THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Jimmy Stu Lives!, Kent McDaniel {$0.99}

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Description of Jimmy Stu Lives!:

Jimmy Stu Lives! is science-fiction. It involves an elderly leader of a mega church in present-day Nashville, who loses his faith and convinces his followers that God wants him preserved by cryogenics when he dies–for a mission to the future. He gets his wish and 140 years after dying is reanimated. One has to be careful, of course, what one wishes for: His church has become a major faith, and millions of faithful view him as a prophet. Further, the US has fragmented into spheres of influence controlled by various faiths. And, oh yes, the leaders of his church view him as a threat, had no desire to reanimate him–it was done illicitly–and wish to return him to “suspended animation”. Into the ensuing adventure story, the novel weaves reflections on faith and its corruption, along with satire on efforts to erode church/state separation.

 

Accolades:

“A quick read and a thought provoking book.” review from Amazon.

“…artfully combines both Sci-Fi and Thriller to make it impossible to put the book down once started.” The Kindle Book Review.

“…fascinating depiction of a possible future.” Review from Amazon.

“a slam-bang adventure story, very well paced, with engaging characters…” Review from Amazon.

“…a pointed, albeit tongue in cheek, look at what can happen when a country allows a church to insert itself into the governmental seat of power.” Windy City Reviews

Reviews:

Jimmy Stu Lives! currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.5 stars from 17 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from Jimmy Stu Lives!:

A voice croaked, “He’s alive. Isn’t he?”
A softer voice responded, “His signs are stabilizing. We can’t predict his mental condition.”
Alive. Through the dim consciousness, the word swam up. But – no.
Again, the fierce whisper: “He’s alive.”
Alive, then, but who? Jimmy Stu? Jimmy Stu Sloan?
He seemed to be lying down, his back pressing into a firm mattress. He could feel his body! He opened his eyes enough to peek through his eyelashes. He opened his eyes! Rows of circular lights floated just below the ceiling ten feet above him. A torso in a white lab coat stood beside him, lustrous black hair falling to its waist. Another torso, clad in a coat of orange brocaded cloth, pressed close behind the first.
A third, deeper voice, rumbled, “His eyelashes just fluttered.”
“Really?” The hoarse voice asked. A lean handsome face lowered itself to the level of Jimmy Stu’s head, and dark eyes peered at him.
Jimmy Stu closed his eyes.
“You’re right,” the voice cried beside him. “He’s waking!”
Hands shook Jimmy Stu’s shoulders. “Uncle, wake up!” It was the hoarse voice, choked with emotion, Jimmy Stu realized then. The hands shook him again. “Wake up!”
The soft voice, a woman’s certainly, cried, “Careful, Peter.” The hands fell from Jimmy Stu’s shoulders, and he could hear feet shuffling.
Jimmy Stu opened his eyes and turned his head. A tall lean man, who appeared to be in his late thirties, stood three feet away. A beautiful woman with long black hair, full lips, and dark, glittering eyes held the man’s left arm with both hands, knuckles taut. Behind her towered a golden behemoth of a man, brown hair curling down to his massive shoulders.
“You’re awake!” the lean man – Peter? – cried, his face aglow. He wore loose white trousers, brown sandals, and a Nehru shirt of orange brocade. Something in his bone structure – the high cheekbones and noble brow – reminded Jimmy Stu of someone. Jimmy Stu cleared his throat. “So … it would seem.”
He moved away the sheet covering him. He moved! Naked, he pushed himself to a seated position. Vertigo rocked him, and he swayed. Patches on his arms and chest the size and shape of fifty-cent pieces pulled at his bare skin.
The woman rushed up and steadied him. “Are you all right?” They all had a strange accent – not American, not English, nor Australian … maybe a combination, with a hint of a lilting drawl.
He took a breath. “I think so.” He glanced right and left. What seemed to be a monitor with undulating lines flowing across it, floated at the end of the gurney. A machine as wide as the gurney floated between it and the wall. The woman pulled the patches from his chest and arms, and the lines on the monitor disappeared.
He stared at her. “Are you with Thorne Cryogenics, then?”
She looked over her shoulder at the lean man who hurried over, hand to his jaw, eyes averted. “Well, uh, not exactly, uncle,” he said. “Actually, this is lab is owned by SynthaLife, Incorporated.” He tipped a hand toward the woman. “Shama is a senior researcher here.”
“SynthaLife?” Jimmy Stu stared at him.
Shama touched Jimmy Stu’s arm and looked into his eyes. “We develop and manufacture synthetic life – biological androids. I’m a biochemist and an officer of the company.”
“Androids?” Jimmy Stu blinked. “Robots?”
“Synthetic life.” Her tone was patient. “Our product is organic.”
He shook his head to clear the cobwebs. “What’s all that got to do with cryonics? Or Thorne Cryogenics Labs?”
“Actually,” Peter said, stepping closer to him, “Thorne Labs was bought by the Church of the Living Lord over eighty years ago.”
Jimmy Stu drew back like he’d been tazed. “My church? Bought Thorne Labs?”
Peter nodded.
Jimmy Stu pointed at Peter. “You’re with the Church of The Living Lord?”
Peter grimaced. “Not … exactly.”
Jimmy Stu sputtered, “Well, what-what the hell’s going on? Who the hell … who the hell are you?” He stared around the chamber almost as large as a basketball court, its walls and floors spotless, gleaming white. Opposite them, five doors stood along the far wall, a window beside each door. In the room’s middle were a couple tables with drawers underneath, and beakers, flasks, and test tubes on top. On his side of the room, another table stood at the far end, longer than the others, with a sink. In between it and him floated a metallic device the size of a large suitcase, lights oscillating across it. High on the walls, large windows revealed the black of night above.
The bronze giant lumbered up to Jimmy Stu with a set of clothes much like hospital scrubs, only royal blue. “Why don’t you try these on?” he rumbled. “Looks like they might fit. I’m Joachim,” he added. “It’s an honor to be here tonight, Your Holiness.” He held out the clothing like a communion bowl.
After a few seconds, Jimmy Stu took the garments. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, he slipped them on, marveling at how smooth and muscular his limbs were. Dizzy again, he sat back down on the gurney and whispered, “I was dead.” He stared at the dark, lean man. “Who are you? Where am I?” He put his hands to his temples.
“I’m Peter Alvarez,” the man said gently. “Your great-great-great-great-nephew.”
Jimmy Stu stared.
Peter nodded at the dark-haired beauty in the lab coat. “This is Shama Besic.” He pointed at the giant. “And this is Joachim Davis.”
“Great-great-great-great?” Jimmy Stu’s voice came out as a croak. “It … it worked? It actually worked?”
As he’d been dying, apprehension had nagged him about Thorne Labs’ use of the ‘neuro’ preservation option. It’d seemed too fantastic. They’d assured him all they needed was his head, that they’d someday be able to scan and record his DNA, and use organic material to produce an exact replica of him – head, torso, limbs, organs, nervous system … everything. They promised technology would someday exist that could map his brain, record its state, run a simulation indistinguishable from his original mind, and imprint it on his newly generated brain. Even to him, the hope had seemed desperate and pathetic. “It worked, then?” he repeated.
“Yes.” Peter beamed. “You’re alive and, it would seem, well.” He put his hands on his hips and leaned toward Jimmy Stu. “Do you feel well enough to travel? We’d like to take you Joachim’s place outside the city.”
Jimmy Stu looked around the lab, at the night sky in the windows, then at the three people. “Why am I here? Not at Thorne Labs?”
Peter clasped Jimmy Stu’s shoulders. “Please, uncle, we need to go – now. We can use an aero-chair or auto-stretcher if you need. I’ll explain on the way.”
Jimmy Stu drew back, but his shoulders remained in the Peter’s grip. “Yeah, I’m sure you can.” Jimmy Stu looked inward. “But can I believe you?” His voice fell. “What do I know, really? I’m here. Alive. With you. How do I know who you are, what you want?”
Peter looked horrified. “Uncle, we’ve risked everything to bring you back. We would never harm you! The will of God made flesh! But we need to leave now. Your life could depend on it.”
There was a beep. Peter and Shama blanched. The beep sounded again and repeated every three seconds.
“Who?” Peter glared at a large oblong rectangle of opaque beige light that appeared on the wall. Beside the rectangle, a red light blinked in sync with the beeps.
Shama jabbed a finger at a door across the lab. “In my office! Quickly!”
Jimmy Stu stared back and forth between her and the screen. Joachim jumped over and wrapped an arm around his torso, hefting Jimmy Stu like a sack of potatoes. He trotted toward the doors across the lab, with Peter at his side. They scrambled through a door, and it slammed behind them. They were in an office with a large window facing the lab. Shama stared wide-eyed at them through the window, moving her arms up and down in short jerks. Peter tapped the window, and it became opaque. Joachim set Jimmy Stu on his feet and tapped a black plastic strip on the wall. A screen of light like the one on the lab’s wall appeared.
Peter’s voice was shrill. “We’re not transmitting?”
Joachim folded his arms across his chest, then glanced at Peter. “Just receiving. Relax.”
Lightheaded, Jimmy Stu stared at the screen. Abruptly a red-haired woman with high cheekbones and slightly tilted cobalt eyes appeared in the hologram. She wore a jumpsuit of black leather.
Shama’s voice said, “Hello?”
Peter growled, “Fuck!”
The woman appeared to be standing beside a large semi-circular desk in a spacious lobby, two brutes in black jump suits like hers lounging ten feet behind, at the edge of the screen.
“She’s here!” Peter spat. “Downstairs!”
On screen, the redhead smiled icily. “Dr. Shama Besic?”
“Yes?”
The redhead inclined her head and shoulders in a sort of mini-bow. “Phuong Blake, with the security department of the Church of the Living Lord. We have reason to believe that you possess an item stolen from the Church of the Living Lord.”
Jimmy Stu glanced at Joachim, then spun around to Peter and whispered, “You stole something from them?”
“Yes!” Peter hissed “You!”
A sharp inhalation from Shama came over the holo-phone. “What are you talking about? Stolen item?”
Phuong Blake’s cobalt eyes took on a sardonic sheen, and her full lips twisted slightly to one side. “Oh, I think you know what I’m talking about.” She craned her neck as if trying to better see into the holo-screen. “And where, by the way, are Peter Alvarez and his good friend Joachim Davis? They’re up there with you, aren’t they?”
“Oh,” Shama said, going for nonchalant and missing, “they’re around.”
Blake nodded. “We’d like to come up and speak with them, and you, if we might.”
Shama sounded incredulous, furious. “You think I’ll let you bring your goons up here?”
Blake’s cobalt eyes seemed to burn into the screen. “We’d like to keep the police out of this, if we can.”
Beside Jimmy Stu, Peter snorted. “Of course.” He jumped to Joachim’s side and pointed at Jimmy Stu. “Stay with him.” Peter cracked the office door just wide enough to step through, and strode into the lab.
On screen, Blake’s eyes widened for a fraction of a second.
Peter’s voice came over the holo-phone, an angry bark. “What’s the meaning of this, Phuong?”
Jimmy Stu edged closer to Joachim. “What’d he mean, of course, they’d want to keep the police out of it?”
Joachim closed his eyes for a second. “We stole your head back in April, and it’s June third. They still haven’t reported it to the police. They don’t want anyone to know.” He put his finger to his lips, then pointed at the screen.
Blake sighed through her nose. “Congressman Alvarez.” Irony dripped from her voice. “As I said, we’d prefer to keep the police uninvolved. But I can have them here in no time, rest assured. If necessary.”
Seconds ticked by as Blake’s hologram stared into the screen, her impassive face somehow more menacing than if she’d glared.
Peter’s voice, sounding strangled, came over the holo-phone. “We have nothing to hide, Phuong. You can come up. Your strong-arm guys stay put, though.”
Blake glanced over her shoulder at the two thugs, looked back at the screen, and shrugged. “No problem. I have your permission to come up, then?”
Maybe Peter had nodded, because the picture changed. A middle-aged man in a security guard’s uniform, complete with brimmed hat, stared slightly down into the holo-screen. A vee formed between his eyebrows. “Officer Blake has permission to enter your facility then, Dr. Besic?”

 

Jimmy Stu Lives! is available for purchase at:

 Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

Connect with Kent McDaniel:

Website: www.kentmcdanielwrites.wordpress.com

Facebook: Kent McDaniel

Twitter: @dickmoby

Fire Country (The Country Saga), David Estes {$0.99}

 

In a changed world where the sky bleeds red, winter is hotter than hell and full of sandstorms, and summer’s even hotter with raging fires that roam the desert-like country, the Heaters manage to survive, barely.

Due to toxic air, life expectancies are so low the only way the tribe can survive is by forcing women to procreate when they turn sixteen and every three years thereafter. It is their duty as Bearers.

Fifteen-year-old Siena is a Youngling, soon to be a Bearer, when she starts hearing rumors of another tribe of all women, called the Wild Ones. They are known to kidnap Youngling girls before the Call, the ceremony in which Bearers are given a husband with whom to bear children with.

As the desert sands run out on her life’s hourglass, Siena must uncover the truth about the Wild Ones while untangling the web of lies and deceit her father has masterfully spun.

What readers are saying:

“The story is awesome, original, fast paced and I just couldn’t stop reading it!” Amazon reviewer, Lolita

“MUST MUST MUST READ!” Amazon reviewer, Shhh! I’m Reading!

“Hooked from the beginning!” Amazon reviewer

The average Amazon Review is currently 4.5 stars {146 reviews}.

 Click here to read more about and purchase Fire Country (The Country Saga) for  $0.99 from Amazon!

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Silver Sphere, Michael Dadich {$3.99}

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Description of The Silver Sphere:

Shelby Pardow never imagined killing someone. That’s about to change.

While hiding from her troubled father in the local library, Shelby stares at a flashing instant message on her computer: YOU ARE NEEDED. She discovers a portal that opens and teleports her to the planet Azimuth, where soldiers await. Here, she is not a child but a warrior, Kin to one of the six Aulic Assembly members imprisoned by Malefic Cacoethes, the daunting leader of the Nightlanders.

Malefic, the evil spawn of the demon Biskara, razes towns and cities in his quest to rule Azimuth, and yearns to turn his forces against Earth. Yet every time Biskara gets close to achieving his malevolent goals, the Assembly uses the Silver Sphere, a sophisticated armillary device, to thwart him.

With the Assembly deposed, Biskara directing Malefic’s conquests, and the Silver Sphere out of reach, Shelby is thrust into an unforgettable quest with her fellow Kin. She must learn to kill and lead an army into battle, or Azimuth—and Earth—will fall.

Winner of the prestigious Mom’s Choice Gold Award for Young Adult Fantasy.

Winner of the Wise Bear Books Gold Award including best in category for Young Adult Fantasy-Adventure and Young Adult Fantasy-General.

 

Accolades:

“A vivid mind has most definitely brought back the Technicolor that’s been missing since Potter made his last stand.” ~ Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“This is definitely a book to watch as it has all the right elements to be the next Hunger Games-type phenomenon.” ~ Wise Bear Book Reviews

“This fresh twist on the quest fantasy novel is done with charm and humor.” ~ Foreword-Clarion Reviews

“As a warrior, Shelby must learn how to kill, and how to lead an army to preserve the light of hope, in this captivating and highly recommended saga of life and death on the battlefield.” ~ Midwest Book Review

Reviews:

The Silver Sphere currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.7 stars from 92 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from The Silver Sphere:

“Your world will be over soon, won’t it, dear Bianca?”
The cloaked creature rasped out the syllables one at a time, and each sound pushed Bianca closer toward the cold stone floor. Moonlight splashed across the room from a wall of windows. Even if she could have yelled, no one would have heard her. Pain made her dizzy.
As the assault on her consciousness raged, she struggled to her feet against the heavy stupor overtaking her body. Her limbs shook. The long table in front of her provided only a moment of support before she collapsed upon the solid oak board.
Her vision blurred from the pressure, and a murmur gurgled from her throat as she tried to call out to the Assembly members hunched in their chairs. The maroon wine spilled across the table told of their downfall. Were they unconscious or dead? She couldn’t begin to guess. Her goblet remained almost untouched.
“How easy this was….”
The din of his words made her gaze upward, where a hood surrounded his darkened features. Screams echoed in her head, though no sound broke from her lips.
He knelt beside her and whispered, “Dear Bianca.” His hands caressed full chunks of her raven hair, and he started pulling the strands through his fingers.
Horror traveled down her spine and numbed her. She felt the escape of fainting descend upon her, fogging her mind; how she wanted to drift off and shun the maddening fear. Yet he would not let her. She tried in vain to pull away, but his power over her was too great.
“Don’t.” She must have said it aloud because his grip tightened and he jerked her head back, forcing her to look at him. She gasped as he pulled the cowl away.
Her tormentor had a pallid complexion and a high forehead. Long, wiry auburn hair framed his narrow face, at the center of which sat a nose snubbed like a snout. It was the piercing glare of his eyes that caught her, though. Their intensity made her skin crawl.
“Malefic,” she mouthed, her breath releasing in a terrified wheeze.
He loosened his grasp and eased her to the floor. Then he stepped over her body and slithered to the head of the table, admiring his handiwork.
Bianca’s legs and arms stiffened. Malefic oozed power, and as she watched him, her mind reeled. What had led to such laxness in their security? Where had he come from?
We were betrayed, of course, she thought, as unconsciousness bid her closer to blackness.
Malefic turned and glared into her eyes, a sneer twisting his expression into a grotesque mask. “The Aulic Assembly is mine.” His harsh voice pulled her to the brink. “Father will be pleased.”

 

The Silver Sphere is available for purchase at:

 Amazon Kindle for $3.99

 

Connect with Michael Dadich:

Website: www.thesilversphere.org

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaeldadich

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Blood Brothers, Jody Zimmerman {$0.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of Blood Brothers:

Thirty-three year old Philip Hampton is an award winning freelance writer and investigative journalist. His younger brother, Billy, an A-list New Yorker, is on the brink of stardom in the international art market.

Orphaned as children, the two brothers are the only family either has until Billy is murdered. Shattered by his brother’s death, Philip vows revenge.

During a visit to Billy’s studio, Philip discovers Billy’s final painting. Certain that the painting somehow holds clues to Billy’s murder, Philip begins to unlock the painting’s secrets.

He finds himself drawn into a frantic search for the treasures from the largest art theft in history—the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist of 1990. Discovery of the treasure is Philip’s only hope of solving the murder, attaining retribution, and healing from emotional and sexual trauma from his childhood.

 

Accolades:

Blood Brothers is filled with fantastic writing, an utterly enthralling plot line and some of the best written characters I have read. D.P. Whitehead

Brilliantly dark and edgy….Dii

Breathtaking Lauren R. Alumbaugh

Reviews:

Blood Brothers currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 3.9 stars from 23 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from Blood Brothers:

Billy is so much like Mother—the smile; the green eyes; the long, thick, auburn-brown hair; the flawless, warm-olive skin; the chaotic, anxious, angry moods; but most of all, the gift with canvas.

I pick up his limp, warm, right hand to kiss it tenderly. My tears fall on his fingers, rolling off onto the harsh, crisp-white linens. I study his hand—the slender, long fingers; pink nails topped with white crescents, speckled with bits of dried red and yellow oil paint underneath them; the faintly green veins on the back of his hand; the downy covering of brown hair on the tops of his fingers and hand, becoming thicker and slightly curled on his wrist and forearm; and the thumb he sucked until he was four years old. There is no expression on his face. Stubble sticks out in sharp contrast to the etiolated complexion.

“Please God, please God, let this hand paint again,” I beg.

“Oh please, let my brother wake, pick up his brushes and paint again,” I plead.

“Mother, I’m so sorry, forgive me,” I rub Billy’s hand all over my wet face.

“I’ve tried my best to look after him. You know I have. Dammit, Goddammit, don’t you Mother? I miss you so much. I miss you so, so much.” Futile queries spark through my mind. How would she react if she were to see her baby boy lying here in a coma? How would age have affected her beautiful face? Would I have turned out the same? Would she and Dad have stayed together? Would Billy be lying here now?

“Please don’t leave me, Billy,” I whimper, hands trembling, nose dripping. I rub my nose on my right shoulder. Fear hammers through my soul with each beat of my heart. My connection with Billy began the day Dad brought Mother home from the hospital with a tiny, pink creature, eyes shut tight with a head full of dark brown hair, squirming, reeking of sweet, silky Johnson’s Baby Powder, his tiny little fingers grabbing tightly around mine, leaving me breathless—the first vivid memory I recall, though I was only two years old.

I’ve been sitting for hours willing that my touch and voice might get through to him, that his fingers might once again grab mine. I visualize my love for him to be a life-giving force emerging from my body through my hands, permeating his body, repairing all the damaged cells, nerves, and tissue in his brain. I focus all my consciousness into him, communicating to him that I am here with him, that together we will make him well. I imagine that he opens his eyes—imploring God to make it happen. I remember my lucky rabbit’s foot. I fish it out of my left pants pocket, put it in his hand and fold my hands over his.

“How could this be?” I ask myself over and over. “How could you have overdosed, Billy? You’ve gotten your life so together the past few years. What were you doing taking GHB? You never mentioned that drug to me before.”

My brother is attached to life through an array of plastic tubes. Electrodes monitor all the electrochemical pulses emanating from his heart and brain. Machines surround him. The metronomic sound of a ventilator pumping oxygen through a white, plastic tube inserted into his trachea through his mouth sends stinging waves of adrenaline-laced fear through my body. This high tech cubicle in the neurological intensive care unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital is one of several fanned out in a circle around a central operations post manned by technicians and nurses overseeing dozens of panels, monitors, and computers. The area looks like mission control, and I think about how Billy loved to play space travel when we were kids.

Armed with a walkie-talkie and a laser firing cap gun, he would set out from my bedroom—mission control—to explore outer space—our back yard. I would direct him on his journey and he would report back his findings. We were careful to steer clear of Planet X—Mother’s cottage studio, whenever she had shut herself in to paint.

“Mr. Hampton, Mr. Hampton,” a soft, high pitched female voice interrupts my thoughts. I look up to see a short, obese, middle-aged woman in a large blue and green flowery smock looking down at me, her brown eyes full of compassion.

She bends over, gently takes Billy’s hand from mine, gently placing his hand on the bed. She smiles when she sees the rabbit’s foot as it rolls from Billy’s hand onto the bed. Her bosom is huge, so I am unable to read her nametag that faces upward. She takes both my hands in her right hand and puts her left arm around my shoulders pulling me into her large body. I collapse into the warmth, sobbing like a lost, frightened child. The scent of fabric softener crawls through my swollen nasal passages, my eyes fix on her perfectly manicured red nails, dwarfed by the circumference of her fingers. Her breathing is labored. After a while, she slowly releases me.

“Mr. Hampton, they tell me you’ve been sitting here since noon yesterday,” she informs me as she hands me a wad of tissue.

“You should go get some rest. We’ll notify you the second there is any change in your brother’s condition. I promise you,” she says. I stare into her eyes that tenderly acknowledge the desperation in mine, yet reflect no solid hope for me to grab.

I try to speak; nothing comes out. I blow my nose into the tissue and try to clear my throat but it clenches shut emitting a raspy dry cough.

“Water?”

“No.”

“We have a nice lounge where you could rest. We can also offer you something to eat if you are hungry,” she says. “If you prefer, you can go home and get some rest there. Do you live here in town?”

I shake my head back and forth.

“I see,” she says. “Well, we have a family coordinator who can help you make arrangements,” she adds in muffed, gentle soprano tones. Her face is full and round, framed by cropped brown hair, with penciled in crescent eye brows, and red lips stretched into a slight smile over large jowls, resting under ample earlobes, hanging like beagle ears over her neck. She exudes compassion, and I wonder if she is a hand picked harbinger carefully groomed and trained in the skill of gently relaying devastating news.

“Where’s the restroom?” I ask.

“This way.” She pulls me up, and I look down to read her nametag—Janet Ostro, RN.

My knees lock, my lower back hurts, and my bladder aches. I bend over to gently kiss Billy’s face.

“I love you,” I whisper into his right ear.

She picks up the rabbit’s foot and hands it to me. “It’s beautiful. I’ve never seen one with a gold cap and chain. Are these your initials, Mr. Hampton?”

“Yes. My grandmother gave us each one for Christmas when we were kids,” I struggle to get the words out as I stuff the rabbit’s foot in my pocket, desperate for its magic to work.

Slowly, we walk out of the intensive care unit and down a corridor. She leads me by my right elbow. We come to a men’s room, and I go in. It is dark. She reaches her right hand in and turns on the light. I go to the urinal and begin to pee. My concentrated urine splashes my hands, overpowering the pink urinal cake, its odor illuminating the memories of Billy and me engaging in pee contests in grade school to see who could back away farthest from the urinals without hitting the floor. I feel tears running down my face again. If his brain is damaged beyond repair, how can I let him live that way? How could I ever let him not live? Dear God, how could I make such a decision? I finish peeing, move to the sink, turn on the cold water, soap my hands, rinse them, then bend over splashing water on my face several times. I stand up, water dripping down my face and neck onto my green Polo shirt, and look at myself in the mirror—swollen face thick with stubble and stinging r ed tear trails, dark semicircles under blue-grey eyes, my curly, dark blonde hair in disarray. I gaze at my face distinguishing Mother’s features, Dad’s features—the genetic commingling producing indisputably recognizable brothers. I grab my neck with my left hand, apply pressure on my carotid arteries until I feel the thump of my heart in my throat, startled by a feeling of déjà vu that sends rings of shivers over my skin like the iridescent rings of color accelerating from a drop of gasoline on a sunlit mud puddle.

“My God, I’ve got to get out of here,” I mumble. I release the grip on my throat, grab some paper towels, wipe my face and hands and emerge to find Janet waiting.

“I’ll, I’ll stay at my brother’s, at Billy’s,” I hear myself say.

“He lives in Tribeca. Could you find out where they put my duffle bag and please call me a cab? I have to get out of here now.”

Puzzled, she says “Why certainly.”

I follow her to a closet. She takes out a set of keys from a pocket in her smock, unlocks the door, reaches in and pulls out my black duffle. I grab it.

“Wait a second Mr. Hampton. I also need to give you your brother’s personal items. They are locked up in an office. Please wait here, I’ll be right back.”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Oh, I almost forgot. The man who accompanied your brother in the ambulance left this note for you,” she says, almost in a whisper and pulls a small, white envelop from her smock pocket and hands it to me.

“Thank you, thank you very much,” I say looking down into her eyes. She hesitates a moment and looks at the note. I look at the note and look back at her.

“Yes, well, I’ll be back in a minute,” she turns, breathing heavily. Stride induced echoes of rubbing fabric resound and slowly fade.

I tear open the sealed envelope to find extraordinary penmanship: consistent, uniform letters and numbers printed by a steady hand with a black felt tipped pen.

7 April 2006, 8:00 am

Philip:

I am the friend of Billy’s who called you this morning. As you may know, we’ve been dating for the past couple of months. I am so sorry this happened. I really don’t understand it and cannot explain how this happened. He went looking for some coke and that was the last time I saw him. I think someone must have slipped him something. I’m sorry I can’t meet you here, but I have to fly to Bermuda in a couple of hours for an important shoot. I feel like a bastard for leaving him, but I know you’re on the way. This is the biggest shoot of my career. Billy would want me to go, I believe. He is getting the best medical care in the city and they tell me there’s nothing we can do now but wait. I’m afraid his situation is not good at all. My cell phone number is 212-555-1432. Please call me if there is any change at all in his condition. I’ll be back in town on Wednesday.

Elliott Fields

Blood Brothers is available for purchase at:

 Amazon Kindle for $0.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

Connect with Jody Zimmerman:

Website: http://www.jodyzimmerman.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jodyzimmermanstoryteller?ref=hl

Twitter: @jodyzimmerman

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Salty Miss Tenderloin, Jacki Lyon {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of Salty Miss Tenderloin:

SALTY MISS TENDERLOIN is a fiercely tender novel by award winning writer Jacki Lyon. Never shying away from the dark side of humanity, Lyon introduces Starlight Nox, a scrappy girl born on the gritty streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District when Jimi Hendrix and the Vietnam War are center stage.

Starlight learns at an early age to rummage food from dumpsters and collect clothes from the corner charity for survival. When the girl’s father dies with a needle in his arm and her mother disappears searching for her next fix, the forsaken twelve-year-old is adopted by wealthy grandparents. Uprooted from San Francisco to Cincinnati, Star spends the next two decades learning that danger doesn’t lurk just in pimps and pill pushers on Turk Street. She discovers that evil finds a welcome host in tailored suits and Chanel dresses and even glossy church pews. Star calls on her early, bitter lessons from the streets to navigate the more sinister roads she travels as a young woman.

SALTY MISS TENDERLOIN is a poignant coming-of-age story that proves the transition from child to adult is a process that repeats itself many times in life. Coming-of-age is about survival. For the lucky, the change begins with a raging gnaw of desire; for the unlucky, the change begins with a crying gnaw of hunger. For Starlight Nox, the treacherous journey begins much too early in life and continues to test her ability to grow and persevere, time and time again.


Accolades:

Jacki Dillon Lyon hit a home run again!!! I loved this book. Star is a character that you will fall in love with because of her determination, loyalty to her friends and grandmother and her ability to keep it all together at times . . . Get your book groups to read this. You will not be disappointed. Barb Rohs, Cincinnati, Ohio

I just finished reading Salty Miss Tenderloin and am not ready to let the heroine, Star, go. Jacki Lyon has written an awesome novel, but more importantly, she’s shown through Star, that regardless what life offers, one can find the strength to overcome adversity and perservere! Becki D., Sarasota, Florida

 

Reviews:

The average Amazon Reader Review is currently 5 stars {5 reviews!}

 

Salty Miss Tenderloin is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!


An excerpt from Salty Miss Tenderloin:

Prologue
Oreo Cookies and a Snickers Bar . . .

Tenderloin District, San Francisco 1974
The hour before dawn was Tony Martinelli’s favorite time of night. Most of the guns would be sleeping by then. He could relax. If something was going to happen, it usually went down by 4 a.m. The dealers and pimps had parked their Cadillacs in front of their one room efficiencies, and the drunks and addicts had found their own piss-stained stairwells hours before. Even these people had a routine, Tony thought.
But that was before the Symbionese Liberation Army decided to kidnap Patty Hearst, the millionaire heiress, brainwash her and rob the Hibernia Bank over on Noriega Street. Two bystanders were shot, and the left-wing-terrorist thugs got away with ten thousand dollars. Now, the entire force was on pins and needles from dawn to dawn, staking out store fronts, safe houses and communes, searching for the SLA.
Tony slowly drove his cruiser down Jones Street past St. Anthony’s Dining Room. The Sunshine Bread truck was already at the cafeteria door, delivering the only bread that most of the visitors would eat that day. St. Anthony’s was the backbone of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, feeding the meager spiritual and physical needs of the community. Tony grimaced as ‘feeding the hungry’ was one of the alleged goals of the SLA. Part of Patty Hearst’s initial ransom was a two million dollar donation from her big-time papa to feed California’s poor. The food distribution exploded into mass chaos as people fought for whole chickens and bags of carrots. Tony looked up at St. Anthony’s steeple, thinking about all the good people who actually worked hard because they really cared about their fellow man, but around the corner or across the street was the other guy who had the devil hiding behind a deluded smile and glassy eyes.
The police radio chatter had died down, but Tony knew the city wasn’t sleeping. He rolled down the car window to let in the chilly night air. Long, high-pitched whines drifted in from the fishing boats that were inching their way across the bay, laden with early catches of salmon. Ever since he was old enough to cast a line, the fog horns had a way of soothing Tony to sleep on the nights his father wobbled in late, all liquored-up and looking for a fight with his mother. Fiddling with the tail of his coonskin cap, he’d close his eyes and block out all sounds, except for the quiet songs that echoed from the bay.
Tony sucked in the salty bay air and stretched his shoulders back against the car seat to rouse awake for another few hours. As he turned left onto Turk Street, a sharp movement in the shadows of the bus stop shelter caught his eye. Slowing the cruiser, he leaned toward the passenger window and spotted a pair of pale yellow dog legs with thick, black paws folded under the bench.
“Catching a snooze, ol’ boy?” Tony sighed. “Wish I could be doing the same.” He settled back into the driver’s seat and began to pull away, but something tugged at him. He stepped on the brakes and glanced in the rear view mirror. He rubbed his heavy eyes and stared back into the glass. A tangled mass of hair and large, round eyes had popped out from under the bench and was peering at the back of the cruiser.
“Goddamn,” he grumbled. “There goes my hour of peace and quiet.” He backed up the cruiser ten yards, stopped and slowly got out. Moving around the front end of the car with his hand held firmly on his gun, Tony could now see a small body wedged in the corner of the shelter.
He shined his flashlight in the shadows and feral green eyes glistened back. The urchin let out a sharp cry and covered her eyes with filthy fingers. The child looked like a night monkey with greyish skin and wide, dark eye masks. Tony shrugged, anticipating the pathetic story that was certain to follow. Tripping dad. Tripping mom. Mom’s psycho boyfriend. Psycho mom. Abandoned. Hungry. The stories were different yet all the same. Tragic kids caught up in a cloud of dazed parents who couldn’t escape their own youth. Tony shifted the bright light from the child’s eyes and asked her to crawl out from the corner.
“Go away!” she screeched back at him and shrank deeper into her nest.
“Come on out,” Tony commanded, shining the flashlight back into her eyes.
“Go away!” she screeched again, but this time she raised her moppy head and spat at him.
“Out, now!” Tony demanded. “And tell me what you’re doing under there.”
“I’m hidin’!” she hollered, still tucked tight into her corner. “Jack says hide from da’ cars.”
“Who’s Jack?” he asked, but the child didn’t respond. Tony knelt down to get a closer look at the girl. “Where are your parents?” he asked again. This time she slowly pointed to a dimly lit window across the street, three stories up.
“Then, why are you down here in the middle of the night?”
“I’m waitin’,” she snapped.
“Waiting for what?”
“Till Sue be done.”
“Done with what?” he asked, eyeing her hollow, dirt-streaked face.
“A man.”
Tony had had enough. He stretched out his hand and told her to come out. “Giant rats live under there,” he warned.
“I ain’t movin’,” she said stubbornly. “Jack says I don’t move I get a Snickers Bar.”
“Are Jack and Sue your parents?” he asked.
She hesitated at first but then confirmed the question with a silent nod.
“Why did Jack put you out here at night?”
“‘Cause of da’ man.”
“What man?” Tony asked, shifting the weight on his knees.
“I told you! A man with Sue.”
“Young lady, come on out from under of there. I’ve got a bag of Oreo cookies in the car. Are you hungry?”
She shook her head no and contracted deeper into the corner.
“Listen, your pops won’t mind if you talk to a policeman. He just doesn’t want you talking to bad guys. Right?”
The little girl just stared back at Tony. Still kneeling, he bent under the seat and said, “I’m Officer Tony. What’s your name?”
“Star,” she whispered.
“Star . . . that’s a beautiful name. How old are you, Star?”
The little girl raised four fingers in the cool air. Tony shook his head. Her big attitude already defied her age. But the Tenderloin had a way of doing that to kids—ripping childhood right out from underneath their feet, leaving them with the gift of street smarts but stunted in most every other way.
“You want an Oreo, Star?” he offered again.
She nodded yes but coiled deeper into her nook.
“Then come on out with me.” He stuck his hand under the bench again. This time she grabbed it and unravelled herself from the corner. Star stood just above Tony’s knee and wore a mess of black curls that were matted around her face. Her thin arms and legs were lost in a baggy t-shirt that hung to her knees and was decorated with pictures of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Her skin was grey, but Tony couldn’t tell if the grimy hue was from poor health or from living in the four walls of a shithole for her entire life.
He led her to the door of the cruiser and told her to climb in, but she refused to budge. She just stood next to the door, looking up at him with thick lashes and heavy eyebrows that were hiding a lot of life for her young age.
“Have you ever been in a police car, Star?”
“Nope,” she said with wide, frightened eyes.
“Well, jump in. It’s nifty-neat and extra cool, and the cookies are in there, too!”
With another mention of food, she slowly climbed into the backseat and tucked her knees under her shirt. She waited quietly while Tony unlocked the trunk and pulled out a blanket. He wrapped the scratchy wool around her shivering shoulders and then called dispatch for backup and a family service counselor. She kept a close eye on him as he grabbed the cookies from the front seat and squatted down next to the cruiser door. He pulled an Oreo from the bag and peeled it apart.
“Look, they’re Teddy bear eyes,” he said gently.
Star gazed at the chocolate and cream without saying a word.
“How do you eat an Oreo? I pull mine apart and eat the inside first. Like this,” Tony explained and then ran the creamy center across his teeth, leaving tracks in the hard chocolate cake.
“I never had a Oreo,” she whispered.
“You’ve never had an Oreo!?” he asked in mock outrage.
“Nope!” she said, shaking her head earnestly.
“You’ve got to try one!” He pulled a cookie from the bag and gave it to her along with a tired smile. Star raised the cookie to her nose, took in a deep breath then clutched the disk in the palm of her hand.
“Aren’t you going to eat it?”
“Nope,” she whispered. “Gonna’ let Jack and Sue have a bite.”
Tony sighed, thinking that she was still young enough to love those assholes. In another few years, the illusion of parental love would be lost, and in a decade, Star would be perpetuating the same cycle of dashed dreams, neglect and waste when her own kid would surely be found roaming the streets at four in the morning.
Tony rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “Listen, go ahead and eat the cookie. I’ll give you the whole bag if you promise not to eat them all at once.”
“Promise,” Star agreed and smiled for the first time.
Watching her relax, Tony pressed on with more questions. “Star, why’s your mommy with the man? Is he your uncle . . . or grandpa?”
She shook her head no and took her first bite of cookie. A wide grin spread across her face as she crunched down on the chocolate.
“Why is the man at your house when it’s bedtime?” he pressed again.
“To play,” she mumbled with crumbs falling from her lips. “Fat Albert loves cookies,” she giggled and pointed to the hefty black character in red on the front of her t-shirt. Star pushed her spindly knees to the front of the shirt to make her belly grow bigger and sang, “Hey, hey, hey! It’s Fat Albert!”
Emerging from the over-sized t-shirt was the little girl’s true four-year-old self, hidden behind the grit and grime of street life. Tony peered down at the girl’s shirt and smiled. Fat Albert and his junkyard gang was the genius cartoon creation of Bill Cosby, a gutsy comedian from the tough streets of North Philly. Cosby was pushing racial and cultural barriers with parents who were accustomed to pleasantville sit-coms like The Andy Griffith Show whose Sheriff Taylor spent his days keeping peace in the peace-loving white town of Mayberry R.F.D. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, on the other hand, tackled real issues that tormented black, inner-city streets across America. Andy Taylor’s biggest threat was Otis, the town drunk, who let himself into jail on Saturday nights to sleep off his binge. Fat Albert faced real threats like the time when he mistakenly found himself entangled in a drug deal with Muggles, Franny’s older brother. Whether Fat Albert an d his gang were dealing with drugs, divorce, or bullying, they were always teaching a real lesson to real kids, which was part of Tony’s mission in the Tenderloin. He looked down at Star and understood that she was one of the kids that Cosby was trying to save, but he also knew her chances of success in the District were slim or none.
“Do you like Fat Albert?” Tony asked.
“Yepparoo! Bucky and Dumb Donald are funny, but Fat Albert’s da’ best,” she said with certainty, reaching into the bag for another cookie.
“He’s my favorite, too,” Tony agreed. “Now, tell me about your mom. Why is she playing with the man in your apartment?”
“Sue and him plays naked. Sue says they wrestle.”
“Does Sue wrestle at night a lot?”
Star nodded her head yes. “Da’ man didn’t want to play ‘cause of me. That’s why Jack says stay here.”
So, this john had a conscience, Tony thought for a second. Nah, not down here in the District. A performance problem, most likely. Probably couldn’t get it up with a kid in the next room. Eyeing the little girl behind her thick lashes, he was able to see the collateral damage brought down by needles and pipes and temporary joy rides. Just as he thought, she was one of hundreds of remnants from the psychedelic haze that blew over from Haight Ashbury, just one more kid who hid out in rancid apartment hallways while her old lady got some grandpa’s rocks off, just so she could get her fix for the night.
Tony patted the little girl’s thin knee and took in a heavy breath. She smiled with drooping eyes and rested her head against the seat. Tony tucked the blanket around her legs and stood up. He closed the door and leaned against the car, waiting for the social services counselor to arrive.

Salty Miss Tenderloin is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

Connect with Jacki Lyon:

Website: jacquelinelyon.com or jackilyon.com

Facebook: Search Jacki Dillon Lyon

Twitter: @jackilyon

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Girl From Long Guyland, Lara Reznik {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of The Girl From Long Guyland:

-Includes Reading Group Discussion Questions-     

Ranked the #1 spot in both Suspense and Contemporary Fiction, during it’s Amazon kindle select promotional days.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

MEMOIR MEETS THRILLER:  

Laila Levin enjoys a successful marriage and a thriving career as an I.T. executive in Austin, Texas, but she can’t quite shake her lifelong sense of not truly belonging anywhere.When her company announces a major layoff, Laila finds herself caught between an unscrupulous CEO and her promiscuous boss. Then news of her college roommate’s suicide stirs up a dark secret involving three devious friends from her past. One has betrayed a vow, another wants to rekindle their romance, and the third is out for revenge.Suddenly for Laila, it’s 1969 again. She’s only seventeen, and she’s left her sheltered home in Long Island for college in Connecticut. Amid protests of the Vietnam War, she’s tempted by the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll that rule her generation. Laila gets swept up in a deceptive love triangle with two older locals and initiated into their unethical hippie family. Too late she realizes her search to belong has led to tragedy.

Laila must now juggle the demands of her perplexed husband and her baby boomer past forcing her to make choices that endanger her survival and challenge her conscience.

She learns that the lines between right and wrong are often blurred, and sometimes you have to risk everything to be true to yourself.

 

Accolades:

“In Reznik’s debut novel, a woman confronts long-buried secrets when an old college friend commits suicide. . . . While effective as a page turner, the novel also tells a timeless, universal tale of a woman’s journey toward self-acceptance. An exciting tale of past crimes and dangerous friendships.” –Kirkus Reviews★★★★★ “I love a mystery and I love stories about the late 60′s/early 70′s and this book has both! Really fun read.” –Barbara Gaines, Executive Producer, The Late Show with David Letterman★★★★★ “Lara Reznik masterfully creates a story that brings the past and present together seamlessly. . . . I can honestly say it is not often that the plot of a book surprises me the way this one did. This book is truly timeless. I would recommend “The Girl from Long Guyland” to anyone who likes to read no matter what their preferred genre.” —-Katherine Bennett, Reviewer, Readers Favorite

★★★★★ “Reznik has an instinct for complex characters in threatening situations with twists and uncertainties to catch the reader by surprise. I couldn’t stop reading until I found out how the executive would face the rock ‘n’ roll music of her past misdeeds as a naïve seventeen-year old who only wanted to belong somewhere.”
–Cynthia J. Stone, Author, Mason’s Daughter

Reviews:

The Girl From Long Guyland  currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4 stars from 118 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from The Girl From Long Guyland:

CHAPTER ONE

Lost in Texas

A couple dozen stars and the eye of a yellow moon pierce light through a sky filled with smoke. I look out the broken window to the ground below. Crumpled in the weeds is a lifeless body with red-flecked eyes, a bushy mustache, and sweet smile.

Vapor seeps into the room. I can barely breathe. Ben wraps his arms around me as I weep. Denise lies in a catatonic state perched on the bed. Why is she only wearing her bra and panties?

Chris stumbles inside the room. His eyes glow like diamonds. He cranes his head out the window. “We gotta do something, man.”

“I’ll call for an ambulance,” I say. Ben gulps, “That’s not a good idea.” “We have to,” I insist. “For Godsakes.”

He’s dead, Laila,” Chris says.

Tears sting my eyes.

WITH A JOLT, I awake whimpering. The nightmare has infested my dreams for years. It may be time to see a shrink.

The anxiety subsides when my husband Eduardo arrives with a cappuccino and the morning paper. “Are you okay? It sounded like you were crying.”

I clear my throat. “No, no, I’m fine. Just a dream, I guess.” I’ve never discussed these recurring nightmares with him. Eduardo’s got his own problems. He was recently laid off in a corporate downsize and refuses to talk about it. There’s lots of tension in our home right now. Maybe we should both see a shrink.

From our king-size Tempur-Pedic bed, I sip the coffee and stare at a cloudless sky and the sapphire water of Lake Travis. The serenity of the moment is interrupted by the sound of NPR news blaring from my alarm clock. Time to go to work. I shower and dress for a managers’ conference forty miles away.

AN HOUR LATER, I enter a pavilion filled with mounted animal heads and good old boys, and wonder how this counter- culture Long Island girl ended up in Texas. Yes, it’s Austin, home of tree huggers and music lovers, but I’m mystified by the path my life has taken.

The Hobbs brothers, proud owners of the Burnet County Landfill and Exotic Park where LBJ Electric holds its annual manager retreat, greet me with toothy Texas grins and matching Stetson hats. “How y’all doing today, darlin’? Welcome to our home.”

I flash a smile but it pains me to know these men are the proud hunters of the dead animals in the hall. It gives me pleasure imagining their heads mounted next to the trophies.

As I head to a long pine table and retrieve my white-sticky badge with the letters LAILA LEVIN printed in magic marker, Darlene McIntire, dressed business-gorgeous in a navy suit and cleavage-leaking blouse, approaches me and waves. Darlene is an upper-level manager who advocates for women in the company and played a key role in my promotion from Database Analyst to I.T. Solutions Manager two years ago. “Meet me in the little girls room at break, hon,” she whispers. “There’s something I want to share with you.”

During the morning, two hundred LBJ managers and I feign interest in long-winded corporate presentations. One of the executives reminds us that DIVERSITY is one of our company’s “Foundation Values.” Right. As one of only twelve women in the room, I try to look at the bright side: short lines to the ladies room.

A bald guy grabs the microphone and informs everyone it’s time for a break. Conversations revolve around Longhorns and Aggies, and of course, the beloved Cowboys. Go Tony Romo!

With nothing of substance to add to these discussions, I dash to the ladies room where I find Darlene at the mirror applying a fresh coat of mascara. She smiles at me. “Nice outfit.”

“Thanks.” My reflection reveals a contrast of wild curly hair with the Ralph Lauren suit and high-heeled boots I bought at Dillard’s yesterday. Like most in I.T., my preference is jeans and sneakers.

Three coats later, Darlene pops the mascara back in her purse and turns to face me. “Can you keep a secret?”

“Of course.” “John is going to announce his retirement.” John Bell is the LBJ Chief Executive Officer. Rumors of his impending retirement have been rampant for weeks. “I’ve heard talk.”

“That’s not the secret. Bob E. is the heir apparent. Not to be announced today, but it’s pretty much a done deal. And he’s promised me V.P. of Corporate Services.”

I look away hoping she didn’t see my eyebrows jump to my hairline. “Congratulations.” Darlene is important, but not that important. This promotion is a big leap from Human Resources Manager. Certainly not done often in a company like LBJ. “Wow. Didn’t realize you had the seniority.”

Darlene blushes. “Succeeding in the boardroom is not the only way to get ahead.”

Oh my God. She’s sleeping with Bob Englewood, a.k.a. Bob E., the biggest flirt alive. Darlene has a great-looking husband and two kids. Makes no sense to me. But then I’m not that ambitious.

I’m trying to think of a good response when the buzzer goes off over the building’s loud speakers indicating the end of the break. I produce a weak smile and head back to the conference area with images of Darlene and Bob E. spinning in my head. Why did she share this with me?

I take a seat at my assigned table. John Bell, a short, stocky man sporting a bolo tie and a fine pair of ostrich boots, stands onstage tapping the microphone. “Good morning, LBJ managers. It’s good to be here at our annual meeting. I have
we haven’t spoken in ages. You sound so British.”

“I lived in London for a couple years, but I’m back in L.A.
now. You better sit down.” Katie B., always the drama queen. I sit in an antique rocker and stare at the pale blue Texas sky.

Katie clears her throat. “Denise committed suicide yesterday.”

I try to speak but my mouth feels like it’s full of marbles. Finally, I gasp, “My God.”

“She was never right after—” “Don’t say it. Remember the pact,” I whisper.

“I remember it.”

I suck in my breath. “It’s kept us safe.”

“We’re gonna have to talk about it. Denise left a suicide note,” she whispers.

Fear fills the membranes of my eyeballs. “Oh, Jesus.”

“I just got off the phone with Chris. A private detective
showed up at his house in Tucson.”

“I can’t believe that son of a bitch lives in Tucson. My sister has lived there for years.” It’s been four decades since I’ve seen or heard of Chris, yet his name causes goose bumps to parade up my arms.

“I’m surprised you’ve never run into him,” Katie says.

“Tucson’s a big place.” Would I even recognize him now?

“He googled me and found my phone number. He and Ben think we should go to the funeral.”

“Ben. You spoke to him, too?”

She laughs. “Yes, Jesus still lives.”

I blush at the sound of his name. “What is he like?” “I don’t know. Same old Ben, I guess.”

“Did they find . . .?”

She swallows. “No one knows what they’ve found or what she wrote in her note.”

To think just five minutes ago I was worried about my job, trophy animals, and Darlene and Bobby E. doing the deed.

Katie takes a deep breath. “We could all go to efing prison.”

 

The Girl From Long Guyland is available for purchase at:

 Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

Connect with Lara Reznik:

Author Website: www.larareznik.com

Author Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/lara.reznik.1

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Gypsy Thief: The Talisman Trilogy, Kellie Tayer {$3.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Kellie Tayer’s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of The Gypsy Thief: The Talisman Trilogy:

The Gypsy Thief is set in modern day Rhode Island and is the story of Laura Calder and her love for two boys: Andrew Easton, a descendant of King George the First, and Miguel Dos Santos, a mysterious gypsy who has royal ties of his own. More than 300 years previously, a dying Portuguese princess named Gabriela cast a gypsy curse on King George the First who issued a royal decree to counteract that curse. In the spring of 2012, the time has come for the decree to be fulfilled: Miguel Dos Santos must die by the hand of Tristan Easton, the eldest son of the Duke of Easton. But when a tragic accident befalls Tristan, it is up to his younger brother Andrew to carry out the decree, a situation complicated by the fact that Miguel once saved Andrew’s life. Andrew’s father, the Duke of Easton, aware of Miguel’s act of bravery, decides to let him live, but not without cost. He forces Laura into an impossible situation in order to save Miguel and her family. She must make a life-changing, heart-breaking decision, even as she tries to understand the messages from the mysterious disk she wears as a talisman around her neck, a talisman she must protect from the duke, as it is now her only tie to Miguel. Ultimately, The Gypsy Thief is a story of family honor and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love, a story to be continued in its sequel, The Dark Prince, and concluded in The Shadow King.

 

Accolades:

Jessica on Goodreads gave The Gypsy Thief FIVE STARS!
“I whole heartedly recommend “The Gypsy Thief” to anyone looking for a wonderful and romantic young adult story… Once I opened the book, I could not stop turning the pages.
I loved every character and look forward to reading the second book of the trilogy.” — 5 Star Amazon Review

 

Reviews:

The Gypsy Thief: The Talisman Trilogy currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 5 stars from 2 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from The Gypsy Thief: The Talisman Trilogy:

Prologue
Laura
If you had the chance to go back into your life and change one thing, would you do it, even if it meant that every single thing that came after would be changed as a result? What if I had ignored that boy who’d told me I’d dropped something on the ground when I knew I hadn’t? What if I’d picked up that gold disk and tossed it to the boy and then gone on my merry way? What if I’d given it away to a stranger? What if someone else had found the gold disk before I had? What if? They say life can turn on a dime, but my life turned on a gold disk about the size of a fifty-cent piece. I knew it wasn’t mine, but I chose to keep it anyway and in so doing, I set the course of my life. If I could go back in time and choose not to keep that gold disk, would I? Knowing everything that came after? Knowing I could escape all the pain, suffering, tears and heartache that came as a result of keeping that gold disk? Knowing I would never taste the sweetness of a prince’s kiss or feel the heat of a gypsy’s passion? Even though it seemed to bring me more heartache than not, without it, I never would have known how far I was willing to go—how much I was willing to sacrifice—for love. But I know what my choice would be. Yes, I would have to say—I would keep the disk every time.

 

The Gypsy Thief: The Talisman Trilogy is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $3.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

Connect with Kellie Tayer:

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Gypsy Thief: The Talisman Trilogy, Kellie Tayer {$3.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

Sponsored Post

Kellie Tayer’s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of The Gypsy Thief: The Talisman Trilogy:

The Gypsy Thief is set in modern day Rhode Island and is the story of Laura Calder and her love for two boys: Andrew Easton, a descendant of King George the First, and Miguel Dos Santos, a mysterious gypsy who has royal ties of his own. More than 300 years previously, a dying Portuguese princess named Gabriela cast a gypsy curse on King George the First who issued a royal decree to counteract that curse. In the spring of 2012, the time has come for the decree to be fulfilled: Miguel Dos Santos must die by the hand of Tristan Easton, the eldest son of the Duke of Easton. But when a tragic accident befalls Tristan, it is up to his younger brother Andrew to carry out the decree, a situation complicated by the fact that Miguel once saved Andrew’s life. Andrew’s father, the Duke of Easton, aware of Miguel’s act of bravery, decides to let him live, but not without cost. He forces Laura into an impossible situation in order to save Miguel and her family. She must make a life-changing, heart-breaking decision, even as she tries to understand the messages from the mysterious disk she wears as a talisman around her neck, a talisman she must protect from the duke, as it is now her only tie to Miguel. Ultimately, The Gypsy Thief is a story of family honor and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love, a story to be continued in its sequel, The Dark Prince, and concluded in The Shadow King.

 

Accolades:

Jessica on Goodreads gave The Gypsy Thief FIVE STARS!
“I whole heartedly recommend “The Gypsy Thief” to anyone looking for a wonderful and romantic young adult story… Once I opened the book, I could not stop turning the pages.
I loved every character and look forward to reading the second book of the trilogy.” — 5 Star Amazon Review

 

Reviews:

The Gypsy Thief: The Talisman Trilogy currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 5 stars from 2 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from The Gypsy Thief: The Talisman Trilogy:

Prologue
Laura
If you had the chance to go back into your life and change one thing, would you do it, even if it meant that every single thing that came after would be changed as a result? What if I had ignored that boy who’d told me I’d dropped something on the ground when I knew I hadn’t? What if I’d picked up that gold disk and tossed it to the boy and then gone on my merry way? What if I’d given it away to a stranger? What if someone else had found the gold disk before I had? What if? They say life can turn on a dime, but my life turned on a gold disk about the size of a fifty-cent piece. I knew it wasn’t mine, but I chose to keep it anyway and in so doing, I set the course of my life. If I could go back in time and choose not to keep that gold disk, would I? Knowing everything that came after? Knowing I could escape all the pain, suffering, tears and heartache that came as a result of keeping that gold disk? Knowing I would never taste the sweetness of a prince’s kiss or feel the heat of a gypsy’s passion? Even though it seemed to bring me more heartache than not, without it, I never would have known how far I was willing to go—how much I was willing to sacrifice—for love. But I know what my choice would be. Yes, I would have to say—I would keep the disk every time.

 

The Gypsy Thief: The Talisman Trilogy is available for purchase at:

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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: A Bullet For Carlos (Blood Flows South), Giacomo Giammatteo {$4.99}

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Description of A Bullet For Carlos (Blood Flows South):

Detective Connie Giannelli’s life has been torn apart several times. First when her mother died and then years later when she found out her Uncle Dominic was in the mob. Her life is about to be shredded again, and this time it could destroy her.

Connie’s love of family and her badge are both threatened when an undercover drug bust leaves two cops dead and the drugs missing. Internal Affairs is looking for any excuse to take her badge, but she’s not worried about them finding the missing drugs—her secrets could prove to be far worse.

Now Connie’s racing against the clock to figure out who killed her partners and took the drugs—dirty cops or Uncle Dominic’s friends. And she has to do it before IA pins the whole damn thing on her.

 

Accolades:

Giammatteo starts this new series with a blast. The characters are alive and full of very human flaws. They develop smoothly with the bumps that happen to all humans.

In a climax of supreme intensity, Connie comes face-to-face with a serial murderer that is more vicious than even she can imagine. Chris Phillips~ Bestsellers World

Giammatteo has crafted a masterful piece of work. The plot is convoluted; filled with tenacity, adventure, violence, love and family tradition. ~ Amazon reviewer

Once again, I find myself in awe of Giammatteo’s talent. All of his novels are so descriptive and imaginative. This is a crime novel of the highest caliber and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I thought Connie was a great protagonist. She’s strong, smart, capable, and able to keep up with the boys. Best of all, she’s not Superwoman and has flaws.~Amazon reviewer


Reviews:

A Bullet For Carlos (Blood Flows South)  currently has a customer review rating of 4.8 stars from 43 reviews. Read the reviews here.


A Bullet For Carlos (Blood Flows South) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $4.99

 

An excerpt from A Bullet For Carlos (Blood Flows South):

A Bullet for Carlos
BLOOD FLOWS SOUTH: BOOK I
a novel by
Giacomo Giammatteo

Chapter 1
A Present for Maria

Brooklyn, New York—Winter 1982

Zeppe Mangini paced the busy sidewalk while nursing a cappuccino. He felt it was a sure sign that the world was falling apart when people sold cappuccino in paper cups, but he sipped the drink to draw warmth and to make himself appear busy. Every few steps he glanced across the street to the apartment at 1255. Tommy Nunzio had lived there since he was a kid. Tonight he would die there.

Zeppe finished his cappuccino, waited for a break in traffic, then half-walked, half-jogged across the street. The horn from a souped-up Camaro blared as he reached the sidewalk. He tugged on his cap, covering a full head of coal-black hair, then nodded to his brother, Dominic, standing by the front steps. 

“Dom, you sure there’s no other way to do this?”

“This is the cleanest. He’ll buzz you in.”

Zeppe paused, scrunched his face up a little. “Yeah, but that ain’t right. I’m—”

“Do it.”

Zeppe hit the buzzer, fidgeting as he waited for Tommy to answer. The last time his finger hit this button it was to ask Tommy out for a beer. Now…

“Who is it?”

“Tommy, it’s Zep. Open up.”

They walked into the building and climbed the stairs to the third floor. Zeppe cringed with each groan of the old wood, bringing back images of him and Tommy as little kids, and Mrs. Nunzio hollering at them, warning them about playing on steps. Zeppe took a few seconds to catch his breath, and to calm the rotten feeling he had in his gut, but he couldn’t chase away the image of Mrs. Nunzio. As he reached the top of the third floor, he half expected to be greeted by the sweet aroma of garlic coming from her kitchen.

His face scrunched again, a nervous tic he had since he was kid. “Dom, can’t we buy him a little time?” 

“Not on this one,” Dominic said, and stood to the side.

Zeppe knocked on the door, hands shaking more than his stomach ached. After a few seconds the door opened. Dominic moved fast, pushing Zeppe aside while he shoved his gun into Tommy’s stomach. “Keep your voice down.”

Tommy backed up, hands in the air. “What’s going on? What—” His look shifted from Dominic to Zeppe, then back again. He froze, his eyes growing large. “Zeppe, what’s this about?”

Zeppe closed the door with the heel of his foot, never taking his eyes from Tommy. “You shouldn’t have crossed Vito.”

“That’s enough,” Dominic said.

Tommy cocked his head toward Zeppe, lifting his eyes in a pleading gesture. “Zep, can you help me out?” His voice cracked when he asked.

Dominic raised the gun to Tommy’s head and pulled the trigger. Twice. The small caliber bullets bounced around inside his skull, dropping him to the floor. There was little pain. Even less blood. 

Dominic knelt beside him, checked his neck and pulse. The two in the head had done the trick.

“Let’s go,” Zeppe said, but as he reached for the doorknob a noise from the bedroom alerted him. “You hear that?” 

Zeppe and Dominic stopped. Listened. A fan hummed in the bathroom and the ever-present noise of the fridge came from the kitchen, but something different from the bedroom. “Turn off the lights,” Dominic said, then crept toward the back room, gun drawn. “I’ll go in low. Hit the light once I’m in.”

Dominic crouched, pushed open the bedroom door and crept forward, his gun leading the way. 

Zeppe waited for him to get in, then hit the light. “Mother of God! A goddamn baby.”

Dominic glanced about the room, barely big enough to hold the crib, a rocker, and a small chest of drawers. The baby fussed, tiny hands covering its eyes. Dominic picked the baby up, pried open the diaper, then lay the baby on his shoulder. “It’s a girl. Can’t be more than a few months old.” 

Zeppe still had his gun out. “I’ll check the rest of the place.” 

He returned in a few minutes, gun tucked into his pants. “Place is clean,” he said. “So what do we do?”

“Call Vito, but use the phone booth. I’ll wait here.”

Zeppe thought about the baby all the way down the stairs. Vito would be pissed; they should have known beforehand. He exited the building, crossed the street and called Vito. 

“Hello.”

“Yeah, it’s me. We got a problem.”

“What kind of problem?”

A long pause, then, “We delivered the message, but we found something unexpected.”

“Don’t make me guess.”

“A baby.”

“How did we not know about a baby?” 

“I don’t know. I never heard of no baby, but sure as shit it’s his. Got pictures everywhere, baby clothes, baby food in the fridge and cabinets. A room fixed up.”

Zeppe waited through more silence. 

“Leave it.”

“Leave it? Christ’s sake, boss. It could die.”

“Leave it.” 

“Okay, you got it,” Zeppe said, and put the phone back on the receiver. Ain’t no way Dominic is leaving that baby.

Head hung low, Zeppe walked back across the street, up the steps, and into the apartment where Dominic waited with the girl.

“Vito said leave it.”

Dominic was a small man, but intensity always surrounded him, an aura of danger that even Zeppe wasn’t immune to. He had seen men far bigger than his brother back down after meeting his glare. 

“I’m not leaving her,” Dominic said, and he held the girl a little tighter. “Do you know Tommy’s wife? Where is she?”

“I don’t know, Dom. I heard she left him a few months ago, but I didn’t know about the baby. I swear. I wouldn’t have done this if I knew.” Shouldn’t have done it anyway. Goddamnit.

“Did Tommy have family? Brothers or sisters?”

“His brother died last year. Remember?” Zeppe paused. “There might be relatives, but none I know of.” There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of Dominic leaving that baby alone, or with child services. Regardless, Zeppe felt he had to try. “Child services would—”

“I wouldn’t leave a dog with them.”

“Dom, I know how you feel, but—”

“Take her with us.” 

“Are you nuts?”

“We shouldn’t be in this situation, Zeppe. It was your job to check this out.” Dominic shook his head then handed the girl to Zeppe.

“It’s cold outside. Make sure she’s warm.” 

“Okay,” Zeppe said, “whatever you want.” He took the baby from Dominic, and held her close.

“I’ll wipe everything clean.” Dominic looked around, checked where they’d been, then went to the bedroom and got extra clothes, a blanket, diapers, bottles. When he returned, he handed everything to Zeppe, cracked the door and looked down the hall. “Wrap her tight. I don’t want that baby catching cold.”

Zeppe wrapped the blanket around her, making sure to cover her head. “What the hell are we going to do with a baby?” He said it to himself, but Dominic answered.

“Taking her to Maria.”

Zeppe’s head was shaking as soon as Dominic finished. “Dom, you’re my older brother, but you’re as nuts as Maria.”

Dominic turned to face Zeppe. “If you ever say that about Maria again, I’ll kill you.”

They walked to the car in silence. Zeppe handed the baby to Dominic then got behind the wheel to drive. “Where to?”

“First the warehouse, then to Maria’s.”

 

A Bullet For Carlos (Blood Flows South) is available for purchase at:

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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: EVREN: Enter the Dragonette, Marian Tee {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of EVREN: Enter the Dragonette:

A rollicking tale of murder, romance, and bordellos…

Sixteen-year-old Deli Winters wakes up, dying. A voice asks her if she wants help, no matter the cost, and she agrees. The next thing she knows, a monster is bathing her in fire.

She has become Evren: immortals with dragons for souls.

Deli is pretty, bubbly, and stubbornly optimistic. She’s not what anyone would think the ideal girlfriend would be for someone like Lucian Chevalier, her gorgeous, aloof, and perpetually busy savior.

But Deli is in love with him and in between dodging the traps of Sanger High’s Queen Bee and working hard at becoming an ass-kicking Evren warrior chick to avenge her parents’ murders, Deli is determined to win Lucian’s heart…whether he likes it or not.

Accolades:

“ The storyline was cute and hilarious! ”
“ I can only hope that the author plans on taking this series further. ”
“ This was a nice easy read to enjoy on a rainy afternoon. ”


Amazon Reader Reviews:

EVREN: Enter the Dragonette currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.1 stars, with 33 reviews! Read the reviews here!


EVREN: Enter the Dragonette is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

Excerpt from EVREN: Enter the Dragonette:

Pain greeted me when I returned to consciousness. I didn’t need a mirror to know the truth…I was bruised and bleeding all over, and my ribs were broken. Every inch of my body screamed in agony, and I wished I’d had the chance to overdose myself with Vicodin. I’d have done anything just to make the pain go away. If that meant I’d die, it was a risk I was willing to take.

But someone didn’t want me taking that risk. A pair of hands gripped my shoulders and began shaking me. Hard. Each and every shake intensified the pain until I was drowning in it.

I tried to make sense of what I was going through, but my mind could only recall bits and pieces of the past.

The explosion that had turned our car into a midnight pyre of twisted metal…

That first horrible sight of a killer’s face—as if something inside me had been built to recognize evil, no matter what form it took—and the moment of choking realization that there was nothing I could do as he threw me on the ground, battering my body with head-splitting blows and rib-cracking kicks…

The sound of my sister’s screams as they dragged her away—

I forced my eyes open, a silent cry of protest emerging from my throat at the memories. This time, I welcomed the pain. It was better than reliving those moments. I couldn’t think about them. Not now, not just yet.

Everything was blurry but I could discern a face—a guy’s face—looking down at me. 911, I wanted to tell him. Don’t bother waking me up. Just call 911. And hurry, please, because I’m kinda dying here. But I couldn’t say any of those words because I was too busy trying to keep myself sane in the course of my suffering.

“Are you awake, human?”

Was I dreaming?

“She’s awake,” a second voice confirmed.

Silence and then the other voice again—the one that belonged to the guy still shaking me like a party popper. “Human. Are you awake?”

“I’m awake, alien.” Irritation gave me enough strength to snap at him. I didn’t like the way he called me human. It sounded very insulting. Was that his tactful way of saying I was so flat chested he couldn’t guess what my gender was? Or maybe he was delusional and he thought he was from outer space?

Idiot. I did my best to glare at him, deliberately focusing my every thought on staying mad at him. Anger pushed the past away.

The pain also helped, every bone in my body blazed in agony with the merest move I made.

Someone chuckled in the background. “She’s got you there.”

I would have smiled if I weren’t so busy finding a way to silence the echoes of my sister’s endless screams inside my mind. The shaking had thankfully stopped, but the pain hadn’t lessened. Not a bit. So this was how a human punching bag felt.

“Do you still want to live, human? Whatever it takes?” The question had a clinical tone to it.

Was he asking if I would accept some kind of surgery? “Yes, alien.” I badly wanted to roll my eyes. What kind of question was that? Of course, I wanted to be saved. Did I look in any way suicidal to him?

I squinted hard, but my gaze remained blurred by pain, and all I could concentrate on was his voice, cold and sharp, like a surgical needle.

“Then it is done. This was your choice. Remember.”

I didn’t bother wasting my effort answering. Idiot.

And then a roaring fire ate me alive and I screamed.

This time, I really screamed. But my screams abruptly died when I realized the golden fire enveloping my entire being didn’t hurt at all. I blinked several times, but the fire around me stayed, snarling and swirling across my skin but never causing me pain.
It burned away the film of pain that had obscured my gaze and through the dancing flames, I glimpsed the ragged outline of distant mountains, moonlight casting a glow on their peaks against the night’s dark landscape, the unmistakable scarecrow-like shadows of man-tall cactuses, and vast acres of desert land.

The fire slowly lifted me to my feet. What was this? Some painless version of hell? Maybe the Devil wanted me perfectly healthy before he started torturing me? But what had I done to have been sent to—

A vicious-looking creature loomed before me, and I screamed again, forgetting all thoughts about eternal damnation. The huge, unknown animal had a head about eight feet high—I had no problems imagining how easy it would be for Animal X to swallow me whole—and golden scales that glowed like sunlight, almost outshining the crescent moon behind its serpent-like shadow.
Its fierce forest green eyes arrested me on the spot. They were like magical emeralds, ones possessing an irresistible, almost hypnotic, charm. I could only stare back at the nightmarish being in horrified fascination. You know how tigers can be so dangerously beautiful, how their faces can mesmerize you even when you know they’re thinking about chewing you to death? That’s exactly how I felt about the powerful beast before me. This beast…or whatever it was called…looked something like Godzilla but less horrendous and more attractive. If it were domesticated, I wouldn’t have minded having a picture taken with the horrible fiend. Oh, God. I was definitely losing my mind if I thought monsters were the coolest thing next to Orlando Bloom.
“Are you scared, human?”

It was him. That voice…so he was an alien.

“Human, are you scared?”

“No.” And I wasn’t. Much.

“If you are, you will die.”

That particular threat should have made me think twice but it didn’t. If there was any truth to the memories in my mind, the memories that I was still unable to bury, then there wasn’t anything to live for, was there? Not if everyone I loved was already gone.

“I told you I’m not.” My voice was stronger now, containing more than a hint of annoyance. The fire made the pain inside me recede, allowing me to be more myself. I’ve never been a coward and I’ve never allowed anyone to intimidate me. That wasn’t going to change now, not even while I was still weak as a baby.

A part of me wondered how this was all happening, but the rest of me ignored that pertinent question. It was a bad habit of mine.

“Then I will try to heal you.”

The alien didn’t give me a chance to answer. The fire around me swirled faster, seeming to have a life of its own. The flames spun around me with such speed that I had to close my eyes.

The fire bathed my skin. I could feel the tips touching my body, filling me, merging with my blood. It was like taking a hot shower that could also clean the veins, the muscles, and the bones under my skin, cleansing and irrevocably changing me at the same time. My throat clogged as the blazing sensations urged me to just…let go. The inferno engulfing me played a seductive tune, and every beat tempted me to lose myself in the wordless, earthly music. The heat inside me intensified, the pressure building and building until I finally lost control of everything I was, of everything I was thinking or feeling. My whole being exploded, lightning streaks of heat splintering out each and every pore in my body. I closed my eyes, savoring every heavenly sensation.

“You are Evren now.”

The fire lovingly circled me one last time before it disappeared bit by bit, the cool night air slowly invading my skin. My body became heavy, and I felt myself falling and falling. But I didn’t crash. There was an invisible force of heat around me, making sure I landed on the ground gently and helping me lean back to rest. I opened my eyes and this time, everything was amazingly vivid, as if the whole world had been polished and varnished from top to bottom.

The beast was gone, and in its place stood a guy about my age. He was tall and lean, but there was a quiet strength in him, the kind not honed in a gym. He was dressed entirely in black and his skin was darkly tanned, like he had lived under the sun throughout his life. His cheeks were sharp and high, and his lips were almost too red. If he didn’t look so harsh, I would have said those lips were kissable. He was beautiful. Not gorgeous or cute, but beautiful.

With the almost-barren landscape of the desert behind him and the fading glow of the moonlight, he looked like an assassin straight out of the action movies Dad loved to watch. He also had the same pair of forest green eyes I had seen in the creature, and I stared at him in wonder. “Alien?”

Someone choked in the background, and I absently noticed another tall guy standing beside the one I was speaking to. I looked back at the green-eyed man. “Alien? Wh-what happened back there?”

His mouth tightened at the “Alien” bit but he didn’t answer. He crouched down instead, and with his vivid green eyes now at the same level with mine, I found myself even more entranced. Almost scarily so.

“How do you feel?” Green Eyes scanned me from head to toe. He still hadn’t told me his name and since he seemed to take offense with Alien, Green Eyes was the next best thing. Not that I’d call him that to his face.

“Does anything hurt?” His voice had the same doctor-like quality from earlier. Did he ever smile? And why did I even care?

Shouldn’t I be worrying about—I lurched up, or tried to, gasping when everything came back to me—all the ugly memories, every devastating second of them.

The memory of my sister’s screams deafened me, and now, I remembered the last time I had seen my parents, death granting them eternal masks of terror and helplessness.

“Mom. Dad. Davie.” I turned to look at him. “Where are they?” I didn’t mean to scream but the tightening of my stomach told me there were things I had forgotten and needed to recall. Another part of me wanted to deny the truth. Because even if the guy with me didn’t answer, that part of me already knew what he would say.

Regret touched his gaze as he spoke. “Your parents are dead.”

A pitiful cry pierced the stillness of the night, the sound rushing out of my throat. I began to sob. Tears never helped change things, but they had been my best friends throughout the years. They made me feel better, and I used them shamelessly for comfort, regardless of what anyone else thought.

I curled myself into a ball, ignoring the hardness of the ground and the rough edges of the boulder pillowing my head. All I could feel was the numbing grief of knowing that Mom and Dad were gone. They’d gone on a trip they could never come back from.

My eyes scanned the seemingly infinite sea of sun-baked land before me. Could their dead bodies still be out there? I closed my eyes briefly, unable to bear the thought that their bodies were lying out there, abandoned.

“Your parents’ remains have been taken away.” Green Eyes had followed my gaze. He must be a doctor. Or he is studying to be one.

How else could he be so perceptive of my thoughts?

“I am sorry for your loss.” His hand almost came close to touching mine before it was quickly withdrawn, as if he had suddenly found physical contact dangerous.

I coped with my parents’ deaths by burying the thought deep inside me. I couldn’t bear even contemplating how life would be without them. “My sister?”

“Alive.”

EVREN: Enter the Dragonette is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

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