New Book || July 26, 2016 || Magic has returned to Telyn’s world

Songmaker #2

Truthsong

by Elisabeth Hamill

In When Telyn’s song magic freed ancient spirits of the Wood, it also awakened a long-slumbering evil. Now she and her beloved Mithrais must battle a spreading shadow that ignites crippling fear, and deal with the unexpected consequences of magic’s return.

More danger arrives with a royal delegation to the forest realm, sweeping Telyn back into court intrigue and the sights of a murderous lord. Mithrais may be forced to choose between his service to the Wood or the obligations of his royal blood.

As Telyn’s bond with Mithrais grows, she is torn between her love for him and the freedom of a wandering bard’s life. But when dark magic plunges the Wood into chaos, she must balance the two halves of her heart—or the Fates may take Mithrais from her forever.

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Excerpt

Chapter One

Even in the quiet hour before sunset, the Wood filled with music.

One didn’t need the ears of a bard to hear it in the rhythmic jingle of Bessa’s harness, or when doves sang lullabies to each other through the branches. A heartspeaker couldn’t fail to miss the new counterpoint percussion of magic, like the steady, silent beat of a drum.

But underneath it all, only Telyn knew the song of the Wood itself.

A secret composition of chords and harmonies existed beneath the ambient sound of leaves. Sometimes it skirled with a wild and unruly air, and other times echoed with heartbreaking sweetness through the glades. It changed with the landscape, never the same melody twice. It would rush past her in waves, or sing in eloquent whispers almost beyond her scope of hearing. Even when she wasn’t listening, murmurs of song invaded her subconscious like a child humming in hushed tones.

“Seed-voice!”

And in not-so-hushed tones.

Telyn pulled back on Bessa’s reins. The grey horse snorted and slowed to a stop. One of the newer Gwaith’orn hailed her—the truly Old Ones seldom used such common means to get her attention. For those reborn in the wake of the great spell cast in the Circle, it remained a new and exciting thing to be able to speak aloud. As a result, they were impulsive and sometimes a little rude.

The resonant vibrations marked the nearby presence of the tree folk. She caught her breath in surprise when the brush on her right parted in invitation. Bessa snorted, turning the wagon from the stony road into the temptation of soft, green grass. Telyn laughed and gave the mare her head. “Well, that’s settled then. Are you ready to camp, my dear?”

The sun lowered upon the tree-broken horizon, ready to slip behind the mountains. Light and darkness balanced in equality for the moment. But shadow always lay in the deepest parts of the Wood, gray-green areas that seldom saw a shaft of sunlight. Here the Gwaith’orn held court. Once trapped by an ancient spell, her magic and life force bought their freedom. Telyn advanced without fear, for these strange creatures were now her allies.

All around her, the Wood pulsed with the promise of magic, but the Gwaith’orn remained silent. She sensed mischief, and her mouth quirked upwards in a smile.

A new tree, with bone-white upper limbs and wide green leaves, stood in the lee of the old, sprung from the roots of its ancestor. Telyn pulled the wagon into the clearing. Somewhere beyond, the sound of water announced the presence of the river she followed south from Ilparien. She dismounted the bench seat and walked into the heart of the grove, leaving Bessa content to crop the grass.

“Well, I’m here.” Her hand brushed the star-shaped leaves at head level, the tree grown to a startling twelve feet in less than two months. They all grew with unnatural speed—nearly five hundred of them at the last count. “What do you need, young-Old-One?”

The voice came from behind and made her jump, even though she thought herself prepared. “You might have passed us by and not known, Telyn.”

She whirled. The being that stood at her shoulder gave a laugh like the trill of a bird’s song, high and sweet. Its honey-colored eyes crinkled in amusement.

“Not known what?” she asked. It was still extraordinary to see the Gwaith’orn take human-like shapes in the groves. The young ones seemed to revel in it, although they could only manifest within the root-spans of the old trees. Early on, she started to call these manifestations “sprites” because of their playful nature. The name was now indelible in Tauron lore.

Slender white limbs gestured with the grace of breeze-caught branches. “Mithrais is not far away. We believe he will look for you.”

Telyn grinned in delighted surprise. “Thank you for telling me. I’ll stay here tonight.”

Mithrais and his fellow Magians were busy testing the magical knowledge bestowed upon them by the Gwaith’orn. There were also more domestic reasons her lifemate had been unable to join her. These obligations called Telyn to turn her wheels south and begin the three-day journey to the northern gate of Cerisild.

Time had passed without discernible measure in a joyful blur of music and storytelling. She brought the news of magic’s return to the people of the Wood, the shelter of the deep forest more like home by the day. But the passage of weeks meant the inevitable approach of midsummer and the arrival of a royal delegation.

She began to remove Bessa’s harness to allow the horse a well-deserved rest. “There are visitors coming to Cerisild,” she told the sprite while she worked. “Have you sensed anyone entering the Wood who might mean me harm?”

“None who seek you. There is a mind full of chaos. It is getting closer, but we sense no threat there.”

She suspected this mind belonged to Vuldur, Lord of the East. An unfortunate, deadly history lay between them. Telyn would never be able to change the fact she killed his son in an act of self-defense. She had just begun to forgive herself for the accidental spell that allowed an already charged situation to escalate. Vuldur only knew his heir was dead—and who was responsible.

“That may be the man who sent the bounty hunters.” Telyn watched the sprite as it followed the erratic flight of a moth through the grove. “I don’t think he will try to harm me himself, but I do fear him.”

“Few can harm you now, Seed-voice, unless you allow it.” It chased the moth to the edge of the root span and watched it flutter off. “We have given you the knowledge of what to do with your magic to keep yourself safe.”

“And I thank you.” There had been little opportunity to test the knowledge left imprinted in her mind, a gift of gratitude from the Gwaith’orn. She didn’t like the thought of using song magic as a weapon. It was contradictory to the self-imposed rules she held concerning her unique powers. “I hope I don’t meet anything my blade can’t turn aside.”

“Danger will not wait for a sword to be unsheathed or an arrow to be drawn. The darkness which grows may prove more challenging.” The sprite allowed a bird to light on its hand.

A frisson of fear crawled down her neck, and Telyn stopped unbuckling the harnesses. “Darkness? Tell me what you mean.”

“Another life quickened here with your spell; one we believed no longer viable.” It stroked the feathers and laughed when the little brown bird pecked at its fingers. “It is old, like we are, but less aware. It needs a vessel, whereas we may live free, thanks to you.”

“Is it dangerous?”

“All magic is dangerous. This we told you before, and this you already knew.” The strange creature trapped the bird in its fingers like a cage of wood. The bird squawked in protest and struggled. “It seeks a way out of its prison.” Wooden fingers opened and released the bird, which shook itself and took flight as feathers drifted behind it.

“Should we do something to protect against it?” Telyn asked, perplexed.

“We do not fear it. You will be safe here with us.”

“That’s not what I meant.” The Gwaith’orn were often maddeningly evasive. Unless one asked the right questions, they would never give a straight answer. “Do the Magians need to act against it to protect others?”

“The time will come when our faithful ones will need to act. But not yet.” It bent at an impossible upside-down angle to watch Bessa crop the grass and laughed when the horse whuffled at its leaf-capped head.

She blew out her breath in frustration and reminded herself this sprite truly was a child. It would remain impractical for her to ask questions with it still delirious in its new freedom.

The day’s heat waned there in the deep forest as she removed the rest of Bessa’s harness. Telyn shivered inexplicably. She glanced into the shadows. She’d never been afraid of the dark before, but the Gwaith’orn’s warning lingered in the back of her mind. Uneasiness crept into her soul.

 

New Book || July 19, 2016 || It’s the end of the world as we know it…

Resistant

by Ryan T. Petty

The light of freedom. That is all Jennifer remembers before she escapes a secret compound deep in the wooded terrain of Arkansas. Eluding her captors, she finds a world in ruins.

Abandoned cars on the interstate act as tombs for the dead, and many of those left living have been mentally altered by what the survivors call the SA8 virus.

When Jennifer comes across a group of survivors, she thinks she’s saved, until her blood is tested for the virus and the results are inconclusive. Will the survivors allow her into their community? What about the one man who is willing to sacrifice everything to help her find the truth behind her diagnosis? Is she resistant to the virus? Does she hold the cure for human survival?

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Summer Beach Reads from Fire & Ice

 


"Swimming Alone" by Nina MansfieldSWIMMING ALONE

The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending the summer with her aunt (who happens to be mystery writer Roberta McCabe.) Although thrilled to be away from her psychotic, divorcing parents, with no cell phone or internet access, Cathy is positive that her summer is going to be wretched. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes. When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question: has the Sea Side Strangler struck again?

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"Surf Shop Sisters" by Laura KennedySURF SHOP SISTERS

I guess everyone wants something in life. It was easy figuring out what each of my BFFs wanted the beginning of our Junior Year at Coral Cove High. For brainy Sudsy it was to get skinny; for upwardly mobile Tamara to get more stuff, and problem child Maria to be treated like she was older than ten.

TWho knew that bigger problems lurked in the swampy bayous of Coral Cove, like redheaded Paris Breck, threatening to take me, Brooke, down like a clump of stinky seaweed in the Gulf of Mexico.

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"Cry of the Sea" by D. G. DriverCRY OF THE SEA

Juniper Sawfeather is choosing which college to attend after graduation from West Olympia High School next year. She wants to go to San Diego to be far away from her environmental activist parents. They expect her to think the way they do, but having to be constantly fighting causes makes it difficult to be an average seventeen-year-old high school student. Why do her parents have to be so “out there?”

Her feelings on the subject are changed when she and her father rush to the beach after a reported oil spill. As they document the damage, June discovers three humans washed up on the beach, struggling to breathe through the oil coating their skin. At first she thinks they must be surfers, but as she gets closer, she finds out that these aren’t humans at all. They’re mermaids!

Now begins a complex story of intrigue, conspiracy and manipulation as June, her parents, a marine biologist and his handsome young intern, her best friend, the popular clique at school and the oil company fight over the fate of the mermaids.

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"Onion Girl" by Lori-Sue VodiONION GIRL

Syd Callens moves to Augusta, GA six weeks before the start of ninth grade and her beloved father’s funeral. She’s overwhelmed by the city of 200,000, which compared to Vidalia, is a crazy-paced cultural mecca. Syd stubbornly withdraws, refusing to cry at her daddy’s burial: “I didn’t cry when he got sick and I didn’t cry when he got sicker. I was only angry that he left me.”

She wallows in grief, resisting help from her mother or anyone on the outside, including an extension of friendship from Seth, her first crush—a boy who’s already spoken for and whose eyes look like the deep end of the pool. She also deals with the ensuing humiliation that comes when a girl realizes that everyone at school has mistaken her for a boy.

Syd feels an instant connection to Mel, a fellow oddball who clunks around Greenbrier in army boots and dresses. The attraction turns to mistrust however, when Mel divulges a secret Sydney takes for a lie. The girls are mere inches from forging a friendship but then Mel mysteriously disappears, leaving Sydney alone to wonder what happened and to face daily abuse from Greenbrier’s two meanest bullies—Ashley and Megan.

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"Into the Deep" by Missy FlemingINTO THE DEEP

No one understands the fury of the ocean like Zoey. Ten years ago, she lost her leg in a freak shark attack. The night after her sixteenth birthday, she has yet to accept her awkward prosthetic limb or the fact she will always be different. Wary of the sea, and its hidden threats, she ventures to a bonfire at the beach. She’s mesmerized by its awesome power, wondering what she ever had to fear, until a rogue wave sweeps her into the cool, salty water.

Zoey believed mermaids were creatures of legend, characters in silly children’s stories, but it’s hard to ignore the captivating tail that’s suddenly appeared, or the sense of finally being whole. She abandons her life on land in search of answers about who she really is and where she came from. What she discovers is a kingdom full of intrigue and danger, as well as a royal father she never knew existed. Settling into her role as a mermaid princess, she learns her family is under attack, both on land and in the water. Raging storms swell up, threatening coastal cities, and sea levels rise practically overnight, endangering the lives of everyone she loves. Determined to stop the strange phenomena, Zoey becomes caught up in the race to track down what, or who, is responsible for the catastrophic events.

But, Zoey possesses another secret, one born of legend and more powerful than any mer or human can imagine.

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"Trail of Secrets" by Laura WolfeTRAIL OF SECRETS

Spending three weeks of her summer at the elite Foxwoode Riding Academy in northern Michigan should have been one of the happiest times of sixteen year-old Brynlei’s life. But from the moment Brynlei arrives at Foxwoode, she can’t shake the feeling she’s being watched.

Then she hears the story of a girl who vanished on a trail ride four years earlier. While the other girls laugh over the story of the dead girl who haunts Foxwoode, Brynlei senses that the girl—or her ghost—may be lurking in the shadows.

Brynlei’s quest to reveal the truth interferes with her plan to keep her head down and win Foxwoode’s coveted “Top Rider” award. Someone soon discovers Brynlei’s search for answers and will go to any length to stop her. When Brynlei finally uncovers the facts surrounding the missing girl’s disappearance, she must make an impossible choice—protect a valuable secret, or save a life.

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New Book || June 21, 2016 || Teen Girls & Horses

"The Quarter Horse" by Patricia Gilkerson

The Horse Rescuers #4
(Can be read as a stand alone novel)

The Quarter Horse

by Patricia Gilkerson

Fifteen-year old Piper agrees to help her friend Jeff sell his horses to pay for college, hoping he will then appreciate her more. But a gorgeous new girl, Jackie, comes to town who threatens to attract Jeff’s attention. Piper doesn’t know how to deal with beautiful Jackie and then she finds out that Jeff’s Quarter Horse, Daisy, is prone to colic, a deadly threat in horses. All the responsibility for Daisy is on Piper’s shoulders, but can she find a good owner for Daisy while keeping her healthy? And will Jeff fall for Jackie, forgetting about Piper? Daisy’s life is at stake as the Horse Rescuers must act quickly.


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Chapter One

~ Breakout~

Loud hoof beats in the yard. I put down my lemonade and ran to the window. Three adult horses and a colt milled around in Miss Julie Applegate’s backyard. The six-foot wide aluminum gate hung open.

“Oh, no! Jeff, didn’t you close the gate?”

“I thought I did,” he said, setting down his physics book and standing up.

My mouth went dry. There is nothing scarier to a horse owner than the sound of hoof beats where there aren’t supposed to be any. It means horses are loose and loose horses like to run. And run. A potential disaster if they ran down the long driveway and got onto the highway to town. Disasters like that might show up on the evening news, complete with images of ambulances, cops, and dead horses. If we could just ease them back into their paddock, maybe they wouldn’t start running.

“Hurry! We have to get them back in. You walk toward them by the barn while I go around the other side of the yard. Maybe they’ll head back into the paddock. Just don’t spook them so they start running!”

Hoping beyond hope that the horses would stay calm, I walked past them in the yard of the old white house, trying to head them away from the driveway and back into their pasture. The horses tossed their heads and started trotting around, just now realizing they were free. Jeff waved his arms, but that made them wilder.

“No! Don’t scare them!” I yelled at Jeff as, nostrils wide, the horses began to gallop. Dotty, the smallest and bossiest of the three adult horses, ran right past me up the half-mile dirt driveway toward the main highway. The others followed, gaining speed.

Clattering on the gravel drive, the horses and colt disappeared over the hill, neighing to each other. They sounded like they were having a party, but I had chills, thinking of them running down the busy highway toward Serendipity Springs, the nearest town. My horses might easily be galloping to their death. Could we catch them? We had a chance if they would slow down and graze. I ran into the barn and grabbed three halters. There was one for each adult horse. The colt would follow his mother, if we could only catch her.

Who was around to help us? I ran through the list in my head as I hurried to Jeff. My best friend Addie was out of town. My dad was at work and it would take him too long to get here. Miss Julie was too old to chase horses and she was gone on an errand anyway. It was up to me and Jeff. I handed him a halter and lead, and we ran up the drive after the horses.

“Piper, should I go back and shut the gate or get the truck?” Jeff panted as he ran. He’s thin and tall, but not very athletic.

“No and no,” I said, “We would just have to leave the truck and we’ll need the gate open for when we bring them home. We might need the truck later to find them.” I prayed that wouldn’t happen.

We ran together down the lane that was the long driveway to Miss Julie’s farm. Addie and I kept our horses there and we liked to visit with Miss Julie in her big white farmhouse. Jeff lived there with Miss Julie until his graduation from high school in the spring. The mare and foal belonged to him, but he wasn’t into horses and never really paid enough attention to closing gates and such. It drove me crazy, since I was the one who ended up taking care of them. That’s what happened when I depended on him to do things.

As we ran, Jeff muttered things like, “Can’t believe I did that,” and “So stupid,” really beating himself up.

“Jeff! It’s done!” I said. “Let’s just catch them and you can call yourself names later!”

He sighed and we ran on. As we came over the crest of a small hill, we were met by the four horses trotting back toward us. One POA—Pony of the Americas—that was spotted all over, one gray half-Arabian gelding, and one bay Quarter horse mare with her look-alike colt; all accounted for. This was encouraging. Maybe I could catch them.

“Here honey, here sugar,” I called to the pony in a soft voice, and held my hand out, trying to slow Dotty down and maybe get a halter on her. Their taste of freedom made them goofy and they acted like naughty children. Heads high, tails in the air, they snorted and pranced past us as if they were kids running away from school. I imagined them saying “Haha! Can’t catch me!” Way down where the driveway meets the road, Miss Julie had seen that the horses were loose, and blocked their escape by turning her car sideways. They had turned and trotted back the way they came. What an awesomely smart old lady! Now the horses were still loose, but at least they’d be contained in the fenced yard and couldn’t get out on the main road.

“Oh, boy! Thanks, Miss J!” Jeff called to her as we turned and trudged back to the house, breathing heavily. Miss Julie waved back at him, got in her car, and drove slowly behind us to the yard. Reaching it, she parked sideways again, blocking the drive so they couldn’t escape.

My sense of panic was over, but we still needed to get them back in the fenced paddock by the barn. They trotted, snorting, around the yard.

“I’ll take Nickel,” I said, referring to the tall grey Arabian. “He’ll be the easiest to catch. You see if you can get Daisy. The colt will follow her.” I dropped one of my two halters on the ground and walked slowly toward Nickel with the other halter hidden behind my back.

“Hey, Nick. Hey, son.” I sounded like my dad, who called all girl horses Sis and all boy horses Son. Most people I knew who worked with horses did that.

“Come on, it’s okay.” I held my hand out as if I had a carrot in it. I didn’t have a treat this time, but much as I love them, horses really aren’t very smart. You can fake them out easily.

Nickel settled down and nibbled grass with his good eye on me. He was blind in one eye, but was just the sweetest horse ever. His head came up as I approached and his nose lifted to sniff at my hand.

“Good boy!” I whispered, easing the lead rope over his neck and collecting the end. He was now as good as caught, with his head in a loop of rope. That done, it was a simple thing to draw the halter over his nose, up around his ears and buckle it. I rubbed Nickel’s neck for allowing me to catch him. As I held the lead rope, he snorted at me and rubbed his nose on my shoulder. I sighed and looked around to see what Jeff was doing. He walked toward Daisy, halter at his side. Every time he got close, she moved away, staying about two arms’ lengths away from him, her shiny red coat gleaming in the sun. The six-month old colt, Dancer, followed his mom as she led Jeff around the yard. Dotty the pony was sniffing Miss Julie’s petunias by her porch, eyeing us without much interest. Miss Julie had taken up a post by her car, in case any of the horses tried to sneak past it.

“Aargh!” said Jeff, who had more patience with his guitar than his horses.

“See if they’ll follow us,” I called. I turned and led Nickel through the big gate into the small paddock between the barn and house. I walked him all the way in, toward the big oak tree that grew in the center of the field. Slowly, like a parade, my wayward horses followed, the grey gelding with me, with the spotted pony, the bay mare and the colt bringing up the rear. I was thankful that horses were herd animals and wanted to stay together.

Relieved to have everyone where they belonged, I called, “Close the gate, Jeff. And this time, latch it!” It came out a little sharper than I meant.

He pulled the gate shut hard and stalked up to the house. I took off Nickel’s halter and hugged his neck. I walked over to Dotty, the innocent-looking pony, and patted her on her spotted neck. Daisy walked over to us, sniffing for treats, so I rubbed her forehead and kissed her, gazing into her huge brown eyes. None of them looked a bit sorry for their adventure. I smiled and left the runaways happily nibbling clover. The disaster was over—no harm done. I took a huge deep breath in relief and walked out the gate and up to Miss Julie’s house.

 

Jeff and I flung ourselves into our usual places in Miss Julie’s rocking chairs on the wide front porch. I had the half-grown cat, Willie Nelson, on my lap. Miss Julie was inside making some celebration lemonade. Jeff rocked quickly, as if something bothered him. I wondered what he was antsy about. Easter was coming in a few days and we were on our spring break. The excitement was over so why didn’t he relax now? I slumped in my chair, exhausted.

“So Piper…”

“Mmm Hmmm?” My eyes were closed in relief from having stopped a disaster.

“You didn’t have to snap at me.”

“When?” I sat up and stared.

“When you told me to shut the gate. I mean, I know I was an idiot to leave it open, and I feel terrible about it, but I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“I didn’t snap at you!”

“Well, yes, you did. And you didn’t have to.”

“I did not snap at you. I only told you to shut the gate and latch it.”

“It was the way you said it.” Why was he being so sensitive? Jeff was a senior, while I was only a sophomore. We went out together sometimes. Well, we had twice. Okay, he was my first real date. The Homecoming Dance was fun and we had a good time. We were friends, but it felt like he was always telling me how to say things. Since the dance, we had gone to one movie and that was it. I wasn’t sure how he felt about me…or how I felt about him. Didn’t he want to go out with me anymore? I definitely wanted to go out with him again, but always got cold feet when I thought about doing the asking myself. “Hey, I’m sorry if I said it wrong. I just don’t want the horses to get out. What if they ran out onto the highway and got hit by a car? Or lost? Or stolen? Not good, Jeff, not good. You know if you don’t want Daisy you should sell her.”

“Yeah, well, I am going to sell her.”

“What?”

“I need the money for college.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Look, I know you love those horses, all of them. Even mine. But I’m going to need some money and the horses are all I have to sell. I didn’t tell you sooner because I knew you’d be upset.”

“Both of them? Seriously? Even if you get a scholarship?”

“Even if. There are all kinds of expenses that a scholarship won’t cover. I can’t sell the truck—I’ll need it for getting around. And I have to buy insurance for it and a bunch of other expenses. So I have to sell the horses.”

That was bad news, having to sell that beautiful mare and her colt, but maybe they were worth a lot of money.

“Here we go! Nice cold lemonade for the Horse Rescuers. You just rescued them all over again.” Miss Julie was probably the most cheerful woman I’d ever known. She was the one who helped Addie and me rescue our two horses, and let us keep them in her barn. Holding three large glasses, she came out of the kitchen trailed by Honey, her sheltie.

“Miss Julie,” I said, “you were the one who rescued them when you pulled your car into the driveway so they couldn’t run down the highway. Jeff and I just caught them and got them in the paddock. You’re a Horse Rescuer, too.”

We dropped the subject of selling the horses. Jeff didn’t seem like he wanted to talk about paying for college in front of Miss Julie. I still wanted to make sure he wasn’t so careless anymore, but decided to let it go for now. We both took a tall glass of lemonade and drank.

“Piper,” said Miss Julie, sitting down on her porch swing. “What do you hear from Addie?”

“She’s having a fun time in Wisconsin. Her dad took her to visit some of his friends and she met a cute guy that she’s drooling over. She’ll be home Sunday, late.”

“Drooling?” asked Jeff, with his eyebrows raised.

“Well, every other text is about Joe. Joe, Joe, Joe.”

“I heard your dad is hiring another veterinarian to work in his clinic,” said Miss Julie.

My jaw dropped and the lemonade glass nearly did.

“Where did you hear that?” Nothing, I mean nothing happens with my dad’s vet clinic without me knowing about it. He tells me everything and even asks my opinion sometimes. I used to go on farm calls with him. I don’t go so much anymore since I have school and the horses and all, but I still help him order medicine, and magazines for the waiting room. When I was little, I liked to take old copies of Horse and Rider and cut out pictures of the horses I liked best.

Miss Julie looked innocent. “I overheard it at the clinic this morning when I took Honey in for her rabies shot. But maybe it was just gossip.”

Hmmm. I needed to talk to Dad and find out what was going on. Dad was too busy and actually did need to hire another vet to take some hours. I just wanted to be sure it was someone we all liked and got along with. Serendipity Springs, Kentucky is a small town.

“Well, gotta bounce,” I said, standing and stretching. I had my bike with me, so it wouldn’t take long to get to Dad’s clinic.

“Let us know what you find out,” said Jeff with a grin. He knows me—I couldn’t pass up a chance to find out more. He smiled, so maybe he wasn’t still mad at me. I patted Honey and Willie Nelson, waved goodbye and left.

New Book || May 31, 2016 || Magic & Models

"Welcome to Sortilege Falls" by Libby HeilyWelcome to Sortilege Falls

by Libby Heily

Sixteen-year-old Grape Merriweather would never have agreed to move to Sortilege Falls had she known that a group of teen models ruled the town. Their beauty is only outshone by their cruelty. Grape knows something isn’t right about the models. They are too perfect, too beautiful, and not at all natural, but even she isn’t immune to their allure. Mandy, the only “nice” model, befriends Grape.

That’s when the trouble truly begins.

Mandy’s friendship places Grape smack in the middle of a mystery that has the entire town on edge. One by one, the models fall ill from an incurable disease. Grape quickly realizes that their parents are hiding a secret, even as they watch their children die. To save her friend, Grape will have to find the truth—even if it means putting herself in danger.

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Excerpt

 

“What are you wearing?” a snotty voice asked Grape.

Grape’s entire body stiffened as she looked up from her phone. Five of the most beautiful people to ever walk the earth stood scattered around two Porsches. Did I walk into a photo shoot?

“I mean, gross.”

The words came from an impossibly beautiful girl. Loose, raven-black locks fell over her shoulders, the tips lingering above her full bosom. Grape could almost hear the sizzle and static of her electric blue eyes. The sun had kissed the girl’s skin lightly, leaving a glow that made the air around her shimmer. Her pouty, pink, full lips begged to be kissed, though the guy standing behind her, his arm draped over her shoulder protectively, warned off all who would be so bold.

The boy behind her, if anything, was even more handsome than she was beautiful. Muscle stacked upon muscle until his clothes had no choice but to hug every inch of his body. His dark eyebrows and strong jaw lent him a tough look, one that was backed up by the playful anger in his eyes.

The raven-haired goddess turned and embraced her beau, her face tucked away into the heat of his chest. He sat propped up on the hood of a yellow Porsche, the sleek lines of the car offset by the disdain on his face. They were so incredibly, delightfully gorgeous that even though he looked as if he had seen a cockroach instead of a human being, Grape’s heart still melted at the sight of them.

“I think she’s in love.”

Grape snapped her gaze away from the Adonis with the nasty temperament and turned toward the twin boys standing in front of a black Porsche. Her eyes bounced between the two, taking in every perfect feature. Flawless, rich, dark brown skin. Sparkling hazel eyes. Muscles so tight that you could bounce a quarter off their abs, or arms, or anywhere on their bodies, really. They looked as perfectly engineered as the cars they stood by. But it was their lusciously long eyelashes that sent Grape swooning. Men were not meant to be this pretty.

“Leave her alone, guys.”

Grape’s head spun. Each person she saw was more beautiful than the last, and the redheaded girl standing off to the side was no exception. The baggy jeans and generic T-shirt she wore did not detract from her creamy skin and full lips. Her large brown eyes fascinated Grape—red flakes glimmered from inside each caramel-colored orb.

The air felt charged with a million volts. Her thinking grew cloudy. Were these angels? Was she daydreaming? How did anyone get to be this beautiful? She could sense their hostility, but something inside her felt warm and gooey. Snap to, Grape, she told herself. They want to hurt you.

“Awww, look. It likes us,” the twin with the goatee said. The clean-shaven twin’s face softened. Was that pity she saw in his hazel eyes?

“Stop being mean,” the redhead said, sounding more bored than angry.

“I’m not being mean. Where’d you buy that shirt?” Goatee asked. His quiet tone was laced with thorny edges.

Grape swallowed hard. The fuzz inside her head abated. Focus, she told herself, feeling like an idiot. “I don’t know. Kohl’s maybe.” She glanced down at her blouse. The shirt was a birthday present from her mother, and she wasn’t sure where it came from, but since her mother did most of her own shopping at Kohl’s, it seemed like a pretty safe guess.

Goatee turned toward his brother and smiled. “Pay up.”

Clean-Shaven shook his head at her as if she’d named the wrong store on purpose. He pulled a thick wad of cash from his pocket, peeled off a twenty, and handed it to Goatee. “I was sure it came from Kmart.”

“Why does it matter where I bought my shirt?”

The raven-haired girl glanced out from her hiding place in her boyfriend’s embrace. “It just looked familiar. I wore the same shirt. Three years ago.” She smiled, but there was no kindness when she bared her teeth. “Before it was a knockoff.” The girl hid her face against her boyfriend’s pecs. Their chests rose and fell at the same time, breathing as one.

“Okay. Well, I don’t really buy designer clothes.” Grape wanted to have a witty comeback, but she still wasn’t sure where the insult lay. Did they or did they not like the shirt?

What the hell is wrong with me? Of course they’re making fun of me. Why aren’t I angrier?

“She means she modeled the design,” the redheaded girl said, cutting her eyes to the couple.

“You’re a model?”

The brothers snickered. “Pretending she doesn’t know who we are, that’s so cute. Is that the new fad amongst the Normals?” Clean-Shaven asked.

“I don’t understand anything you just said.” Grape felt completely out of her depth. This was the school parking lot, but she might as well have been on Jupiter.

The redhead took a step toward Grape, shooting a nasty glance to the others crowded around the cars. “Don’t worry about it. They’re just teasing.”

“I thought about modeling.” Grape hadn’t meant to say that, but no one else spoke, and she felt like she had to say something. Her skin grew hot. She knew she was blushing beyond red and into crimson mode. She’d practiced runway shows off and on in her bedroom since she was twelve, but she had never told anyone she wanted to be a model. Ever.

“Ow,” Grape cried, only then noticing that she had twisted her ring so hard it was actually cutting into her finger. A tiny drop of blood oozed out and fell to the pavement below.

“Aren’t you a little fat to be a model?” the boyfriend asked. His voice sounded like pure honey even when he spoke acid.

“You think I’m fat?” Grape stared down at her flat tummy. No one had ever called her fat before. There was still a bit of room in the waistband of her size four skirt.

“I’m just saying you could stand to lose a few pounds, unless you want the runway to collapse.”

“Ouch, Adam.” Clean-Shaven punched the boyfriend playfully on the arm.

Goatee winked at Adam. “My boy calls it like he sees it, and he sees a chunky monkey.”

“I’m well within my weight range.” She could feel her voice growing high-pitched. Damn nerves. These people were jerks.

“Of course you are, you look great,” the redhead told her. “These guys just don’t how to joke around without being completely mean.”

“We aren’t joking,” Adam said, giving his girlfriend a quick kiss on the top of her head.

Goatee pulled out his car keys. He turned his back on Grape, tired of their new toy.

“Whatever. Class is about to start. Are we skipping or staying?”

“Skipping,” the raven-haired girl peeked out to say.

Adam looked Grape over and made a face as if he’d smelled something terrible. “Yeah, I think I’m done for the day, too. I feel the need to hit the gym.”

She rubbed her hands over her stomach but it still felt flat like normal. What were they seeing that she wasn’t?

“The shirt looks nice on you,” Clean-Shaven said before climbing into the driver’s seat of the black Porsche.

“Like a muumuu on a water buffalo,” Goatee added and hopped into the driver’s seat of the yellow Porsche. The couple got into the back of his car and huddled close together.

“Mandy, you coming?” Goatee asked.

“No, I have a test,” Mandy, the redhead, said. “I’ll see you later.”

“Suit yourself.”

Grape waved stupidly at the drivers as the engines revved. You look like a goober, she told herself, but she could not stop waving.

“Move.” Mandy grabbed Grape by the arm and pulled her toward the sidewalk.

Grape tried to shake her arm free, but Mandy’s grip was surprisingly strong. “Let go of me.”

Mandy stared at her with an I-told-you-so look as the Porsches sped off, right through where Grape had been standing.

“Oh my God, were they going to run me over?”

“Not on purpose. I’m sure they just forgot you were there once they started their cars.”

“How?”

Mandy shook her head. She stared after the Porsches as they pulled into traffic and sped away. Finally, she turned back to Grape and offered her an apologetic smile. “Sorry about that.”

“Which part?”

“All of it, I guess.”

New Books || May 10, 2016 || College & Art Theft

"Dangerous Impressions" by Lisa Aldridge

NEW ADULT

Book 1

Dangerous Impressions

by Lisa Aldridge

When Madison Bloom ends up at the local community college and meets the attractive, yet mysterious, Nathan Bradley, her world takes a dramatic turn. With his passion for art, especially the Impressionists, and their passion for each other, Nathan seems to be the perfect guy. But Nathan has a secret life and a dangerous connection to the underground world of art theft. Art thieves weren’t an issue until he met Madison, but she’s determined to join his world.

What Madison doesn’t realize is that the closer she gets to Nathan, the easier it is for his enemies to use her to get what they want. And it might be too late for one of them…

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Excerpt:

Chapter One

Great. Another boring syllabus to put in my backpack. It wasn’t bad enough that I’d ended up at the local college for one semester, but to make it worse, I’d enrolled at the last minute and had to take whatever classes were left over. Marriage and Family. Ugh. Under the circumstances, I couldn’t think of anything worse than taking a class that would expound the virtues of marriage. Marriage was definitely the last thing on my relevancy list.

Hesitantly, I looked around the room. I figured, and was right, that there were be “types” in the class. In the front row, there was the young woman with the endless smile, sporting a shiny engagement ring. Of course. In the back row, cuddled into one-and-a-half chairs was The Couple. Wonderful. Next to me, was the really tall guy in work-out clothes, probably on the basketball team. I’d bet anything he needed to raise his GPA and obviously thought this was a blow-off course because he was already asleep. He leaned against the wall and stretched his long, dark chestnut legs under the table, I had to pull my feet back under my chair. Maybe I should wake him up, but I couldn’t think of a good way to do it.

I tried to focus on the instructor’s words, “I’ve been happily married for thirty years….” Could this be worse? Tune it out. Tune it out.

As soon as possible, I would start checking for openings in other classes. Any other class. Surely someone would drop something in the agriculture department. Maybe I could learn to like country music…probably not. Or better yet, I could torture myself with a math class. Biology: I would try to get into a biology class; dissecting a frog right now would be better than this. Frog guts—I would think about that pleasant thought for a moment.

Yuck, I could hear The Couple whispering behind me. They kissed. The girl giggled quietly. Oh my gosh, frog guts, frog guts, frog guts!

I had to get out of here. Grabbing my backpack without looking up, I started for the door.

That’s when fate decided to trip me.

I didn’t even see him coming.

Trying to make a quick break for it, I hurried out the door without looking. He was reading his schedule, late for class. We collided. My books hit the floor and my cell phone fell apart and scattered.

I looked up, ready to blame him for not watching where he was going. He had the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen in my life! Wow! No words for that, I just tried to breathe normally. Then he smiled. It was the most incredible smile ever! His smile matched his eyes perfectly.

That’s when I went brain dead. I couldn’t think. The witty sarcasm that usually rolled so easily from my mouth was gone. I think I smiled back, but I’m not sure. We both scrambled around, gathering stuff off the floor. I grabbed my own phone from where it had skidded away.

“So sorry,” he said as he handed me books. “I take full responsibility for this tragedy.” He gestured toward the door to the Marriage and Family class. “Are you in this class too?”

“Um, no, not really. I have to change my schedule,” I half explained, trying to avoid staring too deeply into his eyes that were as beautiful as a stormy summer sky.

“That’s too bad,” he answered wryly. I wasn’t sure how to interpret that. He was probably relieved. “It would be nice to kind of know someone,” he added. “Maybe we’ll bump into one another again?” His voice was dangerously smooth.

“Sure.” That’s all I said: sure. I’m such an idiot! Why didn’t I say something like: I’d love to, or When? It really didn’t matter. I was only going to be here for one semester. I tried to console myself. Totally no point in getting attached, and he probably was all looks and no brains, anyway. No one with eyes like that, a smile like that, and the deliberately almost-messy-but-perfect dark hair could be smart too.

The computer lab was full, so I killed some time in the library. Nothing interesting there. Then I saw some kids from my old high school and ducked behind a row of book-filled shelves before they saw me. I knew that I would eventually have to explain why I was still here in Sedalia, Missouri. Everyone knew that all I ever wanted to do was to get out of here.

But here I am, I thought dismally. The middle of nowhere. Some people go to New York City or Hawaii, not me. I never go anywhere exciting. And I was literally nowhere. I didn’t even know where I would be spending the night. Mom wanted me to stay with her at Grandma’s and Dad wanted me to stay with him, probably so he didn’t have to cook. All of my post-graduation plans had fallen through when my parents separated. It’s not like I hadn’t see it coming, but still…

Even though I tried to live in the moment and not think about family problems, they seemed to fill my mind and suck all the fun out of everything. My day was off to a memorable start. I guess that meant the whole semester was off to a memorable start. I was deep in thought when the phone rang and I jumped so much that I knocked several books off the shelf next to me. I distractedly checked the phone while I collected the books and since the number looked familiar, I answered it.

“Hello,” I whispered, so the librarians wouldn’t freak.

“What are you doing after the class that you’re not taking?” The voice on the other end was smooth with a hint of humor behind it.

“Um, who is this?” It was him! My heart was racing and I very unsuccessfully tried to control my voice. How did he get my number? Was he a stalker? That would make him the best-looking creep in the world, but still creepy.

“Most people call me Nathan. Does that work for you?”

“Okay Nathan, how’d you get my number?” I demanded firmly.

“I didn’t.”

“Obviously you did or you couldn’t have called me just now.” My voice rose a little, so I walked toward the library exit.

“Actually, I didn’t call you because you haven’t given me your number yet,” he replied calmly.

“Try to make some sense, Nathan. I have too much on my mind for a brain teaser.”

“First tell me your name.” He was having fun at my expense.

“Most people call me Madison. That will have to work for you, because that’s all I’m going to tell you.”

“Nice to meet you, Madison. Technically, I called myself,” the velvety voice chuckled softly.

“What?” I looked more closely at the phone I was holding. It looked a lot less scruffy than mine, but in all the chaos, I hadn’t noticed. “Oh!” Our phones had gotten switched when we collided in the hall. “Do you want to meet someplace so we can switch back?”

“That works for me.” His voice was suddenly non-stalker-like again, now that I understood the situation.

“When and where?” I asked, happy to think that I had a second chance to make a better impression on this extremely good-looking guy. He also sounded intelligent. Looks and smarts.

“How about class on Wednesday?”

“What? That’s in two days! Are you crazy? I need my phone!”

“I promise I’ll take good care of it,” he said. Then he hung up! Just like that!

Over the next several hours, all I got was my own voice mail. The more I tried to call him, knowing that he had my phone and that he just refused to answer it, the angrier I got. Nathan was definitely a frustrating person…if that was really his name.

My next plan of attack was to email him through the school’s system. I got online and went to the class website. I scrolled down until I found someone with the first name of Nathan. There he was, that had to be him: Nathan Bradley. So maybe it really was his name. I’d find out soon, either way. My carefully worded email was sent about ten seconds later.

Most of my other classes were dull, with the exception of painting in my Design class. Art was the one thing that I could always do well. Between classes, I saw The Couple again. They were sitting together sharing lunch, whispering back and forth, and staring into each other’s eyes. How humiliating: didn’t they know how ridiculous they looked? Frog guts.

The first time I had a chance, I checked my email. Nothing. So Nathan was going to avoid me. Well, I wouldn’t let that stop me. I would be persistent, because I had no intention of waiting until Wednesday to get my phone back. The strange thing was that he didn’t seem to feel the same way. Why didn’t he care if he got his phone back or not? Impetuously, I sent him another email and asked him why he didn’t want his phone back.

I got on Facebook to see if I could find him. When I logged on, there was a notification. It said Madison Bloom is now friends with Nathan Bradley. This guy was all nerve! I never locked anything on my phone, so he had access to my Facebook account, my email account, all my phone numbers, my Amazon account…you name it, he could get to it. He had sent a friend request to himself from my Facebook account and then confirmed it on his. I was ticked off!

My anger wasn’t enough to stop my curiosity, though. First, I checked his phone to see what he had left open. Nothing, of course. Oddly, there wasn’t much there. Second, I went to his Facebook page to snoop. No, not snoop: I was investigating. I needed to know more about this guy.

What could I learn from his Facebook account? He had almost a zillion friends. I was his most recent friend, big surprise. He had posts in foreign languages. I saw his favorite television show (White Collar) and his favorite movies (Bourne Identity). Okay, so his taste in music wasn’t bad either.

I have to admit that I spent a little extra time looking at his photos. Apparently, this guy liked to try lots of new things, like weird food, surfing, and rock climbing. It was hard not to notice that the same girl kept reappearing with him. She was pretty. So what. They weren’t tagged, so I couldn’t find out who they were, probably for the best, but who cares anyway? All I wanted from this guy was my phone.

Eventually, I had to decide where I was going to spend the night. If I went to my dad’s, I’d have to sleep on the couch. It was a hide-away, so at least I’d technically be sleeping on a bed, but really a pain to open, so I knew I would never get around to folding it out. If I went to my grandma’s house, I’d have to face the inquisition. The sleeping arrangements were better, but not worth it. I decided to go to my dad’s little apartment. It was a lose-lose situation. Let’s face it, either way I would disappoint someone. What a pleasant way to end the day, I thought sarcastically.

As I drove away from campus in my beater car—hoping it didn’t break down anywhere obvious—I saw Nathan getting into a very expensive sports car with a very attractive blond. The bright yellow car had gull-wing doors that opened up like the DeLorean in Back to the Future. I recognized the Mercedes symbol flaunting itself in broad daylight. Figures. Some people just have it easy. The rest of us live in reality. Although I could admit that he was very attractive, I didn’t have to like him as a person. After all, he was a petty thief who had stolen my phone. I really wanted it back.

My irritation grew as I drove, a bad combination. It made me want to blast the horn at the old lady in front of me who slowed down at the green light. I took a small detour to the grocery store for a chocolate fix. Maybe a handful of M&Ms would help.

Finding a parking space proved to be a nuisance. I patrolled the lot once, then I noticed a good spot, but some big pickup truck with dual tires was parked way over the line, taking up two spaces. My temper flared again. How inconsiderate! Why would anyone buy a big truck like that if they couldn’t even park it between the lines? Why would they take up two spaces toward the front of the lot? Someone had already parked very closely next to them on the passenger side. The truck should have parked further away if he didn’t want company. It made me feel a little better to squeeze my crappy car into the 2/3 of a space that was left over on the driver’s side. That would teach them! I hoped they got done shopping before me and had to climb into their truck through the back window.

As I marched smugly into the store, the phone vibrated in my pocket. Instinctively, I pulled it out to see who the text was from. Great. It was from me. Or Nathan, rather. I read it and felt my face get hot. It said, ‘Nice parking job.’ My smugness instantly melted into a puddle of embarrassment. I didn’t turn around. Somewhere out there a shiny yellow SL63 AMG Mercedes roadster was cruising the same parking lot where I had vindictively parked my crippled piece of metal into a partial space.

Could this day possibly get better? I grabbed a large bag of plain M&Ms. That wasn’t going to be enough. I added a carton of chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks of some sort to my purchase. While I waited to check out, I picked up a Twix bar. I really hate the way grocery stores market impulse items like that. That’s probably why they only have two people checking when they have twenty-seven other lanes closed. The customers pile up and buy more stuff because they’re bored or hungry. Or desperate, like me.

The phone vibrated again, another message. ‘Going to a chocolate fest?’ My day just got better; not. I looked around, but didn’t see anyone I recognized. He was back to creeper status.

I sent him a text asking him to please trade phones with me, that I would meet him in front of the store in five minutes. He texted back, ‘See you Wed.’ Definitely a jerk too. I stuffed half a Twix bar into my mouth.

When I got back to the apartment, Dad was surprised to see me. Apparently, he and Mom had left several messages on my phone, some with threats of taking it away if I didn’t call back. Nathan had worked that out for them. Maybe Dad secretly hired Nathan to take my phone. That thought made me laugh a little. Nathan as an international jewel thief or something: that would explain his crazy ninja skills at the store. He must be a highly successful thief to afford that car!

“Hungry, Madison?” Dad asked. “I’ll take you out for Chinese.” I nodded eagerly. The best of both worlds: no inquisition and no cooking. Maybe this wasn’t a lose-lose.

Dad and I sang Paul Simon songs on the way to the restaurant. He seemed so carefree when he sang, but the stress of the past several months had taken a toll. White and gray were sprinkled generously through his once dark hair. His tanned face was more lined than it had been just a few months ago. He didn’t tell as many lame jokes. I could tell he was struggling, but for a few minutes at least he was relaxed.

Most of Tuesday passed quietly, especially since I didn’t have my phone. I thought it was kind of weird that Nathan didn’t get any phone calls. None at all. I still wanted my phone back and had to find him to get it. So I was glad to have an excuse to go to campus when Mom and Dad started arguing. They were trying to work out details of the “new arrangement.” Why couldn’t they just say it? They were both miserable, but both so stubborn!

Before I parked my junk heap, I took a couple laps around the main parking lot in front. It was late afternoon, but the car I was looking for would be easy to spot. Nothing in front. I went around to the back lots. When I spotted the vibrant yellow roadster, my stupid heart skipped a beat. I reminded myself that all I wanted was my phone. Nothing else. After all, anyone who drove such an ostentatious car to this school had to be a snob. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the SL63 AMG Mercedes was over $140,000! I’d looked it up online. But why was he holding my phone hostage? He could probably buy a million of them.

I had to guess which building he might be in, so I opted for the humanities building where most of my classes were. All I wanted was my phone. Just my phone. So why did I check my reflection in the glass door before I went in?

I walked up and down every hall. I peeked in classrooms, checked the library at least a dozen times, went to the food court, the gym, walked around the track once, then back empty-handed. No phone, no Nathan, no homework, so nothing else to do.

As I was prying the car door open, Nathan’s phone vibrated in my pocket. The message read: ‘Drive carefully. See you tomorrow.’

I heard the engine of his flashy car. I turned just in time to see him speed out of the parking lot, tires squealing. Someone in a black sedan pulled out from between two buildings and followed him. I hoped it was an unmarked police car and that Nathan got a big, fat ticket. That would serve him right.

New Books || April 26, 2016 || Time Travel Romance

"Second Chances" by Nancy PennickA Waiting For Dusk Novel

Second Chances

by Nancy Pennick

Kate is ready to start a new life in a great city. Determined to follow her dream, she left college to write a book.

Arriving in New York City, she vows to live in the present, not the past.

Easy for most to say, except she has a secret.
Kate’s a time traveler.
She met the love of her life back in 1927.
But he’s here now.
With her.
So no looking back.
No going back.

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Excerpt:

Chapter One

Footsteps. Then silence. Kate shuddered and pulled the sheet up to her chin. Someone crept into her bedroom in the middle of the night. She was sure of it. She squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them. Darkness greeted her. Her blood ran cold as she felt the end of the mattress move. Someone sat at the edge of the bed. I’m dreaming. I have to be.

“Hello, Kathryn.” The sinister voice cut through the darkness.

Kate’s heart pounded. She recognized the voice. No, it can’t be. Unable to move, her mind raced. He’s dead, Kate. Gone for many years. You’re imagining he’s in the room. She decided to wait it out, let her mind calm. Count sheep. Do something! Don’t focus on the man in the room.

 

Chapter Two

Kate Roberts woke in a cold sweat. Sunlight peeked through the shades, announcing a new day. Her hand flew to her head. “What a dream!” She shuddered as she slipped out of bed. “Or was it?”

Her legs wobbled and her heart skipped a beat. Clearly, her body hadn’t recovered from the nightmare. “Bathroom.” She pointed her hand in its direction. “Cold water.”

She splashed her face and glanced in the mirror. Blue eyes stared back at her. She ran her hand through her light brown hair, less hair than a month ago. Kate cut her long locks into a modern style just above her shoulders, swept to one side. She felt the look made her appear more mature. As a twenty-year-old in New York City, she needed all the help she could get.

Her phone rang in the other room. Kate rushed to the nightstand by her bed and answered. “Mom?”

“Hi, sweetie. I’m sorry to call already. You just left yesterday. But I wanted to see how you’re doing. Are you all settled in?”

“I’m fine and settled in. Freddie’s a wonderful host.”

“I’m sure he is.”

Kate waited for her to continue. “Mom? That’s all you have to say?”

“Yes, I’m sorry. Except that I really like Freddie and know he will help you with your career.”

“So you finally approve? It’s not a silly dream anymore?”

“Approve of you dropping out of college after a year? No. Becoming a writer? Yes, with more schooling. But you’re an adult. You can do as you wish.”

“But in your mind, I’m still your little girl.” Kate adjusted the phone against her ear.

“Just like any mother would think. And you’re my only child. I can’t help it.”

“I start interviewing Freddie today.”

“Whoa! Way to change the subject.” Her mom laughed. “Federico Martin has had a long, productive life. I’m sure he will have many interesting stories to tell.”

“Then you understand why I chose to live here for the next few months. Easy access.”

“Kate.” Her mom’s voice lowered. “Be careful. Don’t accidentally slip up. No one can ever know how you two really met. You’re out in the world now, not living in a small town in Ohio. Things can happen.”

“You make it sound so ominous.” Kate tried to laugh it off, but her mom was right. She had to be careful.

“Even if you’ve sworn off traveling, it’s changed your life.”

“I know,” Kate whispered. “Mom, I’ve got to get ready for the day. Thanks for the call. I love you.”

“I love you more. Know I’m always here for you. Call whenever you need me.” Her mom went silent for a moment. “And Kate, I’m glad you stopped traveling. I’m so happy you made that decision. Whatever the reason.”

“Thanks, I think? Bye, Mom.” Kate watched until the seconds on her cell stopped, ending the call. “You’ll never know this, Mom, but I call myself the Reluctant Traveler. I will never go back, unless there’s a very good reason.” She stared at the phone in her hand. “And I can’t think of one.”

As she emerged from the shower, Kate pulled a large, fluffy towel from the bar. The fresh smell of the bath sheet and shampoo engulfed her. I once thought time travel was a game. Full of fun. A fairytale. Kate shook her head. But it’s not. It’s just like real life. So why go back? To pile on more grief? She rubbed her hair with the towel and hung it up to dry. If I never traveled, I’d never would have met the devious Nicolas Martin. On the other hand, he’s Drew and Freddie’s father. She slapped her forehead as her thoughts went to the nightmare she had last night. Are you living as a ghost in the townhouse, Nicolas? Or was it just a dream?

She wiped the steam-covered mirror and gazed at her image. “I wished I could’ve told you, Mom, but you’re not up for that sort of thing. Who do I confide in? Certainly not Drew. Tell him his dad’s a ghost? I don’t think so. Especially when I’m not sure.” Drew. She sighed as she thought of how much she loved him and would do anything to protect him.

Her fiancée—Drew Kelly, in the present, Andrew Martin from the past—would fly to New York City in a minute if he thought she needed him. Separated for the first time in almost five years, Kate wanted to prove she could be strong and capable. Complaining about ghosts didn’t exactly fit that description. She had left college to pursue her dreams, write a book, start a publishing company and marry Drew. First task on her agenda, write the book. Everything else would eventually fall into place.

After throwing on jeans and a t-shirt, Kate flipped through her phone to find her photos. She brought up the most recent picture of Drew. Her fingertip drew a line around his mouth, down his cheek to his strong jaw line. His dark brown hair always had one piece hanging over his forehead that she loved to brush back. She stared into his emerald green eyes. “This is a good opportunity for you, too,” she told the picture. “You can learn to live in the 21st century without me. You came to the present and gave everything up for me. Now it’s your time to fly.” She kissed the screen.

“Kate?” A knock on her door interrupted her thoughts. “Breakfast is ready.”

“Thank you, Sarah,” Kate called through the door. “Tell Freddie I’ll be down in a minute. I just want to call Drew.” Freddie’s twenty-two-year-old brother, Sarah. And yes, my host knows the truth. Freddie’s assistant could be a wonderful confidante. They were close in age, and Kate felt she could trust her. If only.

Determined to wipe the awful dream from her mind, she picked up the cell and sat on the edge of the bed to make her call. “Drew? It’s me, Kate.”

“Hello, Kate.” Drew laughed. “I knew it was you. What’s wrong? I can hear it in your voice.”

She let out the breath she held. “Nothing’s wrong.”

“Did the pitch of your voice just go up on that last syllable?”

“I didn’t get much sleep, that’s all.”

“And?” She could feel him urging her to tell the truth.

“That’s all. I’m calling to see how you’re doing and tell you I miss you.”

“I miss you, too. Especially last night. The empty spot in the bed reminded me you’re gone. I know we agreed to this living arrangement, but man, it’s hard!”

“Drew Kelly, you’re starting to sound like a modern guy. I’ve been gone one night.” Kate giggled.

“I don’t think I’ll ever truly be one.” Drew’s voice grew serious. “I’m still the same man, Kate. You agreed to marry me, and that changed my world.”

“I’m going to cry if you keep it up and catch a plane home to Ohio.”

“As much as I’d love that, you have a job to do. We said April and May. I’ll graduate by then and can join you. You’re not a quitter, Kate. Although,” he said with a laugh. “You did quit school.”

“With your blessing.”

“But not your parents.”

“They’ve come around.” Kate flopped back on the bed. “Mom already called me this morning.”

“Really? I plan to see them once a week. I text Jack every day.”

“Of course, you do.” Kate loved that her dad and Drew were best friends. The relationship started long ago over their love of the Grand Canyon. “I’d love to talk, but your brother has breakfast ready. I need to join him.”

“Don’t push him too hard, Kate.”

“Where did that come from?”

“I’ve had a lot of time to think. Freddie may be my little brother, but he’s an old man now. Don’t tell him I said that.” Kate heard him take a deep breath. “There may be more to the story than we know. I missed most of his life when I came to the future. I knew Father had a temper. But this mean streak? We’re just learning about it.”

“I’ll go easy.” Kate sat up. “We’ll start with facts I already know. I love you. I really have to go.”

“I love you, too.”

“One more thing.” Kate swallowed hard. “Do you believe in ghosts?” How could she tell Drew she believed his father haunted the townhouse? She thought she dreamed it, but now felt it really happened.

“What? Where did that come from?”

“Just wondering.”

“No.”

“Okay, that’s all I wanted to know. I’ll call again soon.” Kate hung up and slid from the bed. “Did you hear that, Nicolas? Your own son doesn’t believe in ghosts. You may have been king of the manor in 1927, but Freddie has cast away the evil. He’s filled the place with light and love. You just can’t handle that.”

Kate took one last look around as she walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her. She continued down the hall to the back set of stairs. A vision of a man guarding the entry to the second floor offices came into focus.

“Rudy?” Kate stopped. The handsome young man stood staring straight ahead with his hands folded in front of him. He wore a designer pinstripe suit. Probably one of Nicolas’ designs from Martin’s Menswear. Oh, Rudy, you scared me, but at the same time, you were nice to me. You were one of Nicolas’ men. If he ordered someone beaten, you did the dirty work. Then again, Drew’s sister fell in love with you. I never knew what to think of you. She shook her head and blinked. No man guarded the hallway.

Kate didn’t think she had a problem separating the two time periods she stayed in the house, but now she questioned herself. Why would I think I saw Rudy? I know I’m in the present. Or maybe I just expected him to be there. Rudy’s from a lifetime ago. She slapped her cheek. No! Not another ghost!

The first time Kate visited the townhouse, she came with Drew in November, 1927. They had married at the Grand Canyon then traveled to New York City to visit his parents. She had no idea Drew’s father was a gangster, let alone the boss. Guards filled the home, and strange activities went on behind closed doors. Drew seemed oblivious to the fact or chose to ignore it.

Kate took a step back and studied the area. The small hall that led to the offices on the second floor looked the same. But the entrance door had been removed.

“No secrets anymore.” She sighed. “And it’s time for breakfast.”

She bounded down the staircase that led to the sunroom. Freddie inherited his father’s house, gutted the first floor and started over from scratch, giving the home a modern look. Sunlight greeted her from the row of windows that wrapped around the room. A huge woven area rug covered flagstone flooring. The cream colored walls, vaulted ceiling, and chic décor were a far cry from the potted palms, dark green walls and flowered furnishings of the past. A wide archway led into the kitchen instead of the enclosed entry she remembered. “I’m so glad you redecorated, Freddie. Otherwise, I’d feel I was back in time again.”

“Kathryn!” Freddie’s face lit up when he saw her. The sunlight bounced off his white hair, and his green eyes twinkled.

A sensation traveled up and down her spine, and she shuddered. “Please, Freddie. It’s Kate.” She glanced away. That made me think of the dream. I shouldn’t have said that.

“Forgive an old man? That’s how I was first introduced to you as a young boy and how I’ll always think of you.” Freddie smiled and motioned to a seat. “Please, sit.”

“It’s quite alright. You can call me anything you wish. Anna called me Kathryn, too.”

“I forgot about your friend. If it brings up sad memories, I’ll try harder.”

“It’s fine. I’m adjusting to the new surroundings, that’s all.”

“I hope you found everything to your liking.”

Kate held her breath then exhaled. “The house is wonderful. Beautiful, in fact. So different from what I remember.”

“The credit goes to Charlotte.” Freddie took a sip from his china cup. “She sends her regrets, by the way. She can’t join us this morning. Something about a committee or a ball she’s planning.” He waved his other hand in the air. “Women.”

“Freddie! She’s very dedicated to her causes. She’s raised millions for charities.”

“That’s what I get for marrying a younger woman. She has more energy than me. My trophy wife.” Freddie chuckled as he set his teacup back in the saucer.

Kate loved when he referred to his second wife as his trophy wife. Charlotte had to be in her mid-seventies, but still younger than Freddie. His first wife died suddenly from a heart attack, leaving behind a bereaved Freddie and a son in high school, Federico Jr. Freddie swore Charlotte helped him pick up the pieces and married her shortly after. They had twin boys, Calvin and Curtis.

“Now, where do you want to start?” Freddie poured Kate a cup of tea. “English Breakfast. You’ll grow to love it.”

Kate opened her Vera Bradley bag. A special friend gave her the piece when Kate was just sixteen. Anna. How I wish you were here. I know you had a long and happy life, but I wanted more time with you. She pulled out an iPad, laptop, her phone and a recording device.

“Oh, my.” Freddie studied the table and placed his hand over Kate’s. “Do you have a notebook and pen in there, my dear? Call me old-fashioned, but all of this?” He swept his hand over the gadgets. “Makes me nervous.”

“Freddie!” Kate huffed then smiled at him. “Alright. We’ll do it your way. At least let me have the recorder running.” She gave him pleading eyes.

“How can I deny someone as beautiful as you? Andrew was correct when he said your eyes were like sapphires.”

Kate felt a warmth creep up her neck and into her cheeks. “He’s such a romantic. I miss him already.”

“I could fly him in for weekends,” Freddie said. “You don’t have to do this alone.”

“No, we agreed.” Kate sat straight in her chair. “Where to begin? Let’s start with the house. Tell me a little of its history.”

“If I bore you, please stop me. I could go on and on about this old townhouse. Father purchased it the year I was born. Built in 1902 by a prominent New Yorker on the Upper East Side, Father felt the home fit him perfectly and offered the man an outrageous sum. Everything had to be the best, and to him, this house fit the profile. The superb limestone façade, designed in Beaux-Arts style, was top of the line.” Freddie paused and cleared his throat. “Are you familiar, Kate?”

“Beaux-Arts architecture expresses the academic neoclassical architectural style taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.” Kate looked up from her iPad. “Wikipedia. Sorry. Go on.” She bookmarked and pushed the pad farther down the table.

“Father, being Italian, chose to have decorators furnish the house with pieces shipped from Italy. He had to sign off on color and design. I don’t think Mother had much of a say in the matter, except for the bedrooms.”

“Sounds like Nicolas.” Kate patted Freddie’s arm. “I was braver on my second visit to the townhouse. I thought I knew what to expect. Little did I know.” She laughed. “When I was dismissed by Nicolas and sent to Drew’s room, I didn’t go in. I peeked in all the bedrooms instead. I always felt his room was too mature for a teenage boy. Heavy red velvet drapes with gold tassels and red and gold brocade bedding. I’m glad you redesigned that room or I wouldn’t be able to stay there.”

“I hope the bad memories will be replaced with good ones. I know Father tried to keep you and Andrew here against your will. You spent many lonely hours in that room. Thank God, you escaped.”

“That sounds awful when said aloud.” Kate shook her head. “Drew held captive in his own home. We had to create an escape plan.”

“You were the mastermind, if I remember correctly. Then a few weeks later, the family learned Andrew died in that river in Arizona. He dreamed of fighting the rapids of the Colorado and lost the battle. Father blamed you for his death, Kate. He felt if you two stayed here, it never would’ve happened.”

“I know.” She hung her head. “But Drew didn’t die. My dad rescued him from that fate and brought him to the present.”

Freddie rubbed his forehead. “So much for an old man to process. It’s been over two years, but I still have trouble. My older brother turned twenty-two in January, and I’m in my nineties.” He leaned his head against the chair. “I’m so grateful he’s alive. I still can’t believe my good fortune.”

“And he’s grateful to have you.” Kate sat back and waited. She wanted to give Freddie time to regroup. He had so much to tell, and they had already gotten off course.

“Explain it one more time, Kate,” he whispered.

“Are you sure? We have a lot to cover.”

“Please.” His eyes begged. “I need to understand this whole time travel thing.”

“I’ll try my best,” Kate said as she reached over to shut off the recorder. “When I was sixteen, my mom gave me a book to read during summer break.” She paused. Hidden safely away, never to be used again. “Most of my friends were on vacation or off to summer camp. I grew bored and cranky, like most teenage girls.” Kate chuckled. “How did my mom put up with me?”

“She gave you the book.” Freddie winked.

“Yes, the magical book. Actually, it belonged to Maya Johnson, our friend and neighbor. She’s the keeper of the books. The rule is to read after the sun sets and fall asleep. Then you wake at the Grand Canyon in 1927. Maya told my mom it was the perfect summer distraction. She’d be at the boardinghouse to supervise. She convinced Mom I would think it was all a dream.”

“Maya is such a lovely woman. You’re lucky to have her in your life.”

“More like a grandmother than family friend. And her son, Carl? He’s my brother from another mother.”

Freddie smiled. “You’re both only children, but fight like brother and sister.”

“Carl’s headstrong. That’s what I love about him,” Kate answered.

“I’ve only learned bits and pieces through the years about your lives,” Freddie said. “Now that I have you all to myself, there’s still so much to learn. I want to pick your brain while you’re here.” He reached for a tea biscuit and clotted cream. “One more question before we continue with the interview.  From what I surmised, Andrew made his way to the river before anyone could stop him and died fighting the rapids, but your father went back year after year to rescue him. How can that be?”

“I know it sounds strange, but it’s always 1927 at the Grand Canyon year after year.”

“So you don’t pick a time or the destination when you travel?”

“No, I can’t. The book’s in charge, not me. There’s no time machine or dial to set. It only takes me to the Grand Canyon. Think of it as a giant loop. Whatever day it is here, it’s the same there. We step in and out of 1927 over and over again.”

“But what about multiples? When you return, aren’t you already there? You’d be meeting yourself.”

“My dad has a theory. The set of books was found imbedded in a wall of the boardinghouse where we all wake up. He felt their power was coming from somewhere deep in the canyon. The books seem grounded in that time period, unable to take anyone further back in time. The power to travel forward spreads out from this single, original point to countless locations in the future but pulls everyone back to that very spot in time. The book has its own rules.”

“You still haven’t answered one of my questions. Why can you keep going back and not meet yourself?”

“It’s like we slip back into a body that is the same age and look as when we first arrived. We revert to that form, so to speak, but still have all our memories of the past and the present. That’s the best I can explain.”

“I think I understand. The book has some connection to the canyon. No matter where you are in the present it will take you back to that one place in time. It allows you to slip in and out of time.”

“And for reasons we don’t understand, it brings us back to exactly the same spot we left in the present.”

“So you’ve live 1927 over and over again. Fascinating! But it really only happened once.”

“You’re catching on, Freddie. To us, every Friday after Thanksgiving, Drew dies somewhere in that river. They never find his body. But it really only happened once. That’s why my dad was determined to save him. He had so many chances and failed year after year. When he finally rescued him, Dad felt safe bringing him to the present. It wouldn’t change Drew’s timeline in the past. He never had a family of his own, children that needed to be born. Everyone thinks he died on November 25, 1927 to this day.” Kate held her teacup to her nose and took in the aroma. “You’re probably wondering how my dad rescued him after all those years. Well, he really didn’t. The credit goes to me or so I’m told. Drew changed his routine the year we met. Dad found him camped by the river. But they still let everyone think he died.”

Freddie wiped his eyes. “Until two years ago, so did I.” He glanced around the room. “When Father died, I closed this place up. Eleanor, my first wife, supported my decision. We had our own home, our own lives.” Freddie leaned forward. “Don’t get me wrong. Before they passed, we did visit. I couldn’t let Mother think I abandoned her. When she died, Father became a shell of a man. He really loved her, Kate. I’m glad I learned he did. Sometimes I wondered.” Freddie sat back and swirled his tea around his cup. “He died in 1974, two years after Mother. I locked the townhouse door, trapped all the evil and bad memories inside and walked away.”

“Until?”

“Charlotte. She convinced me to give her a tour. She heard about the third floor ballroom and thought it would be perfect for one of her galas. People could buy tickets and see a stately old townhome brought back to life.”

“And?” Interview’s back on! Kate reached for her notebook.

“Twenty years had gone by since I last stepped foot in this house. Memories fade. If it made Charlotte happy, it made me happy. We lived in the same neighborhood. I couldn’t leave the Upper East Side. It was home.”

“By then you had the house in the Hamptons, correct?” Kate jotted down a few key years to help her remember.

“Yes, summer in the Hamptons. That’s what the rich do according to Charlotte.” Freddie chuckled. “I often stayed at the apartment when I worked full time.”

“At Woods and Associates?”

“Yes. The apartments are on the upper floors.”

“So you own the building in Lower Manhattan?” Kate scribbled away.

“I do.” Freddie stood. “Kate, I need to show you around. Less talk, more action. I know you saw some of the house yesterday, but I’ll give you the official tour today.” He offered her his arm. “And perhaps it will help us stay on topic. Let’s head to the front of the house and the elevator.”

Kate took his arm. “Elevator? That’s a new addition.”

“These old bones can’t do stairs anymore,” Freddie said, as he gave her a delightful smile. Kate noticed the similarities to Drew. Same green eyes, kind face. Freddie’s shock of white hair used to be red, different from his brother’s dark mane, but he had that one piece that fell over the forehead.

She followed him through the archway to the master chef’s kitchen. Black granite tops covered the white cabinetry. Pristine white walls gave the impression the kitchen was just for show. Shiny black and white ceramic tile finished the look.

Kate recalled the hallway from the past, filled with portraits and art, which ran the length of the house. A butler’s pantry, kitchen, a parlor, a dining room, a living room and Nicolas’ study sat on either side. When Kate stepped into the grand foyer yesterday she noticed the library was the only room left intact. When she walked down the short entry hall, open spaces greeted her. Oak hardwood floors, cream-colored walls, and traditional dark red furniture filled the rooms.

Freddie continued through the kitchen and out to the dining area. Kate marveled at the long table with seating for twelve polished to a high shine. A huge arrangement of fresh flowers sat in the middle. A large ornate mahogany bar with stools for eight and a butler’s pantry shared the space. Charlotte had chosen a more traditional look for these areas, too. They strolled into the living room. Stately pillars separated the rooms. Freddie came to a stop by them. “Well, what do you think?”

“Gorgeous. But,” Kate said as she pointed straight ahead at the wall, “why keep Nicolas’ study?”

Freddie stared at the floor. “I just couldn’t destroy it. I needed a reminder to never be like him. And I hoped to find an answer in there. Although as much as I’ve tried, I found nothing.”

“Maybe we still can. I’m willing to go through every book on the shelf if you want. Anything that will bring you some closure.”

“Don’t you think I’ve already done that?”

Kate nodded. “Knowing you, you’ve gone through everything twice.” She looked away as tears filled her eyes. “You didn’t deserve to be beaten. You do know that. Right?” She turned toward Freddie and took both his hands. “No parent should ever hit their child.”

“We’re getting too serious, Kate. Let’s not go there yet. I’m still showing you the house. We’ll go straight to the third floor. The ballroom and apartment will be our next stops.”

Freddie took Kate to the foyer and pressed the elevator button. “Going up!” He laughed as he motioned for her to step in when the door opened. She decided to let the conversation go. Freddie didn’t want to talk about his relationship with his father yet.

They came out on a landing next to the stairs. Beautiful crystal chandeliers ran down the wide main front hallway. The creamy walls and gold carpet made the third floor look regal. The ballroom along with its own kitchen and servants’ quarters took up most of the floor. The apartment, on the other side of the hall, overlooked the street.

“My prison. Sorry.” Kate covered her mouth as she peeked in the door. “I just remembered being told I could decorate the place any way I liked. Drew and I were to live happily ever after there.” A cold chill went up her spine, and the back of her neck tingled. “Is it a little cool up here?” Kate rubbed her arms.

“Why no. I thought just the opposite.” Freddie started down the hall.

“Freddie! Where are you?” a woman’s voice called with a tone of desperation.

Kate rushed to the banister and looked down to see Charlotte standing in the first floor foyer. “We’re up here.”

“Oh, thank the Lord! Freddie, get down here quickly. Something’s wrong! Terribly wrong!”

New Books || March 29, 2016 || Pirates & Werewolves & Elves & Horses & Snow!


 

"No Horse Left Behind" by Shannon KennedyShamrock Stable #4

No Horse Left Behind

by Shannon Kennedy

 

Champion show rider, Dani Wilkerson, loves her Quarter Horse mare, Lady, and wants to ride Western or ‘cowgirl’ style with her friends at Shamrock Stable. However, her glory-seeking parents have other plans for Dani that include three-day eventing and an eventual career in Olympic competition. They think all her riding activities should support this goal. While she wishes they understood her need to express her individuality, she also hates to disappoint them.

Then she discovers their plans to enroll her in an elite boarding school, sell Lady, and buy her an award-winning, event horse. Stunned by the betrayal, Dani knows she must stop them somehow. She isn’t a mere extension of their egos. When she fights back, she learns just how far they will go to achieve their ends, but how can she possibly defeat them?

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"Elena Kane" by Elena KaneA Land Without Snow

by Elena Kane

 

In a world of snow and ice, Cara is alone.

Different from the people in her life, Cara longs to find somewhere she can belong. Knowing that her ancestors came from a warmer place, Cara embarks on journey that leads her across the frozen world of Arc in search of the land without snow.

Along the way, she finds love, and a new respect for herself; something she’d never had before. With danger lurking in every direction, Cara must make a decision: stay with the man of her dreams, or to find the place that she can truly belong.

 


"Wisteria and the Pirate Werewolf" by April MarcomWisteria and the Pirate Werewolf

by April Marcom

 

While the tale of Little Red Riding Hood has been told in lands across the earth for centuries, the enchanting tale of danger, darkness, and romance between her elder sister of a sapphire cloak and a forbidden werewolf has been forgotten… until now.

Wisteria couldn’t have known her simple act of kindness to a lost witch would lead to the possession of a magical blue cloak.

She couldn’t have known that the greatest tragedy of her life would lead to her first kiss with a carnivorous werewolf.

And there was certainly no way she could have expected chasing a man, hidden by a cloak of darkness, would lead her and her ‘red riding hood’ sister to join a pack of pirate werewolves on an impossible quest to find a potion that would make them human, or that it would reunite her with the were-man who took her first kiss, and with it her heart, over a decade before.

Luckily, it’s exactly the sort of adventure Wisteria’s always dreamt of.

 

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"In The Camp" by Margeaux NallThe Noralez Trilogy #1

In The Camp

by Margeaux Nall

 

Humanity has fallen.

Matt Noralez’s life sucks. After the war with the elves (who unfortunately don’t make toys or throw evil rings into volcanos), most of humanity is dead. The few remaining humans either live in hiding or end up as slaves in work camps.

Matt has been stuck in a camp in South Carolina for about three years, and though everyone else there seems to have lost hope, he still dreams of escape.

 

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New Books || February 23, 2016 || Onions & Deadlands


"Sojourn: The Deadlands" by B.D. MessickA Rayn Mirago Novel #2

Sojourn: The Deadlands

by B.D. Messick

The Deadlands…

A wasteland of burning sun and shifting sands that stretches for more than a thousand miles from the foot of the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. The once vibrant Great Plains of the central United States is a bleak and barren desert, a blasted landscape filled with sad reminders of what had been and what has been lost.

Rayn and Luk must brave the perils of this arid land of fierce beasts, savage sandstorms, and hidden dangers if they’re going to reach the Beastlands beyond. They will encounter new enemies, and discover precious new allies.

Rayn’s suspicions about the results of Luk’s Sojourn Lottery continues to grow, but she must put those doubts aside if they have any chance of surviving what’s coming. The Deadlands will push them to their breaking points while testing the strength of their bond.

Their only goal: Survival.


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Onion Girl

by Lorri-Sue Vodi

Syd Callens moves to Augusta, GA six weeks before the start of ninth grade and her beloved father’s funeral. She’s overwhelmed by the city of 200,000, which compared to Vidalia, is a crazy-paced cultural mecca. Syd stubbornly withdraws, refusing to cry at her daddy’s burial: “I didn’t cry when he got sick and I didn’t cry when he got sicker. I was only angry that he left me.”

She wallows in grief, resisting help from her mother or anyone on the outside, including an extension of friendship from Seth, her first crush—a boy who’s already spoken for and whose eyes look like the deep end of the pool. She also deals with the ensuing humiliation that comes when a girl realizes that everyone at school has mistaken her for a boy.

Syd feels an instant connection to Mel, a fellow oddball who clunks around Greenbrier in army boots and dresses. The attraction turns to mistrust however, when Mel divulges a secret Sydney takes for a lie. The girls are mere inches from forging a friendship but then Mel mysteriously disappears, leaving Sydney alone to wonder what happened and to face daily abuse from Greenbrier’s two meanest bullies—Ashley and Megan.


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Romance is in the Air – Giveaway Hop!

 

February is home to romance and Valentine’s Day, and everyone knows that Valentine’s Day is home to the love letter.

That’s why we’re celebrating by giving away an ebook copy of D. G. Driver’s novella ‘Passing Notes’. To sweeten the pot, the winner will also receive the teen romance ‘First Sun’ by Tara Tolly.

Read on to learn more about these great books about young love, then scroll to the bottom of the page for your chance to win. Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour (including our parent company Melange Books and its romance imprint, Satin Romance.)


 

Passing Notes

by D. G. Driver

Mark has finally gotten the attention of the girl of his dreams. Only, his lame attempts at romance through texts and emails seem to be turning her off. When he gets put in the back of the room in an over-full class at school, he begins to discover old notes giving advice about how to write a great love letter. At first he thinks he’s stumbled on some long-forgotten notes passed in class ages ago, but every time he reads them they seem directed specifically to him. They also appear at the perfect moment each time he needs more advice. It’s like someone is haunting him.

How do the notes keep appearing? Who’s writing them? Why?

And if Mark follows the ghostly writer’s advice, will he win Bethany’s love?

Can’t wait to win? Buy the book HERE:

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First Sun

by Tara Tolly

 

The universe brought them together…can it tear them apart?

Eden Warren’s world is about to change. When she’s uprooted from her laid back Midwestern lifestyle and thrown into the fast-paced society of Washington D.C.’s elite, she finds herself enrolled in school with Andrew Wellington, the president’s gorgeous son.

But Andrew is not known for his good looks alone. He is famously known as “First Disaster” for his reputation as America’s biggest player. And he has set his sights on Eden. Eden is less than impressed by Andrew’s antics and has no intention of becoming his latest conquest.

What could this former bad boy do to convince Eden that he has truly changed his ways, especially when she discovers he’s hiding a government-protected secret that could permanently alter the course of life on Earth?

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Enter below to win a digital copy of BOTH ‘Passing Notes’ and ‘First Sun’!