Tag Archive | supernatural

Great Summer Reads Countdown Blitz 2017

Day 16:
Such a Secret Place by Cortney Pearson

summer 17

 

She is their protector.

 
SuchASecretPlace-Final-SmallIn an emotionless world, tears are a precious commodity, valued for their magic and sold on the black market. When Ambry stumbles across a vial of these enchanted tears, she finds herself the target of not only the tyrannical Arcaian army, who is stealing her people’s magic left and right, but of handsome, battle-scarred Talon Haraway, who seeks the tears for his own personal vengeance.

Ambry soon realizes the reason for their interference: these tears are the most powerful ever shed. They are the key to saving her people and rescuing her brother and others who’ve been taken by the Arcaians.With the Arcaian army threatening her every move, and Talon attempting to take the tears from her, Ambry must keep the tears safe at all costs. Her people need them. Her brother needs them. She needs them.
And they need her.

With bold twists, a riveting world of magic-powered technology, and a slow-sizzle romance, find out why readers are calling Such a Secret Place “totally original!”

Amazon ~

 

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Snippet:

      The jar illuminates her face with its pale hue, bouncing blue light into the gleam in her eyes. From across the room, the glow also points out another pair of eyes, and I know Gwynn and I aren’t the only ones admiring the jar filled with glistening, blue-tinted tears.
      “Can you at least tell me what our immediate plans are?” I ask. We’ve been heading toward the tears, but that can’t be all there is to this whacked-out journey we’re on.
      “That’s in your hands, actually,” he says, sliding me a husky look.
      “Mine? Why?”
      The tears pang at my back, reminding me of their direction. Right. I’m leading him to them.
      Talon sighs and frowns into the heat of the fire. “There’s also someone I need to find. I want to know who shed those tears, and I think he has a way of determining that.”
      Now we’re getting somewhere. “And you think it’s important, to know whose they are?”
      His fire-gleamed eyes hold me still. “Very.”

 

 
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IMG_0874ps2Cortney Pearson is a mother, a musician, and a lover of all things pink and sparkly. She is the author of Phobic, about doors that shouldn’t be opened, and the Stolen Tears series, about an enchanted vial of tears and the girl chosen to wield them.

Cortney lives with her husband and three sons in a small Idaho farm town. She loves chocolate, romantic books, and classical music, and believes anything can be made better with a book tucked away for those just-in-case times.

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Books I Read in May ’17

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Playing with Fire

by Clare Meyers & Cris Meyers

51qE0iSS3OL._SY346_An interesting beginning to a new series.

Magic, shapeshifting and crime all blend together to make this enjoyable read by husband and wife team, Cris and Clare Meyers.

Talented thief, Renee and her partner, Stone, join a trio of shapeshifters, Rook, Carlos and Grace, to steal a magical gem, and take revenge against the man who set them up on a previous job.
But in their line of work, nothing is quite what it seems.

Although the book is much more about the planning and the action, I did enjoy getting acquainted with the characters and hope to get to know them better in the next book of the series.

 

Loner Renee Devereaux is a thief with a lot to hide, and trust is a risk she rarely takes. Stone Anders is a mercenary and hitman, but being a hired killer isn’t fitting like it used to. But while they are criminals, they are anything but common. Renee and Stone are Talents, and their supernatural powers give them an edge in a high stakes business where one wrong move could be their last.

It’s always just one job, and everyone scatters—sometimes in less than favorable circumstances. For Renee and Stone, that’s business as usual. But things change.

A chance at revenge draws Renee and Stone into a job they know they shouldn’t take. The job: Steal a dangerous magical artifact before it can be used. Along with the deadline, they’ll have to deal with a loudmouth hacker with problematic connections, a rookie who still believes in ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ and a professional liar with a cat’s curiosity.

Worse, something just doesn’t feel right.

But this is their job. They have a reputation to maintain, a paycheck to earn, and a score to settle…

***

 

Fly by Night

by Clare Meyers & Cris Meyers

31925656The ‘gang’ from book 1, Playing with Fire, are back. They’ve moved on from the events in Seattle, but they haven’t forgotten, or forgiven.

This, the second book in the series is told from Rooks point of view and is a superb sequel.
Rook never knows when to keep his mouth shut and his thoughts to himself, which makes for some great moments. Half the time I wanted to gag him, the rest of the time I wanted to hug him!

The characters all evolve and grow in their own ways, during the story, and we learn more about them, their past and their relationships.

The plot is well thought out, and this book has more action and suspense than the previous one.

I enjoyed Playing with Fire… I loved Fly by Night!

 

The game has changed.

Rook is a wisecracking hacker, a shapeshifter who prefers the name ‘were-crow,’ and former underling to a Talented crime boss. But as supernatural powers go, he’s no heavy hitter.

After a job blew up in his face, Rook thought the worst thing he’d have to deal with was criminal unemployment. But when he starts losing his mind to mysterious voices, being broke takes a backseat. And once his apartment goes up in smoke, Rook knows he’s in trouble.

Out of his depth and trying to dig his way out of a hole not entirely of his own making, Rook must put his survival—and his sanity—in the hands of people who have their own mysterious reasons for helping him.

With trust in short supply and time ticking down, Rook will need to find a way to make this uneasy alliance work before even more of his life goes up in flames.

Book 2 of the Criminal Elements urban fantasy series

And don’t miss out on Playing with Fire (Book 1)

***

 

Code Wolf

by C.D. Gorri

34747449 I really enjoyed this new book from C.D. Gorri.

As with her previous books, it’s set in ‘Grazi Kelly’s world’. This one, however, is definitely not YA!

I loved learning more about Randall, and his unexpected love interest, Tulla, along with Tulla’s special son, Danny.
The book is well-written, easy to read and hard to put down. The descriptive writing allows you to join the fleshed out characters on their adventures.

 

“He never thought of himself as a family man, but sometimes things changed… ”

Randall Graves spends most of his time writing lines of code in his air-conditioned office at Macconwood Manor. He’d rather be alone than risk involvement of any kind. Everything was going fine, until his Alpha sends him on a forced vacation.

It’s all good with Randall, as long as there’s WIFI at the small, beachfront, bed and breakfast in Bloody Point, South Carolina. He could work and get some sun at the same time, but he wasn’t counting on Tulla Nirvelli. The beautiful single mother owned and operated the small B &B with her seven-year old son.

Charmed by the small island and the young family, Randall finds himself enjoying his time at the Sea Mist Bed & Breakfast. When trouble starts brewing for Tulla and her son, Randall is ready to jump in, but that means revealing his secret. Will she accept the truth about him?

***

 

The Name of Death

by Joshua Robertson

33636392 I enjoyed this short story from Joshua Robertson.

It was a well-written and entertaining read.
The characters were fairly well fleshed out for such a short tale.

A good introduction to the authors writing and to the world in his novels, which I look forward to reading.

 

Drada Koehn is a fearless, formidable fighter ensnared in a presaged war against the northern humans. When the Speaker foretells their victory upon discovery of the name of death, she sets out to unravel the mysterious prophecy. Now, bound by duty and honor, Drada faces untold horrors with her companions, searching for what may never be found. In a story of unexpected twists, she soon finds that her resolve to see the quest done will be the fortune or doom of her people.

***

 

Dark Legends

32721381 I enjoyed quite a few of the books in this set and will be looking to read other books by some of the authors.

If you like stories with Dragons, Ghosts, Mermaids, Shifters, Vampires, Witches… and much more, you’re bound to find a story in here that you enjoy.

Some of the stories worked well as standalone reads, while others were obviously part of a series.

As a bunch of the books were steamy (one or two more steam than story) this is definitely an adult only box set.

All in all, this collection of books was good value and a great way to find ‘new-to-me’ authors.

 

This Collection is packed with more than 20 full-length Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance reads from New York Times, USA Today, and International Bestselling Authors!

Don’t miss this collection of more than twenty unique twists in paranormal romance and urban fantasy, providing over one million words of supernatural suspense that will transport you to new worlds with smoking hot action and heart-throttling adventure!

The DARK LEGENDS boxed set includes: Mermaids, Sirens, Shifters, Vampires, Dragons, Sorcerers, Warriors, Angels, Faeries, Demons, Witches, Psychics, Ghosts, Mythology, Folk Tales, Legends, Dark Magic, Time Travel, and More!

***

 

Gloria and the Unicorn

by Wanda Luthman

34797852 A lovely children’s book with a wonderful message.

The book encourages its readers to be happy and to love themselves.

Gloria looks different from other children, but thanks to Sir Louie, a magical unicorn, she learns to accept that it’s ok to be different.The plot is well thought out, and this book has more action and suspense than the previous one.

 

Adopted by a loving owner of a children’s home, Gloria still has a lot to overcome. She has a droopy cheek on one side of her face. Then, she overhears a terrible secret about her past that she doesn’t want anyone to know. To protect her from bullies, she is kept out of school. But, Gloria wants to learn to read more than anything in the world. She feels she has no one to turn to until a magical unicorn named Sir Louie befriends her. Can he help her learn to love and accept herself? And when Sir Louie suddenly disappears, will Gloria think he has rejected her like everyone else or realize his life is in danger and he may need her help?

***

 

Beyond Death by Deb McEwan

Beyond Death Banner

Title: Beyond Death
Author: Deb McEwan
Genre: Supernatural/Suspense

 

Beyond DeathWhat really happens when we die? Twenty-something Claire Sylvester is about to find out.
The morning after the best night of her life she is taken before her time.

Claire is suspended in her mysterious new world. She watches as the secret lives of those she loves unravels, and sadistic villains are punished on the road to their own personal hell.

All the while a higher authority ponders her ultimate fate.

More than Claire knows depends on her actions and those of the unlikely partner who accompanied her on her journey.

What will be her final destination?

Beyond Death – a supernatural thriller of love and loss, deceit and revenge, with a little romance and humour.

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Author Bio:

DebFollowing thirty odd years in the British Army, Deb and her husband Allan decided to become weather refugees and settle in Cyprus.

Throughout her life Deb has dabbled with writing. Her first book was ‘Reindeer Dreams’ – a quirky rhyming Christmas story for children featuring Barry the reindeer and his family. Her first grown-up books about aliens and unearthly spiders could be explained as off the wall. The Afterlife trilogy came next with a few ‘Jason the Penguin’ books in between.
The first book in the current series ‘Unlikely Soldiers’, is set in 1970s Britain, with others to follow through the decades.

Deb now spends her time writing, working part-time, avoiding housework and playing tour guide along with Allan. She tries to keep the pounds off by playing netball and long-distance walking.

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Guest Post:

Inspired by Ants

I was sitting in the garden, chilling after a long walk and wondering what to write next.

Picture3I probably should have started book three in my ‘Aliens’ series. Ideas were swirling round in my head but nothing tangible yet. I saw movement on the ground and looked down. An army of ants were going about their business. Some headed in my direction. As one neared my foot I lifted my thumb to squish it, then hesitated as I had a fleeting thought. Looking up to the sky I wondered if anyone up there was poised to ruin the day or life of an innocent human who had taken a wrong turn, or perhaps found themself caught up in one drama or another.

Picture2This got me thinking about death, religion, the afterlife and the eternal battle of good versus evil. I left the garden and started writing straight away. And the ant? He or she lived to fight another day. Not so the many others who pushed their luck and moved into the house shortly after. No mercy was shown to this lot.

My Afterlife series is about the eternal fight of good against evil. I wanted the good guys to win but it wasn’t always easy and that doesn’t reflect real life, unfortunately. I believe in reincarnation and have always liked the idea of Karma with the hope that we reap what we sow. When some of my baddies got their just desserts it was important that they felt the pain they’d inflicted on their victims. My overactive imagination was a great help in this process. I spent some time wondering what would be really horrible but plausible (to my story) and took it from there.

When you’re dealing with the afterlife, heaven, hell or whatever you like to call it, almost anything is possible.

In this series, when there is absolutely no doubt, the really bad souls are taken to the dark, merciless world of cruelty and demons. They either serve their masters or are subjected to pain for the amusement of the demons – sometimes both. When their masters tire of them, they are returned to earth in various guises to suffer extreme levels of humiliation, pain and degradation. If they’re lucky, those in charge may return these souls to earths as humans, to carry out their evil.

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This is why the innocent suffer.

Where there is doubt, the final destination isn’t so simple.
That’s the situation in which Claire finds herself and more about this next time.

 

 

 

Rising by Sonya Weiss

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 Title: Rising
Author: Sonya Weiss
Genre: Young Adult, SciFi Supernatural Romance
Pub Date: May 9, 2017

 

When sparks fly between a human and a Supernatural, the entire planet could be at stake.

9781516100279_400x600It’s been ten years since the Great Extinction, when Supernaturals threatened to destroy humanity. Now, in the sleepy town of Wayside, Nevada, seventeen-year-old Cassie Grant’s life couldn’t be more ordinary. Determined to get into an Ivy League college, her focus is squarely on her studies. But suddenly everything changes when she witnesses Jason Taylor, a cute and quiet loner, mysteriously save a young boy from falling to his death.

Although the Supernaturals ultimately retreated to their planet, three families were left behind—including Jason’s. So far, they’ve been successfully hiding in plain sight. But Jason knows that if Cassie exposes him, all their lives will be in peril—especially since Cassie’s father is the head of the Alien Eradication and Defense Department. At first, befriending Cassie is Jason’s survival tactic. But as they spend more time together, they begin to fall in love. With the authorities closing in and a hidden threat that could tear the very Earth apart, can Cassie and Jason keep each other safe—or will their star-crossed romance start another war?…

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Excerpt:

CASSIE
      I wiped off the mess I’d made of my makeup for the second time, and stared at the pallor of my skin in the mirror. The scar high on my cheekbone wasn’t as bad as the ones on my back, but it was a visible reminder of the attack that gave me nightmares. Each time I’d jerk myself out of sleep, I’d fallen right back into the disturbing images again. No high IQ needed to guess why. At dinner Dad had talked in detail about the destructive nature of aliens. As if I needed to be told.
      His stories and warnings alone weren’t the reason I didn’t like aliens. I knew firsthand that they killed, that they left humans scarred. I didn’t blame my father for my injuries, but my mother did. I pushed away the memory of what happened during that awful camping trip in New Mexico. That night had forever changed all of us and made me look at aliens differently.
      Aliens were mysterious, powerful beings who were hunted by the government but more often than not, we humans were the prey. While there were a lot of pro-alien groups around that spouted on websites and to anyone who’d listen that we had nothing to fear from these “visiting creatures,” the scars on my body were living proof that was a lie.
      A strange premonition swept over me and I shivered, then tried again to reapply my makeup fast so I wouldn’t be late for school. One more year, and then I was through.
      I couldn’t wait to get out of Wayside, Nevada, far away from my father, and his job as lead agent at the Alien Eradication and Defense Department. I didn’t want to live with the reminder of aliens at every conversation. I needed a clean slate, a place where I could build good memories. I wished we could go back to our lives before the Great Extinction.
      That war between the humans and aliens sucked the laughter out of our family like a tornado had spun through. Aliens had killed my uncle during one of the battles. My father hadn’t been the same since his brother’s death but he’d tried hard to keep himself together. But then after me nearly dying during that camping trip because of an alien attack, my father had unraveled in ways that baffled and sometimes even scared me.
      I finished applying my makeup, checked my arms and back in the mirror to make sure my scars were hidden, and gave my face one final glance. Good enough. Grabbing my backpack, I made my way down the stairs to the living room where Mom lay curled on the sofa beneath a blanket. She had the same shoulder-length black hair and brown eyes I did, but where she was cover-model confident, not even photoshopping could erase my self-consciousness. I was a little on the nerdy side so I’d never been that confident, but after I was scarred, it had only gotten worse. I didn’t wear sleeveless shirts anymore and I wouldn’t dream of ever wearing a bikini again.
      With a frustrated sigh, Mom sat up and muted the television, silencing the anchor mid-report on the frequent earthquakes striking our area. I stood behind the sofa and lip-read the closed captioning for a few seconds.
      “Anything new, or are they rehashing yesterday’s news?”
      “Not much new other than the United States Geological Survey is monitoring the area. Nevada is the twenty-first state hit with a wave of them.”
      “That’s a lot of earthquakes.”
      “There’s nothing to worry about, Cassie. If there were, the USGS would inform the right people who would then inform the public.”
      I didn’t believe that. Because of Dad’s job, I had insight into how the government hid things. The rash of unexplained earthquakes made me edgy. “Where’s Dad?”
      To my surprise her lips tightened, and I wondered if there was trouble again in Alienville. “He slept at the office last night.”
      “Chasing little green men wore him out?” I pushed my hands through my out of control hair to corral it into a ponytail.
      She tried to hide it, but a ghost of a smile flitted across her lips, and for a second we were unified in the knowledge Dad was acting weirder than usual. “You know your father.”
      My stomach dropped. They’d been fighting more lately and the fights were getting uglier. “Did he sleep at the office because of his work or…”
      “You should eat. I’ll make you something.” She got up and went into the kitchen. Mom was a great cook, but she never took the time anymore because she always had to leave the house before I did. I didn’t know what she was still doing home.
      After taking the milk out of the refrigerator, she poured a glass, and then reached for the box of pancake mix. When she pulled the eggs out and set them on the counter, I said, “Mom? What’s going on?” Different what-ifs flitted through my mind while I waited for her to answer. Dad was having an affair. Mom was sick. Or Dad’s grouchy, could-never-be pleased mother was coming to visit. That last one made me feel sick. “Is Grandma coming for a visit?”
      She glanced over her shoulder, shook her head, and laughed as we shared a look of mutual thank-God relief. “Speaking of aliens,” she muttered.
      I laughed again. “Seriously, Mom. What is it?” I covered her hand with mine to get her to stop trying to make breakfast.
      She hesitated, as if trying to decide how to answer. “Your dad thinks there’s a connection between aliens and these earthquakes.”
      I rolled my eyes. Their power wasn’t something to be underestimated, but I wasn’t stupid enough to think they could control the Earth. “He thinks there’s a connection between global warming and aliens, power
outages and aliens, rising taxes and aliens. When doesn’t he think things are related to aliens?”
      She shook her head as if trying to shake off the sudden heaviness blanketing both of us. “You don’t want breakfast?”
      I moved to the pantry and scored the last chocolate chip granola bar from the box. “I don’t have time. The class hike is today. I have to rush, or I’ll be late.”
      “You’re wearing that?”
      I glanced down at my jeans with the myriad of artful cuts. “These are retro. Everyone’s wearing them.”
      “I meant the T-shirt.”
      I put a hand over the image of ET. I’d unearthed the shirt at the secondhand store. “It’s a joke.”
      “Make sure you change before your father sees it. No use throwing gas on the fire.”
      Dad was exactly the reason I’d bought the shirt, and I didn’t care if he saw it. Yes, I was afraid of aliens, but I was tired of my fear holding me hostage and I was trying to find my way back to the me I’d once been. There were so many things I didn’t do anymore since that camping trip because I was too afraid.
      “Cassie?” Mom said.
      “Fine, I’ll change before he sees it.”
      “Are you riding in with Mark?” She sounded hopeful, not yet knowing my status as the alien hunter’s daughter wiped out my dating life once again.
      “Um…no. Gotta run.”

 

 

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Author Bio:

Weiss, SonyaSonya Weiss is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and author, including the Stealing the Heart series with Entangled Publishing. She’s addicted to great books, good movies, and Italian chocolates. She’s passionate about causes that support abused animals and children. Her parents always supported her bringing stray animals home, although the Great Dane rescue was a surprise.

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Unsevered by Traci Sanders

unsevered banner

A gripping story of love found, lost, and rediscovered in a magical way.

 
unseveredJewel has met the man of her dreams … the one person with whom she’s meant to spend eternity. Harley is charming, charismatic, and although he can’t carry a tune in a bucket, he’s the most gorgeous man she has ever laid eyes upon—especially in his U.S. Air Force uniform.

Just days after the couple returns from their honeymoon, Harley is called to active duty in the Middle East. Jewel is heartbroken but determined to adapt to her new life as a military spouse and support her husband. Her plan is short-lived when Harley is killed in action just days after his deployment.
Unable to cope, Jewel withdraws from her family, friends, and the world around her, until Harley visits her with a message from the beyond.

Will Jewel surrender to the dark side to be with her true love, or will she discover that sometimes people are put in our paths for reasons beyond our understanding?

Genre: Romance, Supernatural

Amazon | Goodreads

“Five stars have never made me feel like this. Where are my Kleenex?” Allaina Daniels

 

 

Excerpt:
My mind returns to the moment and I scold Harley’s apparitional presence for lying to me. “You told me we’d be together forever. You told me that’s what the sign meant.”
“I did say that. But it didn’t mean we’d be together forever in the physical sense; just that we’d always be in each other’s hearts.” His voice lowers and adopts a serious tone. “But there is one problem.”
“What problem?”
“I am kind of stuck right now.”
“What do you mean stuck?”
“Well, I was supposed to move on to my afterlife, but I can’t do that until you let me go.”
“But how do I do that?”
“I can’t answer that for you. It’s something you have to discover for yourself for me to be able to complete my journey. I’m sorry you feel like I let you down, but I did what I had to do.”
A long pause cuts through the air for a moment. “I don’t blame you, Harley. I know you didn’t choose to leave me. I just miss you. Why can’t I see you?” My voice keeps cracking as I wipe my tears for the umpteenth time.
“You’ll see me when the time is right; when you are ready. And you won’t be able to see the gift I left you until the time is right either.” He was still surprising me, even in death.
“I’m ready! What is it? Please, I need something to hold on to.”
“When you are ready to see it—and me—you will.” He was beginning to sound like a broken record. “I have to go now, but I will be watching over you always. Please be kind to yourself and don’t do anything else to endanger your life. Live. Be happy. Fulfill your destiny. And remember, I love you.”
“I love you too, baby. Don’t go.” My voice is brittle, fading.
He doesn’t respond.
“Harley?” I call out his name until my throat becomes scratchy and my voice is almost absent.

“Harley? Harley? Come back. Please don’t leave me again.”
There’s no reply.
He’s gone.unsvrd teaser 2

 

 

 

 

 

 
The Author:

traci headshotTraci Sanders is a multi-genre, multi-award-winning author of nine published titles, with contributions to three anthologies.

An avid blogger and supporter of Indie authors, she writes parenting, children’s, romance, and nonfiction guides.

traci sHer ultimate goal is to provide great stories and quality content for dedicated readers, whether through her own writing or editing works by other authors.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

 

 

 

 

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p1Guest Post:

Hey, guys!

This is my final post to share with you all.

It’s been a blast! Thank you so much to those who followed this tour, commented and shared my posts, and read/purchased my book. I truly appreciate you taking a chance on my writing, and I hope it lives up to your standards.

Just a little recap, in case you missed my bio and intro in previous posts. If you’ve already read this part, feel free to scroll down the page to the good stuff. 🙂

In case you missed the first stop on my tour, here’s a small recap. If you’ve already read this, feel free to scroll down this page to the good stuff. 🙂

I’m an author of romance, children’s, and nonfiction titles. I’m also an avid reader and huge supporter of other authors through a site I founded called Readers Review Room. Be sure to check it out whether you’re an author looking for promotion, or a reader looking for a great book.

p2I’d like to leave you all with a final thought today. Are you with someone who lights up your life? Someone who makes your toes curl at a single touch?

Even after twenty-something years together, and three kids, my husband still has this effect on me. Thank God for that! I see my friends and family living their lives with people they simply tolerate, or have become complacent with, and it truly breaks my heart.

What’s the point of sharing your time and your life with someone who doesn’t “get” you, who doesn’t set your soul on fire? Someone you think about first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. Someone you miss when he or she is not around. Someone you can’t wait to hold the next time your eyes meet.

If you do have this person in your life, be sure to cherish him or her, because we never know when our last kiss will truly be our last to share.

This is a story of love found, lost, and rediscovered in a magical way. Sometimes people are put into our lives … to teach us how to let go. Make sure you’re giving your time and love to someone who’s worth holding on to.

May you find the kind of true love that everyone deserves … the kind that’s forever Unsevered.

Thanks to Maia for setting up this blog tour, and to Rainne for hosting me here today. I truly appreciate the chance to share my work.

You can find any of my books on Amazon at this link: 
https://www.amazon.com/Traci-M.-Sanders/e/B00BA9VUUY

Traci M Sanders

 

Previous Guest Post Tour Stops:

Romance Novel Giveaways | Anna Del C Dye’s Blog

 
Also by Traci Sanders:

When Darkness Breaks

when darkness breaksLocal news anchor, Amber Woods, seemed to have it all – a thriving career, two beautiful children, and a doting husband named Drake. Life was perfect…until her world was turned upside down in one fateful night. While the incident caused Amber to renew her priorities; Drake was unable to deal with what happened, and sank into a deep depression laced with infidelity and alcohol. Hoping a change of scenery would salvage her quickly deteriorating marriage, Amber agreed to move to New York; but it didn’t take long for her to discover that the past is not always left in the past. Can Amber save her marriage without losing herself along the way? What will she do when darkness breaks her will to keep trying?

Perma-Free On Amazon!!

“A real and authentic romance” M. Abbott (UK)
“Heavy Subject Matter, Hope Filled Message” T. Dearen
“A short and engaging read” H. Kent

 

 

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Books I read in November


Cemetery at Devil’s Bend

by Gina Moray

A well-written and spooky short story that grabs hold of you at the start and drags you along to the end.
Plenty of suspense and twists to keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat, right up to the surprising conclusion.
I was, very quickly, just as curious as Marty, to find out about the creepy cemetery.

 

Something strange is happening to Pine Creek. A cemetery pops up just outside of town and it’s fueling the residents’ fears. The headstones bare the names of residents interred in town and the townsfolk are left wondering … what’s buried beneath the soil. Marty Duller, a historian with a passion for cemeteries, starts to ask questions and learns that all is not what it seems in Pine Creek. There are more than bodies buried in the town’s history and their very souls may be at risk.

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Ascension Within: A Story of Angels & Fallen-Angels

by Julie Nicholls

Wow! A fantastic conclusion to what has been a fantastic series.

For the final time, I joined Eloise, Kai, and all their friends in their adventures as they endeavoured to win the game and save all of humanity.
I am going to miss them all!

I don’t know what to say about this book, that I haven’t said about the previous two.
The steamy scenes, violent fights, surprises, intrigue, and adventure that I loved, in the first two books, are all back in this book, along with more sadness, joy, secrets, rage and excitement.

If you haven’t read Demon Within and Angel Within, then you need to read them before you read this one.

Thanks again to Julie Nicholls who gifted me an eCopy of the book. 

The story continues from book two, Angel Within, where we left Eloise in a state of unrest at Kai’s disappearance. Can Eloise save Kai? If she does, is he going to be the same man she fell in love with? Or will he revert to his old persona? Confused by overwhelming emotions of despair and betrayal over losing her lover, Eloise finds inner strength and rages with determined purpose to aid her husband’s return.
Together with her comrades and the angel, Anael, she makes her plan to rescue Kai, but as always when dealing with angels, it is not so easy. The angels are cooking more plots and schemes; they just won’t leave the mortals alone! Anael reveals additional secrets regarding Eloise and Kai’s past, and she’s angry and hurt. Lashing out at the Angel, she condemns his actions and his interferences with the lives of mortals.
The battle is on to release Kai, and to save the souls of man from Nivel, a dark angel. He’s playing a dangerous game and the prize is all of humanity.
The witch Jana is aiding Nivel. What deceit is she planning this time after hiding her intentions in Angel Within? Nivel strives to win a game he and Anael started over 25 years ago, but who has the better team?
You will learn everything in the final book, Ascension Within, book three in the Fallen Angels Series.
Ascension Within has more secrets and plots, just as with Demon Within, and Angel Within. Together with sensual, erotic bedroom scenes, and an adventure that will keep you guessing, you will be riveted to know the conclusion of this saga.
The Fallen Angels series is a story of love, passion, good overpowering evil, and loyalty.
Includes an additional bonus short story
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The 11th Percent

by T.H. Morris

I enjoyed this exciting, fast-paced and original book. It brings a fresh and unique look at spirits and the afterlife.

The story is well-written, with lots of action and plenty of suspense. I was hooked from the first page.

Johan and the supporting cast were well-developed, had their own personalities, and were, for the most part, likeable. Even the unpleasant Trip, turned out not to be a villain, which I didn’t see coming!

Thanks to the descriptive and engaging writing, I felt as though I had joined Johan and his new friends in the challenging world of the 11th Percenters.

The book ended well, leaving room to continue the story, but without a cliffhanger.

Thank you to the author for gifting me an eCopy of the book.

Jonah Rowe, a bored accountant and aspiring novelist, is sick and tired of his job as an accountant. He is burnt out from all the office gossip, politics, and double talk, and he longs for his life to matter. Truth be told, Jonah wants anything besides the lame routine of coasting through his workday….only to psych himself up enough to do it all over again the next day. He only wishes that his life had some meaning.

Amidst the combination of writer’s block and society’s expectations to have a “real” 9-5 job, Jonah gets his wish.

His world is turned completely upside down one evening when his vision inexplicably turns blue for several moments. He then receives a warning from a spectral visitor that not only is he in danger, but everything in his life is about to change.

Overnight, Jonah transforms from an overworked, underpaid accountant to the centerpiece of a spectral battle. Will he rise to the occasion? Can he accept that everything he knows about life and death is completely wrong? And, most importantly, will he be able to comprehend and harness the power of the mysterious 11th Percent?

Follow Jonah’s journey in this new breed of ghost story!

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The Felix Chronicles: Freshmen

by R.T. Lowe

I really enjoyed reading this book. If you like your books short and sweet, this isn’t the book for you!
I have no problems reading a good long book as it gives me something to sink my teeth into.

The Prologue is long and at first I was unable to see the connection to the story, but it all made sense as events happen and the various plot lines meet along the way.

Q. What do you get if you mix monsters attacking and eating people in a forest, a serial killer who kills teenagers, a stalker, a band of assassins and a group of college kids?
A. A damn good story!!

The book is well-paced, with vivid descriptions, and plenty of suspense and action. There are violent scenes, some of which are quite graphic. However, there is also normal college life and moments of humour.

Felix and his friends are all realistically portrayed and wonderfully fleshed out. As are The Faceman and other villains of the piece.

I was surprised and slightly disappointed to find the end of the book wasn’t the end of this complex story and I am eager to find out what the author has planned next, for Felix and his friends.

I received an ecopy of “The Felix Chronicles: Freshmen” from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Reeling from a terrible accident that claimed the lives of his parents, Felix arrives at Portland College hoping only to survive the experience. In time, however, his reality star roommate shows him there is more to higher education than just classes, shared bathrooms and bad dorm food, and Felix gradually dares to believe he can put his past behind him. But a fateful storm looms on the horizon: In the nearby woods, two hikers become the latest victims in a series of gruesome murders; a disfigured giant embarks on a vicious cross-country rampage, killing teenagers who fail his ‘test’; and an ancient society of assassins tasked with eradicating the wielders of a mysterious source of power awakens after a long silence. Only one man–the school’s groundskeeper–knows that the seemingly unrelated events are connected, and that an eighteen-year-old boy stands in the center of the storm.
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Awethology Dark

by The #Awethors

A great collection of stories by some awesome authors. Some of the authors were ‘new to me’ and this was a great introduction to their writing.

I find with most anthologies, that I prefer some stories to others and this book isn’t really any different. Though in fairness to all the authors involved, I have to say that I am struggling to pick only one or two favourites, as they were all well written and all held my interest.

I am looking forward, with anticipation, to reading the other book of the pair, Awethology Light

Because one voice in your head isn’t enough, here are so many more, as the Awethors chime together with our vast collection of stories and poetry to make you laugh, make you cry and make you feel alive. We are the Awethors and these are our words to you.

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Vampyr: The Complete Trilogy

by K. M. McFarland

I enjoyed this somewhat steamy trilogy, and getting to know all the characters and their relationships to one another.
K. M. McFarland has taken the vampire genre and given it a new twist, giving us vampires with ‘humanity’ but without losing their predatory nature, and a unique take on vampire reincarnation.
My feelings towards the characters changed often, some for the better and others from like to dislike, depending on their role within the story.

As characters joined, left and reappeared, it could have got complicated and confusing, but the author kept it all straight in my mind.

My only complaint would be the occasional repetitiveness of one character explaining the past to one another, but all in all, it was an entertaining and interesting read.

The author gifted an ecopy of this trilogy to me

Vampires are alive and well in the Big Easy. In the modern world of forensics, technology, and security cameras everywhere, vampires are now forced to live in secret. In this new age where vampires have evolved into gentle predators mainly depending on alternative methods for acquiring blood, vampire bars have risen in popularity. Owned by a former rock star turned vampire, Quinn Forrester, Vampyr is New Orleans’ most popular venue. Aside from being the French Quarter’s coolest music club, it is also a secret vampire bar serving the finest quality human blood to its vampire clientele. The cryptic alley next to it seduces the most delectable humans just itching to quench a vampire’s thirst. Welcome to Vampyr…

SONG OF THE VAMPIRE: Successful rock star, Quinn Forrester, isolates himself after being turned to a vampire. Eighteen years later, a chance meeting with the daughter he abandoned as a baby the night he was turned shakes his lonely, tormented world.

UNDER A BOURBON STREET MOON: Quinn and his vampire lover seem to have the perfect romance, but their relationship is put to the test when a beautiful mortal woman from his past and an adorable country singer, who has just arrived from Nashville with her own connection to Quinn, enter his world.

MASQUERADE: Quinn has his hands full as the owner of all three vampire bars in New Orleans. As he gets closer to his new attractive young personal assistant, the successful entrepreneur also must deal with a vampire daughter, a mortal daughter who sees dead people, a spiritually connected vampire ex-girlfriend who is her mentor and a deceased ex-wife that just won’t stay dead.
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Now You See Her…

by Dale Mayer

I enjoyed this book and felt immersed in the story. I tagged along as Dean and Stefan struggled to keep Tia safe and find out who was targeting her. It was a fast-paced read, with plenty going on to keep me engaged.
The characters were well defined, realistic and likable.
The story was a rollercoaster of emotions as Tia and Dean came to terms with their abilities and their feelings for each other.
Although this is book 8 in the Psychic Vision series, it does work well as a stand alone book.
I have read books 1-3 of the series and fully intend to get back and read 4-7, when I have time.
I received an eCopy of Now You See Her… from Barclay Publicity in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Energy. The life force of good … and evil
And sometimes evil is stronger.

Tia spent years imprisoned in a ‘special’ program. When she finally escaped, she ran as far away as she could. But it wouldn’t leave her alone.

Only one person can help her. Stefan. But when she contacts him for help, she gets more than she bargained for. Six weeks later, she awakens from a coma to find more problems than ever – and she’s still being hunted.

Dean, moonlighting as a guard at the hospital, finds himself in an impossible situation. His belief system is stretched out of control by someone whom he can’t forget … and can’t believe. Until he has no choice.

With everything on the line, Tia and Dean must work together to solve the problem that has somehow – in a very unique way – entwined them both.

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Desert Wolf

by Heather Long
When I first started reading this book, I was a bit confused as to who all the characters were, but as I read on everything, and everyone, fell into place.
The book is well written and moves along at a good pace, with plenty of action and adventure.
The characters are interesting and well fleshed out. Their interactions and emotions are believable, and this made me care about what happened to them.

It’s an entertaining read, which can be read as a stand-alone story, despite being part of a series.
I haven’t read any of the previous books in the Wolves of Willow Bend series, although I do now want to. I’d like to know what happened before.

I received an eCopy of Desert Wolf from Barclay Publicity in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Cassius, Alpha of Sutter Butte, leads the most ruthless and dangerous pack in the United States. A pack comprised of misfits who didn’t fit in their previous packs, cast offs discarded by their packs and forgotten wolves who rose to create a pack more than a century before it utter defiance of the order of the day. Sometimes pitiless and cruel, he wants more for his people than a yearly bloodbath as they fight for a new place, a better spot in the pecking order. To change his pack, means to change himself and he will find rebellion on all sides, not the least of which is his own defiant heart.

Sovvan Stark, Omega of Delta Crescent, lives a cherished, beloved life in the center of her pack, a delicate and hard won balance. Though she is not the only Omega, she is the most experienced with the tremors of pack upset when power shifts from Alpha to Alpha. When her Alpha approaches her about Sutter Butte’s request, Sovvan considers the matter for several long months. While she might hold within her the key to helping the Sutter Butte Alpha, the undertaking could very well kill her.

Accompanied by a single Hound, Sovvan begins a journey to help Cassius rebuild the foundation of his pack, but first she will have to transform him…

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Where Death Is a Hunter

by Christopher Stookey

An exciting, well-written, fast-paced book that is a mix of medical drama, legal drama, and mystery.
It kept my attention from cover to cover, and with a multitude of suspects it was impossible to identify the offender before the climax.
The author is a doctor and his medical background shows in the stories realistic feel. He focuses on what’s important and doesn’t get bogged down with irrelevant details and jargon, which makes this book easy to read and understand.
Hannah is such a great character, that she slightly overshadows the supporting cast, who weren’t quite as fleshed out but still believable.

I received an eCopy of Where Death Is a Hunter from Christopher Stookey in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

 

Hannah Fâtier is a thirty-two-year-old physician fresh out of residency training. She’s just started her first job as an anesthesiologist at Deaconess Hospital in San Francisco, she’s bought a new home, and she’s engaged to be married.

In short, life is good for Hannah–until, one morning at work, tragedy strikes. A patient under her care dies unexpectedly during a routine operation. An investigation into the case reveals the cause of death to be a basic medical error committed by Hannah. Wracked with guilt, Hannah falls into a malaise of depression and self-reproach. Yet the more she ponders her alleged “error,” the more she realizes that something about the way her patient died doesn’t add up. Digging deeper into the records of the case, Hannah discovers a number of puzzling inconsistencies. She begins to suspect that someone has framed her for a medical mistake she never made. But who would do such a thing and why? And, more importantly, if there was no medical error, then why did her patient really die that morning on the operating table?

Where Death Is a Hunter is a medical mystery dealing with hospital death, betrayal, one doctor’s self-doubt, and the search for redemption.

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6 Ways to Where

by R. Mac Wheeler
The characters were superbly portrayed, as were their interactions with one another. Mar particularly caught my imagination as a strong but flawed teen.
The writing was descriptive and drew me into the story.
The suspense and build up was well written, along with the action scenes, but I felt that something was missing, that I was waiting for something to happen.
I’m not sure whether or not it’s because this is the 3rd book of the series and I haven’t read the previous two.

I received an eCopy of 6 Ways to Where from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

At eighteen it’s tough to decide a life path when the threat of pandemic hangs over the world, your brother is the genius who engineered the plague, and you’re repeatedly drawn into the fight against the terrorists spreading it. Plenty of people would kill an Abernathy on sight so it would be wise for Mar to visit the dojo, otherwise play invisible, but her brother is manipulating her into another adventure.

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A Boo-tiful Halloween

by Angela Shori

The illustrations in this short children’s book are bright and colourful, and the ‘monsters’ aren’t at all scary.

The vocabulary doesn’t seem too challenging for the upper age range (5 yrs) that this book is aimed at.
At the same time, it would be a fun book to read to younger children.

I received an eCopy of A Boo-tiful Halloween from Angela Shori in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review From Dreydon -aged 5

I liked it.
The liked all the pictures, they were a bit spooky.
It was easy to read.

Gather all your ghouls and goblins for a colorful journey with the friendly monsters of A Boo-tiful Halloween.
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Rawblood

by Catriona Ward
I don’t like to leave things unfinished, so deciding not to read this book all the way to the last page was hard for me. I nearly didn’t leave a review, but on reflection I think I should.

I gave it a good shot, I read 152 of the 352 pages and I can’t say that it’s a ‘bad’ book, it’s just not for me. The writing is descriptive and the book is well-edited, but nothing much happened.

I was bored and eventually decided that I have far too many books on my to-read list to persevere with this one.

I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

In 1910, eleven year old Iris Villarca lives with her father at Rawblood, a lonely house on Dartmoor. Iris and her father are the last of their name. The Villarcas always die young, bloodily. Iris knows it’s because of a congenital disease which means she must be strictly isolated. Papa told her so. Forbidden to speak to other children or the servants, denied her one friend, Iris grows up in solitude. But she reads books. And one sunlit autumn day, beside her mother’s grave, she forces the truth from her father. The disease is biologically impossible. A lie, to cover a darker secret.

The Villarcas are haunted, through the generations, by her. She is white, skeletal, covered with scars. Her origins are a mystery but her purpose is clear. When a Villarca marries, when they love, when they have a child – she comes and death follows.

Iris makes her father a promise: to remain alone all her life. But when she’s fifteen, she breaks it. The consequences of her choice are immediate and horrific.

Iris’s story is interwoven with the past, the voices of the dead – Villarcas, taken by her. Iris’s grandmother sets sail from Dover to Italy with a hired companion, to spend her final years in the sun before consumption takes her. Instead she meets betrayal, and a fate worse than death. Iris’s father, his medical career in ruins, conducts unconscionable experiments, to discover how she travels in the Villarca blood. Iris’s mother, pregnant, walks the halls of Rawblood whispering to her, coaxing her to come. As the narratives converge, Iris seeks her out in a confrontation which shatters her past and her reality, revealing the chasm in Iris’s own, fractured identity. Who is she? What does she desire? The answer is more terrible and stranger than Iris could have imagined.

Walking Between Worlds by J.K. Norry

Author: J.K. Norry
Book: Fall of the Walker King (Walking Between Worlds, Book III)
Genre: Contemporary/Philosophical Fantasy
Release Date: December 1st, 2015

About the series

 

Some warriors have a special sensitivity, a rare compassion that makes them the perfect soldier for the perfect army. In life, these men and women are superlative fighters and law officers. In life, they often discover that their instinct for justice hinders or destroys their career in a sometimes imperfect army. In life, these souls are bent and broken by bureaucracy. It is not until death touches them that these unique warriors truly come alive. They become Walkers, immortal soldiers in an eternal army that wages constant war on the demons of humanity.


In the Walking Between Worlds trilogy and companion tales, the world of the Walker is finally revealed. Heroes that have lived in the shadows for thousands of years tell their stories at last, as a new story takes shape in present-day San Francisco. A new Walker is made that must undo centuries of damage as he risks everything in a desperate search for his lost love. One man must forge a path wide enough for everyone who walks between worlds, or see the way of the Walker lost forever.

The angels in heaven have capitalized on the situation rather than correct it, and the dragons in hell rule their realm with fire. Both forces stand against the Walker army as its new king is thrust into power and cast into danger time and again. From epic battles below to all-out war above, these brave patriots of the universe put everything on the line to save an unknowing world once more. If anyone can find a way, it is them . . . but time is running out, and the light is growing dim . . .

Book I – Demons & Angels


Meet the unsung heroes of the supernatural, those who walk between worlds to help humans battle their demons. This is the spellbinding tale of a special group of people whose lives were changed forever when their eyes were opened to a new reality. Watch the ordinary collide with the extraordinary to test the mettle of their souls and the power of their love.

The first book in an exciting new series, Walking Between Worlds; Book I: Demons & Angels introduces us to a new way of looking at both the natural and the supernatural worlds. Join Paul Stone and Kris Reed as they walk between worlds in search of answers and themselves.

Book II – Rise of the Walker King

Step once again into the lives of Walker Paul and his trusted Guide Kris as they delve deeper into the meaning of walking between worlds and battling people’s demons.


Walking Between Worlds; Book II: Rise of the Walker King continues the exciting saga begun in Book I. Now that the king has risen to power, he must look within and without for answers to save both himself and the Walker’s world.

With friendly devils and murderous angels, dragons that belch flames and demons that run like a river, this philosophical fantasy will delight the adventurous spirit that walks between worlds in all of us.

 

Book III – Fall of the Walker King


Walking Between Worlds, Book III: Fall of the Walker King brings the Walking Between Worlds trilogy to a breathtaking and explosive conclusion. Walk alongside characters old and new as they navigate Hellish realms where blood rains from the sky, and Heavenly worlds that would imprison or destroy their very souls.

As war looms above and violence simmers below, a dark danger is lurking between worlds that threatens every realm. A new Walker struggles to fulfill his destiny while the old fight for their very lives. With the fate of all the worlds in the balance, a new way must form to take the place of the old as everything falls away. Yet it must be enough, and it must come in time . . .

 

Jay Norry Bio


Jay Norry is the author of Stumbling Backasswards into the Light, a spiritual autobiographical novel set in the mountains of the Puget Sound, and Walking Between Worlds (as J.K. Norry), a fantasy series set in San Francisco. He is the owner of Sudden Insight Publishing, an indie publishing company he founded in 2014 as a venue in which to publish his books. In 2016, Jay will join the Underground Book Reviews (www.undergroundbookreviews.org) team as a monthly columnist (Norry’s Toolbox) and indie book reviewer.

Currently Jay resides in Northern California with his girlfriend/Girl Friday, Dawn, and their dogs, Mammoth & Ximena. When he’s not busy writing, Jay enjoys wine tasting, gardening, coming up with new DIY projects, and fixing things around the house MacGyver-style.

Jay’s books are published by Sudden Insight Publishing (www.suddeninsightpublishing.com)

Read his blog on spirituality, writing, and life in general at blog.jaynorry.com

Connect with Jay/J.K. Norry
 
 
Demons & Angels (Walking Between Worlds, Book I)
by J.K. Norry

CHAPTER ONE

 The alarm clock was going off, a high-pitched grating pulse of sound echoing loudly off the walls. It had been going off for a while, but the shapeless form huddled under the covers made no move to silence it.
It was a small room, dirty and messy at the same time. There was an ashtray on every surface; the nightstand, the dresser, the mismatched speakers that cluttered each corner. Every ashtray was full, overflowing with cigarette butts and half-smoked joints. Posters and tapestries decorated the walls in a random rock theme that spanned the decades. The white walls were yellowed with age and smoke, cobwebs wisping where they met the ceiling.
Against one wall was an electric guitar on an upright stand, the only thing in the room that didn’t look like junk, a dark blue Fender Stratocaster. A black cord trailed from its snug housing in the body of the guitar to a knee-high amplifier sitting nearby. Another ashtray sat on the amp, a dusting of ashes all around it. A small television was housed in a beat up oak entertainment center whose remaining shelves were dominated by long tangles of guitar pedals and extension cords, open empty compact disc cases and a haphazard teetering stack of old vinyl.
A steady rhythmic pounding joined the blare of the alarm clock, and a voice shouted muffled through the wall. The thin sheetrock shook with the force of the pounding.
The covers stirred, an arm reached out from beneath them and silenced the alarm. Mason threw the covers off and rolled out of bed, his feet clumsily finding the floor. He sat on the edge of the mattress for a long moment, elbows on his knees and his face buried in his hands. Heaving a sigh, he peeked a look at the digital face of the alarm clock. He cursed.
Then he was a flurry of action, dressing himself frantically in jeans and sweatshirt. One moment sitting still in boxers and a stained tank top, his mussed longish hair askew in every direction; the next he was up and moving, opening and closing dresser drawers and tripping through piles of soiled clothes on the floor. Two doorways cut the wall opposite the entrance into thirds, one a doorless passage into his small excuse for a kitchen and the other a door open to the cramped bathroom. Dashing in and out of the open door, he emerged first with his hair wet and flattened to his head, then with a toothbrush sticking from his mouth, then with a hand towel he held cautiously to his dripping face. He crinkled his nose in distaste and threw it to the floor. Wiping droplets of water from his skin with the sleeve of his sweatshirt, Mason worked his feet into his sneakers and bent to tie the darkened laces.
On his way out the door, he stopped at an ashtray and pulled two half-smoked joints from the ugly collection of twisted stained tan speckled filters. A smashed cigarette butt fell from the ashtray to roll onto the speaker and from there to the stiff carpet below. Mason didn’t bother to pick it up. He put one joint in his pocket and one between his lips and walked out the front door.

CHAPTER TWO

 Paul pushed his way through the swinging steeled glass into the coffee shop. The jangle of the bell hanging over the door announced his arrival, and he stopped a moment just inside the entrance to gaze about the room. A wave of aroma greeted him, the warm welcome smell of fresh brewed coffee tickling his nostrils pleasantly.
The place was huge, especially considering how many customers frequented the spot. Longer than it was wide, the single room was wide enough yet for four tables, the coffee bar and aisles between all of them. A paneled wooden island on a sea of hardwood floor, the coffee bar was long and narrow, twin counters mirroring each other with matted work space between. Two people behind the bar would have trouble passing without touching, but the length of it would let three or four people move about freely. Stools were placed along the length of the bar for customers, steel and vinyl and old and currently unoccupied. The island was closed at one end by a cash register facing the entrance and a swinging waist-high door at the opposite end. A slab of counter on hinges served as horizontal barrier above the thin swinging door. Sturdy wooden tables were placed almost randomly about the open hardwood floor. There were less than twenty, though the space could have easily held twice that. Only three were occupied, less than half a dozen customers in the whole place.
Paul approached the register as the girl behind the counter turned to see who had come in. She smiled, a pretty sweet smile under pretty honeyed blonde hair and pretty bright blue eyes.
“Good morning, Paul,” she said. “White mocha?”
“Morning, Jessica,” Paul smiled back. “Yes, please.”
“Brenna’s here,” Jessica inclined her head toward a table in the back while she rung up his order. “Anything to eat?”
“Yeah, a blueberry muffin,” Paul answered, digging his wallet out of his back pocket. He dropped a dollar bill in the tip jar that sat next to the register and handed her a twenty. She counted out his change and reached it across the counter.
As their hands touched, Paul heard an explosion. Loud and muffled at the same time, it was followed by a thin, shrill scream. He jerked his hand back, looking around the shop bewildered. No one stirred or looked up; no one did anything. His eyes met hers, his heart pounding.
“You okay?” Jessica asked him. She was still holding out his change, but her look had become one of concern.
Paul looked around again. “You didn’t hear that?” he asked her quietly.
“Hear what?” She cocked her head to listen.
“Nothing.” Paul shook his head. “I must be hearing things. Thanks, Jess.” He took his change and walked the length of the bar. It wasn’t until he was almost at Brenna’s table that he noticed the big man huddled over another table in the corner furthest from the entrance.
“Morning, Roche.” Paul called to him.
Surrounded by books and ledgers sprawled haphazardly across the table, the man seemed oblivious to his environment. A big round head sat atop his mountainous shoulders, bald and topped with a battered black fedora. A blue pocket tee tried to contain the bulk of his torso, and a pack of cigarettes strained the pocket on his left breast even further. He made a notation in the ledger before him, cursed, erased it, and glanced up.
“Paul,” he nodded, then looked back down at the page before him.
Brenna had her laptop on the table and a tablet of hand-written notes beside it. They both sat neatly square with the edge of the tabletop, a cup of coffee just within reach on one side and an untouched slice of lemon poundcake on the other. She stopped typing as he approached and looked up at him.
Her hair was black and straight, parted down the middle to brush against her shoulders equally on both sides. The dark of her hair was in stark contrast to her smooth and milky white skin, and her face was a study in perfection. High cheekbones, full red lips and a small button of a nose all took a backseat to the beauty of her eyes, though. So brown they were almost black, Brenna’s eyes seemed to swirl with depth and beauty and sensuality. She had a way of looking up at him without raising her head that he found adorably breathtaking. A little horizontal line appeared across her forehead, and her big dark eyes got bigger and somehow more beautiful. It was how she was looking at him now. A slow smile started on her lips as their eyes met, and Paul leaned over to cover it with his own smile. She tasted of coffee and mint and lipstick.
“Good morning, gorgeous,” Paul sat next to her as she snapped shut the laptop. She took a moment to close the notebook and set it perfectly square on top of the computer, then slid them both to the center of the table. When she was done, she turned sideways in her chair toward Paul and put her hand on his knee and her full attention on him. He saw the agate oval that hung always at her throat from a delicate silver chain, hovering over the modest cut of her light blouse.
“Good morning, my love.” Her voice was soft and low, and her eyes lingered on his. “Are we still on for tonight?”
Paul nodded while Jessica approached the table with his order. “Absolutely,” he told Brenna, then looked up at Jessica while she placed the coffee and muffin on the table. “Thanks, Jess.”
He sipped his coffee and turned again to Brenna. “Where’s your brother?”
She rolled her eyes and frowned a little. “He didn’t come home last night.” When she saw Paul’s frown, she squeezed his knee gently. “Don’t worry, he’ll be here. Where’s Kris?”
“Running late. As usual.” A plain round clock hung on the wall above Roche, and Paul turned to glance at it. He reached across the table and slid Brenna’s breakfast and fork in front of her. “Better eat while you have time,” he said, and took a giant bite of his muffin. Crumbs littered the table while he reached to snatch a paper napkin from the small stack by her plate.
Her fingers, slim and delicate, moved from Paul’s knee to pick up her fork. She cut a small perfect square from the corner of the cake and slid the fork underneath it gingerly. She chewed slowly and deliberately as she spread a paper napkin over her right knee. She swallowed, had a sip of coffee, and turned her gaze on Paul again.
“What time tonight?” she asked.
Paul shrugged. “I should be home about six or six thirty. I can be at your place by seven.” He took another sip of his white mocha. It was cooling down, so he took a long drink.
“Okay,” she nodded. She glanced at the clock, and her fingers strayed unconsciously to the amulet at her throat. “I should probably get going.” Brenna was never late. For anything. Ever.
The door opened then, the bell clanging noisily as two young men entered arguing.
Tall, with dark hair cut short and styled to careless perfection, one man moved his hands excitedly as he spoke. “It’s called a pre-emptive strike,” he was saying loudly. “The best defense is a good offense.”
His companion was shorter, with a slight build and more subtle gestures. He was shaking his head slowly. Blue jeans and tee shirt and a light jacket all hung loose on his frame, and his hands were stuffed into the pockets of his jacket. Light brown hair covered his head in disheveled clumps, constantly threatening to fall into his eyes.
“How can you be the one defending yourself if you are the asshole that strikes first?” He was still shaking his head. “How can you know what would happen if you didn’t attack if you always open with an attack?”
“It’s the nature of the beast,” the dark-haired one answered with finality. “These savages will move in at the first sign of weakness.” His smile came as easily as the other’s frown, and he seemed to be clearly enjoying the banter.
His companion appeared visibly uncomfortable, on the other hand. “We’re not talking about war, we’re talking about women,” he said icily. He pulled his hands from his pockets and pushed a lump of hair from his forehead, quickly sweeping the room with a shy stare. Sharp gray eyes took it all in and came to rest on the girl standing behind the register. His eyes widened a little, a shy smile lit his face for a moment; then he looked away and stuffed his hands back in his pockets.
“Good morning, Jessica,” he said, staring at the floor. He pronounced her name carefully, like it was a sacred thing.
“Hey, Kris,” she replied, glancing away from the taller man behind him for a moment and then back. With a voice lower and slower she said, “Good morning, Matt.”
“Hey, Jess,” Matt answered as he stepped between Kris and the counter. “Two cups of your finest house brew, please. My companion will surely need cream and sugar; he can only swallow life and coffee masked by false sweetness.”
“I customize my coffee to my taste,” Kris said defiantly. He threw a scornful look at Matt and a softer one at Jessica before returning his eyes to the floor. “I don’t just drink any dark and bitter brew someone else serves up for me.”
A bark of laughter, and Matt called out to the man at the back of the room. “Hey Roach, Kris thinks your coffee is dark and bitter.”
“Roche!” The man called out without looking up, correcting the intentional mispronunciation with deliberate rudeness. He made a mark in the journal before him, closed it, and stood up. Glaring balefully at Matt, he grumbled, “He was talking about life, not coffee, jackass.” Roche turned to Kris. “Good morning, young man,” he said, almost smiling. “Still casting your pearls before swine?”
It was Kris’ turn to laugh. By the time he returned the older man’s greeting, Roche had turned and gone through the door at the back wall that said ‘OFFICE’ on a black and white plastic plaque affixed firmly at eye level. It slammed shut behind him.
Kris walked to their table, doffing his jacket and hanging it on his chair as he sat, while Matt got their coffee and followed him over.
“Hey, guys,” Matt said casually as he sat lightly on a chair across from Brenna, setting his companion’s cup on the table as he took the adjacent seat.
“You’re late,” Brenna said. Her voice was forgiving and reproachful at the same time.
“The day doesn’t start until I start the day,” Matt grinned. “I’m always on time, little sister.”
“Drink your coffee,” she said, ignoring him. “Don’t make Paul late for work.”
He ignored her for a moment too, reaching across the table to seize the rest of her lemon pound cake. Picking it up with his fingers, he bit off half of what was left in one huge bite and raised an eyebrow at her across the table. He gulped loudly, took a long pull off his coffee, gasped at the heat, gulped again and asked, “You weren’t going to eat that, were you?”
Brenna rolled her eyes and stood up. “I’ve got to go,” she announced. She looked hard at Matt. “I believe we all do.”
Matt gazed up at his sister, and Paul was struck anew at how alike they could look sometimes. The very expression that was adorable to him on Brenna he thought made Matt appear a helpless silly puppy dog. Matt’s long string of lovers surely thought it the other way around.
They made for the door all at once, cutting the number of customers in the coffee shop by half in one fell swoop. When they reached the door, Paul opened it and stood back, holding it open for the rest of them. Brenna reached out and brushed her fingers lightly across his abdomen, passing by first. Matt made as if to punch him in the gut as he walked by, his good-natured feint ending inches from Paul’s stomach. As Kris passed, he mumbled thanks to Paul and stole one last glance at Jessica over his shoulder as she waved goodbye to the group. A smile played on the corners of his mouth as his eyes met Paul’s. . .
. . . And when their eyes met, Paul heard it again: a loud thunderous crash, followed by a blood-curdling scream. It was louder this time, and he blanched, letting go of the door. It swung shut, barely missing Kris as he stepped hastily outside. Hanging there above the swinging steel and glass, the little brass bell bumped and rolled over the top of the door, clanging noisily. It clanged again as Kris opened the door and poked his head in, a concerned look on his face.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Kris said, stepping inside again. “Are you okay, man?”
Jessica had come up behind him, looking just as concerned. “Paul? Are you alright?” She touched his shoulder lightly.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Paul forced a smile. “You guys didn’t hear that?”
“Hear what?” Jessica and Kris asked together.
“Nothing.” Paul shook his head, as if to clear it, and reached for the door again. The brass bell danced across the swing of steel, its last frayed thread giving way a little bit, but not breaking. It clanged again as the door swung shut behind them; then it hung silent and still, just a little lower than it had before.
Gathered outside, Brenna couldn’t decide who to fuss over. She turned to Matt, but her eyes kept coming back to Paul. Taking Paul’s hand, she spoke stern to her brother. “You should take him home; let him call in to work for both of you.”
Paul was shaking his head. “I’m fine, sweetie.” Encircling his arm around her slim waist, he pulled her close. “Besides, it’s his first day, if I do get him a job. He can’t call in on his first day.”
Dark pools of love looked up at him, but her eyes turned to black ice when she looked at Matt. “He’ll find a way to screw it up anyway.”
Paul nuzzled Brenna’s hair, in part to breathe in the smell of her and in part to hide his smile. Looking over the top of her head, he noticed a man standing across the street watching them. His garb oddly both out of season and out of place, he stared at Paul intently with neither guile nor candor. The man wore a leather cowboy hat and matching leather overcoat hanging from broad shoulders nearly to the ground. Leather boots poked out from under the long duster.
His whole outfit seemed cut from the same bolt of thick leather. Surely striking when new, the ensemble now hung limp, battered and worn. A deep oiled brown on the armpits, the overcoat was faded to a dry blond in many places. Clumsy stitches held the coat together in three different places with three different colors. At its hem, the trench coat looked scorched, and the boots had the same beaten and battered and burnt color. Banded in what looked like dull red snakeskin, the leather cowboy hat was perhaps the most abused part of his whole outfit. Misshapen by a dent, it looked like a part of the brim had been sliced off clean. A pair of holes the size of marbles punctuated the planned hollows of the hat, a few inches forward from the unnatural grapefruit-sized concavity. Apparently there were matching holes on the other side, as Paul could see daylight through them when the man turned his head slightly. He could also see little black rings around the holes, like scorch marks.
Paul was overwhelmed by an otherworldly feeling as he looked at the strange man, and he swooned a bit as he brought himself back into his world of Matt and Kris. And Brenna. He breathed her in deep, glad she hadn’t noticed him waver a moment earlier. Paul focused on their words as she argued with her brother.
“It’s like you think I can’t do anything right,” Matt was complaining. The only time he was not the picture of strength and confidence was around his sister. All it took was a critical word from Brenna, and the man became a boy again.
“No, you’re good at lots of things,” Brenna responded blithely. “Short and shallow relationships, making promises you don’t keep, pissing away money.” Her body was stiff and rigid against Paul, only increasing the discomfort he always felt when the siblings went at it. Later, he knew, he could look forward to each of them seeking a private moment with him to complain at length about the other. He would validate both of them, feeling they were each wrong in their way but never saying so. She knew her weaknesses and her limits; it was his happy job to let her blow off steam without fear of criticism. And her brother . . . well, lecturing Matt was as useless and obvious as telling a tree it is made of wood.
Paul pulled Brenna close to him. “Sweetie,” he said. He was going to say, “We have to get going”, but the door opened behind them, swinging inward to the coffee shop.
After announcing countless arrivals and departures, hanging as silent sentinel in between, the brass bell clanged once as it climbed over the top of the door one last time. Rolling, it clanged again and then again and dropped to the length of the one last thread holding it suspended. The thread snapped soundlessly, and the bell fell just as silently through open space. It clanged again as it hit the floor and half-rolled, half-skittered between the four friends and to the edge of the sidewalk. One more roll and it would have been in the street. Instead, it sat at the curb; silent, still and unnoticed.

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