#BookTour “Secrets of the Gold” by Baer Charlton

Secrets of the Gold by Baer Charlton BannerNovember 7 – December 2, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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book cover

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Synopsis:

 

Concealed in his jacket are ingots of gold; he just doesn’t remember why.

A young girl running from an abusive foster home kidnaps the older biker with a mystery for a past.

Leaving the mining town in Colorado and crossing state lines, anything can happen.

What neither is looking for or expecting is friendship.

But in the cold of the desert night, life lessons can go both ways—even if they are not about a million dollars in gold.

Growing up is hard enough, even without the shooting.

 

Praise for Secrets of the Gold:

“kept me spellbound”

“you will have a very hard time putting this book down!”

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Coming of Age, Female Sleuth

Published by: Mordant Media

Publication Date: March 2022

Number of Pages: 374

ISBN: 1949316203 (ISBN-13 9781949316209)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Books2Read

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Read an excerpt:

Eight Years Before

Someone unexpected at the front door is exciting—for a nine-year-old girl. But time and experience change people.

“I’ll get it,” she squealed.

The sound of cheap sneakers slapped on the cheap flooring. Military housing, even off-base, has never changed. Expensive big toys were always more exciting for congressional representatives than looking after the troops and their families.

“Check the peephole before you open the door.”

The polished brass belt buckles dully reflected the peeling white of the door. The dark blue of the uniforms wasn’t what she was used to seeing around the base, but she had seen them occasionally.

Pulling on the door, she yelled over her shoulder. “It’s a couple of marines like Daddy.”

The enormous crash at the back of the small apartment ricocheted off the rigid walls and out the open door. It hit the two lieutenants hard.

One with their mouth half open.

The man looked at his female companion as she hurried into the apartment. The man reached for the girl’s arm.

“Mom?”

* * *

The California sun did nothing to brighten the day. The two lieutenants in dress blues stood a short distance away. The casket sat draped with flowers, but only two adults and a young girl filled the fourteen chairs.

The girl’s hazel eyes appeared washed out—more watery-blue than green. The swell of her lower lip slowly sucked in and then released over and over. The blink had nothing to do with what the chaplain was saying. It had nothing to do with her world. The black dress didn’t fit her, but at least it covered the scrapes and scars on her knees. The long sleeves performed the same service for her arms. The rusty blonde hair, chopped at the center of her neck, was the only acknowledgment of her being less than delicate.

The deep low rumble of the officer’s voice left his Minnesota lips motionless. The sound carried only to his partner. “What now?”

The woman shrugged slightly.

“Any relatives at all?”

The woman turned her head slightly. “There’s an older uncle. He’ll be available, possibly in ten to fifteen—if he behaves this time.”

The man frowned and looked out from the side of his eye. They had worked together long enough for the silent shorthand.

“Aggravated homicide with extenuating circumstances.”

His eyes didn’t move. He was waiting for the boot to drop.

“Beat his wife and then cut off her breasts and legs to let her bleed out.” Her eyes moved to lock on his. “He caught her in bed with his best friend.”

The man’s frown furrowed deep. “And his friend? What did he do to him?”

The woman’s eyes snapped to a distant tableau—seven marines with seven rifles for a different burial. “You mean her. His best friend since high school. He beat her to death with the waffle iron.”

They both came to attention and saluted the three-shot salute of the honor guard from across the cemetery. The other funeral was well attended, even though it was unusual for military internment with honors to be held in a civilian cemetery. The passing thought was that the funeral was for a much-loved senior member of a large family.

“Did they cross-check the weapon of choice for a match…?”

If the dead were not theirs or family, they were fair game for lighthearted banter.

“The prints matched. The iron was still hot when he struck.”

The last rifle volley faded away as three riflemen gave their squad leader a cartridge. The two officers watched as the squad leader marched over to the casket and began folding the flag with the rest of the honor guards. The three shells folded into the flag forever. Some thought the seven riflemen firing three volleys was a twenty-one gun salute. But the tradition didn’t come from salutes of Man-O-War dreadnaughts but to let an opposing army know they had cleared the field of battle of their dead. The three spent shells also had a simpler meaning than many thought—the flag was from a military funeral. Nothing more. They presented the folded flag to the soldier’s spouse or parent.

The two officers couldn’t tell the woman’s age through the black veil. The man nodded his chin toward the small girl, who looked frightened by the whole proceeding. After that, they resumed standing at ease.

The female lieutenant spoke softly. “Child Services is picking her up this afternoon.”

“None of the family friends could take her? Keep her in the same school or with people she knows?”

The woman rolled her eyes shut and opened them again as she faced the man. “You grew up a navy brat. How many new schools did you go to before you got out of high school?”

“Fifteen or sixteen.” He looked back at the woman. “Dad was on the fast track. We lived on sixteen bases in seven different countries. He wanted dragons on both arms.”

She nodded. “Yeah. A double shellback. I’ve seen a few. The tattoos become muddy, ugly, and smeared by the time you’re eighty. But by then, who cares?”

***

Excerpt from Secrets of the Gold by Baer Charlton. Copyright 2022 by Baer Charlton. Reproduced with permission from Baer Charlton. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Baer Charlton

Baer Charlton, is an Amazon Best-Selling author, and a Social-Anthropologist. His many interests have led him worldwide in search of the unique.

As an internationally recognized Photo Journalist, he has tracked mountain gorillas, been a podium for a Barbary Ape, communicated in sign language with an Orangutan named Boolon, kissed a kangaroo, and had many other wild experiences in between. Or he was just monkeying around.

His love for sailing has led him to file assignments from various countries, as well as from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean aboard a five-mast sailing ship. Baer has spoken on five continents, plus lecturing at sea.

His copyrighted logo is “WR1T3R”. Within every person, there is a story. But inside that story, even a more memorable story. Those are the stories he likes to tell.

There is no more complex and incredible story than those coming from the human experience. Whether it is a Marine finding his way home as a civilian or a girl who’s just trying to grow up, Mr. Charlton’s stories are all driven by the characters you come to think of as friends.

Catch Up With Baer Charlton:
www.BaerCharlton.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @BaerCharlton
Twitter – @baer_charlton
Facebook – @WR1T3R

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Tour Participants:

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

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GIVEAWAY!

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Baer Charlton. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

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#NewRelease “Kidnapped Killer” by Nina R. Schluntz

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Dark Romance

Date Published: 09-06-2022

 

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Nic is a demon who feeds on souls. He prefers the souls flavored with emotion, pain or fear works well.

When his stalker drugs and kidnaps him, he discovers a new flavor of soul.

Love.

The affection is additive, even if it is from a psychopathic serial killer who wants to add him to the dozens of bodies already buried in his basement.

A toxic love story between a soul eating demon and his unaware human stalker.

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About the Author

Nina Schluntz is a native to rural Nebraska. In her youth, she often wrote short stories to entertain her friends. Those ideas evolved into the novels she creates today.

Her husband continues to ensure her stories maintain a touch of realism as she delves into the science fiction and fantasy realm. Their three cats are always willing to stay up late to provide inspiration, whether it is a howl
from the stray born in the backyard or an encouraging bite from the so called “calming kitten.”

 

Contact Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

Goodreads

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Purchase Link

Kindle Unlimited

99c

Amazon

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RABT Book Tours & PR

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#BookTour “To Catch The Setting Sun” by Richard I Levine

To Catch The Setting Sun by Richard I Levine BannerSeptember 5 – September 30, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

book cover

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Synopsis:

There’s a killer loose on the island of Oahu. His targets? Young, native-Hawaiian women. But it also appears that he’s targeting and taunting Honolulu police detective Henry Benjamin who knew each victim and whose wife, Maya, had been the first name on that list. In addition to battling his personal demons, this New York transplant’s aggressive style didn’t sit well with his laid-back colleagues who viewed Henry’s uncharacteristic lack of progress in the investigation as evidence that fueled ongoing rumors that he could be the killer. Was he, or could it have been someone within the municipal hierarchy with a vendetta? As it was, after thirteen years on the job Henry had been disillusioned with paradise. His career choice long killed any fantasy of living in a grass hut on a wind-swept beach, being serenaded by the lazy sounds of the ocean and a slack key guitar. Instead, it had opened his eyes to a Hawaii that tourists will never see.

Praise for To Catch the Setting Sun:

“One of the best crime novels I have read in a long time!”

Jon Nakapalau, Goodreads Review

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Thriller

Published by: The Wild Rose Press

Publication Date: August 22nd 2022

Number of Pages: 320

ISBN: 1509243305 (ISBN13: 9781509243303)

Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

1

When the rock is lifted, the light pours in and
the vermin will scurry in panic.
They always do.
The ancestors still come to me in my dreams to caution that these parasites are as unrepentant and just as predictable
as they have always been.
Yet we must not become complacent. Vigilance is the key
or we fall victim to their treachery.
We are close, we are almost there.
Each new day peels away another layer of the façade. No different than me,
you too can feel the winds of change.
So, take my hand and walk this path with me. Open your eyes and see it as I do.
When we stand tall, strong, and together,
we will weather any storm.
I take comfort in knowing you also know
the day will be soon that the clouds will part,
and our hands will once again be free
to catch the setting sun.

The reflection from scattered tiki torches competed with the moonlight flickering off the rhythmic ripples rolling across the black velvet lagoon. Gentle trade winds, carrying the sweet peach-like scent of plumeria, teased the palm fronds as easily as they tickled the torch lights—clearly a welcomed reprieve from five straight days of stifling temperatures. A catamaran and a couple of small outrigger canoes, their artfully painted fiberglass hulls made to look like the wood of ancient Koa trees, were pulled up along the sandy shoreline. The heavy beat of drums reverberated off the tall palms and set the tempo for a half-dozen pair of grass-skirted hips dancing on the main stage while vacationers laughed, ogled, and stuffed their faces with shredded pork, scoops of lomi salmon, steaming flavored rice wrapped in Ti leaves, thick juicy slices of pineapple, papaya, mango, and freshly roasted macadamia nuts that were all artfully displayed on wide banana-leaf- covered centerpieces. They sat cross-legged in the sand, sipping mai tais from plastic cups made to look like hollowed-out coconut shells, lost in a tropical fantasy that came complete with a souvenir snapshot taken with an authentic hula girl—the perfect paradise as portrayed on the website. The noise from the music, chanting, and laughter drowned out the frantic noise of the nearby kitchen, and it drowned out the desperate pleas and painful cries of Makani Palahia from the far side of the beach at Auntie Lily’s Luau Cove and Hawaiian Barbecue.

****

The hardened steel of the polished blade sparkled when slowly turned a mere few degrees from left to right, back and forth, as if part of an ancient ritual. Makani’s teeth clinched against the foul-tasting cloth that had been forced into her mouth and tied tight behind her head, each time the knife circled back toward her face, each time passing closer, each time pausing for effect. When rested alongside her cheek, she arched as far as her restraints would allow—the plastic zip ties cutting deeper into her wrists. She let out a muffled cry, begging for the whole ordeal to stop. A sadistic laugh from the shadows made her pray to Jesus for the long-lost comfort of her mother—a comfort stolen by the alcohol and drugs that flowed through West Oahu as easily as the tides that washed away the sandcastles from its beaches. To watch her struggle not to gag as her eyes pleaded for freedom fueled an adrenaline rush that fed the flames of her assailant— strong and powerful now, like a sovereign over all that was to be ruled and judged. The blade was pulled from Makani’s golden-brown skin long enough for her back muscles and her bladder to relax, only to make her arch and plead again when it was returned to her tear-stained cheek.

“This is on you, Princess! Brought this on yourself, yeah? It’s a shame, too, because you’re so young and pretty. Of all the others, you’re the one who looks the most like royalty. The ancients would’ve been proud of you. But they’re not, are they? No, they’re not, and you know they’re not. You’ve disappointed all of us with so many of your sins. Are you ready to confess?”

She struggled to reply, but the rag pressed hard on her tongue.

“What’s that? You say something? You look like you got something to say.”

A faceless phantom-like figure stood tall above her, causing her to squint from the intermittent sparkle of what she thought was a pendant. Makani nodded while she strained to make out the image that seemed so familiar to her.

“I’ll loosen the bandana, but I warn you right now, if you scream…” She saw the knife dance again. “But let’s not think about that, okay? We calmly talk story a little, yeah?”

Again, she nodded, almost afraid to speak now that her lips could move freely. A rush of fresh air filled her mouth and intensified the pungent taste that covered her tongue. Her stomach muscles tightened as she gagged.

“P-please, let me go. I d-don’t know you. I don’t know what you want from me.”

“Let you go? I think, I think maybe after you confess. I think maybe I can let you go after we finish our business, yeah?”

“C-confess? What business? Who are you? What d-do you want from me? Why are you d-doing this to me?”

“Why am I doing? I didn’t pick you, Princess. You made that choice. You made that choice when you picked him and rejected our own.”

“P-picked who? Reject you? I d-don’t even know you. How did I…”

“You judged us!” A heavy hand landed across her mouth. “You judged me and our bruddahs and sistas when you chose an outsider. Judge not, lest ye be judged, and today is…today is your judgment day.”

****

Reece Valentine had a hard time keeping his eyes off the third girl from the left—diverting his attention long enough to down another piña colada or attempt to calm the concerns of his fiancée that he wasn’t going to run off into the bush with a native girl. But that didn’t stop him from enjoying the fantasy. With constricted pupils locked onto toned abdominal muscles gyrating within grabbing distance of his imagination, he laughed at the memory of frat house Polynesian-style parties that never came close to the evening’s entertainment.

“Reece, stop staring. It’s embarrassing.”

“Come on, Jules, I’m trying to enjoy the show. We’re on vakay. Where’s your island spirit?”

“I’m trying to enjoy the show, but that’s your fifth drink since the luau started, and you’re beginning to put on a little show of your own. At least stop howling at those girls. People are starting to look at you.”

“Jules, please. I’m just having some fun. It’s not every day we get to enjoy something like this, is it? Seriously, when was the last time we saw a show like this back in Portland?”

“Look, I’m not trying be all salty, but when you ran up on stage to do the hula, did you have to grab that dancer’s waist? And the way you started rubbing on her…geez!”

“Okay, now you’re exaggerating.” He grabbed her and nuzzled her neck.

“Really?”

“It was part of the dance.”

“Okay, so when the male dancers come out and I go running up there, are you going to get mad when I start rubbing myself all over those well-oiled muscular bodies?” She smiled.

“Now you’re the one being silly. Have another drink and chill.”

“Chill? You want me to chill? I think I’ll go for a swim…a naked swim.” She got up and raced down the beach toward the far end of the lagoon.

After a brief moment, as well as a few envious looks from other revelers, Reece went after her.

“Jules! Julie, wait up!” he called, but the alcohol had hindered his ability to maintain a steady balance over the soft uneven contours of the sand. When he fell, he scraped his knee on a piece of coral buried just below the surface. “Damn it! Jules, wait up. I just…damn, I just cut myself.”

Halfway between the luau and the end of the lagoon, about thirty yards from a thicket of Kiawe bushes, she turned to see him sitting on the beach, nursing his knee, and quite possibly his ego. Julie Chow started to head back when she heard some rustling and what she thought was a grunting sound coming from the direction of the bushes. She stopped to listen, only to hear Reece call out again. She tried to listen once more but heard nothing.

“Jules! Come back.”

“Why don’t you come over here,” she said and took several steps toward the bushes. “It’s dark and deserted down this way.”

“I hurt myself. Come help me.”

With a few glances over her shoulder, she slowly made her way back.

“Serves you right. I think the ancient Hawaiian gods were punishing you just now because of your disrespectful thoughts about one of their daughters.”

“Stop it, will you? My knee is killing me.”

“Such a baby!” she teased. “I’m surprised you can feel anything with all that native juice in you.”

“Stop scolding and come help me,” he begged. She came close enough for him to grab her arm and pull her down to join him on the sand.

“You’re not hurt that bad, you faker!”

“I know, but I had to do something. I couldn’t catch up to you.” He laughed.

“Because you’re drunk, and when you get drunk, you’re horny as hell.”

“You can say that again.”

“I’m being serious.”

“Listen, I got carried away, and I’m sorry. But you’re right, Jules, I’m horny as hell, and you know I’m not interested in anyone other than you.” He leaned in for a kiss, but she pulled away at the last moment. “Hey!”

“There’s a lot of bushes down there.” She pointed. “Wanna go fool around?”

“What? Get naked here on the beach in the middle of a luau? There’s tons of people here.”

“It’s dark. There’s bushes. No one will see us. No one will hear us. Come on, you afraid?”

“They won’t see us, but they’ll definitely hear us.”

“You mean they’ll hear you. I’ll have you screaming so loud they’ll think you’re being murdered.” She jumped on top of him, and they passionately kissed in a long embrace.

“I’ve got a better idea.” He pushed back to catch his breath. “Let’s go back to the hotel, and I’ll show you what going native is all about.”

“And give up a chance to get my hands on all those sweaty, muscular Hawaiian men? Race you.” She took off back to the festivities with Reece in hot pursuit.

****

Makani gagged at the smell of the dirty hand that covered her face—removed only when the couple from the luau got far enough away from the thicket.

“That wouldn’t have ended well for those tourists. Too bad. Would’ve made the night a little more interesting. So, where were we? Oh yes, about your choice, Princess.”

“I d-don’t know what you’re talking about. What ch-choice did I make?”

“You are one very pretty wahine, a very pretty woman, you know that? Yeah, you know you so nani, so beautiful, don’t you? I’ll bet you tease men to get things you want, yeah?”

“If you’re g-going, if you’re going to rape me, then j-just do it already. Just do it and g-get it over with. I won’t tell anyone. Just do it and, and let me go. Please? Please, just let me go.”

Save for the low sadistic laugh she had heard before, there was no immediate reply. Her breathing, fast and shallow now, seemed to make the few stars that had been visible through the branches spin wildly and caused her hands, legs, and feet to feel cold—making the hand that inched its way down the outer portion of her thigh feel uncomfortably warm.

For her tormentor, however, there was pleasure in feeling the gentle contours of muscles toned from many hours of hula as rough callused fingers crept over her thigh, past the knee, and down to her ankle. A brief pause to take in the tremble that was felt moving like a wave through her body, watching her lips press together, and her eyes squeeze tight, elicited a child-like giddiness that had long been forgotten.

Makani tightened again from the sandpaper texture of a tongue across her cheek and a heavy breath in her ear. She realized the warm antiseptic scent now lingering on her face was the smell of whiskey. The hand with jagged fingernails carved a return path up the inside of her leg to her knee, then slowed while continuing up the inner portion of her thigh—teasing, threatening. She cried a little harder.

“Did that hurt, Princess? Take it from me, a true warrior princess doesn’t cry. She’s strong, very strong, and she likes it rough.”

“Please, don’t…”

“What, make love to you? You make me laugh. I’d never soil myself on a sinner.”

She felt the grip tighten around her upper thigh, and in equal response her athletic body tightened just as much.

“I like this. I like how your legs feel. So smooth, so soft. I like how they feel in my hands. It’s so…comforting. I bet the boys like touching them too, yeah? I bet you’d really like me to do more, don’t you? I can tell the thought excites you. I bet you didn’t expect my hands to be this strong and powerful, yeah? Do you feel how strong my hands are? It makes me feel so powerful to hold you like this.”

A low-pitched hiss, then a crackled voice momentarily interrupted. “Central to Detective eight- one.”

“You almost tricked me, Princess!” The anger was as sudden and sharp as the sting she felt from the three- inch welt created when those hands were quickly withdrawn. “You almost tricked me. You were trying to confuse me. Deceitful women like you do that all the time, but I know better.” Again, the blade came into view. “You tried to tempt me with your makeup. I bet you do it to make yourself look young and innocent. But we both know better, don’t we? You tried to deceive me, but you’re not innocent, not innocent at all. You do it special for him, don’t you? Yes, I think you did it to please him. You make me angry. You make the ancestors angry.”

“I d-don’t know what you’re t-talking about. I don’t have a boyfr—”

“Liar!” The voice rose, triggering a shooting glance through the branches, down the beach toward the festivities, afraid they might have been heard. “Don’t make me gag you.”

Again, a radio transmission crackled. “Central to Detective eight-one, do you copy?”

“Who are you?” she asked, again getting a glimpse of the pendant, focusing on the letters H O N O L U L U across its face. She realized it wasn’t a piece of jewelry, but a badge. She tried to narrow her focus— her tears making it difficult to read the number. The radio crackled again.

“Lieutenant Kim to central dispatch, be advised eight-one’s radio hasn’t been working properly. You can reach him on his cell.”

She strained to see the face hidden in the darkness, the voice now mocking the radio call.

“Central to Detective eight-one. Where are you, eight-one? Come save the day, eight-one.”

“Dispatch to Kim, copy that, Lieutenant,” came the static-filled reply.

“I d-don’t know you. I don’t know you at all. I don’t kn-know what you’re talking about. Are you HPD? What do you want from me?”

“You know me,” came the whisper, this time placing the sharp edge of the blade across her costume, cutting just enough material on her shoulder to expose her breasts. “Very pretty.”

“You said you were g-going to let me go. I should be d-dancing at the show. I should be there. They’re going to m-miss me. They’re g-going to come looking for me.”

“Nobody’s going to come looking for you, Princess, nobody.”

The blade methodically moved across her flesh— circling, teasing, drawing blood from a shallow incision across her shoulder. At first Makani felt the sting before the warmth of liquid snaked into the creases of her underarm. Her tears flowed freely now. Adding one more indignity to her suffering, the grass skirt she had always worn with pride was ripped aside, and one more time the knife came to rest across her cheek.

“You know who I am, and you know exactly why we’re here. We all must face judgment for our sins.”

“I don’t know….” She stopped mid-sentence—a dirty index finger pressed to her mouth. She gagged at the vile taste—a cross between a lack of hygiene and her own urine. The finger was forced farther into her mouth and pressed against her tongue. She reflexively bit down, drawing blood and a painful slap to her face. “I don’t know you,” she cried out. “Why are you doing this? P-please let me go! I won’t say anything. I won’t t-tell anyone, I promise!”

“Let you go?” came the angered reply. A vise-like grip squeezed her cheeks, preventing her from speaking. “Not now, damn you! Not after you bit me! Not after you refuse to confess your sins. Do you see how you’ve forced my hand? Now you have to be purified.” Again, her face was slapped.

“I’m sorry, I am. I didn’t mean to bite you. Please? I won’t tell anyone, I promise.” Her eyes, blurred from tears, tried to follow the figure as it moved about— finally catching a glimpse of a face lit by the glow of a freshly lit cigarette. “Oh my God!” She was repulsed at the sight, gagging as the bandana was forced back into her mouth—arching, straining, and kicking against the nylon cable ties when the cigarette was moved closer to the side of her face.

“I know you don’t understand. Nobody does anymore, and that’s the problem. In the old days the people needed to make their peace with the gods so they could be blessed and have a harvest, take fish from the sea, and be protected from evil, from the night marchers, from Pele. Those gods and the ancestors are deeply saddened how our way of life, our history, our culture, and our future have all been dishonored. You, and others like you, have dishonored all of us by mixing pure blood, and there’s only one way for you to be forgiven. You will serve as a message, a warning to others. And with your purification, with your sacrifice, the gods and the ancestors will grant you redemption.”

Makani’s heartbeat pounded in her chest and in her head, making the drums, the laughter, and the applause for the fire-eaters disappear. And just as another cold stinging slice was surgically carved across her throat, she thought she heard her killer recite an ancient prayer while she watched the flickering lights of the luau fade away.

***

Excerpt from To Catch the Setting Sun by Richard I Levine. Copyright 2022 by Richard I Levine. Reproduced with permission from Richard I Levine. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Richard I Levine is a native New Yorker raised in the shadows of Yankee Stadium. After dabbling in several occupations and a one-year coast to coast wanderlust trip, this one-time volunteer fireman, bartender, and store manager returned to school to become a chiropractor. A twenty-one year cancer survivor, he’s a strong advocate for the natural healing arts. Levine has four Indy-published novels and his fifth work, To Catch The Setting Sun, has just been completed and he’s anticipating a spring 2022 release. In 2006 he wrote, produced and was on-air personality of the Dr. Rich Levine show on Seattle’s KKNW 1150AM and after a twenty-five year practice in Bellevue, Washington, he closed up shop in 2017 and moved to Oahu to pursue a dream of acting and being on Hawaii 5-O. While briefly working as a ghostwriter/community liaison for a local Honolulu City Councilmember, he appeared as a background actor in over twenty-five 5-Os and Magnum P.Is. Richard can be seen in his first co-star role in the Magnum P.I. third season episode “Easy Money”. He presently resides in Hawaii.

Catch Up With Richard I Levine:
Richard I Levine on Amazon
Goodreads
BookBub – @rlevinedc
Instagram – @rlevinedc
Twitter – @Your_In8_Power
Facebook – @RichardLevineAuthor

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Tour Participants:

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

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Tours

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#BookTour ‘n’ #GuestPost “The 13th Hour: Chaos” by Richard Doetsch

The 13th Hour: Chaos by Richard Doetsch BannerSeptember 5 – 30, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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~ Guest Post ~

What inspired The 13th Hour:Chaos, and are there any parallels between himself and his protagonist, Nick Quinn?

The 13th Hour: Chaos is stand-alone sequel to the The 13th Hour both of which start at the last chapter and go backwards.

And it all started with a traffic Jam.

I sat in standstill traffic waiting, my mind wandering and wondering what caused the delay three miles ahead. My imagination told me someone looked at their phone while driving causing a minor traffic accident; That accident caused a three-mile back-up of hundreds of cars with each driver delayed from their arrival time. What if one person was a daughter racing to see her dying mother and now she’s too late?  As a result of the traffic jam, a man is late for an interview for a job he will now have no hope of getting. A parent is late for their child’s last baseball game.  All of this because that initial driver looked at their phone and subsequently impacted so many lives.

But what if that one moment could be taken back? Nothing grand, nothing momentous, what if that one driver didn’t look at their phone? A daughter would see her mother to tell her that she loves her for the final time, a man gets a job to put food on the table for his family, a parent sees their child get a hit in their last game.

I thought what if that one moment could be taken back, how many lives would it change?

About the same time, I was thinking that I had never read a book that had gone backwards, that started at the last chapter and proceeded in reverse.

Two ideas, woven together with a lot of imagination and heart sent me on a 30-day writing spree that resulted in The 13th Hour. By the way, the traffic jam never shows up in that book or Chaos, its sequel, but it was the seed to something far more compelling.

The last few pages of The 13th Hour became the seed that blossomed into The 13th Hour: Chaos, the sequel.

I loved the 30-day journey it took me to create The 13th Hour. While it was an intense labor of creativity and confusion, I hadn’t had that much fun writing in my life. 

You always want to give a satisfying ending to anything you write, plus you want to leave the reader wanting more. The fun wrap up I conjured left the main characters, Nick and Julia Quinn, in a good place while at the same time, providing an exciting twist of an ending that was the perfect starting point for what became The 13th Hour: Chaos.

One interesting aspect of The 13th Hour: Chaos, like its predecessor, is the big writing challenge of its unique format:

The novel goes backwards, starting at the last chapter at 6PM.

I had to write about the past which you’re creating as you go, yet all of that past had to inform the chapter you just came from. You are traveling in two narrative directions at the same time.

I had to keep every single character’s arc and storyline clear in my head, even if they were just a minor character as their interactions with the main cast would have a meaningful effect.

it was like playing three layers of chess with one board upside down, one in a mirror, and one in reality. It was bit of a challenge as I had to remember the past which hadn’t yet happened in my mind, yet it had informed the present, current chapter.

I kept a detailed note pad of three different timelines: the book’s chapter timeline of going backwards; Nick’s journey both forward and reliving his day; and the natural timeline of the day in forward motion. Each was labeled by hour and chapter. It was so critical that everything be perfectly aligned because if one element was out of place the whole story would collapse.

It sounds confusing to write, but all of my brain strain paid off in a clear, fun story line that, while being a bit mind-bending, is an easily flowing narrative.

In the The 13th Hour: Chaos there are lots of parallels between Nick Quinn and myself. He is a real estate investor like myself, an adrenaline junky who kite surfs a little bit in the book just like me, he’s married to his high school sweetheart, Julia, who is based on my wife, Virginia (we’ve been together for 44 years). Much of the dialogue is inspired by conversations I have had and happenings in my life.

The Incidents with our kids when they were little, the fact of how bad I am at taking out the garbage; their dogs, my dogs all come from my life. The town they live in is Byram Hills which is almost an exact stand in for Armonk, the town we grew up in. The name Byram Hills was the name of our high school. Incidentally, the town of Byram Hills is where all of my characters from all of my novels live.

They say write what you know, well i know my wife and I pretty well, which helped to make Nick and Julia Quinn all the more real. The 13th Hour has been optioned for television (it’s actually been optioned three times with other studios, always falling short of production for one Hollywood reason or another). Each time, and now once again, my wife wants to know who will be cast to play Julia, which always makes me smile.

~~~~

book cover

Synopsis:

 

A Mesmerizing Thriller Told in Reverse

On a warm Fourth of July in the quiet town of Byram Hills, Nick Quinn watches as his wife and daughter die in an unprecedented terrorist attack. Amid the disaster, Nick is approached by a dying friend who hands Nick an antique pocket watch.

Emotionally shattered and desperate, Nick takes the watch and is shocked to find himself propelled back in time to where he was an hour ago, before the attack on his town. Quickly stopping the course of events, his relief is shattered as life spirals in an even more tragic direction.

At the top of each hour, the watch sends Nick back two hours to live one hour again, a backwards march to relive each hour of his day. A twelve-hour journey providing precious but limited time to protect Julia and Katy and uncover the source of the ever growing threat.

But each time Nick thinks he’s solved the crime and secured the future, he uncovers new levels of deception, agony, and betrayal, ultimately revealing a far more sinister plot with unexpected players and grim, global consequences.

If Nick hasn’t set things right by the 13th hour, not only will his wife and daughter be lost forever to the chaos, but an even greater catastrophe will be unleashed upon the world.

Praise for The 13th Hour: Chaos:

“The story truly excels with its engaging, nonstop pursuit of the truth… Genuinely intriguing whodunit… A fun and compelling time-travel thriller… The taut, well-conceived plot unravels and reforms with twisty surprises and elements of politics, revenge, and Machiavellian villainy.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Doetsch delivers another compelling and complex thriller. The twists and turns are non-stop”

Library Journal (Starred Review)

“Ingenious. A jigsaw puzzle in book form. A love story, a political potboiler, and a thriller that upends expectations with every turn of the page. It carried me from heartbreaking opening to the razor edge of its ending in one sitting. My foot is already tapping as I wait impatiently for a third installment!”

James Rollins, #1 NY Times bestselling author

The 13th Hour: Chaos boasts a blistering original structure that propels the story along at a relentless pace… A thinking man’s thriller… With Doetsch driving, it’s a wild ride indeed…”

The Providence Sunday Journal

“I haven’t read a race against time this intense… The 13th Hour: Chaos is a time-bending adventure of epic proportions and scary consequences.”

Best Thriller Books

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery Thriller

Published by: Permuted Press

Publication Date: May 3rd 2022

Number of Pages: 384

ISBN: 1637583060 (ISBN13: 9781637583067)

Series:A Nick Quinn Thriller; The 13th Hour Series

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Goodreads

~~~~

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

CHAPTER 12: 5:00 PM

The enormous wall climbed to heaven and stretched a quarter-mile wide, like a barrier constructed to keep out the barbarian hordes. Made of five-ton granite-and-concrete blocks, the dam loomed over the green valley, its growing shadow marking time like an oversized sundial.

Nick stood on a balcony, staring up at the 410-foot-tall marvel of engineering, constructed in 1917 to hold back the billions of gallons of the Killian Reservoir.

The blue sky and crisp, clean air of the summer day helped clear his mind and calm his nerves. He had slipped through a lower-level door onto the teak porch, hoping Julia wouldn’t mind his momentary disappearance from helping prepare for the reception.

The building that loomed behind Nick was as magnificent as the dam and far more beautiful. The large castle looked like something plucked from the Middle Ages, though it had never housed a king, queen, or any other royalty. Built on a whim by the eccentric industrialist James Francis Dorchester, it had been donated to the town of Byram Hills when Dorchester left for Hawaii shortly after meeting the fourth future-former Mrs. Dorchester.

Constructed of granite, the English-style castle was adorned with corner towers, high keeps, parapets, decorative merlons, and scattered turrets, with half the structure carved into the steep, rocky hillside. While the walls and battlements were stone, the architects had softened its medieval appearance with several levels of ornamented teak porches that wrapped three sides, overlooking the carved marble statuary and ornate garden of perennials below. The interior gained warmth and character from cherry-paneled walls, thick Turkish rugs, and enormous windows that provided panoramic views of both the valley below and the adjacent dam.

The warlike fortification, created out of nostalgia rather than for defense, had served as the designated fallout shelter for the local officials and their families during the 1950s and ’60s. Its thick granite blocks, fused with a cement-like mortar, would not only withstand a 1960s-era Soviet bomb but also outlast the pyramids of Giza.

Nick smiled as he looked at the thousand-strong crowd gathering in the enormous, grassy park 150 feet below and wished he were down there instead of up here, dreading the next hour of his life.

* * * * * * * * * * *

“Wake up,” Julia gently stroked Nick’s whiskered cheek as she kissed him awake. “Wake up, my hero. Busy evening ahead.”

Nick stirred, his mind rising to the surface as he sat up straight in his office chair, twisting his kinked neck, which had stiffened during his too-short nap. His eyes locked with Julia’s, the spouses each saying so much more than they could have with words. He smiled as the fog cleared and he took in his wife. Her blonde hair framed the face he had known since they were teenagers, her full lips smiling, her impish glee at waking him etched in her warm, blue eyes. He loved when she kissed him awake; there was no better way to be pulled from a dream.

He had slept for all of a half-hour, having worked all day crunching numbers on a prospective real-estate transaction and finishing his first book here in his dark-wood library office. This was after a minor incident with Marcus early this morning which had upended his normal daybreak routine.

He had picked up his best friend at 7:25 a.m., kites and boards loaded in the rear of the Jeep Wrangler, the jet ski hitched to the back in hopes of a couple of hours of kitesurfing before work. But that all went to hell when Murphy’s Law stepped in on the back of fate, ending his chance of getting anywhere near the water that morning.

“How’s it feel to be a hero?” Julia asked playfully.

“Not a hero,” Nick groaned, clearing his sleepy voice.

“They’re saying you and Marcus didn’t want your names mentioned.”

“It’s not like we did it for recognition.”

“Surely, you can at least share the details with your wife.”

“Well, the flames—”

“Tell me later. It’s already after three. We’ve got to be at the castle by four.” Julia leaned in and kissed him again. “We both know you’re incapable of telling a short story.”

“Four? Guests aren’t supposed to arrive until 5:15.”

“We’re the hosts, remember? It’s better to be early and prepared than—”

“Late and screwed.” Nick finished her sentence for the thousandth time as an incessant ticking tickled his ears. “Where are you going?”

“I have to run some errands.” Julia blew him a kiss and left his office before shouting back at him, “Do me a favor and take out the garbage.”

“Of course,” Nick called back.

“I’ll be back at 3:45. Be ready. Don’t make us late.”

The ticking seemed to grow and echo as Julia exited through the foyer.

“I’m going to smash this thing,” Julia shouted as she walked out the front door.

Nick already regretted having bought the mahogany, man-o-war-themed grandfather clock two days ago. It had been a foolish purchase. Like fireworks to a soldier suffering PTSD, the clock’s ticking reminded Nick of what he had tried so hard to forget. To make matters worse, the beautiful antique wasn’t only rattling his brain; it was also rattling his marriage.

Every hour, starting with a heavy mechanical click, the giant clock would ring out a brief, seafaring tune on its internal brass bells before intoning the hour with a rhythmic chime.

The chiming had lasted all of one night. Julia said it was worse than torture: not only the annoying clicks, but also the loud peal of the bell, which risked waking Katy every hour, on the hour. It took Nick forty-five minutes to figure out how to disable the bells, but the ticking of the brass pendulum continued. He had already listed the clock for sale online and promised Julia he’d move it out to the garage by nightfall.

*****

It was 3:41 when Nick heard Julia’s car roll into the driveway. He jumped up from his desk, raced upstairs, hit the bathroom, shaved, made himself presentable, and headed for his closet. Though he knew it would make her mad, he slipped on a pair of Levi’s, a polo shirt, and his twenty-two-year-old cowboy boots. He also grabbed a pair of charcoal-gray Armani pants, a button-down shirt, a tie, and a sport coat; slipped them all on a hanger; grabbed a pair of dress shoes; and prepared to face Julia’s wrath.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said as Nick hung the hanger in the back of her blue Audi, then climbed into the driver’s seat. She eyed him up and down. “You had to wear the jeans? You’re not going to have time to change.”

Nick would have plenty of time to change, more than an hour, though he had no intention of arguing with her.

“Hi, Daddy,” Katy said from her car seat in the back.

“Hey, honey.” Nick turned and smiled at his daughter. “Don’t you look like a princess.”

And she did. With white-blonde hair, giant blue eyes that matched her party dress, and a broad, giggly smile, she could warm the heart of winter.

“Say hi to Abigail.” Katy held out a stuffed giraffe.

“Hello, Abigail.”

“She keeps the bad people out of my dreams.”

“Well, that’s a good giraffe,” Nick told the toy as he kissed its head. “Thank you for protecting my little girl’s dreams.” He handed it back. “Hi, Bonnie,” he said to the teenager sitting next to Katy as he started the car and pulled out of their driveway.

“Hi, Mr. Quinn.” Bonnie Powers twirled her long brown hair around her index finger the way fifteen-year-olds do when they’re shy and can’t figure out what to do with their hands. Still, the teenage babysitter would keep three-year-old Katy entertained and occupied during the reception.

“Thanks for coming,” he told Bonnie.

“Mommy said you’re her hero,” Katy whispered, struggling with the word hero.

“Well,” Nick laughed, “I guess I am.” He didn’t turn to look at Julia, who clearly wasn’t sharing his mirth.

“Did you remember to take out the garbage?” she asked without looking at him.

Nick knew that she knew he hadn’t. Her question wasn’t so much about the garbage as it was to point out that he’d forgotten to do what he’d promised. Again.

Three years earlier, Julia had asked Nick to take out the garbage, as per their custom, and then she’d taken it out five minutes later when he hadn’t—also per their custom. It was out in the driveway, on her way back from emptying the garbage, that Julia’s water had broken.

Nick had rushed her to Greenwich Hospital, but what they thought would be an easy labor process turned into a thirty-six-hour ordeal: slow to dilate, slow to efface. They grew frustrated, but it was when Julia finally began to push that Nick became scared. Without a drop of medication, without ever considering an epidural, Julia pushed as hard as she could to get that baby out, her face beet-red, her temples throbbing, her eyes swelling unnaturally.

As Katy finally emerged, healthy and screaming, Nick turned to his wife, beaming with pride, only to find her unconscious.

“Julia?” he’d said softly, knowing how exhausted she must be. “I’m so proud of you.”

But Julia hadn’t responded.

“Julia?” Nick rubbed her forehead. “Julia?”

And everything had slipped to hell.

Dr. Culverhart and the nurses rushed Nick out of the room as an oxygen mask was dropped over Julia’s face. Nick could see through the circular door window as they desperately worked on her: mouth to mouth, pumping her chest, jabbing a needle in her arm. Dr. Culverhart’s voice turned grave as he ordered the nurses about.

Nick thought he was going to lose her, certain she would die without ever getting to hold their daughter.

But finally, she’d opened her eyes with a gasp, looking around, confused at the commotion. Through the window, he saw her mouth form the word, “Nick?”

He burst through the door and raced to her side, bending to take her in his arms, holding her as tightly as he dared.

“I thought I lost you,” he said through his tears.

In his ear, Julia had whispered, “I’ll never leave you, silly.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Standing on the balcony of Byram Castle, Nick stared down into the valley at nearly a thousand people playing baseball, picnicking, and getting early seats on the enormous grassy mall for the best fireworks show in Westchester County. Festivities, from parades to awards ceremonies to school-band performances, had filled the afternoon and would continue into the night, all in celebration of the Fourth of July.

Nick looked at his iPhone to check the time: 5:05. Like so many, he had disposed of his wristwatch in favor of the multi-function device that was the modern-day equivalent of his Swiss Army knife. He had wandered about the castle for almost an hour after arriving, thinking it best to stay out of Julia’s way and busying himself with phone calls, emails, and the internet.

The upper reaches of the fortress held modernized conference rooms and offices, while the bowels of the stone castle seemed to exist a century or two in the past, mimicking a European stronghold in every sense. Nick had never been in a dungeon but was pretty sure the castle’s subbasement came close. It felt like the center of the earth there, the depths of a man-made cave cold and damp, the echo of life above blotted out.

He explored the lower recesses like a curious child, finding a host of rooms straight out of the past, each concealed behind doors of four-inch-wide planks strapped with thick iron bands, their heavy clasps rusted with age, all unlocked, empty and forgotten.

Tired of the dank and dark and the lack of cell reception, he moved back to the balcony and spent the last hour dialing, negotiating, and checking the live feed of the Yankees game.

As he watched the crowds below, Nick couldn’t help but feel a bit of envy. He was stuck up here about to endure something only a notch or two more pleasant than a root canal.

He wasn’t one for glad-handing and false smiles; he had a revulsion for politics and its facades and detested writing checks to the political elite—all of which he had done over the years in deference to Julia’s work world. Today, his wife’s law firm, Aitkens, Isles, and Lerner, was sponsoring the meet-and-greet with Byron Chase, the senior U.S. senator from New York, who was not only the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but he also sat on Appropriations, the committee that held the all-important purse strings of federal funding: one of the sources of the lifeblood that made the consulting arm of Julia’s firm viable.

Unlike most politicians, Byron Chase was a “friend.” Hailing from Byram Hills, he embodied the hometown-boy-made-good, a politician who many believed actually possessed integrity and honesty. He had taught at Byram Hills High School twenty years earlier and served as Nick and Julia’s swim coach. Despite not knowing any stroke beyond basic freestyle, Coach Chase had spent half his time yelling at Nick about how to swim better when Nick already held every school record, was all-county, and had been the team captain two years running. Chase had spent the other half of his time telling Julia she could do so much better than staying with young Mr. Quinn.

Chase had left teaching after getting his law degree at night and quickly found himself at Aitkens, Isles, and Lerner before becoming a state representative. Soon after, he became a U.S. congressman. And then he set his sights even higher.

He had been elected to the U.S. Senate on a platform of integrity and change with a large dose of voter sympathy over the loss of his son in the Akbiquestan War. Sadly, not much had changed since his election to the Senate: only the same politically-correct stances, abstained votes on controversial bills, and the hollow rhetoric of his predecessor.

At $1,000 per handshake and $2,500 per photo-op, Nick figured his former swim coach would be leaving the meet-and-greet with a take of more than $400,000, two tea sandwiches, and four martinis.

Nick wasn’t sure if he still held a real grudge against Chase for trying to push Julia away from him when they were teenagers, or if he was being stubbornly childish due to his dislike of politics.

Nick turned and saw a Secret Service agent sweeping the castle grounds. News vans from the local stations parked in front with their reporters, hoping they could wangle a sound bite or interview with the man who many said was the apparent heir to the throne of the presidency.

Well, Nick hadn’t voted for Chase before and wasn’t about to change that now.

Another glance at his iPhone told him that he’d lost all track of time, forgetting to change out of his jeans and into his jacket and tie. He left the balcony, rounded the corner into the reception room, and ran headlong into Julia. It took a moment for her to digest the moment before she gave Nick the look—her expression telling him, I can’t believe you…not again. Julia being Julia, however, she never verbalized it, not once in their nearly nineteen years together, although it was a phrase she could have easily uttered multiple times per week.

Nick stared back at her for a moment, not minding her anger. She wore an off-white linen dress, her hair brushed out, and looked like a model who had stepped off the catwalk. Her appearance was elegant and refined, projecting her professionalism while sprinkling it with a touch of glamor. She wore the simple gold necklace with a diamond at its center and the matching earrings that he had given her last Christmas; on her wrist was her mother’s gold Rolex. Though never in need of makeup, she wore a touch of lipstick and eyeliner, which accentuated her beauty.

At thirty-six years of age, Julia looked ten years younger. Her skin flawless, her eyes filled with life and projecting her unending energy. It always amazed Nick that she could work out, grocery shop, get her nails done, and feed Katy, all before he even brushed his teeth in the morning. She would race into the bedroom in tight-fitting shorts and a t-shirt, her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, head straight for her bathroom and closet, and—within minutes—emerge sophisticated, alluring, and ready to take down the business world.

“What’s going on?” he asked innocently.

“Seriously? Beyond the fact that people are due to arrive in ten minutes and you’re not dressed? Or the fact you disappeared for the last hour? All eyes are on us today—the senator, his speech, this party, the news media—all on top of a crazy day of unfinished work and missed meetings.”

She moved back into the reception room, rearranging flowers, moving chairs inches to the left or right, and ensuring that every wine bottle’s label on the bar faced out.

“It’s Coach Chase,” Nick said.

“That’s right. Senator Chase. Senator Byron Chase.”

“Byron? He’s no Byron. His name’s Carl. Carl Byron Chase. Since when did he drop Carl from his name?”

“That was twenty years ago, Nick.”

“Yeah, well, he’s the same man, he just wears a fancy suit and sits in a bigger office that doesn’t smell like sweat and Bengay.”

“He’s still a senator.”

“He’s still an ass.” Nick regretted his words before they hit Julia’s ears.

“Can you just let it go?” She turned and moved closer to Nick. “For me? This all reflects on me today. Do you understand that?”

He nodded. “Sorry. I’ll shut my mouth.”

Julia turned to adjust the podium, opening the curtains two inches more.

“It’s an awful lot of security and hoopla for a senator,” Nick said softly.

“Nick…”

“I’m just saying….”

“There’re some crazy people out there, even some death threats, and Chase may announce he’s throwing his hat in the presidential-election ring.”

“Ha,” Nick said with a laugh. “That explains the reporters. With his approach to—” At Julia’s glare, he shut his mouth again. “Sorry. What can I do to help?”

“Just…” Julia bit her lip. “Go get changed, hurry back to greet people when they arrive, and use that faux happy-to-see-you smile you’ve got in your back pocket to pretend you’re enjoying yourself.”

*****

Nick walked through the entrance lobby and down a long, sconce-lined hall to the bathrooms, only to find a Secret Service agent there. He headed back to the conference room, finding another agent on his phone, and opted instead to head back down into “the dungeon.”

He found the kitchen, where caterers were busy filling trays with cheese puffs, stuffed mushrooms, and shrimp skewers. Nick smiled a guilty smile at a young hostess as he grabbed a handful of mini-hotdogs and continued down into the dark recesses of the basement.

Once again, he found rooms within rooms, a forever maze that wound about the castle’s foundation and deep into the cliffside. Finally, Nick stopped in an especially bare stone chamber. He figured here was as good a place as any to change. He quickly slipped into his dark slacks and Armani jacket, stuffed his other clothes in his bag, and found a door out onto a lower balcony.

“When you escape hell, you’re supposed to bring your friends with you.”

Nick turned as an oversized hand fell upon his shoulder.

“Right, Katy?” the voice continued.

“Daddy!”

Katy rode upon the shoulders of an enormous bear of man.

“Hey, kiddo,” Nick said. “Did Uncle Marcus bring you down here or did you bring him?”

Marcus reached up and lowered Katy to the balcony, her tiny hand holding tight to his finger. “Fourth of July, cocktail hour…where else would I rather be than hearing a politician roar about his conquest of the jungles of DC?”

“You know that the only one more upset about this than you is me, right?” Nick said, then added, “Thanks for coming.”

Marcus Bennett stood 6’1″ with 230 pounds of muscle, his bald, gleaming head shining in the late-day sun. Marcus was Nick’s best friend, next-door neighbor, and partner in all things: hockey, kitesurfing, poker, and other brands of minor mischief.

“You’d think we’d get a pass after all we did this morning,” said Marcus, as Katy pulled him toward the railing that looked over the valley.

As Katy’s godfather, Marcus had gone from being a rough-and-tumble, ex-military businessman who couldn’t keep his fists in his pockets, to a childlike uncle who didn’t hesitate to roll on the floor and play with dolls. Katy was the David to his Goliath, slaying him with a smile, bending him to her will like no business adversary or bar-fight opponent ever could.

Nick marveled at the constant changes in Katy: her weekly growth, the teeth that seemed to suddenly fill her mouth, her ever-expanding vocabulary. She had a tender innocence to her voice, a Cindy Lou Who quality magnified by the words of toddlerhood: finnder for finger, vallilla for vanilla, peas for please. He loved her mispronounced vocabulary and never corrected her, hoping she’d hold onto her innocence forever. He had never imagined the emotional depths of fatherhood—the joy, the worry, and how his heart burst with warmth every time he heard her voice.

When he’d first learned Julia was pregnant, he was secretly fearful. How would their lives change? What would come of their mornings lying in each other’s arms, their lazy Sundays of breakfast and newspapers in bed? Would it all be lost and forgotten?

But as with most parents, what they gave up was replaced with something far more precious. Nick could no longer imagine life without Katy, without her laughter or tears as she explored and came to know her world; the swooshing sound of her legs against her diapers as she raced down the hallways of their home; the uncontrollable giggles and laughter when Theo, their six-month-old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, licked her ears; or their simple game of peek-a-boo.

While raising Katy, Nick had rediscovered the wonders of childhood: the magic of Christmas, the spooky fun of trick-or-treat, manic Easter egg hunts, and blowing out birthday candles. Life’s priorities had come into sharp focus, and his had taken on a new sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Like most couples with a new child, Nick and Julia had experienced a paradigm shift with their friends, many falling away, those without children still spending Friday and Saturday nights out for dinner, movies, and dancing. Only their closest friends modified their lives to spend time with the happy trio, content to come over for take-out and share in Nick and Julia’s parental joy.

“Where’s Dreyfus?” Marcus asked Nick. “How did he get out of this?”

“I have no idea,” Nick said. “But I’m sure he’ll make it. He’s never late for anything.”

And he wasn’t. Punctual was an understatement. You could set your watch by Paul Dreyfus’s adherence to schedule. A security expert for Fortune 500 companies, as well as Shamus Hennicot and his wealthy associates, Paul Dreyfus was eminently successful, highly responsible, and always timely. He was also the third Stooge in Marcus and Nick’s sandbox. He kept their reindeer games this side of legal, ensured their wounds were properly dressed, and served as a stand-in godfather to Katy whenever Marcus regressed into childhood.

“By the way,” Marcus said, “Julia’s looking for you.”

“Mommy’s looking for you,” Katy echoed. “I tink she’s mad.”

“Why do you think that, honey?”

“Cause she said, ‘Go find Fadder,’ instead of Daddy.” Katy giggled.

Nick looked to Marcus. “And you volunteered to leave the fun and find me?”

Marcus smiled and shrugged. “That’s what friends do.”

*****

Nick and Julia stood at the large wooden entrance doors to Byram Castle, shaking hands, nodding, and endlessly engaging in questions of children, health, and the weather, while also wishing everyone a happy Fourth of July.

Among the guests was Marcus and his latest wife Anissa; Martin Rinab, another of Nick’s kitesurfing buddies, and his wife Yolanda; their forever friends Kirstin and Rocco; John Bae, the rhythm guitarist from Nick’s band; Michael Ponce, his skydiving compadre; the Clows, who actually enjoyed the politics of it all; the Mortimers, who would do anything for Julia; Donna Schreyer, Julia’s close friend from the hospital; Sara Bitton, Katy’s daycare teacher; and the Fitzgibbonses, the starstruck sort of people who jumped at a chance to meet their senator.

The castle now contained practically everyone on Nick and Julia Quinn’s Christmas-party invitation list: at least forty couples, supplemented by partners from Julia’s law firm, town officials, and political groupies. The only people not in attendance were the smart ones: the thousand-plus who filled the grassy mall and sports fields below the dam, enjoying their Fourth of July in the traditional way, with picnics and games while awaiting the evening’s fireworks show.

Hors d’oeuvres and drinks were passed by college-aged interns of the senator as people broke into cliques of conversational comfort. Nick hated to admit it, but he was enjoying himself. As he looked around, he realized that these were the people he actually liked to be with—the people he cared about, who made him laugh, think, and smile.

“Where’s Shamus?” Nick asked Julia in a quiet moment.

“I couldn’t reach him all day.”

“That’s not like him.”

“Well, he is ninety-three,” she said.

“And he would never miss one of your parties, even if he had one foot in the grave.”

“That’s not right,” she scolded.

Hailing from ancient English heritage, Shamus was the wealthiest ninety-three-year-old in the world—not that it mattered to Nick and Julia. To them, he was more than a friend or client. He was like a father or grandfather: stern but loving, filled with wisdom but never pushy with it. Shamus and his wife Katherine had no children and no other family, so they looked to each other to fill that void and chose their “family” with care.

“I didn’t mean it that way.” Nick rubbed her arm.

“I meant to go by his house, but work had me so tied up.”

“We’ll swing by his house on the way home. I’m sure he’s fine.”

At 5:37, twenty-two minutes late, the large entrance doors opened and the two Secret Service agents walked in, followed immediately by a tall Byron Chase, who smiled as he headed directly to Julia.

“I can’t thank you enough for arranging all of this,” Senator Chase said, looking properly regal in his dark-blue power suit and red, striped tie.

“It’s our pleasure, Senator.” Julia gave him a small hug.

“Julia,” he chided her gently. “Formalities were for high school. Call me Byron.” He turned to Nick and thrust out his hand.

“Coach Carl,” Nick said, immediately feeling Julia’s eye bore into him. He took the senator’s hand and smiled the smile that Julia had asked him to pull from his back pocket.

“Julia said you just wrapped up two large real-estate acquisitions and finished your first book.”

“She’s always bragging about me.”

“Good for you,” Chase said. “You were the only high-school couple that I knew would get married and stay that way.”

“Thank you.” Nick held his false smile. “I’m hoping she keeps me for a few more years.”

“If you’ll excuse me,” Chase said, “I just need to review my notes with one of my aides.” Chase’s focus had shifted even before he finished his sentence; now he moved with a young assistant to a far corner.

“Coach Carl?” Julia glared at Nick. “Really?”

Nick gave his wife the same smile that she’d requested as she turned away and marched into the reception room.

“This was supposed to be my moment,” Senator Chase said through gritted teeth. “He was supposed to be here to introduce me.”

“Things happen,” the young aide said. “I’ll introduce you.”

“No offense, but you lack even the appearance of someone important. After all this effort I’ve gone through to help him, he screws me yet again? I want to know the real reason why he blew me off.”

“I don’t know if I can—”

“Just do it, or find a replacement who can.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Julia said from the podium, the crowd reacting by dropping their conversations to a murmur. “Please welcome Senator Byron Chase.”

Chase climbed the eighteen-inch platform and stood at the podium, nodding to the applauding crowd, pointing at strangers as if they were friends. He was an imposing man, fit, with dark, grey-flecked hair, a disarming smile, and steely blue eyes.

He rested his hands upon the sides of the red, white, and blue podium and cleared his throat.

“Before we get it started,” he said, raising his hands to quiet the room, “it’s my great honor to announce something that has not even hit the press yet. President Matthew McManus, two hours ago, after a series of top-secret negotiations, signed not only a cease-fire but a far-reaching peace accord with Akbiquestan and Russia, resolving longstanding economic issues. As the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I am proud to have been involved with this process and I applaud our Commander in Chief on a difficult job well done. The war in Akbiquestan is over.”

The room erupted in genuine applause. The four-year war had dominated the press, water-cooler talk, and prayers of most Americans, who feared an escalation into World War III.

“Which is a perfect segue into why I am here today,” Chase continued. “Peace through strength. Prosperity through charity. It’s time to step back from war and focus on peace and prosperity for all Americans, while never letting our guard down against terrorism again.”

Nick pulled out and glanced at his phone: 5:53. The two-minute political oration already felt like an hour. Julia turned toward him with a painted-on smile and gave him the look. He quickly tucked his phone away.

Katy charged through the room, her blonde hair floating behind her, and latched onto Nick’s leg, pulling him toward the door as if he were being saved from hell by an angel.

Nick picked her up and carried her to the lobby, out through the enormous heavy glass doors, closing them carefully behind them, cutting off the droning speech in favor of far more important words.

“I want to go outside and play,” Katy said.

“Honey,” Julia said, following them into the lobby with Bonnie the babysitter at her side. She took Katy out of Nick’s arms. “I need you to stay with Bonnie for fifteen minutes.”

“Why don’t I take her outside?” Nick offered.

“We need to be in there,” Julia said with a forced smile. “We’re the hosts.”

“But Katy wants to play.”

A side door opened, and a man stumbled through, looking barely coherent, and fell into Nick’s arms. His clothes were wet, his salt-and-pepper hair damp. Shocked, Nick realized he knew the man and knew him well. It was his close friend Paul Dreyfus, who had been at the top of the guest list and uncharacteristically late.

Nick supported his friend’s sagging weight and led him to a large couch on the far side of the lobby, where Dreyfus collapsed heavily.

“Are you okay?” Nick asked Paul. “What the hell happened?”

“Listen to me,” Dreyfus whispered.

As Nick let go of his friend, he saw blood covering his hands. Quickly, Nick ripped open Dreyfus’s shirt, revealing what looked like a bullet wound to the chest.

“Oh my God,” Nick breathed. “Julia?”

Julia was immediately at his side.

“Bonnie,” Julia turned to the babysitter, “could you take Katy to the bathroom in the back?”

Bonnie averted her eyes as she pulled Katy down through the back hall.

“What happened?” Nick asked his friend again.

Dreyfus pulled the strap of a dark leather satchel from about his neck and shoulder and looped it over Nick’s. “Listen to me, Nick. Listen very carefully….” Dreyfus paused to breathe, struggling to get the words out. “Don’t let that bag out of your sight…. He’s coming for you. He’s…coming for Julia.”

“Who? What are you talking about?”

Dreyfus reached into the bag and withdrew a single picture that made Nick’s blood run cold. It was an image of a man floating against the rocky shoreline of a lake, water lapping at his body, his face having lost all color, the skin white and curdled like rotted cheese, lips blue, cracked, and wet. There was no question that the man had died a painful death. In fact, he had almost surely drowned, his wet body and vacant stare leaving little doubt about the means of his demise.

Nick tried to catch his panicked breath. He knew the man, knew him well, better than anyone: he was looking into his own lifeless eyes.

“You all die….” Dreyfus whispered.

Julia turned to Nick, her skin flushing red as confusion filled her eyes. “Nick?” Her voice trembled.

Nick stared at Dreyfus, the impossibility of his words echoing in his head.

“You, Julia….” Dreyfus struggled to draw another breath. “Katy. Everyone.”

Nick turned and looked through the glass doors at the gathered crowd, which listened in rapt attention to the senator’s speech. Everyone Nick cared about was here, most listening to political rhetoric they couldn’t care less about. They were all attending as a favor to Nick and Julia.

“When?” Nick whispered to his dying friend.

Dreyfus seized Nick’s hand, locking eyes with him. “It’s all in the bag.”

“What’s in the bag?”

“You have to find me….” Dreyfus’s words sounded like a plea.

“I don’t understand…find you where?”

“I’m so sorry—”

A sudden roar exploded from the room, cheers and applause, as if the senator had concluded the speech of his life. The rising voices of the now-standing audience only amplified Nick’s dread.

And then a rumble shook the world, deep and foreboding.

Another rumble, an explosion, like a bomb, and then another and another and another….

The crowd fell silent, eyes darting about in confusion. New York was not the land of earthquakes, but the shaking earth said otherwise. Deep heavy rumblings seemed to roll the flagstone floor.

“Nick?” Julia looked around the lobby in fear as a hum began to grow. “What the hell is that?”

As the rumble grew in intensity, a collective panic took over the reception room, chaos filling the air as everyone tried to flee from the unknown with incoherent screams of fear, cramming through the doors to escape whatever danger was approaching.

The deep roar grew deafening, drowning out the screams, shaking the castle’s foundations. And then, as if hell had been unleashed, the reception room’s outer windows shattered; incomprehensibly, a wall of water drove through the space, rising toward the ceiling in seconds. Like a tidal wave, the barrage of water tore the room apart. Tables, chairs, fixtures, and carpets spun into a churning maelstrom. Men and woman were scooped up, helplessly tossed about, bodies hurled and twisted into dark whirlpools.

The light of day dimmed as the wall sconces winked out. Emergency lights reacted to the loss of power, their bright halogen rays flicking on, impervious to the water’s assault within their clear plastic housings, their beams like shafts of lightning, piercing the murky, rising, roiling waters.

An enormous howl of wind groaned as air was driven from the building, its gusts sweeping the water’s surface into blinding mist. Husbands and wives, friends and neighbors were quickly swept away, their screams doused as they were pulled under and sucked out through the narrow window openings like water through a drain.

From behind the thick glass doors, Nick and Julia watched in horror as their friends drowned, their twisted bodies becoming human flotsam and jetsam before being sucked out through the shattered picture windows on a violent tide into oblivion.

The lobby had already become a deep pool, the waters rising to Nick and Julia’s shoulders. Then, as if a tornado had struck, the glass doors were torn from their moorings and thrown into the tidal flow. A rush of water quickly rose toward the ceiling, sweeping Dreyfus’s body away.

Water filled the vestibule, its polished granite walls momentarily looking like an Italian pool. The couch where Dreyfus had lain, the tables and chairs splintered in the onslaught, all flushed through the main doors, carried on a raging current.

“Katy!” Julia screamed.

In the rising water, Nick swam for the bathroom where Katy and Bonnie had gone, the leather satchel looped about his body complicating the impossible task. The bathroom was at the far end of the vestibule, sequestered in a corner where the water’s attack had been delayed by the turns of the hallway. But the small, high windows now exploded, water pouring through as if from the spigots of heaven.

Julia swam hard in the same direction, battling the raging waters that rose higher and higher. She fought with all her might, kicking and pulling against the current, but the suction created by the millions of gallons of flowing water took hold of her. Despite all her years of swimming, in spite of her natural strength, she was losing, drawn inch by inch toward the door where death awaited.

Nick caught hold of her hand, his other arm wrapped tightly around a chandelier overhead. They were pulled and tossed by the water as it rose, pushing them up against the ceiling. Holding on with all his strength, Nick pulled her to him, but the suction made her feel like a two-ton weight, straining his arms, his grip.

“Hold on!” Nick yelled as their heads banged the ceiling, the water continuing to rise around them.

“We have to get Katy!” Julia struggled to hold on as Nick fought with every fiber of his being to not let her slip away.

“Mommy!” Katy’s cry pierced the cacophony of churning waters.

“Katy!” Julia screamed back. “Mommy’s coming!”

As the water pulled at them, Nick and Julia’s eyes locked in an unspoken understanding of what was happening. In order to get to Katy, to have any hope of saving her….

“Let me go,” Julia pleaded. “Save Katy, please. Please save Katy.”

Nick looked deep into his wife’s eyes; he couldn’t bear to do what she was asking. She was everything to him, his life, his heart. She was his soul.

“No,” Nick said. “Hold on.”

“It’s okay,” she said, holding his gaze. “Let me go.”

With her free hand, she grasped Nick’s fingers and gently pried them loose.

And with their eyes still locked, she released Nick’s hand. Her body, caught in the suction, instantly disappeared.

Despite the agony in his heart, Nick turned his body toward the bathroom. He reached and caught hold of one of the brass wall sconces mounted on the granite wall as the water continued its rise, only an inch of breathable air remaining.

Nick plunged under, into the current. The brass sconces lined the wall leading to the bathroom like a horizontal ladder. Hand over hand he pulled himself along, fighting with all his might, his arms burning with the impossible effort.

He briefly surfaced. “Katy!” he screamed in the narrow airway as he gulped sweet oxygen. “I’m coming!”

But the force of the current, the draw of the millions of gallons of water flowing through the building, had grown tenfold. Sapped of strength, Nick dug deep within himself…he couldn’t let her die, he wouldn’t fail her.

“Peas, Daddy!” Katy cried from up ahead. “Peas.…”

As the rising water squeezed away the last bit of air, Nick took a deep breath and dived under again.

He spotted the door, its giant brass handle gleaming with the refracted beams of the emergency lights. The thick mahogany portal opened outward, seated against a heavy metal frame, its design still withstanding the building pressure of the rising waters. But Nick knew it wouldn’t hold for long, the waters were surely pouring under the door, through any and every crack as it sought the path of least resistance.

“Daddy!”

Even under the churning water, Nick could hear Katy’s cry.

The violence of the current grew unbeatable. The weight of the satchel around his neck, like a bag of lead; his lungs burning, fighting the rush of water that pulled at him like a colossal magnet.

Nick reached for the handle of the door, his fingertips swiping the brass; straining for purchase, he planted his legs against the wall and used his last bit of strength to grasp the door.

The fire in his lungs pushed him to the brink, twinkling spots dancing before his eyes as his brain thirsted for oxygen.

And the suction caught hold of him, yanking him away, pulling him backwards toward the shattered windows.

With utter despair, his heart broken, having failed his wife and daughter, Nick knew he would join them in death.

Unable to resist, he gasped, and the water invaded his lungs….

And his world fell to darkness.

***

Excerpt from The 13th Hour: Chaos by Richard Doetsch. Copyright 2022 by Richard Doetsch. Reproduced with permission from Richard Doetsch. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Richard Doetsch

Richard Doetsch is the author of six international bestsellers published in twenty-eight countries, with several acquired for film and television. He is an adrenaline junkie with a passion for kite surfing, skydiving, SCUBA diving, triathlons, and defying gravity in Zero G aircraft. He has served as CEO, president, and director in the real-estate industry, managing, creating, and preserving more than 50,000 units of affordable housing with an emphasis on social and community programs.

He is married to his childhood sweetheart, Virginia, who is the impetus and inspiration behind everything he writes.

Catch Up With Richard:
RichardDoetsch.com
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Instagram – @richarddoetsch
Twitter – @richarddoetsch
Facebook – @richarddoetsch

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#BookTour “The Glass Tree” by Michael J. Manz

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Historical/Suspense ; Suspense/Thriller ; Adult Literary

Date Published: 09-01-2022

Publisher: Endicott Street Press

 

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Paris, 1954. Eli Cole, American attaché, wants only one thing: to avenge his wife’s murder. But the trail has gone cold. After two years, drinking to his beloved Liana’s memory is all he has left — until the secrets she took to the grave come back to shatter them all. A hidden photo, a Gestapo file, an unsent letter: these are some of the clues Eli must piece together if he is to understand Liana’s secret life, and her mysterious mission. But the clock is ticking. Powerful new enemies are out to give Eli a one-way ticket back to the United States — in a pinewood box.

With the help of Liana’s father and sister, an old war buddy come abroad, and a cunning teenage girl, Eli unravels the events that led to his wife’s death. But getting justice won’t be easy. The more Eli reveals of Liana’s secret past, the more his devotion to her is tested by her deceit. Can Eli allow himself to recognize the entirety of the woman he married? Will Liana’s last art piece, a spectacular glass tree, give Eli the assurance he needs to continue believing in the sanctity of love?

The Glass Tree is a fast-paced, unpredictable mystery, and it is also the story of one man’s attempt to untangle the complexities of betrayal, love and forgiveness.

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EXCERPT

I grabbed a pack of Lucky Strikes from my stash in the dresser and went back to Le Carre Rouge. Parisians always stick to the same café. I had one with Liana, where I never go. This place was more fitting. It was strictly bottom shelf. The regulars rolled their own cigarettes and there was always a table with a view of the traffic circle.

I knew what JP wanted. I remembered how I felt that first year. Living on hate, living for vengeance. When I wasn’t drunk, I was bothering the police, calling in favors with the French services. I had been with the Sûreté when they questioned suspects. I skulked around Communist meetings, trying to pass myself off as an American comrade. But I was always suspect, and nobody opened up to me more than the usual propaganda line. I followed the men the Sûreté took in for questioning. Some for weeks at a time. Nothing out of the ordinary. No hatchet men. They were family men, working men, functionaries of the party. Rallies, meetings, strikes, canvassing, campaigning. Nothing violent. No one told any stories over drinks. They were dedicated to their cause but did nothing to make me think they had killed one of the opposition and my wife.

There had been no doubt about what I would do when I figured out who had killed Liana. Unintended bystander or not, they would pay with their own life. I had my Colt 1911 wrapped in an oiled cloth in the closet.

The fire that burned inside me never went out, but after that first year of disappointment and false leads, after fellow attachés reported to me that they figured it for the work of Russian agents on orders from the Kremlin, my blood lust began to seep away, like rain on a bridge drying in the sun.

Liana became one of the many senseless deaths. She might have been in a car accident, she might have choked or fallen down the stairs. Undignified. Unlucky. Like so many GIs, she had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And now — had JP found a string to pull?

Even if he had it probably didn’t matter. I’d be shipped back to the States and debriefed any day now.

But maybe there was a way I could stay on, at least long enough to settle this.

I found JP at the same bar where he used to hang out when I was married to his daughter. He was sitting at a table playing la belote with friends or maybe enemies. I didn’t know. They looked like mechanics. The bar was in the Eleventh, not far from Pere Lachaise, a working-class neighborhood. No professors here. Or immigrants. Natives only. Some Algerians had been beaten on the street only a week ago. Where were all those loyal colonized subjects of France supposed to go?

When he saw me he got up and went to the bar. He ordered Suze. The barman poured two cloudy glasses of the yellow liquor. Besides being one of the cheapest drinks, it was disgusting. I sometimes ordered it despite the taste of bitter orange peels.

“What do you want?”

“To kill someone,” I said.

He looked into my eyes. His were red and puffy. “I don’t believe you,” he said, taking a drink. “But I’m going to need you. This time we finish it.”

I took a drink and waited for him to tell me what he had found out.

“Philippe — that is his name — is a professor at the Sorbonne and also a communist. And, it seems, so was Liana.”

I scoffed. “Don’t you think I’d know that?”

“No,” he replied bluntly. “I don’t. As an American there are things you couldn’t understand. The motives of a French woman are not the same as in your country. She couldn’t sacrifice who she was for promises.”

“She wasn’t like that.”

“But she was, wasn’t she? You’ll need to accept that. Accept she was not the perfect wife you thought she was. She was independent, she had a life she didn’t share with you. Maybe she would have…” He stopped.

This was more than he’d said to me all at once the whole time I’d been his son-in-law.

He went back to his table and recovered his cigarette from the ashtray.

“Osval had a 15-year-old daughter. The police report has nothing about her.”

“Police report?”

“I have a friend on the force. She’ll be seventeen now, an adult. Maybe she knows something.”

“And if she doesn’t?” I asked. “Do we break her arm?”

JP smiled. “We’ll see.”

“Let me do it. Just stay in the car with your tool kit.”

JP shrugged. “The downstairs neighbor in her building knows me anyways. I’ll pick you up at noon. I’ve watched her. She never leaves the apartment before two. She’s a dancer at Le Coq Gaulois, or maybe a putain.”

I nodded and finished my drink without coughing.

“She should be alone, the mother leaves with the husband, or whatever he is, around ten. They part ways at the corner. I think she works for the post.”

“And him?”

“I don’t know. Wears a cheap suit and hangs around Les Halles market.”

“Maybe it would be better to talk to the daughter at work.”

“Who knows who’ll be watching there. Better alone.”

I left the bar and walked toward the metro. It was the kind of day I might have strolled through the flea market at Porte de Clignancourt, or the bookstalls along the Seine on the Left Bank. Maybe afterwards a drink with Liana on St. Germain or over the bridge to the Ile Saint Louis for a café. Someone at the Embassy said they’d seen Picasso and Hemingway there. What it must have been like in Paris before the war.

When I got to the metro stairs I changed my mind and headed toward the Sorbonne. I hadn’t been there in a long time. It was a lively part of Paris. Busy with students, those born just before the war.

I walked into the building where Liana had her classroom. I hadn’t spent much time here. Occasionally I came in to meet her after class. It was always so bustling, so alive. Maybe it had too much, too much temptation. It occurred to me that I might find him here. The professor Liana found more exciting than me, who fit her academic mind better. Maybe she even loved him more. I pushed the thought away.

I found her old classroom and cracked the door. It was full of kids listening to a lecture. I went in and took a seat at the back.

It took me a few minutes to figure out the subject. Someone’s textbook read Abstract Expressionism. Liana was part of this. Part of the new wave of art. The museums were full of Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler now. Liana painted and sculpted in experimental ways; the work resembled nothing of the subject. This was the future. I had encouraged her to turn tradition on its head, even if I preferred the old stuff. Giant paintings of battles, dogs with pheasants in their teeth and stags hung for dressing. I didn’t understand the canvases of colorful blotches. It was lost on me. But Liana was passionate about it. The old stuff was overdone, belonged to the past, she’d say. Maybe that’s what I was.

If she hadn’t been killed, would we still be together? Or would she have left me?  How long would I have played the sap? Maybe she would have come back to me on her own. Maybe I would never have needed to know about Philippe.

I left the class. Her office was in another building, a half block away. I took the stairs to the fourth floor. They had given me the little name plaque with her things. There had also been a memorial for her at the school’s graduation that year. All the students had stood, there was a chorus who sang La Mer. The professors all shook my hand afterwards. Including, I supposed, Philippe. I didn’t remember. Maybe he’d had the decency not to. I doubted it, the fucking douche.

I knocked on the door. Her office was occupied by “Prof. Alois Courtemanche” now.

An older gentlemen answered in a tweed jacket. How stereotypical.

“I’m sorry to disrupt you.”

“Come in, come in,” he said. “You are Liana’s husband.”

“Yes.”

“I remember seeing you now and then. I was so sorry,” he said shaking my hand.  “Someone with so much vitality, so much energy. And the way she understood art. What it could do, could mean.”

I just looked down, nodding.

“She is missed here,” he went on. “By everyone. It is an honor to have her office.”

“Thank you. I feel like I didn’t know this part of her very well.”

“Please, sit down.”

I sat and he pulled out a bottle of schnapps from his desk drawer and took down two teacups from the shelf behind him. After pouring in a dash, he handed me one.

“This place, to me, was just where I lost her every day,” I started. “I should have been… I wish I had been a bigger part of her art.”

Alois watched me over his teacup, a strange look on his face. His eyes were blue and a little watery.

“But I think you were. I think you were a big part of her art. The school has a permanent collection you know. Can I show you something? Do you have time?”

“Yes, of course.”

He finished his drink and smacked his lips. I set my cup on the desk and noticed a small bronze sculpture of a man sitting with a book. The sculpture had been there when this was Liana’s desk.

“That sculpture…”

“Done by a professor who died during the war. It kind of lives here. This was also his office.”

“What happened?”

“A dark chapter for France. The Gestapo came and took him one day. He was never seen again. I understand you were in the army?”

“The Tenth. The occupying force her father used to say.”

The man chuckled. “Yes, we French are very patriotic. And for some, even when it was Vichy.”

We took the stairs to a courtyard and crossed it to another gray stone building. In the basement he unlocked a room and flipped on the lights. It was a gallery of sorts. Objects under glass or freestanding and an array of paintings. I followed him to the far wall.

“Did Liana ever show this to you?”

“No,” I said, mesmerized.

On a white table stood a glass tree, maybe three or four feet tall, on a wooden base with a drawer. I was sure it was meant to be a Black Walnut. They were Liana’s favorite. Something to do with a place her parents had taken her as a child and the tree had become her solace.

There were two trunks at the base that twisted into one. The branches were hollow, with the tips of each branch open, like the end of a straw. The glass reflected different colors, muted but noticeable, hints of green, rust, light blue and beige. They felt familiar somehow.

Alois pulled out the drawer. Inside was a flat reel-to-reel recorder. He pressed a button and the tapes turned. Liana’s voice came out of the speakers. At first I thought she may have been reading a book. But the sentences didn’t make sense. It was a jumble of words.

“What is she reading?” I asked.

Alois just shook his head slightly.

I recognized the words somehow. The intonation of her voice. She wasn’t reading random words. They came from somewhere else, someplace meaningful to her.

He pushed the drawer in and the words became a hum, echoes, musical almost, escaping through the branches.

Alois said nothing but looked at the piece with me another minute. I was awestruck.

“I wanted you to see it,” he said, opening the drawer and turning off the tape.

I followed him out and he locked the door.

“Thank you,” I said. “I’m really at a loss for words.”

“Come back anytime,” he said, shaking my hand.

I had the feeling he didn’t want to talk anymore. Something had changed and he was uncomfortable now.

At the front steps he gave me another tight-lipped smile and walked away.

What didn’t he want to say? What, I wondered, was he doing during the war? Probably teaching here. Life went on in Paris despite shortages and hardships.

At the corner of the building, I turned and walked deeper into campus. I used to feel out of place here. It was such a different world. Everyone was young and hopelessly pessimistic.

Now I felt like everyone’s father. Not jealous anymore. They didn’t have Liana. None of us did. Instead, I could look at them for what they were. Hadn’t I brought the light back into the world for them? That’s what they told us anyways. Our sacrifice was for their generation. And here they were.

I sat down on a bench and watched the students. I smoked a cigarette and pictured Liana’s glass sculpture and the sound it made. What did it mean? Why had she never shown me?

I finished the cigarette but didn’t get up. To move from this spot was to rejoin the world outside. To get back to the black tunnel leading… where?

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About the Author

Michael J. Manz lives in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley and is a rare bookseller by trade. Except for a few years spent in Chicago, he is a lifelong New Englander. The only place he’d rather be, at least some of the time, is Paris, where he has been known to wander the streets in search of old bookshops, great cafes and forgotten bars.

He is the past organizer of the Protagonists and Procrastinators writers’ group and has from childhood been scratching away at some kind of story or another.

Michael holds a BA in English from Keene State College.

The Glass Tree is his first novel.

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#BookTour “Old Sins” by Lynne Handy

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Welcome to the book tour for Old Sins by Lynne Handy! Read on for more details and exclusive excerpt!

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Old Sins (A Maria Pell Mystery)

Publication Date: August 23rd, 2022

Genre: Thriller

Battered by her archeologist lover’s betrayal, poet Maria Pell flees to an Irish village to study prehistoric people and write her next volume of poetry, but her sanctuary is invaded first by her moody cousin and then by her Togolese lover who unexpectedly show up on her doorstep. When the discovery of a girl’s body on a rocky shore reawakens Maria’s devastating childhood memory of finding a dead baby floating in a stream, her days become haunted by this child’s death. As teenage girls disappear, villagers are terrified that sex-traffickers are targeting their community. With crimes to be solved, both past and present, Maria risks her life to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Excerpt

In the summer of 1988 when I was ten, I found a baby girl caught in the cattails of a stream running through my parents’ property. At first, I thought she was another baby Moses waiting to be discovered in the bulrushes. It was when I knelt to free her from the fronds that I saw her ashen face, her vacant eyes, and knew she was dead.

I see it all in slow motion now: I, in a yellow sundress, scrambling to my feet, knowing something was horribly wrong that a baby had been thrown in the creek. I ran toward my house crying, “There’s a dead baby in the creek!”

My academician father was sitting in the porch swing, reading a newspaper. He threw it down and came running. The kitchen door banged behind my mother. “John? What is it?”

I ran to her and pressed my face against her chest.“It’s a dead baby,” I sobbed.“She’s wearing a pink dress.”

“A pink dress?” My mother folded her arms around me and stared after my father, who admonished her to stay where she was. I’m sure my mother looked at the baby afterward, but not on the day that I found her.

No one ever claimed her. No one ever admitted throwing her in the creek. The town called her Baby Doe. The coroner said she’d been alive when she went in the water. She had been a throwaway child. Until finding her, I had not known that children could be so unloved they would be discarded. I was so distressed that my parents sent me to a psychiatrist who told my mother that I had merged my psyche with that of the unwanted infant and feared no one would ever want me.

How many times during my childhood had my mother asked if I knew how much she and my father loved me? Taken literally, it was a difficult question to answer, so I had kept silent. How do you measure love? Fear of abandonment helped form the woman I became, and in some ways, I remained stuck emotionally in my tenth year.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Lynne Handy author photo

The eldest child in a farm family, I grew up in western Indiana where the tall corn drove me inward to create fantasy worlds. Books were my salvation. I was drawn to poetry in the beginning. Wordsworth and other poets taught me that metaphor, sound, and cadence made a good poem. From authors like Dickens, I learned that rhythmic sentences advanced plot. Hemingway taught me about verbs. Upon graduating from library school, I worked as a librarian in Illinois, Texas, and Michigan. In retirement, I co-founded Open Sky Poets, a collaboration of poets in the western suburbs of Chicago, and published poems and short stories in literary journals. I self-published three novels—two are mysteries. Current projects involve a mystery series with author Jake Westin, who, like Christie’s Miss Marple, somehow lands in the middle of murder investigations. I live in a brick house with roses in front and two rescue dogs who bark at passersby.

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#BookTour “Inhuman Acts” by Brooke L. French

Inhumanacts copyWe’re celebrating the release of page-turning thriller, Inhuman Acts by Brooke French! Read on for more details and don’t forget to try your luck at winning a $25 Amazon gift card!Front Cover Inhuman Acts full cover finalInhuman Acts

Publication Date: September 29th, 2022

Genre: Thriller

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

A deadly, incurable disease creeps silent through Chattanooga. And its victims aren’t random.

When inexplicable human rabies cases appear in Tennessee, disease ecologist Letty Duquesne jumps at the chance to trace the virus back to its source. But the closer Letty gets to finding the outbreak’s origin, the further someone will go to stop her.

With an unwanted promotion threatening to take Letty far from the fieldwork she loves, this outbreak feels like her last chance to make a difference. It’s not something she can ignore, especially now. The spillover of zoonotic diseases to the human population is on the rise and violent animal attacks-like the one that killed her sister-are becoming all too common.

Something in nature has gone very wrong.

Local authorities would rather she go home, but Letty can track a source animal like no one else. With the help of disgraced detective Andrew Marsh, Letty follows the virus’s epidemiological trail. But her every move is watched. And the source animal is closer than she thinks.

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About the Author

MossMediaCarmelBF2022

Brooke French is a recovering lawyer turned writer who lives with her husband and sons between Atlanta and Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She spends most of her days gleefully researching and writing about fatal viruses, terrorism, and murder.

Brooke is likely on numerous watch lists 👀

Brooke L. French | Instagram | Facebook

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#BookTour “All the Broken Girls” by Linda Hurtado Bond

August 22 – September 16, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

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Synopsis:

 

When one falls

Crime reporter Mari Alvarez was never able to solve her mother’s murder ten years ago. But when a woman is gunned down on the doorstep of her West Tampa neighborhood, Mari can’t shake the eerie sense of connection.

The others will break

Now there have been two murders in two days. Each crime scene awash with arcane clues―and without a trace of DNA from the killer. And for each victim, a doll. The first is missing an eye. The second is missing a heart. But are these clues leading to the killer…or messages for Mari?

Unless she plays the game…

Caught up in a maelstrom of Old-World superstition, secrets, and ties to her own past, Mari has only one option. Put the puzzle together before someone else dies―even if it destroys her career. But there’s no escaping the hungry spider’s web when it’s been made just for you…

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller

Published by: Entangled Publishing, LLC

Publication Date: August 23rd 2022

Number of Pages: 368

ISBN: 1649372140 (ISBN13: 9781649372147)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

I’m running fifteen minutes late after driving my Abuela Bonita to her doctor’s appointment. But that’s not bad, actually, for Cuban time. Of course my statement high heels click on the uncarpeted floor like my abuela’s disapproving tongue and all I can think of is that silly commercial with the tagline “Wanna get away?” Except I can’t escape. It’s my first day back at the TV station after two weeks at home with no work and no pay. I’m still on probation, and I need this job like I need water and air.

Speaking of which, the thought makes me notice how parched my throat is and I’m afraid my voice will crack when I talk. My lungs are so empty I’m not sure I can deliver any story pitches, even if my job depends on it.

Which, it does.

Reporting is in my blood.

But my paycheck—also a necessity.

I rub my right wrist. The red rope bracelet is there. The pea-sized, black gemstone dangles from it. I roll the azabache charm between my fingers, silently going through my routine: twist the stone three times to the right, three to the left. Six times in all. My lucky number. I swear I’ll never go to a crime scene again without the charm. I’ve learned my lesson. Asi es. Truth. That’s how it is.

I pull out the chair across from Mr. Payton and accidentally scrape the floor. It’s loud. Que escandalo!

More stares cut my way. The air conditioning kicks up a notch, but that means nothing to the sweat rolling down my back, sliding into the most inconvenient places. I ignore the wet tickle and stand even taller before taking a seat.

My boss drills me with that intense stare that says everything he’s not allowed to vocalize for fear Human Resources will reprimand him. “Thanks for joining us, Ms. Alvarez.”

“Had to drop off my grandmother at her doctor’s office. She doesn’t drive.” I sit and twist the water bottle on the table until the label faces me. I look at El Jefe and force the corners of my mouth up. Abuela Bonita always told me, no matter what’s going on inside, you can win over the world with a warm smile.

“Let’s continue.” Mr. Payton looks at Paul Johnson, our political reporter.

Paul clears his throat. “As I was saying, the governor is going to hold a press conference on the opioid crisis at a local…”

I cross my ankles to keep my leg from bouncing. It’s clear my boss doesn’t trust me anymore. Not since my serial killer story got the station sued.

I catch the ambitious, crime reporter wannabe eyeing me from the right corner of the room. Bet she’s dying to know what happened to warrant my suspension. She probably already knows. Secrets don’t stay secrets for long in a newsroom.

What the hell had gone wrong?

Abuela Bonita calls it mala suerte. She insisted I wear the azabache bracelet today to ward off the bad
luck following me. I find the charm again and twist.

I will fix this. Don’t know how. But I will repair my damaged reputation.

“Alvarez?”

I flinch in my seat.

“You have anything to add to the meeting?” El Jefe taps his engraved pen on the table in a slow, rhythmic pattern.

“Well, Mr. Payton.” He likes it when we use his last name. “I thought I’d do a feature on a young girl in New Tampa Hospital who needs a kidney transplant.”

“That from the crime beat reporter?” I hear the words he isn’t speaking.

“I know.” I answer in my head. “Eleven Emmys, and I still messed up that last crime story, didn’t I?” Out loud I say, “She’s an artist—truly amazing gift— and she’s willing to auction off her paintings to raise money so people can get tested to see if they’re a match. We could save her life by sharing her story.”

My boss nods but says, “Busch Gardens is showing off a new baby sloth this evening.”

My cheeks burn. I sit back. The heat floods down into my chest. “A baby sloth?” I’m pretty sure this is what a public castration feels like.

“We have enough crime, corruption, death, and destruction today. We need something positive after Weather. Sloth baby it is. Can’t go wrong with baby animals,” he says.

Can’t get the station sued again, you mean.

“You’re on that, Alvarez.”

“Gracias.” I close my eyes and visualize a sloth picking at El Jefe’s bushy, needs-to-be-cut eyebrows
with those two big claw-like toes. In slow motion, of course. “If our viewers see what I’m envisioning, they’re going to love it.” I smile. Warmly.

Whatever. It will keep me employed for at least one more day. My sister Izzy and Abuela are counting on me.

My phone goes off. I look down, fumbling it as I try to flip off the ringer. “Sorry. Sorry.” It’s not someone calling. It’s my home RING security camera alerting me. My pulse takes off like an F-16. Someone is at our front door. My heart stalls. And falls.

“An important source?” El Jefe asks.

A scoff from the right corner of the room. “Baby sloth police calling?” Crime reporter wannabe gets the room laughing.

Wannabe must have missed her café con leche this morning. I join the laughter and wink at her, despite the slow scalding heat I’m feeling. Abuela Bonita also taught me you get more with honey than vinegar. “No. No. Sorry.” Just my sister’s boyfriend of the week, who is not supposed to be at our house. I shake my head.

“Alvarez?”

My spine straightens. “Yes?”

“You can take the new photographer, Chris Jensen.”

That pulls me back to the moment. “But I always work with Orlando.” A big eyeball fills the RING camera at the front door, but it isn’t Izzy’s new boyfriend. His eyes are as blue as the Florida sky. Isabella’s are dark brown, so dark you can’t tell where the pupil ends, and the iris begins. Izzy pulls back and yells at the RING camera, “Stop spying on me! De conseguir una vida!

My younger sister is telling me to get a life of my own.

Snickers flicker across the room.

Every hair on the back of my neck rises. The audio on my iPhone is still on. Wanna get away?

I glance at my friend Kiara. She smiles and shakes her head. I appreciate her support. Time to turn the sound off my iPhone.

“Everything okay?” El Jefe’s features remain constant. He doesn’t chastise me for my sister’s outburst, even though she interrupted his busy news meeting.

“Yes sir, I’m fine.” Wait till I get home, Isabella Alvarez! “I’m fine.”

He nods, but his eyes narrow.

I sit through one of his nerve-wracking, wish-I-knew-what-he’s thinking pauses.

He says, “You can take Orlando.”

I exhale.

El Jefe is throwing me a peace offering, I think. Or maybe he believes I can’t even handle an animal story with the newbie photog, so giving me Orlando is like tossing out a safety vest.

Wow.

Two weeks ago, I would have rolled my eyes at the insult of such an easy, nonrelevant assignment. I would have been deeply offended by the shade of making sure I had a veteran babysitter with me.

Tonight, I’m grateful for it.

Even though I know I can’t possibly screw up a baby sloth story, right?

***

Excerpt from All the Broken Girls by Linda Bond. Copyright 2022 by Linda Bond. Reproduced with permission from Entangled Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Author Bio:

Linda Bond

By day, Linda Hurtado Bond is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. By night, she’s an author of James Bond like adventures and heart-stopping thrillers. Linda met her husband Jorge on assignment in Cuba, twenty-some years later they’ve raised a doctor, a nurse, a pilot, a paramedic firefighter, and an aspiring psychologist. A breast cancer survivor, she’s active in the Tampa community raising money and awareness. When not working she finds time for her passions, her husband Jorge, world travel, classic movies, and solving a good mystery. Visit Linda at lindabond.com.

Catch Up With Linda Bond:
www.LindaBond.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @lindahbond
Instagram – @authorlindahurtadobond
Twitter – @AuthorLindaBond
Facebook – @authorlindabond

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Tour Participants:

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#ReleaseBlitz “The Glass Tree” by Michael J. Manz

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Historical/Suspense ; Suspense/Thriller ; Adult Literary

Date Published: 09-01-2022

Publisher: Endicott Street Press

 

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Paris, 1954. Eli Cole, American attaché, wants only one thing: to avenge his wife’s murder. But the trail has gone cold. After two years, drinking to his beloved Liana’s memory is all he has left — until the secrets she took to the grave come back to shatter them all. A hidden photo, a Gestapo file, an unsent letter: these are some of the clues Eli must piece together if he is to understand Liana’s secret life, and her mysterious mission. But the clock is ticking. Powerful new enemies are out to give Eli a one-way ticket back to the United States — in a pinewood box.

With the help of Liana’s father and sister, an old war buddy come abroad, and a cunning teenage girl, Eli unravels the events that led to his wife’s death. But getting justice won’t be easy. The more Eli reveals of Liana’s secret past, the more his devotion to her is tested by her deceit. Can Eli allow himself to recognize the entirety of the woman he married? Will Liana’s last art piece, a spectacular glass tree, give Eli the assurance he needs to continue believing in the sanctity of love?

The Glass Tree is a fast-paced, unpredictable mystery, and it is also the story of one man’s attempt to untangle the complexities of betrayal, love and forgiveness.

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About the Author

Michael J. Manz lives in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley and is a rare bookseller by trade. Except for a few years spent in Chicago, he is a
lifelong New Englander. The only place he’d rather be, at least some of the time, is Paris, where he has been known to wander the streets in search of old bookshops, great cafes and forgotten bars.

He is the past organizer of the Protagonists and Procrastinators writers’ group and has from childhood been scratching away at some kind of story or another.

Michael holds a BA in English from Keene State College. The Glass Tree is his first novel.

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#BookTour “The Island Mother” by Jon Cohn

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Horror / Suspense / Thriller

Date Published: July 14, 2022

 

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Leigh Ramos is a woman on the run from her own life After barely escaping from a toxic relationship with a drug dealer, emotionally codependent Leigh
decides to start her life over somewhere far from the hills of Kentucky. She feels inexplicably drawn to Hawaii, where she manages to land a job in an exclusive resort. At first, it almost seems too good to be true, and of course, it is.

Supernatural horrors start manifesting all around Leigh and her new co-workers, and soon she starts having disturbing nightmares of impossible creatures calling out to her. To make matters worse, Leigh’s violent ex-boyfriend is close on her tail, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.

Now trapped in the midst of all these dangers, Leigh can’t help but fall back on old habits. She finds comfort in the arms of her new boss, an upbeat hospitality manager who seems almost too perfect.

In order to survive paradise, Leigh will need to learn from her past mistakes or she will be doomed to repeat them.

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Main Characters:

  1. Leigh Ramos
  2. Jesse Peacock
  3. Kai

 

Character Descriptions:

Leigh –

Leigh Ramos is a young woman with an extreme codependency addiction and has been on a streak of bad luck that has lasted her whole life, thanks to her mother’s pattern of running when things go haywire, that she seems doomed to repeat.

Every man she meets seems wonderful, at first, until they all end up being dirtbags who sometimes put her in actual danger.

Despite her best efforts to live her own life, she seems to be forever stuck in a cycle of starting over, and this new life she’s entered into is no different. She only hopes she can break the cycle before it kills her.

 

Kai –

Ever since he was young, Kai has been searching for a purpose.

As a high school dropout working in a call center, he realized greatness wouldn’t happen to him unless he went out and sought it himself.

Six years later, Kai is one of the heads of the hospitality staff at The Mahalo Club, the most exclusive beach resort in Hawaii. He has everything he could ever want… a job that gives him purpose, a group of loyal co-workers who are also his best friends, and a home in the most beautiful place on earth.

The only thing he’s missing is someone to share it all with.

 

Jesse –

As far as Jesse is concerned there is nothing more important in this world than family. That’s why he is so fiercely loyal to his uncle, despite him being a meth cook.

Due to Jesse’s natural size, he’s been an enforcer for his uncle’s business for years, and though he doesn’t like to hurt or kill, he will do it if it means protecting his family.

That is until he met Leigh.

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 5 Quotes from the Book:

  1. “There’s some catharsis in just going through the motions—loading up everything I own into one bag and pretending like that’s all it takes to leave. Most times, it’s enough to soothe the itch for a while, like a cortisone cream for the soul.”
  2. “First of all, this is not a hotel. This is an exclusive resort for members and their guests only. Anyone you see on this property not wearing an orange shirt is not just rich—they’re obscenely rich.”
  3. “I move a little closer to get a better look at the dead whale. The entire flank of the behemoth has been eaten away. Its guts splay out across the beach, presented like a buffet for maggots.”
  4. “I reach back into my bag, fumbling around for anything I can use as a weapon. My fingers find purchase on the paper-wrapped base of a snow globe, and a white-hot surge of energy pours into me. I hold my family memory tightly as I smash it into Ricky’s temple.”
  5. “I squint at its features and vaguely recognize its face, even though it’s distorted and deformed beyond human proportions. Its jaw opens, revealing an overstuffed mouth lined with long, thin teeth, curving like the ribs of the dead whale. Without moving its lips, it whispers a message. ‘It’s you.’”
  6. “I can’t help it, but the more anxious I get about my choices, the more desperately I want to lie back and curl into Kai’s warm body. Jesus, I can’t even panic about my codependency issues without being codependent.”
  7. “Ohana means family. Family means fishing a dead rat out of a pool to keep things running smoothly for everyone else.”

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About the Author

Jon Cohn has been giving himself nightmares reading horror books ever since he was a small child, and he revels in the opportunity to do the same to others.

When he is not busy writing spooky stories, Jon is a professional board game designer and publisher. He specializes in games that– you guessed it– focus on horror, and hopefully a few laughs.

He lives in San Diego, CA with his wife and two little monsters, Luna and Gizmo.

 

 

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