Book Tour, Giveaway, & Excerpt – HIT ME by Peter J. Thompson

Thriller
Date Published: 03/01/2019
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Hitman. Husband. Daddy. Dead man?
Charley Fieldner has everything a man could want: a loving wife, a well-paying job, two great kids, and a beautiful home.
He also has a big secret.
Charley is a hitman with a huge complication—he is his own next target.
The background file contains the sort of details only someone very close to him could know. The suspect list is short but devastating, his wife, father, sister, and best friend. He always thought he could have it all, but the secrets, lies, and betrayals are piling up.
Charley needs time to unravel the mystery behind who wants him dead and why, but time is in short supply. Another killer took the contract. He now has a choice: roll over and die or fight for his life.
Excerpt

I step up on the platform as the train pulls into sight. The sun is just starting to rise and it’s still dark. Commuters stand beside the tracks, some strewn out, others in tight clusters. It doesn’t take me long to find my quarry, Alan Silverman. The guy’s exactly where I expected him to be, in a group of commuters at the far end of the platform. He’s easy to spot because first, he is a creature of habit and second, he has a distinctive look.

I’m about average height, five foot nine, but he’s at least a head shorter than I am. In his slick, black Italian suit he looks like an oversized bowling ball with a shiny human head and stubby legs.

The train barrels in and screeches to a halt at the last moment, its brakes squealing and hissing loudly. The commuters bunch up and as the train shudders to a stop they surge toward the doors. I stroll to the far end of the platform and wait in line, well back from Silverman. The doors of the 6:10 inbound to Chicago slide open with a pneumatic whoosh. I move with the crowd as we surge up the few steps and into the train. Silverman turns to the car on the right, as I knew he would.

I follow discreetly behind. He walks halfway up the car and takes an empty seat by the window. The car is already half full and most of the double seats have at least one occupant. The seat next to Silverman is empty and for a moment I consider sitting next to him. What better way to keep track of him and appear innocuous than by planting myself right beside him? But that would be too bold. I work best unnoticed, and, although he probably wouldn’t give me more than a passing glance as I sat down before returning to his paper, it’s not worth taking the chance. I move past him and slide into the seat across the aisle a few rows ahead, making sure I can still see him in my peripheral vision. I don’t even bother looking. The guy’s not going anywhere.

The last few people scurry to find seats as the train starts moving and picks up speed. I slip in my earbuds and settle in for the trip. I have my music on shuffle. The randomness, not knowing what music to expect helps me stay focused on the moment. I close my eyes, lean back in my seat and relax. No need to even think for the next forty-three minutes.

The train starts and stops every few minutes, gathering passengers at stations in Evanston, Davis Avenue, Ravenswood, and Clybourne. Our car soon fills up and the later arrivals have to stand. I mostly keep my eyes shut and focus on the mix. First Wilco, then the Shins, then some electronica. As we pull into Union Station, it’s some bad Gangsta rap I don’t even remember uploading. The train pulls to a stop and everyone rushes out of their seats and herds toward the door. I’d like to hang back, but my seatmate is impatient. He stands and shuffles his belongings around. I take the hint and step into the aisle, even though the doors haven’t opened, and no one is going anywhere yet.

I steal a look back and Silverman is in the aisle, too. We all stand together in a tight scrum. The heady mix of cologne, deodorant soap, sweat, and coffee breath makes me want to gag. We’re much closer together than strangers should ever be. We stand this way for a long minute before the outer doors open and the scrum pushes outward.

Now we are a river, flowing out of the train car, down the steps and into the noisy bustle of the main terminal. The river keeps flowing toward the escalator, which carries us up to street level. I try and slow to let Silverman pass me, but short of dropping down to tie my shoe and risk getting trampled. I’m caught in the flow. Fast food joints and convenience store kiosks line the path. I step off the escalator and duck into one and pretend to scan the headlines of a newspaper. A moment later, Silverman marches past me without a glance. I give him a little space before stepping into the river behind him as we flow toward the street.

The stream of commuters still flows outside as we move along the sidewalk and cross over the Chicago River. The sounds of traffic and the smell of diesel fumes add to the ambience. Now the sun is moving higher and reflecting off the glass of the skyscrapers that line both sides of the street. If I were a tourist, I’d hang back and take in the beauty and energy of the city. But I’m no tourist. I have a job to do. I keep walking.

My job. I consider myself a problem solver. Sometimes the problems are small and require a small solution, and other times the problems are so big the only solution is drastic. Such is the case with Silverman. Although I don’t know the specifics, Silverman is an attorney, a prominent one. He’s had problems with various groups in the past and isn’t the type who’d win a popularity contest. These aren’t my concerns. I don’t want to know too much about him, good or bad, or it may affect the way I think of my quarry and introduce emotion into what should be a pure business transaction. My employer is an agency that does all the due diligence beforehand. If Silverman’s on the list, he deserves his fate. I have scruples. I trust the Agency to do the research, but I do have my standards.

It’s hard to keep track of Silverman because he is short enough to blend in with the crowd and I’m not tall enough to see over it. No matter. I know where he’s going and how he will get there. I’ve made this same trip four times now—I know what to expect. He works on LaSalle Street, but, by habit, he takes a short-cut through an alley that cuts on a loose diagonal between the two streets, past the trash bins and various service entrances, before connecting back to the main drag. It might save a minute or two, maybe, but it’s part of his daily routine. It’s also the one spot along the way where he is out of the crowd and the most exposed.

Sure, I know where he is going, but I needed to make sure he wouldn’t get sidetracked along the way. Now I know he is on the right path, I want to reach the spot before he does. I adjust my gait and walk a little faster. I weave between the pedestrians and pass Silverman, who is huffing and puffing and doesn’t pay me the slightest attention. I hurry on and, by the time I arrive at the alley, I figure I’m at least half a block ahead of him.

The alley is busier than I hoped. A truck is backed up to a loading dock, delivering supplies, and two young guys are manning their hand trucks while the driver supervises them. A little further on, three Hispanic men stand near a dumpster, smoking cigarettes. One is telling a story, using his hands to sketch out the details, and his buddies laugh. Compared to the street scene this is quiet, but for my purposes, it’s Grand Central Station. I pass the men and turn the curve which leads to LaSalle Street. It’s quieter here. Up on the sidewalk, maybe twenty yards away, the street traffic is a blur of motion. But right here it’s isolated, and this is the place I need to be.

I position myself on the side of the alley and make myself ready. I don’t think he’ll see me until after he turns the corner, and I doubt he’d think twice if he does, but a man standing by himself doing nothing is naturally suspicious. I pull out my cell phone and start an imaginary conversation with myself. Now, I’m perfectly normal and fit in completely.

I’m well into my conversation when Silverman rounds the corner and bobbles into view. He probably hears me talking before he sees me. When he notices me, he swings his head in my direction for maybe a microsecond, long enough to categorize what type of alley life I belong to, and to decide I’m not a threat. Then he is back to his mission. I don’t know why he’s walking but he has plenty of money to take a cab, and the way he is huffing along, he doesn’t seem like he is walking for enjoyment. He must be walking for his health. This strikes me as ironic.

He passes me when I call out his name and take a step toward him.

“Silverman? Alan. Is that you?”

He turns in my direction, a baffled expression creases his face. He stops and gives me the full once over. “Do I know you?”

I take another step forward.

I don’t have the kind of face you’d remember. In fact, there is nothing about me you would find memorable. I’ve been described as doughy, nondescript, a normal kind of guy. I’ve been told I look like an accountant or maybe a truck driver. I’m of average height and average weight. My hair is starting to thin, and I carry a little more around my waistline than I used to, but that’s not unusual for someone in their late thirties. It’s considered ordinary, which I appear to be. And it’s not surprising that he wouldn’t be able to place me, if he ever knew me.

“Alan, remember me? Dick Olson.” I take another step toward him, holding out my hand.

He’s stuck to his spot, but he’s not really buying it. Doesn’t matter. All I need is another few seconds and a few more feet. I keep moving.

“At Gibson’s. You were with Jerry, Jerry Calhoun.”

I’m basically babbling, throwing out names and places I picked up from my research on him. From his expression, I can tell I oversold it. Again, doesn’t matter. This is routine and it will all be over in short order. I am not a big fan of weapons. Guns make too much noise, knives are way too messy. But if you know what you are doing, and I do, hands are all you need. I’m almost within reach.

His hand dips into his pocket and he’s pulling something out. It might be a cell phone, or maybe he wants to give me his wallet. But I don’t think so. The time for subterfuge is over. I lunge toward him.

His hand jerks from the pocket, holding a small can. Mace or pepper spray? I grab for his neck and pull him toward me while I reach for his hand. He gasps. His chest heaves. The guy might have a heart attack before I can kill him.

The spray hits me. Sudden pain. Intense, shattering pain. My eyes tear, my lungs burn, and I can’t breathe. Pain is everywhere. My grip loosens and Silverman twists free. I drop to one knee, but I grab for him again, or at least where I think he is, because I can’t see a thing. I grab at the air and his heavy footsteps pound the pavement, running now. His locomotive breath is so loud it seems to echo off the walls.

I lurch to my feet and head after him. He’s heading toward the street. I have to stop him before he

reaches the safety of the sidewalk. This is a disaster, a royal fuck up and I don’t even want to think about what will happen if I botch this job. He’s running, but even in full panic he’s no runner. I stagger after him. My vision’s blurred, and the pain is just as intense as before, but I force myself to run though I can hardly maintain my balance.

I hear him in front of me as much as I can see him. I’m gaining on him, but even as I bridge the gap between the two of us, the street sounds grow louder still. We are nearly out of the alley and close to the sidewalk. The busy street means safety for Silverman. Surrounded by people, I can’t do a thing, and all he has to do is yell and a crowd will form, police will come, and it’ll all be over. If he makes the street— and he’s almost there—the only thing I can do is slink away.

The truth is, I can’t make it. My lungs are stuffed with hot coals and my vision is shot. He’s too far

ahead. If I had a gun I might shoot, but I’d surely miss and only make matters worse. I keep moving but I already know it’s too late. I blink back the tears and I get a cloudy look at what’s ahead. He’s out of the alley and on the sidewalk now. I’ve lost.

Silverman jerks his head back for a look at me. I can’t see his expression, but I’m guessing it’s one of joy, or relief, or maybe even anger. Or is it still panic, and fear? But he turns again and keeps running, bumping into people but still running, past the sidewalk and right into the street.

A screech of brakes.

A loud thud.

A chorus of yells, screams and gasps break through the background hubbub. I slow to a walk, cross the sidewalk and join the crowd forming around the scene.

A lady lets out a wail of lament. The taxi driver leaps from his cab, his hands aflutter. In his thick

Pakistani accent and high voice, he tells the crowd it’s not his fault. The crowd isn’t listening, their eyes are all on the broken body nearly underneath the wheels.

“Call an ambulance!” a woman yells.

“Too late for that,” someone else says.

I push through the gapers for a good look. The last voice was right. Blood is everywhere, and Silverman is not my problem anymore. The lady lets out a wail again, and I try not to smile with relief. I can’t believe my good luck.

About the Author
Peter Thompson grew up on the east side of Chicago, in the shadow of the steel mills where the air was sooty and smelled of sulfur. His life wasn’t always so gritty, but the grit and realism finds its way into his thrillers. He has always loved stories of every kind, and one of his joys is finding a way to get inside character’s heads, seeing the world as they see it and feeling their triumphs, pain, and fear. He visualizes his characters when he writes, and they are larger than life in the big screen of his imagination.
Before pursuing his passion and becoming a full-time author, he tried his hand at everything from factory work, breaking cement in a construction crew, running his own pizza shop, and he was a well-regarded presence in the mortgage industry for nearly thirty years. When he isn’t writing, Peter loves, spicy food, live music, and exciting and thought-provoking books and movies. He is a fitness buff who loves to spend time with his grown sons and is looking forward to traveling the world and seeking adventures with his lovely partner.
To get in touch, find out more about future projects, please stop by authorpeterthompson.com. Sign up for his reading list to find out about new releases and receive free perks.
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Book Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway – PAST PRESENCE by Nicole Bross

Mystery
Date Published: April 1, 2019
Publisher: Literary Wanderlust
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Only by looking into the past can Audrey save her future.
Audrey Eames is happy living the wanderer’s life. After a near-death experience in her teens, Audrey can see people’s past lives whenever her skin touches theirs, and afraid of being labeled delusional, she’s never stayed in one place too long or made any deep connections.
So when Audrey’s estranged aunt dies and leaves her the historic Soberly Inn and Public House on the scenic Oregon coast, Audrey wants nothing to do with it. She’s determined to sell the inn and leave town before someone discovers the power she’s been hiding from the world, but clauses in her aunt’s will seem to block her at every turn.
Yet once ensconced in Soberly’s small town life, the people—particularly the inn’s bartender, Kellen Greene—start to grow on her, and she begins to feel that maybe she’s finally found a place of her own. As accepting as the townspeople seem, Audrey fears their reactions—and Kellen’s rejection—and decides to keep her visions a secret. But all is not well in Soberly. Soon after Audrey arrives, people in town start dying in the same manner as in their past lives—but in this lifetime it’s murder. When suspicion starts to fall on Audrey and Kellen, Audrey vows to use her gift to find the murderer and protect the people she loves—before it’s too late.
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Excerpt

“It’s been nice chatting with you, Miss Eames.” The night coach driver offers me his hand, palm up, as I prepare to step down and off the bus. With a smile, I accept—careful not to put any weight onto his fingers, which look swollen and red with age and the decades he’s been gripping the wheel.

 
He handed a woman, all swirling skirts, and ruffles, off the carriage-and-four. She was laughing at something her mother had said, but before she stepped up the gravel path leading to the doors of the grand estate, flung open to welcome guests to the ball within, she turned to give him a nod and a half-smile.

 
“Enjoy your evening, Miss.” He returned her nod as the heat crept up under his stiff white collar, but she had already caught up with her mother, and he didn’t think she had heard him.

 
The way his hand clasps mine is the same. Some habits carry over from one lifetime to the next, as I’ve learned. The vision lingers in my mind even after I pull away and shoulder my duffel. The manor home looked English, and the woman’s dress was definitely late Victorian.

 
The sun is cracking the horizon, bathing the village of Soberly, Oregon, all twelve streets of it, in a glow that changes from sepia to marigold. The bus pulls away behind me in a cloud of exhaust and fine yellow sand, off to the next tiny hamlet along the coastal highway, leaving me standing in the empty street.

 
My destination is clearly visible—there is only one hotel here, the sensible, if unoriginally named, Soberly Inn and Public House. Standing one block away, it faces the sea and even from here I can see how the salt spray has faded the once-cobalt blue paint to a dull cornflower over the years. For reasons I don’t yet understand, the Soberly Inn now belongs to me, and I am here to claim it.

 
I had no idea my Aunt Roz had even owned the inn. The last time I saw her I was an awkward pre- teen, and she was less than twice my age. I sometimes remembered to email her on her birthday, but not, I’m ashamed to say, every year, although she never forgot mine. Yet despite our distant, superficial relationship, she had left this place to me, rather than the wife she left behind when she died of a rapidly progressing cancer ten days ago. Maybe she was an ex-wife now. I had no idea. We weren’t even Facebook friends. The notification of her death had come via her lawyer, not my father, along with the news that, for the first time in my life, I was a property owner. The news had affected me deeply, more so than I expected. Now, looking at Roz’s prize for the first time, the quiet ache in my chest ramps up to a throbbing spasm before fading again.

 
This was what my carefree aunt gave up her vagabond life for, and now she wanted me to do the same? I stare up at the building, taking note of the aged wooden siding where the paint has curled away in places, the cracked cedar shingles, and the plain-lettered sign swinging from two chains beside the entrance. ‘Shabby’ was the word that came to mind, and not ‘shabby chic,’ either. I could only imagine the interior was just as dusty and unremarkable as the exterior.

 
“What were you thinking, Roz?” I say under my breath. My feet are still planted in the same place because I don’t know where to go. There isn’t a soul in sight at this time of day, nor are any of the assortment of shops and businesses that line the main street open. I know there will almost certainly be someone at the front desk of the inn, but although I’ve come all this way, I’m not ready to make an appearance there yet, not without knowing what I want to say, something I’d neglected to plan on the long bus ride. I scuff one toe of my battered Chucks in the sand that’s accumulated along the curb, stalling. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the beach, I decide, as I step into the street with the rising sun at my back. The inn is a problem I delegate to Future Audrey. Right-now Audrey is going for a walk along the coast.

 
***

 
As it turns out, the only thing four hours of roaming the beach does is add hunger and the intense need to find a bathroom to my problems. Possibly a sunburn as well, judging from the pinkish hue my skin is taking on. I’ve always felt the injustice of not inheriting the platinum blonde or fiery red hair color that usually accompanies my level of fair skin. There’s nothing even remotely exotic or attention-getting about the flat, medium- brown I ended up with. At least I can be thankful it doesn’t frizz in the humidity, otherwise, I’d look like a positive nightmare right now.

 
The sun is almost directly overhead when I make my way over the last dune to the boardwalk. Although the village’s one cafe is now open and will serve my requirements, I trudge past it to the inn, standing a bit apart from the businesses surrounding it by virtue of its height, the only three-story building in a two-story town.

 
Faced with two doors, one into the inn itself and one into the pub, I choose the latter. It takes my eyes a moment to adjust to the dimness, but my stomach reacts to the environment immediately, growling audibly as the scent of fresh-fried fish greets me.
The pub is classic seaside kitsch, decorated with fishing nets and glass buoys, old traps, and a well-worn rowboat suspended upside-down from the ceiling. Maps of the coastline and faded photographs decorate the walls, as well as other assorted nautical ephemera, and together it paints a portrait of the rich coastal history of the town.

 
I’m still blinking away the daylight, taking this all in, when someone steps into my field of vision.

 
“Grab a seat wherever you want,” a guy holding a large plastic tub says. He’s clearing empty glasses and plates as he says it. I nod my acknowledgment because the pair of red Beats headphones he’s wearing will certainly drown out any verbal reply. His head is bobbing in time to music only he can hear as he disappears through a door leading to what I assume is the kitchen.

 
I duck into the washroom first, eliminating one of my problems. The maritime theme continues, with signs for pirates and wenches on the doors, and mirrors framed to look like portholes. Girls can be pirates too, and I don’t see why boys can’t be wenches. Geez, Roz. Sexist much? She’d been an ardent feminist in her early twenties. Had she stopped caring, or was I reading too much into a couple of bathroom signs?

 
The only table free seats six, so I choose a high stool at the near-vacant bar instead. I’ve arrived right in the middle of the lunch rush, from the looks of it. I still don’t know what to say to anyone here. “Hi, I’m the new owner,” seems arrogant, especially since I have no intention of keeping the place.

 
A menu appears in front of me, startling me out of my ruminations. Across the polished walnut bar stands a man whose skin is a shade lighter than the wood he’s resting his hands on. His smile widens as he stares at me expectantly.

 
“Sorry—what?” I shake my head, flustered. Who has teeth that straight, that white? Self-conscious, I half-cover my mouth with the back of my hand. Mine show clear evidence of my two-pot-a-day coffee habit. I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe someone of the same vintage as the decor, but it definitely wasn’t someone younger than me, although maybe only by a couple years.

 

“Drink?” he repeats, jerking his head at the long row of taps, each with a branded handle. Most of them I’ve never heard of, and I’m not a daytime drinker anyway. “This is a pub,” he adds and winks. The bartender who’s well aware of his good looks. I’m familiar with the type. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it my type, but I’d gone home with enough of them over the years.

 
“Sweet tea,” I say. “Extra ice.”

 
“Sure you don’t want a pint? Maybe a cold glass of white?”

 
I shake my head. “Tea’s fine.”

 
“G&T? I’ll put lots of ice in it.” He’s polishing up a tumbler, reaching for the bottle of Bombay on the shelf behind him. I roll my eyes, but I can’t keep the side of my mouth from twitching.

 
“Put that back. I just want the sweet tea. Are you on commission or something?”
“Nah, I just want to card you so I know your name,” he says. Unrepentant, he points to the sign nailed to a pillar that states We ID Anyone Under 25.

 
“You’re off the mark by a few years, my friend,” I tell him. He’s finally pouring my sweet tea from the soda tap into a massive glass full of ice.

 
“Bullshit.” As soon as he sets it down in front of me, I’m chugging it back, not breathing until the glass is half-empty. He snags it back and refills it while I wipe my mouth with a cocktail napkin. What I want to do is scoop the ice out and rub it all over my arms and face, which are starting to feel alarmingly hot. From all the sun, I tell myself. Not from the attention of this cocky bartender.

 
“We ID for all food orders too, you know.”

 
I lean in close and pause before speaking, making it clear I’m appraising him. “Maybe I’m not hungry.”

 
“You are. I saw you drinking in the smell of the fryer when you walked in. You got this dreamy smile that said you knew exactly what you wanted. So, let’s see it.” He holds out his hand with a crooked, teasing smile, but I push it away with the menu I haven’t even glanced at. He’s right. I don’t need to look at it at all, but I don’t want to admit that he can read me so well.

 
“You don’t have to show ID to order food here. You made that up.”

 
“So what? I can make up the rules if I want.”

 
“Oh, you must own the place?” I mirror his teasing tone, but I’m watching him closely, seeing how he’ll respond. I expect a smart ass reply in the same vein as our banter, but a shadow crosses his face and the smile slips. Shit. The owner just died, you idiot. As usual, the words spilled out of my mouth before I had a chance to think them through.
“I’m not, actually,” he says.

 
“I know. I’m sorry, that was stupid of me to say.” I bite my lip and plunge forward. “I’m Audrey. Audrey Eames. Roz’s niece. Umm, I’m the owner, I guess. So, they tell me. For now.” The silence stretches out between us as he takes all this in, frozen in place while I sit there, feeling like an utter moron with my hand outstretched, waiting for him to shake it. I’m just about to withdraw it into my lap when a wide grin cracks his face. He grips my hand so our forearms touch and our elbows rest on the bar, like we’re about to arm-wrestle. I’m drawn forward in the process so we’re almost nose-to-nose.

 
A gaggle of children ran through the field ahead of her and scrambled over the stile. They were jostling each other and shouting raucously, overjoyed to be free of the classroom for the afternoon. All but one, a small boy whose hand was clasped snugly into hers.

 
“Look, Miss Dean, a nest. The others missed it.” The boy spoke with a thick country accent as he pointed up at the treetops.

 
“Good eye, Wil. What sort of bird do you think made it?”

 
“Something big. A kite, maybe.” She nodded in agreement, and they continued on in companionable silence, following the sounds of laughter ahead.

 
“You totally played me, Audrey. I thought you were just another tumbleweed. I’m glad you’re not. Kellen Greene. It’s very nice to meet you.” The vision of his past- self fades from my mind, and I wonder what qualities he and the teacher have in common.

 
“A tumbleweed?” He squeezes my hand before releasing it, the pad of his thumb tracing a line up the side of my index finger like he’s trying to maintain contact up to the last possible second.

 
“Tourists that roll on through town with the wind, here and gone before you know it. They don’t bring anything with them, and they don’t take anything away either.”
“My bag should have clued you in that I wasn’t just passing through,” I point out, kicking it where it rests at my feet.

 
“Ahh, but there’s only one place to stay in Soberly,” he nods toward the ceiling and the rooms above, “and it’s full up, at least until Sunday.” Kellen walks over to the door leading into the back and swings it open. “Hey, Ma,” he shouts, drawing the attention of everyone in the pub. “Come meet your new boss.”

 
About the Author
Nicole Bross is an author from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she lives with her husband, two children and one very large orange cat. When she’s not writing or working as the editor of a magazine, she can be found curled up with a book, messing around with her ever-expanding collection of manual typewriters or in the departures lounge of the airport at the beginning of another adventure. Past Presence is her debut novel.
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Twitter: @brossypants
 
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THE PERFECT CHILD by Lucinda Berry – 5 of 5 stars

The Perfect Child

What a gem this turned out to be!

Chillingly suspenseful, but also endearing at times, this little book robbed me of much needed sleep. If I wasn’t staying up too late to read, I was tossing and turning with the plot on repeat in my head.

Janie – Is she the sweet, tortured child she seems to be or the devil incarnate?

Christopher – This dude is a major pushover, especially for little Janie. The trouble is, he can’t see what’s right under his nose.

Hannah – Poor, poor Hannah can’t seem to catch a break from Janie or Chris. It’s not long before I couldn’t help wondering, is this really as bad as it seems or is Hannah losing her ever loving mind? You’ll have to read it yourself to find out!

The author’s background in child psychology was hugely beneficial to the storyline and I don’t doubt for a second that as far fetched as Janie’s character seems to be, it’s entirely plausible. Ms. Berry does a spectacular job of not only shaping the character, but of getting to the bones of Janie so that love her or hate her, we understand her. Berry’s skill in character development seamlessly painted a three dimensional picture of Hannah and Chris, as well.

I loved every moment of this book, but have to admit that I was disappointed in the ending. It’s not because it wasn’t happy, but because I felt no resolution. Like there should be more to it. I can’t figure out exactly what would’ve made it feel more resolved for me, though. It’s not a story that can have a neatly tied up ending. Actually, as I’m thinking about it now, maybe it’s Hannah’s character growth. The arc is clear, but I think that if she displayed more strength in the end and took drastic measures to control the situation (even something over the top wacko, which it would most certainly need to be), I would’ve felt a stronger sense of closure. Maybe. It’s so hard to say.

Regardless, I highly recommend this hugely suspenseful tale of a couple’s desperation for a child, and how their dream come true can backfire. Horribly. Really, really, horribly.

Book Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway – THE FABERGE’ ENTANGLEMENT by Lesley Meryn & Elle Brookes

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Romance, Thriller, Suspense, Adventure
Date Published: July 2015
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THE FABERGÉ ENTANGLEMENT
Sabinne ‘Saber’ Darrieux’s father, the billionaire CEO of Frontenac Global Security has been kidnapped. His ransom is not cash in a numbered offshore account, or a briefcase of Bearer Bonds but something utterly unique, incredibly valuable, and until recently, hidden away from the world.
The kidnapper seems to know Saber very well and knows that the next day, through her work as an elite translator she will be in the same location as the Object. She must steal the Object and deliver it to the kidnapper to ransom her father.
Adrian Steele, a British Intelligence agent has just come off of two harrowing missions. Upon returning to London for a well-earned rest, he learns that his friend and a fellow agent have been murdered in Moscow, but not before he made use of a unique Object as a mobile ‘drop site’ for the valuable intelligence he was carrying.
The drop site is traveling from Moscow to England. Steele insists on completing the mission to honor the death of his friend, Gerry Cornell.
At an ultra-chic quasi-diplomatic gathering in a mansion in Windsor, England, Saber and Steele meet and find themselves faced with a powerful, undeniable attraction. But at the moment, this compelling attraction is very inconvenient.
In reality, they are at the mansion to check out the security arrangements — for their own reasons — to steal the Object, a Fabergé egg worth thirty million dollars. But who will get to the egg first?
Fabergé eggs are very famous for their unique surprises. Saber and Steele are about to be very surprised, indeed.
And when Saber clashes with Steele; more than sparks will explode!
Excerpt

He was more striking close up. The wire-framed glasses that had given him that bookish look were gone. As a matter of fact, at that precise moment there was nothing about him that was the least bit bookish. Now he looked more like a feral choirboy.

            Saber lowered her eyes taken in by the seductive curve of his jaw, and his lips parted in an expression of amazement that drew her closer, hypnotically, begging to be covered with her own. She pulled herself back, reminding herself why she was there, what she must do. Leaving him to be found by the Sheikh’s security men would be a pity, but she had a job to finish.                

            She knew her job; too, she was slick, professional. Her contribution to the family business was to test the security systems that were installed by Frontenac et Cie. She was always on-call to the “Uncles” between her translation assignments to do this testing. And she was very good at it. When caught in a tight spot, she was focused on the job at hand, holding back emotion, the fear of “capture” pushed away. Her focus was laser-like in intensity. She infiltrated the secured areas of high-security targets, grabbed the “package” then ex-filtrated as invisibly as a wisp of smoke. Reflection and reactions came after, as she wrote up her reports and advised the designers on flaws and vulnerabilities in their systems.

            But all this slipped away as she felt the light touch of his hands, feeling their heat through thin black leather gloves. They slid very slowly up her thighs, coming to rest lightly and seductively around her waist. She stifled a gasp as she felt his hot fingers press into her, very much a lover’s caress.      

            In scant seconds Saber’s focus for the job at hand, the reason that she was there to begin with, melted away as she felt his hands tighten around her waist. Her grip on the gun weakened as a wave of heat suffused through her.

            With a swiftness that took her breath away he closed the narrow gap between them. A hot flash of desire surged through her as his lips took possession of hers. Taking advantage of her surprise, he dashed the gun from her hand, sending it spinning away out of her reach. He flipped her over so she was now under him. Saber stared up at him wide-eyed, his lean, hard body on hers evoking a reaction from deep within her that was as intense as it was unexpected. Shocked, confused, she twisted her head away from his, but her eyes still kept a sidewise watch on him.

            He bent in closer. Dark eyes flashed dangerously through the long shag of hair that fell over his face. Then, very, very slowly as though savoring every moment, he slid his gloved hand along her arm, around her shoulder, then up her pale exposed throat.   

            Steele’s hand paused, feeling her pulse flutter wildly under his fingertips, before moving up to thread through her silky raven hair. His grip tightened and he turned her head to face him.

            “Mmmm… I can do it, too,” he breathed softly into her ear.

About the Authors
LESLEY MERYN
Enjoyed an exotic, adventure-filled childhood, following her anthropologist father and travel writer mother to the farthest corners of the world. She later took inspiration from her Aunt Sophia Francesca and became the author of romantic adventure novels. She alternates her time between Los Angeles, and a family property located in Yorkshire England.
ELLE BROOKES

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She is the author of the first two books of the Time Frame Series. Loves travel, discovering new foods to try, reading and writing. She currently lives in the central highlands of Costa Rica with her cat Nikola and her hedgehog Quiller.



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Book Tour, Giveaway & Excerpt – AVENGING KISS by Karen Tjebben

Psychological Romantic/Suspense
Date Published:  December 2016
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Some sins cannot be forgiven. Those must be avenged.
When Aditya Chopra stumbled upon the decimated camp, she vowed to hunt down the men who killed her sister. The stench of burnt flesh and the taste of death in the air haunt her dreams and power her lust for vengeance. She will show no mercy.
The men of Savage Security served their country. They’d done their time in the sandbox and now enjoy their peaceful lives in the States, far from the death and mayhem of war. Will living in peace blind them to the dangerous threat that’s poised to strike?

 

Excerpt

Adita had waited outside the American base, hoping to catch sight of him. His look was very distinct. At six foot four with hair the color of a raging fire, he’d been easy to spot. He’d pulled out of the base with another man in a jeep. The hot wind pulled at his scraggly red hair as he’d laughed at something the other man said.

She’d known where they were going. There was a hotel nearby that catered to Europeans and Americans. It boasted a full bar with live music, decent food, and willing women.

After donning her black garments and niqab, she’d made her way into the hotel. Other than the cameras that covered the entrances and exits, security at the hotel was poor. One only had to get inside to enjoy privacy.

 Adita had entered the hotel a few feet behind the men. As they’d headed towards the bar, she’d walked directly to the bathroom off the lobby. Entering the stall, she’d quickly removed her outer clothes and shoved them into her bag. Then she’d stopped in front of the bathroom mirror to check her appearance. After adjusting her skirt, she’d decided to open another button on her shirt. While he’d get a peek at her cleavage, she’d still look like a respectable woman. Playing a whore gathered too much attention. She’d added a touch of lipstick and powdered her face. And finally, she’d adjusted the Kanzashi Geisha sticks in her hair to make sure it would be easily accessible. Hidden inside the stick was a sharp two-sided blade. It was thin and slid easily from the decorative case. And after one more look in the mirror, she was ready.

She’d walked into the bar with the confidence of a Western woman and noticed Lieutenant Shaw sitting alone at the bar. His friend was dancing with a woman, his hand palming her ass and pulling her close to his body. Adita didn’t waste time. She needed to get to Shaw before he found someone to screw.

She’d slipped onto the bar stool next to him and offered him a shy smile. He’d grinned as he raked his gaze over her. His high-wattage smile had nearly knocked her over. The heat in his gaze as he’d mentally undressed her pleased her. She returned his smile and stared at his muscular arms as she bit into her bottom lip. With that one interaction, she knew that he wanted her. He’d come to the hotel in search of sex, and she didn’t plan to disappoint.

He’d been such an easy target. Arrogant men never realized the threat a woman could pose to them, and she’d tirelessly worked that advantage. They’d quickly exchanged names and engaged in meaningless chatter. But once she’d stroked his knee, he’d taken the bait and asked her to join him in a room.

She’d played coy at first, acting as if she’d needed to think about it. But then he’d leaned in close and whispered in her ear promises of pleasure. And then, as he’d pulled away, he playfully tugged on her earlobe with his teeth. She’d responded by stroking higher on his thigh. That worked for him, and he stood to go back to a room. His pants had tented nicely; apparently it didn’t take much to turn him on.

She’d followed him to a room. He’d unlocked the door and waited for her to enter first. As she’d stood in the entrance, he’d closed the door and turned the bolt. After a dangerous smile, he’d lifted her and pressed her against the wall with his muscular body. She’d instinctively wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck. In response, he’d rubbed his cock against her center. The pressure of his body against her had lit her up. He knew how to kiss, and Adita realized that fucking him would be fun. So many of the other men she’d entertained cared little about her pleasure. She hadn’t expected much from those lowlifes anyway. But little had they known that there was nothing more erotic than the warmth of your prey’s blood washing over your skin as you take their life.

About the Author

 

Karen Tjebben lives in central North Carolina with her wonderful husband, twin daughters, and two hamsters. When her girls left for kindergarten, Karen discovered that she needed to fill her days with something, and that was the beginning of her writing career. She loves to create worlds filled with unique characters that she hopes will delight and raise goose bumps on her readers. In her free time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and seeing the world through her daughters’ eyes.
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Book Blitz – HIS HAND IN THE STORM by Ritu Sethi

 

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Date Published: Dec 22, 2018

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A MAN COPES ANY WAY HE CAN AFTER KILLING HIS ONLY SON.

His team believes he’s calm and Zen. His boss finds him obsessive. Suspects think him gorgeous but dangerous. They’re all right.

Chief Inspector Gray James is sculpting the remembered likeness of his small son when he receives the call – a faceless corpse is found hanging by the choppy river, swirls of snow and sand rolling like tumbleweeds.

Montreal glitters: the cobbled streets slippery with ice, and the mighty St. Lawrence jetting eastward past the city. One by one, someone is killing the founders of a booming medical tech startup – propelling Gray into a downward spiral that shatters his hard-earned peace, that risks his very life, that threatens to force him to care and face what he has shunned all along: his hand in the storm.

From the prize-winning author comes a psychological, page-turning mystery with all the elements one needs on a rainy night: a complex murder, a noble yet haunted detective, and an evocative setting to sink into.

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

April 1, 5:30 am

MORE NUMBING PAIN.

At precisely five-thirty am on April the first, Chief Inspector Gray James tucked his cold hands into his pockets, straightened his spine, and looked up.

He breathed out through his nose, warm breath fogging the air as if surging out of a dragon and tried to dispel the mingled hints of flesh, cherry blossoms, and the raw, living scent of the river.

The drumming of his heart resonated deep in his chest – brought on more by intellectual excitement than by any visceral reaction to murder. Because of this, Gray accepted an atavistic personal truth.

He needed this case like he’d needed the one prior, and the one before that. That someone had to die to facilitate this objectionable fix bothered him, but he’d give audience to that later. Much later.

A car backfired on le Chemin Bord Ouest, running east-west along Montreal’s urban beach park. A second later, silence ensued, save the grievous howling of a keen eastwardly wind, and the creak of nylon against wood, back and forth, and back and forth.

Heavy boots tromping through the snow and slush came up from behind. A man approached. Tall, but not as tall as Gray, his cord pants and rumpled tweed conveyed the aura of an absent-minded professor, yet the shrewd eyes – not malicious, but not categorically beneficent either – corrected that impression.

Forensic Pathologist John Seymour looked up at the body hanging from the branch of a grand oak, gave it the eye and said, “Well, I can tell you one thing right off.”

“What’s that?”

“You wouldn’t be caught dead in that suit.”

Gray sighed. “What do you suggest? That I refer the victim to my tailor?” To which Seymour shrugged and got to work.

With every creak of the rope biting into the bough, Gray half-expected the swinging shoes to brush the snow-laden grass; each time the cap-toed oxfords narrowly missed. A grease stain marked the bony protrusion of the left white sock (with a corresponding scuff on the heel – from being dragged?), above which the crumpled brown wool-blend fabric of the pants and ill-fitting jacket rippled in the wind – like the white-tipped surface of the river beyond.

Dawn cast a blue light on the water and snow. A damp cold sank through Gray’s coat and into his bones. Amazing how the usually peaceful beach park took on a menacing air: the St. Lawrence choppier than usual, swirls of sand and snow rolling like tumbleweeds, the sky heavy and low. But a children’s playground lay behind the hanging body, and its red swings, bright yellow slide, and empty wading pool offered a marked contrast to the swaying corpse.

With every flash, Scene of Crime Officers photographed the body and documented what remained: only an exposed skull, framed by sparse hair on top, ears on either side, and a wrinkly neck puckered in a noose. A red silk tie under the hangman’s knot accentuated the complete absence of blood. Blood would have been preferable. The features were stripped to the bone, with eroded teeth set in a perpetual grin as if the skull were enjoying a joke at everyone’s expense.

“White male in his early fifties,” Seymour said. “Well off, by the look of him. Only small bits of tissue left on the cheekbones, lips, and around the eyes. Notice the distinctive gap between the two front teeth.”

That could help with identification.

The custom ringtone on Gray’s cell played “She’s Always a Woman.” Why was she calling him so soon? He stabbed the phone and tucked it back into his cashmere coat pocket before circling the body several times.

“What killed him?” Gray asked.

“The facial trauma preceded the hanging.”

That much was obvious since the rope wasn’t eaten away like the face.

“We can’t know the cause of death until I get him on the slab,” Seymour said. “And before you ask, the time of death is hard to say. Parts of him are already frozen. Maybe four to seven hours ago. I’ll have a better window after I’ve checked the stomach contents and what’s left of the eyes.”

Seymour crouched and felt the victim’s knees and lower legs. “Rigor mortis has set in, probably sped up by the cold.” He rotated the stiff ankles. “Look at these tiny feet. Can’t have been too popular with the ladies.”

Gray closed his eyes and counted to five.

All around, professionals bustled gathering evidence, clearing onlookers and photographing the scene. The park lay sandwiched between the beach and parking lot leading to the main road. On one side, the river flowed eastward in a blue-gray haze, blurring the line between water and sky. On the other, traffic going into downtown Montreal grew heavier by the minute. The road led to his neighborhood, where Victorian and Edwardian homes, bistros, and cafés crunched together for ten hipster-infused blocks.

This park held memories of weekends spent with his wife and son. A lifetime ago. Why did it have to happen here, of all places?

“Did some kind of acid cause the burns, Doctor?”

“Yeah. Parts of the eyes are still there. Almost as if they were left for last. I wonder why.”

Gray could think of a reason but didn’t elaborate.

A gust of wind swung the corpse’s legs sideways, narrowly missing an officer’s head.

“What the hell.” Seymour grabbed the ankles. “The sooner we cut him down, the better.”

Which couldn’t be soon enough. Gray bent down and held the lower legs. He gripped the ankle awkwardly with his right thumb and little finger, the middle three immobile these last three years since the accident, and a snake-like scar running from his palm to his wrist blanched from the cold.

Despite his hanging on tight, the corpse danced in the wind. “Don’t rush on my account, Doctor.”

Finally, attendants cut the victim down and laid him on a stretcher. Seymour hunched over, his blond hair parting in the breeze, revealing a pink, flaky scalp, the grinning corpse powerless to refuse examination.

“Definitely acid,” Seymour said. “Going to be hard for you to trace, since it’s so easy to get. Impure sulphuric acid’s available at any mechanic shop. You find the purer kind in pharmaceuticals.” He flashed a penlight into the facial crevices and probed them with a long, needle-like instrument.

The victim couldn’t feel it, but each stab and scrape made Gray flinch. “Must you do that?”

“Look at these chipped bones,” Seymour said. “Here, next to the supraorbital foramen, and here on the left zygomatic arch. They’re edged off, not dissolved by acid.”

“Torture, right?”

“Could be.”

Gray paced his next six words: “Was he alive for the acid?”

“I’m going to have to brush up on vitriolage. If he were, he’d have breathed it in, and we’d see scarring in the esophagus, nostrils, and lungs.”

Looking around at the flat, deserted beach park, the ropy ebb and flow of the water, Gray said, “He didn’t die here, did he?”

“No. From what I can see, livor mortis indicates he probably died sitting and was strung up later. I’ll let you know after all his clothes are off.” Seymour pushed himself up with his hands, his knees popping like the report of a firearm. “What could the poor bastard have done to deserve this?”

Gray didn’t answer. As someone guilty of the greatest sin of all, he considered himself wholly unqualified to make any such judgment.

His cell played “She’s Always a Woman,” again, and he pulled it out. Images from the previous night played in his mind: her hands flat on the mattress, his palm encircling her belly from behind. And those unexpectedly strong martinis she’d made earlier.

Putting away the phone, he spoke brusquely. “When will you have something ready?”

“Preliminary report probably later today. And I’ll send remnants of the acid for analysis to determine the type and grade.”

As the body was carried to a van and Seymour followed, second-in-command Lieutenant Vivienne Caron approached Gray carrying two cappuccinos from a nearby Italian cafe. Wonderful steam rose from the opened lids, and the dark, nutty aroma drifted forward, the first hint of comfort on this bleak morning.

Her chocolate brown eyes exuded warmth – eyes both direct and shy, their color perfectly matching her short, straight tresses now whipping about in the wind and framing gentle features.

“Chief Inspector.” She addressed him formally, despite their longstanding friendship. The sound of her nearly perfect English was pleasant and familiar, beautifully accented with the musical intonation characteristic of certain Québecois.

Even though she held the coffee before his left hand; he grasped it awkwardly with his right.

“Don’t spill any on that thousand-dollar suit,” she said.

It made him gag. “Why do you always add so much sugar?”

“Because I know that with a juicy case to solve, you’ll be too busy to eat or sleep.”

A moment of silence passed between them, pregnant with history he didn’t want exhumed.

“I have to make sure you’re okay,” she said. “Even if you refuse to… She was my best friend.”

He placed a hand on her shoulder. “You live with Sita’s ghost more than I do. Enough time has passed for me.”

“Maybe. It’s changed you.”

“For the worse?”

Vivienne stilled, her mouth open. “Non. For the better. That’s the problem.”

Her eyes were warm yet partly adversarial. He saw it as the conflicting desire for wanting him to be okay, but not to leave her to grieve alone. She’d once told him the same trauma that had disillusioned her had enlightened him.

“It doesn’t matter what happens,” he whispered.

“Doesn’t matter?” Her voice took on an edge.

“As long as you can control your reactions – it doesn’t matter. Freedom comes from living in grays – no black; no white. No convenient polarities.”

Her eyes pierced his, but he knew, out of respect, she wouldn’t directly say what she thought; that he oscillated between Zen and obsession, contentment and blackness.

She shuffled her feet. “I don’t know how you made that leap, after the tragedy.”

“The worst thing that could ever happen to me has happened. After that, I can either fear everything or nothing – I have nothing left to lose.”

Vivienne didn’t reply.

What right had he to preach when he still experienced unguarded moments which filled his insides with quicksand as that malignant though raced through his mind: what do I do now? How do I fill this day and twenty years of interminable days when everything is for nothing? When this life feels surreal, dissociated as though I’m on a foreign planet with strangers.

Those moments often occurred when he didn’t have a case; they occurred before sleep and drove his nightly obsession.

“Living in Gray?” Vivienne shook her pretty head. “I believe in good and evil.”

“Then where do I fall? Or will you make excuses for me?”

“Non. I won’t make excuses for you. “

Her eyes hooded over; she took a step back. A door slammed between them, again.

“No cell phone, no ID,” she said. “Any footprints or tracks are covered by snow.”

“Let’s have someone check with the occupants of the hospital rooms facing the river.”

Westborough Hospital sat directly across the road. A magnificent feat of engineering, its four glass-walled buildings were connected by skyways. It had taken twenty years of fundraising to build (with its founding director recently fleeing to Nicaragua under allegations of embezzling some of those funds) and took up several square blocks.

Gray forced down the coffee. Already, warmth and caffeine coursed through his system, bringing life to his numb toes tucked inside the slush-soaked loafers. “Did you check with missing persons?”

“Only one recent report matches. Norman Everett of Rosedale Avenue in Upper Westmount. He’s only been gone since last night and reported missing by his step-son, Simon Everett. And of note, Norman’s a doctor at Westborough Hospital.”

Gray’s head shot up. “Missing since last night, and works at this particular hospital? The timing’s perfect. Give me his details. I’ll do the interview myself while you finish up here.”

“D’accord.”

She handed over the number, and he made the call to Norman Everett’s house, reaching the missing man’s wife, Gabrielle.

Before Vivienne could go, a Scene of Crime Officer jumped forward and handed Gray a transparent evidence bag.

“Found this by the tree over there, Chief.”

“How recent?”

“It lay just under the snow. The city cleaned this area recently; hardly any debris around.”

Gray thanked him and looked down at the four by six-inch identity badge, examined the photo, and read the identifying details, gripping it tight enough that his fist blanched. The image blurred for the briefest second before clearing.

Vivienne rubbed her hands together. “What’s wrong?”

He didn’t trust his voice yet. A shoal of uncertainties flooded his chest. The case suddenly became more raw, more urgent, but he’d handle it. He always did. Gray unclenched his jaw and fingers, and handed her the evidence bag.

“The killer?” she asked.

“A witness.”

“Look at that ID. Look what it says. You can’t be sure.”

“Yes, I can.” His tone came out harsher than he’d intended. He could guess her next words, and he’d deserve them. Does anything matter, now? Will you be able to control your reactions? But she didn’t say it. Didn’t point out the one circumstance that sliced his calm with the efficiency of a scalpel. Instead, she met his eyes in a gentle embrace before moving farther up the beach.

Bells sounded from St. Francis, the eighteenth-century cathedral up the road for the Angelus prayer. Quebec had the largest Catholic population in the country, and maybe as a result, the lowest church attendance and marriage rate. But the familiar ringing comforted and smoothed the sharp edges of his morning.

Gray left the cordoned off area, crossed the breadth of the beach park, and headed to the attached parking lot and his car; the black metallic exterior gleamed in the distance.

At one time, the Audi S5 had consumed a substantial chunk of his detective’s salary, but he hadn’t cared. Memories of countless family road trips lay etched within its metal frame.

Still twenty feet away, he pressed the automatic start to warm the engine, just as Seymour summoned him from behind.

The doctor jogged over sporting a wry smile, breath steaming in the cold air, and his long coat flapping. Behind him, the van carrying the body left the parking lot.

“I forgot to ask you earlier – about your next expedition,” Seymour said. “Mind having some company?”

“I failed last time,” Gray said. “Or hadn’t you heard?”

“A fourteen-hundred-kilometer trek to the South Pole, on foot, is hardly a failure.”

“It is if you can’t make the journey back. Anyway–”

A boom drowned out his words. The earth shook, and air blasted towards them, throwing Gray to the ground onto his right shoulder, pain searing up his arm. Chunks of metal and debris flew from the newly obliterated Audi in every direction, denting nearby cars and clanging against the pavement. A puff of smoke shot upward, chasing the flames, leaving the smell of burning rubber and metal hanging in a thick cloud – while cars on the nearby road screeched to a sudden halt. The fire swayed as though alive, angry arms flailing and crackling, spitting sparks in all directions.

“What the hell!” Seymour lay in the snow, his mouth open, his arm up to ward off the scorching heat.

Gray’s car lay mutilated, the black paint graying as it burned. People jumped out of their vehicles to take a look. Vivienne and some officers ran towards him, their feet pounding on the asphalt.

“Someone is damn pissed off at you,” Seymour said, eying his own dented Mercedes. He turned to Gray. “What did you do?”

A MYSTERY; A BEACH; A BEER:  Ritu’s favorite vacation day.

Ritu’s first book, His Hand In the Storm has had nearly 50,000 downloads. It became an AMAZON BESTSELLER  in the Kindle free store and was #1 in all its mystery categories. She needs coffee (her patch for Coca Cola), beaches, and murder mysteries to survive – not necessarily in that order. She won the Colorado Gold Award for the first in the Chief Inspector Gray James Murder Mystery Series, His Hand In the Storm. The book was also a Daphne du Maurier Suspense finalist.

She’s fulfilling her lifelong desire of becoming a mystery writer. Many thanks to all the readers who are making that possible.

Contact Links

Website: https://www.rituwrites.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ritusethiauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ritusethiauthor

Blog: https://www.rituwrites.com/blog-ritu-writes

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18704337.Ritu_Sethi

Purchase Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MNDFJG9

Barnes and Noble:https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130039434?ean=2940156296538

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/his-hand-in-the-storm

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1447790556

Read the first chapter!

Ebook Cover

Lia

 He leans against the wall beside Barnes & Noble, a three-dimensional shadow in the dimming light of the mall. His black hoodie conceals his face, yet I feel as if he’s watching us – watching me. I imagine his eyes as dark as his clothing, his glare villainous.

My heart pounds as though I have reason to fear him. It’s ridiculous, really. Probably the result of a day run long and an evening sure to run short.

The rapid click of my heels on the tile flooring seems to echo through the rarely-empty space. Most shoppers have left for the night, but a few stragglers remain, likely those in a last-minute rush. Like me. I glance at the narrow-banded watch on my wrist, gold hands ticking over a shimmering pearl face.

Eight fifty-three. Seven minutes until closing time.

John shuffles beside me, smirking as he notices my panicked glance at the watch. “I bought you that thing so you’d be on time once in a while. Clearly, it didn’t help.”

I’d have been late whether I knew what time it was or not. I couldn’t bring myself to leave work until I knew that Jailyn Adams would be safe and cared for. Six years old, so small, heartbroken. She’d have received the best of care with or without me, but I was there when her world fell apart. The least I could do was stay with her until her temporary guardian arrived.

It’s the part of my job I hate most, having to pull a child from their home. Regardless of what they’ve been through – in Jailyn’s case, a world of serious neglect blurred in a fog of drug abuse – it’s the only life they know. I wanted to be a Social Worker to do good for others, but in that moment, when pure fear and agony pours from those little bodies, it feels like the worst of wrongs.

John nudges me with his elbow, a smirk still on his face. “What? No comeback?”

Every night I’m thankful to come home to my husband, to the twinkle in his eyes and quick wit that never fails to clear my head of a difficult day. Lately, I need it more than ever. Confusion and self-doubt cloud every decision I attempt to make, encircling me in a stifling ring of anxiety. It’s a far cry from the confidence I once possessed, but also a necessary evil. Some mistakes shouldn’t be made in the first place, yet alone repeated.

Trust your gut, always.

Never again.

I grab John’s hand and pull. “Less talking, more walking. We’ve got to hurry.”

Despite the warmth of my husband’s hand and the July heat still clinging to my skin from outside, a shiver curls up my spine. The mall lighting seems to dim, eerily dark in the absence of music, chatter, and hundreds of bodies passing through. It puts even more of a rush in my step, a subconscious need to get out of here.

Or maybe it’s the creep outside the bookstore causing me to feel the need to flee. Why is he wearing a hoodie on such a hot day, anyhow? I glance over my shoulder, hoping to see that he’s gone and relax, but he still stands there, his shadowed face pointing in my direction. I can’t tell whether he has facial hair or not, a narrow or round face, or if his skin is light or dark.

Stop it, Lia. It’s nothing.

But can I be sure? I don’t know anything about him. His wife or girlfriend could’ve just left him for another man, pushing him to seek revenge. Maybe I remind him of her or John of her lover. Maybe he knows who I am, or at least, where I work. He may have recently had a child removed. He could be a mental hospital escapee, a sociopath set on stalking, if not murdering the first person he sees. Me.

The possibilities seem endless, flitting through my mind in a blurring whir.

What I don’t consider is the most likely scenario of all: He is only standing there, oblivious to my existence.

“Would’ve been silly to buy the shoes at the same time as the dress,” John says. “Can’t you just wear black or something?”

Without slowing my pace, I shoot him a glance. “The dress is pink Champaign. Black would look ridiculous. Leila will notice if the shade is off, yet alone the color. She wants her day to be perfect.” My sister is ever the perfectionist, bordering on OCD.

John keeps my pace, but rolls his eyes.

I speak before he has the chance. “Besides, it’s a wedding, not a funeral.”

“Matter of perception,” he says. “The poor sap getting stuck with Leila might beg to differ.”

I nudge his elbow, shoot him my shocked face, the wide-eyed, O-shaped mouth, I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that look. The truth is, he’s right. We don’t refer to her as Princess Leila for nothing.

I swing in the door of Frivolous Footwear, the shop Leila insisted would have the shoes I’m looking for. Of course, that was a few months ago, when I was supposed to get them.

“I confirmed it. They have a store right in Duluth and the shoes are in stock.”

Right in Duluth. Where I work. Where John’s office is. Not where I live, though. Once we’re finished here, it will be another forty-five minutes before I can kick off my shoes and relish in the comfort of home.

At the office they ask why John and I don’t move into the city – the state, for that matter – and save the daily commute. I wouldn’t give up my small town, northern Wisconsin home on the shores of Sandy Lake for any amount of convenience. Other people visit the quaint town for a summer getaway, but for us it’s like we’re on vacation every time we return home.

John laughs. “You know I’m just kidding. I’m sure Leila’s last two husbands were the problem, not her.”

I spot a row of pumps and head down the aisle, bright and soft colors mingling into a brilliant rainbow of footwear. My head shoots right to left, my eyes searching for the right shade. I don’t let it slow my comeback, though. “They could say the same for us.”

He shrugs. “Second marriage for both of us. Not third. There’s a difference.”

The vibe in the shop is more unnerving than in the corridor, the small space abandoned of all shoppers except for us, half of the overhead lights turned off as if to emphasize that I need to hurry up and get out.

A girl with a name badge pinned to her shirt peers down the aisle and runs a hand through her dark hair. I do a double take, verify that it isn’t my own daughter looking at me. This girl’s complexion is a bit darker than Kara’s and she looks younger, but the way she holds her head – slightly high, a likeable confidence – with long hair sweeping her shoulders, she could be my daughter.

I once had hair like that, a shiny coffee mane absent of the gray that would eventually dull its appearance. Thank God for hair dye and the salon. If only the other signs of age would be as easy to cover.

The girl steps into the aisle. “Is there something I can help you with? My boss is getting ready to close up.”

I glance at my watch again. Five minutes. “I’ll be out in plenty of time.” I reach for my purse, pry it open, pull out a silky swatch, and hold it out to her. “I’m looking for something in this color.”

The girl bites her lip. “I think we have…” She glances over her shoulder, then turns and walks away from me. “Over here.”

I follow her into the next aisle and spot three potential matches lined beside each other, darkest to lightest. I take the swatch back from her and hold it against each of the shoes. Same shade, but too dark. Still too dark, but close. A shade off and too light.

“Carlee?” A voice calls from the front of the store.

The girl turns her head, then looks back at me. “We really need to close now. Can…”

“Is this all of them?” I ask before she has a chance to ask me to leave.

She nods, so I grab the closest match to my dress. Leila will have to get over it. It’s enough that I agreed to suffer the humiliation of squeezing my menopausal belly into a much-too-tight dress. Besides, as her three-time maid of honor, I matched perfectly the first two times. So I’m a little off this time.

Mom would get a kick out of it, this unspoken stand I’m taking against Leila. If she could join us. If she was in her right mind. If the doctors didn’t think she’d now have more bad days than good thanks to the dementia devouring her brain.

The thought causes my throat to constrict, the all too familiar emotion choking off my breath. Mom may be physically alive, but the presence of body cannot replace the presence of heart and mind. She doesn’t speak lately, doesn’t even seem to hear. I miss the sound of her voice, even when she wasn’t sure which of her daughters I was or if I was her daughter at all.

I swallow to open my throat and hand the shoe to Carlee. “Could you see if you have these in an eight? I’ll try them on fast and be out of your way.”

The girl bites her lip again, but nods, rushing toward the back of the store. I sit on a plush bench along the wall and slip my shoe off, readying myself for when the shoes arrive.

I look around, taking in the children’s shoes in the aisle beside me. Little girls’ shoes. Like Jailyn would wear. Her face flashes in my mind, red cheeks, puffy eyes, streaming tears that will haunt me long after they’ve dried.

It attacks me again, that churning in my stomach, increasing heart rate, and cold sweat beading on my skin. If I was wrong, if Jailyn’s circumstances weren’t what I thought them to be…

I take a deep breath, blink the images away. I wasn’t wrong. I couldn’t have been. The physical evidence removed by police proves it. This time.

John stands in front of me, hands stuffed in the pockets of his black dress pants. His royal blue button-up shirt brings out the brilliance of his eyes, the gray streaks in his dark hair complementing the distinguished appearance. He looks every part of the pharmaceutical scientist that he is, save the crooked smirk on his face.

“It’s your fault we’re here,” I bite out before he can comment. “If you hadn’t booked such an early flight, I’d be able to take care of this in the morning.”

He laughs, points to himself. “My fault? Would you rather drive to Florida?”

I press my lips into a line to suppress a smile. We have this humor in our relationship, a way that seems to make everything, even a late night shoe emergency, seem fun. It’s such a far cry from my last marriage, every moment so serious, tense.

John shakes his head, bends down, kisses me. “Fine, I’ll take the blame this time.” He kisses me again. “But only because you’re cute when you’re crazy.”

I feel the tension bleed from me, the effect of his warm lips. “You call this crazy?”

He shrugs. “Well, not as crazy as Leila.” He wrinkles his brow. “Tell me again why we’re going to this wedding?”

I play-slap his arm. For the past two weeks he’s been making up forgotten business meetings, unheard of illnesses, and a variety of appointments to get out going with me. I only waved him off. He may not admit it, but the truth is that he’d never send me off to deal with Bridezilla on my own. He too supportive for that. He’s my rock, the one person I know I can always count on for anything. “Because she’s my sister. Whether I like it or not.”

“Could be worse,” he says. “At least Mitch isn’t going with us.” His voice lowers, the pain of a father-son argument bleeding through.

I tip my head, unsure of what to say. I know how much it hurts John to have his only child angry with him. They’re usually so close, practically inseparable. There’s more to it, though, and I know this is what John worries about. Although I won’t admit it to John, I’m a little worried, too.

John sits next to me, exhaling slowly, deflating. “I’ve never seen him so mad.”

I’ve seen Mitch this mad before, even angrier. John has seen it, too. He just doesn’t want to allow himself to remember those days, the unwarranted outbursts, Mitch locking himself in his room, the constant fear over his safety and unspoken musings over ours.

But that was a long time ago. Mitch is a different person now, confident, sweet, stable. He’s just…off. Today. A one-time thing, surely.

John shakes his head. “He ran to Maggie, for Christ’s sake! He never does that.”

Maggie. The woman who gave birth to Mitch. That’s where her parenting ended.

I rest my hand on his thigh and squeeze. “He’s a smart, good boy. He’ll get over it. Everything will be…”

A loud bang echoes from within the mall.

John jumps from the bench and looks toward the front of the store, his back to me. Voices echo off the walls, angry shouts. Then another bang.

John spins back to me. “A gun.” He grabs my hand, pulls me to my feet and toward the back of the store, one shoe on, the other still resting on the floor beside the bench. I limp, lopsided without the other heel. He keeps me close to him, maneuvering through rows of shoes to the counter.

A woman around my age, her hair rolled into a neat, loose bun appears from behind the counter and I guess that she’s the boss, the one in a hurry to close. Her gaze shoots to the front of the store.

Another series of bangs, loud, echoing, one right after another.

“Back here!” The woman says as she runs behind the counter. John follows, pulling me into a storage room lined with metal shelving and boxes.

Bang. Bang, bang.

Closer this time.

John guides me to the corner of the room, behind a shelf of shoe boxes that towers over my head. He leans against the wall, pulls me close to him, wrapping his arms around me as if to shield me from the spray of bullets somewhere outside of the store.

He must feel the way my heart pounds, throbbing against the wall of my chest. “It’ll be okay,” he whispers in my ear. “Whatever is happening is out there.” He nods toward the store exit. “We’re safe.”

I nod, chew on my lip. What he says makes sense, but then why don’t I feel safe?

The answer crashes in on me, an image recreated from moments ago: The man in the hoodie.

Is he to blame for this? Were there others posted throughout the mall, all dressed in black, waiting to strike? Maybe I’d been right to fear him, a psychic voice in my head warning me.

The next bang is even closer, possibly right outside of the store. I whimper slightly, turn and bury my face in John’s chest, try to find comfort in the familiar scent of his cologne. He squeezes me tighter.

My head dizzies with my racing heart, my ears ringing, but not loudly enough to drown the sound of approaching footsteps.

“John!” I whisper, but it comes out in panicked shrill.

He holds his finger to his lips. “Shh.” He gently pulls me to the floor, both of us crouching as if reducing our height will make us invisible to the madmen out there. The cold, damp concrete seeps through the thin fabric of my dress, chilling my skin.

The steps grow closer, louder.

The next bang slices through my ears as if the bullet has pierced my head.

I pinch my eyes shut, squeeze John’s arm. The footsteps don’t stop. John rises slightly, wrapping my body with his own, shielding me.

The footsteps pause, a false moment of relief.

“Back here.” The voice is deep, like a roll of thunder.

Despite my terror, I can’t help wondering who he is looking for. Carlee? The owner? Maybe they had reason to close the store in a hurry. Or maybe it’s just another sign of a world gone bad. Another shooting, more innocent lives lost.

I hold my breath, pray that mine isn’t one of them.

The next bang I feel as much as hear, vibrations shooting through me as if I’d been the one to pull the trigger. I peer out from beneath John’s elbow, see a pair of black clad feet nearing. They stop, the toes awkwardly pointing inward, pigeon-like.

Another bang. Then two more.

John’s body slumps, pinning me beneath him. A sticky, warm liquid dribbles onto my cheek. I want to scream, but I can’t even breathe.

Coming May 18th, 2019!
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What’s Next?

Coming May 18, 2019

Ebook Cover

I’m your lover and your best friend.

We share a life, but do you know who I am?

It’s supposed to be a quick stop at the mall, a last minute errand. To Lia Drake, it doesn’t feel right from the start. Maybe it’s the eerie silence as closing time looms. Maybe it’s the hooded stranger watching her every move. Or maybe she’s just on edge after an emotionally draining day at her job with Child Protective Services.

But within minutes, gunfire peppers the hallways, sending Lia and her husband, John, cowering in a storeroom. Hiding does little good. Footsteps near. Gunshots explode. John’s lifeless body pins Lia to the floor.

Overwhelmed with grief, Lia assumes it’s another random act of violence until police suggest that John had been their target. It doesn’t make sense. John is easy going, funny, and genuinely kind-hearted. She can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like him, yet alone someone who would to see him dead.

But Lia has demons in her closet that could be to blame.

A quest for answers reveals more than Lia bargained for. Every new detail exposes a suspect with motive to kill. Worse, those details paint an unrecognizable picture of John, revealing a side to him she knew nothing about.

Lia’s desperation lands her in a race for time with John’s increasingly restless killer. It could be a complete stranger, or someone she trusts. If she doesn’t figure it out soon, she’ll become their next victim.

Check back next week for sneak peek at the first chapter!

PLEDGE OF ASHES by Amy Sevan – 5 of 5 stars

Pledge of Ashes (Rise Series Book 1) by [Sevan, Amy]

Oh, how I loved this book!

Let me start by saying that this is not my typical genre. I have hard time connecting to characters and settings that I don’t believe, or can’t trick myself into believing could be real. I know I’m in the minority, as fantasy is a hugely popular genre, but I say this to emphasize the power this book had over me.

Sydney Hoven is not your typical character. She’s a strong, sarcastic, rough-around-the-edges woman – usually a fool proof recipe for an unlikeable character. Admittedly, she is somewhat unlikeable, but the author’s superb character development skills make her so relatable, it took little time to empathize with her. Chapter after chapter we delve a little deeper into the makings of this complex character until we can’t help but to cheer her on during every step of her bizarre journey.

Speaking of characters, oh Devon… I’m not the swooning type, but this guy turned me into a swooning puddle of mush. He’s such a strong, charming, and vivid character that I found myself hoping and praying he could be real and that he’d show up on my doorstep. (Don’t tell my husband that.)

A psychic storyline is always intriguing, but what sets this book apart is Syd’s insistence on abandoning her powers. She just wants a normal life and it seems she’s taking steps in the right direction…until she meets Devon.

Hunky, sexy, far too tempting Devon.

As a testament to Syd’s strength, she does quite the job resisting this total package man.

The kicker is that he isn’t just any hunky, sexy, far too tempting guy. No. He’s an angel sent to protect Syd and help her hone the powers she’s so desperate to lay to rest. Her refusal would have dire consequences for all of humanity, giving Hell victory over Heaven.

A few surprise twists and a lot of action coupled with all of the above make this book a winner, but what really drew me into a story so unlike what I usually read is the incredible attention to Syd’s character. Layer after layer, she becomes so incredibly real I can feel her scars and trust me, this poor girl has plenty.

Needless to say, I can’t wait for the next book in the series. Hands down, 5 of 5 stars! Actually, can I give it a 6? What the heck. 6 of 5 stars!

Book Tour, Giveaway & Excerpt – SUGAR LANE Vol. 1 by Harlow Hayes

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Women’s fiction/Suspense
Date Published: November 19, 2018
Publisher: Harlow Hayes Books
 
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The night of Christmas Eve changes everything for Rhema Clark, a 36-year-old housewife living on quiet Sugar Lane. One day she is hosting a birthday party for her 9-year-old son, Julian, the next she is watching her neighborhood become the backdrop for the perfect murder.
To gain power, Rhema inserts herself into the lives of the residents of Sugar Lane. She knows they have secrets, but none of them run deeper than her own. On the outside she is a kind and caring neighbor, but on the inside, something sinister lurks beneath. The media storm surrounding this murder could destroy her secret life and expose her for what she is.
But will her lust for power override her desire to keep her secrets?
About the Author

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Harlow Hayes was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana and is the author of fiction and non-fiction books. She has always had a passion for writing and storytelling in its many forms. When she’s not immersed in her writing, she enjoys reading both fiction and non-fiction, watching classic movies, and listening to jazz with her dad. She is the author of 27 Revelations and You Got to Believe: A Guide to Managing Negative Influences and Expectations As You Prepare to Self-publish Your Book.
She currently lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Contact Links
Excerpt:

“Please wait! I have another coupon,” said the woman standing in the checkout line, rummaging through her purse. “I’m so sorry,” she said, looking back at Rhema and the ten other people that stood in line behind her.

Rhema stood calm, but internally, she raged. The sound of the registers opening and closing was beginning to overwhelm her senses, and a pounding headache was eating at her brain. She reached into her purse and grabbed an Excedrin. Christmas was a week away, and a store trip that should have taken fifteen minutes had now become forty. She had fought her way through the aisles with her shopping cart, her list crumpled in hand. She felt the sweat dripping from her back as she hurried past the lackadaisical shoppers blocking the aisleways. Now the checkout line was backed up.

“It’s all right. I’m in no hurry at all,” she said, sarcasm dripping from her lips. She wanted to strangle the woman. The woman should have had what she needed, out and ready to go before she got to the front of the line. They had all been standing there so long she thought she could see wrinkles forming on her hands. Rhema stared hard at the woman, taking particular notice of her pregnant belly. Four little hooligans ran around her, pulling items from the checkout shelves. One ran back and forth through the exit doors, blocking exiting shoppers.

Rhema had seen them earlier, running and screaming up and down every aisle, terrorizing the last-minute shoppers, making demands. Rhema smiled inside, knowing that she would never be that woman, who she figured to be a halfwit. That was the only excuse for allowing her children to walk all over her. She was one of the stupid ones, letting everyone else run their lives. Rhema had made up her mind: She hated her.

Rhema looked into her cart and saw the condensation around her tub of ice cream. It was melting, and she couldn’t stand melted ice cream.

Take the tub and throw it at the woman’s head. The thought made her feel better while she waited. Her mind ran through the list of things she had to do. She had been roped into doing so much that now she was the stupid woman. It was the holidays, and she wondered why people thought that she didn’t have better things to do with her time. She had been pressured into helping her neighbor with her oldest daughter’s wedding and the younger one’s graduation party after getting ambushed one morning in her driveway on the way to the mailbox. Mrs. Kelly, struggling to get a rug into her car, had asked Rhema for help. Rhema had seen her struggling, but she’d hoped that her presence had gone unnoticed.

“Rhema, I’m so glad to see you. Could you come help me with this?” Mrs. Kelly asked.

Rhema walked over to help, but she resented her asking. Her husband, David, was the only reason she was being so nice. David had just scolded her the day before for not being friendly to the neighbors.

“Why do you have to act so cold?” he’d asked. “I like this house and this neighborhood for Julian, and I don’t want to have to pick up and leave because you’re acting weird and can’t make any friends.”

Rhema didn’t like him either, or that’s what she told herself anyway. I am only staying for Julian. That was what she believed. The truth was something else. Deep down, she loved David, and even on their worst days, he was the best in bed, and that was hard for Rhema to give up, so she stayed.

“I can help the next customer here!” a cashier yelled out. Rhema was next, but a handful of people with fewer items at the end of the line beat her to it. Her face turned red as she squeezed the handle of her shopping cart, knuckles white. She was ready to ram the woman in front of her, and her children.

“Here it is!” the woman shouted. The people in line sighed in relief.

Rhema placed her items on the conveyor belt and took her money out of her purse. She was elated. It was finally her turn. She had stood in line so long, feet hurting in her six-inch boots and needing to pee, but it would have to wait; public restrooms weren’t appealing to her. But at least relief was coming soon. It was the only thing keeping her going. She looked up from her wallet, and her smile went back to a frown. Standing at the register was the store manager and the cashier.

“Sorry, ma’am, we have to change out the drawers.”

Rhema burned with anger, furious at the delay. She imagined jumping the counter and stabbing the man in the eye with her car keys.

When she finished at checkout, she rushed to her car. Feet throbbing, she loaded the groceries, fighting the frigid cold. Her mind ran nonstop as more things were added to her to-do list. The wedding, the graduation party, and then there was Christmas, but today was Julian’s birthday, and after nine o’clock that was one thing that she could scratch off of her list. There was a moment of peace as the cold wind flickered past her face. Rhema reached into the shopping cart to grab the last bag. When she picked it up to place it in the back, she heard the ruffling rip of the plastic bag, and the container of ice cream fell out and splattered on the ground, covering her three-hundred-dollar boots in chocolate vanilla swirl.

“Fuck!” she screamed, stomping her feet like a child as the sludge of dirty half-melted snow and ice cream splattered further up her boots. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!”

“Hey! Watch your mouth. My children don’t need to hear that filthy language,” a woman on the other side of the parking aisle scolded.

Rhema turned to see a woman ushering her brood of children down the parking aisle, noses snotty and red, their bodies so layered with winter clothing they looked like miniature Michelin men.

“I swear, the nerve of some people. Using filthy language like that in public. What a disgrace.”

“What’s wrong with her, Mommy?” one of the smaller children asked.

“Don’t pay her any mind, honey. Just trash.”

She stared at Rhema with scorn, as if she were untouchable, but Rhema knew different. Everyone was touchable. People with money had a false sense of security. They believed that they could say anything to anyone and get away with numerous slights and outright disrespect toward people they believed were less than them. She was an entitled woman, just like the woman in line. They could do and say whatever they wanted because their money allowed it. Rhema remembered looking down at their rings as she shopped, their hands glistening on the cart handles. Three- and four-carat diamond rings, sparkling, screaming their status in the world. Rhema looked down at her own ring, just as large in size, but she knew that she was nothing like them.

She had ice cream on her boots, and she had to pee. Rhema knew she couldn’t threaten the woman’s safety, but she could make her uncomfortable. She pulled her hands up from her sides and felt an amazing sense of power as she used her two long, slim middle fingers give the woman something that she wasn’t expecting. The woman gasped and pushed her children on toward the store, and Rhema stomped what she could of the ice cream off of her boots and got into her car.

She sat there for a moment, collecting her bearings. Looking in the rearview mirror, she saw that she had left the shopping cart sitting behind her SUV. Another delay. She wanted to ram it into the car of the woman that reprimanded her. Reaching for the car door, she got an idea and stopped. Popping the hatch open, she grabbed her wallet, stepped out, and walked to the trunk.

Behind the mound of groceries was David’s hunting bag. Rhema reached over the shopping bags and grabbed it. As she unzipped it, her body tingled with excitement. She reached in, grabbing the large Buck hunting knife that rested at the bottom. She slipped the knife in her boot and closed the hatch, gripping the shopping cart and her wallet. She walked over to the cart return, right next to the car of the reprimander. Rhema pushed the cart into the crammed space and walked closer to the woman’s 2016 Range Rover. She fumbled with her Gucci wallet in her hand and let it fall into the greasy slushlike snow.

Rhema looked around to make sure there were no eyes on her. She bent down to pick it up, and once she was down and out of view, she slid the Buck knife out of her boot, removed it from its sleeve, and stabbed it into the back driver’s side tire. As the air slowly deflated, a smile stretched across Rhema’s face. She placed the knife back in its sleeve and stuffed it back into her boot before standing. She wiped the water from her wallet, walked back to her car, and drove home.

 

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