The Bureau of Holiday Affairs Sneak Peek @andimarquette @bookenthupromo

Book Title:The Bureau of Holiday Affairs
Author: Andi Marquette

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Sneak Peek

holiday affairs
Genre: Holiday Romance (Novel)
Release Date: November 15, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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Book Blurb

Executive Robin Preston has dedicated her life to climbing the corporate ladder, using whatever means necessary. In the shark-infested culture at Frost Enterprises, anything goes, and Robin is a master at the game.

On the verge of a major promotion, Robin receives a strange visit from Agent Elizabeth Tolson of the Bureau of Holiday Affairs, who informs Robin that, though Robin may be a lost cause, the Bureau has scheduled her for intervention. Robin will receive three visitors in the two weeks before Christmas, who will escort her on visits to her past, present, and future.

Robin will be forced to face not only who she’s become, but the parts of herself she left behind, when she was an art major in college and in love with fellow art student Jill Chen, in whom Robin found a kindred spirit—until Jill broke if off with her. In order for Robin to change her ways, she’ll need to reclaim who she was and open her heart again, to a past she thought she left behind.

The Bureau clearly has its work cut out for it, but Agent Tolson relishes a challenge, and she’s put together just the team for Robin’s case. They may have to cut a few corners and go outside a few lines, but Agent Tolson has a perfect salvage record and she’s not about to let that change. The question is, will Robin?

excerpt

Robin signed the paperwork and slid it aside. Maybe it was a dick move to fire people this close to Christmas— bleeding hearts would probably rag on her, but oh, well. The bottom line was the bottom line, and she didn’t need to burden the company with extra weight into the new year. Even though sales were up a bit, Robin didn’t want to take chances.

She answered a few emails and added a couple of figures to an upcoming presentation, which was sure to get her noticed as a CEO for a subsidiary, before she picked up the earlier paperwork. Robin walked the paperwork across the expanse of carpet in her office, past the sleek leather couch against the wall and the mini-fridge next to it, through the heavy mahogany doors to her assistant’s desk, positioned behind short cubicle walls.

“I need these scanned and sent to HR before lunch,” she said as she set the papers next to Laura’s keyboard. She retreated to her office before Laura could give her one of her questioning looks. Laura was damn good at her job, Robin conceded, but sometimes she acted like Robin’s conscience, like a little angel sitting on her shoulder. The last thing Robin needed or wanted was recrimination, silent or otherwise, on how she did her job.

Robin sat down and glanced at the clock on her laptop monitor. Not even ten yet. Her office door opened, and she looked up, irritated. Laura usually knocked.

“Good morning, Ms. Preston,” the newcomer said in a clipped British accent as she shut the door behind her. She wore a burgundy pants suit and sleek black high heels that looked like something a woman might’ve worn in the forties. Come to think of it, Robin thought as she studied her, the visitor looked a bit retro, like a forties professional woman. She also carried a classic black briefcase.

“And who are you?” Robin asked.

The woman approached Robin’s desk. “Your ten o’clock.” She smiled, pleasant.

“I don’t think—” Robin reached for her desk phone. How did Laura miss this? She picked up the phone. It was dead. She looked at her laptop. The screen was blank. She picked up her cell phone. Blank as well. She set it on her desk, wary.

The woman sat in one of the chairs in front of Robin’s desk and placed her briefcase on her lap. “I’ll just get right to it,” she said. “I’m Elizabeth Tolson, senior agent at the Bureau of Holiday Affairs.”

“Okay, you can stop right there. I don’t have an appointment with you, I have no idea who you are, and—” She stopped, puzzled. “The Bureau of what?”

“Holiday Affairs.” The latches on Tolson’s briefcase clicked as she opened it.

“This is a joke, right?” Had to be Robin’s brother. He was always trying to get her to loosen up, especially around Christmas.

“Absolutely not. The Bureau does not engage in such.” Tolson removed a small case from the briefcase, opened it, and took out a pair of gold-framed eyeglasses that she put on. The earpieces looped around her ears. Very vintage. Next, she took a thick brown accordion file from the briefcase and set the briefcase on the floor by her feet.

“What is that?” Robin leaned forward, unnerved.

“Your dossier.” Tolson undid the fastener—a string that looped around a small cardboard disk—on the accordion file. Robin hadn’t seen one of those in years.

“My what? Who the hell are you?”

Tolson opened the file and took out a manila folder, which she opened with a practiced flip. “Preston, Robin Anne. Date of birth, June 15, 1978.” She looked up from the file. “Seattle, Washington. Lovely city.”

“Okay, this isn’t funny. The joke is over.” Robin pushed back from her desk. She would kill Frank, if he was responsible for this.

“Bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon. Business.” Tolson regarded her over the top of her glasses. “But you started in art.”

Robin was halfway to the door before Tolson spoke again. “Master’s in business, University of Pennsylvania.” Robin’s fingers closed around the door knob, and she turned it. A strange sensation shot up her arm and into her chest, like a mild electrical shock. She pulled her hand back and started to reach for the knob again when she realized she was seated once again behind her desk. Her fingers trembled, and the small of her back was damp with nervous sweat.

“Somewhat of a business prodigy,” Tolson said. “Rose quickly here at Frost Enterprises.” She closed the file and let it lie flat in her lap. “The next logical step in your progression is CEO, most likely of an up-and-coming subsidiary.” She took her glasses off, disengaging them carefully from her ears. She held them in one hand.

“How do you have all that information on me? That has to be illegal,” Robin said, regaining some of her equilibrium amidst a flash of anger. “I assure you, Ms. Tolson, you will be hearing from my attorney.”

“Gerald Moorhouse, of Moorhouse, Sanders, and Craig.” Tolson sat back and regarded her with a gaze as readable as England’s cliffs of Dover. “The Bureau has scheduled a meeting with him, as well. But that’s neither here nor there.” She smiled, the kind of indulgent but patronizing smile Robin remembered from some of her childhood teachers who were about to phone her mom.

“How do you know my lawyer?” She picked up her desk phone receiver again and held it to her ear. Still dead. She replaced it with extra emphasis.

“Ms. Preston, in all honesty, I argued against this meeting. At your annual case review—”

“My what? What are you talking about?”

“The Bureau analyzes hundreds of individual cases each year. At its discretion, it assigns certain cases to agents based on several factors. Those include whether the Bureau’s Board of Advisors feels the individual is salvageable.”

Salvageable? Robin’s previous indignation dissolved into uncertainty. “What does that mean?”

“Redeemable, basically.” Tolson tapped the file on her lap with her glasses. “Strong childhood, good deeds interspersed with the usual foibles and mistakes of children that carried over into high school. Overall, you displayed general acts of kindness along with the usual high school drama and angst, the latter of which was exacerbated most certainly by your struggles to keep your sexual orientation hidden until college.” Tolson regarded her. “No doubt to cope with your father’s indiscretions and continued absences.”

Robin hadn’t realized she was gripping the edge of her desk until her fingertips hurt. She forced herself to relax her hands. “That’s personal. How the hell do you know that?” She would kill Frank. With her bare hands.

“We at the Bureau of Holiday Affairs know most everything about you, Ms. Preston. Within proper parameters, of course.”

“What do you mean?”

“We know when you’re sleeping. We know when you’re awake. And we know when you’ve been bad or good.” Tolson cocked her head. “Surely you’re familiar with that adage.”

Robin stared at her. She had to hand it to Frank. This was by far her brother’s best practical joke since…well, it had been a while. She was unnerved enough that she didn’t even remember sitting down after that weird shock at the door. And since it was clearly a joke—there was no other way anybody could know that much about her—she decided to relax and go along with it. Besides, who actually used that line from a goofy Christmas song?

“We noticed a change, however, your third year of college.” Tolson tapped the manila file again, this time with one of her fingertips. Perfectly manicured, Robin noticed. Her nail polish matched her suit. Once this was over, and after she chewed Frank a new asshole, she might track Tolson down and ask her out.

“We attributed the change to Jill Chen’s breakup with you, your mother’s death, and in the following months, an overall existential crisis that left you bereft of previous foundations. And, unfortunately, drove you to engage in indiscretions in your personal life. No doubt modeled by your father.”

“Really? An existential crisis? Care to elaborate?” She smirked, choosing to ignore the reference to her mother.

“I believe you would refer to it as, and I quote, ‘an increase in general asshole-ness.’”

Robin’s smirk shifted to a frown. That was a low blow on Frank’s part.

“Not to correlate that with business school or business in general. There are thousands of individuals engaged in business pursuits all over the world who do not slide into asshole-ness.” She added emphasis to the last word to indicate she was still quoting Robin. “In your case, however, it seems you used your new field as a way to mask older and better ways of approaching problems and to emphasize less desirable characteristics in their stead.” Tolson paused and took another sheet of paper out of the file and put her glasses back on. “I’ll cite one example here. Allison Wagner.”

Robin clenched her teeth. “Her résumé wasn’t as strong as mine.”

“Nevertheless, deliberately misdirecting her with regard to the deadline date for the fellowship was simply not sporting. And Matthew Jacobs?”

Frank was toast. How did he even know about that?

“Mr. Jacobs developed the business plan that you submitted as your own to win the seminar competition your last year of classwork during your master’s degree.” Somehow, Tolson’s accent made it sound even worse.

“To your credit,” Tolson continued, “you did appear to experience some remorse about that. And about Wagner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after the fact.” Tolson slipped the paper back into the folder and removed her glasses.

“It was just business.”

Tolson raised her eyebrows. “There are standards regarding ethics in business as well, Ms. Preston.”

Robin hunched her shoulders. “That was years ago.”

“Lydia Evans,” Tolson responded. “Joseph Spinelli.”

Robin sat up straighter. “There is no way in hell you could know that. I just signed those papers this morning.” Nervous sweat gathered at her collar. Had Laura tipped her?

“I told you, Ms. Preston,” Tolson said. “It is the Bureau’s job to know these things.” She retrieved her briefcase from the floor, put the manila folder in it, and returned her glasses to their case before she put it inside as well. She latched the briefcase and returned it to the floor.
“Now. As I was saying, I argued against this visit because I don’t think you’re redeemable.”

“Hold on. What does that mean?” Screw Frank. She’d drag more info out of Tolson.

“In more casual parlance, I believe you are a lost cause. Some people continue to engage in behaviors that are generally motivated by mean-spiritedness or a lack of empathy for their fellows. They learn these behaviors at some point during their lives and continue to use them as coping mechanisms. Some cases are, of course, genuinely unredeemable due to various psychological issues that the Bureau doesn’t handle, but others might be, given the opportunity to change their ways.” She tapped the arm of her chair a few times. “Many of these have what you might call an epiphany, and surprisingly, it does stick.”

“So you’re my epiphany?” Robin said, sarcastic.

Tolson smiled. “Of course not. I’m your current case manager. Not that I was pleased about that, since I have a one hundred percent rating at the Bureau for ensuring that my cases have their redeemable moment. Or moments. Some need a progression of smaller epiphanies to point them in the right direction.” She straightened. “But I don’t shy from a challenge, even though I am on record as strongly advising against this course of action where you’re concerned.”

Typical bureaucrat, Robin thought. Passing the buck.

“Regardless of your opinion regarding my place of employment and methodologies,” Tolson said, as if she’d read Robin’s mind, “I am here to do a job. With that in mind, you will have three more visitors between now and Christmas Day.”

You have to be kidding. Robin fought an urge to roll her eyes.

Tolson stood and picked up her briefcase. “They will, of course, keep me informed on your case.”

“Of course.” Robin put extra snark in her tone.

“They don’t necessarily share their tactics with me ahead of time, so I can’t speak to those. But they all know they have two weeks before Christmas Day to schedule their visits in coordination with each other. And once this process has begun, the Bureau does not stop it for any reason.” She paused, as if letting that sink in.

“What if I don’t want your visitors?”

“Our cases never do. No one likes the mirrors we hold up to them.” She smoothed the front of her jacket. “Good luck, Ms. Preston.” She turned and moved effortlessly to the door, which she opened with no problem. It closed with a soft click behind her.

Robin let out a breath. “Frank, you dick,” she muttered. She reached for her cell phone just as a knock sounded on the door. “Come in.”

Laura entered. She held a stack of papers up and moved toward Robin’s desk.

“Did Ms. Tolson leave a card?” Robin asked as Laura handed her the papers.

“Who?”

“Ms. Tolson. The woman who was just here.”

Laura’s brow creased in puzzlement. “Here? In your office?”

Robin studied her. “You didn’t see her?”

“No. You were just at my desk with the other paperwork.” Robin glanced at her laptop screen, which was functional now. The clock on it read 9:59 A.M. “What the hell?” she muttered.

“Ma’am?”

“Never mind.” Robin stood. She’d go for a coffee. A big, strong cup from the café at street level. That would cure anything. “I’ll be right back.” She left Laura in her office and headed for the elevators. She was just working too hard. She always got stressed this time of year. But she couldn’t shake the chill wrapped around her spine.

The elevator doors opened onto the spacious lobby of the Frost building.

“Good morning, Ms. Preston.” The guard at the info desk nodded at her. She could never remember his name.

“Did you see a woman come through here a few minutes ago? Burgundy suit, dark hair, briefcase?”

“No.”

“You’re sure? It would’ve been the last ten or fifteen minutes.”

“No, ma’am. Hold on and I’ll check the cameras.” He appeared to be looking at something beneath the counter. “No. Nobody like that. Would you like to see?”

She shook her head and continued to the exit. She was definitely working too hard.

Meet the Author

me n hatAndi Marquette is a native of New Mexico and Colorado and an award-winning mystery, science fiction, and romance writer. She also has the dubious good fortune to be an editor who spent 15 years working in publishing, a career track that sucked her in while she was completing a doctorate in history. She is co-editor of All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Erotica and Romance. Her most recent novels are Day of the Dead, the Goldie-nominated finalist The Edge of Rebellion, and the romance From the Hat Down, a follow-up to the Rainbow Award-winning novella, From the Boots Up.

When she’s not writing novels, novellas, and stories or co-editing anthologies, she serves as both an editor for Luna Station Quarterly, an ezine that features speculative fiction written by women and as co-admin of the popular blogsite Women and Words. When she’s not doing that, well, hopefully she’s managing to get a bit of sleep.

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The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek @JeffStrand @SourcebooksFire

 

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever

Author: Jeff Strand

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Release Date: March 1, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Jeff Strand gives readers a sneak peek at his latest novel The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, and shares his five favorite zombie movies:

Jeff Strand’s Five Favorite Zombie Movies

My five favorite zombie movies are very similar to many other people’s five favorite zombie movies. I could’ve gone the condescending click-bait route and written about “The Five Best Zombie Movies You’ve Never Seen!” but, no, I’m going with my five real favorites….

#5: DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004 version). I was one of the many people bellowing, “You can’t remake DAWN OF THE DEAD! This is blasphemy! Blasphemy!!!” But somehow this remake to a sequel (but not a sequel to the remake) turned out to be awesome. Not quite as good as the original (SPOILER ALERT: That’s #3 on this list) but one of my all-time favorites.

#4: RE-ANIMATOR. I’ve now seen plenty of movies that are more over-the-top insane than RE-ANIMATOR, but this was the first movie where I simply couldn’t believe what I was watching. It was hard to believe that a movie so dark and gruesome could be so funny.

#3: DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978 version). Shameful confession: When I first saw this in high school I thought it was stupid and boring. Fortunately, I matured and accepted that it’s one of the high points of zombie cinema. It’s the reason I know to duck before walking toward spinning helicopter blades.

#2: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Fast zombies long before 28 DAYS LATER! The first time zombies ate brains! It doesn’t often get the credit it deserves, but this is one of the most influential zombie movies ever.

#1: SHAUN OF THE DEAD. The greatest zombie comedy ever. The greatest zombie movie ever. The greatest MOVIE ever.

 

 

About THE GREATEST ZOMBIE MOVIE EVER:

After producing three horror movies that went mostly ignored on YouTube, Justin and his filmmaking buddies decide it’s time they create something noteworthy, something epic. They’re going to film the Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. They may not have money or a script, but they have passion. And, after a rash text message, they also have the beautiful Alicia Howtz—Justin’s crush—as the lead.

With only one month to complete their movie, a script that can’t possibly get worse, and the hopes and dreams of Alicia on the line, Justin is feeling the pressure. Add to that a cast of uncooperative extras and incompetent production assistants, and Justin must face the sad, sad truth. He may actually be producing The Worst Zombie Movie Ever…

 

 

About Jeff Strand:

Jeff Strand has written more than twenty books, and is a four-time nominee (and four-time non-winner) of the Bram Stoker Award. Two of his young adult novels, A Bad Day For Voodoo and I Have A Bad Feeling About This, were Junior Library Guild picks. Publishers Weekly called his work “wickedly funny.” He lives in Tampa, Florida.

Website – @JeffStrand

 

Excerpt from The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever:

The vampire, whose fangs were too big for his mouth, turned to the camera and hissed.

“Don’t look at the camera,” said Justin Hollow, the director.

“I keep poking my lip on these things,” said Harold, spitting the plastic fangs out onto the ground. He hadn’t been a very frightening example of the undead before, and he was even less scary with no fangs and a thick line of drool running down his chin.

“Cut!” shouted Justin, loud enough to be sure that the command was heard by his production crew of two. “C’mon, Harold. Stay in character. We’re three hours behind schedule.”

“I don’t care. I hate this. You promised that I’d get all the girls I wanted. So where are all of the girls I want?”

Justin let out his thirty-ninth exasperated sigh of the night. “The movie has to come out first.”

“It’s not even a real movie.”

Justin bristled. It was a full body bristle, head to toe, which he hadn’t even realized was physically possible. Bobby, who handled sound recording, and Gabe, who handled everything else, both stepped back a couple of feet. Neither of them truly believed that they were about to witness a murder, but they wanted to get out of the splash zone, just in case.

Had this been one of Justin’s movies, he would have very slowly lowered his camera, stared directly into Harold’s eyes with a steel gaze, and then after an extremely dramatic pause asked “What…did…you…just…say?”

His actual response, delivered in a squeakier voice than he would have allowed from his actors, was: “Huh?”

“I said it’s not a real movie.” Harold started to wipe the fake blood off his mouth. It didn’t come off, and probably wouldn’t for several days. Justin had planned to feel guilty about this later, but now he wouldn’t bother. “Nobody’s ever going to see it. You probably won’t even finish it.”

“I finished my last three movies!” Justin insisted. “I got hundreds of hits on YouTube!”

That statement was technically accurate, though it was the lowest possible number of hits you could get and still use “hundred” in its plural form. The only comment anybody posted about his latest film had been “This twelve year-old filmmaker sort of shows promise,” which really frustrated Justin since he was fifteen.

Harold shrugged. “This is a waste of time. I’ve got better things to do on a Friday night.”

“Nobody ever said this was going to be easy,” said Justin, who had indeed said that it was going to be easy when luring Harold into the role. “You can quit now, but what are you going to think about your decisionten years from now?”

“I’m going to think, wow, it sure is nice to be such a well-paid dentist.”

Harold walked off the set. It wasn’t an actual set, but rather a small park near Justin’s home, where they were filming without a permit. Justin knew he should shout something after his ex-actor. Something vicious. Something devastating. He thought about shouting “You’ll never work in this town again!” but, no, it had to be something that Harold would consider a bad thing.

“Fine!” Justin shouted. “But when we record the audio commentary track for the Blu-Ray, I’m going to talk about how you abandoned us, and how much happier everybody was with the new actor who took your role, and how we all agreed that he should have been cast in the first place, and how he had so many girlfriends that he couldn’t even keep track of them, and how they all found out about each other and had a great big awesome catfight in his front yard! And I’ll pronounce your name wrong!”

Harold continued walking, apparently not heartbroken.

 

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DON’T GET CAUGHT Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek

Don’t Get Caught

Author: Kurt Dinan

 

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Release Date: April 1, 2015

Publishers: Sourcebooks Fire

 

Debut author Kurt Dinan reveals the cover of Don’t Get Caught, and gives readers a first-time sneak peek.

Describe your book in 140 characters or less?

A high school nobody recruits a crew of misfits for heists and pranks to get revenge on the mysterious Chaos Club. #DontGetCaught

How did you come up with the idea for Don’t Get Caught?

Look, who hasn’t wanted to rob a bank?  Or at least hasn’t thought about it? I can’t be the only one, right? Right? So, I suppose Don’t Get Caught is my way of robbing a bank without risking actual jail time because, let me make this clear, I would not do well in prison. I love capers, heists, and schemes, and while the crew in this novel aren’t robbing banks, they are satisfying my criminal thoughts by doing the teenage equivalent of bank robbery–wrecking havoc in their high school.

Tell us about the main character.

Max is a high school nobody, a kid who’s smart enough and nice enough to get by, but who doesn’t really fit in anywhere. So basically, he’s me at sixteen. But what Max has that I certainly didn’t have is a genius-level ability to scheme and a newly discovered gift for leading misfits. He’s underestimated by everyone, a fact that works to his advantage when he decides it’s time to write his name in the wet cement of the universe by destroying a forty-year-old secret society.

Did your class in high school pull any memorable pranks? Or is there one you wish you had pulled?

My prank life didn’t begin until college when I helped mastermind a promotion for a fake campus concert that almost led to my arrest. But in my final year of high school, the six-hundred members of my senior class were crowded onto bleachers for an all-class picture. I look at that picture now and see an opportunity for chaos. I mean, how much would it have cost to hire an airplane to drop a hundred gallons of water at the precise moment the picture was taken? Or to organize a group of kids to all wear neon shirts and arrange themselves into something profane within the crowd? It’s missed opportunities like this that keep me up at night.

What books formed your thinking or reflected who you were as a child and teen reader?

I read a lot of early Stephen King probably before I was old enough, and then through high school it was mostly comic books and classics. I do specifically remember reading Helter Skelter during my junior year, dragging that non-fiction monster around with me for a month or so. Looking back on it now, that’s probably all of the evidence needed to explain why I didn’t have a girlfriend in high school.

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About Don’t Get Caught:

17-year-old Max Cobb is sick of being “Just Max”—the kind of guy whose resume boasts a measly 2.5 GPA and a deep love of heist films. So when an invitation appears in his locker to join the anonymous, untraceable, epic prank-pulling Chaos Club, Max jumps at the opportunity to leave “Just Max” in the dust.

Except that the invite is really a set-up, and Max—plus the 4 other kids who received similar invitations—are apprehended by school security for defacing the water tower. This time, Max has had enough. Time for Heist Rule #6:

Always Get Payback.

Let the prank war begin…

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About Kurt Dinan:

Kurt Dinan is a high school English teacher. He’s had several short stories published, including one in 2010’s The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife, three young sons, and baby girl. Don’t Get Caught is his first novel.

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Excerpt from Don’t Get Caught:

I may not be a fan of heights, but I especially hate ladders. I always think the rung I’m on is going to break away and send me plummeting. So climbing the water tower ladder in the dark, the rungs sticky for some reason, only worries me more. But despite that, I’d be lying if I didn’t say how awesome this was. The higher I climb, the harder my heart pounds from the adrenaline. I feel like a jewel thief scaling a skyscraper at midnight on his way to stealing the Hope Diamond.

Up ahead in the darkness, Wheeler goes into a mock newscaster’s voice announcing, “Five Asheville High School students fell to their deaths last evening when—”

“Shut up,” Malone says.

The climb takes only two minutes but feels like an hour when the ladder ends at the base of a metal grating no more than four feet wide. If a strong wind blows, a waist-high railing is all that’s there to keep me from hurtling to my death.

“Wow, this is higher than I thought,” Ellie says, looking out over the lights of the town.

Malone, recording everything with her phone, says, “I wish I had my climbing gear. I’d love to repel off this.”

“What was it Jesus said, Ellie?” Wheeler says. “‘I think I can see my house from up here’?”

And me, I want down. And not just down, but to roll in the grass and kiss the earth. Then, as I’m about to wuss out, Ellie’s hand is in mine and she’s leading me along the platform.

“Come on,” she says. “Let’s look for the next clue.”

Her hand is soft and warm, and if the platform gives away right now, I can die a happy man.

“You get to open the next envelope if there is one,” Ellie says. “Or maybe it’ll be like in the movies, and there’ll be a cell phone that rings and—”

My foot kicks something metal sending it clanking and skittering across the platform before dropping into the night.

From the other side of the tower Malone says, “What was that?”

I look down at my feet and see four more of what I’ve just booted—spray paint cans.

And in one horrifying moment, I realize why the rungs were sticky when we climbed.

Red paint covers my hands.

Oh shit.

I lean back for a better view of the water tower to see what’s been spray-painted there. The wet paint trails down from certain letters like red teardrops.

Double shit.

Heist Rule #5: When in doubt, run.

But we don’t get that chance.

Suddenly, the water tower lights blaze to life illuminating the newly painted message for the entire town to see.

Assville High School, Home of the Golden Showers.

Both Malone and Wheeler say, “Shit.”

Ellie says, “Wow.”

Adleta says nothing.

And then a voice booms from a bullhorn below where red-and-blue lights flash in the parking lot.

“This is the police. Come down immediately.”

So much for Don’t get caught.

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Fireweed Sneak Peek

When I was about three, my mom said, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I think she was expecting me to say, “A mommy, like you.”  Instead, I popped off with, “I want to be a writer.” I can still remember her face.  She said, “Well, don’t you think you need to learn to read first?” 
I didn’t think so.
Terry Bohle Montague is a BYU graduate and a free-lance writer, having written for television, radio, newspaper, and magazines including The Ensign and Meridian Magazine.  She has also been published as the author of book length historical non-fiction and fiction.
Her non-fiction work includes the book, Mine Angels Round About, the story of the LDS West German Mission evacuation of 1939 which occurred only days before the Nazi invasion of Poland. 
Her LDS fiction, Fireweed, is loosely based on her interviews with the evacuated West German missionaries and their families.
Terry studied with Dwight Swain and Jack Bickham, as well as David Farland. Her writing awards include those from LDS Storymakers, Idaho Writers’ League, and Romance Writers of America.

Lisel Spann has dreamed only of wonderful things in her future. Living with her father, sister, and brother in a cramped apartment in
Berlin, the small family shares what seems to be an unbreakable spirit of love and security. However, with the rise of the Nazi party and approaching dark clouds of war, any kind of future grows increasingly uncertain. Knowing little of hate and destruction, Lisel is ill prepared as the storms of battle erupt in full fury and loved ones are taken from her as her beautiful city is reduced to rubble.

With fear and despair rising within, it is through her quiet, compassionate father that Lisel discovers faith and hope. Now, in a desperate journey to find her sister, Lisel and her neighbor flee Berlin and the advancing Russians for Frankfurt, a city under the protection of the Allies. But their flight to safety is filled with pain, hunger, and terror. However, with spiritual lessons and blessings from her father, the support of departed loved ones, and her tried but undying faith in a loving Heavenly Father, perhaps Lisel can emerge like the fireweed—rising strong and beautiful from scorched earth —transforming bitterness and despair into a charity that never faileth.

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At the other corner, Frau Heidemann and Walter were collecting rubbish from the street.  Lisel’s heart warmed toward the pair, up so early, working so hard and with such haste. Walter turned toward her and raised his arm. Lisel waved back.  Her heart still felt light enough to float all the way to the apartment house. Nothing had changed at all.

Lisel was half down the block when she saw Papa come out the front door of the apartment house.  He looked the same as he always did with his good gray suit which was just a little baggy at the knees . . . his carefully knotted tie . . . his frequently blocked hat.  Tears made of gladness welled in Lisel’s eyes.

“Papa!” she called to him.  He always scolded Lisel for shouting in public, but today she did not care if he scolded her. She felt like shouting and singing and dancing in the street.  “Papa!” she cried again and hurried toward him.

He opened his arms to her. “Lisel! We were so worried. I was on my way to Wittenau to find you.”

“Oh Papa! I love you!” Lisel said and kissed his cheek.

Papa chuckled. “Yes, little one, you told me that yesterday.”

“But yesterday was so long ago and I was so frightened.”  Her voice squeaked a little on the words.  “I was so frightened that something had happened to you.

Papa patted her shoulder. “Nothing did happen to us and we should be grateful, Lisel. The Lord has blessed us with great bounty.”

Lisel put her hand through the crook of Papa’s elbow and they turned to go into the building.  Papa paused, frowning. “What are the Heidemann’s doing out here in the street?”

“The British dropped leaflets last night,” Lisel explained. “The Heidemann’s were out here picking them up when I came.”

Papa bent and scooped up one of the pieces of paper.  He read, “The war which Hitler has started will only go on as long as Hitler does.”

Papa’s frown deepened.  “It seems the British have an odd idea about who has begun this war.” He looked at the Heidemann’s. “Perhaps we should help.”

Lisel glanced up and down the littered street. She felt weary to the very bone; but, at that moment, if her Papa has asked her to fly to the moon, she would have found a way. “We can use my bag,” she said.

“Herr Spann! Herr Spann!” Frau Heidemann rushed toward them. An anxious  smile twitched at her lips. “What are you doing?”

Papa straightened with a handful of leaflets. Surprise lifted his gray brows. “We are helping to clear the street,” he replied.

Frau Heidemann stared at the paper in Papa’s hand and eyed Lisel’s bulging bag. “We need no help,” she insisted. “No help at all.  You must be exhausted. You should go lie down for a while. Walter and I will take care of the paper.”

Something in Frau Heidemann’s manner puzzled Lisel. “You’re being very helpful,” she said.  “But this is too much for you to do. Let me call the Wrobels to come and help us.  The Schmidt family from down the street has lots of children. If we ask them to help, this will be cleaned up in no time.”

Frau Heidemann’s pale eyes bulged.  “No! No! You cannot do that!” An inner conflict showed itself in her face. At last, she grimaced with resignation. “If you call them there will not be enough.”

“Enough?”  Papa questioned. “Enough what?”

“Enough paper,” Frau Heidemann hissed through her teeth and shook a fistful of leaflets in his face. “Have you see the price of toilet paper lately? Why should I buy at such inflated prices when I can get this for free?”

Papa scowled with distaste at the leaflets in his hand. His lips twitched beneath his moustache. The color of indignation stole up his neck and face.

Lisel had to suck in her lips and bite down to keep from laughing. After seventeen years with Papa, she had learned there were times to laugh and times to be silent. This was time for silence.

Papa made a growling sound deep down in his throat and, for an instant, Lisel was sure he would throw down the paper in disgust. Instead, Papa stuffed it into his pockets.  He reached down for another handful. “Well, will you stand there with your mouth agape or will you help?”

“Papa, you do not actually mean you would . . .”

Papa jammed another handful of the leaflets into his jacket pocket. “Frau Heidemann is right. The price of toilet paper is too high!”

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Carlos & Casey and When in Rome Blog Tour @EmberLeighAuth @_BookMistress

Carlos & Casey

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When in Rome

By Ember Leigh

 

We are touring with Books 1 and 2 of the series, but there is also a sneak peek at book 3!!

About the Books

 

CARLOS & CASEY

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Join two ex-lovers, four years after their last romp. When a work trip brings Casey back into Carlos’ territory, she knows she’d have him right there in the airport parking lot. But Carlos doesn’t seem so eager. Unsure of herself post-divorce, Casey knows only one thing: she wants this man as much as she did the last time she saw him. And she’s more than ready to relive every saucy adventure they had together. Can the sparks be salvaged, or has time left them behind?

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WHEN IN ROME

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“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”…right? Alexandra is a travel junkie and foreign air aficionado. When she finally decides to do Rome, she never thought it would involve a hot Italian, too. What’s a girl to do when a desire to see the world and instant lust collide in the middle of one of the most popular touristic destinations in the world? Just DO the Roman!

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SNEAK PEEK BOOK #3

TURKISH DELIGHT

All the female staffers go wild for Kadir when he arrives in the USA to compete in a reality dance competition. A Turkish soap opera star with eyes that could melt snow, he’s got the women clawing for his attention— except Jenna. She wants no part of the hullabaloo. Though she can’t help wondering if tasting this sexy Turkish Delight might be worth bending the rules a little…

 

About the Author

Ember Leigh Author Pic

Ember Leigh has been writing erotic romance novels since she was far too young. A native of northern Ohio, she currently resides in South America with her Argentinean partner, a detail she uses to justify her Bachelor’s degree in Latin American Literature. In addition to romance novels, she also writes travel articles, maintains three blogs, and continually attempts to complete a mildly-gripping short story. In her free time, she practices Ashtanga yoga, travels the world, and eats lots of vegetables.

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TOP TEN FACTS about TRAVEL

with Ember Leigh

My short story series, Erotic Destinations, is all about world travel and steamy encounters. As a world traveller myself, how could I not start a series dedicated to one of my most favourite activities in the world—seeing the world itself? My latest release ‘When In Rome’ came out last month, and the next instalment, Turkish Delight, is due out later this month. If you weren’t seduced by the mention of world travel, Rome, or Turkey, then I don’t know what to tell you. Just kidding! Here’s a top ten list of interesting travel facts to convince you to take a peek at my series, where you can travel the world, one lover at a time!

  1. France is the most visited country in the world, according to International Business Times (http://www.ibtimes.com/10-most-visited-countries-world-1253315). Probably has something to do with Paris…or the wine country…or that irresistible French accent. Ooh la la!
  2. There are 61,000 people flying in the air over the USA at any given time, on any given day (http://www.surpriseride.com/blog/extra-fun/24-fun-facts-aviation/). That’s a huge amount! Will you be one of them soon? And what will your purpose be? A business trip that ends up reuniting with an old lover, like Casey in Book #1, Carlos & Casey? Or like Alexandra in Book #2, When In Rome, who leaves sunny CA to begin a backpacking trip through Europe?
  3. It is illegal to feed the pigeons on the streets of San Francisco, California. (http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Feeding-birds-isn-t-good-for-them-or-us-4685087.php) I can see this leading to a very interesting Erotic Destinations installment down the road…an unsuspecting foreign tourist to the USA feeding the pigeons, getting arrested, and ultimately falling in the love with the American cop who arrests him…ahhh, love!
  4. The most remote travel destination in the world is Mongolia, where the population density is four people per square mile. (http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/100001-the-10-least-densely-populated-places-in-the-world-2015) Now that’s what I call a remote romance!
  5. All the money that is tossed into Rome’s Trevi Fountain is collected (http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/legend-of-the-trevi-fountain/) and donated to various charities. Just imagine how many tourists stop by the fountain every day! And if each one tosses a euro…? That’s some major bucks. Er…euros. I didn’t know this when I went to Rome myself, but I feel better about the euros I flipped into that famous fountain!
  6. The longest flight in the world is from Sydney to Dallas, lasting 16 hours and covering 8,500 miles in distance. But beginning in February 2016, Emirates plans to offer a non-stop flight from Panama City to Dubia, which will clock in at 17.5 hours. (http://www.businessinsider.com/10-longest-non-stop-commercial-flights-2015-8). That’s juuuust long enough to enter the Mile-High Club a few times over. Or, you know, puke endlessly into a bag if you have air sickness.
  7. Travel can make you happier (http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/08/05/want-to-buy-happiness-purchase-an-experience/) than spending money on material goods. I don’t know if this is always the case, but at least I can attest to this! I sold all my belongings three years ago to begin traveling the world…and haven’t stopped since. And I think I’m pretty darn happy.
  8. The couple that travels together, stays together. According to The Examiner (http://www.examiner.com/article/studiy-shows-health-wellness-relationship-benefits-of-travel-effect), “Couples who travel together believe that travel positively impacts their relationship in a number of different ways, from increasing their intimacy to increasing their chances of staying together for the long-run.” I think there’s something to this! My partner and I met years ago in Chile, and then started traveling the world together. Since then, we’ve hit a bunch of countries, and lived through some pretty crazy things. And just last month, we tied the knot!
  9. Austrian citizens are guaranteed a legal minimum of 22 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays each year. Oh, if only the United States would do the same! We might be more refreshed, and less worked-to-death…(http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/06/08/countries-most-vacation-days/2400193/)
  10. Honolulu is the only place in the entire USA with a palace. Originally the home of the monarchs when Hawaii was a sovereign nation, the last resident heir, King Kalakaua, was nicknamed “The Merrie Monarch” for his penchant for world travel, fun parties, and music and dancing. (http://www.creators.com/lifestylefeatures/travel/travel-and-adventure/touring-iolani-palace-the-only-royal-palace-on-u-s-soil.html) Sounds like my kind of guy! Too bad he died in 1891—I would have loved to hang with him.

1b

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Uncharted Sneak Peek

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Book Title: Uncharted (The Unexpected Series, #3)
Author: Claudia Burgoa
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 21, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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Book Blurb

Jacob

As a rule, men don’t grow up believing in a happily ever after. We don’t believe in meeting the love of our lives; or the white picket fence, and 2.5 children. Every man thinks that those stupid dreams or fantasies are just nonexistent shit until it happens to them. We should have been forewarned.

I wish I was prepared for someone to appear in my life and change all my priorities. I suddenly wanted that fence and children. The part of meeting the love of my life became very real, but I wasn’t ready for suddenly losing it all, and my life plummeting into this shithole forever.

The heartbreak of losing your soulmate is one of the worst pains you will ever live with. I should campaign and warn the young people. Vaccinate against love because if you lose it, you could lose yourself for the rest of your life. The burden on your back will forever mark you and wither away your soul, darkening your days and the rest of your natural life.

This isn’t false advertisement or a dramatic display of one bitter soul.

Pria

I fought by my mother’s side until her last breath, and tried to help my father until his last memories dissipated. My sister is the last one standing, but her life is a miracle that can end at any given moment. All my life I’ve never been alone, but always felt lonely.

Today, my options on how to live my life are endless, yet my heart and my best friend limit them. Stay in Seattle, close to the one person that will never let me inside his world.

The thug, as mom would’ve called him. A man with a bad boy attitude and a heart bigger than the ocean.

excerpt

“I can’t explain much,” I whisper, afraid I’ll wake up Jacob or his brother. Snuggling under the blankets of his bed, I continue my conversation with Maeve. “Please just be happy for me, Mae. I need a couple of days.”

“Can’t or won’t explain?” Maeve whispers back with an irritating tone. It’s ten in the morning, and a sharp edge glides through my chest. Mom must be around. “I’m risking my skin here, Pree. I deserve to know what you’re going to be doing those two days.”

Risking her skin—as if. Mae has our parents eating out of her hand, but I yield to her drama and approach her in a different way. “Later, I swear. But help me out here. It’s just for a couple of days. Without you this won’t work. After all, this was your brilliant idea.”

Giddiness brews inside me as I envision the moment when we’ll discuss Jacob and his sweet, passionate kisses. My Friday night deserves better than a quick chitchat over the phone. It deserves to be told over a pint of ice cream. Agreeing to her demands wouldn’t do justice to what I experienced, which I can describe as life-changing and utterly exhilarating. From this moment forward, any guy who kisses me will be measured against his skills.

Ah, Jacob!

A creaky noise forces me to uncover my head and check the source of the disturbance. Dreamy, handsome Jacob approaches the bed sporting that signature cocky smile I’m beginning to really dig. I’m crushing hard. He holds a tray containing some food.

“Hey, sis, I have to go.” I don’t wait for her to say a thing and end the call.

“Did you clear the weekend?” Jacob asks, lowering the tray on top of the bed. Yummy. Pancakes, blueberries and orange juice. Eagerly I nod. “Good,” his face lights up. “I have plans for us. Did you have a good night’s sleep?”

“Yeah, where did you sleep?” Around three in the morning we came back downstairs; he handed me a T-shirt, showed me his room, and left for the night.

“With my brother.” He slides next to me, gives me a chaste kiss on the lips, and takes one of the glasses. “Yesterday I promised not to cross any lines unless you wanted me to. Wait, I forgot. Is there something specific you’d rather do today?”

I ponder his question. Mae didn’t confirm, but I’ll risk it and assume she’ll cover for me. Today I can do so many things, but…

“Mind if we head to my dorm room? I don’t have any clothes with me.” I cut a piece of pancake with a fork and take a bite. They don’t have syrup, but they taste mapley. “Who cooked?”

“I did. I’m a man of many talents.” He downs his juice, grabs his plate from the tray, and begins to eat. But not before giving me a kiss that curls my toes, my fingers, my hair, and my heart. “Yes, we can hit the dorm, pick up your crap, and start our fun weekend. Any requests? Or do you want me to choose today’s activities?”

I shrug due to my lack of coherent words. The combination of magnetic eyes, musky scent, firm features, shirtless torso, and that kiss prevents me from putting together a sentence. It’s the effort I make to stop myself from drowning in those blue pools.

“Pool.” I slam a hand against my mouth. Idiot. “Maybe tomorrow we can head to the pool?” Nice save, Pria.

“You’re fucking kidding me!” I hear a scream coming from another part of the apartment. “Where’s my freshly squeezed juice? My breakfast?”

“Oh, the owl is grumpy today. Mind if he joins us?” I tilt my head to observe him. “He’s great at packing shit.”

I roll my eyes as I look around, because if the debris on the floor, along with the dirty and clean clothes hanging from the scant furniture they own is any indication, I could do better without their packing skills.

“Yeah, why not. It’ll be fun.” I regret those words the moment they leave my mouth. Jacob’s fun, but his brother might be the entire opposite.

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Meet the Author

claudia b.

Born on the mystical day of October 30th in the not so mystical lands of Mexico City, Claudia grew up with a childhood that resembled a caffeine-injected soap opera. Seventeen years ago she ventured to the lands of her techie husband—a.k.a. the U.S.—with their offspring to start a new adventure.

She now lives in Colorado working as a CFO for a small IT company, managing her household filled with three confused dogs, said nerd husband, two daughters wrought with fandoms and a son who thinks he’s the boss of the house. To survive she works continually to find purpose for the voices flitting through her head, plus she consumes high quantities of chocolate to keep the last threads of sanity intact.

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Finding Us Sneak Peek

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Book Title: Finding Us (A Nucci Securities Novel)
Author: Debra Presley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: Summer 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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Book Blurb

Pop star Abby Murphy has fame and fortune and handsome boyfriend and guitarist, Sean. That changes the night she finds him in the arms of another woman. But Sean won’t accept the breakup, and she soon finds out he’s working with her mother, who’s also her manager, to keep him in her good graces.

As Sean ratchets up his threats against her, Abby turns to her bodyguard, Danny Nucci, who will do everything in his power to keep her safe.

But when Abby realizes her feelings for Danny run much deeper than she’d like, she pushes him away as much to keep her own independence as to protect him from Sean’s machinations.

When Abby finally finds the strength to confront all that is wrong with her life, she seeks refuge with Danny, but is it too late? Has she pushed him away one too many times for him to trust her now? Or can he put his own demons aside to help repair them both?

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Follow The Book Enthusiast – Book Enthusiast Promotions’s board Finding Us by Debra Presley on Pinterest.

Meet the Author DebraPresleyButton.3 Debra is a native New Yorker who made her escape to the suburbs. She often visits her hometown to enjoy a bagel with butter from her favorite deli, because there’s no better bagel than a New York bagel. When not in search of bagels, Debra spends her time running Book Enthusiast Promotions, an online promotions company that helps indie authors spread the word about their books. She’s also the owner of The Book Enthusiast blog. She started writing lyrics in her wall-to-wall NKOTB bedroom at the tender age of thirteen while dreaming of the day she’d become Mrs. Jordan Knight. That dream never came to fruition, but she has continued to write. Now she’s working on her first novel. Social Media
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Center of Gravity Sneak Peek

AuthorAfter six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to raise her family. Her accolades in broadcasting include awards from the Associated Press, including Best News Anchor and Best Specialized Reporter.

Laura works at Spring Hill College as the school’s web content and social media manager and​ is active in her community—participating in fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House, and Providence Hospital’s Festival of Flowers.

Laura was recently awarded a 2-book deal with Thomas Nelson Publishing, a division of HarperCollins. Her novel, Center of Gravity,
set in Mobile, Ala., will be published in July of 2015. Laura is represented by Elizabeth Winick Rubenstein, president of McIntosh and
Otis literary agency in New York.​ Her writing awards include those from William Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, Writer’s Digest, RWA, and the Eric Hoffer competition.

She holds a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in interactive technology from the University of Alabama. She is a native of Upstate New York and currently resides near the Alabama Gulf Coast with her two children.

Connect with Laura:

http://lauramcneill.com/

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https://twitter.com/LauraMcNeillBks

https://www.pinterest.com/lauram0528/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5280308.Laura_McNeill

https://www.facebook.com/lauramcneillauthor?ref=hl

https://instagram.com/dixiegirlwriter/

 

The truth could cost her everything.

Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is grand.

Or is it?

When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It’s temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.

If only Ava could believe her own excuses.

Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.

Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town —Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game? Center of Gravity weaves a chilling tale, revealing the unfailing and dangerous truth that things—and people—are not always what they seem.

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Chapter 2
Ava
Wednesday, March 24

Life never quite turns out the way you plan. Take my first attempt at gourmet cooking. The twelve-week long class was a wedding gift from my husband, Mitchell. I think he secretly hoped the instruction would uncover my amazing talent and I’d be the next Giada De Laurentiis.

So armed with a new apron, thick, glossy new cookbooks, and dazzled by my new home’s professional kitchen—full of gleaming stainless steel utensils—I bounced fearlessly into the day of instruction.

I proceeded to set both oven mitts on fire, much to the horror of nearby students. The next week my crème brulee singed into a charcoal volcano. Week number three, the heady scent of cloves caused a wave of nausea so strong I had to run outside and gulp fresh air. I turned out to be pregnant, of course. So much for the Food Network and my budding career as a chef.

Since then we keep a fire extinguisher handy, and I work from a collection of stand-by, no-fail recipes. We’ve decided that I do excel at comfort food: chicken salad, tacos, and oatmeal cookies. Tonight’s plan: fresh vegetables and pasta.

With baby Sam on my hip, I maneuver down the clean, gleaming aisles of Fresh Market, chatting on the phone with our contractor.

“Heart Pine?” I echo, leaning over to pick up fresh broccoli florets. “Isn’t that . . . really expensive?” I pause and wince when he tells me the cost.

At Mitchell’s request, our contractor is building us an amazing staircase in the foyer of our hundred twenty-year-old home. Crafted to mirror late-eighteen hundreds décor, it will be quite the showpiece. Lovely and very, very expensive.

“So the down payment? You’ll need it this afternoon?” I ask, selecting a ripe, ruby red tomato and holding it up to the light like a jewel.

The contactor confirms that he will, in fact, need quite a large sum. I almost drop the fruit, but manage to set it carefully in the buggy. Mitchell hasn’t left me the cash or a check. To withdraw it from my household account would take every last penny. The pennies I’ve been saving, in secret, for the boys’ swing set. The swing set I haven’t told Mitchell about yet. Mama always says it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, after all.

I stop wheeling the shopping cart to rub the back of my neck. “And if we miss you today?”

His answer’s clear. He’ll be gone, out of the country, for a week. We’ll be behind schedule, and Mitchell will be less than pleased.

“I’ll meet you at the house in thirty minutes.”

Throat tight, I hang up and check the time on my phone. Sam breaks the tension with a giggle and presses his cheek to my chest. He’s flirting with the produce clerk, a cute redhead with big blue eyes. Sam’s the most sweet-natured child, and his blond curls, pink cheeks, and dimples draw a bevy of admirers. Of course, as his mother, I’m unduly biased. He’s always had my heart.

As I lean to press my lips to his head, my cell buzzes again. It can’t be the contractor again. With a small sigh, I answer and press the phone to my ear. “Hello?”

Urgent and clipped, the voice on the phone stops my world. A comet screaming toward Earth, bent on near-destruction.

It’s about Jack. My third-grader. There’s been an accident.

I leave the groceries, stammering out an apology to whoever can hear me. My shopping cart, filled with organic chocolate ice cream, soymilk, and Mitchell’s favorite whole grain bread, sits behind us, forgotten. On my budget, it was wishful thinking anyway.

I dash for the automatic doors which open with a hiss and a jolt. Luckily the parking lot’s not crazy, and I make it to my Jeep in a matter of steps.

As I buckle him in, Sam gurgles and bats at my face, wanting to play. With a shaking hand, I rub and kiss the top of his sweet head, tuck his very necessary fuzzy brown bear close, and shut the door. I sprint to the other side of the Jeep, jump in, and almost lose my shoe.

My Jeep’s old engine cranks on the first try. Thank you. I give the dashboard an affectionate pat. This is no time to be temperamental.

The wheels groan and grab gravel, throwing it like confetti as I drive out of the parking lot. Sam claps his hands at the clatter of stones and pebbles. My cell phone slides to the floor out of reach. The slip from the drycleaners falls in between the seats.

Around a curve, the folded pink heart I keep tucked in the visor flutters to the seat beside me. Jack and Sam’s homemade valentine. Construction paper, glue, and crayon – more precious than any gift. Two small stick figures, a taller one in the middle with a hair bow. I press two fingers to the soft paper and say a prayer.

***

The road rushes under the wheels. I rearrange snippets of the frantic conversation. Gash. Some blood. Breathing fine. Emergency room. A few more miles to the hospital.

I flash back to this morning. Packed sack lunch, flop of dark hair across his bare forehead, navy backpack slung over one shoulder. A surge of pure love courses through my heart. A stab of worry steals my breath. I force myself to focus.

The traffic light ahead flashes green to yellow. Intersection’s clear. I push the accelerator to the floor, glance in the rearview mirror. Air from the open window catches Sam’s wisps of hair. He smiles, showing off his first few baby teeth, and reaches a chubby hand at the rays of sunshine streaking by, trying to catch the light.

Thump. Thump. The Jeep jerks to the left. I guide the wheel, hold it steady, and take my foot off the gas. When I pull over and brake, the abrupt stop sends up a dust cloud.

“Uh-oh,” Sam says.

I unbuckle, jump out, and survey the damage. A glance at the tire confirms it. Flat. Dead.

Hands on my hips, I bite my lip.

Tentatively, I grab the jack from the back of the Jeep, the weight of it solid and heavy in my hands. I can fix this. After all, in my former life, as a school counselor at Mobile Prep, I was the problem-solver, crisis manager, and shoulder to cry on. I always handled situations. And I didn’t need help.

Then my eyes fall on Sam as he babbles and blows bubbles in the back seat. I hesitate, gripping the metal between my palms. As the sun beats down on us, heating my skin, my pulse begins to race. Maybe I was fearless because I didn’t know any better. I wasn’t a mom then. I didn’t have two children depending on me. Trusting me to do the right thing, be on time, and not screw up.

I catch a whiff of gasoline and hear the faint rumble of an engine behind me as I open the red Jeep door and stretch for the cell phone. I dial quickly, hoping that my husband answers.

“You’ve reached Mitchell Carson . . .”

A heavy footstep crunches on the pebbled pavement behind me. I hang up and whirl around, nerves already frayed.

“Ava?”

Disbelief hits me. I take in the broad shoulders and smartly-pressed uniform and erupt with emotion at the pure, dumb luck of finding Officer Mike Kennedy next to my broken-down Jeep. Between sobs, I squeeze out an explanation. “Jack . . . the school . . . accident.”

Mike holds up a calloused hand to stop me. He’s rescued me more than once. “Whoa! Slow down, Ava.” His forehead wrinkles. “He’s at Springhill Medical Center?”

Throat tight, I nod, trying to process what to do, what to say. Fingers trembling, I reach for the pink heart. Something to hold onto. A piece of Jack.

“I’ll take you.” Mike opens my door. In no time, he transfers Sam and his baby seat to the patrol car, straps us in, and gets back on the road.

The scenery whips by, a blur of trees and signs. I clutch my phone tight and try Mitchell again. Voicemail.

“Can’t get through?” Mike asks.

I drop the phone into my lap and shake my head.

Mitchell’s job pulls him in ninety different directions at once. My husband’s a newly-minted college vice president of advancement and somehow balances all of his responsibilities with finesse. My heart still stops when I see him. My husband has the voice, the look, and the irresistible charm of a George Clooney twin.

It’s not all roses, though. With baby Sam, our marriage is more difficult than I ever expected. Life’s busier, more exhausting, juggling diapers and soccer games. We’re both getting less sleep. But that’s normal, right? Our date nights, which used to be weekly, are non-existent. Making love during stolen lunch hours doesn’t happen anymore. And instead of talking about the symphony or the latest bestseller, we discuss schedules.

I push the thoughts away. Everyone goes through a rough patch. I glance over at Mike instead and study the scar below his hairline. Ten stitches from a nasty tumble near the creek bank when we were little kids. He never cried.

“Jack will be okay, Ava. He’s a tough kid,” Mike assures me, eyes on the road. His thick-knuckled hands rest on the wheel. Protect and serve. His mantra as long as I’ve known him. Even as a child, he knew he wanted to be a police officer. Mike’s always been reliable, predictable, steady. A rock. Even on the worst days.

We pull up to the ER doors. Mike slams the cruiser into park. Police scanner static fills the air with letters and codes. “Hey, duty calls,” Mike says. “I’ll get a tow truck over shortly. Go in there and find your boy.”

I scoop up Sam, unbuckle his seat.

Hold on Jack.

 

 

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Steeling my Haart Sneak Peek

Steeling my Haart Sneak Peek

 

Steeling My Haart

by Lizzy Roberts

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Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: March 2015
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About the Book

 

Eight years ago a tornado devastated the community of Glen Springs. That same night my heart was torn to shreds when he left. Now, all I have to live for is work. I’m successful and have a good life, just like he wished. So, why am I so unhappy?

A tragedy is bringing me home and I’m now finding my well ordered and successful life hurled into a whirlwind of uncertainty. The biggest threat of all comes in the shape of Charlie Haart, the number one reason I have stayed away from Glen Springs for so long.

Excerpt

 

Unedited and subject to change

Just as he stopped in his usual spot under the carport of the house the tornado-warning siren sounded and as it did all hell broke loose. The wind whipped up and out of the corner of his eye he saw a huge tornado heading across the fields behind the house and straight at where he was standing. Without a thought he jumped from his truck and ran inside the house screaming for Emma. The telephone was ringing off the hook and he wondered just where Emma had gone. He could see out of the kitchen window that they had seconds to react and he knew this old timber framed house would be destroyed along with half of the sparsely populated neighborhood.

Charlie ran into the corridor, running down the center of the house and straight into Emma’s room where he found her listening to the iPod, oblivious to the scene unfolding around them. Mother Nature was unleashing what would turn out to be her worst evening of destruction on record and Charlie and Emma were caught right in the middle of it. Wasting no time, Charlie grabbed Emma and as he ran from the house with her in his arms he ripped the earphones from her ears and shouted, “Where is the nearest Tornado Shelter, Em? We need to get there now?”

Seeing the terror in his eyes, she clung on to him so tightly that her knuckles went white with the strain. She felt safe in his arms despite the absolute carnage that was unfolding just a few hundred meters away from them now. Charlie ran as fast as he could, holding her so tightly but she realized she was hindering him.

“Over there, Charlie” Emma pointed to the old Fitzgerald place just opposite her parents’ house, an old colonial style villa, which had in the past housed a substantial and well stocked tornado shelter in the grounds. Sweet old Mrs Fitzgerald had recently moved into a home near the big city and the place was now empty but she hoped that the shelter was still there and open. Mrs Fitzgerald had always made sure that her parents knew to use the shelter with them being her nearest neighbors and also without a shelter themselves. Emma wriggled from Charlie’s arms and they ran for their lives toward the side of the property and into the undergrowth by the shelter entrance.

Ripping at the overgrown foliage surrounding the doorway, Charlie managed to ease the door open just as the full force of the tornado hit the neighborhood. Debris and huge items were swirling around just meters in from of them and the noise was thunderous. The pressure changes were causing havoc with their ears. That coupled with the deafening volume the wind was creating, there was no way they could communicate.

Charlie turned to grab Emma to pull her into the safety of the shelter and he found she had vanished. His heart failed when he realized that she could be anywhere by now if she had been caught in an updraft because the power of this storm was terrific. He stood from his position near the entrance and glanced around in every direction. Even though it was pointless he started frantically shouting,

“Emma, Emma where are you? Emma!”

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About the Author

 

Thirty – something Mum of two from the North of England (Yorkshire to be precise AKA Gods own Country) who regularly seeks refuge in fictional characters minds. Prefers the hot and hunky men with a romantic side but not averse to a dominant man, nor ones with a dark side too!

She decided, after much persuasion from both her friends and especially her husband to pursue her dream of one day publishing her own book!

So after much deliberation (and nagging from him indoors), her first book Steeling my Haart due for release March 2015!

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#Triple X Sneak Peek

#Triple X Sneak Peek

 

Book Title: #Triple X Size Matters

Author: Christine Zolendz & Angelisa Stone

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Genre: Chic-Lit
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

About the Book

 

#TripleX
By: Christine Zolendz & Angelisa Stone

Does size really matter?

Two women spin a tale of comedy and new beginnings after they wake up and find themselves in a jail cell over 3000 miles away from home. Rehashing their adventure in front of a less-than-sympathetic judge, they give a laugh-out-loud and extremely detailed story of a road trip that finds them in a ton of trouble.

Battling age, weight, and their own personal demons, not only do they discover the open road and a life they misplaced somewhere in their 20s, they also find themselves. From breakups and stealing cars to blurry memories of something that might have happened in New Mexico, these two women will take you on a real journey, full of fun and, well, situations that people only write about and never really do….or do they?

Excerpt

 

Prologue

Twitter: That awkward moment when you wake up in jail and you wonder what you did to get there. Then smile. #TripleX

A lone dimly lit light bulb sways gently from the jail cell’s ceiling. It hurts to open my eyes toward it, so I squint to try to ease the pain. A handful of loudly buzzing insects fly wildly around the dull yellow globe and just the sight causes me to scratch at my arms and neck madly. I loathe bugs. And it’s like Swarmageddon above my head right now.

Pulling myself up into a sitting position, the throbbing behind my eyes turns sharp and shatters into millions of razor-tipped tiny pieces of glass. I moan as I grab my head in pounding pain. The room spins, and I fall back with a hard thud against the cold concrete wall.

I hear footsteps, heavy and impending, walking along the rough cement of the hallway. I peek through my fingers, but all I can see is the knotted hair of my cellmate, my partner in crime.

The footsteps become louder, closer. Keys are jangling. Someone is whistling, and the screech of the rusty cell door makes scorching bile burn the back of my throat. I swallow twice to keep it down.

“Stone. Zolendz. Up-and-at-’em. Going before the judge,” a deep voice bellows. I hate the man instantly.

I believe I moan out some sort of unintelligible sound, but I’m not sure. Who can be sure?

The dull bulb overhead flickers and makes a sizzling sound. Damn, I’m in a place where even the bugs are killing themselves. “Come on ladies, let’s go,” the voice yells. It’s closer now, and the body attached to it starts kicking the wooden bench I’m sitting on. I think my head is going to explode from the vibrations and violent crashes that echo through my head. “What’s the matter, not willing to offer up your goods this morning?”

My head snaps up, “Excuse me?”

The man standing over me is older, in his sixties with a long gray beard. His eyes dance with laughter. “Well, Ma’am. That’s what you tried to bribe us with last night when we put you in here. Your goooooooods.” He kind of shimmies a little and gives a few humps into the air. I vomit a little in my mouth.

“Oh my God.Seriously? Just don’t…just don’t pay any attention to anything I said, okay?” I mumble my mortification.

“You mean to tell me, you’ll be cancelling our hot date tonight?” he laughs, snidely, mocking me. “Come on, Darlin’ the judge is waiting on you both. No harm done last night, you both were quite intoxicated.”

“Oh God, I think I’m going to be sick.” Slowly, I pull myself off the bench, every bone in my body screaming for a few more hours of silently sound sleep. And really, that stupid light bulb is annoying the Hell out of me; someone needs to shoot it.

“Angelisa,” I whisper and shake her awake. “Come on. We have to go. A judge wants to see us.”

“Blah…Ha. Ha. Very funny.Lemme sleep,” Angelisa groans and swats her hand at me. It falls to her side with a loud thwack against the metal rim of the bed.

“I can’t. Clear your head and think about last night. Think back. Go ahead,” I urge. She doesn’t. She remains motionless and silent; all but a small, low snore can be heard. “You seriously need to open your eyes right now, because we’re in trouble,” I hiss ominously.

Her head slowly turns toward me, eyes blinking open. They dart around the room and widen; a bubble of laughter escapes her lips. “We’re in jail, aren’t we?”

I smile and join in with her laughter, “We are indeed, waking up together in a jail cell.”

“Damn it, I can’t go to prison. You know how horrible I look in stripes,” she whispers as she climbs up to her feet, grabbing onto my shoulder and using me for leverage.

“Quick,” I look around the cell and laugh, “anybody got a cellphone? I wanna take a cellfie.”

And we try, we really do try not to fall back down into a fit of giggles, but it’s way too hard. We follow the guard down the hallway.

“Dude, I could so be a violent criminal.” Angelisa mumbles. “Shouldn’t you cuff me? Why doesn’t anyone ever want to handcuff me, Chris?” she whines.

“Ummm, she’s not violent. We swear. She’s just…just…dumb.” I explain, nudging her.

“Seriously though, how does he know I’m not packing an oozie in my girly stuff?”

“Ya know that is true. It’s kind of sexist that you don’t think we could be hiding heat?”

“Ladies, the only thing you two are trying to hide…or hide from is good old-fashioned middle age. And quite frankly, neither one of you is doing a bang-bang up job of it,” the son-of-a-slut says, pretending to shoot us.

“Is that what you do now? Shoot blanks?” Angelisa quips, exploding in laughter that spirals out of control until we’re both laughing like lunatics.

“Enough!” he shouts, trying to silence us before we enter the courtroom.

The two of us are still giggling like two immature kids being brought in front of the principal. Matted hair, mascara-streaked cheeks, and barefoot. I’m pretty sure I even have an extra tattoo somewhere.

We’re sworn in; big vocabulary is used. Case numbers are brought forth, and I almost fall asleep. I’m just about to face plant into the table with exhaustion when Judge Caroline Jacobson calls both of us up to the podium. “Ms. Zolendz. Ms. Stone. Approach the bench please.” She has dark tired brown eyes, the kind that are weighed down with darker brown bags beneath them. Her light blonde hair is pulled back into a tight, painful looking bun. It’s streaked with gray. I want to pull out all those restraining pins. I want her to stop feeling so tight and tense behind her bench. I want her to feel free like me, like us.

Almost as if Angelisa’s reading my thoughts, she mumbles, “Man, she needs to get laid…and needs to get those roots done.” I can’t control the giggle that escapes me. The judge eyes us sternly, and you can nearly hear our mouths snap shut.

“As I hear, you both were found in the fountains of the Bellagio last night. Swimming. Naked,” she chirps.

“Yes, that’s true,” Angelisa giggles, proudly next to me.

I nod my head in agreement, “Yeah, that certainly sounds like us—well, the new us, anyway.”

The judge pinches her lips into a tight pucker. Doesn’t she realize that’s exactly what makes those little wrinkles all around her mouth? She pulls out an envelope marked Prisoner Property/Currency and unfastens the clasp. I suck my lips between my teeth to stop myself from laughing, because this isn’t funny—at all. But if I remember correctly, the things in the envelope are.

She slips one dainty little hand in.

Angelisa and I lean forward to watch.

Two books of matches, fifty-six dollars, a bent wedding ring, a fake moustache, a shoehorn, four glow sticks, two “Call for a good time” prostitute cards, a tube of Ben-gay, and an extra large rubbery dildo that flops on its side when she places it on her desk.

“Do you want to explain to me why two fully grown women, respected in their fields, would be caught in this situation…with these items?”

Angelisa and I look and back and forth from her to each other and back again. We both shrug.

“Well, it all started with an apple pie,” I smile.

Angelisa nods next to me, “Yes, definitely. That’s probably where it all started, the apple pie fiasco.”

The judge leans back and draws in a long breath. She pulls her glasses off her fatigued eyes and rubs them softly with her hands. “An apple pie?”

“Yes. A forgotten apple pie. I can tell you every detail except for three or four days where I have no recollection. Both of us can, it’s what we do, tell stories.”

The corner of the judge’s lips curl up the tiniest bit, “Come into my chambers ladies, this I have to hear.”

Teasers

 

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About the Authors

Christine Zolendz resides in New York City, and is the author of five novels. Her first series, a paranormal romance (heavy on the romance and light on the paranormal) was published in 2012-2013 and includes Fall From Grace, Saving Grace, and Scars and Songs. Her newest series, published in 2014, includes the dark romance Brutally Beautiful and Cold-Blooded Beautiful.

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Angelisa Stone is a typical Midwestern wife and mom, frazzled by parenting and housework, and overwhelmed with sports schedules, doctor appointments, and three-dimensional creative projects due “tomorrow morning.” Angelisa dreams of white sandy beaches, clear-blue waters, and Midori coladas in hand, but realizes that her loving husband and four not-so-perfect children are her real dreams-come-true. Writing and reading are her passions, and she hopes (and prays with her fingers tightly crossed) that readers will find enjoyment and escape through her words and characters.

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