ball?”

“No I used to attend every year but this is my first time for three years. I’ve been away, working in France for a while.”

“Oh, lucky you. I love France, we always holiday there. Are you a friend of the Hythe Grant family?”

Meri nodded. “Yes, that’s right.” A friend of the family. Three years ago she had been more than a friend of the family.

Six months ago she had returned to her home county of Norfolk after spending two years working in France. She had thrown herself whole heartedly into her new job as marketing
manager for a tour operator who organised walking and cycling holidays in the area. Decorated the little cottage she was renting on the edge of town. Tried to settle back in; but Obery Staith wasn’t the same without Patrick around.

A few days ago Patrick had also returned to Norfolk, after spending three years in London working in top hotels, gaining the knowledge and expertise he would one day apply to his family’s business, the poshest hotel in town, The Obery Royal.

The Royal was on the waterfront with views over the marina and out to sea. It boasted five stars, a Michelin restaurant with an extensive and highly desirable wine list befitting its well
to do guests, and prices that made the average person break out in a sweat. The hotel had been in his family for generations.

He had come home just before the annual Hythe Grant Charity Ball, an event for which all monies raised went to the local hospice, as tradition dictated. The ball had been held as far
back as the memories of the people of Obery Staith could remember and Meri knew from experience that the memories in this town were very long indeed. The locals had an eye for the details of everyone’s lives and an ear for the gossip to go along with those details. Which, of course, was why she knew that Patrick was back in town.

Three years since he had sought the challenge of London and its hotels.

Three years since she and Patrick had ended their relationship.

She wondered if he’d changed much – not just in the looks department but also in his personality. Driven, ambitious, creative, determined, these were all words she would use to describe him. Other suitable words would be kind, fun, her best friend. Gorgeous would probably be in there too.

The wind gusted, rocking the boat even more, causing it to sway rhythmically from side to side and Meri reached for the railing to steady herself, not just against the rocking but also against the idea of seeing Patrick again. They were only a few minutes from arriving at the island now and she could see the white fairy lights in the trees, dancing in the breeze. Music, something classical, drifted across the water to greet them.

The island was owned by the Hythe Grant family and guests at the hotel could opt to take the launch out to visit for a spot of sunbathing or private dining, but not tonight. Tonight it was
strictly by invitation only.

Part of her had wondered if she should have come along to the ball, perhaps she should have made an excuse once she’d found out that Patrick was going to be there. She dreaded seeing
him after all this time. But then again she couldn’t avoid him forever. If not tonight then she would have run into him somewhere in town, at some point.

Some of the gossips – namely Megan who worked part time in the restaurant at The Royal – had said Patrick looked more handsome than ever. Others, mostly the menfolk, had said he
still had that air of authority which made all the staff at The Royal call him Mr Hythe Grant, even though he had always encouraged them to just call him Patrick. One thing all of them
did agree on though was that he had returned to Obery Staith alone. No girlfriend, at least not here, if there was one then she had chosen to remain in London. Surely though any girlfriend
would have been far too tempted by the charity ball to stay away?

What woman dating Patrick, if given the choice, would have chosen to stay away from him, let alone the ball? Meri certainly had found it difficult to be apart from him. He had his dreams of working in London; she had her dreams of working in France. They had agreed to part, give each other time to grow up, experience life, fulfil their dreams and ambitions.

Agreed to end their relationship, rather than put it on hold.

The launch crept closer to the island, a wooden pier waiting for them all to disembark. Within minutes Meri and the other guests were clambering ashore, being greeted by Patrick’s mother
and offered champagne by the young waitress at her side.

“Meri, sweetheart, we’re so glad you could come along tonight. It’s been far too long since we’ve seen you.” She pulled Meri into a hug. “You must have heard that Patrick is back in town now too? He’s so looking forward to seeing you again.”

“I’m delighted to be here Mrs Hythe Grant.” Meri smiled and accepted a glass of champagne.

“Please, less of the formality, it’s Kathryn as well you know! There was a time when Martin and I were convinced that the next generation taking over the Royal when we retired, the next
Mr and Mrs Hythe Grant, would be you and Patrick.”

“Really? Well, that was all so long ago now. Things change, people move on.”

“He isn’t seeing anyone you know, at the moment,” Kathryn added.

“Isn’t he?” Meri asked, taken aback, glancing around. Wondering what it would be like the first time she saw him again. Hopefully she would catch sight of him before he saw her. It would give her chance to analyse her feelings, compose herself.

She didn’t know if it would still be there or not, the chemistry between them, the attraction, the connection. She doubted it, not after all this time. Not after they had agreed, if somewhat
reluctantly, to end their relationship. It had seemed the sensible thing to do, end it rather than try to make a long distance relationship work. The hotel industry was notorious for long and
unsociable hours. He would be in London. She would be in France. They would rarely get to see each other. It wouldn’t have been fair on either of them.

Plus they were both so young. No, it was best to set each other free. Wasn’t that what you were supposed to do when you loved someone? Let them be free, do what they needed to, and hopefully they would, eventually, come back. If it was meant to be. It hadn’t stopped her thinking about him though. Being tempted to follow him to London even though she hated the place, hated bustling, chaotic cities. So many times she had thought about ringing him, sending an email. Something simple, chatty and friendly. But she never had. It was as though they had an unspoken agreement, no contact whatsoever. It was easier that way.

She’d immersed herself in France, loving the culture, the language, wanting to expand her horizons. She’d worked for a British company who marketed gites for holidaymakers. Then ten months ago, out of nowhere, she’d felt the desire to return home. It was time to put down some roots. She’d thought, hoped, she had been away long enough, that it would be okay to be back after two years. It hadn’t. Obery Staith had never been the same without Patrick around.


Meri jumped as Kathryn placed a hand on her arm. “Are you all right? You seemed miles away.”

“Yes, sorry. I’m fine.”

“Memories of you and Patrick by any chance? I was just saying he isn’t dating anyone these days, are you?”

“No. No, I’m not.”

Then it happened.

She saw him chatting to some guests by one of the many buffet tables arranged on the beach under the canopies of white cloth and fairy lights.

He was wearing a navy suit, well cut, designer probably, he was always immaculately turned out. His hair was cropped shorter than it used to be, suiting the shape of his face. In the past
he was usually clean shaven but today he was sporting something that was more than stubble but less than a beard.

He finished chatting and looked up, across the stretch of beach, and he saw her, smiled and started walking towards her.

“Patrick, hello,” she managed, unsure whether to kiss his cheek, hug him, offer a hand to shake.

He made the decision for her, slipping a hand to her waist, stepping forward, kissing her lightly on the cheek. A kiss so light, yet so effective. She lifted a hand to his shoulder, smelt
the scent of him, he still wore the same aftershave.

“You look stunning,” he said. “Beautiful. As always.”

He allowed his glance to discreetly take her in. She knew green was his favourite colour and she watched as his gaze skimmed over her emerald green, knee length silk dress and strappy
but flat sandals, her auburn hair, loose around her shoulders.

“Thank you.” she replied. You’re as handsome as ever, she thought but for some reason didn’t say the words out loud.

He was too. Close to him she could see his hair was flecked with gold as though it had been streaked by the sun and his face was lightly tanned.

He smiled at her again, the smile which had been embedded in her memory all these years. It hadn’t changed.

“It’s great to be home.”

“It is. Are you staying long?” she asked.

“Yes. For good. Time to put down some roots I think. Take on the running of the Royal. My parents want to start edging towards early retirement.”

“It’s lovely to see you again,” he added, reaching for one of her hands and holding it between his own. “It really is. I’ve missed you.”

“It’s lovely to see you again too,” Meri replied, looking into his deep blue eyes.

And she meant it with all her heart.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

New Release: The Gingerbread Boy - Lori Lapekes

After an impromptu serenade in an abandoned ballroom, Michigan State University

Veterinary medicine student, Catherine Sealy, wonders who the enigmatic young man known only to her as “Daniel,” really is. She later discovers he is Daniel LaMont, the beloved lead singer of an up and coming -East Lansing rock band. She also learns that her vixen of a roommate, Beth Shaker, has set her eye on him.

And Beth Shaker always gets what Beth Shaker wants.

Yet, an unlikely relationship between Catherine and Daniel flourishes, and their love is culminated in their first kiss while sitting atop a great fallen willow over Looking Glass River…the same river in which Daniel nearly drowns shortly thereafter.

The freakish incident forces Daniel to search out the ghastly truth: he is sick. Very sick. And the illness cannot be cured. How can he tell people that depend on him…and especially Catherine? Should he tell her at all? Or should he run, become the “gingerbread boy” that his mother lovingly calls him?

The choices Daniel must make could not only cause him to lose his career and his one true love, but his identity itself.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Excerpt: The Super Spies & the Cat Lady Killer - Lisa C. Orchard

The house sat hunkered down as if it were tensed to spring like a cat stalking a mouse. Sarah shuddered at the thought of going up on the porch and she chewed on her thumbnail.

Looking behind her, Sarah studied the church facing the Cat Lady's home. It was a strong structure built of huge stones. She could tell it was as old as the town itself and its presence made her feel safe. Motioning for Jackie and Lacey to follow her, she moved from the sidewalk to the huge oak tree growing on the church's lawn. The girls hid behind it, peeking out at the witch's home.

"Are you still going to do it?" Jackie teased.


"Do you think she's inside?" Lacey asked wide-eyed.

Sarah smirked at her. "Where else would she be? I hear she never leaves her house."

"Be nice." Jackie smacked Sarah's arm.

"What are you waiting for? Are you afraid of the witch?" Lacey asked as she stared at the house.

"She's not a witch. She's just a freak, that's all."

"Well, if she's not …then what are you waiting for?" Jackie snickered.

"I just want to make sure the coast is clear."

"Hey, you guys, look at all the cats," Lacey whispered. She pointed at the clusters of felines lolling about on the porch and walking in the yard. "There has to be at least twenty of them."

"Yeah, that's why she's called the Cat Lady." Sarah rolled her eyes and then felt the sting from Jackie's slap.

"Do you think she put a spell on those cats?" Lacey asked with a wide-eyed expression, twirling her hair with her finger.

"Could be," Sarah snickered. "Or maybe she just…you know…gives them food."

"Knock it off, Sarah," Lacey glared at her sister.

Sarah stuck her tongue out at her. "Okay, I'm going for it. I'll meet you back here."

"Cool beans," Jackie said.

"Cool beans? Is this town still in the nineties?" Sarah teased.

"Shut up." Jackie smacked her arm again.

"This is physical abuse." Sarah rubbed her arm, trying to appear injured.

Jackie laughed. "Be thankful I like hanging out with you."

"All I have to do is ring her doorbell, right?" Sarah poked her head out from behind the tree. She noticed the tomato pulp still clinging to the siding and peered up and down the street for the notorious Wykowski boys.

"That's right," Jackie chuckled.

Sarah took a deep breath and sprinted across the street. She stopped at the porch stairs. A group of cats were sunning themselves on the steps--they meowed at her as if they were hungry. Jumping when one of them rubbed against her legs, she bent down and stroked its back, never taking her eyes off of the house.

Sarah petted the cat, while she worked up the courage to climb the stairs. She heard the loud purr of the contented feline and it eased her anxiety. All of a sudden, she felt a hand squeeze her arm. Her heart leapt in her chest and she let out a yelp.

Turning, she spied Jackie. "I almost peed my pants!"

Jackie giggled.

"What are you doing here?" Sarah muttered and gave Jackie the evil eye.

"I couldn't stay behind the tree and miss all the action."

Sarah glanced around her and pointed to some overgrown bushes in front of the porch. "You can hide over there."

Out of the corner of her eye, Sarah spied her sister running toward them and stifled a groan.

"I didn't want to stand by myself," Lacey whimpered, slightly out of breath. She tugged nervously on the hem of her T-shirt as she eyed the house.

Sarah groaned and her shoulders slumped as if she carried a heavy burden. She sighed and pointed at the bushes again. "You hide over there with Jackie and be quiet."

Sarah waited until the other girls were out of sight, and then climbed the stairs. Stopping when she reached the porch, Sarah took some deep breaths before stepping onto the sagging stoop. Stepping gingerly, she hoped the porch would support her. Her stomach clenched when it groaned. She took another step and then another, the porch complaining with every footfall.

Halfway across the stoop, she heard the girls behind the bushes.

"She's almost to the door." Lacey said in a low voice.

Sarah bit her lip, stifling the disapproving remark dancing on the tip of her tongue. Instead, she turned and glared at the bushes, willing its occupants to shut up. She made eye contact with Jackie, who quickly ducked behind the shrubs, pulling Lacey with her.

What in the world is she doing?" Lacey asked.

"Shhh," Jackie responded.

Sarah shook her head and continued her journey. She felt Jackie and Lacey watching her as she crept toward the door. Reaching the entryway, she was surprised to find the storm door wide open. The only barrier between the Cat Lady and the rest of the world was a flimsy screen door hanging askew on its hinges.

Alarm bells rang in Sarah's head--this has got to be out of character for someone who never leaves their home. She turned back and whispered to the other girls. "Hey!"
Jackie poked her head out. "What?"

"The storm door's open."

"So…what do I do?"

"Duh…Ring the door bell."

Sarah shrugged and pushed the doorbell. It let out an irritating buzz and she had the feeling it had been broken long ago and never fixed. She dashed down the stairs. The cats scattered, alarmed by the sudden activity. Reaching the shrubs, Sarah hid with her sister and Jackie.

Gasping for breath, Sarah waited for a reaction from the old woman. Her heart pummeled her ribs and she pressed her hand to her chest to calm it.

After a few minutes, Sarah started to pace. "Well…nothing's happened." She peeked out from behind the shrub and saw the screen door hanging ajar. "I bet she's not even home. I'm going to try again."

Jackie shrugged. "Be careful, remember she's a witch."

Sarah shook her head, and then peered out from behind the shrubs. Once again, she climbed the stairs. She was braver this time and it didn't take her as long to make it to the door.
She looked inside, her heart lurching in her chest. She tiptoed to the picture window and peered through it. Gasping, she ran back to the entryway. Pulling it open, she lunged inside.
Sarah stared, unable to tear herself away. Shock ran through her body like an electrical current as she eyed the scene before her. The crumpled form of the Cat Lady lay on the living room floor, just inside the door. No life flickered in the old woman's staring eyes. Her mouth gaped open in a silent scream and her hands were up around her head as if she were warding off blows. Turning away, Sarah gagged as the coppery scent of blood assaulted her. There was blood splattered everywhere, on the wall, on the carpet and under the Cat Lady's body.

Suddenly, Sarah's throat constricted and she gasped for breath. Fearing she would faint, she stumbled back out the door and collided with Jackie and Lacey on the porch.

Jackie grabbed Sarah's arm and shook her. "What are you doing? Are you crazy? I never said to go inside!"

Sarah didn't speak--she just stared blankly at the porch.

Jackie shook her again. "Are you under the Cat Lady's spell?"

Lacey whimpered. "Hey, Sarah….can you hear me? Sarah?"

"She's under the Cat Lady's spell," Jackie said waving her hand in front of Sarah's eyes.

"Oh my--," Sarah moaned and clutched Jackie's arm.

"What is it?" Jackie shook her again. "Speak…say something!"

"Th-th-the C-C-Cat Lady, sh-sh-she's," Sarah stuttered.

"She's what?" Jackie demanded.

"Sh-she's dead."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Release: Climbing Heartbreak Hill - Joselyn Vaughn

Professional runner, Ryan Grant, blows out his knee training for another attempt at the Boston marathon and the dreaded Heartbreak Hill. Ryan retreats home, not looking for anything more than a fast recovery, but he finds solace in the arms of his tax preparer, Tara Mansfield.

Tara’s cheerleading career ended abruptly and she faces an upward climb beating the stereotype as dumb blonde in her new calling as an accountant. Framed with defrauding the IRS during the last weeks of the tax season, Tara’s tentative confidence is shaken, but Ryan coaches her in ensnaring the true perpetrator. She cheers him on in discovering his identity as a coach rather than an athlete.

With the help of the junkyard king and a mechanical bull, can Tara and Ryan find the courage to climb Heartbreak Hill together?

A portion of my proceeds from Climbing Heartbreak Hill will be donated to the One Fund Boston to help those injured at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Contact Links:
Twitter: @joselynvaughn
Facebook page:

Buy links:
Astraea Press:!/~/product/category=662245&id=23861577

I live in the Great Lakes state with my husband, three rambunctious children and two barking Beagles (I suppose that is redundant.) When not suffering the woes of potty training three toddler/preschoolers, I enjoy reading, running (sometimes it's fleeing the craziness at home), reconstructing clothing, thrift store shopping and surfing (I spend way too much time there and am getting all kinds of exciting ideas for projects for my husband to do. He is less than thrilled by this.)
I love writing romance because I enjoy stories where everything works out all right in the end and the main characters have a happily ever after. My stories are set in small towns with quirky characters that take on a life of their own.

A lanky, sandy haired man on crutches elbowed his way through the door, alternating between pushing the glass door open and inching his crutches forward. He wore a red windbreaker with Lakeshore Track Club embroidered on the chest. Clutched between his left hand and the handle of his crutch was a wad of papers. It wasn’t the worst presentation of receipts she’d seen in the last three months, but it would make the top ten. She experienced a brief wave of déjà vu. A flash of his face laughing in the dark. Had she seen him before somewhere? His physique didn’t match any of the football players she had been in contact with. Surely the strange bend in his nose would stand out enough in her memory. It gave him a reckless air she found appealing.

“Let me help you with that.” She hurried over to the door and kicked the stopper down to hold it open while she relieved him of the fistful of paper. A quick scan of the parking lot told her
Mark’s truck hadn’t arrived yet. “Do you have an appointment?”

“Your sign said walk--‐‑ins were welcome.” His voice had a pleasant timbre. Tara didn’t miss the once--‐‑over he gave her. She was used to those. It was one of the side--‐‑effects of having breast implants not written in the tri--‐‑fold brochure from the plastic surgeon: every male and one in three females will stare at your chest. At times, Tara wanted to wear a name--‐‑tag that said ‘and yes, they are fake'ʹ under her name.

“Walk--‐‑ins are always welcome. We have a small break in the rush right now, so why don’t you have a seat by my desk?” Tara released the door then made her way around her desk and righted her chair.

The man put the two crutches together and gingerly lowered himself into the seat. He kept his left leg extended, and Tara could see the outline of a brace around his knee through his warm--‐‑up pants. She dropped the pile of receipts into the middle of her desk and opened a new client file on her computer.

“Have you been here before?” When he answered in the negative, Tara said, “Okay. Then we’ll need to go through the basics first. I’ll need all your vital stats.”

“Excuse me?”

“Name, address, phone number, etc.”

“Oh, I thought you meant age, weight, heart rate, and blood pressure. Guess I’ve been to too many doctors lately. Ryan Grant.”

He rattled off an address she recognized as one of the Ladies Night Out members. Had Yvonne been holding out on her? They owed her a favor after she had helped them get Leslie and Mark together.

The last names matched so he must be family. Perhaps Yvonne’s son?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Excerpt: Hauntings of the Heart - Joselyn Vaughn

“You’ll never believe who I saw at the Register of Deeds yesterday afternoon.” Edith tossed her purse on the red vinyl booth across the table from Minnie before she scooted into the seat.

Minnie waved to their favorite waitress, Rachel, who balanced a tray of the daily specials and a half--‐‑empty pot of decaf coffee. She acknowledged them with a nod and headed toward the rear of the dining room. The rest of the diner held the usual bunch of early lunchers, reminiscing with their cohorts on the morning news, the chance of an early frost, and the state of affairs at the
zoning commission. Years of baked--‐‑on grease permeated the air and accounted for the signature flavor of the scrambled eggs.

Edith smoothed down her more‐‑salt‐‑than--pepper coiffure and reached for the specials card clipped to the jellies. “I didn’t think he’d ever set foot in Carterville again.”

“Who?” Minnie asked, already knowing the name that would spill from Edith’s lips.

Edith slapped the menu down on the table. Her eyes slid both ways, then she leaned across the table. “Gordon Anderson.” She raised her eyebrows conspiratorially.

“I had hoped he wouldn’t.” Her stomach roiled. He’d been here sixteen hours and already she was jumping out of her skin at every sound, expecting him to appear whenever she turned her back. She attributed it to loathing, but it felt like a high school crush.

Rachel arrived at their table and flipped their sturdy brown coffee mugs over. “Just decaf today, ladies, or half‐‑and--half?” She held the orange--rimmed carafe poised over Minnie’s cup.

“It’s a half‐‑and--half day,” Edith said. “Any day Gordon Anderson comes to town requires a dose of caffeine.”

Minnie snorted. “It requires Jack Daniel’s, but it’s a little too early in the day.”

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Knight of the Dead - Jennifer Rae Gravely

When Mark returned to the conference room about three hours later, Rose and Persephone sat at the table drawing.

“Daddy, I drew a picture of the different seasons. Miss Purr-So-Funny told me the story about her name.” The child frowned. “I wouldn’t want to be kidnapped.”

“Your father would never let that happen.” He patted her head.

“I know.” Her smile stretched into a yawn.

“It’s time to go home and get to bed. Are you ready?” Rose nodded. “Say good-night to Persephone.”

She jumped up and threw her arms around Persephone’s neck. “I can’t wait till tomorrow.”

“Me either,” Persephone said.

Persephone stood and moved toward her black sweater coat draped over a chair. Mr. Lawrence handed her money and followed her to the front door. “Thank you for helping out with Rose tonight. I hope she wasn’t any trouble.” They stood in front of the flowers and the mirror next to the door. He loved the smell of freshly cut flowers, even in the dead of winter.

“Not at all. Goodnight, Mr. Lawrence.”

“Please, call me Mark.” He ran his fingers through his hair out of habit. “Will you be okay driving home?”

“Yes, Mark.” She smiled, pulling her arms through her sweater coat and tightening the belt around her trim waist. He leaned forward and opened the door for her. The gush of wind brought a hint of lavender to his nose, and he realized it was the smell of her hair. She stepped out to the porch. About a third of the way down the stairs she turned and waved at him. He caught his

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Excerpt: Matching Wits with Venus - Therese Gilardi

Chapter One

“You have GOT to do something about that woman or before you know it they’ll be tearing down all those statues of me and calling HER the goddess of love!”

Venus flicked her cream silk scarf over her slender shoulders as she peered through the ultra-powerful telescope she had set up in her hilltop villa, which was a replica of one of her favorite Roman palaces. She knew she should stop looking through the lens every hour, but she couldn’t help herself. For thousands of years, across all parts of the globe, high in the heavens and deep in the underworld she’d been the undisputed queen of matchmaking. But now, for the first time in over two millennia, Venus was beginning to fear she’d met her match.

In the valley below, not far from a string of psychic reading rooms, the Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” museum, and the famous thirty foot white block letters that spelled out “Hollywood”, Amelia Coillard stretched out her hands to receive a large homemade almond vanilla pie.

“I spent all evening making this for you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!” A tall woman wearing an enormous pear shaped ruby on her left ring finger sputtered as she bowed slightly. “Really, Amelia, you’re the best. David and I want to invite you to our wedding. On June twenty-first. It’ll be a way to mark our own new season together.”

Amelia smiled. She was used to these follow-up visits from grateful clients, women and even some men who had been certain they’d been fated to be alone until they’d discovered “Happily Ever After by Amelia.”

“Glad we could help Susanna. Don’t forget to tell your friends about us.”

The woman giggled as she pushed past the wrought iron marble topped café table where Amelia met with clients. As she pulled the beveled glass door closed behind her the intertwined pink and purple wooden hearts that hung against the wooden frame banged together. Amelia waved as Susanna disappeared into the rising March sun.

“We’ve got another wedding. Guess when,” Amelia called out to her assistant Jennie as she stepped into the backroom and placed the pie on a distressed pine sideboard, next to the boxes of chocolates, baskets of figs, bottles of champagne, potpourri sachets and bundles of beeswax candles. If there was a foodstuff or a house ware associate with love, lust or fertility Amelia had received it from a satisfied client.

“Not the summer solstice,” Jennie said, and Amelia rolled her eyes.

“Of course. Flowers in bloom, longer days, baby animals at the zoo. It can all mean only one thing. June brides. I don’t know how people can be so sentimental.”

Jennie laughed.

Amelia walked to the little cupboard in the corner and withdrew the fitted white crocheted sweater she always wore when she was at work. She’d gotten it two years ago, right after she opened “Happily Ever After by Amelia,” at the Rose Bowl flea market. The woman she bought it from said it had originally been part of the trousseau of one of the old studio stars that lived up in the Hollywood Hills. Although Amelia didn’t believe her, the delicate pattern had reminded her of wedding lace, so she’d worn it to every meeting since, believing it sent out positive subliminal messages to her clients. She pulled it over top of her black mini-dress and adjusted her wavy auburn hair over its pearl-trimmed collar.

“So what’s the day look like? Oh, wait, there’s Justin.”

Amelia rapped her knuckles on the window as a man whose face and body reflected the brutal realities of living rough in the hot California sun passed by. He was like many others in the neighborhood, most likely younger than the lines on his face implied.

She opened the door and smiled as the tall, slightly scruffy man in the red and black jacket turned around and came back to where Amelia stood at the door that opened onto the alley.

“I’ve got something for you.”

Amelia handed Justin the pie, along with a fork, cloth napkin and water bottle.

“Thanks Amelia. I’ll bring it by later,” Justin said, nodding at the place setting.

“No problem. Now, what’s on tap,” she said, turning back to Jennie.

“Three women coming in this morning to fill out their personality profiles. You know one actually had the nerve to ask me if you’d e-mail it to her so she could complete it on her own time? Yeah, and she can forward it to everyone she knows and before you know it your secret formula is out in the open.”

Amelia laughed.

“It’s not as mindless as that. You make it sound like I’m just making random matches, sending someone out there to shoot arrows into an unsuspecting public. Who do you think I am, Venus?”

Jennie smirked.

Amelia looked out the window at the back of her little storefront, toward the faded ocher stucco mansion with long French windows and a red-tiled roof that sat atop the highest of the Hollywood Hills. Long verandas seemed to wrap around the house, although it was impossible to know for certain if they ran across the back of the home, since the far side of the walled property was not accessible by road or foot. It sat atop a fault line. No one dared venture onto the rocky terrain, for fear of disrupting the crusty earth beneath the bougainvillea bushes.

Jennie put her arm around Amelia.


“Don’t what?”

“Don’t go down that path, Lia. It’s not going to take you anywhere you want to be.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Come on, let it go.”

Amelia sighed.

“Do you have any idea how many cakes, cookies, tarts, baskets and bouquets I left on those stone steps? Do you know, I used to climb up to that gate every year on Christmas Eve and what should’ve been my parents’ anniversary and leave her these hand written letters I’d actually sealed with a kiss. I taped those little Hershey’s candies to the envelope when I was little and then, when I was in high school, I’d slather on red lipstick and run my mouth across the envelope. I can’t believe I was so stupid!”

“We all do dumb things.”

“Yeah but come on. Believing that an ancient Roman goddess exists AND that she lives right here in my own neighborhood?”

Jennie laughed.

“It does sound absurd when you put it that way. Plus everybody knows that house has been abandoned for decades. Why they don’t add it to the Haunted Hollywood tour is beyond me.”

Amelia nodded. As she took a final look at the mansion, she thought she saw a flash of rose-colored light shooting across the bottom floor.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Excerpt: Until We Meet Again - S.E. Campbell

Osier Schmidt stood inside of a graveyard, his hand perched on his belly. There was a flask of liquor in his fat, clenched fist, and he gazed at a gravestone in front of him. It belonged to Eden Schmidt, his daughter. He gritted his teeth and then pivoted to peer at the gravestone next to that. It belonged to Rebecca Schmidt, his wife.

He took another chug of his drink. It dulled the edges of his mind, causing everything to be a blur. The world became softer in this haze, and he preferred it that way. It wasn't like he had a job, or anything else, to be presentable for. Alone. All alone. He peered at the gravestones again. Chances were good it was entirely his fault his daughter had died.

The sound of voices in the distance caused him to turn around and look up at the rolling hills covered with gravestones. A massive crowd was forming at the top of the hill. Curiosity sparked inside of him as well as the feeling of intense loneliness. He peered down at himself and knew he was not presentable for such a gathering. Osier wore a white T-shirt stained with beer and a pair of loose shorts. Sweat ran down his back.

I'll just have a look. He sighed and headed up the hill. Halfway up, his breathing became strained. He could hardly breathe.

At the top of the hill, he spotted a beautiful brunette woman wearing all black clutching her face. Tears streamed down her cheek. He guessed she was a widow or a parent. At her side was a cold-eyed man. Osier made his way through the large crowd and stared down at a dark brown casket. There was a picture of the deceased person on a piece of board by the casket. To him, it appeared cruel to have a picture of such a young, beautiful girl displayed so prominently when everybody knew hers was a face they would never see again. But what did he know? At one time he’d thought he knew everything, but now he was well aware he didn't know anything at all. As he clenched his fists and continued to look at the picture, he sighed.

A collective gasp from the people who had gathered interrupted his thoughts. He spun around, frowning. Even the beautiful brunette woman had stopped weeping. A flash of white erupted from beyond the crowd.

What's going on? He leaned forward, curious.

A girl stepped forward, through the throng. His breath caught in his throat as he saw who stood before him, shrouded in white, with long golden hair trickling down her back.

It was Eden, the daughter he had lost twenty years ago.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Release: Mischief on Albemarle - Victoria Roycroft

Miss Beryl Wentworth is silently, desperately in love with her childhood friend, Finian Fitzwilliam, who unfortunately still treats her as if willing to shove her into the nearest mud puddle. It’s infuriating now that she at least has grown up, leading to uproarious and horribly public arguments between them, and it seems he’ll never treat her as a woman grown, never look at her that way… until a quite charming rake asks her for the first two dances at the Hanover Square assembly room. Dare she hope that His Grace, Ernst Anton Oldenburg, the Duke of Cumberland (and some say a foreign prince) is serious, even if Fitz is not?

Fitz can’t believe it. The man’s a rake, he ruined Anne Kirkhoven only weeks ago, and now Beryl agrees to dance with the villain? Strong-willed she might be, but there must be something Fitz can do to extricate her from that ducal clutch. Even if it means interrupting them behind the shrubbery in Hyde Park.

How can the Scoundrel of Mayfair bring two feuding hearts together without setting off the final argument that tears them apart forever?

New Release: An American Love Story - C.S.Moore

Tessa is visiting her hometown for the first time since her breakup almost nine months ago. Even though it’s just a short visit for the Fourth of July weekend, it kills her to be there. She and Phillip had made so many memories, both good and bad there—but her loving family is so worried, she has to go back.

Heartbreak and regret make each day worse than the last, but still she refuses to take back her ex. In fact she has sworn off men all together…until she gets roped into a blind date with a soldier. She doesn’t want to go, but even she can’t say no to going out with a soldier on the Fourth of July.

The last thing she expected was the tall, dark, and handsome man that showed up to take her out. Garrett awakens a long dormant part of her as soon as she lays eyes on him, but can he heal her shattered heart?

Excerpt: Battlefield of the Heart - E.A. West

A dark-haired guy with an athletic build, not more than an inch or two taller than her height of five foot nine, stood scanning the area as though he was lost. Clean-shaven, with just a hint of a five o’clock shadow along his jaw, he wore a T-shirt and jeans, both fitting just tight enough to hint at lean muscles. Cindy considered taking a candid photo and sending it to her girlfriends, but her cell phone was in her purse and digging it out would be too obvious. Maybe she could find another way to share this cutie with them.

His actions reminded her of her own during her first semester there. She’d had to ask someone where to find buildings so many times. Without those sympathetic upperclassmen, she would have been perpetually lost.

If he was a new student, that made her the sympathetic upperclassman. She stopped near him and smiled. “Hi, can I help you find someplace?”

He didn’t seem to hear her. She moved closer, thinking he might not realize she was talking to him. “Excuse me.”

He twisted and grabbed her wrist with startling speed. She screamed as he spun her around, bringing her arm behind her and forcing her to the ground as he said something unintelligible, but undeniably commanding. As he put a knee on her back and pulled her other arm, she heard people running toward them and prayed they could help. The guy was strong and no amount of struggling did any good. He just tightened his grasp on her wrists and applied more pressure with his knee, making it difficult for her to draw in a breath.

“Danny, let her up!” a male voice said as the running steps stopped beside them.

“He’s a threat.”

He? Before Cindy could figure out what the guy was talking about, she felt some of his weight lift from her back.

“She’s a noncombatant, Sarge,” a third male voice said.

The grip on her wrists loosened. “What?”

“You’re in the States, man.”

“Crap!” He released her wrists, and his weight lifted from her completely.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New Release: Someday You'll Laugh - Brenda Maxfield

Stunned when her boyfriend announces they should be free to see others when he leaves for college, Brenda pastes a smile on her face and walks away. Far away. Only to find herself irresistibly drawn into the arms of another guy.

Brenda’s previous boyfriend finds out, claims he made a huge mistake, and wants her back. She will receive a marriage proposal, but from which one?

Later, on her wedding day, Brenda awakens knowing something is wrong. Will she make it through the ceremony?

Based on a true story.

Don’t vomit in the middle of your wedding. Good advice all around. Too bad I ignored it.

My story didn’t start with vomiting, but it did begin with a good gut wrench…

The low sun flamed from the sky even though the time was edging toward nine-thirty at night. I squinted into the glowing horizon and my heart squeezed. I held back the tears.

“Just ten months,” Greg whispered to me. “It’s not so long.”

“Only forever,” I answered. I hadn’t let go of his arm for the past thirty minutes.

He shifted his weight and settled onto the park bench. “We need to talk.”

“We are talking.” I joined him, stretched my legs, and dipped the toes of my shoes into the loose gravel at my feet.

His face had gone serious, and I knew I wasn’t going to like what he had to say. He gazed over my shoulder toward the playground equipment as if observing interesting twists of fine sculpture.

I still held his arm, but now I released my death grip. My fingers remained bent, stuck in a clutched position. “What is it?”

“I think we should see other people.” His words dropped like bricks, gaining speed as they crashed on my ears.

My mouth fell open and I jolted to my feet, tripping over a stone which protruded from the loose rock circling the bench. I skittered a bit, and regained my balance. “See other people? What do you mean?”

“Sit back down.” Greg pulled on my arm and coaxed me onto the bench again. “California’s a long way from here, and I think it’d be a good idea to keep our options open.”

I sat like a wooden toy, stiff and unmoving. I knew I was staring at him, I knew my face was revealing too much, and I knew I wanted to deck him.

“I take it you’ve given this a lot of thought.” My voice sounded so pinched, I hardly recognized it.

“Not a lot. Some, though.” Was it my imagination or did he look like he wanted to crawl under the rock I’d just tripped over?

Our ten months together during my senior year of 1973 evaporated into a depressing mist. I stood. “Fine. If that’s the way you want it, sounds good to me.” I coughed to try and cover up the bitterness in my tone.

He rose beside me and his blond hair fell over his eyes. He pushed the strands aside with an absent-minded flick of his hand. “Don’t be that way. It’s a good idea, and it’ll be much easier on us. Long distance relationships are hard.”

“How would you know?”

“Everyone says so.”

“Fine,” I repeated. “Now to make sure I have it straight — we’re both free to see other people, right?”

He nodded, but I thought I detected a kernel of doubt beginning to grow. His brows crinkled and his blue eyes narrowed.

I went on. “Okay. I guess we’re both on the same page then. You leave in a couple hours for college in California while I stay here in Washington. And we’re both free to date other people. Are we going to communicate at all, or are we stopping that too?”

I deserved a medal. My voice poured out words as if reciting the latest cookie recipe, not closing down a relationship that had cruised along for the better part of a year.

Greg’s eyes stayed focused on mine. “We can write. I think it only takes a couple of days for a letter to get here from California.You’ll write me, won’t you?”

I raised my chin. I could keep up the ruse for another few minutes. “Of course. We’ll both write. It’s a plan.”

I leaned over and kissed him. I didn’t give him time to kiss me back.

“Safe travels,” I said and smiled with warmth I didn’t feel. If he was dumping me, I was going out with class. I made certain the look in my eyes matched my smile, then turned and walked away, swaying my hips as if there were no tomorrow.

Eat your heart out, Greg Johnson.

Eat your heart out, but good.

There was sadness inside me somewhere, but the anger and growing nausea were doing a masterful job of covering it up.

Keep our options open, indeed.

So be it.

The creep.

Excerpt: The Enchanted - Elaine Cantrell

The sound of a trumpet interrupted Alan. Meryn entered the room behind the trumpeters and called in a ringing voice, "His majesty, King Maccus, and his daughter, the Princess Morgane, wife of Prince Alan, heir to the throne of his father, King Bowdyn."

Everyone at the table rose to their feet and bowed as Maccus and Morgane paused at the door. Alan could not stop staring at the princess. He had not expected her to be so beautiful. Her red-gold hair cascaded across her shoulders in swirling waves he ached to touch. Even from this distance he could see that her eyes were the color of the sea on a cloudy, stormy day. Her white, beribboned gown made their unique color stand out. She had a willowy, lithe figure.

Every inch the king, Bowdyn crossed the room and took Princess Morgane's hand. "Come. I will introduce you to your husband, Prince Alan."

"Please, my lady. If you do not sit still I cannot care for your feet."

"You try to sit still if you think it is so easy!" Morgane cried. "The bandage has stuck to the blisters, and the pain is dreadful when you pull."

"I am very sorry, but if we do not keep your feet clean and medicated, you will get an infection."

"Yes, I know." She flinched as Edana applied a soothing ointment to her burned feet. At least it was supposed to be soothing. Truly, it did little good.

A flash of lightning split the sky outside the window. Thunder boomed as the rain started to fall. Over the roar of the downpour, she heard the sound of horses galloping across the cobblestones in the courtyard. The wind caught the heavy brocade drapes, which billowed into the room as raindrops pattered on the stone floor. "I will shut the window," Edana cried. She ran to do so, but instead of closing it, she stared outside at the courtyard.

"What do you see?" Morgane demanded. "Who is out there?"

"It is the queen and Prince Alan. One of the servants told me that the two of them had gone riding."

Morgane jumped up and hobbled to the window, ignoring the pain in her feet. "I cannot see his face."

"Please, come back and sit down. You will meet him soon enough."

Morgane sighed, feeling the animation drain from her face. "All too true."

She returned to her seat in the soft, deep chair beside the fireplace and bit the inside of her cheek until she tasted blood. Shehated her father! Presently, she voiced this sentiment to Edana. "The only good thing that comes from my marriage is that I escape my father. I hate him, Edana."
"I do not wonder, my lady."

"I have always been a dutiful daughter to him. He had no right, no reason to treat me as a slave or worse."

"No, my lady."

Morgane's foot jerked as Edana's gentle touch burned and stung. "Finish them," she commanded. "I cannot bear for you to touch them."

Edana applied the last bandage. "There. It is done. You must be careful, my lady."

"Ha! I am sure I will be expected to dance the night away."

Concern clouded Edana's large, brown eyes. "I have worried about that. If you will allow it, we will add an extra layer of bandages."

"Well… perhaps that is best." Morgane stuck out her right foot. "I am like an animal in a trap. I would chew my own foot off if it would gain my freedom for me."

"Perhaps you and Prince Alan will care for each other," Edana soothed.

Morgane's lip curled. "I doubt it very much."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Exerpt: Rescued By A Duke - Ruth Hartman

His eyes crinkled at the corners. “You are not in trouble. I only wish to know your circumstances and how you happened by the dreadful hole I pulled you from.”

Her circumstances? A deep longing for her older brother burdened her heart and held the anger at arm’s length. Anger about Samuel. His lies. His broken promises… Even with all of her hurt feelings toward him, her world had ended when he'd been killed. He was far too young. Though her situation was dire, indeed, she didn’t want to appear weak in front of the duke. She was on her own and needed to take care of herself. I must not let him see my fear of being here. Helpless. At his mercy. She tilted her chin towards the duke. “I recently lost my brother, your grace. So I have no family to repay your kindness.”

“There is no need for repayment. It is I who am responsible that you had the mishap of injuring your leg on my property.”

Sasha shook her head. “You have been most kind to me, your grace, putting yourself at risk to save me when I was in the wrong. If it would be possible…”

He leaned closer. “Yes?”

“Is there room for me here—”

“Of course.” He tilted his head.

“—to work as a maid perhaps?”

He frowned and sat back. “You owe me nothing, Miss Douglas. Believe me, my heart aches at the thought of what you have been through. Your injury will take time to heal. Until then, I insist you stay here, in my home, where you can be properly looked after.”


“No.” He stood and pushed the chair back to its original place. His eyes flashed anger, the pupils enlarging. Had it been her offer to work for him which had caused this response? Perhaps the gentry handled such matters differently than the working class. Why hadn’t she asked the kind maid? No. Instead she’d blurted out the question. To him! If only she could take back the words. Her eyes widened as he left the room, as stormy as a black cloud, the maid following in his wake. Sasha scooted down in the bed and drew the covers over her head as tears threatened to fall. Would he now demand she leave, even though she couldn’t walk on her own? If that happened, what would she do?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

New Release: Pursued - Kristin Vayden

Abby's life has come apart. With nothing left but the choice to blame God, or trust Him, she begins to sort through the fragmented parts of her life.

Through choosing to have faith, the shattered pieces of her heart begin to heal, and she is able to see the blessings that remain, two of them being her very young boys. What Abby learns is that God takes the ashes of our lives, and creates a deeper beauty than we ever expected. Abby heals from the rejection and betrayal in her former marriage, and chooses not to date.

She makes the decision to wait for God to bring someone into her life because it's not just about her, its about a father for her two boys. When Levi is introduced to Abby, she fully expects him to turn and run when he realizes she has two children and is divorced...but he doesn't.

Levi is nothing like she ever dreamed.

His strong faith and killer blue eyes shake all her doubts as he begins to try and win her heart. Abby learns about being pursued, about being sought after. the idea is so foreign after her whole ordeal with an adulterous marriage that it astounds her, and melts her last resistance towards Levi. But when her ex-husband finds out that she's happy, and he's not...he begins a plan hatched in vengeance to steal any joy she has gained. Will Levi continue to love her, love the boys caught in the middle, even when the evil intentions get far too personal?

Abby finds out first hand that God truly does write the most beautiful love stories...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

New Release//Excerpt: Beyond A Doubt - Felicia Rogers

Blurb: Bryce Cameron is finally going home. Years spent away have him longing for the craggy landscapes from his childhood.

Lucy Lombard is on a mission. The mantel she carries was never meant for her possession yet it has been passed to her anyway. Alone and in danger, Lucy stumbles onto her greatest find.

Rescuing Bryce is either a blessing or a curse but regardless time is running out. With Bryce's help can Lucy fulfill her mission or will she be too late?

Chapter One
Scotland, June 1557

Water swirled around in a torrent, sucking him under the vast currents. His arms flailed helplessly, attempting to grasp a rock, a limb, or anything available, only to have it ripped away. The noise of the rushing water confused him and severed his mental hold on his location. Tossed about by the raging water, he managed to surface long enough to catch a breath and notice a large boulder looming ahead. But it was too late to react. His ribs slapped the rock’s flat face and the wind was knocked from his weakened form.

So this was the end, to die by drowning so close to his destination. How had everything gone awry?


Several days earlier…

Bryce Cameron couldn’t be happier. Behind him, nestled amongst jagged rocks and trees, rested the Sinclair keep and his past. Before him awaited beautiful grasslands, with free-­‐‑roaming sheep and his future.

Leaving Grant behind had been a kind of necessary torture. His cousin needed to sever ties, whereas Bryce needed freedom to travel. The call to home beckoned. Who knew what would happen if he waited any longer?

For the arduous journey ahead, Duncan, the Sinclair laird, had given him a horse and a sword. Arbella, the laird’s wife, had supplied him with food and blankets. With gladness, he’d accepted the gifts. Without a worry, Bryce set out for home. His woman awaited.

Crissy, a red-­‐‑haired lass, short and round, full in bosom and hip, had a twinkle in her eye which constantly hinted at mirth.

Temper was her middle name as she took pleasure in exhibiting it most of the time. But instead of deterring Bryce, it only endeared her to him. With his mild-­‐‑mannered, laid-­‐‑back ways, having a forceful woman seemed necessary. Besides, when her temper flared, her adorable dimples showed, and he couldn’t get enough of them.

Thoughts of Crissy sent his feet knocking the sides of his horse, urging the beast into increased speed. The animal cantered by a field dotted with white sheep lazily plucking at the ground, chewing in a slow rhythmic motion. As he sucked in the fresh air, he also smelled the odor of wet wool and the bleating of ewes. With it came the desire to arrive home more quickly.

Daydreams of a field full of sheep and a house full of children floated through his mind. Crissy would be in the middle of both. Strong, secure, and fierce, his soon-­‐‑to-­‐‑be wife would be a force to be reckoned with.

A smile tugged at his lips, a laugh escaped. The trail suddenly grew quiet and daunting in the afternoon sun. Since his journey had begun, there had been no traffic. An unnerving silence pervaded the area. The sooner he arrived on Cameron lands, the better he would feel.

The miles sped by. Nothing was prettier than the Scottish countryside. Forests, fields of flowers, and inhabited and uninhabited keeps dotted the landscape. Bryce avoided stopping in civilized areas, which would lead him off course. Without any delays, the road would have him home in a week’s time.

At night, Bryce slept under the stars. The weather stayed clear and warm, cooperating with his journey. He gave thanks to the Almighty for his uneventful passage.

After several days of travel, the end neared. The smell of sheep excrement increased. Within a day, he would arrive home and into the waiting arms of his betrothed. All the ways he might be greeted by his love entered his mind. Perhaps she would run out of her home and throw her arms around his neck, even going so far as to flatten a chaste kiss upon his cheek. Or maybe Crissy would set up a fuss about the length of his absence, in which case he would smile and agree, enjoying the sight of her anger thus presented.

A faint wind blew. The odor of his unwashed body sent his nose crinkling upward. Perhaps a bath was in order before meeting his beloved.

Bryce knew a river ran near Cameron lands. It would take no time to stop and bathe before going to meet his love. In fact, Crissy might be more affectionate if he removed the stink. The thought of increased affection hurried him along.

A path through the foliage opened to the river. Dismounting, Bryce tied his horse to a thick branch. Tunic removed and laid over his arm and his trews still in place, he waded in. One step into the chill waters almost led to retreat. Only the desire to please Crissy kept him moving.

The water was now waist high. His teeth clacked together as he shivered with cold. Grasped by the moving water, his tunic fell from his shoulder and floated away. Exasperated, Bryce reached to grab the floating fabric. Each time his fingertips brushed the water-­‐‑ logged cloth, the moving waters jerked it away before he could retrieve it.
Without thought, Bryce followed it further and further in. As he approached the middle of the river, his foot slipped. His feet flew out from under him and the water swept him underneath its surface, surprising Bryce with its fierceness.

Life flashed before his eyes. The brevity of time depressed him even as the water sucked him under once again. Thoughts rankled. A life ending without Crissy by his side, without having had his children, or raising his sheep, thoughts of dying over a stupid tunic.

White water rushed around and over him. When his head rose above the caps, he quickly sucked in a breath. Less and less Bryce came up for air as the water tumbled him head over heel, over and over. Death was close at hand. Now there was one more regret to add to his long list. No one would know what had happened to him.

His chest burned as his wet wool clothing dragged his body down one last time.