#Excerpt “A Mistake Incomplete” by Lorenzo Petruzziello

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Fiction, Noir

Date Published: December 8, 2020

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An incompetent thief makes another attempt at burglary. A hopeless bartender struggles to manage her last patron. The pair reluctantly work together to figure out why a man they presumed dead may have returned, while a lonely tourist inadvertently gets in the way.


EXCERPT

CHAPTER 1

Berlin

His steps were careful, and his comfort with darkness allowed him the typical confidence to succeed without a trace. He made his way across the room to the large ornate mirror hanging above an oak cabinet. Lifting the constraining ski mask, he examined his new moustache still coming in. He had decided a while ago that he wanted a distinguished look, and concluded that a moustache should do the trick.

The soft moonlight was not bright enough at this end of the room. To allow him a better examination of his facial hair, he turned on his mini flashlight and shined it onto his face. The moustache was coming in nicely, not too thick, and shaped just perfectly. He looked at the rest of his face, which he tended to do when in front of a mirror – he just couldn’t help himself. He noticed that the lighting, positioned as it was at that moment, accentuated his handsome features. Realizing he had distracted himself again, he quickly turned off the flashlight to get back to the matter at hand.

Did he have to put the ski mask back on? What was the point of it? He knew no one was going to see him. And besides, if he was to get spotted on the street or by some neighbor, he thought a black ski mask would definitely call attention to him. He decided it wasn’t necessary and kept the ski mask up away from his face. This way, it was easier to make his way around the room.

He was dressed in all black: a tight black shirt with long sleeves and tight, yet flexible, black pants, allowing him agility for climbing over the balcony. His shoes were made of flexible black canvas with black rubber sole. He had perfected this outfit over the years. Wait, he thought to himself. What is that? He shined the mini flashlight on his shirt. “Is that a fuckin’ stain?” he mumbled as he rubbed the white drop. “Where the hell–?” He remembered. “Fuckin’ bird.”

His gloves were also tight, but their leather made it more difficult to handle objects. He hadn’t been able to find his favorite neoprene pair with the metallic tips, which allowed him to use touch screens. Where the fuck had he misplaced those damn gloves? Damn! He just remembered. They were in the side pocket of his travel bag in the extra closet in his new apartment. The travel bag! That’s where the other lighter is too! Flashlight off. He finally turned away from the mirror, aggressively shoving the light back into his small black shoulder sling.

He made his way around the room and took note of the furniture. It was laid out almost exactly as it had been described to him. Bam! He stubbed his left toe on the metal leg of a marble top coffee table. “What the fuck?” he whispered as he lifted his leg and grabbed his toe. It was instinct. That’s what one does when one’s toe throbs with pain, right? He felt himself fall forward. He tried regaining his balance, but it was too late. Crash! A lamp fell to the floor. It had to have been made of metal because it fell with a multitude of crashes. He fell along with it, but managed to land onto the plush floral sofa. He let go of his leg, realizing he had to get the hell out of there. The floorboards in the ceiling creaked. They were up. The light upstairs had been turned on, illuminating the stairway to the foyer. “Shit.” He sprang from the sofa, stepped through the curtains and climbed out of the window from which he had entered.


About the Author

Lorenzo Petruzziello is the author of The Love Fool and a contributing writer to publications focusing on food, travel and cocktails. A Mistake Incomplete is his second novel.

 

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#ReleaseBlitz “The Ultimate Betrayal” by Kat Martin

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Maximum Security series book #3

Romantic Suspense, Action & Adventure

Date Published: paperback release date 12/29/20

Publisher: HQN

When investigative journalist Jessie Kegan’s father, a colonel in the army, is accused of treason, Jessie is determined to clear his name. Reluctantly, she turns to former Special Ops soldier, Brandon Garrett, her late brother’s best friend–a true heartbreaker, according to her brother.

With danger coming from every angle, time is running out and the game being played is deadly. Working together, Bran and Jessie must risk everything to solve the riddle and confront the threat–before it’s too late.

~~~

EXCERPT

Too much downtime always made him nervous, kind of edgy as he waited for the other shoe to drop.  It had been a week since his last client had headed back to Nashville, a week of peace and quiet he should have enjoyed.

Instead, he had this nagging feeling that something bad was coming down the line.

Lounging back in the chair behind his desk at Maximum Security, Brandon Garrett looked up at the sound of the front door swinging open.  A gust of cool, late October winds swept in, along with a petite, whirlwind of a woman with the prettiest strawberry blond hair Bran had ever seen.

She had a sweet little body to match her fiery curls, he noticed, outlined by the dark blue stretch jeans curving over her sexy little ass and the peach knit top that hugged her breasts.

It wasn’t tough to read the anxiety in her big green eyes as she surveyed the room, but instead of heading for the receptionist’s desk, those big green eyes landed on Bran and as she started toward him, there was something about her that rang a distant bell.  Interest piqued, he rose from his chair.  “Can I help you?”

“You’re Brandon Garrett, right?  You were a friend of my brother’s.  Danny Kegan?  I recognize you from the photos Danny sent home.”

The mention of his best friend’s name hit him like a blow, and the muscles across his stomach clenched.  Daniel Kegan had been a member of his spec ops team, a brother, not just a friend.  Danny had saved Bran’s life at the cost of his own.  He was KIA in Afghanistan.

Bran stared down at the girl, who was maybe five-foot-four.  “You’re Jessie,” he said, remembering the younger sister Daniel Kegan had talked so much about.  “You look like him.  Same color hair and eyes.”

She nervously wet her lips, which were plump and pink and fit her delicate features perfectly.

“My brother said if I ever needed help, I should come to you.  He said you’d help me no matter what.”  She glanced back toward the door and his mind shifted away from the physical jolt he felt as he looked at her to the worry in her eyes.

“I’ll help you.  Danny was my closest friend.  Whatever you need, I’ll help.  Come on.  Let’s go into the conference room and you can tell me what’s going on.”  When her gaze shot back to the door, his senses went on alert.

“I didn’t mean I needed your help later,” Jessie said nervously.  “I meant I need your help right now.”

Gunshots exploded through the windows.  “Get down!”  Bran shouted to the other guys in the office as he shoved Jessie down behind his desk and covered her with his body.  Glass shattered and a stream of bullets sprayed across the room.

Jaxon Ryker popped up, gun drawn, and ran for the door.  Hawk Maddox and Lissa Blayne were shuffling through their desks, arming themselves.  Jonas Wolfe drew his ankle gun and ran for the rear entrance, ready for any threat that might come from there.

“Black SUV with tinted windows,” Ryker reported.  Six feet of solid muscle, dark hair and eyes, Jax was a former Navy SEAL, currently a PI and occasional bounty hunter.  “Couldn’t get a plate number.”  Jax’s gaze swung to the front of the room.  “Mindy, you okay?”

The little receptionist eased up from beneath her desk.  “I-I’m okay.  Should I call the police?”  Around here, it was never good to jump to conclusions.

Bran hauled Jessie to her feet.  He could feel her trembling.  Her eyes looked even bigger and greener than they had before.  “Are they coming back?” he asked.

“I-I don’t know.  It could have just been a warning.”

Bran turned to Mindy.  “Unless someone’s already phoned it in, let’s wait to call the cops till we know what’s going on.”  His attention returned to Jessie.  “We need to talk.”

She just nodded.  Her face had gone pale, making a fine line of freckles stand out across her forehead and the bridge of her nose.

Bran took her arm and urged her toward the conference room.  “Keep a sharp eye,” he said to The Max crew.  “Just in case.”

 

Jessie sank unsteadily down in one of the rolling chairs around the long oak conference table.  The man she had come to see, Brandon Garrett, sat down beside her.

“Okay, let’s hear it,” he said.  “What’s going on?”

She thought of the men who had just shot up his office and her pulse started thumping again.  “Danny said if I ever needed help–“

“Yeah, I get that.  Your brother knew he could count on me.  Like I said, I’ll help you any way I can, but I need to know what’s going on.”

Bran was taller than Danny, around six-three, with a soldier’s lean, hard body, vee-shaped, with broad shoulders and narrow hips.  Powerful biceps bulged beneath the sleeve of his dark blue T-shirt.  With his slightly too-long mink brown hair, straight nose and masculine features, he was ridiculously handsome, except for the hard line of his jaw and the darkness in his eyes that contrasted sharply with their beautiful shade of cobalt blue.

“Start at the beginning,” he demanded.

Since she wasn’t sure exactly where to begin, Jessie dragged in a shaky breath and slowly released it.

“I’m here because of my father–Colonel James Kegan, Commander U.S. Army Alamo Chemical Depot.  Just before he died a little over two months ago, my father was removed from active duty.  He was charged with larceny–specifically the theft of chemical weapons stored at the Depot.  Because the Army believed he was selling the weapons to a foreign entity, he was also charged with espionage and treason.  I need you to help me prove his innocence.”

~~~

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.

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#BookTour “The Formidable Earl” by Sophie Barnes

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Diamonds In The Rough, Book 6  

Regency Romance  

Release Date: November 17, 2020 

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He’s breaking the rules for one woman, and coming dangerously close to falling in love…   

Simon Nugent, Earl of Fielding, knows he’s flawed. He’s arrogant, possessive, and haunted by a terrible choice he made long ago. So when a former friend’s daughter gives him the chance to do a good deed, he grabs it. Except he’d like to grab her as well and teach her a thing or two about kissing. If only she weren’t so damn stubborn.  

Ida Strong wants one thing – justice on behalf of her father. She has no room for anything else, in spite of her growing and (at times) inexplicable attraction toward a certain earl. But for a woman who knows what betrayal tastes like, placing her trust in others is hard. Risking her heart, would be downright foolish. Until it’s the only thing that seems to make sense. 

Other Books in the Diamonds In The Rough Series: 

 A Most Unlikely Duke  

Diamonds in the Rough, Book 1   

The Duke of Her Desire  

Diamonds in the Rough, Book 2   

The Illegitimate Duke  

Diamonds in the Rough, Book 3   

The Infamous Duchess  

Diamonds in the Rough, Book 4 

The Forgotten Duke  

Diamonds In The Rough, Book 5 

Series Link 


EXCERPT

London

May, 1821

WEARY OF TRYING TO FIND an acceptable bride, Simon Garrison Nugent, Earl of Fielding, had ceased all attempts at marriage and was currently avoiding debutantes much as he would a leper. By keeping his distance. Instead, he chose to pass his evenings with friends.

At his age of three and thirty, marriage was expected. He knew it had to happen soon if he was to maintain his dignity. After all, the longer he remained unattached, the more it looked like he’d not yet recovered from losing his fiancée to another man.

It had been three years since the incident yet it still rankled.

Gabriella, now the Duchess of Huntley, would have made the perfect countess. The very idea of her choosing an ill-bred ruffian, even if he did happen to have a prestigious title, was bad enough without Simon having to worry about what people would think of the next bride he picked. She would have to be at least as pretty, graceful, and accomplished as Gabriella. Preferably more so, which brought him back to the inadequacy of the women currently available for marriage.

Seated in a quiet corner of White’s together with Baron Hawthorne and the Earl of Yates, Simon sipped his brandy and tried to force his thoughts away from the past by focusing on what Yates was saying.

“It was never meant to get this out of hand,” Yates explained while looking precisely like the sort of man whose neck was being squeezed by a noose. He was a good fellow – one of the few who seemed to tolerate Simon’s company – though sadly too kind for his own good, seeing as he’d gotten tangled up with an untitled woman who lacked a dowry and connections. “All I meant to do was help the girl. She’s a friend of my sister’s after all.”

“If every man with a sister offered to step out with all her unremarkable friends, he’d have gotten himself engaged a dozen times over,” Baron Hawthorne muttered. He tossed back the remainder of his drink and poured himself another. “It’s your own damn fault for being too nice.”

“He’s right, you know,” Simon said.

Stretching out his legs, he crossed them at the ankles and cradled his snifter between his hands while pondering Yates’s dilemma. Apparently there had been a compromising situation which just happened to have been witnessed by a group of matrons hoping to find a reprieve from the stuffy ballroom.

Simon sighed. “The trouble is,” he said, deciding to meet Yates’s gaze dead on, “hell, the trouble has always been, that she’s not your equal.

Socially, I mean.”

“Well done, Fielding.” Hawthorne said with a smirk. “It’s always good to know you’ll remind us of what’s acceptable.”

Simon fought the urge to roll his eyes. “Tell me I’m wrong.” His demand was, as expected, met by silence. Not even Yates attempted to argue. “Miss Harlowe is not countess material. This doesn’t mean she cannot be perfectly lovely, but no matter how you turn it, she’ll always be born into the wrong family.”

There was a heavy moment of silence, and then Hawthorne asked, “Has your outlook on life always been this sunny?”

Simon snorted. “I’m just trying to be realistic. If Yates marries Miss Harlowe, he will no longer be welcome in certain circles, people will talk, and his life as he knows it will be forever changed, which I very much doubt is something he wants.”

“From determined wife hunter to cynical loner,” Yates murmured, his narrowed eyes fixed on Simon with interest. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten your eager pursuit of Gabriella Matthews.

Hell, you were even engaged to her for what, ten seconds or so, roughly four years ago?”

“The Duchess of Huntley?” Hawthorne inquired with wide eyes. “I don’t recall that at all.”

“Three,” Simon clipped. “It was three years ago.”

“You must not have been at the Coventry Ball that season,” Yates said to Hawthorne. “Fielding announced the betrothal – even kissed Gabriella before one and all – only to let the whole thing fizzle away into nothing. A short while later, Huntley and Gabriella were married and you,” Yates tilted his almost empty glass in Simon’s direction, “haven’t proposed to anyone since.”

“Perhaps because I haven’t met anyone else worth asking,” Simon said.

Yates leaned back, his expression suddenly distant and thoughtful.

“I think you need to fall in love,” Hawthorne told Simon with a grin.

“God forbid,” Simon muttered. Worrying over his future was difficult enough without throwing love into the mix.

“I don’t think he believes in love,” Yates said.

Simon gave his friend a deadpan look. “Of course I do. There have been so many blissful unions of late, I’m inclined to believe we live in a world full of rainbows where cupids lurk behind every bush. Hell, even Carlton Guthrie, the Scoundrel of St. Giles – a man I would have sworn had no heart – is smitten with his young wife.”

“Sounds like an epidemic.”

Simon snorted in response to Hawthorne’s comment and took another sip of his drink.

“By the by,” Yates murmured in a more discreet tone than earlier, “I’ve promised Celeste I’d try and find her a new protector, in case this thing with Miss Harlowe doesn’t blow over and I end up marrying her.”

“I don’t understand why you’d want to give up your mistress if you’re not in love,” Hawthorne said.

“Out of respect for my wife,” Yates said. He emitted a heavy sigh and looked at Simon. “I don’t suppose you would be interested?”

“I’m afraid not. In my experience mistresses are demanding and hard to get rid of.” His last one had even made a spectacle, chasing after him on Oxford Street when he’d tried to end things with her. It had been most embarrassing.

“Celeste isn’t like that. She’s quite agreeable and sweet.”

“Nevertheless,” Simon said.

“No wife or mistress,” Hawthorne said with a pitying look that put Simon on edge. “You must be in need of a good tup.”

“It’s not so bad,” Simon said.

Hawthorne raised an eyebrow. “Really? How long has it been since you last had a woman?”

Simon shrugged. He hated this – hated being made to feel lacking in some way. Attempting to show indifference, he busied himself with refilling his glass. “Three months or so.”

“Damnation,” Yates murmured.

“Hell, it’s no wonder you look so tense.” Hawthorne reached inside his jacket pocket, retrieved a card, and handed it to Simon. “If I may, I suggest you stop by Amourette’s on your way home tonight.”

“It’s a brothel, is it not?” Simon asked. When Hawthorne nodded Simon instinctively winced.

“I don’t think so.”


About the Author

Born in Denmark, USA TODAY bestselling author Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish, and Romanian. But, most impressive of all, she’s been married to the same man three times—in three different countries and in three different dresses.  

When she’s not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading.  

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#Excerpt “Uphill and Into the Wind” by David W. Reed


Non Fiction / Memoir

Date to be Published: 10/15/20

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

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It’s 1973. Our nation is torn apart by the Vietnam War, and the massacre of unarmed students at Kent State. The Vice President has resigned for bribery and tax evasion. The President is being investigated for engaging in criminal activity.

At twenty-three, David Reed has become embittered by political strife and corruption. Disenchanted with his future, he wants out. Along with new friends, Rusty and Susie, David leaves everything he knows to cross the United States with little more than his bicycle and a camera.

The trio gets more than they bargain for, with menacing animals, extreme weather, and astonishing encounters.

Uphill and Into the Wind recounts an odyssey that spans 5420 miles on bicycles. It chronicles the sudden and surprising glories of nature, the raw beauty of the land, and the majesty of the mountains. But that is just the start. Through it all, the three are changed forever, in ways they did not expect, by their long journey into the unknown.


Excerpt

Arriving in Yates Center we take an afternoon siesta, to let the wind and heat die down but the weather from the west looks sinister. We get food for dinner (mackerel salad, carrots, celery, and PB & J) at the local market and eat sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk. A friendly local, Milton, comes over to chat, and our conversation quickly turns to the weather, which looks more brooding every minute. Milton suggests we shelter at a stone house near a reservoir, a short ride away. I grab a carrot and we hop in his pickup to reconnoiter.

The shelter looks sound enough and the western sky is growing very dark. As we drive back, all the radio stations say the same thing: “tornado watch,” severe thunderstorm warnings. This weather is almost on top of us. I thank Milton, jump out of the truck and tell Rusty and Susie that we have a place to go and have to leave right now. We rinse our dishes, get water, and pedal down off the rise we’re perched on, out of town. Ahead, an ominous north-south curtain of rain approaches. It divides the world into day and tremulous night—a night so dark the cars coming through can only be seen by their headlights. A distinct, gigantic black wall is headed steadily toward us and we straight into its maw.

We book toward the stone shelter at breakneck speed. Thunder claps and a few big Kansas raindrops pelt us. I know it’s going to be close—will we get there before all hell breaks loose? The moment we roll our bikes under the roof, the clouds burst open. We’re safe, at least for now.

Rusty and I put on our ponchos and venture out into the nearby field to witness the storm. The skies are black with low-slung clouds, and Thor throws thunderbolts down all around us. We stagger against the gale, trying to stand still, but the wind knocks us every which way and we struggle to keep from getting blown over. Rusty yells out my name. I turn to find his gaze fixed on the sky in awe and disbelief, his shaggy auburn mane blown out behind him and his finger pointed up. Directly above our heads, the clouds are spinning around in swirling circles, over and over, maybe two seconds for a complete rotation. I have only seen it once before from a distance, but there is no mistaking this. It’s the start of a tornado!

As we run back to the shelter, its tin roof shakes and clatters, ready to fly off.

Oh, Dorothy, we’re going to meet the Tin Man, now.

We find Susie in the back corner of the shelter, trembling and praying out loud. She is petrified, and Rusty and I, fresh from our jaunt into the Kansas wheat field, are very sober. I grab my camera, but when I try to go back outside, the wind prevents me. It gusts and howls to enormous strength—hurricane force. The grass is completely flattened and the trees bent over. A huge limb from a nearby oak snaps, flies off, and crashes to the ground. It looks like the end of the world, and we’re spellbound by the power of it all. The sound grows to a deafening roar as our tin roof vibrates fiercely. It could be ripped off this stone shelter in an instant, and we are in grave danger.

We hunker down low and wait.

Our Maker is calling us out. The clouds are alive, opaque, looming masses, swarming all around us. The spirits of the sky are angry and thundering and it quickly grows pitch black.

The lighting strikes are intense and prolonged, the thunder simultaneous. Some strikes crash down right in front of us, a natural Fourth of July that goes on for hours. We “Ooh” and “aaah” like little children at the fireworks.

Miraculously, it starts to lighten up. The weather has been so intense; we’ve forgotten its still daytime. The sun, now below the weather, blasts everything with psychedelic red, orange, and yellow, a Jesus sky; with its radiant, heavenly halo blessing everything it touches. I set my camera on its tripod and get my “Come to Jesus” photo. Wow.

After the sun sets, the wind shifts and the rains return, hard and steady. The storm has reversed course and comes right back at us, blowing deep into our open-sided shelter. We have to move everything to the very back to keep from getting soaked. We sit against the wall and witness the spectacle. The thunder and lightning return, fearsome, prolific and strobe-like.

Susie tells us she thought we were crazy, out in the middle of the field, “dancing like harebrained fools.” We tell her we weren’t dancing, we were trying to hold steady against the wind.


 About the Author

David Reed has spent a lifetime studying the natural world, from his youth in the woods, his University training, his apprenticeship as a stonemason, and his travels on a bicycle, to his career as an award-winning landscape architect.

A career highlight includes re-designing four major gardens in San Diego’s jewel, Balboa Park.

A visual storyteller, David has guest lectured at the San Diego Museum of Art, Rutgers University, Kansas State University, The New School of Architecture, and other venues. His professional work has been published in Sunset Magazine, Garden Design Magazine, and Building Stone Magazine.

Uphill and Into the Wind is David’s debut memoir. But his work has been published in A Year in Ink, the San Diego Writers, Ink Anthology and awarded at the Southern California Writers Conference.

David believes that life is “out there,” in the forest, and on the land, not inside the box.

He currently resides in San Diego with his wife and family.

 

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#Excerpt “The Boy and the Lake” by Adam Pelzman


Family Saga Fiction. Literary Fiction

Date Published: October 7th, 2020

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Haunted by his discovery of a beloved neighbor’s body floating lifeless in the lake where he’s fishing, 16-year-old Benjamin Baum is convinced she was murdered despite her death being deemed an accident.  While those around him tire of his fixation on finding a supposed killer, Ben’s alienation leads to drinking and the reader begins to wonder if he’s a reliable narrator. The plot takes a shocking twist, revealing the terrifying reality that things are not what they seem—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darkness lurks. 


CHAPTER ONE

June 1967

I can recall with near perfect clarity the moment I saw Helen Lowenthal’s bloated body slide up through a carpet of emerald water lilies and bob on the water’s surface like a ghostly musk turtle. In the seconds before her lifeless ascent, a constellation of fireflies—tiny flickering furnaces—danced and glowed in the early summer dusk; a white egret, all legs and neck, landed atop Split Rock and stood regal guard over the lake; a long-eared bat carved wicked arcs through the sky before devouring a plump imperial moth.

From the direction of Second Beach, Nathan Gold’s pontoon boat—the Ark—puttered along the shoreline with four prosperous couples reveling in their evening cocktails. A symphony of big bands, laughter, and giddy howls poured off the boat and tumbled across the lake’s still water. Nathan and his wife, Bea—a gregarious, stocky woman—called out to me as they passed, and I waved back with delight, wondering how two people could be so festive, so happy, so often.

Bonnie Schwartz, my mother’s friend, was also on the boat. She was considered by many to be the prettiest woman on the lake, as was her mother before her. I waved to her with the hope of some reciprocity—maybe a nod or a simple smile in my direction—but this auburn beauty, distracted by her empty martini glass, did not notice me—an omission that punished my fragile sixteen-year-old heart.

I sat on the edge of the dock, my feet immersed in the water of our beloved New Jersey lake. As the Ark turned north toward the clubhouse, the boat’s wake caused the pungent, algal water to lap against my calves. I held a wooden fishing pole that Papa, my grandfather, had given me when I was six. The hook baited with a throbbing night crawler, I watched as the red-and-white bobber teased me with a quick downward thrust, only to rise to the surface and drift with rippled ease. Clever fish, I thought.

A few seconds before the swollen body emerged, I turned back to look at my grandparents’ summerhouse. I could see Nana flitting about the screened-in porch, setting the table for yet another dinner party, while Papa probed the lawn for moles, angling empty glass bottles into their holes with the open ends facing downward. “Makes a howling noise, Ben,” he once told me as he guided a beer bottle into the earth. “Drives them crazy, like psychological warfare.”

What I noticed first in the water before me was not a body, but a flutter in the lilies that I mistook for a jumping frog. It was only when the attenuated rays of the descending summer sun flashed off Helen’s gold and diamond watch that I realized something terrible had occurred. I gasped and leapt to my feet. “God,” I mumbled and raised my right foot as if to take a step forward, toward the body. “Papa!” I yelled, dropping the rod to the dock. “Papa, come down!”

Despite his old age, my grandfather was a lithe and energetic man who, after numerous injuries and surgeries, had somehow managed to retain much of the athleticism of his youth. He was alarmed by the distress in my voice, for he threw a bottle to the ground and dashed down the slate path to the water’s edge. I glanced up to my grandmother, who stood frozen on the porch, right hand on chest, her mouth open.

“There!” I shouted to Papa and pointed to the blue-white body of his next-door neighbor. Helen Lowenthal, whose rare kindness had evoked in me the greatest loyalty, was dressed in a pink tennis skirt and matching top. Barefoot, she floated on her back, her face dappled with lake slime, her dyed blonde hair draped over a mat of lilies, her pale arms elevated above her head as if she were a surrendering soldier. I took another step closer, toward the water. I found myself drawn to her body, to its deadness, to its serene, haunted passage, as one is drawn to the very things—once beautiful, now rotten—that intrigue us, that repulse us with their incomprehensible transformation.

Papa reached the dock and grabbed my arm. He stared at the body in silence, then, as if looking for a clue, scanned the shoreline and the lake’s expanse. A hundred feet from the dock, in a pool of quiet water, an elderly couple fished from an anchored motorboat; the Ark continued its journey toward the clubhouse, a familiar Ella Fitzgerald melody drifting off the stern; a small sailboat floated in the windless dusk; and the white egret elevated from Split Rock, relinquishing its perch in search of food. “Go inside and call the police,” Papa cried. “It’s Helen, you know.” He wiped the sweat from his face then, panting, bent over at the waist. “Helen … Lowenthal,” he said through heavy breaths, before stepping down, fully-clothed, into the shallow water.

I watched as he struggled to traverse the muddy lake floor, the water rising from his knees, to his waist, to his chest. When he reached Helen, he touched a small bruise on her forehead. He then grasped her left hand and guided her—belly-up—toward the shore, her body slicing through the water with ease and purpose. As I watched this scene unfold, I was immobilized by my first close contact with death. I stared at her corpse with a vast fear, with a revulsion that shamed me, and, I would later acknowledge, with something approximating wonderment.

With great care, Papa placed his palm on the side of Helen’s head—a tender movement that protected her from hitting a protruding rock. Now just feet from the shore, the water knee-deep, he turned to me. “Go, Ben,” he demanded. “Go now!”

Unable to divert my eyes from the scene before me, I moved slowly up the dock. I watched as Papa stepped up onto the shore, his legs heavy from the weight of his sodden pants. I watched as he lifted Helen, as he groaned in exertion, and then gently laid her down on the spongy moss. I took one last look at the woman. She wore the fancy watch her husband had given her for their twentieth anniversary, and on her left hand was an engagement ring, the one with a diamond so large that some of the women from the bridge club had started a rumor that the stone was fake. I glanced at her toenails, painted cherry red, and at her slime-lacquered face.

“Go!” Papa screamed, now with fury in his eyes. And then I ran to the house and into my grandmother’s fleshy, perfumed embrace. I ran to a safe place.


About the Author

Adam Pelzman was born in Seattle, raised in northern New Jersey, and has spent most of his life in New York City. He studied Russian literature at the University of Pennsylvania and went to law school at UCLA. His first novel, Troika, was published by Penguin (Amy Einhorn Books). He is also the author of The Papaya King, which Kirkus Reviews described as “entrancing,” “deeply memorable” and “devilishly smart social commentary.” The Boy and the Lake, set in New Jersey during the late 1960s, is his third novel.

 

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#Excerpt “Hell & Back (Outbreak Task Force Book 5)” by Julie Rowe

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Outbreak Task Force, Book #5

 

Romantic Suspense

Date Published: 9/21/2020

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

 

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 Racing to lock down the CDC’s deadly virus samples from terrorists, ex-Special Forces medic Henry Lee partners with Ruby Toth on the Outbreak Task Force. But the terrorists always seem one step ahead. As they work side by side, Henry’s taken with how Ruby accepts and respects him, instead of pitying him for all he lost overseas, including his leg. Ruby’s hiding something, though, and Henry fears she’s been leaking sensitive information. Terrorists have kidnapped her brother, and now microbiologist Ruby Toth faces a horrible choice. If she doesn’t give them a vial of Small Pox as ransom, her brother will die. She knows her prickly—yet very hot—boss, Henry, could provide the help she needs. But she joined the CDC to root out insiders plotting to unleash a bio-engineered pandemic, and she can’t trust anyone. Not even Henry.

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~~~

EXCERPT

“Stop sniveling and do it,” she said to herself. “If you don’t, they’ll kill Nate.”

After taking in a couple of deep breaths, she walked to the four liquid nitrogen–only freezers.

She opened the one containing the smallpox and searched for the correct storage slot. It was there, just like it was supposed to be, along with 138 other biological samples.

The vial was so small. About the size of her pinkie finger. Huh. She really could put it in her bra.

No. No, she couldn’t do it. Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people would die.

She very carefully put it back. Her brother would die if she didn’t do this. She reached out, then hesitated. Did she truly have no choice?

Her mind conjured up the images of millions of people infected with smallpox. All the bodies in body bags piled in heaps and being buried in massive mass graves.

The image of her brother, his body riddled with bullet holes and blood, fought for air time in her head.

There was really only one choice she could make.

She plucked out the vial, double-checked the label, then closed the freezer. She turned, half expecting to see Henry standing behind her, but the room was empty. Relief stole some of the energy out of her muscles, and she had to force herself to keep moving.

She stood under the disinfectant spray, the vial clutched in her fist until her suit was thoroughly washed clean. The sample went inside a clean rubber glove as she went through the disinfectant process, then she opened the door leading to the hallway and elevator.

Arms crossed over his chest, Henry stood in the doorway, his face a mask of rage and disgust.

Rage and disgust aimed at her.

Ice froze her in place. She couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe.

Nausea rose in a hot, bitter wave and threatened to hijack her entire body. She fought it down with several convulsive swallows, her muscles so tense her bones threatened to break.

She was dead.

Her brother was dead.

Henry advanced—one step, two.

She backed up. Going around him was impossible—he took up too much space in the doorway. She had no doubt he’d squish her flat as a tank rolling over an ant hill.

Only after the door swung shut did he speak.

“What. The. Fuck.” The words came out of his mouth like bullets out of a gun. Each one physically rocked her back as pain blossomed across her chest.

What was there to say? She’d betrayed everything she believed in when she’d grabbed that vial. Her actions weren’t defensible. Not really. Anyone else would insist there was no negotiating with terrorists. They played with no rules of engagement.

“Why?” he barked out.

“D-do-does it matter?” Her whole body was shortcircuiting, including her mouth. “I d-did it.”

~~~

 About the Author

Full-time author and workshop facilitator, Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and Fort McMurray, Alberta, where she still resides. Her most recent titles include Search & Destroy book #4 of the Outbreak Taskforce series and Trapped with the Secret Agent book #1 of the Trapped with Him series. Julie’s articles have appeared in magazines, such as Romantic Times Magazine, Today’s Parent magazine and Canadian Living. Julie facilitates communication workshops at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, and has presented writing workshops at conferences in the United States and Canada. You can find her at http://www.julieroweauthor.com , on Twitter @julieroweauthor or at her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/JulieRoweAuthor.

 

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#ReleaseBlitz “Hell & Back (Outbreak Task Force Book 5)” by Julie Rowe

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~~~

Hell & Back

Outbreak Task Force, Book #5

Romantic Suspense

Date Published: 9/21/2020

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

 

photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

 Racing to lock down the CDC’s deadly virus samples from terrorists, ex-Special Forces medic Henry Lee partners with Ruby Toth on the Outbreak Task Force. But the terrorists always seem one step ahead. As they work side by side, Henry’s taken with how Ruby accepts and respects him, instead of pitying him for all he lost overseas, including his leg. Ruby’s hiding something, though, and Henry fears she’s been leaking sensitive information. Terrorists have kidnapped her brother, and now microbiologist Ruby Toth faces a horrible choice. If she doesn’t give them a vial of Small Pox as ransom, her brother will die. She knows her prickly—yet very hot—boss, Henry, could provide the help she needs. But she joined the CDC to root out insiders plotting to unleash a bio-engineered pandemic, and she can’t trust anyone. Not even Henry.

Purchase Links 

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~~~

EXCERPT

About time he called her. Where the hell was he?

She answered the phone with, “Where have you been?”

“Your brother is with us, Miss Toth,” a distorted voice said. “If you don’t do everything we tell you to do, you’ll never see him in one piece again.”

A cold fist punched her in the stomach, and she was standing without recalling how she got there. The cold pushed its way through her body, weakening her knees until she collapsed back onto the chair she’d been sitting on.

“Who is this?”

“You know who we are.” The distortion made it impossible to discern if the voice was male or female. “Your brother is healthy. For the moment.”

Assholes. Anger freed her diaphragm from its icy cage. She harnessed the energy and rode it, breaking it down into something useful. Patience.

Watch, wait, listen, then act. She’d learned the hard way not to let her emotions hijack her mouth. To get along with difficult people, you had to figure out what they wanted and what they didn’t before you spoke.

What kind of response would a bunch of terrorists who’d kidnapped her brother want from her? Defeat, not defiance. Compliance, not confidence. She needed to make them believe she’d do whatever they told her to do.

“Please don’t hurt him. Wh-what do you want?” There was enough adrenaline surging through her system it wasn’t hard to stutter and breathe a little too hard. To sound like she was on the edge of panic.

“A live sample of smallpox.” Despite the distortion, the voice sounded self-satisfied. Arrogant. Superior. For a moment, she couldn’t quite believe what she heard.

“You can’t be serious.”

“Get it or your brother dies.”

“How do I know he’s not already dead?” Her voice broke on the last word.

~~~

 About the Author

Full-time author and workshop facilitator, Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and Fort McMurray, Alberta, where she still resides. Her most recent titles include Search & Destroy book #4 of the Outbreak Taskforce series and Trapped with the Secret Agent book #1 of the Trapped with Him series. Julie’s articles have appeared in magazines, such as Romantic Times Magazine, Today’s Parent magazine and Canadian Living. Julie facilitates communication workshops at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, and has presented writing workshops at conferences in the United States and Canada. You can find her at http://www.julieroweauthor.com , on Twitter @julieroweauthor or at her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/JulieRoweAuthor.

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#Excerpt “Malice and Forethought” by Felicia Denise

Malice and Forethought cover

Malice and Forethought:

Short Stories of Malice and Murder

~~~

EXCERPTA Hint of Malice

She caught her blurred reflection in the antiquated steel doors of the basement elevator.

Black turtleneck. Black Jeans. Black boots. Jacket and gloves, also black.

If she were in a nightclub, she would be called hot.

But she wasn’t some voluptuous bad-ass fashionista making a statement or setting a trend. She wore black for one reason. It hid blood splatter.

“Give me your knife, Jess.”

She’d forgotten it was still gripped in her fisted hand, blood dripping from its blade to the tarp on which she stood.

They extended their gloved hands, and he took the knife, dipping it into a small container of clear solution.

The blood disappeared.

He tossed the knife onto the tarp with the body and began rolling it up.

Jess stepped off her end and bent to help.

“No. I got this. You look a little shaken up. Scour the area and make sure we leave nothing behind.”

Jess walked around the small area of the underground parking garage but glanced over her shoulder to see Ren complete his task with ease and no emotion.

Was she shaken up?

Jess took one last look into the unseeing eyes of Neil Garner AKA William McNaughton before he disappeared into the folds of the tarp. She couldn’t muster up one ounce of guilt or remorse. She’d sent him to hell and knew she’d join him one day.

Jess grabbed Ren’s ‘tool bag’ and tossed it into the back of the Mercedes. She heard a dull thud and turned to see Ren walking away from the abandoned dumpster.

They climbed into the vehicle and began their return trip.

Thoughts of her aunt, Carmella Gordon, flooded her mind.

Her amazing aunt who’d always been a major part of Jess’ life, was gone, dead from her own hand.

Because of Neil Garner.


Malice – noun; mal·ice | ˈma-ləs

1 : desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another
//
2 : intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without legal justification or excuse
//ruined her reputation and did it with malice

Everyone is capable of malice and no one is immune to its outcome.

A Hint of Malice – When her last living relative commits suicide after having her identity and assets stolen, a grieving niece longs for justice.

Burned – When the masterminds behind a major drug operation get off with a slap on the wrists, a frustrated police detective warns them their wealth cannot shield them from everything.

The Marshall Sisters – After seeing her sister mistreated by far too many men, Leslie Marshall is proud of Paula for standing up for herself and accompanies her on a cold winter’s night to confront her boyfriend, but even Leslie isn’t ready for the new, assertive Paula.

The Watcher – Shamed into exile by his family because of his sexual fetish and hanging on to the shreds of his sanity, a man plots the ultimate date night with his new neighbor.

What’s done in the dark always comes to the light.

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#Excerpt “Chasing Wild Horses” by Mila Nicks

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Wild Horse Ranch Book 1
Contemporary Romance
Date Published: August 7, 2020
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A slow-burn romance between two outsiders from opposite worlds:
He’s the biggest outcast in town…
Chase Collins has never met a horse he didn’t like. Too bad he can’t say the same for people. In his hometown Lutton, his poor reputation follows him like a dark shadow. It’s best for everyone if he sticks to where he belongs. At least on Wild Horse Ranch, he’s safe from judgment. Then one day a familiar face from 10 years ago shows up out of the blue.
She’s a wanderer who comes and goes…
Samara Grant is a nomad at heart. She doesn’t like staying put for too long. But when her Grandma Bunny passes away, she has to put her carefree lifestyle on hold to handle her affairs. She might have spent childhood summers in Lutton, Texas, but it’s no place to live. She wants to get in and out as fast as possible. Little does she know life has other plans.
Together, they form an unbreakable bond…
When Samara feels like she’s losing control of her life, she decides to take it back. She asks Chase to teach her how to ride. Neither expect to find common ground—and a fiery attraction—when Chase agrees. But their blossoming relationship isn’t celebrated by everyone. The closer Chase and Samara get, the more an unforeseen enemy seeks to tear them apart…

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~~~

EXCERPT

The sight was jarring. Her tire was shredded, the split in the rubber the work of a sharp blade. She quickly looked up and scanned the area. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Here and there others in town wandered down the sidewalks and perused the shops on Main Street, all of them unsuspecting and indifferent. Nobody had a clue that her tire had been slashed.

Walking around to the other three corners of her Jeep, she saw the rest were too. Somebody had intentionally sought out her Jeep and destroyed her tires. Her brain rejected that reality, swimming in a shock that left her speechless. For the life of her, she couldn’t rationalize why. None of it made sense. She was a visitor in Lutton, temporarily in town for the summer. Who the hell would do something like this?

Samara must’ve looked like a frazzled mess standing there beside her Jeep. Several passersby slowed up and stared. A few stopped and asked if she needed help. Her shock hadn’t worn off so she ignored them all, blinking with a lump in her throat at the damage done. It was difficult for her to tell how much time had passed before the last person she wanted to hear spoke to her.

“Who did this?” Chase asked from behind. He had exited the grocery store to discover her on the sidewalk. He walked up with tentative footsteps, keeping a distance between them. “Somebody slashed your tires.”

Her earlier temper rushed in like water bursting through a dam. “No shit! Just go, okay? I don’t need your—”

“You were in the store for a few minutes,” Chase interrupted in his low drawl. He dropped his own groceries on the cement and strode forward to kneel beside a shredded tire. “That means one thing.”

“What? What does it mean?” She had no patience, snapping without care or thought.

Chase ran a hand over the deep puncture marks. “It means somebody was watching you.”

~~~

 About the Author

Mila Nicks has a thing for romance. Chick lit, chick flicks, you name it, she’s there. She’s all about basking in a quality, well-told love story.

It’s why she’s decided to use her passion for writing to pen love stories featuring women of color.

When she’s not engrossed in all things romance, she’s probably out shopping, sampling food off of someone else’s plate, or hanging with her
feisty and dangerous pet chihuahua, Zayden.
For more on Mila, including upcoming releases and story freebies, check out her website and subscribe to her newsletter: https://www.milanickswrites.com/

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#Excerpt “Dreamland” by Beth D. Carter

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Time-Travel Romance

Date Published: 7/2/2020

Publisher: Evernight Publishing

 

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Dicen Burke had it all.  As lead singer in the world famous rock band, Dark Army, the world lay at his feet.  But the path to super stardom warred with a painful past and during a performance the demons haunting him finally descended.  Unable to stop the self-destructive path of alcohol and drugs, when he fell, he fell hard.

He wakes up in a world he doesn’t know.  The Twenty-first century rocker is now in the 1920’s, lost and bewildered. He’s taken in by Juliet Fox, a beautiful woman trying to be a positive influence in her brother’s wild lifestyle among the Hollywood Motion
Picture elite.

Dicen does his best to adapt, and with Juliet by his side, he discovers a world that offers him a clean slate.  But when he’s pulled back to the present, separated by time from the one person that gives him a reason to live, will he find a way to push past his demons as well as find Juliet again?

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~~~

Excerpt

             

“Hey you,” a soft voice commanded.  “Open your eyes please.”

He tried to obey, struggling to push past the lingering darkness that clung to him like a second skin.  God, he felt horrible.

“That’s it,” she soothed.  “Open your eyes.  Look at me.”

Finally, he managed to raise his eyelids.  An angel leaned over him, staring into his eyes.  She smiled at him so he smiled back.  He had always thought it would be demons that would come collect him when he died so it amazed him that heaven was calling.

“Ah, a set of beautiful baby blues,” she murmured, stroking his cheek.  “Hello, handsome.”

He opened his mouth to say something but the words wouldn’t come. His tongue felt swollen, dry.  He forced himself to swallow to try to get some saliva flowing.

“W-what happened?”

She cocked her head.  “Bad hooch I’m thinking.  Gotta be careful of certain juice joints.  Come,” she said, holding out her hand.  “Let’s get you sitting upright.”

He hadn’t realized he’d been lying down but as she helped him up, he realized the halo around her head had been nothing more but the flickering of a street light accentuating the midnight hue of her hair.  When he was vertical once more, he finally saw all of the woman’s features.  Short bobbed hair held back by a headband made of crystal beads while dark eyes watched him from under thin, perfectly arched eyebrows.  Her lips were a cupid’s bow, painted a deep red.  Her skin a flawless pale shade that contrasted sharply with her heavily made up eyes.

“Like what you see?” she asked.

He blinked.  “I always like my fans.  Where am I?”

One of those thin eyebrows arched.  “That hooch must’ve really  made you balled up.  You’re off Hollywood Boulevard, of course, belly up in an alley.”

He looked around, completely baffled.  How the hell did he get here?

Where was the stage?  The screaming fans?  Kieron, Van and Tony?

“Do you have a name, handsome?”

“Yeah, sorry.  I’m Dicen Burke.”

He waited.  He waited for the name to sink in, for her eyes to widen, for her to begin batting her eyes in an attempt to flirt her way into his bed.

“Juliet,” she said.  “Juliet Fox.  I was looking for my brother, Thayer, and figured I’d find him upchucking out here and instead I find a keen big six.  Say, you’re no drugstore cowboy are you?”

“Excuse me?”  Her lack of a response to his name, along with slang he didn’t understand, threw him.

“You know, a guy that hangs around street corners looking to pick up ladies.  Just so we’re clear on the matter, I ain’t that kind of girl,” she informed him, the smile on her face lessening the harshness of her tone.  “Have you seen another man out here, by chance, throwing up?”

She confused him.  He shook his head and then wished he hadn’t when it throbbed.  “God, I need an aspirin.”

 

~~~

About the Author

I began reading my mom’s Harlequin Presents in the fifth grade, and
from the first story I knew I wanted to write romance novels. I like writing
about the very ordinary girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances, so my
heroines will probably never be lawyers, doctors or corporate
highrollers.  I try to write characters who aren’t cookie cutters and
push myself to write complicated situations that I have no idea how to
resolve, forcing me to think outside the box.  I love writing
characters who are real, complex and full of flaws, heroes and heroines who
find redemption through love. You can find me on the web at:

 

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