#BookBlitz “The Marshal’s Lady (Liberty Valley Love, Book 3” by Josie Malone

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Liberty Valley Love, Book 3

 

Time Travel, Western Romance

 

Published: August 2021

Publisher: Satin Romance

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Liberty Valley Love, Yesterday and Today ~ where no matter what, soulmates find each other

While trailing a serial killer on horseback, homicide detective Beth Chambers finds she has somehow ridden back in time—to 1888! When she comes across injured Marshal Rad Morgan, she has no choice but to try to save his life. Though the handsome marshal believes a lady should stand behind her man, Beth is determined to catch the killer she’s chased through time, and prove she’s a capable law enforcement officer in any century.

A former Union soldier, Rad has survived the Confederate hellhole of Andersonville Prison—but his toughest challenge is beautiful Beth Chambers. As the headstrong female detective from the future lets him in on why she’s there, Rad becomes convinced that her stubbornness may get her killed. But when he is shot and left for dead, the marshal has no other choice but to put himself in Beth’s hands—and hope they can both survive!

Two officers of the law from different centuries chasing the same killer could be a recipe for disaster—especially with the distraction of love!

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All the Books in the Liberty Valley Love Series:


Liberty Valley Love, Yesterday and Today ~ where no matter what, soulmates find each other.”

A Man’s World

Liberty Valley Love, Book 1

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Cowboy Spell

Liberty Valley Love, Book 2

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The Marshal’s Lady

Liberty Valley Love, Book 3

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Hero Spell

Liberty Valley Love, Book 4

Coming Soon

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EXCERPT

THE MARSHAL’S LADY by Josie Malone

PART ONE

Action is the antidote to despair.”

– Joan Baez

CHAPTER ONE

To do HER Sacred Work, SHE chooses a Guardian,

then creates a hallowed place, despite Time and Space….”

Rules of Chronos

 

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Ambushed by the suspected serial killer she pursues through Mount Baker National Forest, Homicide Detective Beth Chambers prays for a second chance to stop him.

* * * *

The sloppy wetness of Luke’s tongue as he licked her face roused Beth. Her head spun. She struggled to lift one hand. She forced open her eyes and gently pushed the dog away. He whined and sat down beside her. She reached up, felt the bump on the back of her head where it’d hit a rock.

Remembering the sight of Luke’s broken body beside the trail, she touched the dog, stroked his brown fur. He pressed closer, and she rubbed his shoulder. He’d been stunned, not killed. “Guess we both messed up, buddy. We’ve gotta be a lot more careful from here on out.”

Luke growled and licked her hand. She risked trying to sit up. Her mind fogged and she almost slipped into welcome darkness. No time for rest. The accident had obviously been Tigger’s fault. It wasn’t the first time the stallion had thrown her. However, it was the first time he’d reared and gone over backward on top of her.

Damned, stupid idiot. I ought to have bought a Quarter-horse instead of falling in love with a beauty like you when Nina took me to Xanadu Arabians. I shouldn’t have listened when Audra bragged about how brilliant you are and your terrific pedigree.”

From where he pulled at a few tufts of grass near a granite boulder, Tigger nickered in answer. Beth glared at the horse. A faint wisp of memory filtered into her mind, and she tried to follow it. She had fallen off him, hadn’t she? Wasn’t she pinned by the stallion for at least a moment or two? She must have passed out prior to Tigger standing up. No wonder she thought she was dead meat. For a moment, she recalled a sense of pervading peace, love, admiration, and acceptance. There had been all of that and yet something more.

The harder she tried to remember, the more the feeling slipped away. Reluctantly, she gave up the battle. She’d think about the accident later, after her head quit hurting. She hugged Luke tightly for a moment, then rested one hand on the German Shepherd’s solid, eighty-pound body and struggled to her feet. Her ribs throbbed in protest. She must have cracked one, if not broken it.

Her head swam. She took a step. Her stomach rebelled and she barely made it to the side of the trail before she hurled, grateful lunch had only been beef jerky and water eaten in the saddle hours ago. Should she head home? Nobody would blame her if she stopped searching for Gary Smith, nobody but herself. She raised a hand to her forehead and felt for the cut she remembered. The blood had frightened her. She’d been so sure she was dying.

There was no blood on her face now and no sign of the injury either. She tried a cautious step. Her legs were fine. She could walk. Her hysterical fear during the accident prompted the notion it was the end of the world and her life. Nina often said, “A good fall is one the rider walks away from.”

Recalling her friend restored Beth’s courage. She took a deep breath. Her body might feel a little sore, but she wasn’t finished yet. Smith deserved to spend the rest of his life behind bars and justice must be served. She wouldn’t wimp out now, not when she was so close to him.

No.” She petted Luke. “We’re not going back yet. We’re getting that scumbag off the streets and behind bars.”

The dog pressed against her. She stroked his bristly short hair. “Come on, partner. Let’s go look around.”

Crossing to the Arabian, she took the rifle from its scabbard. She checked the load and started up the path. The stud whickered and then trotted after her.

Now’s a fine time to tell me how much you love me.” She swung around to catch the reins and tie up her horse. The sight of a bloody crease in the center of his forehead stopped her. A bullet wound. She was closer to Smith than she’d imagined. Tigger’s spooking saved her life. She rested her hand on his gray neck. “I’ll be more careful. I don’t want you hurt.”

The stallion nuzzled her arm and Beth changed her mind. She couldn’t leave the horse tethered. If he were loose, he could run away from Smith, and since the Arabian was used to getting treats from her, he’d come when he saw her. She glanced at the trail, a thin scattering of dirt over granite.

She went to Tigger’s right side. She opened the saddlebags and removed evidence bags and plastic gloves. Now, if she found anything, she would be able to use it against Smith. She worked her way through the overgrown salmonberry bushes and alder saplings, glad when she found her way back among the evergreens. Less than a hundred feet up the trail, she discovered the place where Smith had launched his attack. A few cigarette butts littered the muddy ground, and she recognized his footprints.

Removing her digital camera from a jacket pocket, she took pictures of the area then collected the evidence. No way she’d use her phone to take a video and risk losing it to the inept prosecutor. John Watkins, the lead homicide detective still complained about having to replace his smartphone when it was seized for evidence. She’d turn the cigarette butts into the lab when she got back to town. Tests would prove Gary Smith indeed attacked her, leaving her for dead.

The man was long gone. Did he think she was finished? Why hadn’t he made sure? He generally beat his victims almost to death, then slit their throats to be certain they couldn’t testify against him. Shooting her wasn’t his usual M.O. Why had he changed? She shrugged. Everyone made mistakes. Smith was a human being, not only the monster she personally thought of him.

Slowly, she returned to Tigger, collecting her hat on the way. She replaced the rifle in the scabbard, checked the tack, and then swung into the saddle. For the next hour, she rode cautiously. She kept a wary gaze on the trail and often rested a hand on the butt of the rifle. Luke remained closer this time, a few feet from the Arabian.

Suddenly, the path opened into a small clearing. A hill rose before her, clawing into the sky. Even misty fog and slanting rain couldn’t disguise the hazardous trail up the steep incline. She saw paw prints in the mud and knew Luke had already started the climb. She petted Tigger’s neck, lingering to watch the moon rise above the giant cedars and hemlocks. Something in the atmosphere caused the bright globe to appear red tonight. It provided plenty of light to see the trail and that was all she cared about.

Tigger tossed his head and snorted, the loudness shocking her. She returned her attention to the mammoth slope in front of her. Huge granite boulders lined the path while smaller fragments awaited an unwary hoof. A light sprinkling of dirt covered the slick gray stone and a tiny evergreen clung precariously to the side of the hill. Fog shrouded the top of the ridge, hiding the steepest part of the ascent.

She took a deep breath and measured the climb again. Then, she urged Tigger forward. The gray stallion leaped up the rocky incline, scrambling for footing. Granite pieces fell behind them and she glimpsed another horse’s hoofprint and a scrape on gray stone. So, Smith still had Wonder, an abused Appaloosa stallion he’d stolen from Nina Armstrong’s horse rescue facility.

Nobody knew where the starved wreck of an equine came from almost two years ago, but Nina, a famous Washington State horsy do-gooder nursed him back to health. The woman had interrupted Smith when he’d absconded with the horse three days ago and she’d paid the price. Beth found Nina before she died. She identified Smith and asked Beth to return the stallion to her barn.

The drizzle grew heavier, silvery rain slashing down in a curtain of thread-like drops, streaming downward. Waves of water rolled, small drops followed by larger ones creating a hazy view, a thin fog-shrouded screen blocking most of the path behind them. Tigger collected himself for another series of leaps. When they gained the first plateau, she reined him to a halt.

Oddly enough she could breathe better up here, better than she had when she first mounted after the accident. Her ribs had stopped hurting. Her head no longer pounded like someone beat a jack-hammer against her skull and her stomach wasn’t roiling. She truly had walked away unscathed. She’d have to tell Nina when they returned that her advice was correct as always. Of course, the younger woman would pitch a fit when she heard about the fall and lecture Beth for the hundredth time about keeping her heels down and staying balanced in the saddle.

She waited for Tigger to regain his breath. With a squeeze of her legs, she sent the horse forward again, grateful for the bright red moon lighting their way. More than once she heard his hooves strike small rocks. He jumped another log and came to a halt on the summit. She petted his steaming neck, scanning the top of the ridge. The evergreens which were so huge at the bottom of the hill had become tiny tips, like baby Christmas trees, insubstantial from this height.

Grateful the rain had stopped, she eyed the descent, stretching before her, down a winding trail. The path seemed clearer in the evening moonlight with none of the hazards they’d overcome on the ascent. She touched Tigger’s sides with her legs and the Arabian headed downhill at a faster pace. When they reached level ground, the small stallion picked up a jog.

Suddenly, she heard a short yip. Luke had found something of interest. A low, menacing growl came next. It meant the discovery was male, a human male which the large German Shepherd considered fair game. His refusal to work with men had almost ended the canine’s career with the department before it started.

Luke, hold.” Had she found Smith already? Why wasn’t he shooting at Luke or her? She pulled her carbine from the scabbard.

Tigger snorted as they came around a bend. He leaped sideways as he caught a glimpse of the shadowy figure huddled near a boulder. Luke stood in front of the man, continuing to growl, hackles raised.

She cursed the dusk. The red moonlight didn’t help her see much. She couldn’t get a clear view of the man, but he appeared bigger than her suspect. “Smith?”

No.” The stranger groaned. “I’m hurt. Bad.”

She shoved her rifle back into its holder. Her voice deepened with frustration and impatience. “What the hell are you doing here then?”

Bleeding.” Faint amusement filled his bass rumble.

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About the Author

I live at Horse Country Farm, a family-owned riding stable in the Cascade foothills. I organize most of the riding programs and teach horsemanship, nurse sick horses, hold for the shoer, train whoever needs it – four-legged and two-legged. And write books in my spare time, usually from 8PM to 2AM, seven days a week after a long day on the ranch.

When I can’t write, due to the overwhelming needs and pressures of the “real” world, words and stories fill my mind. Even when I muck the barn, I think about books in progress and map out the writing in my mind.

There are 26 horses to look after, along with other assorted animals. As for kids, I give back the ones who come to learn how to ride at the end of each day. Now, I’m teaching the kids and grandkids of the ones I taught way back when we started. I’ve had a lot of adventures over the years and I plan to write all about them. I hope you enjoy reading about them!

I’m a member of Evergreen Romance Writers of America, the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America Chapter, the Writers Cooperative of the Pacific Northwest and Pacific NW Writers. I have B.A. degrees in English and History, and my Master’s-In-Teaching degree.

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#FREE “Adam (Riding Hard Book 1)” by Jennifer Ashley

Adam cover

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Stuntman Adam Campbell returns home to Riverbend, Texas, after being seriously injured in a movie stunt gone wrong. He settles in to heal at his family’s ranch, where his four brothers, famous trick riders, train horses.

Adam is stunned to find Bailey Farrell working there–she was the shy girl who’d helped Adam graduate high school so he could run off to Hollywood. The budding Bailey, with whom Adam had a brief but intense affair, has blossomed into a beautiful woman. Now the sparks that had once ignited between them threaten to explode.

Adam is beaten-up, broken-down, and has lost his nerve—the stunt that injured him also killed his best friend. The only one he can turn to is Bailey, but will Bailey, who has come back to Riverbend to lick her wounds after a painful divorce, be willing to help him again?

Book 1 of Riding Hard. A 230-page (approx) novel–20 chapters, plus bonus sneak peek at Grant’s book.

Amazon

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#NewRelease “Desperado” by Reana Malori

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Desperado was written by USA Today Bestselling Author Reana Malori…

Clint –

My son and I are doing just fine, thank you very much. Even though he sometimes cries out for his mother in the middle of the night, he knows I love him more than life itself. I can never replace his mother, but I’m doing the best I can with what I have. Me, on the other hand, I’m as right as rain. I don’t need another woman entering my life, only to rip my heart out when she leaves. I’m used to being alone at night, but I never allow myself to feel lonely. But when SHE showed up, needing my help, and running from a dangerous ex, I had no other choice but to protect her. I think I may regret that decision.

Tamara –
I can’t believe I have to run for my life to a new city. Well, maybe not quite a city. Living in the country on a farm, with horses, and mucking hay was not my idea of a life well-lived. After everything I’ve gone through, I just needed a safe space. Somewhere I could get a good night’s rest. A comfortable place where I didn’t have to look over my shoulder. Clint was a friend of a friend. Someone I could trust to keep me safe until my ex-husband finally got the message. Falling for my handsome protector should be the last thing on my mind, but why can’t I stop dreaming about him… naked… in my bed.


*Contemporary Romance BWWM Interracial Single Dad Novella HEA*
 

Kindle Unlimited

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#ReleaseBlitz “Lucky Cowboy” by Heatherly Bell

 


Small Town Romance, Western Romance

Date Published: April 6, 2021

Publisher: Heatherly Bell Books



Lincoln Carver is not worried about the lack of women in Stone Ridge, Texas. He’s content earning the occasional buckle as a rodeo champ and working his family’s cattle ranch. In fact, life was perfect until his matchmaking granny stuck her nose in his business. Now, he’s injured the new schoolteacher, and is spending more time with her than he’d like.

Sadie Stephens has loved Lincoln since she was a girl, but they were never more than friends. And a family feud involving a runaway bride closed any options for a romance with Lincoln for good. Lincoln’s only interest in her now is one of obligation and guilt. After all, he’s the one responsible for the lassoing “incident” at the school (don’t ask.) The single men of Stone Ridge are lining up to nurse the very eligible Sadie back to health, bringing her flowers, candy, and pies.

Lincoln brings her an ice pack…and gum.

No doubt about it, the hunky cowboy needs to learn the ABCs of courtship, but is Sadie the one to teach him?



About the Author


Heatherly was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama but lost her accent by the time she was two. Her grandmother, Mima, kept both the accent and spirit of the southern woman alive for decades. After leaving Alabama, Heatherly lived with her family in Puerto Rico and Maryland before being transplanted kicking and screaming to the California Bay Area. She now loves it here, she swears. Except the traffic.


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#BookSale “Heart of a Bad Boy: Cowboys of the Flint Hills” by Tessa Layne

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This book was formerly titled PRAIRIE DEVIL.

He’s the Devil she shouldn’t want…
Colton Kincaid is a rake and a heartbreaker. Thrown out of the house when he was seventeen by his brother, Travis, he scraped his way to the top of the rodeo circuit riding broncs and never looked back… Until a chance encounter with hometown good girl Lydia Grace leaves him questioning everything and wanting a shot at redemption.

She’s the Angel he can never have…
All Lydia Grace needs is one break. After having her concepts stolen by a famous shoe designer, she returns home to Prairie to start a boot company on her own. But when her break comes in the all too sexy form of Colton Kincaid, she wonders if she’s gotten more than she’s bargained for.

To get her boot company off the ground, Lydia makes Colton an offer too good to refuse, but he ups the ante. Will the bargain she strikes bring her everything she’s dreamed of and more, or did she just make a deal with the devil?

A delicious fake engagement between the reformed bad boy and the woman who keeps him awake at night.

FREE at time of posting!

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#PreOrder “A Country Temptation: A BWWM Western Romance Limited Edition Collection”

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A Country Temptation is a limited edition of BWWM western romances that will rope you in and never let you go.

Come ride away with these sexy cowboys. The stories in this compilation are swoon-worthy reads that will leave your heart thumping. This collection of tales has something for everyone, from sweet and sassy, to dark and tempting.

Don’t be afraid to fall for these heroes. Lots of fresh air, open country skies with plenty of cowboys—er, horses—to ride.

The stories in the compilation are exclusive and can’t be found anywhere else. Don’t wait, this box set will only be available for a limited time before it is gone forever!

Note: This collection contains material for mature readers (18+ and older) only.

Authors featured:
Peyton Banks
Sade Rena
Sedona Velez
ML Preston
Reana Malori
J. Michelle
Jade Royal
Julia Bright
Author L Loren
Abigail Davies

Releases March 30, 2021

PreOrder Price – 99c USD!

Kindle Unlimited

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#AudioTour “Trudy (Mail-Order Brides of the West Book 1)” by Debra Holland

Author: Debra Holland

Narrator: Lara Asmundson

Length: 6 hours 41 minutes

Series: Mail-Order Brides of the West, Book 1

Publisher: Debra Holland

Released: Jun. 27, 2014

Genre: Romance; Historical Fiction

The well-educated daughter of a lawyer, Trudy Bauer arrives at the St. Louis based Mail-Order Brides of the West agency full of excitement for an adventure of a lifetime. She befriends the agency’s maid, Evie Davenport, and the two form a strong and lasting friendship. They vow to stay in contact through letters when Evie takes hold of her destiny and arranges a marriage on the sly. Each brave young woman is ready to face whatever an unknown groom and life in Montana can throw her way.In Holland’s book, bride-to-be Trudy Bauer rides the train to Sweetwater Springs, in a Montana Sky Novel. In Fyffe’s novel, house servant Evie Davenport travels by stagecoach to Y Knot, Montana in a McCutcheon Family Novel. Through their correspondence, the friends keep each other abreast of their hardships, trials, and tribulations – some of heartbreak, some of love.

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Debra Holland wears many “hats.” She’s a psychotherapist and corporate crisis/grief counselor, as well as a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Montana Sky Series, sweet, historical Western romance. She’s a three-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist and one-time winner. In 2013, Amazon selected Starry Montana Sky as a top 50 greatest love stories pick. She is also the author of The Gods’ Dream Trilogy (fantasy romance). Dr. Debra received a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy and a PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California (USC). She has written the nonfiction books, The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving and Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude: a Ten-Minute eBook. She’s a contributing author to The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing.

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Narrator Bio

Lara Asmundson is a voice actor based in the SF Bay area with many VO credits including radio and TV commercials, industrial narration, video game characters and of course audiobook narration. She has even given voice to an animated toy cat!Her journey to voice acting was a bit unusual having started her career life as a biomedical clinical researcher. The voice acting journey began as an exploration in creativity but quickly developed into a passion and finally a new career. She has been a working voice actor for 10 years. With over 40 audiobook titles to her credit she has given life to countless characters from young immigrant women seeking new lives and love in the 1890’s Western US to modern day romantic heroines. Her warm voice and conversational style draws the listener in and holds them through the ups and downs of the stories she tells.

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Q&A with Author Debra Holland
  • Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
    • I’m a technophobe, and the idea of figuring out how to produce an audiobook was so overwhelming that I avoided the whole idea for about a year. That turned out to be a good thing, because an Audible/ACX rep approached me in 2013 with an offer to pay me to produce an audiobook. At the time, my “big” Montana Sky Series books were under contract with Montlake Romance, I’d only begun writing the Mail-Order Brides of the West book, and my other Montana Sky stories were too short for audiobooks—or so I thought at the time.So I started with the first book of my fantasy romance series. One of my friends suggested using her narrator, and he kindly walked me through the whole process. I loved the end result so much I became an audiobook fan. I, then, began production on the Mail-Order Brides of the West with a different narrator.
  • Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?
    • I think any kind of book-length writing can become an audiobook. However, I’m more aware of paying attention to the overuse of the dialogue tag—said. There’s no need for he said, she said, he said, when the narrator will make the distinction with his or her voice.
    • I’m also careful to watch for the overuse of two, to, too in the same paragraph. When you read, those three words are distinct. But not when you listen.
  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • Not when I wrote Mail-Order Brides of the West: Trudy and Mail-Order Brides of the West: Lina. But by the time I wrote Darcy’s story, I knew the book would be in audio.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • My friend Caroline Fyffe, who also wrote some Mail-Order Brides of the West books, found Lara Asmundson. I listened to Lara’s samples and loved her voice, too. She’s done all my indie Mail-Order Brides of the West and Montana Sky Series stories.
  • How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
    • I don’t usually tell Lara anything beforehand, unless I’m warning her about a foreign language that will appear in the book. Sometimes, I’ll add a note about how I want a name pronounced. For example, I wanted Aun-drea, rather than Ann-drea.I edit chapter by chapter as Lara does them. That way I can catch any voices I want changed. For example, Lara isn’t good at a German accent, and I finally had her change the dialogue and not give a character that accent.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • Yes. I like listening to nonfiction audiobooks and read fiction books. I’m a psychotherapist, so there are always plenty of books I “should” read for my profession. But I’d rather read a story. I’m an avid book-a-day reader. So listening in my car or when I’m doing chores around the house is a good trade-off.
  • Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
    • Sometimes a hero comes along, sweeps you off your feet, and changes your life. That happened to me. But instead of living the happily ever after, I started writing about happily ever after.On New Year’s Eve, I was celebrating with friends at a cowboy dance bar in Orange County, California. As the old year drew to a close, I started dancing with a handsome young cowboy—a real one. (Cowboys are scarce in the OC.) We shared a midnight kiss. He asked me out, and still reeling from that kiss, I agreed. The two of us began to date. We had nothing in common, but he was sexy and fun, and we had a good time. After a few weeks, I started thinking: What if we met a hundred years ago in the Old West? Who would he be? How would I be different, and would our relationship have worked? And so the idea came to me for the story that I titled, Wild Montana Sky, which became the first book of the Montana Sky Series. I physically modeled the hero, Nick Sanders, after my cowboy, and I made the heroine, Elizabeth, a little like me. I started to write some of the scenes that popped into my mind, beginning with the one where Nick and Elizabeth ride their horses by a stream—a beautiful Montana setting. After that, I had to figure out who these two characters were and what their story was. And I had to learn to write fiction. After a few months, my cowboy and I drifted apart. His work at the racetrack came to an end, and he moved north. I never saw him again. But Wild Montana Sky is dedicated to him—to the cowboy who came into my life and changed it forever, setting me on a new trajectory and an unexpected and wonderful journey. Because of our brief romance, I became a writer. The book he inspired won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart award and later hit the USA Today Bestseller list. Now there are over thirty books (counting the Mail-Order Brides of the West) in the Montana Sky Series. I’ll be forever grateful to my young cowboy.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • First of all, I’ve never heard of such a thing! So I’d start by saying, “You sound so judgmental. Why do you care what other people are doing/reading/listening?”Then I’d say, “Are you going to tell someone who’s hearing impaired that he or she is inferior?” I might add, “Didn’t you have to study Shakespeare’s plays in school? Wouldn’t they have been so much easier to follow if you could listen (like they were meant to be heard) instead of read?” And if that hasn’t gotten the point home, I’d say, “Have you tried listening to audiobooks? What’s your favorite book? Before you say another word against audiobooks, go listen to that title on audio, and then get back to me with how you found the experience.”
  • How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
    • Usually, I am writing and editing until the very last minute and send off the manuscript at about 3 a.m. This comes after a week of long hours, little sleep, and no pleasure reading. So I celebrate by sleeping and reading for the next several days.
  • Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
    • I have a long chapter on audiobooks in the free ebook, The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing. The book has been out for a few years now so it’s somewhat out of date. But most of the audiobook information is still helpful.
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#BookSale “Sunsets in Colorado (Colorado Crazy Book 1)” by Milan Watson

Sunsets

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She fled from her country roots, but now she’s back. If it’s up to the handsome cowboy, she won’t ever leave again.

After receiving word of her father’s heart attack, Lewis Tate heads back to the ranch she fled from years ago. When she arrives she’s faced with the demons of her past, a ranch manager she can’t ignore and a father trying to make amends.

For Tanner Bryant, it’s simple. He wants her and he takes what he wants. But when it comes to love, and especially Lewis Tate, nothing is simple. She’s nothing like the women he’s dated in the past; she’s all city and seduction, although she doesn’t realize it. He’s prepared to fight for the attraction between them, even if that means keeping a secret that will drive her back to LA.

Can Lewis keep denying the attraction between them? Will Tanner be able to get the girl he loves and keep her? Or will a secret drive them further apart that distance ever could? Sunsets in Colorado is a ranch romance guaranteed to tease your senses and make you dream of cowboys again.

KINDLE UNLIMITED

99c for a limited time!

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

on Tour August 1 – September 30, 2020

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5/5 Stars!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

 

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

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

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

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

Dirty, good-for-nothing lawyers.

~~~

Book Details:

Genre: Action-Adventure / Western Romance

Published by: Jeff Bond Books

Publication Date: June 15, 2020

Number of Pages: 215

ISBN: 1732255296 (ISBN13: 9781732255296)

Series: Third Chance Enterprises

Purchase Links: Amazon | Third Chance Stories | Goodreads

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

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

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

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

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Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond

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

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

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

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

Dirty, good-for-nothing lawyers.

~~~

Book Details:

Genre: Action-Adventure / Western Romance

Published by: Jeff Bond Books

Publication Date: June 15, 2020

Number of Pages: 215

ISBN: 1732255296 (ISBN13: 9781732255296)

Series: Third Chance Enterprises

Purchase Links: Amazon | Third Chance Stories | Goodreads

~~~

Read an excerpt:

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

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Author Bio:

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

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

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