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Finding Marcus Anderson by C.L. McGrath

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Title: Finding Marcus Anderson
Author: C.L. McGrath
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Editor: Jean Hall
Cover Designer: KA Ware at Bite Me Graphic Design

“Your past will always catch up with you…it’s just a matter of when.”

marcus ebook coverJust when Marcus thinks things are finally falling into place, having found his beautiful Sarah, he is finally going to get his happy ever after. Until a vision from his past jeopardises everything.

Marcus and Sarah couldn’t be happier. Arriving home from their road trip, Marcus begins having nightmares. With vivid memories from his childhood haunting his thoughts, he turns to his past in search of answers.

Marcus’s search leads him to Madison Jennings, his first love. Their affair was as secret as it was powerful. He filled her loneliness after the death of her husband. She filled his need to be safe and loved.

Sixteen years later they meet again. What effect will this have on the life he has built with Sarah?

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Author Bio:

My name is Christina McGrath. Originally from Sydney Australia, I now live surrounded in lakes and beaches on the beautiful central coast of New south wales with my husband and two young children.

As a girl, I had always dreamed of being a writer, but like most people I pushed my dreams aside for reality.

Turning 40, I guess I just thought if I don’t try, I’ll never know. Here I was telling my kids they could do anything they wanted in life. They just have to try. Time to live by my own words.

So, I sat down and started to write. To my surprise, it came very naturally.

I wanted to write strong, witty, fun…REAL women. I wanted my characters to feel like someone you could easily be friends with.

CL McGrathThe hardest question I get asked is what genre I write. The truth is…to this day, I don’t know. My books thus far are definitely romance, but, they are so much more. They are funny, heart breaking, naughty and emotional. The characters are relatable and real.

All I really know is, now I’ve started to write, like any addiction…I just can’t stop. I truly love it.

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Also available:

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Finding Sarah Miller
Book One “Finding” Series

 

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Where it All Began by Lorana Hoopes

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Genre: Christian Fiction
Date Published: re-released April 2017
Publisher: H&H Publishing

where_it_all_began_2Sandra Baker thought her life was going perfectly until she found out she was pregnant. Her boyfriend doesn’t want the baby and pushes her to have an abortion. After the procedure, Sandra spirals into depression losing her relationship and nearly her job. When she meets Henry, a Christian man, who displays God’s love, she begins to wonder if God can forgive her and more importantly if she can forgive herself.

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Excerpt:

The delicate paper menu held only a few choices, and my eyes widened at the prices. I should have thought to ask where we were going before I agreed. I didn’t have the money to spend so much on dinner, especially since Peter had moved out and money was much tighter. My heart thudded in my chest as I quickly scanned for the cheapest item on the menu; even the side salad was nearly fifteen dollars. How do people afford this? Well, the salad comes with bread and a bowl of soup, so at least it should be enough to fill me up.

          The waiter, clad in a white dress shirt and perfectly pressed black pants, appeared just as I laid the menu down. “Have we had enough time?” he asked politely, glancing at each of us before focusing his attention on Philip, who took the lead in ordering.
          “Yes, we’ll have two glasses of your finest red wine and two plates of the steak and lobster, grilled medium well.” He handed his and Raquel’s menus to the waiter.
          “Very well,” the waiter nodded and turned his attention to me.
          I swallowed. “Um, I’ll have the side salad and the tomato soup.”
          The waiter cocked his head. “Will that be all miss?”
          My face flushed, and just as I was about to answer, Henry jumped in. “Yes, and the same for me please.” He handed our menus to the waiter.
          The waiter nodded. “Yes, sir, and anything further to drink?”
          Henry glanced at me; I shook my head. “No, water will be adequate for now, thank you.”
          As the waiter turned away, I regarded Henry. Who was this man, and why was he being so nice to me? He caught me staring and shot me a small wink as he picked up a piece of bread.

 

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The Author:

author20photoLorana Hoopes is an inspirational romance and children’s author originally from Texas. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three children. When not writing, she can be found singing or acting on stage or kickboxing at her gym. You can also find her hosting her show Write the World where she interviews authors and writers. If you are an author and want to be featured, be sure to contact her.

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The Last Valentine by Felix Alexander

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Genre: Romance, Mystery
Date Published: February 2017

the20last20valentine1The fate of two best friends and the secret love between them is known only to a mysterious figure who offers to aid one in hiding the truth from the other…lest their lives and love meet a tragic end.

When Olivia Villalobos finds a bloodstained love letter she endeavors to deliver it before Chief Inspector Sedeño finds it in her possession.

A city along the southern coast of Puerto Rico emerges in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. Olivia, daughter of a drunkard police investigator who never knew the truth behind her mother’s disappearance, finds a bloodstained love letter in the hidden compartment of her father’s coat. Convinced it belonged to the man recently found dead she sets out to deliver it to the Labyrinth of Love Letters. A mysterious place believed to be an urban legend where the transients of forbidden love leave missives for one another. She enlists the help of Isaac Quintero to find the Labyrinth and they soon realize their quest has opened the door into Old Sienna’s darkest secrets—the perils, madness and depth of tragic love.

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The Author:

the20last20valentine20author20-20felix20alexanderFelix Alexander (1976-Present) is a Mexican-born, American-raised novelist, and poet of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.

Acclaimed by readers for his poetic prose, his indie releases include: Dear Love: Diary of a Man’s Desire, a collection of love letters and poems; The Romantic: A Love Story; and most recently an epic historical fantasy Shadows of Time: The Amulet of Alamin along with a mystery-thriller The Secret of Heaven.

Being third-generation military, after a grandfather and uncle who served in the Korean War and Vietnam War, respectively, Alexander is proud of his service in the U.S. Army, and grateful for his experience.

After his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, he embarked on the long and arduous journey of a writer. Having made a name for himself during his tenure, serving his country, he vowed to himself and his fellow soldiers that he would answer his true calling.

When not spending time with his children, a son and daughter, he journeys through the portals in his extensive, personal library. When he returns, he immerses himself in his writing, and pursues the scent of his muse.

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Redemption Lake by Susan Clayton-Goldner

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Genre: Mystery
Date Published: May 17
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing

redemptionlakebysusanclaytongoldner1800hrTucson, Arizona – Eighteen-year-old Matt Garrison is harboring two terrible secrets: his involvement in the drowning death of his 12-year-old cousin, and a night of drunken sex with his best friend’s mother, Crystal, whom he finds dead the following morning. Guilt forces Matt to act on impulse and hide his involvement with Crystal.

Detective Winston Radhauser knows Matt is hiding something. But as the investigation progresses, Radhauser’s attention is focused on Matt’s father. Matt’s world closes in when his dad is arrested for Crystal’s murder and Travis breaks off their friendship. Despite his father’s guilty plea, Matt knows his dad is innocent and only trying to protect his son. Devastated and bent on self-destruction, Matt heads for the lake where his cousin died—the only place he believes can truly free him. Are some secrets better left buried?

Redemption Lake is a novel of love and betrayal. It’s about truth and lies, friendship and redemption, about assuming responsibility, and the risks a father and son will take to protect each other.

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Excerpt:

For the next hour and a half, he drifted in and out of sleep. Cradled by the night sounds of the desert outside the open window, each time a memory emerged, his thoughts thickened and folded back into sleep. At one point he heard water running for a bath. A little later, he heard a car outside.
Oh God, please don’t let it be Travis. He stumbled to the window and opened the curtains. In the street, two long rectangular taillights moved away, turning south onto Oracle Road.


Matt leaned against the wall, staring at the sunflower sheets on Crystal’s bed. The same bed he and Travis had jumped up and down on when they were eight. The digital clock read 10:38 p.m. His head throbbed. He needed to close his eyes. Crystal would wake him in time to leave before Travis got home. He fell back onto the bed.


When he woke up again, the room was very dark. He wore only his boxers and a white T-shirt his mother had insisted upon — claiming his usual dark one would show through his tuxedo shirt. As if the color of his T-shirt could ruin her perfect wedding. But he’d been ingenious and found another way to ruin things for his mother. He turned toward the empty space beside him. It took a few moments for him to realize where he was. He closed his eyes, shook his aching head to clear it. Crystal was his best friend’s mother. What the hell was he doing in her bed?


He thought he heard the sound of the front door open, then close again.
Oh God, please don’t let it be Travis. His eyes adjusted to the darkness. One event at a time, he remembered everything.


Fully awake now, he shot from the bed, rocking for a few seconds before he achieved balance, then hurried to the window. The moon hung over the mountaintop, its light silver and unforgiving. Crystal’s driveway was empty. Whoever he’d heard, it wasn’t Travis. On the other side of the street, an engine started. This time the taillights were round. Definitely not Crystal’s Escort. The car turned north on Oracle Road.


Matt let out the breath he’d been holding and glanced at the digital clock—its red letters told him it was 11:20 p.m. He needed to get dressed and leave. The dance ended in forty minutes and Travis would head home. He grabbed his tuxedo pants and shirt from the chair. His hands shook so hard he could barely work the fly and the button on his trousers. He slipped into his shirt, then sat on the edge of the bed. As if he had the flu, his head throbbed and his stomach felt queasy.


He rushed down the hallway toward the bathroom. And when he did, he saw the puddle of blood on the floor beside the bathtub.


He hurried across the room, jerked open the pale green shower curtain.


Crystal lay naked in a bathtub filled with blood-colored water. Her hair, her beautiful blonde curls, had been chopped off, shorter in some places than others, as if a small child had done it. Some of the curls were floating on top of the water.


For a strange moment, everything remained calm and slow.


Her head was propped against one of those blow-up pillows attached to the back of the tub with suction cups. The tint of her skin was pale and slightly blue. Crystal’s eyes were open and staring straight ahead—looking at something he couldn’t see. Blood splattered the white tiles that surrounded the tub. It dripped down them like wet paint. One of her hands flopped over the side of the tub. A single thick drop fell from her index finger into the crimson pond congealing on the linoleum floor. It covered her neck and shoulders. Tiny bubbles of frothy blood still oozed from the gash in her neck.


An empty Smirnoff bottle sat in a puddle of blood on the tub’s rim beside a straight-edged razor blade.


The bathroom was so quiet. Nothing but the sound of his own breathing. He clenched and unclenched his hands. His body grew numb. “Oh no. Oh God, no,” he said, the words thickening in the air in front of him. His head filled with strange sounds—the drone of insects humming, violinists tuning their strings. “What have I done?”


The contents of his stomach rose. He crouched in front of the toilet and heaved until nothing more came up. Then he started to rock, back and forth, muttering what he already knew was a useless prayer.
Please, just let her be okay. He said it over and over like an unstoppable mantra. If only he could keep saying the words, maybe he could reverse this unthinkable thing.


Maybe she was still alive. He straightened up and stepped over to the bathtub to check Crystal’s neck for a pulse. As he bent closer, he smelled the metallic scent of her blood as it mixed with her perfume and the stale, metabolized smell of alcohol seeping through her skin. He placed two fingers on her neck, searching for her carotid and pressed. His fingers slipped into the gaping hole. It felt wet and warm. He screamed and jerked them out. They were covered in blood.


He swiped his hand on the front of his shirt, then checked the other side of her neck for a pulse.
Please, just let her be okay. Nothing. He shook her by the shoulders, then tried again. Still no pulse. At that moment, he stopped his mantra.


Though he knew she was dead, he held her hand—soft and still warm. It belonged to Crystal, who’d taught him to line dance, who liked hot buttered popcorn with cheddar cheese grated on top. Crystal, who was sometimes irresponsible and drank way too much. Crystal, who’d cheered for him at bat in Little League, cheered just as loud as she had for her own son. Crystal, who’d always be sitting in a bathtub of blood. “I’m sorry.” He squeezed her hand, then let go. “And I swear to you, Travis will never know what happened between us.”


Struggling to his feet, he headed for the kitchen phone to call 911. Halfway to the bathroom door, he stopped. Blood smeared the front of his white shirt. And there was still blood on both his hands, drying beneath his fingernails. His body was slick with fear. He smelled it, tasted it, and felt it coming out of his pores like sweat. His mind told him to call the police, to tell the truth. His heart told him to keep his promise to Crystal. It was the last thing she’d ever ask of him.


He dropped his chin and stared at his shirt. Holy shit. If anyone saw him like this, they’d think he’d killed Crystal. The thought stopped him. Had he? Was he capable of doing something so heinous?


The bubble of panic in his throat got bigger. He hurried across the bathroom to wash his hands. There were more clumps of hair in the sink and a hardened blue streak of toothpaste. He used toilet paper to pick up the hair clumps and dropped them into the trashcan. Looking at the uncapped tube beside Crystal’s toothbrush, he felt as if something had been cut out of his chest.


He grabbed the sides of the sink, stared at himself in the mirror. The face staring back resembled no one he’d ever seen before. Was it the face of a murderer? Had he just pushed someone else to her death? He shook his head—breathing in short gasps, like a swimmer gearing up for a plunge. His lungs burned as if he were being swept away by a strong current.


When the memory of his cousin’s death surfaced, as it often did, Matt used his fists to hammer the stranger’s face he saw reflected in the medicine cabinet. The mirror fractured, sending out long cracks in every direction. The face split into interlocking parts like an abstract puzzle. One jagged sliver fell into the sink, breaking in half. It left a black and empty space in what had once been the mirror.


He held onto the sides of the sink again and rocked slowly in front of it, still staring at the blood on his hands and under his fingernails. “You’re all right,” he said, but could barely hear the words, the sounds inside his head were so loud.


In his mind he saw himself letting go of the sink and getting as far away from this nightmare as possible. But it would destroy Travis to come home and find his mother like this. Matt had to intercept him.


He washed his hands, then rinsed the blood from the sides and bowl of the sink, recapped the toothpaste and tucked it into the medicine cabinet. He wrapped the shards of mirror in toilet tissue, careful to avoid getting his fingerprints on the glass, and placed them in the trashcan, jagged sides down. There were no towels in the bathroom, so he wiped his wet hands on his pant legs. Panic rolled in, sucked him under.


What should he do? Call the police? His father? 911? If he did, there’d be a recording of his voice and he’d have a lot of explaining to do. The police often suspected 911 callers. They might take his DNA. What if they found semen inside of Crystal? What if they matched it to Matt’s DNA? If that happened, they’d know. It would be in the newspapers. It would hurt Travis. He couldn’t let that happen.


He hurried back into Crystal’s bedroom. Hands shaking, he sat on the edge of her bed and put on his socks and shoes. Then, as if he were someone else, running through an obstacle course, he went into the kitchen and gathered the empty beer bottles. He took them out into the garage and carefully placed them in their cardboard carriers. Next he wiped the kitchen table, closed the open drawers, loaded the dishwasher, emptied the ashtrays, then made Crystal’s bed with fresh sheets. He tossed the sunflower sheets into the washing machine and started the cycle, careful to wipe his prints from the lid and dial. With the same cloth, he wiped down the edge of the plastic shower curtain, then pulled it closed—the way he’d found it. For the most part, his fingerprints were easily explained. He’d spent almost as much time in Travis’ house as his own.


Matt stood in front of the coffee table. He heard the candles guttering, smelled the wax melting. He blew them out, then picked up the clothes Crystal had discarded in the hallway beside the bathroom door. Folding them neatly, he then placed them on the chair beside her window. He grabbed her red cowboy boots from the living room and set them beneath the chair. It was the least he could do for Travis.


The clock on the stove read 11:45 p.m. The Narrow Way didn’t allow opposite sex teenagers to spend unsupervised time together. Jennifer’s parents would pick her up from the dance. That meant Travis would be leaving for home soon.


If Matt hurried, he could intercept him, convince him to spend the night with Matt and his dad. He raced into Travis’ bedroom, jerked open the drawer where he kept his T-shirts. Surely he had a plain black or a dark blue one somewhere. Matt lifted the stacks of folded shirts until he found one, then ripped off the tuxedo and stained T-shirt, slipped Travis’ shirt over his head, then grabbed his jacket from the kitchen chair and hurried outside.


On the back deck, insects clustered around the light fixture, high-pitched, insistent and frantic. The sound reminded him of Crystal’s voice when she’d pleaded with him not to tell Travis. Why hadn’t he agreed?


In the carport, Matt unlocked the trunk of his Mustang, a restored nineteen sixty-seven Grande that had been his mom’s first car, and dropped both the jacket and the bloodstained shirt inside. Silence ballooned into the night air around him, a strange silence with a ticking heartbeat. Then he remembered the cufflinks. Crystal had tucked them into his shirt pocket. He checked. They weren’t there. He plunged his hands into his pants pockets and then the tuxedo jacket. No cufflinks. He didn’t have time to go back inside. He had to stop Travis from coming home.


When he climbed into the front seat, he looked out through the windshield, but the dome light inside the car and the darkness outside had changed the glass into a mirror. He turned away. His face was the last thing he wanted to see.

 

Giveaway

An e-book of my first novel, A Bend In The Willow

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The Author:

photoshoot-5Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Creative Writing Program and has been writing most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-line Contest. Susan won the National Writers’ Association Novel Award twice for her novels and her poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings. A collection of her poems, A Question of Mortality was released in 2014 by Wellstone Press. Her novel, A Bend In The Willow, was published in January 2017. Redemption Lake, the first in a 3-book detective series, will be released May 17, 2017. Prior to writing full time, Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona.

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, her fictional characters, and more books than one person could count. In her spare time, Susan likes to make quilts and stained glass windows. She says it is a little bit like writing, telling stories with fabric and glass.

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Highland Faith by Madelyn Hill

Book 2 of the Wild Thistle Trilogy

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Genre: Historical Romance
Date Published: May 17th, 2017

Lady Faith MacAlister lives to provide for her clan with a skill she honed while hunting with her father. Since his death and final pledge, “Through Hope, Faith, and Honor, ye can rule” she proclaims herself as clan huntress. She loves the quiet of the woods, the thrill of the hunt and the exhilaration of a perfectly placed arrow. If only she could travel further than MacAlister lands to experience adventure. When an intruder interrupts her hunt and steals her away from MacAlister land and out to the sea—she may just experience the adventure she craves.

Graeme Ross must save the family home his father gambled away and regain the respect of his father and clan. When he stumbles upon a lovely lass in the forest, he secures her for ransom. He knows she was one of the MacAlister sisters, those who pledged to rule the clan. What Graeme didn’t expect was how this beautiful woman would entice him with her strength and determination. Graeme’s attraction to Faith cannot interfere with his quest to save his home, redeem his image in his father’s eyes. Graeme lets her go—worse he betrays their growing affection by feigning she means nothing to him.

Devastated, Faith goes back to her clan with a secret she must keep until Graeme comes back to her. Graeme travels to his father with the ransom money weighting his pocket and heart. Faith is better off without him, his vagabond ways and the loathing of his father and clan.

Can Graeme reconcile with his clan and have Faith as his?

Can Faith keep her secret until Graeme comes to his senses and realizes he loves her?

Separately, they yearn for one another, together their love will take them on an adventure of a lifetime.

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Author Bio:

madelynphotographMadelyn Hill has always loved the written word. From the time she could read and all through her school years, she’d sneak books into her textbooks during school. At the age of 10 she proclaimed she wanted to be a writer. After being a “closet” writer for several years, she sent her manuscripts out and is now published with Soul Mate Publishing.

A resident of Western New York, she moved from one Rochester to another Rochester to be with the love of her life. They have 3 children and keep busy cooking, movies, and of course reading!

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The Green Scroll by I. V. Phillips

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Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Date Published: 03-18-2017

THE GREEN SCROLL CoverFiery fissures close, and thick descending clouds dissipate, revealing the heavenly skies of Wanderamid, and its neighboring worlds. Nevertheless, evil lurks amid the celebration of sustained existence. A demon known as, Lepper, discerns one whose blood runs through pulsating veins, like his own. It provokes his diabolic interest to heighten, and motivates him to search for this individual. He embarks on his pursuit by going through electrifying portals, no longer accessible to mortals, ever since Wanderamid’s crystal ball was placed back to its rightful place, in palms of stone.
Emera, Wanderamid’s powerful witch, finds out about her son’s imminent transformation. His demonic fate leaves her in grave disbelief. She has no notion where he could be, and unaware that he is the purpose for a demon’s hunt!

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Excerpt:

The peephole’s first vision was that of a man sitting beside an old woman, seemingly ill, and oddly grinning down at her, while she, surprised, looked up at him.

“Why did you come back?” she asked sadly.


“You don’t seem at all happy to see me, Mother. I wanted to make sure you were on your way to the heavens you’ve always dreamed your ‘spirit’ would rise up to.” He smiled with his arms raised high.


“I’m not departing any time soon, my son. It’s only my weakness increasing. I’ve always wished the same for you too, but you chose to accept eternity in the deep depths of ….” She turned her head away, unable to finish.


“You can’t even say it.” He chuckled. “Use ‘eternal flames’, or ‘darkness’, Mother! Can your cracked old lips say those words instead?”


She forced herself to see his red glaring eyes again, and when she did, she reminisced about the day she had given birth to him. If only he had not chosen to welcome his demonic inheritance.


“I tried to save you… both of my sons. I would have given my life.”


“Hmm,” his voice murmured, unimpressed by her boring statement of unconditional love. “Daeg is not as I. He has more of your soul… your ‘pathetic’ soul. Besides, when death finds him, he will be shunned out from any ‘darkness’ and rise up to your precious heavens!” He laughed. “On the other hand, you saved Father! Be glad for that! You turned his soul to be weak as yours with your ‘love’—and now he’s dead!”


Tears escaped her solemn stare.


“I’ve prayed that my boys would find someone to love them as much as I did your father. He loved me the same, yes, but he was not weak. His love was strong. That’s how he became free from the temptations with the dark world.”


“I don’t have any storage for sympathy; Mother,” he replied, “and I don’t have a heart to share with anyone.”


“How can you say such a thing? You have a heart. When you were born… you had a heart. I felt it beating… and nurtured it,” she said, even though he was visibly dispassionate.


“Oh, I will deceive someone, with my fake heart, and she will bear my child. That child will follow me after choosing my ‘gift of eternal darkness,’ and then walk beside me.”


Even to imagine that as her unborn grandchild’s fate sickened her more, as she lay in a fragile spell.


“Please—don’t encourage an innocent child to a life of despair,” she pleaded. “If you can do anything for me, I beg of you, grant me that.”


“I’m your son! You didn’t steer me your way!” He glared at her ferociously.


“Your father and I both gave our sons love. What you boys choose will be your destiny. It’s not up to me, although I tried my best!” she cried.

 

 
The Author:

I.V. Phillips Author PhotoI. V. Phillips has always been fascinated with the paranormal. Her supernatural beliefs inspired A New World Fantasy Novel Trilogy.
Born and raised in New Jersey, she now resides in Florida.

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A Serenade to Die For by Janet Fogg and David Jackson

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Genre: Romantic Suspense
Date Published: April 2017

A Serenade to Die ForOn the verge of her long-sought career breakthrough, singer Isbel Vargas has just completed the performance of a lifetime when a kidnapper demands a ransom for her father. Thanks to his car theft and antiquities operation, her father will be arrested if she involves the Acapulco police. Who can she turn to?

Isbel’s ex-boyfriend, Cane Mullins, is once again south of the border, purportedly tracking down his beloved Camaro, a vintage street rod stolen years before by her father. Cane gets more than he bargains for, though, when he again crosses paths with the exquisite singer. Chased at high speed through the Sierra Madres, the former lovers search for Isbel’s father and a priceless sword he has hidden away, the sole surviving Aztec maquahuitl, while sparks fly and passion reignites. But can Isbel trust Cane again…with her heart?

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Excerpt from Chapter One:

Acapulco, Mexico, 2008
“Isbel.” Clap. Clap. Clap.“ISBEL!” Clap. Clap. Clap.

“ISBEL!” CLAP. CLAP. CLAP.

Isbel laughed and danced to center stage in rhythm with the clapping. Three spotlights warmed her skin as her white sequined dress glistened and twinkled in reply. Spinning slowly, she loosened the clips holding her long black hair and let it tumble onto her shoulders.

“I’m Isbel Vargas,” she murmured into the mike. The theater erupted. “I hope you loved your evening in Paradise. I know I did.”

An understatement. Finally. She was home.

Wolf whistles faded and shouts of encouragement fell silent as she began to sing again, a final serenade for the perfect audience.

Her voice soared.

At the end of the song, she succumbed to the joy claiming her soul. This was what she was meant to do. The music swelled into a crescendo as Isbel let tears stream down her face. Lighter flames and cell phone screens glowed in the surrounding galaxy of fans. Isbel blew kisses and waved and then stepped back to catch hands with Hudson and Octavio as they lined up to bow together.

Backstage, goose bumps prickled her arms as Isbel palmed the tears from her cheeks. Her mountain of a drummer, Octavio, laughed and lifted her off her feet to spin her around. She looked over his shoulder and stiffened as he lowered her. Her feet touched down.

Cane.

He shouldn’t be here. He couldn’t be. She’d banished him forever. Yet there he stood, an unwelcome specter from her past.

Hurricane. It really was him.

He said quietly, “You were sensational, Isabella. Better than I remembered.” His voice hadn’t changed. Smooth as a frosty beer on a salt-flats day, but quiet and low, taking its own sweet time to roll out each syllable.

Apparently Cane’s taste in clothing hadn’t changed either. A vivid yellow and green Hawaiian shirt topped new khakis and work boots. He looked strong and tan and unfairly handsome. Flashing the same stunning white smile as he pushed his red baseball cap to the back of his head, he freed more of his wavy dark hair. His eyes gleamed with mischief as he suddenly grabbed the brim of the cap and swept it low in a courtly bow.

“Guess I should call you Isbel now, shouldn’t I? Like everyone else does. Well, whoever you are, you could stop the Super Bowl in that dress.”

Isbel remembered to breathe.

“Hurricane Mullins,” she said softly, holding tight to her desire to march over and slap him. “The only thing you can call me is good-bye.”

Was it Hurricane who’d tailed her through traffic earlier in the day? Whoever it was rode a bright red crotch rocket. Funny how it matched Cane’s bright red cap. Definitely his style. Or more appropriately, lack of style. On top of that, only the band and hotel staff could get backstage. By facing her here, Hurricane thumbed his nose at all of them, at their pathetic security measures and semblance of control.

The hint of a smile on his face, he looked at the floor in front of her toes. Clearly, there wasn’t a contrite bone in his body as his gaze then swept up to relish every curve of her body. Amber flames ignited deep in his eyes. “Glad to see you haven’t lost that spitfire,” he said.

“Glad to see you’re enjoying the view,” she retorted. “Now get out of here. Or I’ll call security.”

Hurricane shrugged. “Okay by me. They have a couple of problem areas, and I can set them straight.”

“You arrogant…”

“Look, Isabella. Isbel. I don’t want to fight. I came back down for the same reason I did the first time, when I took the job with your father.”

“What, did you actually find your precious car?”

Flipping his cap around in his hands, he shrugged and said, “Not yet. But there’s a new lead on the Camaro. If I get it back and your father did have something to do with it going missing, he might take the fall. Figured I could at least warn you.”

Isbel narrowed her eyes. “How big of you. Or are you just trying to find out where he is?”

Octavio leaned close to rest one hand on Isbel’s shoulder. “You okay, Isbel? Want me to get rid of this guy?”

Isbel hesitated. That would be the easy way out. At six foot four, Octavio stood a couple of inches taller than Cane and outweighed him by at least forty pounds. Cane looked tougher, though. Hardened. Like seasoned driftwood. She wondered if Octavio really could get rid of him if Cane fought back. But this was her battle, and she could handle Hurricane Mullins.

Isbel shook her head. “I’m fine, Tavio. Thanks. I’ll just be another minute.” He squeezed her shoulder gently but didn’t move. “Seriously. Go back over with the band. I’ll be right there.”

Octavio nodded slowly. He pointed at Cane. “I’m watching,” he said as he backed away.

Cane sighed and slipped his cap back onto his head. “I shouldn’t have even tried. You had nothing to do with it then, and you don’t now.”

“Nothing to do with it? You’re talking about my father!”

“Isabella, will you for God’s sake listen to me?!” He straightened to tower over her. “Just this once? Please? This time I want to talk about my family!”

Isbel clenched her jaw, trying to think of a jagged comeback. Drew a blank.

Hurricane hurried on. “I bought the Camaro with my brother. We decided to share the car but would hand it down to my kids or his—whoever had ’em first. We sweated blood rebuilding the damn thing. Had a blast, though. Always did, until those last few months.” Cane fell silent, gazed beyond Isbel at nothing. Then he said quietly, “Sky died in ’96, just after we finished restoring the car.” He cleared his throat, looked back at her. “I respected your decision, and I’ve stayed away, as you asked.”

“Cane. Your brother… You never…”

“Doesn’t matter. Not now.” He waved his hands between them, breaking their bond. “But even if it had been a clunker used for delivering pizzas, Mickey jacked it.”

“He said he didn’t steal it.”

“He pushed it through his chop shop.”

“You never proved that.”

“What if I would have?”

Isbel swallowed hard. At the sweet age of twenty it had been easy for her to blame Hurricane. Now, she knew better.

Her father wasn’t exactly honest, but the label “criminal” didn’t exactly fit him, either. But one thing she did know: she was absolutely furious that this all resurfaced today. Today, of all days, when she should be celebrating, Cane had to return.

“Seems like old times, doesn’t it?” Isbel said. “But you know, Hurricane, just like your nickname, every time you show up there’s a huge mess.”

“It’s not my nickname.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot. Well, stay out of my life. You don’t know anything about my father. Or me.”

“Isabella, I like your father. Always did.”

“Sure have a funny way of showing it.”

“I just want my car back.” Cramming his thumbs into his pants pockets, Cane inhaled raggedly. “And…it was…amazing to hear you sing again. There was a time when I thought I’d get to listen to you for the rest of my life.”

She turned her back on him, strode over to the refreshment table, and groped for a bottle of water. Twisting off the cap helped hide the tremor in her hands. She took a deep drink, nodded in reassurance at Octavio, who watched from the far end of the table, and then walked straight back to Cane. “Stay out of my life,” she said.

“I’d hoped that after all this time you would have cooled off and, when I finally explained why the Camaro is so important, that you could…well, that you would forgive me.”

She searched his eyes. Not a hint of insincerity. She understood better now. But forgiveness? It was too late. She couldn’t betray her badly-behaved father any more than Cane could betray the memory of his brother.

“Isab…”

“Go.”

He nodded. Pulled a card from his pocket. “If you ever need me…”

“Good-bye, Hurricane.”

 
The Authors:

A Serenade to Die For Author - Janet FoggJanet Fogg’s focus on writing began when she was CFO and Managing Principal of one of Colorado’s largest architectural firms. Fifteen writing awards later she resigned from the firm to follow the yellow brick road, and ten months after that signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press for her historical romance, Soliloquy, a HOLT Medallion Award of Merit winner.

Janet once participated in a successful rattlesnake hunt, has climbed two dozen of Colorado’s Fourteeners, was alternate on a winning trapshooting team, and recently received her motorcycle endorsement.

With husband Richard, Janet co-wrote Fogg in the Cockpit, one of five books nominated in 2012 by the Air Force Historical Foundation for best World War II book reviewed in Air Power History.

In 2016, Janet Fogg and Dave Jackson celebrated the release of their first book in a new adventure series for the young—and young at heart! In Misfortune Annie and the Locomotive Reaper, you’ll ride with Annabelle Fortune, an 1880s cowgirl tougher than Calamity Jane! Book Two, Misfortune Annie and the Voodoo Curse, will be released in late 2017.

In their newest collaboration, A Serenade to Die For, you’ll be introduced to a sultry singer, her hunky ex-boyfriend, his stolen hot rod, and the sole-surviving Aztec sword. (It ain’t over till the phat lady sings!)

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A Serenade to Die For Author - David JacksonNot your typical author, Dave Jackson started writing in his constant pursuit to become a renaissance man. Then he fell in love with the art form. Comedy remains one of his many passions and he writes and performs skits as well as stand-up. Also a songwriter and guitarist, Dave has composed over 300 musical titles. Settled now in Colorado, Dave is passionate about living life to the fullest with those he loves, especially his young son.

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