Crushed Book Blast @DeborahCoonts @GoddessFish

Crushed

by Deborah Coonts

 

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GENRE: Contemporary Romance

 

About the Book

In Napa Valley, he who has the best grapes wins. And in the pursuit of perfection, dreams and hearts can be crushed.

Sophia Stone is a widow on the brink of an empty nest, stuck in an unsatisfying job managing the vineyard for a mediocre Napa vintner. Faced with an uncertain future she wonders how do you choose between making a living and making a life? Between protecting your heart and sharing it? Five years ago, after her husband was killed in an accident, Sophia put her heart and dreams on ice to care for those around her. Now her home, her dreams, and her family’s legacy grapes are threatened by the greed of the new money moving into the Valley. Sophia has a choice—give up and let them take what is hers, or risk everything fighting a battle everyone says she can’t win.

Nico Treviani has one goal in life: make brilliant wine. A woman would be an unwanted distraction. So, while recognized as one of Napa’s premier vintners, Nico finds himself alone… until his brother’s death drops not one, but two women into his life—his thirteen-year-old twin nieces. In an instant, Nico gains a family and loses his best friend and partner in the winemaking business. Struggling to care for his nieces, Nico accepts a job as head winemaker for Avery Specter, one of the new-money crowd. And he learns the hard way that new money doesn’t stick to the old rules.

When Sophia Stone gets caught in the middle of Nico’s struggle to remain true to himself or sacrifice his convictions to make stellar wine, both Sophia and Nico are faced with a choice they never imagined. A choice that might extinguish the hope of a future neither expected.

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Excerpt

Chapter One

Sophia Stone knew life held few absolutes:  good wine is art, good Italian cooking is passion, a good child is a gift, and good news never comes in a certified letter.

“You sure this is for me, Tito?” she asked the postman who thrust an envelope toward her.  When she tilted her head she could read the word “Certified,” stamped in red like a guilty verdict across the front.

A heavy-set man, Tito had a ready smile and an easy, engaging manner. Each day while delivering mail, he also traversed the valley searching for tidbits of gossip with the zeal of an Army battalion scouring the countryside for insurgents.  St. Helena was a small community where the denizens believed mining each other’s business was an inalienable right granted on the theory that without the titillation everyone would fall over dead from boredom. “Yeah, looks like it’s from Charlie.  Certified, too.”  Tito didn’t have the decency to hide his interest as he mopped his face with a dirty handkerchief then stuffed it back into his rear pocket.  The wiping didn’t help—a sheen of sweat still covered his ruddy cheeks.  August had been hot with no break in sight.

Sophia eyed him.  She wouldn’t put it past him to have already steamed open the letter, a thought that made her a bit nauseous.  Why had she thought a small town in Napa Valley would be a good place to hide?

“From Charlie, you say?”  Keeping her hands in her pockets, Sophia tilted her head further and tried to double-check the sender’s address.  Then she looked him in the eye.  “Any idea what it’s about?”

Tito looked like a bully when his bluff was called.  He shrugged—an exaggerated movement that seemed like the shifting of a mountain—but a noncommittal answer, leaving Sophia certain whatever was in that letter would be spread around the valley and germinating in imaginations as rapidly as seeds on a spring wind.

At an impasse, Sophia and Tito stood there, the letter between them, Sophia delaying the inevitable.  Unfortunately, with a dinner to cook and a cake in the oven, Sophia didn’t have time to see if she could outlast him.  So, with a sour downturn to her mouth and a knot in her stomach, Sophia took the letter.

Tito motioned for her to flip the envelope over.  “There on the back, that green card?  You need to sign that.”  Handing her a pen, he waited for her to sign, then tore off the return receipt, pocketing it.

Confirming the return address, Sophia gave him a distracted wave as he climbed back into his truck.  “Thanks, Tito.” A perfunctory nicety.

“Sure thing, Ms. Stone.”  In a shower of gravel, he gunned the mail truck back through the vineyard down the winding driveway leading to the valley floor.  Sophia glanced up as the trees enveloped him and her normal quiet smothered the sound, wiping away all vestiges of his presence.

Except for the letter.

From her landlord.

At least the return address was his—and Sophia was certain he hadn’t moved from the corner lot at the bottom of her hill.  She could probably throw a bottle and hit his roof, with a little help from the wind

Charlie had owned this patch of five acres on the top of Howell Mountain since his parents had died in a small plane heading up from L.A. over thirty years ago.  Sophia had lived here for fifteen of those years and, through feast and famine, the ups and downs of the wine industry, she’d never received a certified letter from Charlie.  In fact, she couldn’t remember having received any letter from Charlie.  Their business dealings were usually hammered out at the kitchen table over a bottle of wine and sealed with a handshake.  Napa Valley was a handshake kind of place.

Sophia reached up and rubbed the worn piece of iron Daniel had nailed to one of the porch supports.  Tocco Ferro.  Her family had been steeped in the ways of the Old Country; her husband had become a believer.  Touch iron to ward off bad luck.   Being a bit too pragmatic, Sophia didn’t necessarily believe, but it couldn’t hurt.  God knew she’d had enough rough patches.  With a finger, she traced the initials the four of them had carved in the porch support.  Time had whittled their number to one … almost.

Tapping the white legal-sized envelope on her open palm, she squinted against the sun as she looked out over her small patch of heaven.  A rolling hillside with a couple of acres under vine, grapes from the Old Country, grafts of her grandfather’s original vines.   A small garden flanked the house.  Her own private retreat sheltered from prying eyes by a ring of trees.

The farmhouse had been billed as a “fixer-upper.”  She and Daniel had packed up the kids, moving up valley from the Bay Area, and spent the next several years making the remnants of a house into a home.  They’d bribed the kids into helping by letting them paint their own rooms.  Dani had picked pink, hot pink.  As if the view from his window wasn’t enough, Trey had chosen wood paneling and a bucolic scene of vineyards on one wall.  When he’d moved away for college, Sophia hadn’t had the heart to change it.  Perhaps she’d harbored the hope that he would come home someday.  He hadn’t.  Now Dani was poised to fly.

Soon Sophia would be alone, the house emptied of youthful buoyancy.  The prospect filled her with dread.  Stripped of purpose, she half-feared she would grow brittle like the old vines until the weight of loneliness shattered her into bits and pieces of who she used to be.  When Daniel had been killed, she’d had the kids.  Now the false friend of sadness stayed ever near, her house echoing with memories.  But memories didn’t make a life any more than the past made a future.  However, the past was her tether.  Without it, Sophia felt she would float away like a balloon loosed to the sky, growing ever smaller until vanishing from sight.

While the house cradled her past, the rows of vines just reaching their peak marching down the hill across her two acres held her dreams.  Her grapes, started from grafts from her grandfather’s stock back in Italy, each juice-filled orb bursting with hope, with promise.  Her life’s work hanging on the verge of a promise.

Through the screen door, the aroma of a cake on the verge of disaster wafted into Sophia’s consciousness, and she turned and bolted for the kitchen, the screen clattering shut behind her.  With a dishrag to protect her hand, she opened the oven.  The smell of chocolate carried on billows of steam engulfed her.  She waved it away, squinting through the heat.  She deposited the cake pan on the stainless steel countertop.  Pressing her thumb lightly on the cake, she let out her breath in a long rush.  Just in time.

Her mother loved chocolate cake.  Sophia planned to visit her this afternoon.  Perhaps a peace offering would soften her harsh moods of late.

Sophia spied the letter, pristine white and accusing, laying casually on the sideboard where she had tossed it in her haste.  Without further thought, she stuffed it in the old cookie jar on the countertop and crammed on the lid.  That cookie jar held a lifetime of happiness and heartache—her marriage license, the kids’ birth certificates, Daniel’s death certificate and obituary—it could handle the letter as well.  Whatever problem lurked inside that envelope, it could wait.

Leaving the cake to cool, Sophia strode through the door to the porch, pushing through the screen and down the steps.  The grapes, fragrant in the midday sun, neared perfection—harvest a few days away, at best.  Sophia had plans for those grapes, unique varietals that would make unusual yet palatable wine … if she could just figure out the last piece.  She was close, though, closer than ever before.  Grapes—creating them, growing them, cajoling them to trust her—they were her true passion.  Unfortunately dreams didn’t pay the bills, as her mother never missed a chance to bludgeon her with that little bit or ironic reality.  So Sophia had to sell her skills to pay the bills and now found her days consumed with tending to grapes owned by Pinkman Vineyards, one of the vast commercial operations in the valley, that turned her carefully nurtured grapes into mediocre table wine.

She walked the rows testing the scent once more—the perfume of near perfection as her grandfather called the sweetness of grapes.  Memories filtered through the shadows of time like wraiths, translucent, elusive … fleeting.  When she quieted, stilled her mind and opened her heart, Sophia could hear his voice, rich and deep, his laugh, and smell the scent of earth and sun that clung to him, the wine on his breath.  But, she couldn’t see him anymore.  Like sun on paper, time had weathered and faded her mental pictures until only shadows remained, as if the present was slowly erasing the past.

Worry dogged her, the letter and its unknown message on her mind as she tended to each vine, brushing back the canopy, weighing the clusters.  This far along in the season not much remained to do; nature would run her course.  This year Sophia had planted wildflowers and grasses under the vines to entice the bugs and keep them off the fruit.  The plan had worked well, as had her choice to prune more aggressively than normal this past winter. Under her care, her grandfather’s grapes flourished, and just now they were beginning to trust her, to give her their best.

This year’s wine had the potential to be the stuff of dreams.

At the far end of her property movement across the fence caught Sophia’s attention. Shading her eyes with one hand, she still had to squint against the assault of the sun.  Her next-door neighbors had sold their property recently to Specter Wines, a new player with new money.  Scuttlebutt had it the owner had made a mint somewhere back east.  Sophia shook her head as she watched heavy equipment struggle to tame the hillside, prepare it for planting.  These days it seemed just about every rich guy wanted a piece of Napa to cultivate his own grapes, make a signature vintage that would rock the world.

As if it was that easy.

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About the Author

MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_CrushedMy mother tells me I was born in Texas a very long time ago, but I’m not so sure—my mother can’t be trusted.  She’ll also tell you I was a born storyteller.  That I believe—I have the detention notices and bad-conduct reports to prove it.  However, the path from minor hyperbolist, or as I prefer to think of my former self, Grand Master of the Art of Self-Prevarication, to the author of the New York Times Notable Crime Novel and double Rita ™ finalist, Wanna Get Lucky?, the book that launched the bestselling series, was a bit tortured.

Someone once told me I lived a peripatetic life—yes, I had to look it up.  And he was right.  I’ve been everything from a mom, business owner, accountant, wife, pilot, flight instructor, lawyer …worse, a tax lawyer… to a writer. The three personas I’ve kept suit me the best: mom, flight instructor, and writer. And the other personas I’ve tried on then shrugged out of and discarded like an itchy coat were great grist for the story mill.

Chasing stories keeps me busy and out of jail…for the most part. Researching in Vegas can be a bit… sketchy.

Prodded by the next adventure and the police, I keep moving. Right now I have a house in Texas, but that will change soon. I lived in Vegas for 15 years—the longest I’d stayed anywhere. And I get back there often. But other places, too, are calling.

Someone asked me the other day where I lived. The question stopped me cold.  Finally I said, “On Southwest Airlines, third row, window seat, either side.” Always in search of a story.  And the adventure would be perfect if they could just stock a split of nice Champagne.

Connect with the Author

www.deborahcoonts.com

https://www.facebook.com/deborahcoonts/

https://twitter.com/DeborahCoonts

 

 

Giveaway

Deborah will be awarding a $50 Amazon or B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.

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Underwater Cover Reveal @TransmundnePres @bookenthupromo

 Underwater

Edited by: Anthony S. Buoni & Alisha Costanzo

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Genre: Fantasy Anthology
Release Date: February 29, 2016
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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About the Book

When was the last time you came face-to-face with a mermaid?

Ever explore a hidden underwater cave or been haunted by an unearthly creature? Did that passionate childhood fantasy turn into a real, sexy encounter? When was the last time you discovered a bell concealing the entrance to a faerie mound? Have you wondered what would happen if New Orleans was entombed in radioactive water?

UNDERWATER features sixteen exploratory tales that delve into decrepit landscapes and strange magic, inhuman heroes and crushing experimentation. Two-thirds of the world is submerged—experience what happens within, from the fantastical and erotic to the horrifying and triumphant, UNDERWATER showcases stories that will inundate readers with uncharted territories.

Excerpt

From “Fossegrimmen” by Megan McFerren:

Brave ventures yield great rewards, Kjell reasons, so long as one survives them. Perhaps the same is true for sheep.

His foot digs deeper, and he steps back. The stories of places like this are known well, the haunts of wights and elves who will demand tribute for passing near their homes. Children’s stories, no doubt, to keep them from toppling down onto the rocks. Myths and fables from more superstitious times.

Surely, then, the strains of music are only his imagination.

Surely, the lilting of fiddle strings must be carrying on the wind across the fell.

Surely, Kjell must have just spent too much time afield alone, and his mind has wandered far as his stubborn sheep.

Curiosity pulls him towards the edge once more. With mistrust towards the stability of the soft soil and misgivings towards his own mind, Kjell slips closer to the falls. Dulcet tones rise in a familiar old song from Kjell’s childhood but whose words he can’t recall. The cascade of water is twice his height but no more than that, and when Kjell leans, only the edge of the shadowy pool beneath shows, foaming white beneath the spray. The bend of strings echoes louder from below, a sound so warm that Kjell forgets how wet his clothes have become in seeking the music’s source.

“Hello?”

Kjell’s voice rings back at him after a pause, too long to be his own echo, and yet, it sounds much the same. His brow furrows at the strange delay. He draws a breath to call again and holds it when a voice responds:

“Hello.”


From “Happiness Shoal” by Gregory L. Norris:

The man pressed forward through the rain. Happiness radiated in his eyes, a rich green the color of emerald gemstones on that moody gray morning, and his lips, the lower slightly plumper than its twin on top, a crooked smile beaming from the prickle of a new, unintentional beard.

The wind gusted, stirring the ocean’s brine. The man blinked, and a measure of the trance broke. He grew aware of the raindrops running through his thatch of dark cowlicks and spikes. His baseball cap was gone—his favorite, he absently recalled. The man dug in his soles and stopped. Turning, he realized that so, too, was one of his rubber boots. The Atlantic at low tide tickled the toes of his left foot through thick wool socks with icy caresses.

“No,” he said. His voice rippled at his ears with a hypnotic resonance, as though spoken underwater.

Joe Dunnegin turned again. Mist drifted in tattered curtains across the shore of Sugar Beach, masking the parameters of the familiar world. The gentle melody of the waves lapping at sand droned into the background while the rising cadence of his heartbeat jumped into the fore. Movement stirred in the mist, a face and body only half there, out of focus. A ghost.

Joe’s euphoria surged. “You,” he called, walking then running, retracing his steps, aware of his cock’s stiffness. Pinned at an awkward angle in his jeans, its pulses sent concentric waves rippling through the rest of his flesh. Deeper, into his marrow, his soul.

“Hello,” Joe called. “You, wait—please.” The figure in the mist dissolved between blinks. “No, stay, stay with me.”

Joe raced along the water line, his cock drawn like a divining rod toward the face growing less distinct by the second. The mist attempted to smother his voice. The ebb and flow of the ocean grew louder.

The figure blended fully back into the mist, there one instant, gone the next. One more step, and Joe forgot why he felt so happy.

“No,” Joe said. And then he sobbed the word again.

He spun in a circle in search of the mysterious presence. The world drifted out of focus, melting into a blur of gray. The rain robbed him of his smile. The chill ramped up its assault, going from tickles to jagged bites that worked up past his calves.

“Where are you?” he cried out. “Where—?”

A strange word danced to the tip of his tongue, too elegant for such a primitive muscle.

V’liss Wei,” Joe said.

Then the strength departed his legs, and the ground came rushing up, cold and harsh and unforgiving. Joe’s face struck the beach. The tide rolled over his torso. Before darkness eclipsed his senses, the lights—vibrant neon blue, the color of the ghost’s eyes, and red, like blood, shone on the horizon.


From “The Rainbow Sprite” by Alisha Costanzo:

My vision filled too often with bloody fucking rainbows, and my tongue craved the taste of hot, spring rains. I found myself wired and explosive in my daily duties, biting a claimed renegade but imagining the sprite instead. My queen punished me fittingly for it, caning the bottoms of my feet. I left with a hard-on.

She went easy on me, giving me a lesson in my more preferred manner, because I offered information that pleased her. Now, my orders sent me where I wanted to go: for a way to infiltrate the underwater faerie mound. Mine was through the rainbow sprite.

The woods changed with charms, glittering under the moon like beckons. Nevertheless, I found Nani’s watering hole, armed with a bell and her ring—both held the most curious magick.

Spring rain didn’t greet me as my toes slipped into the brisk water. Instead, a peaches and cream scent emitted from the waters before a pale, golden fluff bobbed to the surface above the slender face of a boy. His features matched Nani’s except that his eyes were a soft orange and freckles kissed the center of his face like a frangipani.

I leaned in as the boy hovered there and coaxed him closer. “Are you the little bugger that dropped a bell in there?”

His minute nod propelled him further forward, close enough for me to snatch him up. My grip found his throat, and I swung him onto land with a thunk of his shoulder blades against the grass. Teeth bared at him.

Sweat beaded along the kid’s forehead and wisps of fear wafted from him. Burning seeped into my chest at his touch, slow and eating at my skin like acid. “Will your blood poison me?”

The scent of his fear matured as he nodded again.

Liar.

I pulled the bell from my pocket and jingled it by his face. “What does this do to you on land?”

“Headache.”

“And if it touches you?”

The boy’s gaze hopped to the bell and back to me. “Make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I get angry.”

Was this pipsqueak quoting the Hulk at me?

I dropped my fangs, flaunted them in his face to the joy of his hyperventilating and pissing himself.

Pika?” Long, blonde hair slicked back from Nani’s wide, rainbow eyes before they slanted and her mouth puckered. “Vampire.”

“Is this yours?” I pushed his head back to elongate the boy’s throat.

Nan.” The boy’s voice so brittle it threatened to break.

“You let him free.”

“And why would I do such a thing?”

She tread closer, the water parting to her bare shoulder and dripping down her collarbones. It made me hungrier. “I will make a trade. Me for him.”

I wanted her blood more than the boy’s. “Out of the water.”

Nani climbed into the grass, circling around us and into the tree line.

Nan.”

“It’s okay. He won’t hurt me.”

I will, but I won’t kill her. Not yet. “Aw. Isn’t this sweet.”

Terrified eyes blinked up at me.

“You have five seconds to disappear before this bell hits the pond.” I jingled the bell at him for emphasis.

“Go,” the sprite told her brother.

He shot out from under me, splashing as I counted, tossing the bell in after him. Rolled onto my back, I smiled up at Nani. “I do believe I scared the piss out of the little bugger.”


From “Going Deep” by Diana Hauer:

Propelled by diving fins, they made good time to Echidna’s Cave. Each of them had waterproof flashlights on their wrists and chemical glow-stick backups, though they had been assured that deeper in, phosphorescent minerals in the walls and plants would light the way.

Seaweed parted like long, thick hair to reveal a dark opening. Morgan met Bo’s gaze and pointed to the rocky entrance before them. She sucked another breath of oxygen from her tank, fighting the urge to grin as she admired the blonde man’s muscular trunk. Surfing was damn good for him, especially his legs and waist.

Morgan made a mental note to give their guide a generous tip for the discount to Echidna’s Cave; just off a beach cove that the locals called Typhon’s Couch. She’d be fucking Bo with the image of his strong ass and legs flexing for the rest of their time in the Mediterranean. He might even look better now than he did the first day she’d watched from her lifeguard stand as he slid over the waves on his board.

Bo paused in the entrance to the cave, tilting his head and eying it warily. He reached out and experimentally pushed at the edges. He braced his feet on the opposite edge, just inside the rocky lip, and flexed hard as though trying to stretch it wider. His version of a stability test, she guessed.

Shaking her head, Morgan impatiently goosed his muscular bottom to move him aside and squeezed past him, into the hole.

###

A gentle caress at my outer rim coaxed me back into consciousness. Still in a dream, I growled impatiently. My lover was teasing, and I yearned to pull him to me and take him within.

I awoke fully when something much bigger than most ocean creatures entered me. Memories of Typhon surging within me vanished abruptly.

Years had passed since I last felt anything so large moving within me. My fur has grown long, hiding me from all but the most ardent and curious. I’d been sure that Typhon’s rough embrace had woken me until the second one entered me. Ripples sparked long-forgotten sensations through my entire length. Arousal shimmered on my skin, teasing them, urging them to go deeper.


From “The Rock Cave” by Angela R. Sargenti:

I dive deeper than normal because the reef is so pretty. Fish of all colors swim around me—blue, green, and yellow. Beneath the coral, I spy an opening in the rock. My curiosity gets the better of me. As I get closer, I see that it’s big enough to swim through, so I do.

When I come up for air inside the cave, I see two men there, both gorgeous. One of them has long brown hair, and he’s bigger than the other, who’s a blond. They both have fantastic abs, and they glance at each other, smiling.

“Oh,” I say. “I’m sorry. I hope I’m not intruding.”

“Not at all,” says the bigger of the two. “Please come in. We’re just up for air.”

I look at them closely. They don’t seem like threats. In fact, they don’t seem interested in me at all.

“I’ve never been down this far before,” I say, and the slighter man glances at his companion again.

Colluding.

I don’t know why that word pops into my head because it’s not a word I’ve ever used before.

All I know is: it fits.

“Maybe I should go,” I tell them, but their attention immediately focuses on me.

“Don’t go,” says the bigger man.

“Don’t go,” says his companion.

They lean back on the rock ledge and relax, but the water beneath them churns like they’re in some big private hot tub.

“Come closer,” says the man with the brown hair.

“Come closer.”

If they wanted to hurt me, they’d have done so by now, but I’m compelled to obey their summons. I swim up to them, and they lean forward eagerly.

“We’ve been waiting for you,” says the smaller man, suddenly taking the initiative and taking me into his arms.

His chest is warm.

Comforting.

“We’ve been waiting for you,” says the big man. “We knew you were coming.”


From “Eden” by Zander Vyne:

Many would be tested. Most wouldn’t make it. The unchosen were Doomed unless they ran.

My friend, Trek, decided to run and join the group living on the fringe; he’d received a rejection letter and had nothing to lose. “Some Chosen run too, Eve. It’s that good over there, and it’s our only chance to be together.”

I let Trek hold me and kiss me. He was bold, this last time we were together, daring to touch my breasts. He wanted more, and for the first time, he asked for it.

The sin of it—his voice whispering illicit expressions in my ear—excited me. I imagined him naked over me. Passionate. Thrilling. Fucking. Forbidden.

“No.” I pushed him away. I wanted him, but I wanted the privileged life on Eden more. Utopia was for the Chosen only. I would do nothing to ruin my chance at a future there.

I’d been raised on the history of Eden like all children—long, long ago, the Great War had driven Earth’s people underground. With only artificial light, and the barest of resources, they tried everything to reduce their numbers, hoping to last long enough to repopulate the surface. They failed. Only stranded astronauts on space-station Biospheres survived.

My Chosen dad often pointed out Earth in the night sky. “It looks like any other star, but it’s a reminder. Don’t forget that, baby girl.”

Our ancestors found themselves with no home.

The new Biosphere world faced many problems. People wanted solutions ensuring survival. Out of the chaos came The Foundation.

Those pioneers led the expedition that discovered the habitable, but tiny, Eden. To make sure this new home didn’t become like the old one, the Foundation mandated a genetically-engineered society. No trouble-making genes allowed. The people on Eden were all products of the Pleasure Sphere. No one could remember another way of life, another way of reproducing.

For the Chosen, Eden was perfect.


From “Crushed” by Cape C. Capehart:

Murina feared venturing outside of her room. Piaractus distracted her everywhere from everything, and she something would eventually give away her thoughts. Her sisters and classmates would see the inky shadows lurking within her twisted mind, and her foster father would find that his conditioning failed. She visualized the looks of disgust from her sisters, the disappointment of Acei, and the accusations of Arowen and Rachovii. They would call her a traitor and lock her away or maybe put her down like the beast she was.

Murina could not help herself. She wanted to be found by him, somewhere no one could intervene. She wanted to be held down in the sticky muck of the riverbed and gripped with fingers of iron; not like the thin, squirming digits that Fasciatus tried to worm across her breast.

She wanted to be squeezed; to have the life choked from her chest. Nothing else in her foreign world would do.

Murina’s desire eventually found a way. Her sisters could only be away from the parties for so long, curfew-be-damned, and she wormed her way into their group. Lying came easier to her than she would have imagined, and when she started to tear up at their initial rejection, Acei quickly put forth the invitation. The anxiety threatened to leak from her pores and poison the waters as she allowed her sisters to paint her into an acceptable image. She could wear the mermaid costume for another night if it meant getting out of that house and the guilt that Tetra’s large, accepting eyes inflicted upon her.

Murina planned to break away from her group unnoticed during the party to search the river for him, but they never made it there.

The river flowed vacant and lifeless. No minnows darting around the surface, no curious perch, not even scuttle bugs along the floor. Murina’s blood chilled and slowed in her veins. Regret pierced her, sending lightning from her chest through her tail as the shadow spilled across them. She had made a terrible mistake letting any of her sisters leave the security of their home.

Piaractus was a vicious-looking merman, with abnormally large, amber eyes, scarred arms corded with muscle, and a wicked grin full of sharp teeth.

And he had Arowen.


From “Ferryman” by Val Prozorova:

I was nineteen the first time I died.

It happened entirely by accident; I had never kayaked in the sea before, too used to the smooth and still waters of the New Zealand lakes, and the waves overbalanced me. Upside down in the two thoughts circled first, the rope meant to hold me certainly did its job, as I could not get the knot undone, and second, I hoped I had on clean underwear. The paramedics have worse to deal with, but it would certainly be embarrassing.

If anyone found me, anyway. The rope still caught in what I quickly understood not to be a wet knot had my lungs burning from my held breath. I made several proclamations in my youth that I wanted to become one with nature. Perhaps, I should have made it clear that I did not mean it quite so literally.

A water baby, swimming from a young age, playing with water, and attempting—pitifully—to draw it, people often joked that I was half fish. They couldn’t be more wrong. No gills on me, just flared nostrils and pursed lips and fumbling fingers against a knot that wouldn’t give.

Crazy thoughts flew through my mind by this point:

How far does the water beneath me go?

Should I look?

Can I turn the boat over by sheer tenacity and hope for the best?

Shouldn’t my life be flashing before my eyes?

Did I miss that matinee performance?

Like graduation, did I forget to sign up to be part of my own ceremony?

A movement pulled my gaze, desperate enough that I would reach out to a shark for help; perhaps, mercifully, one’s life didn’t flash before their eyes, but their desires did. Because the man swimming towards me, now, certainly personified many of my desires. Dark skin, dark eyes, and hair that swelled with the waves themselves, so long that it swept almost like a tail behind him. His effortless motion through the water, entirely graceful, opened my mouth to gasp. Oh the flaw in that plan.


From “Diluvium” by Anthony S. Buoni:

Peter and Louis looked over the edge of their respective sides of the airboat. Through murky water, the rooftop of a sunken house was visible.

Louis whistled.

“This house was much taller but collapsed when the water rotted the foundation,” Ray said. “Let this be another lesson. If you feel or hear the building we’re raiding start to creak and groan under your feet, get out. You don’t want that toilet water on your skin.”

“How deep is it?”

“Here it’s about…seventeen—maybe twenty feet. As we get closer to Canal Street, that number decreases. New Orleans is…was shaped like a cereal bowel. The Vieux Carré was built on the high ground before the levee system, better protecting the French Quarter from floodwaters. Problem is the city is constantly sinking, even still. Every year more and more of it gets swallowed up. Nothing can save it from the hungry swamp. Then storms kept coming, the lake and Mississippi River kept spilling over, and the ground kept sinking. They say in less than twenty years, even the Quarter will be totally submerged.”

Louis could not take his eyes off the submerged building, imagining bodies floating silent and graceful underneath the boat, like the betta fish Jenny kept on their kitchen counter. “Why did they ever build here?”

“Greed,” Ray said. “It was an inevitable city in an improbable location built on unstable ground as a port linking the center of America to the Gulf of Mexico. This waterlogged wasteland was once considered the jewel of the South.”

“How could something so important just fall?”

Meet the Editors

Alisha Costanzo is from a Syracuse suburb. She earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Central Oklahoma, where she currently teaches English. She’s the author of BLOOD PHOENIX: REBIRTH, BLOOD PHOENIX: CLAIMED, and LOVING RED, and is co-editor of DISTORTED and UNDERWATER. IMPRINTED, her new novel, is undergoing serious edits for its 2016 release. In the meantime, she will continue to corrupt young minds, rant about the government, and daydream about her all around nasty creatures.

Anthony S. Buoni prowls the gas lamp lit streets of New Orleans, playing moonlight hide and seek with Ouija boards in the Crescent City’s foggy, above ground cemeteries. Anthony is the author of Conversation Party and Synchrony, co-editor to Distorted volume 1, and editor to both Between There anthologies. His stories and articles have been featured in Meow, Small Happy, North Florida Noir, and Waterfront Living. When not haunting swamps and boneyards, Anthony keeps it scary, writing dark fiction, editing, and watching horror movies, using his afterlife to DJ, write music, and conjure other worldly creatures with tarot cards, elixirs, and dreams.

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Crushed Book Blitz

CrushedBlitzKWebster

Crushed

by K Webster

Breaking the Rules #5

Publication Date: March 16, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance

Blitz: Crushed by K. Webster

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Jackson and Andi have been through a lot. Against all odds, two broken people found each other and somehow became whole. Life should be perfect for them.

But it’s not.

In fact, life is really hard.

All Andi wants is to grow her family, but failure after failure sends her hurtling into a deep depression. Jackson only wants Andi to be happy. So when their dream of having children starts to become a reality, things begin to look up for them.

Unfortunately, life throws them another curveball and they begin to drift apart. Andi hits an all-time low, and the strength of their marriage is tested.

Will Jackson be able to fix the broken pieces of Andi?
Or will she be too crushed to ever be put back together again?

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About K Webster

K Webster2

I love my husband of 11 years and sweet kids. My passions include reading, writing, graphic design, and shopping! I absolutely love social media and the power of how it connects people all over the world. You can usually find me easily on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads!