Friday, February 23, 2018

Dead Girl by Jesse Teller

Dead Girl
by Jesse Teller

My rating: 5 stars

This novella is currently available as a free download when subscribing to Jesse Teller's newsletter. Visit jesseteller.com/newsletter for more details.
Deep in the mountains of Neather, Ellen reveres her elders and follows their traditions until a young man betrays her trust and violates her innocence. Pregnant and shunned by her tribe, Ellen’s last shred of tenderness dies with her stillborn baby. After years of isolating herself in grief, she leaves the mountain to carve out a future. Surviving her youth will take all of Ellen’s resolve and develop a life she could not have foreseen.

Dead Girl is one of four novellas in the collection Legends of the Exiles, which releases April 15, 2019.
Dead Girl by Jesse Teller

Dead GirlShe was young, she was innocent and her hormones overrode her common sense. Ellen was used, betrayed and left pregnant, shunned by her family and village, abused by the midwife who was meant to be her support. Her baby dead, her body scarred, she survived physically, but the grief has destroyed her.

Turning her back on society and its cruelties, she becomes a hermit, spending her days telling her story, expressing her rage with paint and crude writing tools. Why did her life turn out so wrong? Why did her baby die? Why wasn’t she deserving of support and love? Would it be better to end her existence or would that mean that the worst of society’s hard heartedness had won? As the years go by, few will break through the shields she has put up around her, both physically and emotionally. Will their caring warm the coldness in her heart? Will Ellen find the courage to move on? It would take a miracle to give her a reason to live, but perhaps that miracle is coming…if it is not too late.

Jesse Teller’s DEAD GIRL is a dark and brutal story of one young girl’s torment in a society too blind to see their injustice. It is the story of unknown strength and a will to survive, even with the burning rage that was destroying what was left of this young woman. Jesse Teller writes with a stark clarity and raw emotion that will burrow deep into the soul of every reader as we recoil at the callousness of the many and the kindness of the few brave souls. Definitely a story that will stay with readers.

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Jesse Teller!

Coming soon! Dead Girl is one of four novellas in the collection Legends of the Exiles, which releases April 15, 2019.


The Fourth Gunman by John Lansing Tour & #Giveaway

The Fourth Gunman by John Lansing Tour Banner

The Fourth Gunman

by John Lansing

on Tour February 19 - March 24, 2018

Synopsis:

The Fourth Gunman by John Lansing

From the best selling author of The Devil’s Necktie, and Blond Cargo comes the latest title in the Jack Bertolino series.

Retired inspector Jack Bertolino straddles two perilous worlds. Known for his impeccable police work, Jack has also done a priceless favor for an infamous Mafia Don: he saved the gangster’s kidnapped daughter from being sold into the sex trade, and brought her safely home.
In Jack’s line of work, he can’t help but have friends—and enemies—on both sides of the law.
So when FBI agent Luke Hunter goes missing after a deep undercover assignment with that same mob boss, the FBI calls Jack in, looking for a favor. With his connections and skills, Jack’s the only man for the job: find Luke Hunter, dead or alive.
The Mobster operates an illegal gambling yacht in international waters off of Southern California, and when Luke went missing, so did half a million dollars of the mob's money. As Jack dives into the case, he’ll learn the true mystery isn’t the agent’s disappearance, but something far more ominous…

The Fourth Gunman is a sizzling action-packed thriller that will keep you turning pages until the explosive finale.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime/Thriller
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Number of Pages: 375 (estimated)
ISBN: 1501189530 (ISBN13: 9781501189531)
Series: Jack Bertolino, 4 | Each is a Stand Alone Novel
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

One

Luke Hunter sat hunched over a tight built-in desk in the cabin of a weathered thirty-six-foot catamaran docked in Marina del Rey. His fingers flew over the keyboard of a MacBook Pro. There had been one amber sconce illuminating the cabin before he broke in to the vessel, but now the laptop computer was throwing more light than he was comfortable with. At two a.m., all was quiet on the dock, but Luke was running late and still had another stop to make before he could call it a night.
Luke’s hair was short, brown, and unruly, his Italian eyes smoky, his beard dark and in need of a shave. His angular face was set with determination as he slipped a flash drive into the computer, tapped a few keys, and hit Copy, hoping to make short work of his theft.
The cabin was teak, and brass, and well worn. Rolled navigational charts littered the cramped workspace but didn’t intrude on the comfortable living quarters and the bunk that occupied the bow of the catamaran.
Luke spun in the chair, unraveled specific charts on the bed, snapped photos with his iPhone, and stowed the maps back where he’d found them. He had a theory as to why so many of the charts were focused on the waters in and around the Farallon Islands, off the coast of San Francisco, and hoped the computer files would corroborate his suspicions.
He took pictures of the scuba tanks, masks, flippers, speargun, and weight belts that were stowed aft. The galley was diminutive but efficient. A few potted succulents and fresh herbs on a shelf above the sink lent a feminine touch to the nautical surroundings. Nothing of interest there.
Luke heard the screech of the rusted security gate that led from the parking lot to the yachts and immediately shut down the computer, pocketed the flash drive, and closed the lid, tamping out the light.
He hoped it was just another liveaboard moored at the same dock, returning home after a night on the town. But he spun in place, laced his hands behind his head, and stretched out his legs, facing the teak steps that led from the stern into the cabin, ready to talk his way out of a dicey spot if necessary. It would be uncomfortable but doable. He set his face into a gotcha grin, ready to go on the offensive. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
The boat rocked slightly, the slippered footfalls nearly silent as a woman made her descent into the body of the vessel. Silk drawstring pants hugged her willowy frame as she stepped off the wooden stairway and seemed to suck all the air out of the cabin.
Roxy Donnelly had straight red hair that kissed her collarbone and parted in the middle, and a light feathering of freckles on her cheeks and chest. Her hazel eyes bore in to Luke’s, assessing the situation. She came to a conclusion and—without speaking—told him everything a man wanted to hear from a woman.
Roxy was backlit, her figure silhouetted in a diaphanous white blouse. Luke could see she was braless, and his heart quickened. Her nipples rippled the fabric, and sparks spread to Luke’s chest and down to his groin. As he became aroused, he found himself at a loss for words. No mafioso cracking wise, only deep breathing trying to hide his visceral reaction to the danger of her unexpected arrival. The cabin seemed to become tighter still, if that was possible, until Roxy broke the silence.
“I knew you were smarter than you looked.” If she was aware that Luke had raided her computer, she gave no indication or surprise at his presence. “You saw the schedule, Trent’s on call.”
She stepped closer and Luke found himself on his feet. “I made the schedule,” he said.
Roxy stepped so close their noses touched. He could feel her breath. The light scent of perfume was intoxicating. She reached down and touched his erection, stoking the fire. “I know what you drink, but I don’t know how you like it.”
“Any way you serve it,” Luke said, his voice deep, throaty, and bedroom. He knew he should hit the road but stood transfixed.
Roxy took his hand, squeezed it, and led him to the queen-size bunk in the rear of the cabin. “Get comfortable.”
She stepped into the galley, poured two glasses of Scotch, neat, kicked off her slipper shoes, and glided barefoot to the bed, handing Luke his drink. They clinked and each took a deep sip, never breaking eye contact.
Roxy set her glass down, slowly unbuttoned her blouse, and shrugged out of it, revealing sheer perfection. A dancer’s body. Compact upright breasts, a narrow sculpted waist, and a sapphire-pierced belly button. She tossed the blouse onto the chair Luke had been sitting in, leaned over him, and unbuckled his belt more roughly than he would have expected.
Luke might have received a reality check, but by the time his cell phone buzzed in his pants pocket, they were hanging over the chair.
“You’re not upset?” he said, a statement of fact.
“You should’ve called first, but it was inevitable. It was perfect the first time. We work too hard for no pleasure. Roll over, I’m good with my hands.”
No argument from Luke, who pulled off his gray crewneck and tossed it on the chair. He eased onto his stomach carefully because he was sporting a blazing hard-on.
Roxy was fully engaged. She lit a candle, then raked his back with her fingernails, the brief contact from her nipples as she leaned over him burning a trail from his neck down to his waist. As she straddled Luke, he felt her heat and let out a husky groan.
Roxy started on his lower back and slowly worked her way up his spine, compressing with thumbs and forefingers every third vertebrae until she reached his neck.
“You are good,” he murmured.
By the time Luke realized cold steel was pressed against the back of his head and not her thumbs, he was dead.
The explosion of the hammer striking the .22 round in her derringer created a blinding electric flash behind Luke’s eyes. The bullet rattled around his skull, tearing up brain matter, until his world turned pitch-black.
Roxy jumped off the bed, grabbed a plastic garbage bag out of the galley, pulled it over Luke’s head, and cinched it around his neck to catch any blood evidence. She picked up her cell and hit Speed Dial.
“Trent. We’ve got a situation,” and Roxy gave him the rapid-fire shorthand version while she rifled through Luke’s pants and billfold, her voice devoid of emotion. Her body vibrated uncontrollably as adrenaline coursed through her nervous system. She dropped Luke’s keys and willed her hands to stop shaking as she placed his cell phone and the flash drive next to her laptop. “I’ll clean things up on the home front, you keep your ears open and get a feel for the play at your end. Stay on shift—Shut the fuck up and let me talk!” And then in a tight whisper, “I killed a man, okay? I’ve had better nights. Okay, okay, but only text if you sense movement in our direction.” Roxy was unraveling. “You won’t hear from me again until, until, shit, Trent, until I call you.”
Roxy snapped out the light and walked over to the door and tried to still her breathing as she sucked in the thick sea air and listened for any movement on the dock. Water lapping against hulls and nylon lines clanking on aluminum masts were the only early-morning sounds. If not for the dead body lying on her bunk, it would almost be peaceful.
Roxy got down on her hands and knees and scrabbled around until she came up with the keys she’d dropped. She sat on the edge of the bed and made a mental list of what she had to accomplish. Sucked in a breath, nodded, and went into action.
Roxy pulled the duvet cover over Luke’s body and changed into jeans and black T-shirt and black running shoes. She grabbed a pair of thin cotton gloves and shrugged into Trent’s oversize black hoodie.
She rifled through the junk drawer and pulled out a roll of blue painter’s tape, took a credit card and the cash out of Luke’s wallet and added it to her own, and ran out of the catamaran, locking the door behind her.
*****
Roxy pulled the hood over her red hair and slipped on the gloves as she ran up the dock and out through the chain-link security gate.
There was a smattering of cars in the lot, and Roxy started hitting the button on the remote-entry key for Luke’s car but got no response. She knew Luke drove a black Camaro but was at a loss. She spun in place and felt like she was going to explode. She turned off the emotion, knowing that if she didn’t fly right, she was as good as dead.
She jogged over to the next lot that was half full and tried the key again. Nothing. Roxy fought to suck down the bile and panic that threatened to overwhelm her. She ran up and down three rows of cars. Still nothing. She pounded toward the apartment complex across the street.
Roxy heard the ding before she found the car.
Luke had parked in the open lot that serviced the channel on the other side of the road. Mercury-vapor security lamps provided ambient light. Roxy checked the license plate and went to work.
She pulled out the tape and ripped off a small strip, turning a 1 into a 7. She tore off two smaller strips and changed a second 1 to a 4. She repeated the task on the front plate and dove, flattening herself on the rocky macadam surface, as a car drove up the street.
A black-and-white rolled onto the lot, its tires crackling over the uneven surface. The cop car did a silent drive past her aisle, slowed, then moved up to the far end of the lot, turned left, and back out onto the street.
Time seemed to stand still, but the pounding of Roxy’s heart reminded her that the clock was ticking and daylight would be her enemy. She grabbed a handful of dirt from the ground and wiped it onto the license plate with one eye peeled for the cop car. She did the same with the rear plate, obscuring some of her handiwork. After the cop car made his final pass down the street and disappeared onto the main drag, Roxy jumped behind the wheel of the Camaro, adjusted the seat and mirror, put on a pair of dark glasses, and rumbled out of the parking lot.
*****
It took sixteen minutes to get from the marina to long-term parking at LAX. The black Camaro had black-tinted windows, and when Roxy pulled into the lot, hit the button, grabbed a ticket, and waited for the electronic arm to rise, she had her hood pulled tight, her dark sunglasses in place, and her head tilted down. If there had been a security camera at play, all it would’ve recorded was the top of a dark hoodie.
The lot was huge. Roxy motored to the far end and parked between two large SUVs that all but swallowed Luke’s low-slung muscle car. She checked the glove compartment to see if there was anything worth taking, or revealing as to Luke’s true purpose, snooping in the wrong place at the wrong time. She found the car’s registration and proof of insurance and pocketed the documents in the hope that it might slow the inquiry sure to follow. She hit the button that opened the trunk, readjusted the driver’s seat, locked the doors, and exited the vehicle.
A salmon glow pulsed above the horizon, a warm-up for the main event. The adrenaline had worn off, and Roxy was so tired she could have slept standing up. What she saw when she looked in the trunk got her heart pounding and her head spinning again. A large leather satchel on wheels, filled with cash. More cash than Roxy had ever seen in her twenty-seven years on God’s planet. It was Mafia money. The weekend’s take from the illegal gambling yacht where she bartended. She zippered the bag and slammed the trunk shut. She didn’t need any more heat than she’d already generated.
Roxy took a few steps away, spun back, opened the trunk, grabbed the satchel, and started wheeling it down the long row of cars toward the shuttle that arrived every fifteen minutes. She’d take the short ride to Tom Bradley International Terminal, where she planned on using Luke’s credit card at a McDonald’s to create a paper trail.
Inherent problems were created by taking the Mafia’s money, but leaving it would have been a major fuckup. A man on the run would never leave without the cash.
*****
Two black stretch limos roared into the parking lot at Long Beach Shoreline Marina, adjacent to the Bella Fortuna. Doors flew open, and eight men exited the vehicles, ran across the lot, and pounded up the yacht’s gangplank, disappearing into the body of the luxury craft.
A somber Tony-the-Man stood at the railing on the main deck and looked down as Vincent Cardona stepped out of the lead car and walked slowly up the gangplank. The two men locked eyes for what seemed to Tony like an eternity before Cardona boarded the ship.
Heads would roll, and Tony instinctively rubbed his neck— his was at the top of the list.
*****
The yellow cab let Roxy off at the Admiralty Club in Marina del Rey. She paid the driver with cash and waited until he was gone before walking next door to the Killer Shrimp Diner, where she was a regular and knew the kitchen was open twenty-four/seven. She peeled off her sunglasses, pulled the hood back, and shook out her startling red hair.
Roxy forced herself to eat scrambled eggs, bacon, and buttered toast, generating an alibi with her own credit card receipt. She paid up and rolled the satchel, laden with cash, down the sidewalk and the half-mile trek to her catamaran as the sun breached the Santa Monica Mountains behind her.

Two

Twenty-four hours had passed since the death of Luke Hunter, and the weather had turned nasty. The sea was whitecapped, the crescent moon blanketed by a thick marine layer. A perfect night for what Roxy and Trent had to accomplish.
A perfect night to dump a body.
Trent was piloting the catamaran, heading south toward the San Pedro Channel and powered by the auxiliary engine. He knew the depth of the basin was good for at least 2,250 feet. He’d studied the charts, set the GPS, and they were just a few minutes from their destination.
Trent looked right at home, almost regal, standing behind the wheel of the craft that bucked, rolled, and cut through the waves, never veering off course. He was a Saudi national and a U.S. citizen, raised in the States from the age of eight, so he had no discernible accent. He was twenty-eight years old, with a boyish open face, a buffed physique, a swarthy complexion, buzz-cut brown hair, and gray eyes that could set Roxy’s heart thrumming. A finely inked tiger ran the length of one muscled forearm, the tattooed claws drawing red blood.
Roxy stepped out of the cabin and carefully made her way behind him, wrapped her arms around his six-pack, and leaned her cheek against his back, trying to still the beating of her heart.
Trent gave her hand a firm squeeze before grabbing the wheel with both hands. “You’re a brave woman, Roxy,” he shouted over his shoulder, fighting the howling wind. “A warrior.”
The moment he announced they were approaching their destination, the GPS system gave off a shrill cry. The night was black; there were no other boats in the area, no container ships navigating the channel. It was time to get to work. He shut off the engine, locked the wheel, and lowered himself into the cabin, followed by Roxy.
Luke, head still covered with the plastic garbage bag, was dressed in nothing but his briefs. He’d been rolled onto the cabin floor; his body lay on top of the duvet cover.
Trent grabbed two fifty-pound diving belts from their scuba gear and carried them up to the main deck. Roxy handed a twenty-five-pounder through the hatch. Trent ran back down, wrapped Luke’s body tightly in the blanket, and, with Roxy’s help, dragged his deadweight up the stairs and onto the aft deck behind the wheelhouse.
Trent pulled back the duvet and fastened one belt, cinched it tight around Luke’s waist, and then made short work of the second. He grabbed the twenty-five-pound belt, wrapped it twice around Luke’s neck, and secured it. Postmortem lividity had turned Luke’s back, buttocks, and legs a blackish-purple where the blood had settled.
Trent pulled the duvet taut, rolling Luke’s body over, and ripped a cut from top to bottom on the garbage bag so it would disengage after splashdown and be dragged out to sea. He worried it might fill with air as the corpse decomposed, and drag the body to the surface.
Roxy steeled herself as she looked down at Luke. His face was bone-white, his eyes devoid of color, just a thick opaque film. If there was one life lesson she had learned from her father, it was to meet trouble head-on. Never roll over, never look back, and never run. She swallowed her rising bile and choked, “Do it.”
Trent grabbed both ends of the blanket and muscled Luke’s body with 125 pounds of lead weights off the stern of the catamaran, tossing the duvet into the chop behind him.
Roxy and Trent stood shoulder to shoulder as they watched Luke float for a second and then slip below the water’s surface; they were confident he was permanently buried at sea and they could move forward with their plan.

Three

Day One
Retired Inspector Jack Bertolino was sitting in the nosebleed seats at Klein Field at Sunken Diamond, Stanford University’s baseball stadium, in Northern California. The sun was blinding, the sky ultra-blue, the wisp of cirrus clouds as white as cotton. The old-growth pepper trees surrounding the field swayed in the light breeze carrying the scent of eucalyptus and fresh-mowed grass, taking some of the heat off the early-September afternoon.
Jack had his eyes closed behind his Ray-Bans, taking in the sounds of the college baseball game, now in the eighth inning, being played in the stadium below. His hair was dark brown verging on black, with strands of silver feathering the temples, and worn long enough to threaten his collar. His angular face was weathered from years doing undercover narcotics work on the streets of NYC, and his tan only served to accentuate the scars from hard-fought battles. A bump on his otherwise straight Roman nose, a gift from a crack dealer, buffered some of Jack’s innate intensity. At six-two and big-boned, Jack had a tight fit in the stadium seating, but the sound of the hard ball slamming into leather, the crack of the bat, the umpire’s barked calls, and the emotion of the crowd made it a perfect day. Took him back to his youth playing the game on Staten Island, where he had raised his son, Chris.
There was a chance Chris was going to pitch for the first time since the attempt on his life that had shattered his throwing arm nine months earlier. Jack wouldn’t have missed seeing his son in action again for the world. It hadn’t been an easy recovery for the young man, physically or mentally, and Jack tried to keep his own emotions in check. He didn’t want his heavy feelings to pull Chris down.
Jack was jolted out of his reverie as a trim man wearing a light-weight gray suit and dark aviator sunglasses, with zero body fat and white brush-cut hair, banged against his knees as he moved down the aisle, finally dropping into the seat directly to Jack’s right.
An attractive, serious woman wearing an equally professional gray pantsuit, with a jacket cut large enough to accommodate her shoulder rig and 9mm, made her way up his aisle. There was something about a woman and a gun that was a turn-on for Jack. Or maybe it was her shoulder-length auburn hair that shone as bright as her mirrored sunglasses. She head-tossed her hair off her face as she took the seat to Jack’s left, feigning interest in the game.
Jack wasn’t surprised by the untimely visit; he had made the feds on his flight from LAX and been waiting for them to play their hand.
“To what do I deserve the honor?” he said, his eyes lasered on the game as the Ohio State Buckeyes headed for the bench and the Stanford Cardinals ran onto the field. Chris had been in the bullpen warming up for the past twenty minutes but remained sidelined; the game was tied three to three at the top of the ninth, and it seemed unlikely he’d be called to play.
“I couldn’t do it,” the female FBI agent said, her eyes never leaving the field. Jack didn’t respond, so she continued, “Come to the game if it were my kid. Too much pressure.” Her voice carried an easy strength, and she wasn’t going to be deterred by his silence. “Especially with all your boy has been through,” letting Jack know he had no secrets from the FBI.
Ohio pounded a ball toward the left-field fence. The batter shot by first and was held up on second by the third-base coach.
It never surprised Jack how much the government knew about civilians’ lives, but his son was sacrosanct. And he knew if he spoke right away, he might not be able to control his growing anger at the personal violation.
The male agent, picking up on Jack’s energy, took off his glasses and proffered his hand. “Special Agent Ted Flannery.” He looked to be pushing fifty but had the body and vigor of a thirty-year-old. “Sorry for the intrusion, Jack, but we’ve come to ask for your help.” Flannery’s hand hung in midair until it became clear Jack wasn’t going to respond. Undaunted, the agent went on, “You’ve had a good relationship with the FBI throughout your career, Jack, and beyond. It’s been duly noted and appreciated, and because of your recent history, you’re in a unique position to be of service.”
“What do you need?” Jack asked, giving away nothing.
“Vincent Cardona,” the female agent said, answering his question. “You visited his home in Beverly Hills on the seventh of May. You were on Cardona’s payroll, hired to find his daughter, Angelica Marie, who’d been kidnapped. An altercation occurred. You slammed Cardona up against the wall, Peter Maniacci drew down on you, and Cardona’s cousin Frankie, with two other gunmen on his heels, ran out of the kitchen, ready to shoot you dead if ordered.”
“You wired the house?” Jack asked.
“Cardona’s too smart for that. He does a sweep once a week. No . . .” She paused for effect. “The fourth gunman was an FBI agent.”
The level of intensity in her tone wasn’t lost on Jack. She had referred to her agent in the past tense, but there was something more. Something unspoken, Jack thought.
Ohio thundered a ball over the fence for a two-run homer. Jack’s body tensed as the coach walked onto the field, huddled with the pitcher and catcher, and signaled toward the sidelines.
Chris Bertolino, number 11, ran out onto the mound and tossed a few back and forth with the catcher as the field was cleared and the game resumed. At six-two, Chris was as tall as Jack, but lean and rangy with sandy brown hair, a gift from his mother’s side of the family.
Jack raised his hand to his lips, and the feds let him concentrate on the game. They knew Bertolino wasn’t a man who could be pressured, and understood the personal significance of this moment.
Chris sucked in a deep breath, nodded to the catcher, and unloaded. His first pitch flew high on the outside. Ball one.
His second pitch went wide. Ball two.
The third pitch was hit. A sizzling line drive caught by the shortstop. First out.
The catcher walked out to the mound, whispered a few words to Chris, and resumed his position behind home plate.
Chris nodded, his game face on. If nerves were at play, he showed nothing to his opponent. He wound up and fired a fast-ball. Strike one. He denied the first two signals from the catcher and threw a second blistering pitch. Strike two. The crowd in the stands started to get loud. Chris tossed a slider, wide. The batter reached, fanned for the ball, and came up empty. Strike three.
The stadium erupted as the second batter stepped into the dugout and tossed his helmet in disgust.
The crowd started chanting and Jack’s stomach tightened. The lanky Buckeye leadoff batter made a big show of whipping his bat to loosen up before flashing a dead eye toward Chris, hocking a loogie onto the red clay, and stepping up to the plate.
Chris smoked a fastball.
The batter swung and made contact. The ball took a short hop and was plucked up by the second baseman, who threw Ohio out at first.
The crowd leaped to its feet as Chris led the team off the field, having stopped the flow of blood.
Jack let out a long, even breath, trying to slow his beating heart.
Chris never made it to bat. The first three Stanford starters were struck out in succession.
Stanford lost the game five to three, but it was a personal triumph for Chris, and Jack wished he were alone to savor the moment.
“I’ve got to get down to my boy,” he said to the female agent, who seemed to be in charge.
“Our agent disappeared three weeks ago,” she said, clearly un-willing to relinquish the moment. “He was deep undercover, and we believe he was on to something major. He never checked in, never filed a final report.”
“You should call in the cops.”
“We won’t jeopardize the case we’ve built against Vincent Cardona.”
“I’ve been down that rabbit hole,” Jack said, ending their impromptu meeting. “Don’t want anything to do with the man.” He stepped past the woman.
“Jack,” she said. The undercurrent in her voice, a sadness, struck a chord and turned him in place. She reached out with her card and looked up to lock eyes with him. “Liz Hunter. Think about it, Jack, and call me. Any time.” And then, “We could use your help.” Agent Hunter wore light makeup on her clear tanned skin. She couldn’t have been over thirty, but her wide forehead was etched with fine worry lines. The hazards of the job, Jack decided. Her cheekbones were high and strong, her figure athletic, her slender, elegant neck tilted slightly to make her point. Jack found himself wondering what her eyes looked like.
“Why should I get involved?”
“The missing agent is my brother.”
Jack nodded, took the card, turned, and made his way down the steep concrete steps toward the Cardinals locker room.
***
Excerpt from The Fourth Gunman by John Lansing. Copyright © 2017 by John Lansing. Reproduced with permission from John Lansing. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

John Lansing
Best-selling author John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre performing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease” before putting together a rock ‘n’ roll band and playing the iconic club CBGB.
Lansing closed up his Tribeca loft and headed for the West Coast where he landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows.
During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.”
John’s first book was Good Cop Bad Money, a true crime tome he co-wrote with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano.
The Devil’s Necktie, his first Jack Bertolino novel, became a best seller on Barnes & Noble and hit #1 in Amazon’s Kindle store in the Crime Fiction genre.
Jack Bertolino returns in John’s fourth novel, "The Fourth Gunman."
A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

Catch Up With John On www.johnlansing.net, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Tour Participants:

Visit the other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!  

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for John Lansing. There will be 1 winner of one (1) $20 Amazon.com gift Card. The giveaway begins on February 19 and ends on March 25, 2018.

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My Freshman Year of Fabulous by Jennifer DiGiovanni #Cover Reveal

Series: School Dayz
Genre: YA
Format: eBook
When Avery Thornton needs to escape a first day of school disaster, she ducks into an equipment room to hide and meets someone else who’s also having a really bad day. Eli Fields just got demoted to third string on the football team, a sport he doesn’t even really want to play. On the hunt for a dance partner before her competition season begins, Avery discovers Eli’s secret, non-football life outside of school. She thinks he could be the dance partner she’s dreamed about. But Eli wants no part of dancing with Avery. When someone else steps in as Avery’s partner for competitions, she and Eli begin practicing steps “just for fun.”
But, is that really all that Eli wants? And although Avery has found a perfect partner, she’s learning that perfection doesn’t necessarily equal happiness.

Author Bio

Jennifer DiGiovanni is a freelance writer and YA author of the School Dayz series. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, working on home design projects, or trying to meet the daily goals on her Fitbit. She also likes to try new sports and activities, from archery to ballroom dancing, with varying degrees of success.

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Love Times Infinity by K.L. Ramsey #Release Tour

LOVE TIMES INFINITY
The Relinquished Series, Book 1
by K.L. Ramsey

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Bloodline's Echo M.R. Pilot (The Avadi Series Book 1)

A Bloodline's Echo
by M.R. Pilot

My rating: 4 stars

Series: The Avadi Series - Book 1
Publication Date: December 29, 2017
Publisher: M.R. Pilot
Genre: Fantasy | Coming of Age
Print Length: 406 pages
Available from: Amazon
Cori discovers she has a strange ability. An unpredictable stranger lets her know she's not the only one.


When her will is tested in the face of the unexpected: romance, friendships, betrayal, and a mysterious connection to an equally mysterious ancestor, how will she prevail? 


Join Cori on her journey of finding out who she really is.


Eighteen-year-old Cori has been tucked into a corner of Verbena her entire life. With no memory of a father and an abusive mother, her escape came in the form of living and working in her town’s inn, a place that happens to be owned by her best friend. Cori was all but resigned to the uneventful and dutiful life as a barkeep. That is, until a hooded stranger showed up - just in time to witness an incident Cori herself cannot believe - and changed everything. Now Cori must leave Sagebrush, the only place she has ever known, setting off to discover love, adventure, heartbreak, and more about herself and the world she lives in than she could have ever imagined.
A Bloodline's Echo M.R. Pilot (The Avadi Series Book 1)

A Bloodline's Echo (The Avadi Series Book 1)She was eighteen, alone and something was happening, something unexplainable until a handsome stranger came into her life and let her know, he understood and she was not alone. Afraid of her uncontrollable strange ability, Cori must trust in Rylo as she makes the decision to leave those she cares about behind to find out who and what she really is. It wasn’t leaving an abusive mother behind or the father she never knew, it was leaving her best friend and the only life she ever knew that made her choice so difficult, but Rylo held promises of trust, adventure and the answers she so desperately needs.

Is Cori part of the Avadi, a group of people with special powers that have been awakened? Is that a good thing? She is like a lamb lost in the wild among wolves, can she trust Rylo to always have her best interests at heart or is he hiding his own dark secrets? Somewhere out in the world is a man who knows the answers Cori seeks but if she finds him, will she be able to accept the answers she hears?

A BLOODLINE’S ECHO by M.R. Pilot is a rich fantasy tale about one girl’s journey of discovery, but Cori will find that the truth may just as painful as the unknown. Will Cori be betrayed by the one person who seemed to care for her? Will her future be bleaker than her past or will it be a stepping stone into a world where she has always belonged?

Follow Cori as she feels hope, heartache, frustration and the growing powers within her as she tries to understand what is happening and why life unfolds the way it does. Readers will find Rylo to be elusive about who he is, and may even question Cori’s willingness to trust in him, but this charismatic character adds a great dimension to this fantasy and we can’t help but want to know more about him. Will we find Rylo to be friend or foe?

Fabulous fantasy storytelling that takes us into another world, makes us believe in special abilities and proves that sometimes the truth does not set you free, it can become a nightmare one may not be able to escape from. How does one girl tell good from bad when she learns her bloodline’s echo from the past?

I received a complimentary copy from M.R. Pilot.



Reality Blurred by Aven Ellis (Ringside in the Rockies, #2)

Reality Blurred
by Aven Ellis

My rating: 5 stars

Series: Ringside in the Rockies - Book 2
Publication Date: February 14, 2018
Publisher: Aven Ellis
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Print Length: 236 pages
Available from: Amazon
He lied to her. Fed her the same lines as he did all the other girls. Instead of proposing, he dumped her on national TV. 
Would a romance with a hockey superstar prove just as disastrous—or could it be the greatest love story of her life? 

Cast as America’s reality show sweetheart after being jilted on a dating show, Skye Reeve is ready to stop being a brokenhearted woman by proving she’s more than what the camera portrayed her to be. She’s landed her dream job as a TV lifestyle reporter and promises to work hard to be a success. 

Skye also vows never to be swept up in a fairy tale romance ever again, as she obviously has no clue what real love is.

Being in the same city as Denver Mountain Lions hockey star Maxime Laurent, however, might make this last goal impossible. 
Dealing with ghosts from his own past, the Belgian hockey star is known for keeping his life off the ice private. He’s not sure if outgoing Skye could be a match for him, but he can’t deny his attraction to her.

When the two embark on a romance, will they be able to move forward from the past to let love into their hearts? With no reality blurred, will Skye find real-life love to be what she had been looking for all along?
Reality Blurred by Aven Ellis (Ringside in the Rockies, #2)

Reality Blurred (Rinkside in the Rockies #2)There is nothing, absolutely nothing better than a romantic comedy written in a style that pulls one along on that crazy roller coaster called LOVE. Aven Ellis is back and love is in the air. BLURRED REALITY not only brings two delightful characters together, but teaches them both the value of letting love come first, the public be damned. Ah yes, the “public” need for gossip, TMI and titillating headlines almost sidelines this couple, thanks to another “public” fascination, reality TV.

Skye was one of the losers on a reality dating show, not only was she played by bachelor, she bared her soul to the public and she isn’t allowed to forget it. When Fate gives her a chance to find real love with hockey great Maxime Laurent, she discovers he has his own set of insecurities and a humiliating heartbreak that leave this gorgeous man just as insecure as she is. The last thing either of them need is to become fodder for the gossip rags and a heartless public willing to lap up the mud that is slung.

Now fighting to have a serious television career and hold on to the private man she loves, Skye will learn what true love is, if she gives Maxime a chance to show her. Should she leave him to save him from the public eye and the false stories printed about them? Will her past never let her go?

Humor, tons of heart, fluffy kittens and furry dogs, not to mention a growling stomach or two, Aven Ellis gives us a sweet romance that grows away from the bright lights of the arena and the television set. Yep, public voyeurism again, but this time we get the rest of the story, written with love! I always know Aven Ellis is going to make me smile with her endearing characters that may live in the public eye, but are just as human as the rest of us.

I received a complimentary copy from Aven Ellis!



Driving Whiskey Wild by Melissa Foster #Release Tour

DRIVING WHISKEY WILD
A Sexy Standalone Romance
by Melissa Foster

#Cover Reveal - Book of Watchers by Mary Ting


Book of Watchers
Mary Ting
Publication date: March 22nd 2018
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult
Before the Bible, there was Book of Watchers.
Enoch wants to live an ordinary life. He’s content to lie low, skip his college classes, and avoid committing to any one girl. But ordinary isn’t on the syllabus for Enoch because at night, he dreams of demons. Vivid dreams that leave him wanting escape more than ever. When they escape his dreams and attack him during daylight, his reality becomes a nightmare.
As he pieces together the meaning behind the encounters, supernatural creatures emerge. Demons. Vampires. Witches. Angels. And they all want something from him. In a supernatural world he never thought possible, Enoch uncovers a secret that either will destroy him or force him to become much more than he ever wanted.


Author Bio:
International Bestselling Author Mary Ting/M. Clarke resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children's chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.

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Anguish by JJ Ellis #Release Tour & #Giveaway

ANGUISH
A Harper's Rock Legacy Series, Book 1
by JJ Ellis

Love and War: Volume One by Charisse Spiers Blitz and #Giveaway


Love and War: Volume One
Charisse Spiers
(Shadows in the Dark, #2)
Publication date: February 22nd 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Note from the author: This is a Dark Romance. If you do not like dark themes this book may not be for you. Suitable for audiences 18+ due to content.
The f*cking lights. They are all I can remember. Everywhere I turn I see them. They haunt my dreams, and now my reality. She liked the lights. I do remember that. It was part of her life, and in turn a part of mine, until the day I forgot it all.
They say your childhood paves the way to adulthood, and maybe it does. I know mine was lit up in flames. I walked the roads of Hell until I figured out that the only way to survive was to exist under a cloak of darkness—to deal with the devil himself. It was the only way to escape the pain, the torment. But the nightmares are still very real. They’ll never leave me alone. The shadows of solitude follow me wherever I go.
Weapons—they can be anything I need them to be. Unlike people in my life, they are predictable, dependable. Without any effort they can cause so much destruction, but also so much peace. Through the internal chaos, the anger that won’t cease, and the constant noise, everything is silenced with the pull of the trigger.
Ink—I’ve loved it since I can remember. It defines me. It’s my release. When I feel like I’m about to blow I turn to the needle. It is the one high I need. I brand people. It’s what I do. Kross Brannon is the best there is when it comes to tattoos. The success of my company proves it.
But I never teach. Those that work for me learn from someone else. I’m a solo artist. Always have been and always will be…but then I looked up and saw her, standing in my shop, beautiful, tattooed, and her soul screaming for me to reach out. She was a force of nature I couldn’t turn away.
That’s the moment everything started falling into place…
EXCERPT:
Delta . . .
I group my tips together and fold them in half. I’ll count them later. Right now I just want to take these shoes off my feet. Dancing in stilettos sucks. They were not intended to be worn for extreme activities. Then again, maybe they were. I prefer chucks, high tops . . . Hell, anything flat. These are more Lux’s style.
I’m sweating; burning up, even though I know Chuck keeps it cold in here. Keeps the nipples out, he said, and nipples make the customers happy. I roll my eyes at the memory of that conversation from my first night. I thought he was ‘the shit’ back then. My way out of a shitty, unwanted existence. A way to live on my own. And it was . . . Until I wanted better for myself.
My thighs and calves are burning. I’m ready to go home and shower, to crawl into bed with a movie in the background as I fall asleep, but unfortunately that won’t happen anytime soon for me. I still have another set later.
I walk into my dressing room and shut the door. “Lock it.”
I nearly jump out of my skin at the sound of his voice, my hand immediately snaking over my breasts to cover them. Reflexively I lock it without questioning him. His tone is a little . . . harsher than usual, and his irritation is nothing new to those that work for him.
I look at him sitting in my chair, hunched over, legs spread wide with his elbows to his thighs, holding a lighter between them—my lighter, in fact. In a hypnotic rhythm he strikes it, causing the flame to emerge before letting it go. He’s looking at it and not at me, as if he’s trying to cool some sort of fury inside of him. My heart begins to race. I can feel my pulse beating along every passage in my body. My nerves spark like two wires being touched together with opposite charges. My oxygen tries to recede back into my lungs. I force the words out. “Kross . . . What are you doing here?”
He looks up at me, a cold, stone-like demeanor present, emotion absent. The words come out as controlled as he is. “Come here.”
His eyes look different—determined, angry maybe. My feet automatically move toward him. I should stay where I am, but instead, I quickly tread across the floor to where he sits. The second I get to him he stands and grabs my neck so fast I can barely blink between movements. He forces me to sit on top of my vanity, head against the mirror as he comes between my legs. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
I grab his wrist as a reflex. “Kross, I’m working.”
He looks down my almost-naked body, his judgment cutting into me like a serrated edged knife. If I didn’t already feel like trash I would with just that look. “I can see that. What happened to the damn bar, Delta?”
He’s seething. Fear sets in. Little to nothing scares me. I’ve worked for him for a while now. I’ve seen him on a daily basis and in many different moods. I’ve never heard this tone before. It’s bordering on psychotic. And his eyes. What’s wrong with his eyes? His grip tightens, but still not enough to hurt me in ways I can’t take or cut off my air. Because even though he’s holding me in a way that most would deem abusive, no bone in my body feels like he would physically hurt me. The only thing my mind can process is the fact that he’s close, and that he’s touching me in a way I’ve wanted him to since I laid eyes on him. He’s looking at me like I’m his, like he’s angry with me. I stare into his eyes, unable to look away even though I can’t read them. “Answer me.”


Author Bio:
I found books when I was going through a hard time in life. They became my means of escape when things got bad. I realized quickly how much I loved to take a backseat to someone else's life and watch the journey unfold. That began my journey with books in November of 2012. I constantly had a book open on my Kindle app. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself as a writer, because I never thought I was creative enough. I'm living proof that things will fall into place when they're meant to be. People will make their way into our lives when we don't expect it, setting the path for what we are meant to do. Never give up on people. Never stop taking a chance on others. Someone took a chance on trusting me with her work when she didn't know me from a stranger on the street and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime as our relationship progressed, which led me to editing and writing as well. This is my dream I never knew I had. As soon as I sat down and gave writing a shot, it was like the floodgates opened. Now, I am lost in a world of fiction in my head, new characters constantly screaming for their stories to be told. Continue to dream and to go for them. No one ever found happiness by sitting on the sidelines. Sometimes we have to take risks and put ourselves out there. Thank you for all of your support, and may there be many books to come. XOXO- C

GIVEAWAY!

$25 amazon gift card + 
a signed copy of Love and War: Volume One
Ends March 1, 2018

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Happy Endings Book Club by Kylie Gilmore Blitz and #Giveaway


Happy Endings Book Club Boxed Set Books 1-3
Kylie Gilmore
Publication date: January 10th 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Book 1: Hidden Hollywood
She’s on top…
When superstar actress Claire Jordan researched her role for the Fierce Trilogy movies, she never expected the bond she feels with the author and her romance book club aka The Happy Endings Book Club. Soon Claire finds herself confessing her secret longing for a regular guy—no more egocentric wealthy players—and the book club is all too ready to help. In disguise as a regular girl, she’s all set for a date with book-club-approved Josh Campbell.
He’s on top…
Billionaire tech CEO Jake Campbell is weary of gold-digging women, especially the glamorous superficial types. So when his identical twin, Josh, calls in a favor, asking Jake to step in as him on a date, Jake figures one of Josh’s cute girl-next-door types might be just what he needs. One night of passion with the sweet girl next door leaves Jake wanting more, except she seems to have vanished.
Sometimes a Happy Ending is just the beginning.
Book 2: Inviting Trouble
Madison Campbell has worshipped her older brother’s best friend, Parker Shaw, for as long as she can remember. So the night before he leaves for the Air Force, she decides he’s leaving town with her virginity. All she has to do is transform her tomboy self into a sexy woman with a bit of borrowed makeup and some creative fashion choices. The results? One drunken kiss that Park doesn’t even remember.
Ten years later, no man has ever gotten close to her heart the way Park did. And now that he’s back, the very unfeminine Madison refuses to blow her second chance. But when her bold attempts to snag his attention (“Oops! Dropped my towel.”) fail miserably, she does something completely insane—she caves to a makeover from the meddling matchmaker in charge of The Happy Endings Book Club. Hey, Park, you want some of this? Madison is about to find out.
Book 3: So Revealing
The last thing Charlotte Vega needs is a cocky HOT stuntman like Ty Campbell in her life. But when he pulls the ultimate stunt—a sexy romantic gesture that ends with a charming invitation to a sunset dinner cruise—she finds him impossible to resist. Cue disaster.
Their rocky first date goes from bad to worse when his yacht (okay, it’s actually borrowed) gets stranded in deep mud. Turns out there’s nothing Ty can do but wait hours and hours for high tide with no power, no way to cook dinner, and a hangry sexy-as-hell woman.
But Ty is determined to salvage the date so he starts a game to pass the time. Only what Ty learns makes him realize he may have just botched a date with the perfect woman. How will he ever win her now?
The Happy Endings Book Club series continues with Book 4, Formal Arrangement, plus more!
Happy Endings Book Club Series
Book 1: Hidden Hollywood
Book 2: Inviting Trouble
Book 3: So Revealing
Book 4: Formal Arrangement
Book 5: Bad Boy Done Wrong
Book 6: Mess With Me
Book 7: Resisting Fate
99¢ for a limited time only!
EXCERPT:
Hidden Hollywood Excerpt
© 2016 Kylie Gilmore
Claire bit her lower lip. “Dammit. This is why I can’t have real relationships. I can’t trust anyone.”
“You can trust me.”
She sighed. “I don’t even know you.”
“Get to know me.”
“Jake…” She looked away.
“One date, the real deal. Jake and Claire.”
She was tempted. He could tell. She didn’t give him a no right away and now she was searching his face, looking for the truth. He leaned forward, brushing his lips against hers, coaxing. He pulled back and met her eyes, fully prepared to do this all night if he had to. Coaxing, charming, easing his way in. He’d thought coaxing would be too difficult with the way he wanted her, but having her pull away was much harder.
She spoke quietly. “You don’t want that kind of spotlight on you. It’s not pretty.”
It wasn’t a no.
“I want you, and whatever comes with it, I don’t care.” He cradled her face with both hands. “I want Claire.”
She closed her eyes, and he dropped his hands to her shoulders, sliding them down the satiny smooth skin of her arms to her hands. He took her hands from behind her and pulled them forward, just holding them. She didn’t pull away. He sensed she was leaning toward letting him in.
Finally she spoke, the words filling him with elation. “We’d have to keep it quiet.”
Not that he wanted to keep it quiet. He just wanted to be with her so much he was willing to play the game her way. For now. He kissed her softly and spoke against her lips. “Is that a yes?”
“Yes.” She shoved him away. “Now stop kissing me. One date. Jake and Claire.”
“Why do I have to stop kissing you?”
“Because you want to get to know me, remember?”
“I can get to know your body first. Get reacquainted.”
She laughed. “Yeah. I’ve heard that one before.”
He figured she probably did. Everyone wanted the sexiest woman alive. He’d seen the magazine giving her that honor and her bikini body splashed everywhere. He knew that kind of attention didn’t always bring out the best in people, and he realized he had to stand out from the pack.
He stepped back and helped her off the table.
“Such a gentleman,” she teased.
“It’s all an illusion,” he replied, not bothering to hide the edge of unsatisfied lust in his voice.
“Story of my life,” she said breezily. “I’ll text Hailey to let you know when I’m free.”
“At least give me your number now that we’ve established how much you lust for me.” She laughed, and he grinned. “I’d like to stop going through other people.” He pulled his cell from his pocket, punched in the code, and handed it over.
She typed her number in while saying, “I never give this number to anyone. Only a handful of people have it on a need-to-know basis. Can you handle that kind of responsibility?”
“What do you think?” It was an honor and, hell, he’d earned it with all his restraint.
She met his eyes, fire back in hers. “I hope so. I swear I will hunt you down—”
He cut her off with a kiss. Not a gentle one. The kind that said he’d be taking what he wanted and she’d damn well like it. She sagged against him.
When he was good and ready, he broke the kiss and snagged his cell from her limp hand. “Later, Claire Jordan.”
She fought back a smile and then beamed a big one at him, stunningly beautiful in her well-kissed, hot-for-him state. “Later, Jake Campbell.”
He grinned and headed out the door. Now that was more like it.


Author Bio:
Kylie Gilmore is the USA Today bestselling author of the Clover Park series, the Clover Park STUDS series, and the brand new Happy Endings Book Club series. She writes humorous romance that makes you laugh, cry, and reach for a cold glass of water.
Kylie lives in New York with her family, two cats, and a nutso dog. When she's not writing, wrangling kids, or dutifully taking notes at writing conferences, you can find her flexing her muscles all the way to the high cabinet for her secret chocolate stash.



GIVEAWAY!
$25 Amazon Gift Card

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Scot's Surrender by Tammy Andresen (A Laird to Love, #3)

A Scot's Surrender
by Tammy Andresen

My rating: 5 stars

Series: A Laird to Love - Book 3
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Tammy Andresen
Genre: Historical Romance
Print Length: 137 pages
Available from: Amazon
An innocent debutante and a rogue...

Miss Agnes Burton dreams of a gentleman, a knight in shining armor that sweeps her off her feet. Laird Keiran McKenna is nothing like her dreams. A rogue and sworn bachelor, she finds him irritating, when he isn't causing her breathless excitement. The more time she spends with him, the more the line between knight and rogue blurs. Not that it matters, because he'd never love her in return, would he?
A Scot's Surrender by Tammy Andresen (A Laird to Love, #3)

A Scot's Surrender (A Laird to Love, #3)Tammy Andresen is back and so are her roguish Scottish lairds, sworn bachelors who have been dropping to Cupid’s arrows with smiles on their faces and feisty females in their arms.

A SCOT’S SURRENDER is a quick and fun romance where we may know the final outcome, but the journey getting there is ninety-nine percent of the bliss! Agnes Burton is like so many young women of her day, she knows she needs a man to save both her and her mother from destitution, but she wants a knight to come sweeping in, complete with promises of love and devotion. Who she finds herself irritatingly attracted to is Laird Keiran McKenna, a man who carries life’s scars on both his body and his heart. There is no way he will let Agnes past his defenses, but he couldn’t have predicted how irresistible she could be. As for Agnes, she is discovering there is more to Kieran than his pretty face…

You know those reads that have you smiling as you watch two souls ignore the obvious or pretend that no one else sees what is going on? A SCOT’S SURRENDERis THAT kind of read! A little sassy, a little spicy and a lot of wonderful and entertaining reading in just a few pages!

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Tammy Andresen!



Clowders by Vanessa Morgan

Clowders
by Vanessa Morgan

My rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: March 1, 2018
Publisher: Vanessa Morgan
Genre: Horror
Print Length: 275 pages
Available from: Amazon
Clervaux, Luxembourg. This secluded, picturesque town in the middle of Europe is home to more cats than people. For years, tourists have flocked to this place – also known as “cat haven” - to meet the cats and buy cat-related souvenirs.

When Aidan, Jess and their five-year-old daughter, Eleonore, move from America to Clervaux, it seems as if they've arrived in paradise. It soon becomes evident, though, that the inhabitants' adoration of their cats is unhealthy. According to a local legend, each time a cat dies, nine human lives are taken as a punishment. To tourists, these tales are supernatural folklore, created to frighten children on cold winter nights. But for the inhabitants of Clervaux, the danger is horrifyingly real.

Initially, Aidan and Jess regard this as local superstition, but when Jess runs over a cat after a night on the town, people start dying, one by one, and each time it happens, a clowder of cats can be seen roaming the premises.

Are they falling victim to the collective paranoia infecting the entire town? Or is something unspeakably evil waiting for them?

Their move to Europe may just have been the worst decision they ever made.
Clowders by Vanessa Morgan

ClowdersAre you a cat lover? Welcome to Clervaux where cats are more than a tourist attraction, more than the mysterious creatures with nine lives, they are everything. They can be terrifying, they are everywhere. They can say who lives and who dies and no one can stop them. CLOWDERS by Vanessa Morgan is a dark and deadly look at a town controlled by cats and a mysterious creature that stalked through the night.

It was a huge move, uprooting his family, taking them to a tiny hamlet in Luxembourg, but Aidan had no idea what this move would cost the young veterinarian. The legend states that for every cat killed, nine humans will die. When Jess accidentally runs over a cat, it becomes clear that the legend is more than myth and the cheerful town folk are both prisoners and slaves to the wishes of their feline friends.

Not only will Aidan, Jess and their daughter, Eleonore find themselves trapped in a living nightmare, marital bonds will be tested, lies will be told and resentments will grow.
Cat lovers beware, those purring bundles of fluff may be more mysterious than their reputations could say. They can be a deadly nightmare come to life..perhaps you would like to go change that litter box now, instead of tomorrow?

Start to finish, this dark “tail” will show a cat does not have to be black to bring bad luck! Ms. Morgan has certainly scratched out a special niche in the horror genre with CLOWDERS. Off to hug my dogs...just in case...

I received a complimentary ARC copy from Vanessa Morgan!



Reaper by Lena North (Birds of a Feather, #5)

Reaper
by Lena North

My rating: 5 stars

Series: Birds of a Feather - Book 5
Publisher: FAB Books; 1 edition (February 23, 2018)
Publication Date: February 23, 2018
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Print Length: 335 pages
Available from: Amazon
Annie has secrets.

She takes a job as stable hand at Double H, but she's really there to let her unusual abilities help the group around Hawker Johns in their search for the man responsible for death and destruction - Cameron Strachlan. 

Abuse victim. Murderer. Lost boy. The devil. Annie has more reason than most to hate the man, but that is a secret too.

It's a surprise to find Olly at Double H, and nothing about him is like she'd imagined. Olly is hard and angry, and his eyes almost as black as the tattoos on his neck. She knows immediately that she's looking straight into the eyes of the Reaper.

As they spend time together, the Olly she thought he would be slowly begins to show again, but there are still doubts at the back of her mind... What will happen when he finds out? Can he handle her secrets?

Reaper is the fifth and final book in the Birds of a Feather series, a young adult/coming of age series with paranormal elements, full of laughter, mystery, and romance.

Reaper by Lena North (Birds of a Feather, #5)

ReaperLena North has fashioned a fabulous ending to the Birds of a Feather series with REAPER and trust me, it has all of the elements that drew me in from book one. We have secrets, yes, plural! Some will break your heart, some will make you smile and some will get your blood boiling. Annie has secrets and she isn’t about to reveal them until she absolutely has to as she comes to the Double H Ranch to add her own powers to bring down Cameron Strachlan and rid the world of another monster whose own dark past has made so many so miserable. She didn’t expect to have her heart stolen completely by the dark and dangerous Olly, someone she knew long ago as the REAPER.

Will Hawker, Wilder, Jinx and the rest of their group accept the secrets Annie reveals as truths? Her animal to call may not be avian, but with her own family’s talents, she is a powerful ally to have in the quest to bring evil to a screeching halt. She may also find secrets hidden from her that could bring her to her knees as losses come back to haunt her.

Once again, Lena North blends quirky characters and humorous moments into the mix proving that the nightmares of their shared pasts can be left behind as the future holds bonds that can only be strengthened. Let’s not forget love, the greatest healer of all as once again, damaged souls find exactly what they need to heal old wounds!

Written for an older young adult audience, but perfect for all ages who love well-written reading with touches of fantasy, bold characters who grow with each page as we soar into this world one more time.

I received a complimentary ARC copy from Lena North!


Fire and Bone by Rachel A. Marks Blitz and #Giveaway


Fire and Bone
Rachel A. Marks
(Otherborn #1)
Publication date: February 20th 2018
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
“Gossip Girl meets Percy Jackson in the glitz and grit of L.A….”
In Hollywood’s underworld of demigods, druids, and ancient bonds, one girl has a dangerous future.
Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party—one that turns out to be a trap.
Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted—especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.
As loyalties shift, and as the two men vie for her attention, Sage tries to figure out who to trust in a realm she doesn’t understand. One thing’s for sure: the trap she’s in has bigger claws than she thought. And it’s going to take a lot more than magic for this Celtic demigoddess to make it out alive.
EXCERPT:
LILY
I try to hide my shivering as I wait before the altar, in my position as the Bonding begins. Around me, shadows dance over the cairn walls from the restless flames licking up the ram’s body—the sacrifice on the pyre behind me—and the smell of sweat and burnt flesh smother the smoky air.
The King of Ravens paints an alarming image, standing almost naked across from me on the other side of the blood circle. He wears the corona radiata, the golden laurel-leafed crown, on his head of onyx hair. His short beard is neatly trimmed, combed with lavender oil for the ceremony. His sharp silver eyes study me beneath a heavy brow.
I try not to think about the past. Or future. I try not to think about what those hard hands will feel like on my skin when he seals this Bond.
I study the stone floor rather than look in those metallic eyes. I feel them on me, though, the same way they have been for the fortnight I’ve been here preparing for the ceremony. He hasn’t touched me; he’s only brought me gifts and insisted I sit with him beside the greatfire in the evening before he goes out for his hunt. Sometimes I smell him in the hallway outside my rooms. But he never comes in, thank the goddess. The scent of blood is heavy on him in those moments. I’m not sure what I would’ve done if he’d attempted anything.
After this is done, it won’t matter. My bed will be his. As will my life.
A druid walks back and forth behind me, tossing rosemary and lavender onto the pyre after each stanza of his spell. He calls to the wind from the east, he calls to the waters in the west, and he pulls the spirit of flame and earth into the cairn with us, asking the Penta to approve the Bond set to be made between the two most powerful Houses, as he pleads for a blessing from our mothers, Brighid and MorrĂ­gan, and thanks the Cast for their permission to seal the Bond between the two very different powers.
A female druid comes to my side with bowl and brush, beginning to paint my skin in blue woad, tracing patterns of knots and runes across my back, then baring my chest and continuing.
The king’s gaze follows the woman’s strokes, and when she’s finished, he raises his chin at me in approval but says nothing. What does he see when he looks at me? My wild copper hair? My simple features? The awkward birthmark just above my heart? I’m round of cheek and hips and not much of a beauty. But however I look to him, I will belong to him.
Determination is set in hard lines on his face, and I wonder if the torque on his neck is working properly. I can see his dark energy lifting in silver and black curls over his shoulders now. It should be tight inside his skin, as mine is. The iron shackle should be holding it in place so that we don’t harm each other in the first merging, before we can get used to the feel of each other’s powers.
The female druid moves to the king next and begins painting the woad in circles over his torso. The druid chanting behind me recites the final section of his spell, walking the ram’s-blood circle painted on the floor. He holds a rowan stick aloft, flicking rosewater over the king and then me as he passes by, mumbling, “A price paid, a covenant sealed, in earth and blood and ash, in spirit and flesh and fire.”
The price is my will, my soul, in payment for the life of the human prince that I took.
In the center of the circle, between the king and me, is an altar with two bowls set atop, one full of salt, one full of rye.
The iron union dagger rests between them.
I stare at it, imagining the blade cutting into my flesh. And I can’t help when my gaze moves to the king. I want to blink and make this moment a dream, perhaps find myself in the thicket with Lailoken, among the bluebells in the Caledonian wood.
I should run from this son of MorrĂ­gan, deny him, deny our mothers, and let the world burn. But my heart twists at the thought. I was running from duty when fate took my heart from me, when the prince succumbed to my fire’s will. It was the childish notion of freedom that tore him from me.
Now it’s time to accept my punishment for allowing the humans to glimpse our world. Time to atone.
The druid’s voice fills the room again. “When moon gives birth to stars,” he says, in a droning hum, flicking more rosewater over us with the rowan stick, “let this Bond be sealed in blood.”
My skin prickles with fear as the king takes the cue, reaching out to pick up the ceremonial dagger by the leather-wrapped hilt. I focus on not moving, not making a sound, as I watch him bring the blade to his chest, tip pricking his left breast. A drop of crimson pearls up at the spot.
With a slow hiss of breath, he cuts across.
Dark blood slides down his abdomen in a thick swath of red. “My blood with yours,” he says. And he turns the knife, holding out the hilt for me.
My hands clench into fists at my side, and I force my shaking limbs to still.
I breathe in slowly again. Then I reach out, taking the ceremonial dagger from him, careful not to touch his fingers.
I pretend not to care about the cage I’m about to be locked in. About the pain in my soul from loss, from the goddess Brighid abandoning me to this darkness, pain from the reality of everything in front of me.
I press the tip of the blade to the center of my chest, the point breaking the skin. I look into the silver eyes of the king in front of me. And consider my fate.
One deep plunge to the heart and the pain will end. One plunge.
One.


Author Bio:
Rachel A. Marks is a cancer survivor, a writer and artist, a surfer and dirt-bike rider, chocolate lover and keeper of faerie secrets. Her four kids and amazing hubby put up with her nerdiness with tremendous grace, even when she makes them watch Buffy or Smallville re-runs for days on end. She was voted: Most Likely To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse, but hopes she'll never have to test the theory.

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