Words of Hope and Faith for the Weary

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Sin Eater

The Aria Knight Chronicles Book 1

By Alesha Escobar and Samantha Lafantasie

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal

 

 

Aria Knight has an unusual set of skills: she will hold back the hounds of Hell so you can fly toward the Pearly Gates, and she will wipe your slate clean so that you don’t become karma’s bitch…for a price.

A Sin Eater has to make a living in today’s world somehow.

But when she’s called in the dead of night to perform her rite for a recluse billionaire, she stumbles upon a murder scene, and the evidence points to her.

In an attempt to clear her name and uncover the true culprit, Aria is forced to team up with a private investigator who’s possessed by three spirits, and a handsome wizard who would rather see all Sin Eaters like Aria go extinct.

Aria knows her job is never easy, but now it’s become downright deadly.

SIN EATER is the first book of the Aria Knight Chronicles by USA Today bestselling author Samantha LaFantasie and Alesha Escobar, author of the bestselling Gray Tower Trilogy.

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Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZD44YB

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I’m a caffeine addict and chocoholic who enjoys reading and writing engaging stories, loveable (and not-so loveable) characters, and expressing my creativity daily. I write fantasy with intriguing characters, action-packed scenes, and always throw in a good dash of humor and romance.

Science Fiction and Fantasy are my favorite genres, but I also adore the classics (Shakespeare, Dante Alighieri, etc.) and I have a soft spot in my heart for Victorian poetry. You can geek out with me all-day every day over these

Some of my favorite contemporary fantasy authors are George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan (rest in peace), J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher (Dresden Files made me love Urban Fantasy), and Ilona Andrews among others. I enjoy movies and shows like Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural, Arrow, The Flash, The Avengers…there are too many to name!

I want to read more comics and graphic novels, please shoot a recommendation or two my way (I LOVE the Hellblazer comics, by the way).

Please don’t be a stranger–I want you to kick up your feet, sip your coffee (or tea) and join in on my weekly rants, discussions, and updates.

Website * Newsletter * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Pinterest * Google+ * Amazon * Goodreads

https://www.aleshaescobar.com/

https://www.aleshaescobar.com/newsletter/

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAleshaEscobar

https://twitter.com/The_GrayTower

https://www.instagram.com/fantastli

https://www.pinterest.com/authoralesha

https://plus.google.com/+AleshaEscobar

https://www.amazon.com/Alesha-Escobar/e/B005R1MUK0/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5244595.Alesha_Escobar

 

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Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts and a giveaway!

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A DESOLATE HOUR
by Mae Clair
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Pub Date: 7/18/2017

Book Blurb
Sins of the past could destroy all of their futures . . .
For generations, Quentin Marsh’s family has seen its share of tragedy, though he remains skeptical that their misfortunes are tied to a centuries-old curse. But to placate his pregnant sister, Quentin makes the pilgrimage to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, hoping to learn more about the brutal murder of a Shawnee chief in the 1700s. Did one of the Marsh ancestors have a hand in killing the chief —the man who cursed the town with his dying breath?
While historian Sarah Sherman doesn’t believe in curses either, she’s compelled to use her knowledge of Point Pleasant to uncover the long-buried truth. The river town has had its own share of catastrophes, many tied to the legendary Mothman, the winged creature said to haunt the woods. But Quentin’s arrival soon reveals that she may have more of a stake than she realized. It seems that she and Quentin possess eerily similar family heirlooms. And the deeper the two of them dig into the past, the more their search enrages the ancient mystical forces surrounding Point Pleasant. As chaos and destruction start to befall residents, can they beat the clock to break the curse before the Mothman takes his ultimate revenge? . . .

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Author Bio
Mae Clair opened a Pandora’s Box of characters when she was a child and never looked back. Her father, an artist who tinkered with writing, encouraged her to create make-believe worlds by spinning tales of far-off places on summer nights beneath the stars.

Mae loves creating character-driven fiction in settings that vary from contemporary to mythical. Wherever her pen takes her, she flavors her stories with conflict, romance and elements of mystery. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about writing, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail and cats.

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Author Links
Website: http://maeclair.net/
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/maeclair1
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mae-Clair/219356774828949?ref=tn_tnmn
Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Mae-Clair/e/B009I61ND0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1500224162&sr=8-1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6468716.Mae_Clair

 

Author Blog Post:

Cryptozoology, Urban Legend and Myths
By Mae Clair

The word “cryptozoology” is one that often leaves people scratching their heads. Simply put it’s a pseudo-science devoted to the study of creatures that may exist, but haven’t been proven to exist. Most commonly, Bigfoot and the Lochness Monster spring to mind. I love reading up on cryptozoology, urban legends and myth, so I thought I’d share my Top Ten:

  1. The Mothman
    I spent three years researching this winged “cryptid” including visiting the area where he was sighted in 1966-67, so of course he gets the number one position! My Point Pleasant Series incorporates the mythology of the Mothman, UFOs, Men In Black, and an ancient curse.
  2. The Lochness Monster
    I’ve been fascinated by Nessie since I was a kid. I honestly hope no one ever discovers she’s “real.” The mystery is far more compelling.
  3. The Van Meter Monster
    This gargoyle like creature haunted the town of Van Meter, Iowa during the autumn of 1903. Most of the eyewitness accounts were made by businesses men and other professionals who couldn’t afford to be viewed as “crackpots,” thus lending credence to the sightings.
  4. Jellyfish of the Air
    In 1953 William Reich and an assistant raised an “orgone-charged” rod into the air in the hopes of attracting invisible beings he believed co-existed in our in our dimension, but were invisible to the naked eye. Within five seconds, a huge jellyfish-like creature attached itself to the rod, becoming visible long enough for Leistig to capture it in a photograph.

 

  1. The Squonk
    I love the name! This Pennsylvania creature is reputed to be so hideous in appearance it spends its entire life sobbing and will vanish in a pool of tears if captured.
  2. The Hopkinsville Goblins
    Extraterrestrial visitors who descended on the Sutton family farm in August of 1955, terrorizing the Suttons and their guest. No evidence of a hoax was ever discovered, causing many to believe the events an authentic UFO encounter.
  3. Men in Black
    Mysterious men in black suits descended on the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966-67 with the sole intention of warning UFO witnesses not to talk about their encounters.
  4. Scotland’s Dog Suicide Bridge
    Since the 1960s more than fifty dogs have leapt to their death from the Overtoun Bridge in Scotland. Even stranger, all the dogs jumped from the exact same spot, and each apparent “suicide” has occurred on pleasant, sunny days.
  5. Ley Lines
    It’s believed many of the old places of the Earth resonate with power—hillforts, crossroads, standing stones and old funerary paths among them. When these and other “ley markers” align in a geographical pattern, they create a hypothetical link capable of releasing powerful energy.
  6. The Snallygaster
    Maryland’s half-bird/half reptile creature was given enough credence in 1909 that Teddy Roosevelt almost canceled an African Safari to hunt it.

Giveaway: Print copy of the book

 

Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!

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Dead Storage

DEAD STORAGE

by Mary Feliz
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pub Date: 7/18/2017

Book Blurb
As a professional organizer, Maggie McDonald brings order to messy situations. But when a good friend becomes a murder suspect, surviving the chaos is one tall task . . .

Despite a looming deadline, Maggie thinks she has what it takes to help friends Jason and Stephen unclutter their large Victorian in time for its scheduled renovation. But before she can fill a single bin with unused junk, Jason leaves for Texas on an emergency business trip, Stephen’s injured mastiff limps home—and Stephen himself lands in jail for murder. Someone killed the owner of a local Chinese restaurant and stuffed him in the freezer. Stephen, caught at the crime scene covered in blood, is the number one suspect. Now Maggie must devise a strategy to sort through secrets and set him free—before she’s tossed into permanent storage next . . .

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Thursday, February 16, Morning

Maggie, we’ve got a crisis,” Jason had said the last time I’ded to him. “I know you insist on working with both halves

of a couple—”

“But I’m also a problem solver. What’s up?”

“That spate of tornadoes and flooding in Texas, that’s what. I’ve been deployed. I can’t back out or delay our departure. Those people are hurting, and it’s the first test of my new auxiliary law-enforcement team. A group of TV journalists is reporting on our project for some newsmagazine. Our funding and the future of programs like this de- pend on our success.” Jason rattled off the sentences breathlessly, without giving me a chance to comment or interrupt.

I understood his predicament. He’d been working on establishing a rapid-response law enforcement team for as long as I’d known him. The short version of the saga was that the team, with all its supplies, could swoop into a disaster area and support law enforcement efforts under local authority. The idea was to prevent looting, keep people safe, provide skilled guidance to volunteers, and eliminate many of

 

2  •   Mary Feliz

 

the problems experienced by civilians, volunteers, and first respon- ders following Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. Jason’s team and others like it hoped to plug gaps between what FEMA and the National Guard could provide and what community resources were designed to accomplish.

“No problem,” I said. “We’ll start after you get back.” “Stephen’s ready to start, like, yesterday, and the demolition is

only two weeks away.”

“Ah . . .” I began, stalling for time. “To be successful, any system we develop will have to include you. If it’s going to work long term—”

“Look, Maggie, I’ve got to go. They’re loading our containers on the cargo plane. Stephen and I talked about priorities and goals last night. We made a list. I gave him parameters for tossing my stuff, and I promised not to divorce him if he gives away my favorite baseball glove. If that works for you, great. If not, take it up with Stephen. Arrange something—”

The phone cut off. I was left with the decision of whether to begin or postpone. I spotted several potential problems with Jason’s plan. Among the stumbling blocks was the fact that they might waste time and money creating a system that would work for Stephen, but not for Jason. When I’d spoken to Stephen, afterward, he considered my advice but ultimately decided to go ahead.

“No matter what Jason says, he’s going to have trouble making time for this project, even once he’s home again,” Stephen said. “Damn the torpedoes . . .”

That was two days ago. I’d decided Stephen was right. With Jason’s full-time job as a police detective he was never in full control of his own hours. Stephen was a retired US Marine who worked unpredictable hours volunteering with veterans and their canine counterparts, creat- ing civilian partnerships. If we were going to have their house ready to start a major remodel, there was no time to waste.

Today, Stephen and I were meeting to start purging their belongings, deciding what to save, and fine-tuning our organizational strategy.

I knocked on the front door of their sprawling Victorian near the Palo Alto border. There was no answer to the bell. No resonant woof from Stephen’s huge mastiff, Munchkin. I peered through the front window, leaving the print of my nose on the glass. Only dust motes moved inside.

I sat on the front step and texted Stephen:

 

Dead Storage  •  3

 

My calendar says we’re meeting at 8:30 today. Do I have that right?

Stephen was an early riser, so I’d agreed to meet him as soon as I dropped my teen boys at the middle school and high school. He’d promised me coffee and bagels. At the thought of food, my stomach rumbled and my mouth filled with saliva. I was starving and caffeine deprived. My golden retriever, Belle, thumped her tail, whined, and leaned into me, looking up with yearning. Normally, I didn’t bring Belle to work with me, but Stephen was a friend of mine, a dog per- son, and Munchkin was Belle’s BFF.

“They’ll be back soon,” I told her, referring to both Stephen and his seldom-absent canine partner. “I’m sure everything is fine. How often are they ever late?”

Belle made a polite sound in response. “Right,” I said. “Never . . . Well, nearly never.”

Extreme and unrelenting punctuality was a fault of Stephen’s, an artifact of his time in the military. Some of his friends found it an- noying, but I shared the trait and appreciated his timely arrival when- ever we got together. I bit my lip, sighed, and squinted into the sun to scan the neighborhood. There was no car in the drive. He must have had a last-minute errand that went longer than he had planned. Unex- pected traffic tie-ups were a recurring Silicon Valley problem. With the high-tech economy, growing population, and high-density build- ing projects booming, the area was home to a record number of peo- ple. More people meant more cars. A trip to the dentist that took fifteen minutes a month or two earlier could easily take thirty min- utes or longer today, even without a rush-hour fender bender creating gridlock. The problem grew worse daily and there was no easy solu- tion.

I looked at my watch. Any minute, I expected to see Stephen and Munchkin loping up the street from one direction or the other. At six- foot-four inches, accompanied by a dog that weighed almost as much as he did, Stephen was hard to miss.

I paced in front of the house. This situation reminded me too much of a client session I’d begun four months earlier, standing on a front porch a few blocks away when my client was late. That morn- ing had culminated in the death of a dear friend. I shivered, drew my fleece coat closer to me, peered at my phone, and dialed Stephen’s number.

 

The phone rang before I could finish punching the buttons. “Hello?” I said. The phone responded with crackles and pops. “. . . police station . . . jail . . .”

“Hello? Who is this? I’m not going to fall for that trick. My kids are safe in school.” I disconnected the call. Our entire town had been plagued with phishing phone calls from crooks pretending to be our children or grandchildren. The calls all followed the same pattern: a distraught young voice claiming to be kin begged for money to be wired immediately. Most people, like me, recognized it for what it was and hung up the phone. But older people, those in the beginning stages of dementia or vulnerable in other ways, grew distraught. A friend of my mom called her daughter nearly every day to be reas- sured that the children and grandchildren were safe. The scams were criminal, disruptive, and downright cruel.

I shook off my righteous indignation and dialed Stephen again. In the process, I noted that the crooks, whoever they were, were getting crafty. My phone reported that the phishing call originated from the police station in Mountain View, the town that abutted Orchard View’s southern border. I made a mental note to tell Jason about the call the next time we spoke. When he wasn’t helping flood-ravaged towns in Texas, Jason was an Orchard View detective. He’d know who to no- tify about calls from people impersonating the police.

My call went to voice mail.

 

 

 

Mary Feliz

 has lived in five states and two countries but calls Silicon Valley home. Traveling to other areas of the United States, she’s frequently reminded that what seems normal in the high-tech heartland can seem decidedly odd to the rest of the country. A big fan of irony, serendipity, diversity, and quirky intelligence tempered with gentle humor, Mary strives to bring these elements into her writing, although her characters tend to take these elements to a whole new level. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and National Association of Professional Organizers. Mary is a Smith College graduate with a degree in Sociology. She lives in Northern California with her husband, near the homes of their

two adult offspring.

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Author Links
Website:
http://www.maryfeliz.com/
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/MaryFelizAuthor
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/MaryFelizBooks

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Feliz/e/B01D3SYW3G/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1499867628&sr=8-1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14904553.Mary_Feliz

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The Last Wife of Attila the Hun

by Joan Schweighardt

Genre: Epic Fantasy, Historical

 

 

Two threads are flawlessly woven together in this sweeping historical novel. In one, Gudrun, a Burgundian noblewoman, dares to enter the City of Attila to give its ruler what she hopes is a cursed sword; the second reveals the unimaginable events that have driven her to this mission. Based in part on the true history of the times and in part on the same Nordic legends that inspired Wagner’s Ring Cycle and other great works of art, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun offers readers a thrilling story of love, betrayal, passion and revenge, all set against an ancient backdrop itself gushing with intrigue.

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26936427-the-last-wife-of-attila-the-hun

 

https://www.amazon.com/Last-Wife-Attila-Hun-ebook/dp/B01HFBT9LM/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Joan Schweighardt is the author of five novels, and more on the way. In addition to her own writing projects, she writes, ghostwrites, and edits for individuals and corporations.

 

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https://www.joanschweighardt.com/

https://www.facebook.com/joanschweighardtwriter

https://twitter.com/joanschwei

https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Schweighardt/e/B001K7VN76/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/138966.Joan_Schweighardt

What is something unique/quirky about you?

 

I had my own publishing company for a while, GreyCore Press (from 1999 to 2005). I loved publishing, and I think I did a pretty good job of it. I published a beautiful memoir (A Month of Sundays: Searching for the Spirit and my Sister, by Julie Mars), that became a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” title, which meant that it could be found on the front shelf of every BN in the country. I also published a children’s book (When I Wished I Was Alone by Dave Cutler) which became a top ten “read to me” selection at Borders Books. Other titles did really well too. I would probably still be publishing today, but my penultimate distributor went out of business owning me (and many other client publishers) quite a lot of money, which I in turn owed to the bank I’d borrowed from. I found another distributor, but I never quite recovered from that setback. But all’s well that ends well. I still continue to work with authors, and now I don’t have any overhead.

 

Tell us something really interesting that’s happened to you!

 

As part of my research for my most recent novel (not yet published) I stayed with an indigenous tribe in the rainforest in Ecuador and then made a second trip to South America to travel the Amazon and Rio Negro Rivers with a private guide. I took the first trip when I started my book, to get a feel for the jungle. The second trip was my reward for finishing the first draft. In between the two trips I read everything I could find about the rainforest, its people, its medicinal plants, etc., until I was dreaming the rivers and the jungle. Now I’m spoiled. The combination of the book research, the travel research and the actual writing has been a grand life experience. I won’t want any future books to be anything less.

 

Describe your writing style.

 

Back when I first started writing I tried to develop a writing style by emulating my favorite authors. For a while I tired to be Nabokov, but of course no one can be Nabokov but the man himself. Then I tired to be D. H. Lawrence, and I’m here to tell you there is nothing more nauseating than a bad imitation of Lawrence. But as I grew into becoming a writer, I realized it wouldn’t serve me to have a particular style anyway, because I didn’t intend to stick to writing a particular kind of book. Some of my books, like The Accidental Art Thief, are humorous. Others, especially the historical fictions, are dramatic but not necessarily humorous. Some are written in third person, some in first, and some in first person but in the voices of several different characters. Over the years I have made a living writing, ghostwriting and editing for other people. The ability to change styles and voices easily has helped me to become a good ghostwriter. My clients really like it when the text sounds just like them. I’ve become a literary chameleon.

 

 

What makes a good story?

 

That’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question. Of course a good novel has to be well structured and well written, but there’s always something else too, some je ne sais quoi that makes the story sing. It might be a fabulously-drawn character, like the husband in Carolyn Parkhurst’s Dogs of Babel. Or it could be a really clever plot, like in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Or great dialogue, like just about everything by Tana French, especially her first novel, In The Woods. I could have listened to her characters talk forever, even if the book had no plot, which of course it did.

 

What are you passionate about these days?

 

I am passionate about the writing process. When I was still learning the craft, I was content to stick to writing about what I knew, as my teachers always advised. But once I had the craft down, I wanted to explore the many aspects of life (and history, particularly) about which I knew little or nothing. That is one of the reasons why I love writing books with historical settings. I love extensive research. For me the process of writing is one of both discovery and creation. I want my books to be life changing experiences. Then, if other people like them too, it’s all gravy!

 

What do you do to unwind and relax?

 

Sometimes I yield to my vices, such as drinking wine and playing poker. But most of the time I read.

 

 

What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?

 

I was very shy as a kid, and even to some degree as I got older. I always felt awkward and unable to express myself as fluidly as I would have liked. But give me a pen and paper, or, eventually, a keyboard, and I could go at it. Reading and writing have always been my way of exploring the world.

 

 

How long have you been writing?

 

I started writing around the time I started reading…not reading for school but reading on my own. We did not have a lot of books in the house when I was growing up, but I did come across a collection of stories by Edgar Allan Poe when I was in my teens, and that was where it began. I loved the fluidity and intensity of his writing. I was enthralled with the power of his imagination. I wanted to do that too. Before that, I wanted to dance ballet. There was no chance I would ever be a ballerina, because I was never that coordinated and my family couldn’t have afforded dance lessons anyway. But I did think I could do the writing thing, in time, if I worked hard at it.

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The Freedom Broker

by KJ Howe
Genre: Thriller

KIDNAP & RANSOM
IN-DEPTH RESEARCH FOR CANADIAN AUTHOR’S DEBUT INTERNATIONAL THRILLER
There are twenty-five elite kidnap negotiators in the world. Only one is a woman. And she’s the best in the business. Meet Thea Paris in THE FREEDOM BROKER.
With over 40,000 reported kidnappings every year—which translates to five people every hour—the world of kidnap and ransom is taking on a newsworthy role across the globe. Displaced military and police in third world countries have no way to put food on the table, but they do have security skills, so they have turned to kidnapping as a way of making a living. Also, terrorists are using kidnapping as a fundraising enterprise, filling their coffers with over 125 million dollars since 2009. Kidnappers used to only abduct high net-worth individuals and executives of multi-national organizations. Not anymore. Journalists, aid workers, and family members of executives have now become high value targets.
Kidnapping is a growing international crisis. What tools do we have to fight against this increasing threat? There are twenty-five elite kidnap negotiators who travel to the globe’s hotspots to bring hostages home, through negotiation or recovery, and they are called response consultants or freedom brokers. Local to Toronto, author K.J. Howe has immersed herself in the world of kidnapping for the last three years, interviewing kidnap negotiators, former hostages, kidnap and ransom insurance executives, hostage reintegration experts, psychiatrists specializing in the captive’s mindset, and the Special Forces soldiers who deliver ransoms and execute rescues.
Howe’s research culminates into her debut thriller, THE FREEDOM BROKER, published by the Hachette Book Group under the Quercus imprint in the US, Canada, U.K. and many foreign territories. The book has reached attention North America wide, and has led to reviewers such as #1 NYT Bestseller James Patterson calling it “fact and fiction at its best.”

K.J. Howe’s novel has received positive and international acclaim from some of North America’s most influential mediums and authors including:
 TIME Magazine called the book a “Dark Delight.”

 #1 NYT Bestseller Lee Child endorses the book: “Razor sharp and full of you-are-there authenticity—a superb thriller.”

 NYT Bestseller Linwood Barclay shares, “Breathless action, great characters, and convincing details make Howe’s debut a surefire rocket to the top of the lists.”

 In The Providence Journal, USA Today Bestselling author Jon Land reviews, “The Freedom Broker is a blisteringly original, superbly crafted thriller that promises to be one of the major debuts of 2017. K.J. Howe’s gut-wrenching foray into the world of hostage negotiation turned upside down propels her straight into the league of Linda Fairstein, Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Scottoline, and Karin Slaughter, thanks to a tale framed by an emotional complexity and structural elegance both rare for the genre. As riveting as it is bracing, this is reading entertainment at its absolute best.”

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http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781681443102

 

Born in Toronto, Canada, K.J. enjoyed a nomadic lifestyle during her early years, living in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Caribbean, which gave her an insider’s view into many different cultures. While abroad, she read every book she could find, which triggered in her a desire to create her own stories.

She attended Salzburg International Preparatory School, Neuchâtel Junior College, and Albert College before earning a Specialists Degree in Business from the University of Toronto. K.J. found success in the corporate world, but her passion for travel, adventure, and stories drew her back to school where she earned a Masters in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She also won several writing awards, including three Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

While honing her fiction skills, K.J. worked as a medical, health, and fitness writer. She then became involved with the International Thriller Writers as the executive director of ThrillerFest, the organization’s annual conference held every July in New York City.

In preparation for writing THE FREEDOM BROKER series, which focuses on elite kidnap negotiator Thea Paris, K.J. spent extensive time researching the dark world of kidnapping. She has interviewed former hostages, negotiators, hostage reintegration experts, Special Forces operatives, and K&R insurance executives.

K.J. is an avid tennis player, cyclist, and swimmer. Travel and adventure still rank high on her priority list. She has had the pleasure of riding racing camels in Jordan, surfing in Hawaii, zip lining in the Costa Rican jungle, diving alongside Great White Sharks in South Africa, studying modern combat in the Arizona desert, and working with elephants in Botswana. Home is in Toronto, Canada, but she is often missing in action.

K.J. Howe is available for interviews and appearances along with presentations about kidnapping and travel safety. For media appearances, interviews, speaking engagements, and/or book review requests please contact mickey.creativeedge@gmail.com by email or by phone at 403.464.6925.

 

 

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CHAPTER ONE

500 feet above Kwale, Nigeria
November 1st
2:30 a.m.

Thea Paris knew the drill.

If the mission failed, no one would retrieve her body. She’d be left to rot in the jungle, unidentified and forgotten. And that wouldn’t do. She couldn’t miss her father’s 60th celebration.

Her gloved hand glided over her flak jacket and M4 with practiced ease. Night vision goggles, flares, grenades, extra magazines—all easy to access. The weapon had been tested, cleaned and oiled, ready to combat the humidity of the jungle. Pre-mission checks done.

The hypnotic purr of the resurrected Hughes 500P helicopter set the tone for the operation. Black, in every sense of the word. Sound, movement, light, all kept to a minimum. They were flying Nap-of-the-Earth; low, utilizing the terrain to stay below the radar.

As operational commander, she’d led her seven-man team through endless rehearsals, using a model of the targeted area. Now it was time for execution. Brown listened to Hendrix in his earbuds, his way of psyching up. Johansson stared into space, probably thinking about his pregnant wife who wasn’t happy he’d accepted this mission. Team A, following behind in the other gutted chopper, consisted of twin brothers Neil and Stewart—yep, born in Scotland—and a wizened former French Foreign Legionnaire named Jean-Luc who could outshoot them all. She’d handpicked each one from the pool of operatives at Quantum International Security.

Except Rifat Asker, her boss’ son.

Who was staring at her. They’d known each other since they’d been kids, as their fathers were best friends. Rif had serious combat skills, but they often locked horns on methods of execution. She traced the S-shaped scar on her right cheek, a permanent reminder of Rif clashing with her brother Nikos.

She pressed a special app button on her smartphone. The glucose monitor read 105. Batteries were fully charged. Perfect. Nothing screwed up a mission more than low blood sugar. She slipped her phone into the pocket of her fatigues beside her glucagon kit. Rif’s assessing gaze still focused on her. Did he suspect she had diabetes? She’d done her best to keep her illness under wraps. Competition was tough among this elite group, and she didn’t want anyone thinking she wasn’t up for the job.

The pilot’s voice crackled in her earpiece. “Three minutes to touchdown.”

“Roger that. We’re green here.”

The second helicopter followed somewhere behind them, but the stormy sky obliterated all evidence of its existence. She wiped her damp palms on her fatigues. Rain rattled the chopper’s fuselage, and the turbulence unsettled her stomach. Flying had never been her strong suit. The reduced visibility worked in their favor, but the cloying humidity and heat degraded the airtime and performance of the chopper. To compensate, they’d reduced their fuel load to stay as light as possible, but that left only a minimal buffer for problems.

Rif shifted to face Brown and Johansson. “Okay, boys, let’s grab this ‘Oil Eagle’.”

The hostage, John Sampson, an oil executive based in Texas, earned high six figures to visit remote drilling sites and increase their output. Sampson had two kids, and his wife taught third grade. He coached baseball every Thursday night, but he’d missed the last ten weeks because he’d been held captive in the swamp by MEND—Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta. Seemed like every terrorist group had some catchy acronym, like they’d hired PR firms to come up with them.

This Nigerian militant group wouldn’t budge from a three-million-dollar demand, and Sampson’s kidnapping insurance topped out at one mil. That left one option. Rescue. But one out of five was the success rate for extractions.

“One minute until touchdown,” the pilot warned.

She slipped on her night vision goggles and clutched the straps anchored to the cabin walls.

“You sure there’s no leak?” Black camo paint emphasized the tension in the lines around Rif’s eyes.

“Roger that.” She concentrated on the positives—always better than bleak thoughts when descending into hellfire. They should have the element of surprise, and she’d selected a crackerjack team. Every member would put his life on the line for the others, and their combined combat experience read like the Ivy League of special ops.

The pilot threaded the riverbed using the narrow view provided by the FLIR camera mounted near the skids. Flying into the thick jungle on a moonless night was far from optimal, but their intel was time sensitive. They had to get Sampson out tonight.

“Thirty seconds.” The pilot’s warning was like a shot of caffeine injected into her veins.

They’d arrived at a small clearing in the triple canopy jungle two miles from the rebel camp. A film of perspiration coated her back. Her body tingled. Alive, awake, adrenalized.

“Ten seconds.”

The pilot raised the bird’s nose, flaring to a hover, then settled onto the grass. She nodded to her team, and they hit the ground and rolled away from the chopper. Heat emanated from the rotorwash, as their transport rose up and away.

A moldy stench flooded her mouth and nose, the residual effect of endless rainy seasons. They huddled in the thick bush while the other Hughes dropped off Jean-Luc and the two Scots. She scanned the area. The choppers faded into the distance, their peculiar silhouettes showcasing the modifications for stealth.

Night sounds returned. Crickets chirping, water gurgling from the nearby river bed, the ominous roar of a hippo. She checked her GPS, signaled Rif, and entered the dense foliage. Forty-two minutes to execute the rescue, rendezvous with the helicopters, and get the hell out of here. She circumnavigated the heaviest brush, then froze.

A sound. Scuffling in the bushes. Her hands tightened on her M4. A sentry so close to their launch point?

She glanced over her shoulder. Rif’s large frame crouched two feet behind her. Brown and Johansson squatted beside him while Team A covered the rear. The shrubbery to their left rippled in the brisk breeze.

Silence. A mosquito implanted itself in her neck. She ignored the sharp sting.

A branch snapped. She flicked off the safety.

Crunching footsteps. A shrill cry.

She scanned right, left. Movement flashed in front of them at ground level.

Her finger hovered beside the trigger.

More footsteps.

A porcupine scurried across their ingress route, its quills in full attack mode.

She exhaled a long breath and gave Brown a half-smile. Dammit to hell. She’d almost shot the prickly creature, which would have blown their cover. Brown touched the rabbit’s foot around his neck and nodded. Good luck charms were an operational must. She always wore the St. Barbara silver pendant her father had given her on her twelfth birthday. It hadn’t let her down yet.

The two teams traversed the unfriendly terrain, minimizing any disturbance of the bush. Animal sounds punctuated the night, the rainfall a constant backdrop. She scouted the path, moving cautiously in the darkness. At the edge of the ridge, she paused. Faint flames from a fire kicked her heart into overdrive. The outskirts of the MEND camp lurked below.

She scoured the area. No sign of sentries along the bluff. She squeezed Rif’s arm, signaling him to lead Team A down the escarpment. They’d have a rough time of it. The earth was thick, muddy, slick.

Thea, Brown, and Johansson remained on the curved ridge. As commander, she needed a bird’s eye view. Brown and Johansson flanked her, positioned to counter any patrolling rebels.

She cloaked herself in shrubbery and settled into her hide. They’d mapped all the major landmarks from satellite images: the rebels’ weapons hut perched beside the acacia trees, a large shelter to the west sequestered in the jungle, and five small buildings rooted in the southwest quadrant. Outbuilding Tango held their hostage, a quarter mile away.

She waited and watched for what seemed to be an eternity, rain seeping into her shirt mixing with sweat, leaving her skin clammy and cold. Her mind went to the weirdest places during missions—she pictured this sodden landscape as an ideal backdrop for a waterproof mascara ad.

A tiny shiver darted across her shoulders. The world was preternaturally still, quiet—like death had already arrived. Twenty-five precious minutes had evaporated. Not good.

Precise and measured, she nestled her rifle into the overhang. Her breathing slowed. She scanned the area, pursing her lips, the familiar taste of camo grease comforting her.

A soft hiss whispered in her earpiece, then Rif came on. “Going for the Eagle.” Team A hovered on the outskirts of the camp.

Muffled laughter echoed in the distance. A few rebels huddled by the campfire, undoubtedly trying to ward off the dampness with some kai-kai, a local palm liquor.

“Six hostiles by the fire with AK-47s. You’re good to go.” Her voice was barely audible. They had to assume MEND had guards posted. Double-crosses dominated the rebels’ lives, making them especially paranoid.

Footsteps sounded nearby. She froze. Definitely a human cadence. The soft glow of a cigarette caught her eye. A rebel headed straight for her.

Time for cocktail hour. She eased her hand into her pack and pulled out the tranquilizer gun, her fingers brushing the ballistic syringe loaded with an immobilizing drug.

The rebel cleared his throat and continued his patrol, oblivious. She waited, keeping her breath even, her body motionless. He stepped into range. In one motion, she twisted her body, lifted the tranquilizer gun, and fired. The rebel grunted and slapped at his neck, as if swatting an insect. Seconds later, he slumped to the ground.

She scrambled over to him and poked him with the toe of her boot. No response. She crushed his cigarette into the wet earth and secured his hands and feet with plastic cuffs, slapping duct tape on his mouth. They should be long gone before he woke.

Thea’s skin was slick as the rain continued to batter the earth. She glanced at her stopwatch—another four and a half minutes had passed since Team A had entered the camp. Glancing to the southwest, she waited for Rif and his team to return with the hostage, anxious to hear the code “gusher,” meaning the hostage had been found.

Minutes ticked by, and nothing. Her nerves were tighter than the strings on a Stradivarius.

Her radio buzzed. Rif’s measured voice came through. “Dry well. The Eagle isn’t in Tango.”

She sucked in air. Intel from two hours ago had confirmed Sampson’s location in that outbuilding. He must’ve been moved.

“Abort.” It killed her to do this, but she couldn’t endanger her team members’ lives by ordering an exploration of the camp. There wasn’t enough time. They’d tried—and failed. The intel was bad. End of story. End of mission.

Silence greeted her. Dammit. Rif was a pro; he knew to respond to her command.

“Abort mission. Confirm.” She scanned the camp. A few more rebels joined the group around the fire.

Rif’s voice filled the silence. “Give me three minutes, over.”

No way. Three minutes was a lifetime. They needed to leave immediately to meet the choppers.

“I repeat, abort mission, over.”

Silence.

Her earpiece finally crackled. “Wait, out.” Operator speak for bugger off, I’m busy. Rif had spent years in Delta Force, but this wasn’t the U.S. Army. She was in charge of this mission, and he was defying orders.

Before she could respond, shots fired below at the base camp. No more hiding in the shadows. Time to bring it.

“Go active,” she commanded her team.

The men from the campfire scrambled for their weapons while Brown and Johansson blasted their M4s from their positions on the ridge. Figures dropped to the muddy earth. Bullets ripped through the night, and the scent of gunpowder flooded her nostrils.

“Brown, take your shot.” He was responsible for disabling the rebels’ ammo hut with the grenade launcher.

“Eyes shut,” Brown warned, protecting the team’s vision from the bright lights of the explosion since they all wore night vision goggles. Seconds later, the building erupted in a burst of crimson flames.

The sound of metal hitting rock sharpened her focus. Bullets showered the area around her. She pressed her chin into the mud, flattened her body, and returned fire.

A group of rebels stormed toward the cliffside, but the team’s NVGs made the figures easy targets. Blasts reverberated across the valley as muzzle flashes flared.

“Return to home base, over.” Her voice remained calm, but four-letter words ricocheted through her brain.

Where was Rif?

She spotted rebels at the base of the hill, the men cutting off Team A’s egress route. Dammit to hell. Well, “all in” was obviously the theme of the day.

“Cover me, Brown.” She jumped up from her hide and ran down the slippery hillside, her footing uncertain in the muck. Before the rebels could react to her presence, she pressed the trigger on her M4, rattling off round after round. She slammed in a fresh magazine and kept firing. Several men fell, others ran for cover. She continued the barrage. The egress route was clear. At least now Rif and the others had a chance of getting out.

Her radio buzzed. “Bravo four, hit.” Johansson’s voice was reedy. He’d been shot.

The northeast wasn’t covered, and Rif was AWOL. It was up to her to help Jo.

She pressed the talk button. “Coming, Jo. Brown, watch my back.”

Sprinting back up the hill, she traversed the ridge toward Johansson, mud sucking at her combat boots.

Fifty feet. She pushed harder.

Thirty.

Ten.

Bullets peppered the air around her. She dove behind the tree.

Her forearms bore the brunt of her landing, the pain rumbling up to her shoulders. She scrambled forward on her belly and checked Johansson. Blood seeped from his shoulder. His face was ashen, his eyes unfocused. She grabbed a quick clot from the first aid kit in Jo’s backpack and placed it on his wound. “I’m too scared to face your hormonal wife alone, so keep your shit together.”

He gave her a weak smile.

She secured the morphine syringe from his front pocket and injected him. He’d be lost in the hazy world of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon soon enough.

A group of rebels climbed the embankment. Brown maintained his disciplined fire, but couldn’t keep up. She aimed at the oncoming attackers and pressed the trigger. Several men fell. She shoved a fresh magazine into her M4.

Figures appeared in the mist, the heat of their bodies a hazy green through the night vision goggles. She counted them. Four. The tallest one, Rif, had a body slung over his right shoulder. Sampson. They’d found him, but she couldn’t tell if the hostage was dead or alive.

“Jo, Team A’s back. Can you walk?” Her breath was rapid and shallow.

“Hell, yes.”

Not sure she believed him, given he was on morphine. She was strong for a buck thirty lightweight, but couldn’t run while carrying over two hundred pounds. They’d be an easy mark for the rebels.

Rif’s team had reached the ridge.

“Stand up, Soldier.”

Johansson groaned. “My wife’s going to kill me.”

“No time for marriage counselling.” She helped him to his feet. He stumbled, unsteady in the mud. She wrapped his arm around her shoulder, supporting his weight. “Let’s get you home, Papa-To-Be.”

The faint sound of incoming rotorwash spurred her. They only had a few minutes to reach the clearing.

A burst of nearby gunfire startled her. She looked up, prepared to shoot, but she recognized Rif’s lanky frame running across the ridge. He joined them behind a massive tree. Rain had smeared the black camo paint, giving his face a sinister look. “Team A’s headed back to the clearing with Sampson.” He slung his rifle across his back and hoisted Johansson over his shoulder. “Cover me.”

She stormed after them, heart and rifle on full auto. The rebels dove for shelter as she and Brown laid down suppressing fire. She shouted at Brown. “Chopper!” All of her teammates needed to be on the Hughes before she would jump in.

The three of them sprinted for the clearing as another onslaught of bullets barraged the surrounding trees. She used a large mangrove for cover and returned fire, giving Rif time to help Johansson to safety.

She zigzagged across the open field. Her chopper rested in a valley a hundred meters away. The other Hughes holding Team A and Sampson lifted off into the rain. Bullets whipped by. A sharp sting flared in her arm as she plowed through the thick underbrush. She ignored the pain and ran faster.

She scrambled down the gorge and dove inside the chopper. Johansson, Brown, and Rif were already on board. She ripped off her night vision goggles and grabbed her headset.

“Go!” she yelled at the pilot.

“Hold tight.”

The winds gusted from the east, which meant they had to power up while heading straight into the barrels of the rebels’ AK-47s. The rotorblades strained as a group of armed men ran toward the Hughes. Come on, come on. Her fingernails dug into her palms. They plunged straight into live fire like a flying piñata.

She kept her gaze straight ahead, willing the chopper to reach 60 knots so they could turn. Seconds felt like hours as they finally accelerated and swerved away from the camp. She glanced into the cockpit. The pilot’s shirt was soaked.

Rif glanced at the blood on her sleeve. “You hit?”

“Just a graze.” She stared at the holes in the fuselage, realizing just how close a call it’d been—and how Rif changing the plan mid-mission could have cost her teammates their lives.

“Is Sampson okay?” After all this, she prayed the hostage was alive.

“He’s dehydrated and a bit roughed up, but he’ll make it.”

“Amen for that.” Saint Barbara had done her job again. Thea slumped against the fuselage, grateful the rebels didn’t have an RPG. She checked her phone. As expected, the intense stress had skyrocketed her blood sugar levels. But the insulin would counteract that soon enough.

She inhaled a deep breath. Another hostage safely returned by Quantum International Security. Looks like she’d make Papa’s party, after all.

 

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These Mean Streets Darkly

Liquid Cool Prequel

by Austin Dragon

Genre: Cyberpunk Detective Thriller

 

THESE MEAN STREETS, DARKLY the prequel to the cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool.

 

It’s a world of colossal skyscrapers. Hovercars fly above in the dark, rainy skies and gray people walk below on the grimy, hard streets in the “Neon Jungle.” Uber-governments and megacorporations fight for control of the supercity, but so does crime.

 

An average woman, Carol—hardworking and decent in every way— loses her daughter to the psycho Red Rabbit. Can Police Central find the girl in time—alive? And is it really a random, senseless kidnapping in the fifty-million-plus city?

 

There are a million victims and perpetrators in this High-Tech, Low-Life World. This is one of those stories…before we meet our private eye (and unlikely hero), Cruz, in the debut novel, Liquid Cool!

**Free on Amazon!**

 

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Liquid Cool

Liquid Cool Series Book 1

 

 

A Cyberpunk Thriller To Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat!

 

Liquid Cool is the action-packed (and funny), cyberpunk detective series.

 

How Much is One Life Worth?

 

In the sci-fi/cyberpunk detective series, author Austin Dragon shows why you never want to meet a cyborg in a dark alley. Liquid Cool is a cross between Blade Runner and the Maltese Falcon. There is plenty of gritty action, suspense, thrills, and even a few laughs.

 

It’s cyberpunk reimagined—an ever-rainy world of colossal skyscrapers, hovercars, flashy neon streets, and futuristic mechanization. Metropolis isn’t a bad place, but it isn’t a good one either. Uber-governments and megacorporations fight for control of the fifty-million-plus super-city, but so does crime.

 

We meet Cruz, our private eye (and unlikely hero), in this super-city with a million victims and perpetrators. Watch out for tech-tricksters, analog hustlers, and digital gangsters—psychos, samurais, and cyborgs aplenty. Visitors have a way of becoming permanent attractions.

 

Welcome to the high-tech, low-life world of Liquid Cool.

 

Get Your Copy of Liquid Cool Right Now.

 

**Free on Amazon!**

 

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Blade Gunner

Liquid Cool Book 2

 

The Cyberpunk Detective Thriller Blade Gunner Keeps You on the Edge of Your Seat!

 

Liquid Cool is the action-packed (and funny), debut cyberpunk detective series.

 

Who is Blade Gunner?

 

In the next installment of the sci-fi/cyberpunk detective series, author Austin Dragon shows you when two forces of evil want to kill each other—get the hell out of the way! The Liquid Cool Series is the sci-fi classic, Blade Runner meets the Old Hollywood classic, Maltese Falcon. There is plenty of gritty action, suspense, thrills, and even a few laughs.

 

It’s the cyberpunk novel reimagined—an ever-rainy world of colossal skyscrapers, hover-cars, flashy neon streets, and futuristic mechanization. Metropolis isn’t a bad place, but it isn’t a good one either. Uber-governments and mega-corporations fight for control of the fifty-million-plus super-city, but so does crime.

 

Sinister secret megacorporations. Savage Cyborg cults. And the Blade Gunner. How does Cruz, our private eye (and unlikely hero), solve this case—let alone survive? Off-worlders will do anything to stop the unknown man called Blade Gunner—even to blow up a supercity from space! The seedy spousal surveillance case doesn’t look so bad after all, but it’s too late to go back. You haven’t read a cyberpunk novel like this.

 

Welcome to the high-tech, low-life world of Liquid Cool.

 

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NeuroDancer

Liquid Cool Book 3

 

The Cyberpunk Detective Series Continues to Thrill in NeuroDancer!

 

Liquid Cool is the action-packed (and funny), debut cyberpunk detective series.

 

Has Cruz met his supervillain match in NeuroDancer?

 

Liquid Cool is a Blade Runner meets the Maltese Falcon. In the next installment of the sci-fi/cyberpunk detective series, author Austin Dragon goes from less frenetic cyberpunk to a smoother, cyber-noir with our hero, Cruz, matching wits with the sultry NeuroDancer. There is always plenty of gritty action, suspense, thrills, and even a few laughs.

 

It’s the cyberpunk novel reimagined—an ever-rainy world of colossal skyscrapers, hover-cars, flashy neon streets, and futuristic mechanization. Metropolis isn’t a bad place, but it isn’t a good one either. Uber-governments and mega-corporations fight for control of the fifty-million-plus super-city, but so does crime.

 

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful,” she said to him. He should have listened to his instincts when she strolled into his office to hire him. “I knew I wasn’t gonna touch this case with a 10-foot pole. It had danger written all over it, back and front.” But he did take the Case of the NeuroDancer. Is this the private eye story where the bad “guy” rides off into the sunset and the hero lies flat on his back waiting for the meat wagon to fly down in their hoverambulance.

 

Which is crazier, indeed: the criminal—or the client? Welcome to the high-tech, low-life world of Liquid Cool.

 

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The Electric Sheep Massacre

Liquid Cool Book 4

 

The Cyberpunk Detective Series Goes to London!

But in The Electric Sheep Massacre does our detective come back? And, is that before or after someone tries to kill him in the world of virtual reality?!

 

Liquid Cool is the action-packed (and funny), debut cyberpunk detective series.

Liquid Cool is Blade Runner meets the Maltese Falcon. In the next installment of the sci-fi/cyberpunk detective series, author Austin Dragon takes our private detective from the wild, concrete wastelands outside the supercity Metropolis across the Great Ocean to London Prime (that’s what they call it in the future) to the most dangerous place in the world—virtual reality, where all of a sudden people are killing and dying.

It’s the cyberpunk novel reimagined—an ever-rainy world of colossal skyscrapers, hovercars, flashy neon streets, and futuristic mechanization. Metropolis isn’t a bad place, but it isn’t a good one either. Uber-governments and megacorporations fight for control of the fifty-million-plus supercity, but so does crime.

Welcome to the high-tech, low-life world of Liquid Cool.
**.99 on Amazon!!**

 

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35231420-the-electric-sheep-massacre

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B072LQH2WG/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

Austin Dragon is author of the After Eden Series, including the After Eden: Tek-Fall mini-series, the classic Sleepy Hollow Horrors, and the cyberpunk detective series, Liquid Cool. He is a native New Yorker, but has called Los Angeles, California home for the last twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, political junkie, movie buff, campaign manager and staffer of presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, and dreamer.

He is currently working on new books and series in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror!

 

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Google+ * Pinterest * Amazon * Goodreads

 

http://viewAuthor.at/AustinDragon (Amazon)

https://www.goodreads.com/Adragon

http://www.austindragon.com/books-of-author-austin-dragon/

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AustinDragonhttps://twitter.com/Austin_Dragon

 

 

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A PARTICULAR DARKNESS by Robert Dunn
Genre: Thriller

Pub Date: 9/12/2017

Book Blurb:
From the author of A Living Grave comes a gripping police procedural featuring sheriff’s detective Katrina Williams as she exposes the dark underbelly of Appalachia . . .

Dredging up the Truth

 

Still recovering from tragedy and grieving a devastating loss, Iraq war veteran and sheriff’s detective Katrina Williams copes the only way she knows how—by immersing herself in work. A body’s just been pulled from the lake with a fish haul, but what seems like a straight-forward murder case over the poaching of paddlefish for domestic caviar quickly becomes murkier than the depths of the lake.

 

Soon a second body is found—an illegal Peruvian refugee woman linked to a charismatic tent revival preacher. But as Katrina tries to investigate the enigmatic evangelist, she is blocked by antagonistic FBI agents and Army CID personnel. When more young female refu-gees disappear, she must partner with deputy Billy Blevins, who stirs mixed feelings in her, to connect the lake murder to the refugees. Katrina is no stranger to darkness, but cold-blooded conspirators plan to make sure she’ll never again see the light of day . . .

 

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/?field-keywords=9781601838094
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/9781601838094
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Apple: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/isbn9781601838094?uo=8

 Author Bio:
Robert Dunn is the author of the novels The Red Highway, The Dead Ground, and Behind the Darkness. He can be found online at robertdunnauthor.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @WritingDead.

Author Links:
Website: http://robertdunnauthor.blogspot.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WritingDead

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RobertEDunnAuthor/

 

 


 

 

The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan

by Steve Wiley

Genre: Fantasy

About the Book

“Intelligent, Enchanting, Playful”   ~  Publishers Weekly

 

Warning: Content may be deemed offensive by Polish Indians, vice presidents of something, my wife, Finbar Finnegan’s wife, LinkedIn, little kids who think this book is for little kids, Thumbelina, Brown Liners, mermaids, and the wind.

 

Growing up and getting trapped in adult life is something that most people eventually face, but while reading The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan, a charming and magical book by Steve Wiley, it is almost possible to forget about the inexorable progress of time. With a main character who is teetering on the edge of forgetting about magic forever, this novel is a touching and thought-provoking ride through nostalgia, memory and the promises of youth. Wiley’s sharp, tongue-in-cheek style of writing makes the pages fly and the Chicago skyline makes a stunning backdrop for this mystical romp.

In Chicago, a secret L train runs through the mythical East Side of the city. On that train, you’ll find a house-cat conductor, an alcoholic elf, a queen of the last city farm, the most curious wind, and an exceptional girl by the name of Francesca Finnegan.

When we first encounter Richard K. Lyons, he is a man who has long forgotten the one night, when he was still a boy called Rich, when Francesca invited him aboard the secret L for an adventure through the East Side. The night was a mad epic, complete with gravity-defying first kisses, mermaid overdoses, and princess rescues. Unfortunately for Rich, the night ended like one of those elusive dreams forgotten the moment you wake. Now, Rich is all grown up and out of childish adventures, an adult whose life is on the verge of ruin. It will take the rediscovery of his exploits with Francesca, and a reacquaintance with the boy he once was, to save him.

 

Half of the proceeds from this book are donated to Chicago Public Schools.  For more information, visit fairytalechicago.com.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32854542-the-fairytale-chicago-of-francesca-finnegan?ac=1&from_search=true

https://www.amazon.com/Fairytale-Chicago-Francesca-Finnegan-ebook/dp/B01N0TBFIB/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

 

About the Author

Steve is a father, husband, uncle, brother, friend, and purveyor of fairy stories. He grew up in and around Chicagoland, where he still lives with his wife and two kids. He has been published in an array of strange and serious places, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., to Crannóg magazine in Galway, Ireland. The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan is his first book. He has an undergraduate degree in something he has forgotten from Illinois State University and a graduate degree in something equally forgotten from DePaul University. Steve once passionately kissed a bronze seahorse in the middle of Buckingham Fountain. Seriously, he did.

 

http://www.fairytalechicago.com

http://www.facebook.com/fairytalechicago/

https://www.instagram.com/thefairytalechicago/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16063901.Steve_Wiley

https://www.amazon.com/Steve-Wiley/e/B01N3QGHUZ/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Excerpt

Ch. 1 Fairyism

 

There is magic in the city.

When Rich Lyons was a little boy, he learned of the magic from an old, cockeyed, Captain Hook–looking magician. The old man sat alone at a table for two outside a neighborhood bar every summer day, all day, always with a glass of twinkling whiskey. He said the twinkle had once been in his eye, but had blown out one windy day and splashed right into the whiskey. Rich liked how the twinkle twinkled in the whiskey. He liked it so much, he asked the old man if he could have it. The man told Rich he didn’t need it, because he already had a twinkle of his own, and besides, that particular twinkling whiskey tasted like shit, worse than Malört1, if that’s possible.

“You be careful,” the old man warned, “because in the city of wind, a twinkle may blow out. The wind here, it twirls and sings like a music-box ballerina. It plays tricks and tells stories like an old-man magician. Like me, like this …”

And so, the old man performed tricks for Rich and regaled him with city folklore and fantasy. He said the Great Chicago Fire was arson, started by a fire-breathing dragon from the Fulton River District who was fed up with the cold winters. He said the Chicago River started flowing backward when a giant sea serpent sneezed so powerfully, it changed the direction of the current. He said the sky was purple (not black) above the city because a wicked witch had stolen all the black for her cats and bats and witch hats.

Rich’s favorite story was one about the L trains, and how each had come to be named for a color. The old man said the colors arrived when the first skyscrapers did. Before then, all the trains were the same dull brown. On the day the first skyscraper went up, a rainbow, unused to encountering buildings so high in the sky, accidentally crashed into it. When the rainbow crashed, each of its individual colors went splattering in all directions. Some landed on the L trains and stained them. The only train to miss a color was the Brown Line, because, the old man said, it was offline for repairs.

The old man also said there was one line, a secret line, that got a splash of lavender.

One day, Rich asked the old man if he could use his magic to tell fortunes. The old man said, well, hell, of course he could, it was a matter of simple city magic. Rich asked if he might hear his own fortune. He wanted to know what he would be when he grew up.

The old man told Rich there wasn’t much he wouldn’t be when he grew up. He would be a father, a husband, an uncle, a brother, a friend. He would be a ghost in the graveyard. He would be a vice president of something. He would be a pisser in the pancake batter. He would be a reveler-adventurer. He would be a hider and seeker. He would be a rocket man. A businessman.

And, he would be a rich man.

Disgusting alcoholic spirit, occupied by the evil spirit of a bootlegger, who was bootlegged himself. Available only in Chicago.

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Sponsored by JKS Communications

http://www.jkscommunications.com/

 

Hosted by Silver Dagger Book Tours

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Treacherous Deceit

 

Book blog tour March 15, April 15

 

 

Treacherous Deceit
by Zola Blue  Goodreads
Genre: Action-Adventure, Romance
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Summary

In the Yukon, nothing is more important than family. This is what Mona must face when her Grandfather, who rescued her from death as a child and raised her as his own, tells her she must return to the Yukon from her New York apartment to go into the mountains and search for an ancient city of gold that is her legacy.

Chief Shaw, her Grandfather, has become aware of the mystical gold when honeymooners brought a piece by his diner and showed it to him. Convinced now that the ancient city exists he sends his team on ATV’s to find it; his adopted son Jonas to lead them the others including his cherished granddaughter.

Jonas is happy to lead the expedition while planning on somehow getting Mona alone. His plan goes astray when they are forced to team with four more including Bryan, the geologist who immediately falls for Mona and becomes a huge interference. The team overcome severe obstacles and setbacks along the way but make it to the golden city through water filled caves.

Now the truth hurts when they discover that the long standing legend of not being able to take the gold is true. The gold sickens their minds, and the exposure to the metal, Bryan suspected, made them lose all reason and try escaping with the forbidden gold. Mona and her new hero Bryan fight together to save each other from Jonas while leaving the gold behind forever as they try to escape flooding caverns.

Experience greed, murder and an undying love as a woman, protected by her wolf, find love for the first time.

https://www.amazon.com/Treacherous-Deceit-Zola-Blue/dp/1520448635/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487812037&sr=8-1&keywords=treacherous+deceit

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/681776

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/treacherous-deceit-zola-blue/1125148482?ean=2940153853659

http://www.lulu.com/shop/zola-blue/treacherous-deceit/ebook/product-23069755.html

 

EXCERPT

Tricks Upon the Mind

After the meal they rested, and at least for now everyone appeared calm. Mona was glad for that. While they sat around a small fire burning in the hibachi, an enchantment she could not explain had seized her. “This area has always been known for its abundance of caves and caverns. That is why my people settled here in the first place my Gee-pa told me; the grottos were great protection and shelter for the women and children,” she said, tranquility and peace with her surroundings satiated her.

“Yes, I read that too,” Bryan replied. “I am assuming these caverns were once safe havens in the rock cliffs. They said the village buried itself beneath the ground when it disappeared.”

“Yes, we were cliff dwellers,” she said smiling.

Bryan smiled back at her, reached over, and took her hand in his; she moved closer to him.

“What are cliff dwellers?” asked Sean.

“Well, my Gee-pa told me, in the village of Goldum all the houses were built within the cliffs; the only way out was through passages built within the mountains,” she answered.

“Oh I bet that was fun to live in,” giggled Tracy, she felt lightheaded and blithe; she leaned her head against Willie’s shoulder.

“Oh this is very exciting I am sure,” Willie said, his words reeking with sarcasm, “but I didn’t come all this way for a history lesson. Did he tell you how much gold was there?”

“That what I want to know too Willie,” Sean laughed.

“Oh Willie, you are so funny,” Tracy giggled playfully throwing her arms around his neck. “It does not hurt to know about the mountains, after all, we are beneath them.”

“Anything for you baby,” Willie replied and kissed Tracy on the nose. “Anyone want a drink?” Willie asked holding up a bottle of brown Bacardi rum.

“I do,” answered Sean.

The blue haze surrounding the stalactites hanging from the ceiling gave him migraines. The intimacy of the room had a different reality and made Jonas feel confined; his only point of sanity was the sound of rushing water running through the river behind him. The mugginess of the cavern, accompanied by the feeling of being trapped and the presence of more people than he was accustomed to, created an uneasiness within him. Jonas’ recluse lifestyle never afforded him much socialization with others, and except for the occasional chat with his prey, and the dinners at Hattie’s, he never spent time listening to others. Jonas made it a point to isolate himself; he found people, and their pathetic ways uninteresting and superfluous.

The redhead’s playful giggling taunts and the girly man’s unintelligible slang made no sense to Jonas; they seemed to speak in a language he did not understand. For her obnoxious silliness all Jonas could think of was stuffing her mouth with one of the ball gags he kept in his workroom. Jonas rarely gave his prey the ability to communicate. He glared scornfully at Mona then Bryan; watching the two of them chat like old friends made him angry.

Jonas rubbed his temples with the tips of his fingers trying to ease the thudding within his head; breathing in deeply, the rich smell of metal excited his senses, relaxing him. Jonas gave in to the pull of the cavern’s life force. The intoxicating smell electrified him and Jonas breathed in a second time, immediately experiencing a euphoric intoxication within his mind, giving him a high beyond any he had ever experienced from drugs or his sexual games. Its metallic aroma eased his headache and he said, “Pass that bottle over here Willie.” Willie threw the bottle to him and Jonas poured a generous amount into his cold coffee and took a big gulp. The flavor made his head swell and gave him a momentary rush. “Damn that’s rough,” he commented.

Willie and Sean laughed.

“Yeah, Gi-I-Joe, that stuff ain’t for no titty slurpers,” Sean cried out; chuckling hysterically. He pushed his fist toward Willie and his buddy fist bumped him back.

Willie saw the bewildered look on Jonas’ face and realized the man did not understand Sean. He laughed and said, “Sean means it’s not for babies.”

“What, you don’t know what that means? You are lame Jonas,” Sean whooped.

Jonas ignored the young man and allowed the rum and the cavern’s natural attributes to mellow him. As if he were dreaming, Jonas watched the flames blazing into the heavens leaking out through the open roof. Jonas admired the long spirals of red and blue flame dancing upward releasing smoldering smoky wisps into the darkness. The sky was full of twinkling stars and the bright spots created a silvery shimmer against its thick blackness.

Darkness filled the cave and shadowed the rest of the group, hiding them from his sight. The flames still roaring, Jonas gazed as if hypnotized into the burning fire; he watched as Mona walked into the midst of the flames and stopped. The hostile flames licked at her beautiful golden brown body. She stood still, her hands clasped before her submissively. She was illuminated before him like a seductive temptress. Immune from the heat of the fire, her lovely body did not burn or scorch. Most of her skin was exposed and she wore a golden bustier with dangling tassels. Her nipples stuck out through the glittery material and each held golden rings. Mona moved towards him, her advances beguiling, each purposeful sway in her hips enticed him to leer greedily at her, inspecting every curve of her shapely body. Tassels across the top of her golden G-string panties swung back and forth allowing him to see the curves of her shapely thighs and he felt himself growing excited.

Her long black hair spun around her pirouetting body, alluring him further and intensifying his longing to touch her. Jonas grew weak as she moved, his body beyond desiring her now. Calling out to him, she urged him forward with her finger, indicating she was offering herself to him. His lust for her overwhelming him, Jonas jumped from the foldout chair. The chair toppled over, spilling his drink on the ground. Mona reached out for him, her small hands grabbing his. She pulled him forward and pressed her body against him. Jonas reached for her breasts and fondled them roughly, pulling at the rings in her nipples. Suddenly her movements grew wild and exhilarating. She pirouetted around him like a feral cat, throwing her legs and arms around his body. She bounded onto his waist, holding his body between her legs while clawing passionately at his chest. Jonas grabbed her silky hair and forced her to kiss him as he breathed in her metallic scent. Mona forcefully shoved him away from her, stepped back and took off her top exposing her small, firm breasts. Jonas reached for them and the rings turned into eyes where her nipples should have been. They winked at him. Come take us, Jonas, the eyes beckoned to him.

Willie had noticed Jonas behaving weirdly but when he got up and walked toward the fire with his eyes wide open and arms out as if he were embracing someone, he asked, “What’s going on Jonas?”

Jonas did not answer.

“Jonas, you alright?” Willie asked again.

Sean began to snicker and laughed, “Willie he’s had too much rum.”

Tracy giggled with him.

Jonas stepped forward. Mona waited for him; she wanted him, all this time she had wanted him too. She smiled at him, opening her arms to receive his embrace and the small eyes on her breasts looked at him.

“Stop what are you doing man.” Willie held on to Jonas, snatching him back just as he stepped into the open flames and knocked over the small grill.

Willie’s voice resonated within his head, Mona disappeared, floating away, her beautiful brown body fading into the darkness. Momentarily, Jonas stared into the face of the little girl he had murdered long ago. Screaming, he leaped backward and the confused faces of the group materialized around him. Realizing the illusion he felt disturbed and bewildered.

“What’s wrong Jonas?” asked Wayne.

Jonas could only assume he must have fallen asleep. “I must have fallen asleep and had a nightmare, I better not have any more to drink,” he chuckled, shrugging off their concern as he picked his chair up and sat back down.

“Yeah I had a dream last night too,” Sean said. “I was like in Las Vegas; they treated me like a king, all the VIP services, free champagne and everything. Taylor Swift gave me a free lap dance, and all the hot babes were around me wanting a piece of me.”

“What? I want that dream,” chuckled Willie.

“I don’t think so Willie.” Tracy slapped him on the shoulder, teasingly.

“I was only joking babe, you know you got me all to yourself,” he chuckled, embracing Tracy in his arms.

“Hey, I am not saying we are going to find it, but let me just waste some time here. What would everyone buy with their gold?” Willie asked the others. He could see Mona glaring at him and wondered what her problem was. They had helped the bitch get down there and now she was going to create problems for herself because of her selfishness.

“The gold goes to the village,” remarked Mona indifferently, “so there is no reason to speak of useless dreams.”

“I know that. You have already said the gold belongs to ‘your people’,” Willie smirked and continued, “but just humor me for a moment; it gives us something to talk about.”

“I am going to get me a Maserati, with custom leather seats and the crown on the head rest,” Sean said laughing, “blue with all the extras.”

“A blue car; blue is for babies Sean,” giggled Tracy.

“Shut up Pipi, I bet you will get a dog or something stupid like that,” laughed Sean.

“No I would not get a dog,” Tracy replied, “I would get a show stallion. A black mare with white eyes, and a long white mane and tail.”

Sean laughed at Tracy, only she would want a horse, but he liked horses. “You’re alright Tracy,” Sean told her.

The Gold Claims Even the Stoutest as Victims

The cavern had calming properties for Bryan. It stimulated his senses and increased his awareness. Mona was writing in a small notebook she carried, probably taking notes for her next best seller, Bryan presumed. The notion that she liked him, and they could possibly have a relationship elicited emotions unfamiliar to him. He wanted to protect her, keep her happy and comfortable on the journey. Bryan imagined one day the two of them could explore their love for each other while receiving notoriety for the discovery of the village. The wealth of the gold was nothing in comparison to the pure paragon of finding the lost village. Only he appreciated the quest the party undertook; finding the lost village would uncover a civilization long lost, providing an abundance of hidden knowledge, and he would be the one to find it.

Bryan drifted off into his thoughts, conjuring up the life he envisioned finding the village would impart to him. The image growing in his mind, Bryan’s heart beat quickly as he absorbed himself in the hallucination. He stood outside the door of the long black limousine, waiting for Mona to step out while the driver opened the door for her. Dressed in formal attire, he held his hand out to her to assist her. Her soft, delicate hand was smooth in his hands, and her long pink nails were perfectly manicured for the special event. As always, and especially since their marriage, she was beautiful. Her black hair was combed into a stylish updo with bangs falling delicately into her lovely face and highlighting her beautiful brown eyes. She smiled at him, her lips turned slightly upward. Even from a distance she could make him desire her. Bryan helped her out of the car and when she drew nearer he breathed in her tart, metallic perfume.

Bryan pulled her body close to his and the embrace made his heart beat faster. Her lovely blue gown hugged her curved body wondrously and his hands travelled along the silky smooth material.

The geological community, friends, and family hailed him, shaking his hand and congratulating him as he and Mona strolled through the packed ballroom towards the table of honor. His mother and her new husband approached him. Bryan’s mom smiled at him and he saw her pride radiating across her beautiful face. The bright lights in the banquet room shimmered down upon his mother, removing the wrinkles from her aging body and making her just as beautiful as she was when he was a child. Her dark brown hair, free of gray now, glimmered softly. Bryan kissed his mother’s cheek softly; her perfume smelled of lavender with a hint of metal, reminding him of the days of his youth, when she grew lavender plants in pots around the house. Harold, her husband, shook his hand proudly, and as if Bryan were his own son, pulled him forward into a big bear hug.

An elegant table covered in a golden tablecloth was set for six and contained plates of gold. The silverware was wrapped in white silk napkins and tall crystal stem glasses sparkled under the bright lights. A centerpiece of white lilies and yellow daffodils caught his attention; his favorite flowers. A black Cherrywood table marker, Bryan Lawless Party etched across a gold plaque attached to it, welcomed him. Mona, his mother and her husband, Tracy, and some new guy she had just met cheered as he sat down.

The six-course meal included lobster briquettes, prime rib, and a creamy ice cream soufflé. The evening grew better as the night went on. Mona held his hand and fed him her unwanted desert spiritedly.

“Bryan, can you please come up here,” the director of the International Geological Society called to him.

Mona kissed him and her lips tasted like metal. “I love you, Bryan,” she whispered letting his hand go.

Bryan walked onto the stage and stood behind the podium looking at the clapping audience under the bright lights of the golden chandeliers.

“Well I think spending money on anything but chicks and four-bangers is just stupid,” Sean cried out.

The shouts awakened Bryan from his dream. Had he fallen asleep? He flinched. The skin on the back of his neck crawled as an eerie feeling developed within him. “Was I asleep?” he asked himself and the odor of metal filled his nostrils. “None of them understand, only you,” the voice told him.

Mona was looking at him. “There you are, I thought I lost you for a moment,” she grinned at him, “you were lost in your thoughts.”

“I am sorry,” he told her, embarrassment flooding over him.

“Were they about me?” Mona asked touching his hand gently.

Startled by the dream and its vivid images, he questioned their current reality. It did not feel like a dream, so he must have been hallucinating. Bryan needed to make sure this Mona was not some extension of the vivid hallucination. “Possibly,” he said and reached for her hand and held it to make sure she was real.

“So Willie what will you buy with the gold?” Tracy asked him, grabbing his hand in hers, “and you better be nice,” she instructed.

Willie had dreamed about an upscale carwash gentleman’s club with only the hottest babes to serve his clientele and wash their Bentleys, Mercedes or Jaguars topless. He would never tell Tracy about this dream, though if things worked out between the two of them, and she took good care of him, he’d eventually let her know. Until then only he and Sean had shared the dream. The gold they were going to find, was going to make his dream come true. “If I could get the gold,” Willie emphasized, “I would buy me a yacht. I want one of those big suckers like 100 feet long. It would be like a world on the water that belongs to me.”

Sean stuck his fist out at Willie, and the two of them knuckled butted each other.

Willie continued, “It would have three kinds of restaurants—Mexican, Chinese, and soul food—and a casino, dancing, singing. Everything.” His mood ecstatic his arms moved through the air and he spoke with his hands as he shared his elaborate fantasy. “Mmmmm, soul food, I have not had that for years.”

Tracy giggled, “I must try it.”

“You will love it baby girl,” he told her. “Anyway, it’s gonna have three pools, tennis court, golf course, and everything I can think about putting in it!”

“Awesome Willie, make sure you don’t forget all the hot babes laying around in bikinis!” Sean exclaimed. “It’s a big boat, yeah a big boat.”

“Yeah that’s right,” Willie replied and thoughts of gorgeous women laying before him filled his mind.

Tracy nudged him.

“Ah no, I mean, only Tracy laying out on the deck of it in a teenee wenee bikini,” he grinned.

“Okay, then Tracy can be up front and the other hot girls in the back for me,” Sean exclaimed laughing hysterically.

“Sean,” said Tracy laughing, she gave him the finger.

“Damn straight, and keep the finger away from me;” Sean pushed his hand against her finger, hiding it from his view. He saw Mona staring at him and her cold gaze made him freeze. “She thinks you are stupid,” a voice told him. She was like other people he hated who felt the world should revolve around them. “So what would you buy if we get the gold Dora?” he asked laughing.

Jonas and Willie chuckled.

“My name is not Dora. Dora is Latino and I am First Nations so at least get your nationalities correct,” smirked Mona. “But to answer your question, I don’t believe in dreams or ‘what ifs’, they are for mindless people that can’t do anything,” Mona replied, growing weary of Sean’s persistent belittling.

“Are you calling me brainless?” asked Sean.

“No, I called you mindless,” Mona replied.

“Hey you think you are better than us,” Sean yelled back angrily. She had watched him and Willie with her mocking stare all night, now she was calling him stupid in front of everyone. “The bitch is laughing at you,” the voice told him. Laughter grew within Sean’s head. “She is laughing at you,” the voice kept repeating. Sean thought he saw a grin on her face and remembered the arrow she almost hit him with. His head starting to pound and fury enveloped him. He hurled himself from his seat and cried out, “You stop laughing at me.”

“No one is laughing at your Sean,” Bryan told him. “Calm down.”

If Bryan wanted to protect her, Sean was all right with that as well. Punching him would satisfy him as much as hitting the woman. “Bryan, what are you going to do?” Sean said weaving about on his toes and punching at the air with his fists, mocking Bryan. The geologist was weak, and Sean was sure he could hurt him with one punch.

Bryan saw Sean approaching and acting erratically. Releasing Mona’s hand he stood in front of her. “Sit down Sean, and calm down,” he commanded.

“You make me sit down,” Sean cried out. He stormed over to Bryan and pushed him backward. The palms of his hand hurt from a fist balled up so tightly his fingernails dug into the already raw skin. “You make me Bryan, you make me sit.”

“Be careful Bryan!” Mona exclaimed and moved out of the way so she would not be pummeled during the young man’s fit.

“Sean I don’t want to hurt you. Back off,” Bryan said trying to reason with him.

It was clear Sean was not listening. His listless, vacant eyes were glassy like he was in some type of daze. Blue veins popped out over Sean’s face and arms and he began to growl at Bryan. “Grrrrr, grrrr, fight me, Bryan,” Sean mocked. Stepping back from Bryan he started to bounce on his toes like a boxer. “I am like a Doberman Pincher, quick and agile and I am gonna pounce on you, Bryan. Growl,” Sean continued.

“More like a Chihuahua,” Jonas chuckled.

“You shut up, this is between Bryan and me,” Sean growled.

Blood was dripping from his palms and talking was not going to stop Sean this time, Bryan realized, nevertheless he was not going to let him bhurt Mona.

“Sean sit down,” Tracy screamed loudly and her voice echoed through the cavern. Tracy held on to Willie as she watched Sean bounce around.

“Make me, make me,” he cried continuing to taunt Bryan.

“Sean stop,” Tracy screamed again, “stop Sean don’t.”

Willie pulled her closer to him and whispered, “It will be okay babe girl. Sean just needs to get rid of some of his energy.” Willie smiled at her.

Bryan stepped up to Sean, grabbed him by the shoulders before he could react, spun him around and kicked his feet from beneath him. Sean fell face down onto the ground and Bryan held his arms behind his back and pushed Sean’s face into the mossy ground. Sean struggled to free himself.

“Get off me Bryan,” Sean’s muffled voice cried out.

His knee, now securely holding Sean’s arms in place behind his back, Bryan wrapped his arm around the young man’s neck and pulled his head backward, choking him. Gurgling sounds came from his throat, as he struggled, but Bryan ignored Sean’s suffering and squeezed harder against his neck.

The pressure from Bryan’s arm around his neck made it hard to breathe. “I can’t brea…,” Sean gurgled.

“I won’t let you up until you calm down,” Bryan said. Sean’s Adam’s apple moved against his arm, and his gurgles grew desperate while a reddish tint developed over his face.

“Bryan let him go,” Mona said. Taking him by the arms, she pulled at him.

Bryan felt Mona trying to lift him off Sean and let go. He glared down at Sean, watching him gasp for air. Bryan backed away from him, while Willie helped Sean to stand.

“You tried to kill me,” Sean wheezed; he coughed trying to catch his breath.

“I didn’t try to kill you. If you remember correctly, you attacked me,” Bryan said and sat down, his body suddenly growing weary. He was also afraid of himself as he had not wanted to let Sean go until he stopped moving. Mona placed her hand on his shoulder and he held it with his own.

“That’s right Sean started it,” agreed Mona.

“You shut up,” Sean cried back at Mona.

Bryan exhaled, releasing the tension his body. “Sean, I think everyone has had enough of you,” he told him.

“Bryan you tried to kill me, I won’t forget that,” Sean scowled and angrily paced the ground near the side of the cavern.

“Sean,” Willie reached out to grab Sean’s shoulder and tried to settle him down.

Sean snatched away from him and continued pacing angrily.

“Sean,” he called loudly but his friend ignored him.

“I am not going to be able to rest with him like that,” Mona cried out.

Sean stopped his pacing and yelled at Mona furiously, “You shut up, I told you.”

“I am scared,” Tracy cried out, tears falling from her face. She wrapped her arms around herself and stood against the back wall.

“We should tie him up,” Wayne told them.

“I agree,” remarked Jonas, “with him acting like that, who knows what he will do.”

“No,” Tracy murmured.

“I thought you were scared?” Jonas asked, “we need to tie him up to keep everybody safe, as well as to keep him from hurting his self.”

Sean was not about to allow them to tie him down. As the First Nations’ raced toward him, he darted throughout the cave he tried avoiding capture. As if playing tag with Jonas and Wayne, he moved from side to side and chuckled at the two of them as his thin, nimble body dodged their outstretched arms. Sean realized he had the upper edge; the two of them were too slow and he was Superman. Confidence satiating within him, Sean moved freely around the cavern until Bryan stuck out his foot and he stumbled to the ground. Before he could stand completely, Wayne had grabbed him in a tight bear grip and whisked Sean off his feet. Wayne’s massive arms encircled Sean’s chest and he felt like a child struggling in the big man’s arms.

“Help me, Willie,” Sean cried out struggling as Wayne held him suspended above the ground. Willie glared crossly at him, his arms folded and Sean realized Willie was not going to help. “Let me go,” he cried loudly.

“Drop him, Wayne, let’s tie him up,” smirked Jonas.

Wayne put Sean on the ground and held his arms behind him. Sean struggled to free himself, but he could not; Wayne constrained his face against the mossy ground and he breathed in the smell of metal. “Calm down, you will get your chance,” the voice reassured Sean and finally he gave in and allowed Wayne and Jonas to tie him up.

Later that night, Willie went to speak to Sean. His buddy had been acting strangely and this latest episode was just weird, even compared to Sean’s natural exasperating behavior. He gazed down and was mumbling to himself when Willie approached him. “Hey buddy what got into you; did you lose your mind?” Willie scolded Sean. Helping him against the others right now, meant him becoming an outcast as well, and he was not about to have that. Sean had brought this on himself.

“No,” replied Sean.

“I told you not to start anything, didn’t I?” Willie reprimanded him.

“Yep,” answered Sean; he’d upset Willie and did not mean to, however he did not feel like talking. “I am good, just leave me alone Willie.”

“You sure you’re good?” Willie asked punching Sean in the shoulder with his fist genially. “You know it’s just you and me, right?”

“Ya I know,” answered Sean.

“Alright I am going back over there,” Willie said to Sean walking off.

Sean watched Willie walk over and sit next to Tracy. They were all over there laughing at him; the gold was right, he was alone.

The Gold Promises Love

After all the excitement died down, and Sean fell asleep in the corner, Mona grew tired. All the hiking, the fights and long days were taking their toll on her; she found a place near the opposite wall from Sean, and laid down to get some rest.

In her sleeping bag, she snuggled herself in the thick quilted bag on top of the mossy ground. The thick bushy moss was soft and Mona felt as if she were floating when she closed her eyes, and the serene tranquility, shattered by the fight, was returning. She thought of Wolfdog; she missed him, but it was not possible for him to travel any further. Mona knew when he found the ATVs he would return home or wander the woods waiting for her to return.

Bryan was here now; he was prepared to fight Sean to protect her and this pleased her immensely. She was also sure Bryan had released his grip on Sean because she’d asked him to. Sean’s bulging eyes had scared her and it did seem as if Bryan had tried to kill him. She didn’t blame him of course, but she did not want him to do something he would regret later as he was a good man. Mona blushed as she thought about how he made her feel. Bryan promised her he would make sure Sean remained tied up so she had a peaceful sleep; with him around, she felt secure, even with Jonas around. Thinking of Bryan, Mona closed her eyes.

The darkness of the cavern eliminated everything but his image as he approached her. Mona sat up and gazed at Bryan as he walked over to her. His brown hair was mussed and sweat beaded on his forehead. She wondered what had caused this upheaval in his appearance. Bryan’s disheveled appearance made her heart beat faster. Reaching down, he took her hand and lifted her out of the sleeping bag. Mona ran her fingers through the sparse brown hairs on his shirtless chest. He pulled her close to him, embracing her. His lips pressed against hers and as he kissed her passionately, a longing built within her to make love to him. Slipping out of her night shirt, she looked down as it fluttered down to the mossy floor of the cavern. Naked and unashamed she smiled as Bryan gazed at her.

“You are beautiful,” Bryan whispered to her.

Moments later, pulling her back into his strong arms, his hand stroked her body. Gently nudging her down, she lay atop the soft fibers, and Bryan laid on top of her; his soft lips did not release her from their kiss and he caressed her passionately while she nibbled on his bottom lip. Bryan’s kisses tasted of metal.

Jonas’ cackles awakened Mona. She opened her eyes and the blue glow from the ceiling exposed the lighted cavern, removing the darkness she saw earlier. Still snugly tucked in the sleeping bag, her arms cuddling her body, she continued to feel Bryan’s caresses. Mona sat up looking for Bryan and observed him sitting around the fire talking with Jonas and Wayne. An awareness seeped into her conscious and she was surprised to find she was fully dressed and it was all a dream. “It felt so real,” Mona told herself giggling as mortification flooded her because of the sensuality of the dream and its vivid impressions. Mona rolled over onto her side and stared at the cave’s wall, hoping she could fall asleep again.

 mar 15- kickoff at The Silver Dagger Scriptorium

mar 16- Fabulous and Brunette

mar 17- US Brazil Book Review

mar 20- The Book Town

mar 20- CGB Blog Tours

mar 21- Sylv.Net

mar 22- Bound 2 Escape

mar 22- Yah Gotta Read This

mar 23- Books Dreams Life

mar 23- MommaBear’s Book Blog

mar 24- The Avid Reader

mar 24- Lisa- Queen of Random

mar 27- Adventures Thru Wonderland – REVIEW

mar 27- The Authors Blog

mar 28- Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews

mar 28- The Bookworm Chronicles

mar 29- Julayn Adams Books and Reviews

mar 29- Teatime and Books

mar 30- Turning Another Page

mar 30- Tales of a WannaBe Superhero Mom

mar 31- A Mama’s Corner of the World

mar 31- Jazzy Book Reviews

apr 3- The Reading Spot

apr 3- Just A Little R&R

apr 4- Sapphyria’s Book Reviews

apr 4- Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer

Apr 5- Mello & June

apr 5- Independant Books – REVIEW

apr 6- Breaking Genre

apr 6- Stormy Nights Reviewing and Bloggin

apr 7- The Cheshire Cat’s Looking Glass

apr 7- Angels With Attitudes Book Reviews

apr 10- Shh, I Am Reading

apr 10- Traci Hayden

apr 11- SnoopyDoo’s Book Reviews

apr 12- Anna Del C Dye

apr 12- Sourpuss Reviews

Apr 13- CelticLady’s Reviews

Apr 14- Read Day and Night Blog – REVIEW

 

 

 

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