#BookReview “Hunter’s Secret (The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries #5)” by Val Penny

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Two young boys stumble over a body while bike-riding home. When they return to the site with their parents and the police, the body is gone. The boys are thought pranksters at first, but blood evidence proves there was a body. It is never found.

Thirty years later, two coworkers out for morning exercise stumble upon a body at a muddy river’s edge. With a dead cellphone in an isolated area, the men leave the body to contact authorities. When they return, the body is gone.

At first glance, the only connection is WHO found the bodies. The first body was found by fifteen-year-old Hunter Wilson and his younger brother, Fraser.  The second body three decades later is found by DCs Tim Myerscough and Bear Zewedu, and their boss is… DI Hunter Wilson.

With the holidays fast approaching, Hunter wanted to clear as many cases as possible, but this newest case may not be one of them. His team will have to search through thirty years of missing person cases as he deals with thirty years of nightmares.

This is my first read by Val Penny and I enjoyed it! What seemed like a simple plot in the beginning took enough twists and turns to keep me guessing almost to the end.

I loved the characters… well, except for Arthur and his jerk brother. And Jamie was annoying, but everyone had distinct personalities and played off each other well.

Gender reassignment, the LGBTQ community, and racial issues are dealt with realistically without being preachy or heavy-handed. Family issues are a big part of the story and they’re honestly portrayed and at times, humorous.

Don’t know when I’ll get time to read the first four books in this series, but I’m definitely on board for the next case!

Enjoy!

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SYNOPSIS

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. DCs Tim Myerscough and Bear Zewedu found a corpse, but when Hunter arrives it has disappeared, and all is not as it seems.

Hunter recalls the disappearance of a dead body thirty years earlier. The Major Incident Team is called in but sees no connection – it is too long ago. Hunter is determined to investigate the past and the present with the benefit of modern DNA testing.

Tim has other problems in his life. His father, Sir Peter Myerscough, is released from jail. He, too, remembers the earlier murder. There is no love lost between Hunter and Sir Peter. Will Hunter accept help from his nemesis to catch a killer?

Hunter’s own secret is exciting and crucial to his future. Will it change his life? And can he keep Edinburgh safe?

Purchase Link myBook.to/hunterssecret

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G I V E A W A Y

Win a .mobi of Hunter’s Secret  by Val Penny

(Open INTERNATIONALLY)

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E N T E R

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

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#BookTour “Souls: A Short Story Collection” by Terri Bruce

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Speculative Fiction

(Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror mix)

Date Published: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Mictlan Press

 

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There’s magic and mystery around every corner, if you know where to look…

This collection of eleven short stories from fantasy and science fiction
author Terri Bruce explores the hidden corners of our world. Blending
fantasy, horror, magical realism, and folklore, these tales will delight,
mystify, and unsettle. Unicorns roam the New Hampshire countryside disguised
as a biker gang. Portals to other worlds hide on commuter train platforms.
And be careful of what really lurks at the bottom of those quaint wishing
wells that dot the countryside. Strip away the veneer of everyday life and
dare to see what lies just below the surface.

Purchase Links

e-Book Universal

Print Book

Available from all major book retailers, including all international Amazon
stores.

Indiebound

Book Depository

Amazon (U.S.)

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About the Author

TERRI BRUCE is the author of the paranormal / contemporary fantasy Afterlife series, and her short stories have appeared in a variety of anthologies and magazines. She produces hard-to-classify fantasy and science fiction stories that explore the supernatural side of everyday things from beautiful Downeast Maine where she lives with her husband and various cats.

 

 

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#ReleaseBlitz “She Wears the Mask” by Shelly Stratton

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Women’s fiction, Historical Fiction

Date Published: August 11, 2020

 

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Gripping and moving, She Wears the Mask is a novel about two women from two
very different worlds, both burdened with secrets from their pasts, who form
an unexpected bond…

1950s Chicago: Angelique Bixby could be one of many fresh-faced sales girls
working along the Magnificent Mile, but she’s unique. She’s a
white woman married to a black man in 1950s Chicago, making her stand out
among the tenements on the South Side where she lives. Despite the
challenges the couple faces, they find comfort and strength in their love
for one another. Angelique is content, as long as she has her Daniel by her
side and their baby in her arms, until she loses them both—one to
death and the other to dire circumstances.

1990s Washington, D.C.: Angelique Crofton is a woman of privilege. A rich,
aging beauty and mother of a rising political star, she has learned to
forget her tragic past. But now that she is facing her own mortality, she is
finally ready to find the daughter she left behind, remember the young woman
she once was, and unearth the bittersweet memories she had long ago
buried.

Jasmine Stanley is an ambitious lawyer—the only black woman at her
firm. She is too busy climbing the corporate ladder to deal with her
troublesome family or their unresolved issues. Tasked with Angelique’s
case, Jasmine doesn’t know what to make of her new client—an old
debutante with seemingly too much time and money on her hands. Jasmine
eagerly accepts the challenge though, hoping if she finds Angelique’s
long-lost daughter, it will impress the firm’s partners. But she
doesn’t count on the search challenging her mentally and emotionally.
Nor does she expect to form a friendship with Angelique, who is much more
like her than she realizes—because Jasmine is harboring secrets,
too.

Purchase Link

Amazon

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About the Author

Shelly Stratton is the penname of an award-nominated women’s fiction author who has published more than a dozen novels in her career.

She is married and lives in Maryland with her husband and their daughter.


She loves to paint, read, and watch movies. Visit her at her web site
www.shellystrattonbooks.com.

  

Contact Links

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#BookTour “Unveiled” by LaRhonda Crosby-Johnson

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UNVEILED

BY LA RHONDA CROSBY-JOHNSON

Truth and love can change everything.

New Orleans attorney, L. Morgan Franklin, finds her well-ordered life turned upside down when her younger half-brother, Winston, dies in their small hometown of L’Ouverture, Louisiana. When it becomes evident that Winston’s death may actually be a murder, Morgan begins a search for answers that uncovers long-held family secrets and new discoveries about the people she loves the most. The mysteries of family, life and love all converge in this story of one woman’s refusal to accept things as they appear.

AVAILABLE ON

AMAZON | PAPERBACK

ADD ON GOODREADS

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EXCERPT

Grief and the sickeningly sweet smell of too many flowers hung heavy in the warm air of the late August afternoon. Morgan felt the weight of tears shed and hearts breaking. She rubbed her hands down her black silk suit when she walked slowly toward the simple wooden coffin that held the body of her beloved baby brother, Winston. “Half-brother.” She could almost imagine her mother, Marie, standing in front of her and uttering the world “half” as if it were some sort of disease. Morgan breathed deeply and pushed Marie’s words from her mind as she exhaled. They had no place here.

Winston’s mask-like, powered face somehow belied the words “heart attack” that still echoed in her head. Morgan stepped away from the coffin and quickly brushed away her tears. She fled the church and barely heard the words of comfort tossed her way. Outside there would be air she could breathe without inhaling the pain of mourners.

Morgan moved quickly once outside. Her legs felt somehow lighter than they had only moments before. She breathed deeply for the first time since she had received the news of Winston’s death a week ago and headed for the sanctuary of her car. The tinkling melody of the car alarm signaled her safe haven. She slid onto the butter-soft, caramel-colored leather seat and found comfort in its warmth. She cranked up the car, pushed the button to lower the windows and turned on the CD player. The soulful sound of Jill Scott’s voice surrounded her as she watched the family file out of the church and head toward limousines with the words Garrett Bros. painted in gold across the rear doors and windows. Of course, it would be Garrett Bros. They were still the only mortuary in town that “knew how to do colored.” Morgan had heard her maternal grandmother, Essie Baptiste, say that many times while she was growing up. Mama Essie, as everyone lovingly called her, had made everyone in the family vow to take her body to Garrett Bros. when her time came. Although it had been three years since Mama Essie passed, Morgan still felt her presence in this place. This thought alone eased the tension in her neck and removed the large knot that had taken up residence in the pit of her stomach.

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ABOUT LA RHONDA CROSBY-JOHNSONLaRhonda Crosby-Johnson

La Rhonda Crosby-Johnson is a proud native of Oakland, CA. She is a contributor to the award-winning Life’s Spices From Seasoned Sistahs anthology series, Go Tell Michelle: African American Women Write To The New First Lady, All The Women In My Family Sing and is the author of an ebook serial novel Jubilee’s Journey. Unveiled, released in July 2019 and described as a “page turner” is her first full-length novel. La Rhonda is currently working on her next book.

CONNECT WITH LA RHONDA CROSBY-JOHNSON

AUTHOR SITE | FACEBOOKTWITTER | GOODREADS | AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

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#Excerpt “Power of One” by Devpal Gupta

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Motivation Book/Self Help

Date Published: July 1st 2020

 

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 Author Devpal Gupta believes in living life according to those core values to which we we all have access: respect, positivity, and passion. In his debut inspirational book, Power of One, Devpal extracts lessons from his life’s journey which began in Tanzania and London and transplanted him to a successful life as an Arizona-based commercial real estate executive and applies them to real-life principles. With no holds barred, Devpal tells it like it is — he offers no excuse and takes no excuses when it comes to living a purposeful life. With eight hard-hitting, short-and-sweet chapters like “Get Over It” and “Why is the Brown Guy Better Than Us”, Devpal straight shoots advice on how to remain genuine, honest and real.

Devpal also introduces his own theory, the Power of One. He imparts upon readers that in order to be truly prosperous, the only one you can rely on, is yourself.

The Power of One is a fantastically quick read and a dynamic demonstration of what it takes to be resourceful and resilient in a world that rewards people for gratuitous likes rather than the efforts and principles behind hard work.

Purchase Link

Amazon 

Read FREE With Kindle Unlimited

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EXCERPT

Chapter 5:

  • When 9/11 happened, Sikhs were one of the most targeted communities because we wear turbans and we don’t shave our beards. People thought we were responsible for the terrorist attacks. Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh and a local gas station owner in Phoenix, was shot and killed on September 15, 2001, because someone believed he was Muslim due to his turban and beard. No one should be killed for how they worship or don’t. Balbir’s gas station is fifteen minutes from where I live now with my family. Numerous incidents such as these happened to Sikhs across the United States because people could not differentiate between turbans.
  • When I went on interviews after graduating from Arizona State University in 2005, there were companies who loved my personality and my resume but couldn’t accept the turban. I’d walk into an interview and I’d see smiles disappear as they stared at what represented my faith, my culture and me. I have since cut my hair and stopped wearing the dastār. I often regret doing so.  That was my identity; it fit me perfectly. It was a part of me, just like a leg or hand, but I let others tell me it didn’t fit in their world. I allowed strangers to dictate how I should appear in their life. I let their relevancy make mine irrelevant.
  • Why do we let others tell us what’s right or wrong? We’re already questioning ourselves; we don’t need their help to do it. We let irrelevant people into our lives to preach and tell us what makes us relevant, and yet these people hold zero significance to our personal wellbeing and growth. Shockingly, we let them tell us what makes us relevant in this world. We need to protect that right and use it for ourselves.
  • Until you respect yourself, until you place a value on yourself that is intrinsically high because it’s what you believe in, no one else is going to place the same value on you. If you think you are only worth ten dollars an hour, how and why would you expect anyone to pay you twenty? How can you expect people to think you are relevant if you are content with being normal? How can you remain authentic to yourself if you don’t respect yourself?

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 About the Author

Devpal Gupta is an Executive Director at one of the top commercial real estate firms in the greater Phoenix area. Specializing exclusively in Tenant Representation, he is responsible for servicing local clients and national
accounts. Dev started in the industry in 1997 and has always worked exclusively as a Tenant advocate. Since that time, he has completed over 200 transactions ranging in size and scope from 5,000 square feet to 500,000
square feet and involving services from conventional lease analysis, strategic planning, unique build-to-suit projects, building acquisitions and dispositions. Dev’s specialties include office and industrial leasing, relocations, renewals and acquisitions.

Dev possesses extensive experience with managing and implementing
transactions for diverse national portfolios, or large one-off deals.
In addition he has numerous companies with large sale-leaseback
transactions. His particular knowledge of real estate financial issues
enables him to proactively manage all types of transactions, minimizing
risk, increasing flexibility, and reducing overall occupancy costs. Dev won
Costar’s Power Broker of the year award in 2011, 2014, 2016 and 2018.

His dedication to his career and his craft carries over into how he lives
his life: with passion, honesty and attention to detail. Dev works hard,
plays hard and finds time to motivate people to living a meaningful life by
reminding them to return to their core values. The Power of One is his first
book.

Dev lives in Arizona with his wife and life partner, Suprit and their two
lovely children. He has recently persuaded his parents to move from Tanzania
and into his home; Dev considers this some of his best work yet.

 

Contact Links

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#ReleaseBlitz “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…

Purchase Link

Amazon

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 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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#BookTour “Impromptu Seduction” by Stephanie Nicole Norris

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IMPROMPTU SEDUCTION

BY STEPHANIE NICOLE NORRIS

Raised as a debutante, ladylike, and reserved, London Jones has stepped into unknown territory. From the moment her life collided with a man who should’ve been off-limits, a bachelor with a hot reputation—staying out of his way was the sensible thing to do. However, she finds herself caught in a tangled web of passionate fervor whenever he comes near. So much so that her ability to place a barrier between them becomes a futile battle. The heart wants what it wants, and London’s heart yearns for him.

Borboleta…

She was the impetus of his desire. The only one who captured his eye for more than a moment and beckoned his soul to blend in beautiful bliss with hers. For software engineer Kyle Valentine, his attempt to hold back the hedonism that struck whenever they were together threatened to be his undoing. His heart yearned to connect with London’s soul, and soon he finds himself questioning if he’s worthy of her love. But now that he’s gotten next to London, determination becomes the motto for his pursuit and his ultimate will to hold on to her, forever.

NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!

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EXCERPT

Valentine Isle

Brazil

“About what I said before.”

Claudia shook her head. “Don’t even apologize. I mean, you did come all the way to Brazil because of an invitation. So why wouldn’t you want to spend a night with him?”

London sighed. “So, I’m not crazy then?”

“I’ll tell you what you are. Human. And, if the Valentines are the type of men I’ve seen from the outside in, you should be okay with him.”

“Should be?”

“I can’t be sure, but I’m hopeful.”

“Okay. Really, I only want one night with him.”

Claudia dropped her chin. “I can’t believe you just let that bald-faced lie slip out of your mouth.”

London gawked. “What?”

Claudia left her side and returned with two champagne-filled flutes.

“We’ve already established that you like him because of the mileage between here and home, right?”

London smirked.

“So, there’s no need for you to turn around and say you only want one night with him.”

“Okay, but he may not be the several-nights type of guy.”

“You’re right. But say, for a second, birds of a feather really do flock together, then he is a several-nights type of guy, sis.”

“I don’t need this kind of inspiration.”

Claudia laughed and sipped, her eyes scanning the room to see Kyle’s dark attention pointing their way.

“Girl, that man wants you like, like…” Claudia thought of her husband, Jaden, and her body responded with flurrying tingles. “Nah, he couldn’t want you like that.” She chuckled.

London’s eyes squinted. “Anything is possible,” she whispered as if knowing what Claudia alluded to.

“You’re right. So, follow your instincts, girl.”

“You never answered my question.”

“What?”

“Would you call me a slut if I said I want to fuck him tonight?”

“I—”

London held her smirk as she stared Claudia down.

“No. This is your ballgame. Play it how you wish.”

London’s smile filled her face. “Honestly, him being the man of my dreams is a wish too cliché to believe in.” London’s mouth dropped, and her lips puckered. “I’m sorry if that let you down.”

“Girl. You’re right to have reservations.”

“I do…want to get to know his heart a bit more. But tonight, I just want to…”

“I know,” Claudia said. “Fuck.”

London laughed, and so did Claudia, sipping their champagne and sighing simultaneously.

“Do you think he’ll think I’m fast?”

“That’s always a possibility. But somehow, I doubt it.”

“You’re full of yes-and-no tonight.”

They laughed again, and Claudia emptied her glass.

“Honey, I’m going to call it a night. It was fun, and we have a flight out tomorrow morning. Should I look for you to be in the limo on time?”

“No.” She said it with such conviction.

A smile lingered around Claudia’s lips.

“Okay. I’ll see you in a few days?”

“Yes.” They pulled one another in for a hug. “Thank you for coming all this way with me.”

“Oh, what? A short vacation across the globe, please. I’d do it if it weren’t you.”

They fell into laughter.

“I’m kidding.”

“You better be!”

They laughed.

“Do you need me to walk you to your room? It’s the least I could do, right?”

“Girl, no. Jaden has a GPS on this ass; he’ll know where I’m at, at all times.”

Laughter rocked London’s soul, and she waved at Claudia and watched her sashay away.

Filled with amusement, London strolled to the drink table, retrieving another flute. When her eyes landed on Kyle, it was at the same moment that his gaze left his current conversation and traveled to her.

His wink settled in her soul, and biting her lip, she turned and left the room treading back to the beach beyond the ceremony.

Warm grains of sand sank between her toes as she strolled, face to the wind that blew her straight black mane from her shoulders. Pausing, London considered the moon, bright and full behind the dark firmament.

A peaceful ambiance fell over her, and as she took it all in, eyes closed, there was nowhere else she wanted to be.

“You should try falling asleep under the sky. The calm is like no other.”

London bit down on her lip, a heat moving through her system like ignition.

“I was just wondering about that,” she said, twirling on her bare sandy feet to face him.

“And here I thought you were going to say, I know.”

Her smile deepened, but she kept her lips closed.

“Hmmm. What makes you think I would know?”

He took a step forward, close enough that their shadows merged.

“Because you seem like the type of woman to travel the globe, experiencing everything new that is good.”

“Is that right?”

His smile energized her heart. “It is.”

“Well, you would be surprised to know that Brazil is my first overseas adventure.”

His dark gaze widened, then squinted. “What a surprise. I’ve popped your international cherry,” he teased.

Laughter sprinted from her lips, but it wasn’t just because of his joke, but more so because she was interested in him popping her official cherry.

A flowing river of warmth sailed down Kyle’s body. He’d never kindled so much from a woman’s mere laugh, and her enjoyment lit up her face in the moonlight, turning her into a midnight goddess.

Accessing her from head to toe while she reined in her merriment, Kyle bit his bottom lip, taking careful consideration of the curves in her hips and design of her pretty crafted feet.

Seeing the dark red polish peek from her sandy toenails filled him with hunger. He was a foot man, after all. When he realized he had this fetish, Kyle thought it was a bit unusual. Why would feet, of all things, turn him on with such magnification? But it soon became a beautiful revelation of art he considered given to him by the Creator. The delicacy, intricacy, and originality of a woman’s foot were art defined.

He decided God was showing off by presenting to Kyle what a master Creator He was.

Down, boy, he inwardly warned as his libido began to rise.

“That was pretty funny, Mr. Valentine.”

Kyle’s lips spread into a daring smile. “Mr. Valentine is my father.” He winked, teasing her.

“What shall I call you then, sir?”

He took in an elongated breath. “Be warned, while sir is fine with me, it may get you in trouble, borboleta.”

“I see.” London nodded. “What if I want to get in trouble?” She traced the rim of her top lip with her tongue as her eyes settled on his mouth.

Kyle tilted his head, a smirk lifting the corner of his lip.

“I would say you’re a very dangerous woman.”

She laughed. “Not usually, but tonight, I am feeling oddly precarious.”

Pulling her hands behind her back, London unzipped her dress and peeled the fabric over her skin, revealing bare shoulders and dark honey brown flesh. Before he could stop her, not that he rushed to try, London removed the garment, allowing it to fall to her ankles.

A strapless bikini top and thin bikini bottoms were plastered against her skin. The nude color teased Kyle’s senses, and his nostrils flared, his gaze piercingly thorough as he scanned her body.

He’d been right. She was the butterfly he’d imagined she would be once she shed from her cocoon.

“Careful. While I commend myself for having self-restraint in most areas of my life, this, with you, is not one of them.”

His jaw locked, and London backpedaled, sultry eyes drawing his footsteps forward as she moved.

“There’s no restraint needed tonight, sir. I think we could both stand to get a little…wet.”

A splash of water from the rushing shoreline pushed against their legs. Splitting the button-down shirt he wore with a single heavy-handed jerk, Kyle tossed the garment aside and, just as quickly, removed the pants that were now wet up to his calves.

Desire spilled from their eyes as they held on to each other’s gaze in the torch of moonlight. As another wave coasted forward, they were drenched—Kyle up to his waist, London up to her belly.

Reaching for her, Kyle drew London into his arms, her wet body sliding up the hardness of his regime. Her arms slipped around his neck as their lips crashed together, pulses knocking along with their hearts, his dick, her plum.

“Mmmmm,” she moaned.

Kyle had been more than a drug for London. The type of intoxication she felt under his spell was DUI-certifiable. Still, she thirsted for him to the point of not giving a damn about anything in that moment. Her hips ground, rotating against his hardness, and she shook with desire so splintering, her lungs aspirated from the deep breaths of shared oxygen she took in from his mouth.

“Sir…” she purred, eyes locked on his spearing gaze, “take me as I am.”

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a special gift full of swag from Stephanie Nicole Norris

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ABOUT STEPHANIE NICOLE NORRIS

Stephanie Nicole Norris is an author from Chattanooga, Tennessee, with a humble beginning. After becoming a young adult, her love for romance sparked, leaving her captivated by heroes and heroines alike. With a big imagination and a creative heart, Stephanie penned her first novel in 2012. She went on to write grin-inducing romance and has been nominated multiple times, receiving three literary awards for Best Series, Best Book Cover, and Author of the Year. As a prolific writer, Stephanie’s catalog continues to grow. Her books can be found on Amazon as well as http://www.stephanienicolenorris.com.

#BookReview “Dear Durwood (Third Chance Enterprises Book 2)” by Jeff Bond

on Tour August 1 – September 30, 2020

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5/5 Stars!

I shamelessly admit I am crushin’ on Durwood Oak Jones.

He may have a standing ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine, but he’s not your run-of-the-mill mercenary.

Actually, Durwood isn’t a mercenary at all. He’s not muscle for hire. His unique set of skills simply aren’t available to the highest bidder. Since his military days, Durwood has fought to right injustices because the underdog rarely had the advantage. Which is how he ended up in Chickasaw, Texas.

Big-money Wall Street is suddenly interested in the small town’s single largest employer, Hogan Industries, a manufacturing company. Losing Hogan would be a death knell for Chickasaw. Mayor Carol Bridges is not a damsel in distress looking for a dude in a white hat to save her. She takes her job seriously and is exploring other options to bring jobs to Chickasaw, but her inquiries have been stonewalled and ignored on every front. She simply wants Durwood to get answers for her so she’ll know how to proceed and save her town.

While it’s not diffusing bombs or shooting a drone out the sky six seconds before it hit the fuselage of a jumbo jet carrying six heads of state, Durwood has a gut feeling about Chickasaw’s problem, and he’s impressed with Carol’s forthright nature—and the Iraqi combat medal hanging on her wall—so he agrees to make some inquiries on her behalf.

However, on meeting each of the under-thirty Ivy League graduates who run Hogan Industries, Durwood is not happy with the answers he receives. Jay Hogan and Chester Lyles are arrogant and condescending… and they both will regret underestimating Durwood Oak Jones.

This was such a good read with a great protagonist! I loved the wit and dry humor!

Durwood doesn’t have the swagger of Bond or the ever-simmering rage of Reacher or the mental issues of Rambo. He’s Just. A. Guy. A guy in jeans, boots and a cowboy hat with principles and ethics who believes taking on four guys is a fair fight. He’s buried a wife and a son and tries to stay connected to his youngest son… who works on Wall Street. He takes his blue-tick hound, Sue-Ann, everywhere, and the old dog with a bad hip should also never be underestimated.

Dear Durwood is book 2 in the Third Chance Enterprises series. I have not read book 1—but I downloaded it—and I preordered book 3 so I can learn more about Durwood’s partners, Quaid and Molly.

However, if the author ever penned another adventure for Durwood, I’m here for it! Only, I hope there are no more lawyers… because Durwood hates lawyers!

Enjoy!

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Reviewer’s Note: All books in the Third Chance Enterprises series are currently 99c or available through Kindle Unlimited!

 

Book two in the epic Third Chance Enterprises series, Dear Durwood is a standalone mystery pitting uncompromising principle against big city greed.

Durwood Oak Jones is a man of few indulgences. One he does allow is a standing ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine soliciting “injustices in need of attention.”

This month’s bundle of letters includes one from Carol Bridges, mayor of the dusty, blue-collar town of Chickasaw, Texas. For nearly a century, Chickasaw has relied on the jobs and goodwill of Hogan Consolidated, a family-run manufacturer of industrial parts. Now East Coast lawyers and investment bankers have taken aim at the company. The citizens of Chickasaw fear it may be acquired or bankrupted, leading to massive layoffs — effectively destroying the town.

Durwood and his trusty bluetick coonhound, Sue-Ann, fly to Texas to see what can be done. They find a young CEO born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Factory workers with hammers. A good woman, Carol Bridges, who knows her town is being cheated but can’t get to the bottom of how. And lawyers.

Dirty, good-for-nothing lawyers.

~~~

Book Details:

Genre: Action-Adventure / Western Romance

Published by: Jeff Bond Books

Publication Date: June 15, 2020

Number of Pages: 215

ISBN: 1732255296 (ISBN13: 9781732255296)

Series: Third Chance Enterprises

Purchase Links: Amazon | Third Chance Stories | Goodreads

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Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

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Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeff Bond. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on August 1, 2020 and runs through October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

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#WeekBlitz “Telephone Road” by Ann Swann

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Thriller/Suspense, Psychological Thriller

Date Published: August 4, 2020
Publisher: 5 Prince Publishing
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Stalked, assaulted, and left for dead, Marlena thinks her life is over. Then she meets Destiny and they decide to take matters into their own hands. For these two, justice has a new meaning. It’s called revenge.

Purchase Links

Amazon

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EXCERPT

That first date with Preston checked all the boxes. We strolled and laughed and acted silly. I did see him take a few sips from a silver flask as we went from bar to bar up one side of Sixth and down the other. But he didn’t seem too inebriated and he didn’t try to force me to drink, either.
Halfway through the night, we morphed into a large group. He wasn’t kidding about some of his friends joining us. We seemed to pick up one or two more at each place we stopped. They were all high or drunk. I didn’t see anyone sober other than us—well, me. Preston may have been sober, but each bar was so loud and jam-packed, conversation became more and more impossible. All I had to go on was how well he could walk.
Some of our group couldn’t even do that.
Lines of people snaked away down the packed sidewalks and away from the entrances to every place that featured music. The whole street throbbed with sound and the entire downtown area felt wrapped in laughter and drenched in lights.
Later, he wanted us to go to the lake to go skinny dipping with his friends. But that wasn’t me. Not at all. “Please take me home,” I said. But he refused.
Come on,” he said. “It’ll be fun.”
When I refused, he turned on the road leading there anyway.
I insisted he let me out.
He slowed and stopped, calling my bluff.
I took a deep breath, stepped out, and started walking back the way we had come. Though my outside appearance was calm, my insides were like waves white-capping near the shore. It was a long way back to the main road. I hoped and prayed someone I knew would come along and give me a ride. It wouldn’t be Joanna, though. She and Antonio were doing the Zombie Walk again. This time there would be a prize for the best look. How I wished I’d gone with them.
When Preston realized I wasn’t bluffing, he turned the car around and drove alongside me as I strode down the shoulder of the road, arms crossed over my chest.
I could hear him attempting to apologize, but this time his words fell into the gap between us like pebbles dropped into a dry well. “I was only joking,” he said. “You know I would never make you do anything you didn’t want.”

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About the Author

Ann has been a writer since junior high, but to pay the bills she has waited tables, delivered newspapers, cleaned other people’s houses, taught school, and had a stint as a secretary in a rock-n-roll radio station. She also worked as a 911 operator and a police dispatcher.

Her fiction began to win awards during her college days. Since then she’s published several short stories, novels, and novellas. She’s always reading and always writing, but even if she never sold another story, Ann would not stop writing. For her it’s a necessity, like breathing. Most of the time, it even keeps her sane.
Contact Links
Twitter: @ann_swann

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#BookTour “Dear Durwood (Third Chance Enterprises Book 2)” by Jeff Bond

Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond Banneron Tour August 1 – September 30, 2020

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Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond

Book two in the epic Third Chance Enterprises series, Dear Durwood is a standalone mystery pitting uncompromising principle against big city greed.

Durwood Oak Jones is a man of few indulgences. One he does allow is a standing ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine soliciting “injustices in need of attention.”

This month’s bundle of letters includes one from Carol Bridges, mayor of the dusty, blue-collar town of Chickasaw, Texas. For nearly a century, Chickasaw has relied on the jobs and goodwill of Hogan Consolidated, a family-run manufacturer of industrial parts. Now East Coast lawyers and investment bankers have taken aim at the company. The citizens of Chickasaw fear it may be acquired or bankrupted, leading to massive layoffs — effectively destroying the town.

Durwood and his trusty bluetick coonhound, Sue-Ann, fly to Texas to see what can be done. They find a young CEO born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Factory workers with hammers. A good woman, Carol Bridges, who knows her town is being cheated but can’t get to the bottom of how. And lawyers.

Dirty, good-for-nothing lawyers.

~~~

Book Details:

Genre: Action-Adventure / Western Romance

Published by: Jeff Bond Books

Publication Date: June 15, 2020

Number of Pages: 215

ISBN: 1732255296 (ISBN13: 9781732255296)

Series: Third Chance Enterprises

Purchase Links: Amazon | Third Chance Stories | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

Dear Mr. Oak Jones: I am Carol Bridges, mayor of Chickasaw, Texas. We are located in the western part of the state, Big Bend Country if you know it. I thank you in advance for considering my injustice. Chickasaw is the home of Hogan Consolidated, a family-run manufacturer of industrial parts. Hogan employs 70 percent of able-bodied adults in Chickasaw, and its philanthropy has sustained the town for ninety years. It’s due to the Hogan family we have an arts center and turf field for youth football. Recently, East Coast lawyers and investment bankers have taken aim at the company. Multi-million dollar claims have been filed, accusing Hogan of putting out defective parts. It’s rumored the company will be acquired or liquidated outright. Massive layoffs are feared. My constituents work hard, Mr. Jones. They have mortgages and children to feed. I have tried to find answers about the Hogan family’s intentions, to see whether I or the town can do anything to influence the course of events. Jay Hogan, the current CEO, does not return my phone calls—and is seen dining at sushi restaurants in El Paso (85 miles away) more often than in Chickasaw. I have gotten the runaround from our state and federal representatives. I believe it’s their fundraising season. As mayor, I have a duty to explore every possible solution to the challenges we face. I do not read Soldier of Fortune regularly, but my deputy police chief showed me your ad soliciting “injustices in need of attention.” I feel certain injustice is being done to Chickasaw, though I can’t as yet name its perpetrator and exact nature. Alonso (our deputy chief) knows you by reputation, and assures me these details won’t trouble you. Thank you sincerely for your time, Carol Bridges Mayor of Chickasaw, TX Chapter One Durwood got to the Chickasaw letter halfway through the sorghum field. He was flipping through the stack from the mailbox, passing between sweet-smelling stalks. Leaves brushed his bluejeans. Dust coated his boots. He scanned for clumps of johnsongrass as he read, picking what he saw. The first five letters he’d tucked into his back pocket. The Chickasaw letter he considered longer. Steel-colored eyes scanned left to right. He forgot about the johnsongrass. An ugliness started in his gut. Lawyers. He put the letter in his front pocket, then read the rest. The magazine forwarded him a bundle every month. In September, he’d only gotten three. At Christmas time, it seemed like he got thirty or forty. Folks felt gypped around the holidays. Today, he read about two brothers who didn’t steal a car. About a principal who got fired for being too aggressive fighting drugs in his school. About a bum call in the Oregon state Little League championship twenty years ago. About a furnace warranty that wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. Durwood chuckled at the Oregon letter. This one had been writing in for years. Maybe he figured Durwood didn’t read them, figured some screener only put a couple through each go-round and one of these days they’d sneak his through. But Durwood did read them. Every last one. He put the letter about the principal in his front pocket with the Chickasaw letter. Off his right side, Sue-Ann whimpered. Durwood turned to find the bluetick coonhound pointing the south fenceline. “I see,” Durwood said, of the white-tail doe nosing around the spruces. “Left my gun back at the house, though.” Sue-Ann kept her point. Her bad hip quivered from the effort. Old as she was, she still got fired up about game. Durwood released her with a gesture. “What do you say to some bluegill tonight instead? See what Crole’s up to.” Durwood called Crole from the house. Crole, his fishing buddy who lived on the adjacent sixty acres, said he was good for a dozen casts. They agreed to meet at the river dividing their properties. Durwood had a shorter walk and used the extra time to clean his M9 semiautomatic. Leaving, he noticed the red maple that shaded the house was leafing out slow. He examined the trunk and found a pattern of fine holes encircling the bark. That yellow-bellied sapsucker. Durwood wondered if the holes were related to the tree’s poor vigor. Out by the river, Crole limped up with his jug of moonshine, vile stuff he made from Jolly Ranchers. They fished. Sue-Ann laid in the mud, snoring, her stiff coat bristling against Durwood’s boot. The afternoon stretched out, a dozen casts becoming two dozen. Then three. In the distance, the hazy West Virginia sky rolled through the Smokies. Mosquitoes weren’t too bad, just a nip here and there at the collar. Durwood thought about Chickasaw, Texas. He thought about East Coast lawyers. About the hardworking men and women who’d elected Carol Bridges to be mayor and stick up for them. He thought about that CEO picking up raw fish with chopsticks in El Paso. He thought, too, about the principal who’d been fired for doing right. Crole said, “Got some letters today?” Durwood said he had. Crole grinned, showing his top teeth—just two, both nearly black. “Still running that ad in Soldier of Fortune?” Durwood lowered the brim of his hat against the sun. “Don’t cost much.” “They give a military discount?” Durwood raised a shoulder. He’d been discharged from the Marines a decade ago. He didn’t accept handouts for his service. Crole nodded to the bulge in his pocket—the letters. “Anything interesting?” “Sure,” Durwood said. “Plenty.” They fished into twilight. Durwood caught just five bluegill. Crole, twenty years his senior and luckier with fish, reeled in a dozen, plus a decent-size channel cat despite using the wrong bait. The men strung their catches on a chain. The chain rippled in the cool, clear water. The Chickasaw job appealed to Durwood. The opportunity to fight crooked lawyers, do something about these Wall Street outfits that made their buck slicing up American companies, putting craftsmen out of work until every last doodad was made in some knockoff plant in China. Still, Durwood had trouble imagining the case. What would he do, flip through documents? Sit across a folding table from men in suits and ask questions? Then he thought about the principal. About those gangs the letter had mentioned, how you could look out the windows of the dang school and see drug dealers on street corners. Intimidators. Armed thugs. Durwood had an easy time imagining that case. The sky had just gotten its first purple tinge when Durwood lost his bait a third time running. “These fish.” He held his empty hook out of the water, shaking his head. Crole said, “There’s catfish down there older than you.” “Smarter, too,” Durwood said. Still, the five bluegill would be enough for him and Sue-Ann. Durwood unclipped the fishes’ cheeks from the chain and dropped them in a bucket. Back at the house, Durwood spotted the yellow-bellied sapsucker climbing the red maple. Not only was he pecking the tree, the ornery creature kept pulling twigs from the gray squirrels’ nest, the one they’d built with care and sheltered in the last four winters. “Git down!” Durwood called. The sapsucker zipped away to other antics. Inside, Durwood scaled and beheaded the bluegill. Then he fried them in grease and cornmeal. Sue-Ann ate only half a fish. Durwood moved the crispy tail under her nose. “Another bite?” The dog sneezed, rattly in her chest. Durwood rinsed his dishes and switched on a desktop computer. He looked up Chickasaw. There was plenty of information online. Population, land area. Nearly every mention of the town made reference to Hogan Consolidated. It looked like Hogan Consolidated was Chickasaw, Texas, and vice versa. On the official municipal website, he found a picture of Carol Bridges. She wore a hardhat, smiling among construction workers. Handsome woman. Warm, lively eyes. Next, Durwood looked up the fired principal. The man lived and worked in upstate New York. For a few weeks, his case had been all over the local news there. A city councilman believed he’d been railroaded. Nineteen years he’d served the school district without prior incident. The only blemish Durwood found was a college DUI. Durwood hadn’t started with computers until his thirties. His calloused fingers regularly struck the keys wrong, but he managed. This one he’d gotten from the Walmart in Barboursville, forty-nine bucks on Black Friday. It had its uses. A tool like any other. “Well?” he said aloud, even though Sue was out on the porch. “Looks like a tossup.” Durwood changed computer windows to look again at Carol Bridges. Then changed back to the principal. At the bottom of the news story about the principal, he noticed a bubble with “47 comments” inside. He knew people who spouted off online were unreliable and often foolish. He clicked anyway. “Good riddance, got what he deserved!” “TOTAL RACIST WINDBAG, glad they fired him.” Durwood read all forty-seven comments. Some defended the man, but most were negative. It was impossible to know how much was legitimate. Durwood left judging to Him, and Him alone. But Durwood did know that the petitioner, the one who’d written the letter to Soldier of Fortune, was the principal himself. Not some third party. Not an objective observer. What had seemed like a case of obvious bureaucratic overreach suddenly looked less obvious. Now Sue-Ann loped in from the porch. Appalachian air followed her inside, nice as perfume. Sue settled at Durwood’s feet, wheezing, rheumy eyes aimed up at her master. He said, “What do you say, girl. Up for seeing the Lone Star State?” The dog sat up straight, responding to the action in his voice. The effort made her mew. That hip. Durwood laid his thumb down the ridge of the dog’s skull. He felt pained himself, thinking of documents, folding tables, and men in suits. Chapter Two It was a healthy drive, nearly two thousand miles, to see this Carol Bridges. Doubts remained in Durwood’s mind. Petitioners he met through the Soldier of Fortune ad fell through sometimes. It would turn out their letter was misleading or flat false. Other times the injustice had taken care of itself by the time Durwood arrived. Once he’d driven clear to Nebraska to help a man whose pride and joy, a 1917 Ford Bucket T he’d restored from salvage by hand, had been denied roadworthiness by some city councilman with a grudge. When Durwood knocked on his door and asked about the hot rod, the man said, “The Ford? Guy made me an offer, I sold her a few weeks back.” Durwood decided it was worth the trip to hear Carol Bridges out. If he didn’t like what she said, he’d tip his hat, get back in the Vanagon, and drive home. Crole observed, “You could call.” Durwood was humping supplies into the van. “Folks can say anything on the phone.” The older man looked to the horizon, where the sun would rise soon. His pajamas dragged the dirt, and he held his jug by two fingers. “They can say anything to your face, too.” Durwood whistled to Sue-Ann. “It’s different,” he said as the dog climbed in. “Lay off that shine, hm?” Crole looked down at his jug as though surprised by its presence. He answered, “Don’t kill anyone you don’t have to.” With a wave, Durwood took out. The van wheezed over mountain switchbacks and chugged steadily along interstates. By afternoon, Sue was wincing on the bare metal floor. Durwood bought her a mat next time he stopped for gas. They reached Chickasaw the following morning. Crossing the city limit, they saw fields of wheat and corn, and grain elevators, and dry dusty homesteads. Factories burped smoke farther on. Billboards shilled for some dentist, somebody else who wanted to be sheriff. Downtown Chickasaw was a grid, eight blocks square. Durwood saw the turf field mentioned in the letter and smiled. A boarded-up building with a sign reading, Lyles Community Outreach Center. A fancy hotel that looked out of place. Next door to City Hall, Durwood’s destination, was a coffee shop called Peaceful Beans. The logo showed the name written along the stems of the peace sign. The light bulbs inside had those squiggly vintage filaments. Durwood knew that these towns, rural or not, had all types. You got your vegan yoga instructors living next to redneck truckers—sometimes married to each other. City Hall itself was a stone structure, two stories high. A sign indicated the municipal jail was located in the basement. Durwood parked. His bones creaked as he stepped from the van and stretched. The woman working reception cooed at Sue, who’d rolled over on her back. The big ham. Durwood stated their business, declared his M9, and passed through a metal detector before being shown to the mayor’s office. Carol Bridges stood from her desk with a humble smile. “Mr. Oak Jones, thank you for traveling all this way for our town.” “You’re welcome,” he said. “Call me Durwood, please.” She said she would and handed him a business card with her personal number circled. Durwood placed the card in his bluejeans pocket. The mayor gestured to an armchair whose upholstery had worn thin. Durwood, removing his hat, sat. “My dog goes where I go, generally,” he explained. “She can sit outside if need be.” “Don’t be silly.” The mayor reached into a drawer of her desk for a biscuit. “If I’d known, I’d have brought in my German Shepherd.” She didn’t just toss the biscuit at Sue, as some will. Carol Bridges commanded the dog to sit first. Sue sat. The mayor squatted and offered the treat, palm up, her knees pinching below a dark skirt. Sue wolfed it down. Durwood said, “We saw the factories on the way in. How many employees?” “Forty-four hundred on the floors themselves,” she said. “Plus another eight thousand in support roles.” “And it’s all going away? Vamoose?” Carol Bridges crossed one leg over the other. “That’s how the winds are blowing.” She expanded upon what the letter had said. For the better part of a century, Hogan Consolidated had produced parts for various household products. Brackets. Pot handles. Stepladder hinges. Nothing sexy, Carol Bridges said, but quality components that filled a need higher up the supply chain. Five or six years back, Wall Street began taking an interest in the company. They believed Hogan was underleveraged and growing too slowly. Durwood stopped her. “What does underleveraged mean?” “As I understand”—the mayor fluffed her dark red hair dubiously—“it means you aren’t taking enough risks. Your balance sheet is too conservative.” “Too conservative?” “Right. You’re not expanding into new markets. You’re not inventing new products.” Durwood rolled her words around his head. “Suppose you’re good at what you do, and that’s it.” Carol Bridges looked out her window toward a pair of smokestacks. “Not good enough for Wall Street.” Thoughts of finance or economics usually gave Durwood a headache, but he made himself consider the particulars of the case now. “But Hogan’s a family-owned company,” he said. “Can’t they tell Wall Street to go to hell? Pardon my French.” “They were family-owned up until 1972, when they sold out.” Durwood sat up in his chair, recalling her letter. She seemed to read his thoughts. “They’re a family-run company. The CEO’s always been a Hogan, but the equity is publicly traded.” “Hm.” Durwood’s head wasn’t aching, but it didn’t feel quite right either. “I read your letter different.” “I apologize, I didn’t mean to be unclear.” The mayor took a step out from behind her desk. “I hope you don’t feel I brought you here on false pretenses.” They looked at each other. The woman’s face tipped sympathetically and flushed, her eyes wide with concern. On the wall behind her hung the Iraq Campaign Medal and the striped ribbon indicating combat action. “It’s fine,” Durwood said. “And they’re facing lawsuits, you said?” “Correct,” the mayor said. “A class-action suit has been filed by customers claiming injury as a result of faulty Hogan parts.” “What happened?” “A woman in New Jersey’s toaster exploded. They’ve got two people in California saying a bad Hogan hinge caused them to fall. One broke her wrist.” “Her wrist.” Carol Bridges nodded. “Falling off a stepladder?” She nodded again. “What’re the Hogans doing?” Durwood asked. “They have a strategy to stomp out this nonsense?” “No idea. I hear, just scuttlebutt from the cafe, that the company’s going bankrupt.” The mayor flung out an arm. “Somebody else says they’re selling out to a private equity firm—one of these outfits that buys distressed companies for peanuts and parts ’em out, auctions off the assets and fires all the workers.” Durwood leaned over the thighs of his bluejeans. “You mentioned the CEO in your letter. Eats sushi.” The woman smiled. “Jay Hogan, yes. He’s only twenty-eight, and I don’t think he likes living in Chickasaw much. He went to college at Dartmouth.” “Whereabouts is that?” “Dartmouth?” Durwood nodded. He’d once met an arms supplier in Dortmund, Germany, the time he and Quaid Rafferty had stopped a band of disgruntled sausage vendors from bombing ten soccer stadiums simultaneously. He’d never heard of Dartmouth. Carol Bridges said, “New Hampshire.” “If he doesn’t like the place,” Durwood said, “why didn’t he stay east? Work a city job?” She crossed her legs again. “I doubt he could get one. Around here, he was a screw-up. They got him for drunk driving regularly. I was with the prosecutor’s office back then. The police winched him out of the same gully four different times in his dad’s Hummer.” “Why’d they pick him for CEO?” “He’s an only child. When the father had his stroke, Jay was next in line. Only pitcher left in the bullpen.” Durwood drew in a long breath. “Now the fate of the whole town rests on his shoulders. Fella couldn’t keep a five-thousand-pound vehicle on the road.” Carol Bridges nodded. Durwood felt comfortable talking to this woman. As comfortable as he’d felt with a woman since Maybelle, his wife and soulmate, had passed in Tikrit. Carol Bridges didn’t embellish. She didn’t say one thing but mean another—leaving aside the misunderstanding over “family-run,” which might well have been Durwood’s fault. Still, comfort didn’t make a case. “I sympathize, Miss Bridges,” Durwood said. “I do. But I’m a simple man. The sort of business I’m trained for is combat. Apprehending suspects. Pursuing retribution that can’t be pursued within the confines of the law. This situation calls for expertise I don’t have.” He’d delivered bad news, but Carol Bridges didn’t seem upset. She was smiling again. “I have to disagree,” she said. “You need somebody knows their way around corporate law. Knows how to—” “You’re not a simple man. There’s a lot up there”—her warm eyes rose to his head—“that doesn’t translate into words.” Durwood held her gaze a moment. Then he looked down to Sue-Ann. The dog was sleeping. He said, “America is changing. For better or worse. A town like Chickasaw doesn’t get the better end of it, I understand. There’s injustice in that. But it’s not the sort I can stop.” “Of course. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting you can deliver us back to the 1970s.” Carol Bridges laced her fingers over her dark red hair. A funny thing was happening with her mouth. Was she chewing gum? No, that wasn’t it. Using her tongue to work a piece of food out from between her teeth? Durwood didn’t think so either. She was smirking. “All I’m asking,” she said, “on behalf of my town, is this: talk to Jay Hogan. Get a straight answer out of him. I can’t, I’ve tried. The rest of the Hogans live in Vail or Tuscany. We need somebody who can cut through the bull and find out the truth.” Durwood repeated, “The truth.” “Yes. If the jobs are going away, if I need to retrain my citizenry to…” She searched around her desktop for some example—pencils, folders, a stapler. “Heck, answer customer-service calls? I will. But we want to know.” Sue-Ann snored and resettled against Durwood’s boot. He said, “Talk to Jay Hogan.” The mayor clasped her hands hopefully over her chest. “That’s all I’m asking. Find out where we stand.” Durwood thought about the crop fields he’d seen riding into town. The dusty homesteads. The billboards—the dentist, man who wanted to be sheriff. He thought of the factories still putting out smoke. For now. The stakes were lower than what he fought for alongside Quaid and Molly McGill with Third Chance Enterprises. The planet itself was not imperiled. He wasn’t likely to face exotic technologies or need to jump from moving aircraft. So it went with these injustice cases—with injustice in general. Ordinary folks suffering ordinary hardship. “We did drive a couple thousand miles,” he said. “I suppose it makes sense to stay and have a word with Mr. Hogan.” Carol Bridges rushed forward and pressed his calloused hands in her smooth ones. She gave him the address of Hogan Consolidated from memory. Chapter Three Hogan’s main factory and corporate headquarters were in the same building. Durwood parked in a Visitors spot, and he and Sue walked up to the fifth floor where the executive offices were—over the factory. Stairs were murder on the dog’s hip, but she persevered. Durwood stopped every few steps for her. Through the stairwell’s glass wall, he watched the assembly line. Men and women in hardhats leaned into machine handles. A foreman frowned at a clipboard. Belts and treads and rotors turned. Even behind glass, Durwood could smell grease. Nothing amiss here. On the fifth floor, Durwood consulted a directory to find Jay Hogan’s office. His secretary wore nicer clothes than Carol Bridges. Looking at her neat painted fingernails, Durwood doubted she kept dog biscuits in her desk. “You—you honestly thought bringing a dog to see the chief executive of Hogan Consolidated was acceptable?” the woman said, looking at Sue’s spots like they were open sores. “OSHA would have a field day if they showed up now.” Sue-Ann laid her chin on her paws. Durwood said, “She can stay here while I see Mr. Hogan.” The woman’s nameplate read Priscilla Baird. Durwood suspected she’d be taller than him if she stood. Her lips were tight, trembling like she was about to eject Durwood and Sue—or flee herself. “I don’t know that you will see Mr. Hogan today,” she said. “You’re not on his schedule. Jones, did you say?” She checked her screen. “Won’t find me in your computer,” Durwood said. “Is he here?” Priscilla Baird glanced at her boss’s door, which was closed. “He is…on site. But I’m not at liberty to say when he’d be available to speak with arbitrary members of the public.” “I’m not arbitrary. I’m here on authority of the mayor.” “The mayor?” “Of Chickasaw, yes ma’am. Carol Bridges.” Priscilla Baird rolled her eyes at this. Durwood thought he heard, “Getting desperate” under the woman’s breath. Durwood waited. After thirty minutes, he tired of Priscilla Baird’s dirty looks and took Sue-Ann out to the van. She didn’t like dogs, fine. He wouldn’t be difficult just for the sake of it. He returned to wait more. The lobby had an exposed beam running down its center—pimpled, showy. Folks built like that nowadays. Slate walls displayed oil paintings of the company’s executives. Sitting out on tables were US Weekly and Field and Stream. Durwood read neither. He spent the time thinking what questions to ask Jay Hogan. All told, he waited an hour and a half. Others entered and were admitted to see Hogan. Men wearing pinstripes. A made-up woman in her late forties with a couple minions hustling after her. Some kid in a ballcap and shorts carrying two plastic bags. The kid left Hogan’s office without his bags. Durwood caught him at the door. “Pardon, youngster. What did you drop off?” The kid ducked so Durwood could read his hat. Crepes-a-Go-Go. An involuntary growl escaped Durwood’s mouth. He crossed to Jay Hogan’s door. “Excuse me,” Priscilla Baird said. “Mr. Hogan’s schedule today is terribly tight, you’ll need to be patient if—” “It just opened up,” Durwood said. He jerked the knob and blew inside. Jay Hogan was stuffing a crepe into his face with a plastic fork. Ham and some cheese that stank. The corner of his mouth had a red smear, either ketchup or raspberry jam. Probably jam. “The hell is this?” Hogan said. “You—what…Priscilla…” He placed a hand over his scrawny chest and finished swallowing. “Who is this person?” Priscilla Baird rushed to the door. “I never admitted him, he went himself. He forced his way in!” Durwood stood in the center of the office. He said to Hogan, “Let’s talk, the two of us.” The young CEO considered the proposal. He was holding his crepe one-handed and didn’t seem to know where to set it down. He looked at his secretary. He looked at Durwood. His hair was slicked back with Pennzoil, skin alabaster white—a shade you’d have to stay inside to keep in southwest Texas. Durwood extended his hand. “I can hold your pancake.” Jay Hogan stiffened at the remark. “Who are you?” “Name’s Durwood Oak Jones.” Hogan tried saying it himself. “Duuurwood, is it?” “Correct.” Durwood assumed Jay Hogan, like the mayor, wasn’t a Soldier of Fortune subscriber. “I’m a concerned party.” “What does that mean?” Hogan said. “Concerned about what?” “About this town. About the financial standing of your company.” As Priscilla Baird excused herself, Durwood explained his contact to date with Carol Bridges and the capacity in which he’d come: to investigate and combat injustice. There was no reason he and Jay Hogan shouldn’t be on the same side. If the lawyers were fleecing Hogan Consolidated or Wall Street sharks were sabotaging it, Durwood’s help should be appreciated. But Jay Hogan wasn’t rolling out the welcome wagon. “Injustice?” he sneered. “The company’s in a crap situation, a real hole. Not my fault. I didn’t build those hinges. I didn’t, you know, invent P/E ratios or whatever other metrics we aren’t hitting.” Durwood glared across the desk. Every not and didn’t stuck in his craw. He said, “What do you do, then?” “I chart the course,” Hogan said. “I set the top-line strategy.” “Top-line?” “Yes. Top-line.” Durwood resettled his hat on his head. “Thought the bottom line was the important one.” Jay Hogan made a sound between flatulence and a pig’s snort. “Look—we’ve held the line on wages, kept the unions out. Done everything in our power to stay competitive.” Durwood asked what his strategy was on those lawsuits. “Chester handles legal matters,” Hogan said. “Who’s that?” “Chester is the COO.” Durwood raised a finger, counting out letters. “Now what’s the difference between CEO and COO?” Jay Hogan made impatient motions with his hands. “The COO is the operating officer. He’s more involved in day-to-day business.” “Who deals with Wall Street? The money men?” “Chester.” “Who handles communication? Getting word out to the citizens of Chickasaw about what’s going on?” Hogan picked up his crepe again. “Chester.” He said the name—which was prissy to begin with—in a nasal, superior tone. Durwood’s fist balled at his side. “Fella must be sharp, you trust him with all that.” “Chester’s extremely smart,” Hogan said. “I’ve known him forever—our families go back generations. We attended all the same boarding schools.” “Boyhood chums?” Hogan frowned at the question. “Something like that.” “He’s about your age, then?” Hogan nodded. “Couple twenty-eight-year-olds running a company that dictates the fate of a whole town.” Durwood folded his arms. “Sound fair to you?” The CEO’s pale cheeks colored. “They’re lucky to have us. Two Ivy League graduates blessed with business instincts. Chester Lyles was president of our fraternity, graduated magna cum laude. We could be founding startups in Seattle or San Francisco where you don’t have to drive a hundred miles for decent food.” That name rung a bell somewhere for Durwood. Lyles. Recalling what Carol Bridges had said about the gully, he said, “You graduate magna cum laude?” “I don’t need to defend my qualifications to you or anyone.” Durwood nodded. “Must’ve just missed.” Jay Hogan stood up a snit. He looked at his crepe again in its tissue-paper sleeve and couldn’t resist. He took a quick bite and thrust a finger at the door, mouth full. “I’m done answering your questions,” he said. “As CEO, I’m accountable to a shareholder-elected board of directors, which includes presidents of other corporations, a former Treasury Secretary of the United States, and several other prominent executives. They’re satisfied with my performance.” “How many of them live in Chickasaw?” Hogan barked a laugh. “They understand the financial headwinds I’m up against.” “How about those bad hinges? From what I hear, Hogan used to make quality parts.” “Another Chester question. I don’t deal with quality control.” That’s for sure. Durwood saw he would get nowhere with Jay Hogan. This Chester was who he needed to find. Asking this one how the town of Chickasaw was going to shake out was like inspecting your John Deere’s hood ornament to judge if you needed a new tractor. Hogan was still pointing at the door. Finally, Durwood obliged him. On the way out, he said, “You got families counting on this company. Families with children, mortgages, sick grandmas. They’re counting on you. Hogans before you did their part. Now be a man, do yours. Rise to your duty.” Hogan didn’t answer. He had more crepe in his mouth. Walking down to the parking lot, Durwood passed the factory again. It was dark—the shift had ended while he’d been waiting for Hogan. His boots clacked around the stairwell in solitude. He considered what ailed Hogan Consolidated and whether he could fix it. He wasn’t optimistic. Oh, he could poke around and get the scoop on Chester Lyles. He could do his best working around the lies and evasions he’d surely encounter. Maybe he would find Chester’s or Jay Hogan’s hand in the cookie jar. The likeliest culprit, though, was plain old incompetence. Jay Hogan belonged in an insurance office someplace—preferably far from the scissors. Instead, he sat in a corner office of a multi-million dollar company. Did that rise to the level of injustice? Maybe. Maybe, with so many lives and livelihoods at stake. Durwood didn’t like cases he had to talk himself into. He was just imagining how he’d break the news to Carol Bridges if nothing much came of Chester when four men burst from the shadows and tackled him. *** Excerpt from Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond. Copyright 2020 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. All rights reserved.  

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Author Bio:

Jeff Bond Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. His books have been featured in The New York Review of Books, and his 2020 release, The Pinebox Vendetta, received the gold medal (top prize) in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond On: JeffBondBooks.com BookBub Goodreads Instagram Twitter Facebook!

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