A NECESSARY LIE
by Lucy Farago
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Pub Date: 7/25/2017
The Investigative Collection Unit is one of the world’s most renowned agencies, solving cases with—or without—the law on its side. And the Unit’s men are special agents in more ways than one, with secrets that can make or break them—and the hearts of those who fall for them . . .
He’s known only as Cowboy. A successful rodeo star with a string of women behind him, the ICU has given him a chance to stay put instead of constantly running away—from the past, from love, from the blood on his hands. And he’s not going to screw that up, even if it means going back home to Texas to investigate the disappearance of the woman who made him start running in the first place . . .
The political exposé of a popular senator should have been Grace Irvine’s story, but she thought it would be good for her best friend Jessie’s career. Now, Jessie is missing and Grace will do anything to find her. But her path keeps crossing with a mysterious and charismatic cowboy who has his own reasons for finding Jessie. And as intrigue draws Grace and Cowboy deeper into danger, passion starts to play by its own rules—making promises it might not be able to keep . . .
Cowboy stared at the name in the file handed to him by his pain-in-the- ass boss. Was this a joke? If so, what the fuck? Then again Ryan Sheppard wasn’t one to play games, at least not when someone’s life was at stake. “What would you like me to do with this?”
“Read it. It involves your new case,” Ryan said, looking up from the pile of papers on his desk, apparently confused by Cowboy’s reaction.
Maybe he was totally clueless as to what that name meant to Cowboy.
You could never be certain how much the dickhead knew.
He slid the file across the black marble desktop, back to Ryan. “I don’t do missing people.” That wasn’t entirely true, but his expertise was more about being the go-to guy. Whatever the team needed to get the job done, Cowboy found. A tank, halfway across the world by noon? No problem, he had a guy. Time-sensitive explosives? He knew a guy who knew a guy. Shit, he knew a guy for most anything. That metaphorical little black book had become his way of life because if you couldn’t do it yourself, you had to find someone who could. It had been this way since he’d started surviving on his own at fourteen. But taking a lead on a missing person, especially this missing person, nope, not his thing. Although he had to admit he was curious—ok, more than curious—why Jessica Cook went missing.
“It’s not what we’ve been hired to do,” Ryan was saying. “Not entirely.
You’re to keep an eye on the missing woman’s friend.”
“And nor am I a babysitter.” That was a job for Dozier. Strong and silent, with hawk eyes; compared to him, panthers were pets that slept on your bed.
“You are now. Everyone else is either busy or not qualified.”
“Then give this to Beck. It’s what he lives for.” His fellow operative, Christian Beck, had a knack for finding and retrieving missing or kidnapped victims and dealing with damsels in distress.
“Can’t. He’s asked for time off. His wife is expecting their first child and he doesn’t want to leave her side.”
“It’s a baby, not a ticking time bomb.” Sheesh, he’d met Christian’s wife. She was no shrinking violet. He slung a booted ankle across his knee to stop it bouncing, hoping to God he wasn’t coming off as antsy as the name on that file made him.
“I’m not about to recall him when I have you doing nothing. Jesus, Cowboy, what’s the problem?”
He wasn’t going to admit he knew the missing woman because then Ryan, nosy prick that he was, would want to know how he knew her. “Nothing, but what I do for ICU doesn’t involve a pulse.”
“Since when? True, everyone on the team has their niche, but you’ve done security detail before. Is that what this is about? You don’t think you can handle it?”
“Shit no.” After living on the street, he sure as hell could handle anything Ryan threw his way. He opened his mouth to argue but his boss cut him off.
“Good, because I wouldn’t trust you with this,” he said, sliding the file back to him, “if I didn’t think you could handle it.”
“Trust? What is this, personal?”
“Not really. Chief Irvine asked for our help.”
“Since when do we help the cops?” At least openly anyway. “Since my father told me they went to school together.” And that was that. Cowboy dropped it.
Ryan’s father had retired after twenty years on the force prior to opening ICU, and Ryan may have had control of the company for the past five years, but when Sheppard Sr. spoke, his son tended to listen. It was a matter of mutual respect, Ryan said. Unlike Cowboy’s father, Sheppard Sr. had earned it. Ryan had complete autonomy to run the agency as he saw fit. Hell, he’d turned his old man’s Investigation Collection Unit into one of the most sought-out agencies in the world. With Ryan at the helm, the tentacles of the company reached further than his father dreamed, beyond the blurring of rules and legalities, solving the cases no one working within the law could. If a case was mission impossible, Ryan made it possible. The governments were happy to look the other way if it got the job done. And ICU got the job done. It wasn’t that they broke the law, only that they didn’t allow red tape, policies, and protocols to impede their hunt. So the cops took a hear no evil, see no evil approach when it came to Ryan and his team, though open cooperation was rare.
“And,” Ryan continued, “this is personal for the chief.”
“The missing girl? Or the one you want me to babysit?” If Ryan made him take the case, having the law monitoring his every move while he tried to pretend he didn’t know Jessie Cook wasn’t sitting high on Cowboy’s to-do list.
“Jessica Cook, the missing woman, is a friend of his daughter, Grace Irvine. Both women work for the Dallas Star. She convinced her editor it was a good idea to allow her friend to write this political piece. Two weeks later, Jessica Cook falls off the radar. Time is not on Ms. Cook’s side and Irvine knows his daughter well enough to believe she’ll get it in her head to look for her friend on her own. And she needs to stay out of it.”
“And he doesn’t want her to know I’m her paid guardian angel?” “Exactly.”
“And he doesn’t want our help finding the girl?”
“He claims to have that covered. But…if along the way you find anything useful, he’d appreciate you sharing.”
He should be relieved he wasn’t being hired to find Jessie. But this wasn’t the type of missing person case Ryan normally took on. For starters, their missing people weren’t usually missing, but rather misplaced by some not-so-nice folk, as in taken for ransom or bargaining purposes. Unless Jessie’s circumstances had drastically changed, he doubted she’d disappeared for either of those reasons. This looked to be a job for the police, not ICU.
As for playing bodyguard to a woman who didn’t know daddy had hired a watch dog… Well, getting his ass chewed out by an angry woman wasn’t high on any of his lists. “Have the cops linked the story Cook was working on to her disappearance?”
“It’s complicated. His daughter’s apartment, one she shared with Ms. Cook, was broken into two days ago. One day after Ms. Cook failed to return home. Irvine doubts it was a robbery. Read the file.”
“Okay, then tell me how I’m supposed to keep the other one from going missing without her knowing I’ve been hired to watch over her?”
“You’ll figure it out. Now get your butt out of my office and on to this case.”
Lucy Farago knows there is nothing like a happy sigh at the end of a good book. With the encouragement of her loving husband, she wrote her first manuscript. An unpublished historical, it sits in a file on her computer, there to remind her how much fun she had learning the craft and becoming part of an industry whose books make you believe anything is possible. A big fan of Agatha Christie, she set out to write her first romantic suspense novel. Thrilled to be a published author, Lucy also teaches yoga, enjoys cooking, and saying what other people are thinking. In her fantasy world, her beautiful Siberian husky, Loki, doesn’t shed and her three kids clean up after themselves . Alas, that fantasy will never see fruition.
Cocky, young Aussie bull rider Troy Jensen has been busted down to the pro-circuit. He needs wins and points to get him back into the big league and a shot at being crowned champ but an injury forces him off the circuit and into the arms of the woman fate keeps putting in his path.
The first time local Doc Joss Garrity meets Troy, she’s brandishing a lug wrench. The second time, he’s dragging her delinquent teen son home. The third time, he’s in her ER. How he ends up convalescing at her house she’s not quite sure. But it does make it hard to ignore him and their simmering attraction.
As Troy gets to know Joss, he starts to see a life after bull riding for the first time. But can Joss risk her heart on another man who may not come home one day?
An immensely hot romance between a bull fighter and an ER doctor, whose lives and emotions turn into a roll-a-coaster ride upon meeting each other.
Seriously, this is a scorching hot, sexy as can be tale between an older woman and a younger man. The sexy times are intense, detailed, and there are several of them, yet they are built cleverly showing how the emotions get involved, hot the walls around Joss Garrity's heart dumble down, and how the young Aussie bull rider Troy Jensen finds a woman who he wants to be intimate with, share his life with, and chance his exit plan for.
I was curious about the age difference between Joss and Troy, how it would play out, how Joss's son would mix with the tale, and what kind of importance was put in the few years of age difference. But honestly, Troy turns out to be a mature, kind, considerate man with a solid head on his shoulders, and the age difference is more of a number than an issue. Troy had learned his lessons the hard way, and grown up, matured, maybe faster than most. He is fun, witty, and gorgeous, yet loyal, trustworthy, and reliable.
Joss is over-worked, exhausted doctor, widow, and a mother of a teenage son. She is holding onto her walls around her, to her routines, to the mold she has built around herself after her husband died. It feels like the familiar is what holds her together, and the routine is what keeps her safe. Troy challenges everything she has built around herself to keep her safe, and makes her take a look at herself, about her life, and what she wants from the future.
The chemistry is amazing, sizzling, between Joss and Troy. But Troy is easy to get along with, everyone likes him and wants to hang around him. He has charisma, and it is backed by an honest character, who makes no apologies for the things he wants out of life. The development of the relationship is mostly mirrored by the development of their physical connection, the sexy times their share. I would have liked that there would have been a little bit deeper mental connection between Joss and Troy, or, that the soulmates connection would have been shown, not just assumed.
But regardless, delightful, likable, delicious, fun, entertaining, enjoyable, and most definitely pleasurable story!
~ Four Spoons
His Family of Convenience
For widower and ex-doctor Trace Warren, a fresh start in Whisper Creek comes with a catch: to save his home and apothecary shop, Trace must remarry.
While making Katherine Fleming his wife is simple enough, he refuses to fall in love again. But keeping his distance from the kind, beautiful woman and the infant she brings with her is dangerously difficult...
Katherine promised to protect the baby left in her care, and a marriage of convenience to Trace is the only way to do that. But all too soon, Trace possesses Katherine's heart, even as he still carefully guards his own.
With hopes of turning their arrangement into a true love match, can Katherine convince Trace to forgive himself for his past mistakes and embrace his new family?
Wedded for the Baby is a marriage of convenience story that had some unique twists and choices in the plot that made it enjoyable.
I like the marriage of the convenience stories, where the love grows as the couple gets to know each other. This story had the twist of a baby - a baby that wasn't either of the protagonist's biological child.
Katherine Fleming was a soft-hearted, kind woman who was willing to go to extreme lengths to keep her word and take care of a baby she just met. She had lost the love of her life several years ago and was certain she would be a spinster.
Trace Warren was a wounded man by his past, a bit dramatic, yet kind-hearted and considerate. His self-pity went a little too far for me, as a doctor, he should have known the realities of life as they were at the time. I liked how his character developed, how the new possibilities downed on him, how he slowly but surely opened his heart to Katherine and the baby.
The challenges of the time period, the new frontiers and the demands of the life back then, the culture, the lifestyle, it was told with authority and in a believable matter. The story was enjoyable to read, the characters growth and advancement as people, and as parents were entertaining and appealing.
The Love Inspired stories are Christian novels, and as such, I expect a message of faith and/or faith development, especially if it is pointed out that the main characters have been struggling with their beliefs and convictions. I felt that that part of the story was not carried all the way through. Since the authors have been given this amazing platform, I wish they used it more thoroughly.
Overall an interesting and heartfelt story, where the characters are challenged not only by the environment they live in, but by each other, and the wounds of their past, and the hurt life sometimes bring us.
~ Three Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
As a child, Nakos Hunt left behind the familiarity of his Native American Arapaho tribe for time on Cattenach Ranch. Now the foreman, he's happily settled into his life, but the girl who befriended him all those years ago suddenly has him twisted inside out. He craves stability and purpose, and Amy Woods is anything but a calming presence. Though she's unbelievably gorgeous and about the only person who can drag a laugh from him, he's never been able to understand her. Then a moment changes everything, and an urgent need to protect her rises inside him. And doesn't let go. So does an aching desire and a bond he can't seem to control, no matter how hard he fights the need.
She's no one's version of ever-after...
Amy's not a stranger to disappointment. She's spent the majority of her life pulling up her bootstraps and flipping Karma the bird. Once, she may have dreamed of things like happiness and love, but those were for other people. Nakos has never been someone she deserves, yet the attraction between her and the meticulous sexy-as-sin cowboy is undeniable. And too tempting to ignore. Not only is he strong, patient, and respectful, he's showing her a kind of romantic passion she didn't think existed. But the secret she's keeping could shatter their perfect bubble, and when an old nightmare comes crawling back from the past, she realizes losing Nakos will be the one thing she can't recover from.
Benediction floored me completely with the avalanche of profound emotions and characters whose stories will stay with me, will echo in my heart and mind, for a long while. I know as a fact that whatever I say about this book will not do justice to it, but I will give it my best try to communicate why I loved every single word of it. Why I went back several times while reading the book because I wanted to savor the words, the moments, the scenes, and stay in that glow for a little longer.
Redemption, the book one in the series gave a solid foundation for Benediction. Even though both books can be read as stand alone novels, I wouldn't. First, both are absolutely remarkable, and Redemption starts the back story to Benediction that gives you a different point of view to the events.
Nakos Hunt, the considerate, kind, protective man is a hero like no one else. I love him, his honesty, his insights, his openness with Amy was amazing. His patience, his fortitude, his humbleness when facing the new stage in the relationship with Amy, his best friend, was beautiful and admirable.
Amy Woods has never felt like she was good enough, that she mattered, that she was loved. Her parents constant belittling of her, constantly tearing her apart, the mental and physical abuse she had suffered through her life, it all had left her hollow, hiding behind smart-alecky comments and big smiles. She had such kindness, caring spirit, talent, and beauty in her, yet the castigation made her believe the hateful words and critique she had heard all her life.
Love is a powerful force and can start the healing process from the deepest, most painful wounds in our bodies, minds, and souls. The story of Nakos and Amy took me for an emotional ride like no other. There were laughs, smiles, and sighs. And there were tears, so many tears, of pain, sorrow, but also for the happiness and tenderness. The ache in my heart for Amy, the agony of some of the events, the grief of missed chances because of the abuse and its consequences, it all made such an impact, the scenes were so realistic, raw, sobering. And then there was the love. Not only between Nakos and Amy, the love and connection that burned in their souls, but also the love of friends, and the support and guidance they provided that helped them find their way to each other after the mending process from the past had started.
It is amazing how each emotion, on the whole scale of feelings, can be lived through the words and images on your mind so vividly, so sharply, and strongly. I was right there with the characters, in each scene, living them through, learning to love, learning to move on, learning to forgive and learn to let go, opening my mind to all the possibilities that future can hold right along with Amy and Nakos.
Benediction and Redemption are both on the very short list of 'My 2017 favorites' - maybe I should have started with that one. Absolutely loved it, and can not recommend highly enough!
~ Five Spoons!
The Poseidon team are hard-bodied, fiercely competitive Navy SEALs. But when a sensitive mission goes disastrously wrong, three of the team's finest will have to trust their hearts and instincts to uncover the truth…
Lieutenant Elijah Prescott should be spending his precious leave somewhere with sun, surf and scantily clad women. Instead, he's heading home with two goals in mind. Figure out exactly how his last assignment went to hell and almost killed him—and reconnect with the woman who might offer salvation.
Ava Monroe has streamlined her life, eliminating every source of pain—including a marriage touched by tragedy. One glimpse of her ex and those good intentions turn to bad-girl desires. Her strategy: get over Elijah by getting under him again, sating herself until she can finally let go. But as betrayal within the rank of the SEALs turns deadly, there's no denying that her heart and her life are on the line. Elijah is the only man who can protect both…
READ THE BOOKS & SPOONS REVIEW HERE
It’s All In A Name
I'll admit it, I’m a sucker for names. Oh, they don’t have to be fancy or exotic. But they do have to click. And like naming a child, once I’ve named a character, I can’t seem to change it. So naming becomes a part of my plotting process. It can sometimes take me as long to decide on a character’s name as it can to figure out the entire storyline. And I can’t write until it’s right.
Writing my Team Poseidon series means I’m not only naming the book’s hero, but the entire SEAL team. Which has been a lot of fun. Each man is a hard-bodied, dedicated, intense hero, while they’re all different enough to be fun to write. In CALL TO HONOR, Diego Torres grew up in gangs, fighting to for colors and turf. To him, honor was everything—hence the title. I’d started his story with a different name, but it just wouldn’t click, so I had to go back to the Great Book of Baby Names, my notebook and doodles until I found the right fit. Elijah Prescott, the hero of my newest Team Poseidon story, CALL TO ENGAGE, fit his name perfectly. Old fashioned, with softer consonants but great depth and strength. His name, like the name of his story, clicked right from the start. And when the third Team Poseidon is released, you’ll have to tell me if you think the name Nic Savino fits the hero of CALL TO REDEMPTION.
Do you pay a lot of attention to the names of the characters you read? Does it ever seem like the name doesn’t quite fit?
New York Times and USA TODAY Bestselling author of more than forty books, Tawny Weber loves writing about sexy heroes, most notably her popular Navy SEALs series. Her sassy, emotional romances are filled with men dedicated to being the best—and women determined to have the best. Tawny credits her ex-military alpha husband for inspiration in her writing, and in her life. The recipient of numerous writing accolades, including Romantic Times Reviewers Choice and in addition to the NY Times and USA Today bestseller lists, Tawny has also hit the number one spot on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
A homeschooling mom, Tawny enjoys scrapbooking, gardening and spending time with her family and dogs in her Northern California home.
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Date Published: 8/17/17
It’s hard being the daughter of a serial killer. Especially when your father has a lot of sick, twisted fans…
Camille West is the daughter of the infamous Body in the Barrel Killer, the maniac who entombed his victims in large steel barrels after days of torture. When she reluctantly returns to her hometown to take care of her ailing mother, there is a surprise waiting in her new house.
A barrel. A body. And a promise.
Camille has worked hard to forget her small hometown and the stain of her father’s crimes. But someone out there never forgot her…
If that wasn’t enough, her old flame Jake Musgrove is still in town, now working as a private investigator. His smirk and arrogance are a big part of why she fled her small town ten years ago.
Jake has screwed up pretty much everything in his life, but his biggest regret is how he let Camille walk away. Now that she’s back, he refuses to lose her again. He’s got to put it all on the line to protect her, but the killer is getting closer and he’s got to figure out who it is before Camille is entombed…
This romantic suspense novel is a page-turning standalone with an HEA and no cliffhangers.
About the Author
RUTH PARKER lives in Los Angeles, in a house covered in toddler handprints and cat hair. She has a crippling addiction to diagramless crossword puzzles, Forensic Files and John D. MacDonald novels. Send help. And pencils.
Ten years ago while on rumspringa, Rebecca Miller and her friends were kidnapped and held captive…and now, living in the English world, she's nearly abducted again.
One by one her friends who once helped send their abductor to jail are targeted, and she is next…unless police officer Miles Olsen can stop a killer.
Deaf since birth, the only person on the force that Rebecca can communicate with is Miles, and he needs this case to redeem himself of past mistakes. When the relentless killer tracks them deep into the heart of Amish country, protecting Rebecca must be Miles's sole focus. Because a mistake this time will cost something worth more to him than his job—the woman he's falling for.
What a breathtaking, fast-paced, action-packed, suspenseful story this was! I was glued to the book from the start to finish, it was impossible to put down because you never knew what kind of twist or attack the protagonist had to face next. The anticipation in the tale is intense!
The only thing that stayed the same, stayed constant, was the unwavering faith their had in God, the trust they had that He will guide them and protect them no matter what they have to face. The faith was sincere, natural to them, and well embedded into the story.
Rebecca Miller was a heroine I not only liked but respected immensely. She knew who she was, she was comfortable with herself, she is capable, able, smart, and sweet. The insights to the world of non-hearing people were eye openers to me, the author pointing out and highlighting things, habits, and challenges that made me take notice.
Miles Olsen as a complex hero was well done. Him struggling with his past mistakes, being honest about them, learning from them and growing as a man, police officer, and a friend was a remarkable to witness. Despite his past problems and behaviors, or maybe because he was so honest about it, I liked him. He is protective, caring, kind man, his growing feelings towards Rebecca were endearing, and his sweet disposition when it came to her was adorable. His temperament was so cool and calm until Rebecca walked into the picture.
The tempo of the story is fast and escalating as the culprit's crimes and assaults get even more violent and intense. I enjoyed the story immensely, the threatening, deadly suspense, the delightful and charming budding romance, and the strong belief that God will guide them and keep them safe, all the component of the tale were well twined together, making it flow naturally from the pages while being engaging and entertaining!
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
A DESOLATE HOUR
by Mae Clair
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Pub Date: 7/18/2017
Sins of the past could destroy all of their futures . . .
For generations, Quentin Marsh’s family has seen its share of tragedy, though he remains skeptical that their misfortunes are tied to a centuries-old curse. But to placate his pregnant sister, Quentin makes the pilgrimage to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, hoping to learn more about the brutal murder of a Shawnee chief in the 1700s. Did one of the Marsh ancestors have a hand in killing the chief —the man who cursed the town with his dying breath?
While historian Sarah Sherman doesn’t believe in curses either, she’s compelled to use her knowledge of Point Pleasant to uncover the long-buried truth. The river town has had its own share of catastrophes, many tied to the legendary Mothman, the winged creature said to haunt the woods. But Quentin’s arrival soon reveals that she may have more of a stake than she realized. It seems that she and Quentin possess eerily similar family heirlooms. And the deeper the two of them dig into the past, the more their search enrages the ancient mystical forces surrounding Point Pleasant. As chaos and destruction start to befall residents, can they beat the clock to break the curse before the Mothman takes his ultimate revenge? . . .
Mae Clair opened a Pandora’s Box of characters when she was a child and never looked back. Her father, an artist who tinkered with writing, encouraged her to create make-believe worlds by spinning tales of far-off places on summer nights beneath the stars.
Mae loves creating character-driven fiction in settings that vary from contemporary to mythical. Wherever her pen takes her, she flavors her stories with conflict, romance and elements of mystery. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about writing, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail and cats.
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UNDER THE PARISIAN SKY
by Alli Sinclair
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Pub Date: 7/25/2017
In the City of Light, one dancer must confront her fears about love and loss before she can step into a brighter future…
Lily Johannson has returned to Paris, the city that broke her heart and destroyed her ballet career, with two goals in mind: to overcome the grief surrounding her fiancé’s death, and to make amends with her estranged sister, Natalie, also a ballerina. But when Lily meets charming composer Yves Rousseau, he is convinced she has a third mission—as his muse…
Struggling to finish a score about an infamous Ballets Russes dancer from 1917, Yves believes Lily is meant to help him. Despite her resistance, she is swept once more into the exhilarating arms of the dance—and into Yves’ passionate embrace. But when her sister is cast as the infamous dancer and begins to imitate her tragic life, she soon goes missing. Now Lily and Yves must set out to find her—and along the way face their own demons, while also discovering that art, like love, should not be abandoned so easily…
Making her way to the stage door, Lily’s heart bashed against her chest when she realized the doorman was the same one from when she was last here. She doubted he’d remember her as she’d only been with the ballet three weeks, but seeing someone from her ballet days brought all the painful memories back to the surface. Determined to keep it together, she put on her best smile and said in cruddy French, “Hello. I am Natalie Johansson’s sister. Could I please see her?”
He studied her from under a veranda of gray brows. “Lily? Welcome back! It is nice to see you. The last time you were here I didn’t get the chance to say I’m sorry for—”
“Thank you, Bernard,” she said. His English had improved dramatically since the last time they’d met while her school-girl French had deteriorated rapidly. “How is Maryanne? Fabien?”
His wide smile lit up his face. “They are very good, thank you. Maryanne’s clothing business is doing well. Maybe I retire soon. Fabien is engaged.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful!” Although they had only known each other a short time, she loved hearing about his wife and son. A tinge of sadness fell on her, realizing the burgeoning friendship with Bernard had been a casualty of the accident. “I am so happy for them. For you.” She fiddled with the strap of her backpack, her lips pursed. “So, I was wondering if—”
“Your sister is in rehearsal room one if they have not finished already.”
He opened the heavy metal door with an ominous creak. She stepped across the threshold, then stopped, her nose tingling with heady scents from the past. When she’d fled Paris, she’d thrown out everything that reminded her of ballet, including makeup and hair products. Yet here she stood, voluntarily immersing herself in the aromas of a world she’d tried so hard to escape.
Forcing herself to move, Lily kept her head down as she navigated the narrow passageways she knew too well. Finally, she reached the rehearsal room and halted out front. Ballet dancers sauntered up and down the hallway, oblivious to the turmoil swelling inside Lily’s stomach. Classical music drifted through the thin wooden door and her fingers hovered over the handle. Could she deal with more rejection? Was it really worth all this trouble?
Of course it was. Even though Natalie had cast her aside like a broken doll, Lily missed her sister. They’d lived, breathed, and loved ballet together since they could walk. How many hours a week had they traveled with their mother to attend ballet classes in the next district? How many nights had they stayed up late, snuggled together in bed, talking about ballet, dreaming, rehearsing? Lily had thought that special bond would never break. How wrong she’d been.
Lily rapped on the door and it swung open. A tall, lean gentleman with salt and pepper hair raised an eyebrow.
“Hello. I’m looking for—”
“Tell her I’m not here!” Natalie screamed from a hidden corner.
Lily tried to edge her way through the door but the man blocked her path. “Please, I’m her sister.”
“You are the Lily?” He stared down his nose. “She does not wish to speak with you.”
“Listen, I’ve come all the way from Australia and—”
The door yanked open and Natalie stood in her mauve ballet practice gear, a heavy scowl marring her delicate features, her blond hair sticking to her olive skin. “I told you I don’t want to talk. Now go away!”
The door slammed with a resounding thud. Lily stared at the wood that separated her from Natalie. The tiny ball of anger and frustration swelled in her belly.
A couple of young dancers covered their mouths as they giggled and scurried down the hallway. She didn’t blame the dancers for finding amusement in the goings on, after all, temper tantrums from principal dancers weren’t uncommon. In fact, Lily had been considered an anomaly due to her lack of screaming and demands. That was one of the reasons the Bohème Ballet had pursued her so intently. That, and her partnership on and off stage with Aiden. It had been a coup for the ballet company to sign them together, especially as Bohème had been competing against more famous and affluent companies. But the allure of Paris, the City of Love, had been enough to convince her and Aiden to fly halfway around the world and start a new life—a life that had only been in existence for a moment in time until it was savagely ripped away in one stupid, painful instant. And it appeared life hadn’t finished doling out more difficulties.
After wiping her hands on her jeans, she adjusted her backpack and negotiated the passageways one more time. There was no point in hanging around. Natalie had made herself clear, yet again, and no amount of stalking would get her to listen. Lily needed time to plan how to approach this sister who felt like a stranger. Over the past couple years, Natalie had grown bitter, selfish, and accusatory, so unlike the sweet girl who had once adored her older sister. Now spite raced through Natalie’s veins and the pièce de résistance had been when she’d joined the Bohème Ballet Company. Natalie had deliberately pursued her sister’s dream, an act that sliced through Lily’s heart. There had to be a reason for her sister’s insane change of attitude and blatant disregard for Lily’s feelings. What had snapped in Natalie? Lily needed to find out, no matter how painful or difficult it would be. If she didn’t, she’d remain caught in the past, unable to move into the future, whatever that may be.
Fighting back tears of frustration, she smiled at Bernard, who opened the door.
“I hope we will see you again soon, Mademoiselle Johansson.”
“We will see, Bernard, we will see.” She squinted in the bright sunlight, pulled out her sunglasses, and waved to the doorman as she took off down the street.
Lily hurried back across Pont au Change, happy the theater was behind her. Reaching the other side of the river, she kept her head down, her feet pounding the pavement even though her lower back ached. Her legs and arms pumped and she reveled in the free movement of her limbs, something she’d once feared was lost.
The sun had dipped behind the tall buildings and Lily shivered, the perspiration on her body multiplying the effect of the cool evening air. With one rapid footstep after another, she powered on, barely glancing at the crowds exiting their workplaces and closing up shop. It wasn’t until she reached the neighborhood of Vanves, that she realized how far she’d walked. With all the twisting and turning down avenues and alleys, she’d walked for at least an hour. Sure, her back ached, but the rest of her body felt so much better. Standing on the corner of Rue Jean Bleuzen and Rue Danton, staring at the headlights of gridlocked cars, she realized where her feet had led her. She sucked in her breath. Why had she allowed her body to dictate her actions? Once, it had been a tool she’d used to express feelings, especially joy, but this time, just like it had since the accident, her body had betrayed her.
If she walked a few blocks from where her traitorous feet stood, she’d be at Avenue Victor Hugo, the site where she lost the man she’d planned to marry and share a bright and starry future. Even Victor Hugo’s name made her shudder. Aiden had adored Hugo’s works, especially The Hunchback of Notre Dame and he’d insisted, in his charming and convincing way, that they should go and check out the avenue named after one of his favorite authors. After a long day of rehearsals, she hadn’t been in the mood but decided to go just to humor Aiden. Perhaps if she’d dug her heels in more they wouldn’t have gone and he wouldn’t …
A cacophony of horns drew her back to the present as stationary drivers rolled down their windows and screamed at each other. Grateful she’d halted her own progress on foot, Lily turned and started the long trek back to the apartment. Even though she’d had plenty of time on her flight from Melbourne to Paris, she hadn’t given any thought as to how a visit to Aiden’s site would play out. She certainly hadn’t envisioned an impromptu visit during Parisian peak hour but really, what would be the perfect way to visit the place where she’d lost a piece of her heart forever? Her clammy skin and thudding heart told her she was far from ready to go to the avenue, and with nausea swelling in her belly, she suspected the timing was not right and most likely never would be.
Alli Sinclair is a multi award-winning author who spent her early adult years travelling the globe, intent on becoming an Indiana Jones in heels. She scaled mountains in Nepal, Argentina, and Peru, rafted the Ganges, and rode a camel in the Sahara. Argentina and Peru became her home for a few years and when she wasn’t working as a mountain or tour guide, Alli could be found in the dance halls dancing the tango, salsa, merengue, and samba.
All of these adventures made for fun storytelling and this is when she discovered her love of writing. Alli’s stories capture the romance and thrill of exploring new destinations and cultures that also take readers on a journey of discovery.
Alli volunteers as an author role model with Books in Homes, promoting literacy and reading amongst young people.
The witches, they are real...
A series of bizarre assaults is mystifying Boston police: an unknown attacker is viciously beating random strangers and leaving a note quoting an old warning about witchcraft. History professor Alex Maple was one of the victims, and now he's gone missing. Vickie Preston is certain that someone has taken her friend for malicious purposes. She's having blood-drenched visions that seem to be staining her waking life, and the escalating attacks suggest that a dangerous cult is at work behind the scenes—a cult so powerful that its members would rather die than be apprehended.
Vickie is grateful to have Special Agent Griffin Pryce and the FBI's elite Krewe of Hunters on her side. Vickie and Griffin are finding their way in an increasingly passionate relationship, and he's keeping her safe and sane amid the disturbing investigation. The search for Alex will take them deep into the wilderness of Massachusetts on the trail of a serial killer, where an ancient evil is waking.
The Krewe of Hunters is the one of the very few paranormal series that I have followed and enjoyed. And Dark Rites is as filled with interesting history, enchanting tales of life, and characters that captured my interest.
It also had witches, cults, and satanism and that is not my thing at all, and I admit some of the scenes even made me feel a bit uncomfortable.
Usually, a new book in this series means we get to know a new hero and heroine. For this one, last book's protagonists get to solve another set of mysteries, while the relationship between them deepen, and the feelings take even more passionate root. Vickie Preston and Griffin Pryce has a great chemistry between them and definitely carry this story well.
Vickie is a historian, an author, with a big heart and tendency to get involved in the trouble brewing around her. She is smart, able to put together difficult puzzles of information in her head, and not afraid to face the danger. Griffin, the protective FBI agent, is the perfect mate to Vickie. They get each other, they support each other, they understand the preasure and need to get the job done and the bad guys caught, yet they make sure to take stolen moments for themselves, and enjoy life as well.
What delighted me with the story was the surprisingly light and flirty atmosphere between Vickie and Griffin, it is a bit atypical for these intense stories with death, drama, and ghosts. But it lightens the otherwise
so gloomy tale, and even had me laughing out loud couple times.
This story might not be my personal favorite in the series, but still vastly entertaining, hair-raisingly spooky, filled with danger, threats, and peril.
~ Three Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.
Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.
Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.
But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.
As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?
A breathtakingly beautiful story about trust, unconditional love, and forgiveness that touched my heart. I was really impressed with this new author to me, who wrote a Christian faith based romance novel, yet didn't shy away from the physical attraction between the main characters, but played it well as part of the plot and development of their relationship, as important part of the story, while managing to keep the story 'clean and sweet'.
I liked both Noah and Josephine Mitchell. They were a very different type of characters, both seemed like outgoing, yet Josephine's flirty behavior was part of the front she played, to hide her insecurities. Her past broke my heart, her childhood experiences some of those nightmares you wish upon no one. Her character development, her finding the way to be able to open up about her past, explain her past behavior, and accept forgiveness from herself as well as from others, those were the outstanding moments in the tale.
Noah was a strong character, his emotions were profound. From his anger to his passion, to his protectiveness, to his love, every single emotion he felt was tangible, true, and deep. That he found it in his heart to forgive and it was sincere, was the moment that all the emotional floodgates were opened for me.
The story has such a natural flow it was easy for me to immerse myself into the tale and forget the world around me. The rasing emotions that made havoc in lives of Noah and Josephine took me for a ride that will stay with me for some time. As the story was told, it was an astonishing tale about love and forgiveness. Josephine's development with her faith was referenced yet left a bit open, as was Noah's past with most details. But I am not sure if I would have needed that additional information if it would have made any difference in the story and the clear message absolution in love it delivers. This was a story that left me in awe a bit, a story that I will be processing for some time to come. It is a journey I can recommend for readers to take and approach with an open mind
~ Five Spoons
Denise Hunter is the award-winning author of 30 novels, including The Convenient Groom and A December Bride, which have been made into Hallmark movies.
Denise writes heartwarming, small-town romances. Her readers enjoy the vicarious thrill of falling in love and the promise of a happily-ever-after sigh as they savor the final pages of her books.
Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!
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Every town needs a bad boy, and Wrangler's Creek's has been gone far too long
Getting his high school girlfriend pregnant was just one square in Roman Granger's checkered past, but it changed him forever. When his son's mother skipped town after the birth, Roman decided to do the same, baby Tate in tow, hoping for a fresh start.
Now Roman fears his teenage son is following in his wayward footsteps, so he returns home to Wrangler's Creek, aiming to set him straight. It's there he encounters Tate's aunt, Mila Banchini, the good-girl opposite of Roman who's had a crush on him since childhood. The old spark between them undeniably never died, though Roman worries it'll only lead to heartache. But if falling for Mila is such a bad idea, why does everything about holding her feel so right?
Vita shook her head and kept moving. Mila would have gone after her if her phone hadn’t rung, and she saw her best friend’s name on the screen. Sophie Granger McKinnon.
“I’m at the hospital,” Sophie said the moment that Mila answered.
That was not something she wanted to hear from anyone but especially one who was seven and a half months pregnant with twins. “Are you in labor?”
“No. I’m fine. It’s not me. It’s my mom. She had some chest pains so I brought her in.” It sounded as if Sophie was crying. “Mila, they think she might have had a heart attack.”
Oh, mercy. “Just stay calm. I’ll be there in a few minutes. Who’s with you now?”
Good. Clay was police chief Clay McKinnon, Sophie’s husband and a rock under pressure. He would help Sophie rein in her worst fears. Still, Mila needed to be there, too. She’d known Sophie’s mother, Belle, her entire life, and while Belle wasn’t exactly Miss Sunshine, she didn’t put curses on people.
“Garrett and Nicky are on the way, too,” Sophie added. Her brother and his fiancée. “Garrett was off buying some cattle, but he should be here soon. Anyway, I’ve tried to call Roman, but he’s not answering. I hate to ask you to do this, but could you try calling him again for me? If he still doesn’t answer, would you drive to his house in San Antonio and tell him what’s going on?”
“Of course,” Mila said without hesitation.
“I know Roman and Mom are at odds, but he’ll want to know. Convince him to come home.”
Mila wasn’t sure she could do that. Roman wasn’t an easy‑to‑convince sort of person. Plus, she always got a little tongue-tied around him. But surely once he heard about his mother, Mila wouldn’t need to do much convincing. He would hurry to be by her side.
She scrolled through her “favorites” contacts, found Roman’s number and pressed it. Since he hadn’t answered his sister’s call, Mila expected this to go to voice mail, but she was surprised when he immediately answered.
“Mila,” he said.
One word. Her name. There was nothing unusual about it, other than Roman had been the one to say it. And, like any other time she heard him speak, her stomach did a flip-flop. She so wished there was some way to make herself immune to him.
Mila gathered her breath, ready to tell him about his mom, but Roman continued first. “It’s Tate,” he said.
Her stomach did another flip-flop but for a different reason this time. That’s because she heard the concern in his voice. “What’s wrong?”
“He ran away again, and I’ve been looking all over for him. By any chance, did he go to your place?”
It wasn’t an out-there kind of question. Tate had run away before, nearly two years ago, and he’d gotten someone to drive him to her house. That’s because Tate’s mother, and therefore, Tate, were Mila’s cousins.
Once Valerie and she had been close, too, since Vita had raised Valerie as her own. But it didn’t matter that Mila had once thought of her as a sister because she hadn’t seen Valerie in years. That didn’t matter to Tate, either. He just seemed to want a connection with anyone who was blood kin with his mother.
Something Mila understood, because she missed having that with her father.
Plus, Tate knew that Mila kept a spare key in the verbena plant so he’d be able to get into her house. She checked, and it wasn’t there now.
“I’m going inside to see if he’s here,” she assured Roman.
USA Today bestselling author, Delores Fossen, is an Air Force veteran who has sold over 100 novels. She's received the Booksellers' Best Award for romantic suspense, the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award and was a finalist for the prestigious Rita ®. Her books have been featured in Woman's Day and Woman’s World. In addition, she's had nearly a hundred short stories and articles published in national magazines. You can contact the author through her webpage at: www.deloresfossen.com
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A murder in a quiet English village, long-buried secrets and a man's search for answers about his traumatic past entangle FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan in the latest edge-of-your-seat Sharpe & Donovan novel
As a young boy, Oliver York witnessed the murder of his wealthy parents in their London apartment. The killers kidnapped him and held him in an isolated Scottish ruin, but he escaped, thwarting their plans for ransom. Now, after thirty years on the run, one of the two men Oliver identified as his tormentors may have surfaced.
Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are enjoying the final day of their Irish honeymoon when a break-in at the home of Emma's grandfather, private art detective Wendell Sharpe, points to Oliver. The Sharpes have a complicated relationship with the likable, reclusive Englishman, an expert in Celtic mythology and international art thief who taunted Wendell for years. Emma and Colin postpone meetings in London with their elite FBI team and head straight to Oliver. But when they arrive at York's country home, a man is dead and Oliver has vanished.
As the danger mounts, new questions arise about Oliver's account of his boyhood trauma. Do Emma and Colin dare trust him? With the trail leading beyond Oliver's small village to Ireland, Scotland and their own turf in the US, the stakes are high, and Emma and Colin must unravel the decades-old tangle of secrets and lies before a killer strikes again.
Near Stow-on-the-Wold, the Cotswolds, England
“Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s an antique of any quality,” Oliver York said. “It could be rubbish.”
Martin Hambly withheld his irritation. Henrietta Balfour, a local garden designer, was either preoccupied with her bucket of loam or ignoring Oliver, or perhaps both. Martin had hired her but Oliver was paying her. They were gathered outside the potting shed, located in a small, centuries-old dovecote on the southern edge of the York farm. The farm itself was located on the outskirts of the tiniest of Cotswold villages, a short drive to the busy market town of Stow-on-the-Wold. Martin had expected Oliver to stay another few days in London, but he’d returned last night. He would have thought a lazy morning was in order, but now here Oliver was, offering input in matters in which he’d never displayed any interest prior to ten minutes ago. For reasons Martin couldn’t fathom, Oliver had decided to contribute his opinion of an old pot Henrietta had unearthed. She’d discovered it out back in a heap of discarded gardening materials, created when Oliver had converted part of the dovecote into a stone-cutting studio. At first, Martin had thought it just another of Oliver’s solitary hobbies. Not quite the case.
Martin had worked for the Yorks for decades. He’d promised Nicholas and Priscilla York on their deathbeds he would never abandon their orphaned grandson, no matter how frustrating, annoying and outrageous Oliver could be.
Some days that promise was easier to keep than others.
Today wasn’t one of those days.
Oliver had gone to London on his own last Friday and hadn’t required Martin’s assistance at the York home on St. James’s Park. That could mean he’d been on a clandestine mission for MI5 or he’d discovered more stolen art he needed to return to the rightful owners—or he’d simply had a stack of books he’d wanted to read without Martin hovering about. They never discussed Oliver’s decade as a brazen art thief or his current work with MI5. For that matter, his reading list was off-limits for discussion, too.
Old pots, however, apparently he would discuss.
“This pot belonged to your great-grandmother, Oliver,” Martin said, fingering the slightly chipped terra-cotta pot. “It has soul. That’s the point, not its monetary value.”
“If you insist.”
Oliver stood straight. He was in his late thirties and exceedingly fit, with wavy, tawny hair and the sort of looks that drew women to him, although he’d yet to marry or even have, as far as Martin knew, a long-term romantic relationship.
And Martin would know.
Oliver turned to their garden designer. “Henrietta?”
She raised her warm blue eyes to him. “Old rubbish with soul?”
Martin could have cheerfully dumped the pot on their heads. It was half-filled with soil—not the sterile kind from a bag, either. He’d personally dug loam from the hillside behind the dovecote. Henrietta had protested but he’d won that battle, if with the compromise that she could top off the pot with her preferred professional mix of soil.
Professional dirt. Martin had never heard of such a thing.
After years of neglecting the farm’s gardens and overall landscaping, Oliver had taken Martin by surprise when he’d suggested they hire a garden designer and even provided Henrietta’s name. She’d recently moved from London into a nearby cottage she’d inherited from Posey Balfour, her grandfather’s never-married only sister and long a fixture in the village. Martin didn’t like to think of himself as shallow, but he hadn’t paid much attention to Henrietta in years and noticed at their first meeting about the gardens that she bore little resemblance to plain, gangly Posey, who’d died last summer in her midnineties. Henrietta was attractive with her mop of reddish-brown hair, her warm blue eyes and her pleasing curves. In her mid-thirties, she had a penchant for long, flowered skirts that she wore with a faded denim jacket or a battered waxed-cotton jacket and sturdy walking shoes. When conditions called for them, which they often did, she would don olive-green Wellingtons. How she managed her work in a skirt was beyond Martin, but she did occasionally pull on baggy pants, which also looked fine on her.
Perhaps Henrietta’s presence explained Oliver’s sudden acquiescence to professional help with the gardens and his early return from London. They’d known each other since they were small children, but she’d worked in London until recently and he’d…well, Oliver had a variety of ways he kept himself busy.
Henrietta’s visits to the Cotswolds had started when she was five or six, most often on her own. Her parents, born-and-bred Londoners, loathed Posey’s “chocolate box” village. They’d steal away on exotic holidays, leaving Henrietta to amuse herself by helping her great-aunt with her gardens. Although she’d had no children of her own, Posey had doted on Henrietta, the only other female Balfour.
Martin had been heartened by Oliver’s interest in his somewhat neglected landscaping but suspected it had more to do with his attractive garden designer. He and Henrietta had played together as children, creating an easy familiarity that still existed between them. Martin didn’t want to read too much in to his observations. Oliver could have ulterior motives. He often did. Martin had learned to be wary. He didn’t like to be a suspicious sort but it came with keeping his promise to Nicholas and Priscilla.
At the same time, Martin had to acknowledge an undercurrent warning him something about Henrietta Balfour’s charming eccentricities was off—not faked so much as unpracticed. Perhaps her move to the Cotswolds from London and her radical career change explained the disconnect.
She dipped her gloved hands into the bag, set on the worn stone landing in front of the dovecote. “Sentimental value counts for something, don’t you think, Oliver?”
Carla Neggers has been spinning stories ever since she climbed a tree with pad and pen at age eleven. Now she is the New York Times bestselling author of almost 70 novels, with millions of books sold in over 30 countries. Her popular Sharpe & Donovan romantic suspense series featuring FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan launched with Saint’s Gate in 2011 and has been praised as “a breathtaking reading experience” (Providence Journal) and “gripping and suspenseful” (Nashua Telegraph). In 2012, her Swift River Valley series debuted with Secrets of the Lost Summer, which garnered a starred review from Booklist and a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews and shot onto the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.
Growing up in rural Massachusetts with a Dutch father, a Southern mother and six brothers and sisters, Carla developed an eye for detail and a love of a good story. Her imagination, curiosity and sense of adventure are key to creating the complex relationships, fast-paced plots and deep sense of place in her books.
When she isn’t writing, Carla loves to travel, hike, garden and spend time with family and friends. She and her husband, Joe, are frequent travelers to Ireland and divide their time between Boston and their hilltop home in Vermont, not far from Quechee Gorge.
Please visit Carla at Website | Facebook | Twitter
LOVE ON THE VINE
by Roxanne Smith
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pub Date: 7/18/2017
Love is in bloom . . .
Straightforward Kay Bing has never been one for subterfuge, although she did embellish her resume just a bit to land a design job at Free Leaf Concepts, a cutting edge botanicals firm. Determined to make a good first impression, she’s exploring the highly secure company greenhouse when her assistant—the much too attractive Oliver Pierce—confides that he’s actually working undercover to investigate whether Free Leaf has created a potent new street drug. Kay doesn’t believe it for a minute—until someone plants designer mushrooms in her salad. Suddenly she and her sexy colleague are teaming up to unearth the roots of a dangerous operation . . .
Oliver not only has a personal stake in the investigation, his entire career in law enforcement is on the line. Stubborn, sensible Kay is a distraction he can’t afford, but as they dig deeper into the case, they discover a chemistry that’s too heated to deny. When even one wrong move could be deadly, Oliver may have to risk it all to keep Kay from harm—and convince her they should be partners for good.
The Free Leaf Concepts building was a narrow silver spire that stabbed into Little Rock’s hazy blue downtown sky like it was trying to pick a fight with the clouds. Aggressive, bold, but innovative and inspiring, too. Everything was chrome and shiny outside, as if they wanted to blast their clients in the face with the good stuff the moment they walked into the foyer. It worked. The lobby was a spectacle. The concrete and shiny metal of the outside world, from the dirty sidewalks to the old brick grandfather buildings lining the streets, were a million miles away as soon as Kay stepped through the mirrored doors, etched with Free Leaf’s chrome leaf emblem.
Crimson chrysanthemums were arranged around copper sculptures and red velvet couches in the waiting area. The fixtures and lighting were all shades of gold and honey. It was vibrant, masterfully done, and Kay wanted to touch everything.
“I’ve never seen chrysanthemums that shade,” she breathed to the receptionist when she came to gather Kay. “I mean, red is common enough, but that...Well, that’s not red. That’s fresh blood. I’ve seen fresh blood, I would know.”
The receptionist’s eyes widened slightly. Kay cleared her throat and stood up straight. She might look like a particularly wise fourteen-year-old, but Neve had taught her a thing or two about commanding herself. Kay had spent the last year taking orders and doling them out under her mentor’s watchful eye. With Neve backing her, Kay had never lacked for confidence. Now, there was no mean lady over her shoulder, daring someone not to take the five-foot-nothing Kay Bing seriously. She was on her own here. She couldn’t just rely on Neve—she had to be Neve.
The receptionist watched her curiously. Kay held back a heavy sigh. She’d never been good at first impressions. She offered the receptionist a bland smile. “Never mind. Long story. Hi, I’m Kay Bing. You should be expecting me. Or, at least, someone should.”
The woman smiled back. She had on a turtleneck dress with cap sleeves in a shade near exact to the sofa, and a clear clipboard tucked against one jutting hip. “I’m Brit. And you’ve probably never seen chrysanthemums like that because that particular shade was manufactured in house. We have a remarkable botanist. His lab takes up the entire third floor. Please, follow me.”
Kay tried hard to keep her excitement in check, but it thrummed through her like an electric guitar. “In house?” she repeated. “You have your own botanist? Wow. You know, I dig the monochrome, but a few pale yellow tulips would really—”
“No tulips,” Brit interjected apologetically. “Company policy. Too common. One of the most cultivated flowers in the world. Free Leaf Concepts prides itself on ‘top shelf’ fauna, if you will.” Then she pulled a face, sticking out her tongue in a small grimace. “At least, that’s the line I feed clients. We do, of course, pander to special requests, but it requires ordering through a third party.”
“Got it. No tulips.” Kay’s enthusiasm wilted a little as she followed Brit. She was going to work for a bunch of flower snobs. Tulips were wonderful and hardy. She hated to think how they felt about daffodils.
Brit guided her through a hallway like something out of Kay’s wildest dreams. Jungle met concrete in a fantastic display of nature and man- made coming together in glorious harmony. The walls were mixed concrete overlaid with milky silver panels that cast distorted reflections placed randomly along the length of the curved hallway. Ledges cradling passionflower vines were cut into niches of concrete between the panels. The vines grew elegantly from one ledge to the next. The odd silver panels gave a strange, funhouse illusion of greenery dipping and swirling everywhere, all at once. The ceiling was low, painted a subtle sage green that reflected the industrial carpeting underfoot, and recessed lighting cast a pale light, as if the hallway were awash in lazy afternoon sunlight. The design was a marvel.
The hallway ended at a round glass-encased elevator. Brit punched a button but didn’t move to step inside. “Fifth floor is all executive offices and conference rooms. Mr. Arnell, our director of operations, will probably call you in for a briefing sometime, but his calendar and working hours are hectic. Don’t expect to get much advance warning. Could be this afternoon or next month. He’s out of the office from noon to two most days. Complete nightmare to schedule him with clients. Your office is on the fourth floor.”
Kay smiled. Just one small floor away from the botany labs. She stepped inside the cylindrical elevator.
Brit made a notation on her clipboard and grimaced with distaste. “Damian Roscoe may still have a few personal affects in the office. You can have your assistant, Oliver, clear them out for you. He and Roscoe were buddies, so don’t take it personally if he doesn’t hop-to on the first day, okay? He’s a good guy, even if Roscoe was an idiot douchebag.” She gave Kay a bright smile and a wave, then punched another button that set the doors to closing. “Your team is anxious to meet you. Have a great first day, Ms. Bing.”
Kay blinked at the receptionist’s retreating form, then put Brit’s parting comment aside. Office gossip wasn’t on the agenda.
She fixed her expression into a stone mask of observation, just like she’d seen Neve do a thousand times. It usually meant the gears were turning, calculating budget, measurements, and people all at once, deciding in an instant what, where, when, how, and why. For Kay, the stony façade would be a tool. A shield. At least, for today. Tomorrow, maybe it wouldn’t be a mask, but the real thing.
She tucked her nerves and self-doubts into her back pocket. She straightened the collar of her no-nonsense black button-up. Instead of a tie, she wore a neat silk bow in a muted gray. Professional. Not overly cute. Kay couldn’t dress cute. Dressing cute meant jokes about curfew, and did her parents know where she was. Ha-ha. Yep, she got it. She was little. But she also knew if she wanted to be the queen, she couldn’t dress like the jester. Anything pastel—light pink, pale lavender, baby blue—was out of the question. Hacking off her hair helped to a degree, and recently she’d began wearing heavier makeup, finding it aged her. Scrubbed clean, she could pass for a young teenager. She might be the only woman alive looking forward to a few wrinkles.
The glass elevator pinged eloquently, like someone had installed a doorbell from one of the homes in the Governor’s Mansion district, when it finally came to a stop. The door slid open.
A handsome man—the kind with an eye-catching appearance that encouraged a second glance—waited just on the other side. His eyes, the same subtle green as the ceiling in the hallway downstairs, scoured her in one quick motion, literally sizing her up. He smiled indulgently, like he wanted to offer her a quarter for the candy machines. But not before she caught the gleam of calculation, there and gone in a blink.
He held out his hand. The smile lingered, relaxing into something with a little more warmth. “Oliver Pierce. But you can call me whatever you like. ‘Fetch that file’ is a big hit. ‘More coffee,’ another favorite.”
Her assistant. He would be charming, good-looking, and not outrageously tall. A tad on the rugged side, with stubble arranged almost artfully across his jaw, and eyes the color of sage under an expressive brow. His gaze held his candid smile.
Kay took his hand without moving a single muscle on her face. God, the effort. She’d never know how Neve kept it up. “Nice to meet you, Oliver.” He seemed put off by her dry greeting. His smile dialed back a few degrees. He had the beginning of a few lines around his eyes. Older than she was. “Likewise,” he said. Then he took off in a sudden energetic burst, beckoning her to follow. “C’mon, I’ll show you to your office.”
A Florida native, Roxanne Smith has called everywhere from Houston to Cheyenne home. Currently residing in Roswell, New Mexico, she’s an avid reader of every genre, a cat lover, pit bull advocate, and semi-geek. She loves video games, Doctor Who, and her dashing husband. Her two kids are the light of her life and provide ample material for her writing.
The Killer Instinct series from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden continues as an FBI profiler tracks a case that resurrects ghosts from his past
Ex-SEAL Tucker Frost knows that the world is full of evil. He saw it in the face of his own brother, Jason Frost, a cold, methodical, sadistic killer. A killer Tucker put down with his own hands in order to save Jason's final victim--Dawn Alexander, the only girl who got away from the infamous "Iceman."
It's Tucker's up close and personal experience with evil that's made him perfect for Samantha Dark's experimental profiling division in the FBI. And when women start turning up murdered with the same MO used by the Iceman, Tucker is sent back to Louisiana to investigate.
Seven years have passed since the night that Tucker faced down his brother...and since he last saw Dawn, his one-time lover. But as Tucker and Dawn grapple with a desire that never died, they must also face the shared shadow from their pasts. Both have the same question--has Jason Frost come back from the dead to hunt again? And this time, will he succeed in killing the victim who got away?
A dark, riveting, mind boggling story that will stay with you, it might even come to your dreams, the characters and their destinies hunt your mind, and you lose the sense of your surroundings as you immerse yourself into the menacing world of the serial killers, and the bravery and courage of those who have faced them yet are willing to go and hunt them to make the world a safer place for the rest of us.
Cynthia Eden does it again. Her talented, at times creepy, words and scenes managed to give me the chills as I sat on the hot beach reading the story. But despite all the horror the serial killer creates, what stayed with me after reading the story, was the overpowering, beautiful, lasting, passionate love between ex-SEAL Tucker Frost and Dawn Alexander.
The history between Tucker and Dawn is heartbreaking and horrifying. The circumstances make it so that they have no insurance whom they can trust, who is on their side, who truly has their back, how the evidence can be interpreted, and once again, testing their trust on each other. The doubts and uncertainty create tension in an already intense situation, and kept me on the edge through the tale, from the very start all the way to the end.
The unwavering, steadfast connection between Tucker and Dawn is an amazing thing to witness. As more evidence comes to the light, the way they have always been mentally connected, always accepted their feelings towards each other - despite everything that has happened in the past and how they had moved on - is beautiful. The passion between them is scorching, the emotions deep and profound. Yes, there are several moments of doubts and questions, physical desires that override the sensibilities, and moments of truth that hurt but the constant love is still there, the feelings that will not fade.
They are both nothing but professional, smart, capable, and able. They are willing to risk themselves to save each the other, the bravery and maturity in them had me admiring them even more. The constant turns in the plot, the distrustful atmosphere surrounding them, the new evidence, the circle of suspects getting tighter, kept me guessing and wondering to the end. There are signs yet they point to couple different directions just to play with your mind.
Another cleverly crafted thriller by Cynthia Eden.
An enthralling, gripping, and grim tale that makes an impression, both with its alluring romance and its perilous suspense.
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side