#ReleaseBlitz “A Sinful Empire: A Prequel” by Eva Charles

Title: A Sinful Empire: A Prequel
Series: A Sinful Empire Trilogy
Author: Eva Charles
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Dark Billionaire Romance
Release Date: September 17, 2021
Cover Design: RBA Designs/Letitia Hasser
Some girls grow up in castles with fortresses to protect them from monsters.
Other girls grow up in castles with fortresses to protect the monsters.
I am both these girls.

Antonio Huntsman comes to call soon after my father dies.
Unannounced, unapologetic, and unmistakably in charge.
With a dangerous gaze and bespoke suit, he looks every bit the man who haunts my dreams.

He wants my family’s priceless vineyards. I’m sure of it.
They’ll be the crowning jewel of his empire.
But I’m wrong.
He wants me.

“Brava Eva! After briefly meeting Antonio and Daniela, you’ll be hooked!” – Goodreads Review

“I can’t wait to see what happens next! Eva Charles NEVER disappoints.” – Amazon Review

After being a confirmed city-girl for more than thirty-five years, Eva moved to beautiful Western Massachusetts in 2014. There, she found herself living in the woods with no job, no friends (unless you count the turkey, deer, and coyote roaming the backyard), and no children underfoot, wondering what on earth she’d been thinking. But as it turned out, it was the perfect setting to take all those yarns spinning in her head and weave them into a romantic tale.
When she’s not writing, trying to squeeze information out of her tight-lipped sons, or playing with the two cutest dogs you’ve ever seen, Eva’s creating chapters in her own love story.

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#BookTour “Fractured Lives” by Russ Colchamiro

FracturedLives copy

Welcome to the tour for another exciting Angela Hardwicke Sci-fi Mystery! This one is called Fractured Lives.

Read on for more details!

FracturedLives epub FINAL 05.28.2021 cover

Fractured Lives (An Angela Hardwicke Sci-Fi Mystery)

Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery

Publication Date: August 29th, 2021

In the cosmic realm of Eternity, there’s only one private eye to hire when your world gets turned inside out—Angela Hardwicke.

Darla Fyne, a college freshman and galaxy design savant, is suffering from a nervous breakdown—or is she the victim of an urban legend known as the Scarlet Raj?

As Hardwicke follows the intersecting worlds of art galleries, college dorms, and a semi-secret clan that patches up tears in the Universe, her investigation will either uncover a hoax gone wrong or a plot that could shift the balance of power across the entire realm. If only she can fight through her own paranoia to tell the difference.

In Russ Colchamiro’s new Sci-Fi mystery, Fractured Lives, Angela Hardwicke is confronted by a PI’s worst nightmare—dark secrets from her past that will irrevocably change her future.

“Colchamiro’s heroine is a blunt, wry gumshoe battling her own demons.” —James McCrone, author of Emergency Powers

“I didn’t think Russ Colchamiro could surpass his previous novel. Fractured Lives proved me wrong. It takes readers into the workings of the universe and shows them the workings of the soul.”

—John L. French, author of the Bianca Jones series.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

I reach inside my jacket, hand on the grip of my weapon. I don’t want to use it. I don’t want to need it. I want this to be nothing more than another awkward, misconstrued moment in an awkward, misconstrued career taking on awkward, misconstrued cases.

I want to be free of danger. I want to stop putting myself in danger. I want to come home every night and hug my son. I want him to hug me back. I want to let go of the demons that haunt me, the past that defines me, and a future that frightens me.

I want to sleep at night.

I want to wake up in the morning believing my life doesn’t have to be one mystery after another, one dark path leading down a darker alley of a bitter, lonely labyrinth that inevitably reveals someone’s pain. Their ugly secrets.

But most of all, I want to be Angela Hardwicke.

Not Angela Hardwicke, Private Investigator. Just Angela
Hardwicke. Me. Whoever that is, and whatever that means. Which is all well and good, but if I don’t get myself out of this particularly awkward, misconstrued moment, I might not have the chance to find out.

Available on Amazon!

Kindle Unlimited

About the Author

Russ Groovy headshot

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, and crazy dog Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, and Brave New Girls.

He is now working on the first novel in a new series featuring his hard-boiled private eye Angela Hardwicke, and the first of three collaborative novella projects.

Russ Colchamiro | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

FracturedLives copy

Book Tour Schedule

October 18th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Nesie’s Place (Spotlight) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

Bunny’s Book Reviews (Review) https://bookwormbunnyreviews.blogspot.com/

October 19th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

PoptheButterfly (Spotlight) https://popthebutterfly.wordpress.com

A Very Original Username (Review) https://averyoriginalusername.wordpress.com/

October 20th

I Smell Sheep (Spotlight) http://www.ismellsheep.com/

Liliyana Shadowlyn (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

October 21st

Auto.erraticism (Spotlight) https://www.autoerraticism.com/

Sadie’s Spotlights (Spotlight) http://sadiesspotlight.com/

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.com/

October 22nd

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

Lunarian Press (Spotlight) https://www.lunarianpress.com/

Stine Writing (Spotlight) https://christinebialczak.com/

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

Book Tour Organized By:

R&R Button

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#FREE “12” by Nolon King and David Wright

12 cover

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What Would You Do With the Last 12 Hours of Your Life?

At 6 p.m. on a Wednesday in October, a gunman will enter Goldman’s Diner and commit one of the worst massacres the small coastal town of Palm Isles, Florida has ever seen.

Twelve hours earlier: twelve lives are on borrowed time, unaware that death is coming, or that their paths will collide in one tragic moment.

A young waitress and mother fights to protect her daughter from her violent estranged husband. Little does she know that a greater threat looms under her nose.

A cop is forced to decide between his job and his marriage.

A bullied teen with an abusive father is down to one friend when his world suddenly crumbles around him.

An old man struggles to hold onto his memories and do one last thing to honor his wife. But in doing so, he will have to reveal his darkest secret.

A cook with a shady past attempts to stay on the straight and narrow, until he gets a call which forces him to choose — his family or his honor?

A woman attempts to meet her father’s expectations, clinging to a struggling diner even as her relationship with her son falls apart.

TWELVE HOURS
TWELVE LIVES
WHO LIVES?
WHO DIES?

FREE at all online digital retailers at time of posting!

Amazon

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#NewRelease “Grumpy Special Ops Bear: Episode 1 (Bear Elite Shifters)” by Sedona Venez

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IMPORTANT NOTE:
The episodes of Grumpy Special Ops Bear must be read in order:
Grumpy Special Ops Bear: Episode 1
Grumpy Special Ops Bear: Episode 2
Grumpy Special Ops Bear: Episode 3

About Grumpy Special Ops Bear #1:
In the wilderness, love knows no bounds.

Bear shifter, Fergus, is an alpha who specializes in the art of war. With danger lurking around every tree, it is his desire to capture the leader of a renegade wolf shifter pack that drives him.

Until temptation arrives in the form of the captivating feisty human Trinity.

Trinity is everything Fergus has longed for in a mate. Beautiful. Adventurous. Alluring. Yet her simple presence puts his mission in jeopardy. Now, he is left with an agonizing choice: claim the woman of his dreams, or complete his operative.

What will he sacrifice? Love or honor?

A Continuing Story:
Grumpy Special Ops Bear is told in three installments, or episodes, like a TV show. Each episode, except the last one, includes a cliffhanger!

 

Amazon – https://amzn.to/3aIBA8S

Apple – https://apple.co/3n4q3qx

BN – https://bit.ly/3ASJfvX

Kobo – https://bit.ly/3n216Mk

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#BookBlitz “The Hunter” by L.J. Shen

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Boston Belles Series

Contemporary Romance, Enemies to Lovers

Published: May 2020

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Boston’s debauched elite is going up in flames, and it’s the Fitzpatrick family that set it on fire.

Hunter

I didn’t mean to star in a sex tape, okay?

It was just one of those unexplainable things.

Like Stonehenge, Police Academy 2, and morning glory clouds.

It just happened.

Now, my ball-busting father is sentencing me to six months of celibacy, sobriety, and morbid boredom under the roof of Boston’s nerdiest girl alive, Sailor Brennan.

The virginal archer is supposed to babysit my ass while I learn to take my place in Royal Pipelines, my family’s oil company.

Little does she know, that’s not the only pipe I’ll be laying…

Sailor

I didn’t want this gig, okay?

But the deal was too sweet to walk away from.

I needed the public endorsement; Hunter needed a nanny.

Besides, what’s six months in the grand scheme of things?

It’s not like I’m in danger of falling in love with the appallingly gorgeous, charismatic gazillionaire who happens to be one of Boston’s most eligible bachelors.

No. I will remain immune to Hunter Fitzpatrick’s charm.

Even at the cost of losing everything I have.

Even at the cost of burning down his kingdom.

~~~

Books in the Boston Belles Series

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The Hunter: An Enemies-to-Lovers Romance

The Villain: A Billionaire Romance

The Monster: A Mafia Romance

~~~

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About the Author

L.J. Shen is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post and Amazon #1 Best-selling author of contemporary, New Adult and YA romance. Her books have been sold to twenty different countries.

She lives in California with her husband, son, cat and eccentric fashion choices, and enjoys good wine, bad reality TV shows and catching sun rays with her lazy cat.

Contact Links

Website

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

BookBuzz

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Purchase Link

Amazon

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RABT Book Tours & PR

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#Excerpt “Rebel of Fire (Vigilant, Book 3)” by L.M. Preston

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Vigilant, Book 3

 

YA, Urban Fantasy

 

Date Published: 10-08-2021

Publisher: Phenomenal One Press

Who knew that taking a job at a High School Newspaper would weave Rei into an underground news operation? She’d stupidly sacrificed her family and was blackmailed into becoming a member of a Vigilant operation to save the unsuspecting human population in what most thought was Newport, RI. Rei was no longer living in ignorance, but knowledge came with a price. Love wasn’t an emotion she could give into when the ransom of her family’s life was at stake. Asher was sent to help her, but she felt he was sent to ensure she paid the debt owed in order to save her family. Rei didn’t relish being held hostage by Megan and her puppets or being thrust into interfering with a war instigated by magical beings, and their fight to control humanity. Rei had no idea how she could create a diversion that would save her, destroy an unimaginable evil, and teach her to love – again. Read other books in the Vigilant series: Insatiable Darkness, Caged Fire, Unbreakable Darkness, Scepter of Fire, Break the Darkness.

~

~~~

EXCERPT

Chapter 1

Rei smelled blood. The metallic taste was in her mouth, enveloping her senses. Sirens blared, but the throbbing in her head hurt so bad she didn’t have the will to wake up fully. She had to open her eyes. The accident. Her last thought before being suffocated by the chilled waters beneath the bridge where they’d crashed was that her sister, EmVee was thrown from the van. Her brother hit his head. Dexter was drowning. Her mom and her twin brother, Reece… what happened to them? It was her fault. She had to save them, get them away from here. She struggled and jerked, feeling like she was fighting to get out of the suffocating waters of the lake.

“Ah!” She fought the pain that coursed through her entire body and pushed herself up. Rei’s trembling hands braced her on the hard cot in what appeared to be the inside of an ambulance. Rei willed her body to move.

She tried to open her eyes. One was bandaged closed, but the other was slightly crusted but opened. Rei’s vision cleared. She raised a hand to the gauze covering her head. Everything on her hurt, but suddenly, an energy she couldn’t explain rushed through her in waves, dulling the pain, giving her focus.

“They are on us!” a gruff curse came from a medic near the light from a window. The ambulance sharply whipped from side to side.

Rei slid off the hard bed, and her knees buckled when she hit the floor. “God! Ah.”

She willed herself to stand and pushed her back up against the wall, wincing at the burn in her side and on her head.

The crouching medic held on to a looped strap in the corner of the ambulance van. The medic pointed a gun through the broken glass window of the back-double doors. Several pops sounded, and the doors flew open. Someone was shooting at them? At an ambulance? Why? Rei crawled backward, grimacing at the pain.

“I can’t die today.” Rei searched for a weapon, anything she could use. The bed slammed to the opposite side of the ambulance then surged at her. Rei dropped to the floor, barely in time to keep her head attached to her neck.

The medic yelled a name, maybe the driver’s – Rei didn’t know. The medic fired at what sounded like a motorcycle gang outside. She could hear the revved-up engines in succession.

A huge explosion from a building or something shook the vehicle. It caught the wind from the blast and reeled forward. Rei’s petite form was jerked against the small cabinet of supplies then fell backward, striking her throbbing head against the metal back wall of the ambulance. The motorcycle riders didn’t relent though.

The medic shot several rounds from the gun he thrust forward. The back door flung open then closed then open again. The shots didn’t stop them. The dark smoke from the motorcycles kicked up. They swerved from one side to another behind the speeding ambulance as if setting up for another attack. A blue, glowing whip snapped through the opened door and wrapped around the medic. He fought against the weapon around his neck and braced himself by a foot against the wall within the cab of the ambulance. His fingers wrestled with it as it tightened.

Rei could have sworn his hands turned to claws as he tried to rip the glowing blue whip’s tail from his neck. The medic roared. His teeth even appeared to grow into sharp points that protruded from his mouth. Rei gulped back the putrid taste of vomit as she held tightly to a small hook in the middle of the wall. She must be hallucinating.

“Grrrr.” The medic released an inhuman sound before the whip yanked him out of the cab of the ambulance.

She had to be dreaming. Rei felt nauseous. This couldn’t be real – could it? What kind of medicine did they put her on? Rei shook her head. She felt clammy, sweaty. She had to get out of the ambulance.

She blinked through her blurry vision while searching for a weapon. She crouched lower, wondering how she would get out of this alive.

Rei glanced at where the medic had fallen before he was snatched from the vehicle. His gun would work. There it was in the corner. She scrambled on her hands and knees to the tossed handgun. She remembered her father’s summer hunting trips and wished she’d paid attention when he told her how to shoot a stupid gun. Rei fumbled with the weapon, vaguely remembering how to fire it. She couldn’t make out what was behind the smoke from the ambulance.

Then two of the bikers appeared within the sway of the smoke they kicked up. One of them, in a black leather suit and helmet that covered his head, gave a hand signal to another. Rei squinted her eye and swore the bike resembled her twin brother Reece’s motorcycle. It had to have been stolen or a replica. Rei didn’t care. She wasn’t going with anyone without a fight. She pulled the trigger, bracing for the kickback of the weapon and – nothing. All of the bullets were gone.

The ambulance rocked to the left and up into the air. “No!” Rei was thrown against the door frame. The bed slammed the wall then rolled toward her. She kicked it away. It launched out of the door. The impact of the ambulance hitting something hard bounced it down and then up. She went flying, mid-air, and fell on the side of the breathing machine. She fell forward. Every bone and muscle on her body throbbed. Smoke and dust from the collision curled around the high blood-red moon Rei focused on trying to fight the throbbing of her head. A motorcycle guy climbed up into the cab of the ambulance.

Rei’s vision grew hazy. She fought to stay coherent, but the ache drumming into the back of her head traveled to her eyes. Rei tried to stand, but gravity sucked her down.

Someone caught her.

“I think she’s okay.”

Rei stumbled into the abyss of darkness once more.

~~~

Other Books in the series

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About The Author

L.M. Preston, a native of Washington, DC. An avid reader, she loved to create poetry and short-stories as a young girl. She is an author, an engineer, a professor, a mother and a wife. Her passion for writing and helping others to see their potential through her stories and encouragement has been her life’s greatest adventures.She loves to write while on the porch watching her kids play or when she is traveling, which is another passion that encouraged her writing.

Contact Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

Goodreads

Pinterest

Instagram

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Purchase Link

Amazon

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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RABT Book Tours & PR

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#NewRelease “Faraj (Eleven Wings Book 5)” by Brittni Chenelle

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What good are wings when the sky itself is ready to collapse?

We’ve lost one of our own, and the dissension between the valkyries has done far more damage than the monsters attacking our realm. With the darkness closing in, everybody seems to be looking for one poor soul to blame.

I have a decision to make: try to stop Valerie from pulling our realm into an eternal night or equip her with the skills to complete the treacherous task at hand. I have to believe it’s not too late to repair the damage caused by distrust, but if I’m wrong, the losses will be indelible . . . and spell the end.

Faraj is Episode 5 of Brittni Chenelle’s Serialized Eleven Wings Series—definitive proof that little books can host colossal stories. This is only 1 out of 6 episodes, meant to be binged. It is not novel-length. Expect cliffhangers!

If you love reading about scorching second chance romances, sexy valkyries, sexier demons, and unexpected twists that keep you up long after The End, then one-click today and fall into this magical new series that’s Fallen meets Born in Fire! This series contains, violenceadult language, and explicit adult scenes and is intended for mature audiences.

Diverse Fantasy, Second Chance Romance, Paranormal Romance, Multi-POV

Series Release Schedule

  • Episode One: Valerie: October 5th, 2021
  • Episode Two: Cielle: October 8th, 2021
  • Episode Three: Thorn: October 11th, 2021
  • Episode Four: Irina: October 14th, 2021
  • Episode Five: Faraj: October 17th, 2021
  • Episode Six: Jaemin: October 20th, 2021

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

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#FREE “Norbert’s Spooky Night (Norbert series Book 5)” by James Sutherland

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Norbert the horse is back with a special spooktacular adventure for Halloween!

As the skies begin to darken, poor old Norbert is well and truly spooked at the thought of spending Halloween night out in the open. Convinced that, come nightfall, his field will be crawling with ghosts, ghouls, witches and vampires, he sets out with his friends, Colin the cuckoo and Delilah, the pretty pony from the next field, to find somewhere safe to spend the night – Little do they know that they are embarking on a hair-raising adventure which will lead them to the most terrifying place of all… the home of Norbert’s owner, grumpy old Farmer Finbar!

How will Norbert, Colin and Delilah survive the scariest night of the year?

A funny, comical caper for young readers – The FIFTH book in the Norbert the Horse series!

FREE for a limited time!

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

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#BookTour “The Thief Catcher” by Jonette Blake

The Thief Catcher by Jonette Blake Banner

October 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Thief Catcher by Jonette Blake

A holiday in this tropical resort could be her last.

Delia Frost is ready to quit her job and take a holiday. But she wants a relaxing holiday, not the one her husband dreams of; traveling in a motorhome. Sending airfare money to her two children who are holidaying abroad so they can all meet up for this family holiday, she packs her and her husband’s bags for seven glorious days in a tropical island resort.

But even thieves need to take a holiday, and once more Delia finds herself caught in a web of thievery and murder. And this time it is not only her life in danger, it is the lives of her children.

Can she catch this murderous thief before it’s too late?

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Book Details:

Genre: Murder Mystery

Published by: Self-Published

Publication Date: August 13th 2021

Number of Pages: 270

ISBN: 978-1922694003

Series: A Delia Frost Novel

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Room 101

ONE DAY AGO

A door slammed, startling the cleaner who had left the balcony door open to air out the smell of bleach. The wind liked to whip across the ocean straight into the rooms on this side of the resort. Josephine pulled the glass door closed, slipped a mask over her face to block out the acrid stench of cleaning products, and popped her headphones onto her head.

Cleaning the hotel rooms with headphones was against hotel policy. It was written on the board in the staff room: PLEASE DON’T WEAR HEADPHONES WHILE CLEANING THE ROOMS. It had something to do with a cleaner once surprising a male guest who had left a sign on the door handle to make up the room, but had forgotten something and returned. The cleaner, a young woman from the Pacific Islands named Roxy, had not heard him return. The way Josephine had heard the story; Roxy claimed the guest had groped her, and the guest claimed he’d busted Roxy rummaging through his suitcase. Roxy had a habit of stealing items, so Josephine had believed the guest’s story. But Roxy was also stunningly beautiful, and often international guests would offer her money to come live with them, so Josephine had also believed Roxy’s story. Both were probably right.

Bottom line: the cleaners always got blamed.

Deep in her thoughts, Josephine hadn’t heard the door to the bathroom open. And she hadn’t heard someone creeping across the tiled floor. But the song on her music list ended and she heard a noise coming from within the closet.

This room was empty. Guests weren’t due to arrive until tomorrow.

Glancing at the balcony door, she saw it was closed.

Her mother believed in ghosts. Josephine did not.

She switched off the music. There. Something was inside the closet.

Probably a possum, she thought. Or a stupid bird. The resort was swarming with wild animals that liked to break into rooms and steal food or other items. Once, a magpie had flown in and stolen a woman’s bikini and used it in its nest.

Josephine crept towards the closet door. She was deathly afraid of animals. But she had to get it out of the room before it caused the worst kind of mess to clean.

Halfway across the room, the closet door opened.

Someone stepped out.

They wore a white billowing top and pants and a large straw hat, as if they were a ghost, and her breath caught in her throat. She slipped off her mask, suddenly unable to breathe.

“You can’t be in here,” Josephine said. “This room isn’t supposed to be occupied till tomorrow. How did you get in?”

The intruder held up a hand and pointed a finger at the balcony door. This room was on the second floor. The intruder would have to have climbed thin air to get inside.

She still couldn’t see the intruder’s face: the hat was pulled down low. They were a small build, nothing discernible, and she was too startled to pull her gaze away to check for features that might tell her more about this person’s identity and intention.

It could have been a man beneath the loose-fitting clothes, but it could also have been a woman. And until she saw the face, she had no idea if they were young or old.

“I have to call the manager,” Josephine said.

The intruder’s finger wiggled in the universal sign of ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you’.

Suddenly loud music blasted out of the small stereo – each room had a DVD player, a TV, a small stereo, and a selection of CDs. This was loud, noisy, angry music.

Josephine’s insides chilled. This was just how Roxy had described her attack.

At last the intruder lifted their head. She stared into a set of dark eyes that brimmed with anger.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, shouting to be heard.

The intruder stood there, blocking her exit through the front door. The balcony door wasn’t an option because it was a sheer drop to the pool area below.

“Okay,” Josephine said. “You can leave now. I won’t report you. I can keep my mouth shut. You ask my cousin if I’ve told anyone about the money she stole from her in-laws’ restaurant.”

Angry, dark eyes stared back at her.

“Okay. I’ll leave and you stay.”

Josephine took a step toward the door.

The intruder took a step forward.

She quickly backed up.

A knife appeared in the intruder’s hand.

Her weapon of defence was a spray bottle containing bleach, which she threw at the intruder before spinning to bolt for the balcony door.

She felt a hand grab her long hair, which hotel rules stated had to be tied back, only now her ponytail was being used like a rope to drag her into the room.

She started kicking and screaming. Realised that nobody would hear her screams over the music, but she screamed anyway.

A hand landed on her mouth.

She bit it.

She bit harder, so hard that she was flung across the room. She scrambled up, hissing like a cat, curling her fingers into claws, her long nails now her only defence.

The glint of the steel knife stopped her. And then the intruder surprised her by tossing the knife onto the lounge.

Her gaze was fixated on the knife as it swung through the air, and she followed its trajectory to the lounge. Her reflexes sprung into action. She lunged for the knife, but the intruder lunged at her, barrelling into her and knocking her to the ground, knocking the wind out of her.

“What’s the combination to the safe?” a gruff voice asked.

“I. Don’t. Know.”

“Liar.”

“I…”

The hands around her throat were squeezing tight.

“Tell me.”

“I…”

Tears coursed down her cheeks, blinding her.

Play dead, her brain commanded.

And so she did. She let her body go limp, her mind go free, and she closed her eyes and took herself to a quiet place, a special place, one reserved for moments of enlightenment.

And then the tight feeling around her throat was gone.

She lay there, too afraid to move, and equally afraid not to leap up and run for her life.

And the music stopped.

In the distance, she heard seagulls squawking. A warm breeze blew into the room. Laughter billowed up from the pool. The balcony door must have been open for her to hear the sounds of activity down below.

How long should I lie here, she wondered? Five minutes. Ten? An hour?

She finally opened her eyes.

And realised that she couldn’t move. Her body was numb. Her mouth wouldn’t open. None of her limbs worked.

And then loud music blasted again.

Chapter 2

SUNDAY

Twilight reflected on the water like millions of fireflies, casting a shimmery haze to reflect off the surface. The white hulls of the luxurious cruisers in the harbour captured the remaining afternoon sun. Smaller boats bobbed gently up and down. Seagulls flew overhead. Pelicans settled to roost on the streetlights. A gentle breeze blew in as if it also sought a place to settle for the night.

A perfect balmy evening. Just the way I liked it. Not too hot. Not too cold. Moments like this were called Goldilocks moments, where everything was ‘not too this’ or ‘not too that’. I stood motionless, gazing out across the marina, soaking up the perfect moment, wishing for a glass of champagne to toast this magnificent sight. I could see why this placed was called Majestic Island.

I tore my gaze away from the marina and pulled it toward the mainland, eight kilometres away and yet still visible from the island. At least for another few hours until night closed its curtains. A moving light on the water’s surface caught my eye. It belonged to a small dinghy. The white anchor light moved up and down, as if it was drifting along the current. Darkness had not yet fallen so I could see that the dinghy was without its master.

“What are you looking at, Mrs Frost?”

I flinched. Richard had startled me. And why was my husband suddenly referring to me as Mrs? He knew I hated the reference, it made me feel old. Worse, it made me feel like his mother, who insisted on everyone calling her Mrs Frost. I liked his mother, and she liked me, but I wasn’t interested in becoming her.

His lips lifted in a smile; he was teasing me.

“Just watching the harbour, Old Man,” I replied, using the term he disliked the most. His silvery hair was the only indication that he was almost fifty-five, but his hair had been silver for so long, strangers had difficulty guessing his age.

He stopped beside me and joined me in gazing out over the bay. “Gorgeous view.”

“Yes, but that boat is floating in the water without a master.” I pointed a finger; it took Richard a few seconds to locate the slow-moving anchor light.

“Are you sure it’s adrift?”

“I’ve been watching it for a while. It’s moved with the current, but there isn’t anyone on board. It’s out there, floating aimlessly, alone, lost.”

“Delia, you make it sound like it’s in the depths of despair.”

“It could be dangerous when the ferry arrives.”

“You’re right. I’ll tell the restaurant manager about the boat. He can call the marina manager to check it out.”

The ferry had dropped us on Majestic Island an hour ago. I’d hardly had time to unpack: Richard had made dinner reservations at the marina restaurant. We’d been on our way there when Richard had told me to wait while he went on ahead to check on our booking. I hadn’t questioned his reasoning: this might have led to a long discussion about something I was too tired from the ten-hour drive today to feign interest in. So I’d let him go on ahead while I stopped to soak up the sunset.

“Our table is ready,” Richard said. “We can go in now.”

I nodded, too distracted to give him my full attention. The dinghy was keeping me mesmerised. To wish to be in that boat as it floated out to sea was an irrational desire to escape, and yet I couldn’t stop the idea from settling in.

At last, I pulled my attention away from the boat and headed inside the restaurant, a place named The Shack, with wooden walls and floors, and marina paraphernalia strung about. Fishing nets hung from the ceiling. A large aquarium with colourful fish inside sat behind the main desk. There was a large metal artwork with the four cardinal directions hanging behind the bar. A massive blue marlin fish was mounted to a wooden beam.

The waiter smiled at me and held out his arm like he was directing traffic. I’d lost sight of Richard, so I had no idea where our table was located.

“Where are we sitting?” I asked the waiter.

He turned and headed for the table against the window.

I caught a glimpse of myself in a porthole-shaped mirror: white Capri pants with a red and black off-the-shoulder top. I could take no credit for the top – it had belonged to my twenty-two-year-old daughter Georgia, and I’d inherited it after she’d left for her overseas trip. I hadn’t had the chance to wear it until now; summer wouldn’t reach our hometown of Batemans Cove for another few months. My suitcase was filled with whatever of my daughter’s tops and summer shoes were suitable for a fifty-three-year-old woman, and whatever I could fit into.

The waiter stopped at the table.

Richard sat on the left, and there were two other people seated around the table.

“Mum.” Georgia leapt up, hugged me and planted a kiss on my cheek. I noticed that she’d cut her dark hair so that it fell in curls just below her shoulders. Her skin was golden brown, that I almost hadn’t recognised her.

My son stood up next. Tristan was two years older than Georgia. I had last seen him a few months ago, and yet I was taken aback at how much he’d changed. He had a neatly-trimmed beard and he seemed to have grown another two inches taller. I had to stand on my toes to accept his kiss on the cheek.

“What are you doing here?” I said to them both. “You weren’t supposed to be arriving until tomorrow.”

Georgia grinned. “Dad wanted to surprise you. Surprise.”

I spun to find Richard grinning like a man with the winning lottery ticket.

“If I’d known you were coming,” I said feigning annoyance, “I’d have had my hair done and worn make up.”

Georgia laughed. “Oh, mum you look great. Hey, isn’t that my top?”

I grabbed them both and pulled them close. They were my rocks and I felt anchored by their presence. All thoughts of drifting out to sea were instantly forgotten.

The waiter arrived, his presence breaking apart our huddle. Standing beside him was a gorgeous woman with long dark hair, dark eyes, and a pale yet not sickly complexion. She wore an off-the-shoulder yellow top and a denim skirt. I suddenly wondered if we had been seated at her table and the waiter was here to move us.

Tristan brushed past me to stand beside the woman. “Mum. I’d like to introduce you to Mary Ramirez. She’s my fiancé.”

My hand reached for the back of the chair for support. Three months ago, Richard had suffered a heart attack. I finally knew how it felt to have one’s heart just stop.

“Way to go, big brother,” Georgia said, hugging Tristan tightly then throwing her arms around Mary.

“Congratulations,” I said, finding my voice. “This is a bit of a shock. A nice shock, but still a shock.”

“I’m sorry to spring this on you,” Tristan said with an apologetic smile. “But there’s no easy way to announce something like this.”

I supposed there wasn’t.

“Tristan stressed about how to tell you on the plane ride over,” Mary said. Even her voice was gorgeous, throaty and melodic.

She flashed her finger at me; it was as if a star had exploded and one bright shard had fallen to earth and landed on her finger. How could Tristan have afforded such a ring?

While Georgia gushed over the diamond, I sought out Richard’s hand. From the corner of my mouth, I said, “Did you know about this?”

“As if I’d keep something this big a secret from you,” he stage-whispered back.

It was my turn to admire the ring. All those years of wondering if my son would find true love drifted away.

I glanced up to see that Mary was staring at something happening in another part of the restaurant. She finally turned back to face us; her smile seemed forced.

“I thought you were in Africa on holidays,” I said to Tristan.

He grinned. “I was on holidays. That’s where I met Mary.”

“Let’s all sit down,” Richard said. He turned to the waiter. “We’d like a bottle of sparkling wine please.”

“Make it two bottles,” I said.

My nerves were in overdrive. I could literally have drained one of them on my own.

The waiter nodded and left. He returned with two bottles of sparkling wine and two buckets with ice, fussing over opening the first bottle, making so much noise with the ice bucket it was like listening to a cat at a litter box. I grabbed the other bottle and handed it to Richard to open.

I felt Tristan’s gaze on me.

“Aren’t you happy for me?” he asked.

“Of course I’m happy. I’m just a little shocked.”

“It’s still a bit of a shock to me too. I mean, who’d have thought I’d ever land a woman like Mary.”

He began to move his cutlery around on the table. That was when I suspected that Tristan was nervous about something.

Georgia blurted out what had been on my mind a few minutes ago. “So did you pay for the ring or did Mary?”

“That doesn’t matter,” he said.

Georgia address Mary next. “Well, if you take it off to go swimming, my advice is to leave it in the hotel main safe. The safes in the rooms are like toys. They’re too easy to break into.”

Chapter 3

Georgia nudged me. “What are you having to eat?”

We were both hiding behind our menus to whisper between ourselves. It used to infuriate Richard and Tristan that we’d deliberate over the menu items with the precision of generals heading to war. What if you ordered ‘this’ and I ordered ‘that’ and then we shared? What else have you eaten today? What if we shared ‘this’ or ‘that’ meal and then each got a dessert? What dessert would we order? What if you ordered ‘this’ dessert and I ordered ‘that’ dessert and then we each got a taste? Should we have the creamy dessert knowing we are having the creamy main meal? Perhaps we should rethink our main meal selections? All the while deflecting the looks of exasperation from Richard and Tristan because they knew what meals they were having, because for them it could only ever be the most calorie-laden foods on offer.

But I wasn’t studying the menu. I was clutching it like a lifeline, using it as a shield, and as a means to study Mary. I had known that Tristan was bringing his girlfriend with him on this holiday – I had learned that he was serious about a girl, via my sister Madison, so I’d insisted that Tristan’s new girlfriend accompany him on this trip. If they were serious, I wanted to meet her. I hadn’t expected her to turn up waving an engagement ring around.

Though, I ought not to have been surprised. This was Tristan, the boy who fell in love with whoever smiled at him.

Lowering my menu, I snuck a glance in Georgia’s direction, and she wasn’t the slightest bit subtle about studying Tristan’s fiancé.

Tristan swatted her with his napkin. “Cut it out.”

“I’m not doing anything.” Georgia was unable to keep the grin off her face. “So are you two having an engagement party?”

Tristan’s gaze flickered to Mary who was placing her napkin in her lap. She looked up and gave Tristan a polite smile.

“It all happened rather quickly,” Tristan stammered. “We haven’t thought about it yet.”

“How did it happen, exactly?” Georgia sat with her arms folded over themselves, leaning in close. With one hand she lazily grabbed for the wine glass and took a sip. “I want all the details. How did you two meet?”

Tristan shot her a cautionary look. “We met at work.”

“I thought you weren’t working. That was the last email I received from you. ‘Still haven’t found a job’. I wondered how you were paying for your travels. Unless mum and dad loaned you money.”

Richard scowled. “We didn’t loan him money.”

“You got an email?” I asked, feeling left out.

Georgia flicked her curly hair. “So, big brother, how can you afford such a lovely ring? Can I look at it again? It’s so big and shiny, it’s like it needs planets orbiting it.”

She didn’t wait for Mary to offer her finger. Georgia grabbed Mary’s hand and stroked the ring.

There were times when my daughter’s boldness could grate my nerves as thinly as dust, and then there were moments like this when her boldness was inspiring. The ring must have cost thousands of dollars. Tristan didn’t have thousands of dollars.

At last, Georgia let go of Mary’s hand. Mary returned to calmly sitting at the table, as if she had trained for this inquisition. Precisely what had Tristan told her about our family?

I topped up my glass. “How about we go around the table and catch up on what we’ve been up to. Who wants to start?”

“Well, Tristan’s already caught everyone up,” Georgia said. “So it must be my turn. I’ve been having a ball in Europe.” She took the bottle off me and topped up her glass. “It’s amazing how cheaply you can travel if the right people tell you where the non-touristy places are. I’ve tasted so much new food. I’ve picked grapes at vineyards and berries at orchards.” She set down the bottle and took a drink from her glass. “Not bad. I stayed at a villa in France recently where I learned to distinguish good wine from bad. This is not bad.”

“I thought you were in Finland,” I said.

“I’ve been all over Europe. You can get to most places by train. Or you can hitch a ride.”

“Who are you running away from this time?” Tristan said, giving her a wry smile.

Mary sat up. “Why would she run away?”

Tristan shrugged. “The moment a guy gets interested in my sister, she’s suddenly not interested in him.”

Richard tossed his napkin onto the empty plate. “Georgia, you will not hitch rides in foreign countries. We’ve taught you better than that.” He turned to me. “Haven’t we? We’ve told her not to hitch rides.”

“Of course we’ve told her not to.”

Georgia was giggling. “Relax, Dad. I was joking. Just waiting to see how long before you got all fired up.”

“You are so immature,” Tristan said. “And you should know better than to rile Dad up in his condition.”

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” Richard snapped.

Tristan spoke to Mary: “Dad had a heart attack a few months ago.”

“A mild heart attack.” Richard leaned in close to Mary. “I’m as fit as I was when I was twenty-four.”

Good lord, was he flirting with her?

“He’s supposed to take things easy,” Tristan added.

Georgia groaned. “Can’t you take a hint, big brother? I’m trying to deflect the attention off you by lightening the mood. You’ve sprung this engagement on Mum and Dad, but fine, you still want the limelight. You’re up. Tell us everything.”

All heads swivelled to stare at Tristan, whose face was turning bright red. Obviously Georgia had hit a nerve.

Mary stood up and swept her polite smile around the table. “Perhaps I’ll go to the bathroom to freshen up. Excuse me.”

Tristan and Georgia glared at one another.

“That’s enough out of you two,” I said. “We are here for a holiday and I will not have you ruin it with your constant bickering.”

“Sorry,” they both said in unison.

Then Tristan lowered his voice and snuck a furtive look over his shoulder. “The thing is, Mary comes from a very wealthy family and her parents don’t approve of her job.”

“And what job is that?” I asked.

“She works with a large security firm. Her parents want her to return to the family business.”

“Which is?”

Honestly, this holiday would be over by the time Tristan finished connecting the dots of this story, which was his way of saying he didn’t want to tell me anything; this had been his way of avoiding telling me about a bad grade or a fight he’d gotten into at school. Give only vague answers. Better than Georgia though, who had, between the age of fourteen and fifteen, chosen to grunt as her method of communication.

“They own a chain of jewellery stores,” he said.

“In Africa?”

“No, in Argentina.”

“What’s the issue about not wanting to work there?”

“She lives in Africa. The stores are in Argentina.”

“Tristan!”

“I don’t know exactly what the issue is. I haven’t met her family. Please don’t make a big deal out of this. We’re planning on visiting them after this holiday.”

My insides warmed that Tristan had wanted Mary to meet us before he met her family.

“What about siblings?” Georgia asked. “How many?”

“I don’t know. Shut up, will you. It’s not like you know anything about the men you date.”

Georgia’s sly grin deepened. “I’m not marrying any of the men I’ve dated.”

The conversation around the table halted abruptly when Mary appeared. She wore a confused look on her face.

“I didn’t get a chance to explain,” Tristan said with a sigh.

“Oh.” Mary looked back toward the toilets. “Perhaps I should…”

“Our apologies, Mary,” Richard said. “It appears as if our children have returned to Australia without their manners. I’d have thought holidaying abroad would have matured them.”

“We’re not cheese,” Georgia said, slugging back the wine.

I’d lost count if this was her third or fourth glass. Not that I could criticise. I’d almost finished my bottle: it had done nothing to settle the shock of learning that my son was getting married and I wasn’t getting his emails.

As Mary took her seat, she appeared to be sending Tristan a silent message that I couldn’t interpret. Then the waiter arrived with a basket of warmed rolls and none of us got to hear any more about how Tristan and Mary met.

During the lulls in conversation, Tristan refused to fill in the gaps. Mary was polite, charming, she spoke of her life in a vague way, never giving specific details. She lived ‘near the coast’. She worked ‘in security’. Her family was ‘just like any other family’. How would the two of them even be able to open a joint bank account if neither of them could provide any real information?

Georgia tried her best to pry the finer points out of the two of them, but Tristan wasn’t talking and Mary wasn’t offering anything, and I realised it wasn’t them being vague. It was as if the two of them had an arrangement in place: no spoilers. Which meant there was something better to come.

My hand shook as I tore my bread roll in half. Good lord she was pregnant. It was the only explanation for this sudden engagement. Because now that a little of the shock had worn off, they didn’t look like a young couple in love. They looked like two scared teenagers.

***

To get things back on track, I tapped my glass with my fork and waited until all eyes were on me.

“I too have an announcement,” I said. “I’ve quit my job and your father and I are travelling for the next nine months.”

“It was meant to be twelve,” Richard said. “But we’ve spent the last three months getting things organised.”

“Anyway, I think we should have a birthday party for your father while we are here.”

“That’s a great idea,” Tristan said.

Richard’s eyes lit up. “I do like a party in my honour.”

“Mum and I can organise it,” Georgia said. “It’ll be fun, like old times.”

Mum is on holidays,” I told her. “The resort must have an event planner. At the very least we can have a fancy dinner.”

“We could have a combined birthday and engagement party.” Georgia was giggling, so I knew it was a joke. Richard, however, could not see the funny side.

“I’m not having a combined party,” he said. “No offense to the happy couple, but I spent my childhood having a combined birthday with your Uncle Reggie. It’s not fun.”

All heads swung in the happy couples’ direction, and once again I was struck by how much they looked like frightened children.

They were a happy couple, weren’t they?

***

Excerpt from The Thief Catcher by Jonette Blake. Copyright 2021 by Jonette Blake. Reproduced with permission from Jonette Blake. All rights reserved.

 

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Author Bio:

Jonette Blake

Jonette Blake writes supernatural thrillers and suspense thrillers. She is the author of over ten books and dozens of short stories, writing as D L Richardson. ​She was born in Ireland and grew up in Australia. She lived through the 80s and music is still a big part of her life. When she is not writing, she plays her piano and guitar, listens to music, reads, and enjoys the beach. ​She has held jobs in administration, sales and marketing, has worked in HR, payroll, and as a bank teller. Her latest novel “The Widow Catcher” is based on the coastal town she lives in and her own bank teller experience.

Catch Up With Jonette Blake:
www.JonetteBlake.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @iandebr
Instagram – @debbielrichardson
Twitter – @DLRichardson1
Facebook – @JonetteBlake

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