Almost Magic (Splintered Category Romance), J.M. Kelley {$2.99}

SPLINTERED CATEGORY ROMANCE #103
MagicalParanormal

When it came to Vivian Burroughs’ unique connection with nature, her grandmother always said, ‘Mediocrity may not burn as bright as a firecracker, but it seldom blows up in your face.’ But the old woman never advised her on what to do when a sexy new neighbor stokes the flames of attraction.

Jack Riley, a still-grieving widower, relocates from the big city to small-town Essex Woods with his young daughter, Elizabeth. His introduction to Vivian leaves him enchanted, but rumors regarding her abilities soon come to light. Is the local beauty a witch or merely the product of an eccentric upbringing by her mother Fred and Aunt Lil, identical twins with a penchant for mischief?

Jack is intrigued by the mystery surrounding the woman, considering the complexities of raising the precocious Elizabeth, a child with frighteningly accurate intuitiveness. As he reluctantly draws closer to Vivian, he also discovers how deep his daughter’s gifts run. Can Jack accept the truth about his own flesh and blood, as well as a second chance at love?

What readers are saying:

ALMOST MAGIC by J.M. Kelley is a funny and lighthearted novella that is guaranteed to make you smile. Between the sweet heartwarming romance and the humorous characters, you’ll be whistling a happy tune when you are done reading. –The Romance Reviews

I really enjoyed this book. From the main characters to the small town feel to the quirky supporting cast, it was a pleasure to read. –Amazon Review

The average Amazon Reader Review Rating is currently 4.5 stars {2 reviews}.

 Click here to read more about and purchase Almost Magic (Splintered Category Romance) for $2.99

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Children of the Fog, Cheryl Kaye Tardif {$0.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of Children of the Fog:

• International & National Bestseller
• A Top 100 Paid Best Seller on Amazon
• #4 in Amazon Top 100 Paid Best Sellers overall (March 2012)
• Top 100 Bestseller in Thrillers, Suspense, Horror, Occult
• #1 Horror & #1 Occult

YOU HAVE 10 SECONDS TO MAKE A DECISION: Let A Kidnapper Take Your Child, Or Watch Your Son Die. Choose!

Sadie O’Connell is a bestselling author and a proud mother. But her life is about to spiral out of control. After her six-year-old son Sam is kidnapped by a serial abductor, she nearly goes insane. But it isn’t just the fear and grief that is ripping her apart. It’s the guilt. Sadie is the only person who knows what the kidnapper looks like. And she can’t tell a soul. For if she does, her son will be sent back to her in “little bloody pieces”.

When Sadie’s unfaithful husband stumbles across her drawing of the kidnapper, he sets into play a series of horrific events that sends her hurtling over the edge. Sadie’s descent into alcoholism leads to strange apparitions and a face-to-face encounter with the monster who abducted her son–a man known only as…The Fog.

*CHILDREN OF THE FOG has a unique tie-in to Tardif`s newest thriller, SUBMERGED.

 

Accolades:

“A chilling and tense journey into every parent’s deepest fear.” ―Scott Nicholson, author of The Red Church

“A nightmarish thriller with a ghostly twist, CHILDREN OF THE FOG will keep you awake…and turning pages!” ―Amanda Stevens, author of The Restorer

“Reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, Cheryl Kaye Tardif weaves a tale of terror that will have you rushing to check on your children as they sleep. With exquisite prose, Children of the Fog captures you the moment you begin and doesn’t let go until the very end.” ―bestselling author Danielle Q. Lee, author of Inhuman

“Cheryl Kaye Tardif knows the mind of a parent and makes us all want to believe the impossible…” —Eileen Schuh, author of Schrodinger’s Cat

“Cheryl Kaye Tardif has written the novel to launch herself into the company of best-selling authors. With Children of the Fog, she has taken her writing and her readers to another level…Ripe with engaging twists and turns reminiscent of the work of James Patterson, Tardif once again tugs at the most inflexible of heartstrings. True to form, she has created believable characters so tangible that you expect to see them at the local store. Complete with Canadian flavour, Children of the Fog possesses you from the touching beginning through to the riveting climax. Kudos to Ms. Tardif for bringing the world a read truly worth staying up all night to finish.” —Kelly Komm, author of the award-winning YA fantasy novel, Sacrifice.

“There are so many great things about this story…you won’t guess what happens. This wasn’t predictable and I ate it up.” —NovelOpinion

Reviews:

Children of the Fog currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.4 stars from 626 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from Children of the Fog:

prologue

May 14th, 2007

She was ready to die.
She sat at the kitchen table, a half empty bottle of Philip’s precious red wine in one hand, a loaded gun in the other. Staring at the foreign chunk of metal, she willed it to vanish. But it didn’t.
Sadie checked the gun and noted the single bullet.
“One’s all you need.”
If she did it right.
She placed the gun on the table and glanced at a pewter-framed photograph that hung off-kilter above the mantle of the fireplace. It was illuminated by a vanilla-scented candle, one of many that threw flickering shadows over the rough wood walls of the log cabin.
Sam’s sweet face stared back at her, smiling.
Alive.
From where she sat, she could see the small chip in his right front tooth, the result of an impatient father raising the training wheels too early. But there was no point in blaming Philip―not when they’d both lost so much.
Not when it’s all my fault.
Her gaze swept over the mantle. There were three objects on it besides the candle. Two envelopes, one addressed to Leah and one to Philip, and the portfolio case that contained the illustrations and manuscript on disc for Sam’s book.
She had finished it, just like she had promised.
“And promises can’t be broken. Right, Sam?”
A single tear burned a path down her cheek.
Sam was gone.
What reason do I have for living now?
She gulped back the last pungent mouthful of Cabernet and dropped the empty bottle. It rolled under the chair, unbroken, rocking on the hardwood floor. Then all was silent, except the antique grandfather clock in the far corner. Its ticking reminded her of the clown’s shoe. The one with the tack in it.
Tick, tick, tick…
The clock belched out an ominous gong.
It was almost midnight.
Almost time.
She drew an infinity symbol in the dust on the table.
“Sadie and Sam. For all eternity.”
Gong…
She swallowed hard as tears flooded her eyes. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, baby. I tried to. God, I tried. Forgive me, Sam.” Her words ended in a gut-wrenching moan.
Something scraped the window beside her.
She pressed her face to the frosted glass, then jerked back with a gasp. “Go away!”
They stood motionless―six children that drifted from the swirling miasma of night air, haunting her nights and every waking moment. Surrounded by the moonlit fog, they began to chant. “One fine day, in the middle of the night…”
“You’re not real,” she whispered.
“Two dead boys got up to fight.”
A small, pale hand splayed against the exterior of the window. Below it, droplets of condensation slid like tears down the glass.
She reached out, matching her hand to the child’s. Shivering, she pulled away. “You don’t exist.”
The clock continued its morbid countdown.
As the alcohol and drug potpourri kicked in, the room began to spin and her stomach heaved. She inhaled deeply. She couldn’t afford to get sick. Sam was waiting for her.
Tears spilled down her cheeks. “I’m ready.”
Gong…
Without hesitation, she raised the gun to her temple.
“Don’t!” the children shrieked.
She pressed the gun against her flesh. The tip of the barrel was cold. Like her hands, her feet…her heart.
A sob erupted from the back of her throat.
The clock let out a final gong. Then it was deathly silent.
It was midnight.
Her eyes found Sam’s face again.
“Happy Mother’s Day, Sadie.”
She took a steadying breath, pushed the gun hard against her skin and clamped her eyes shut.
“Mommy’s coming, Sam.”
She squeezed the trigger.

1

March 30th, 2007

Sadie O’Connell let out a snicker as she stared at the price tag on the toy in her hand. “What did they stuff this with, laundered money?” She tossed the bunny back into the bin and turned to the tall, leggy woman beside her. “What are you getting Sam for his birthday?”
Her best friend gave her a cocky grin. “What should I get him? Your kid’s got everything already.”
“Don’t even go there, my friend.”
But Leah was right. Sadie and Philip spoiled Sam silly. Why shouldn’t they? They had waited a long time for a baby. Or at least, she had. After two miscarriages, Sam’s birth had been nothing short of a miracle. A miracle that deserved to be spoiled.
Leah groaned loudly. “Christ, it’s a goddamn zoo in here.”
Toyz & Twirlz in West Edmonton Mall was crawling with overzealous customers. The first major sale of the spring season always brought people out in droves. Frazzled parents swarmed the toy store, swatting their wayward brood occasionally―the way you’d swat a pesky yellowjacket at a barbecue. One distressed father hunted the aisles for his son, who had apparently taken off on him as soon as his back was turned. In every aisle, parents shouted at their kids, threatening, cajoling, pleading and then predictably giving in.
“So who let the animals out?” Sadie said, surveying the store.
The screeching wheels of shopping carts and the constant whining of overtired toddlers were giving her a headache. She wished to God she’d stayed home.
“Excuse me.”
A plump woman with frizzy, over-bleached hair gave Sadie an apologetic look. She navigated past them, pushing a stroller occupied by a miniature screaming alien. A few feet away, she stopped, bent down and wiped something that looked like curdled rice pudding from the corner of the child’s mouth.
Sadie turned to Leah. “Thank God Sam’s past that stage.”
At five years old―soon to be six―her son was the apple of her eye. In fact, he was the whole darned tree. A lanky imp of a boy with tousled black hair, sapphire-blue eyes and perfect bow lips, Sam was the spitting image of his mother and the exact opposite of his father in temperament. While Sam was sweet natured, gentle and loving, Philip was impatient and distant. So distant that he rarely said I love you anymore.
She stared at her wedding ring. What happened to us?
But she knew what had happened. Philip’s status as a trial lawyer had grown, more money had poured in and fame had gone to his head. He had changed. The man she had fallen in love with, the dreamer, had gone. In his place was someone she barely knew, a stranger who had decided too late that he didn’t want kids.
Or a wife.
“How about this?” Leah said, nudging her.
Sadie stared at the yellow dump truck. “Fill it with a stuffed bat and Sam will think it’s awesome.”
Her son’s fascination with bats was almost comical. The television was always tuned in to the Discovery Channel while her son searched endlessly for any show on the furry animals.
“What did Phil the Pill get him?” Leah asked dryly.
“A new Leap Frog module.”
“I still can’t believe the things that kid can do.”
Sadie grinned. “Me neither.”
Sam’s mind was a sponge. He absorbed information so fast that he only had to be shown once. His powers of observation were so keen that he had learned how to unlock the door just by watching Sadie do it, so Philip had to add an extra deadbolt at the top. By the time Sam was three, he had figured out the remote control and the DVD player. Sadie still had problems turning on the TV.
Sam…my sweet, wonderful, little genius.
“Maybe I’ll get him a movie,” Leah said. “How about Batman Begins?”
“He’s turning six, not sixteen.”
“Well, what do I know? I don’t have kids.”
At thirty-four, Leah Winters was an attractive, willowy brunette with wild multi-colored streaks, thick-lashed hazel eyes, a flirty smile and a penchant for younger men. While Sadie’s pale face had a scattering of tiny freckles across the bridge of her nose and cheekbones, Leah’s complexion was tanned and clear.
She’d been Sadie’s best friend for eight years―soul sistahs. Ever since the day she had emailed Sadie out of the blue to ask questions about writing and publishing. They’d met at Book Ends, a popular Edmonton bookstore, for what Leah had expected would be a quick coffee. Their connection was so strong and so immediate that they talked for almost five hours. They still joked about it, about how Leah had thought Sadie was some hotshot writer who wouldn’t give her the time of day. Yet Sadie had given her more. She’d given Leah a piece of her heart.
A rugged, handsome Colin Farrell look-alike passed them in the aisle, and Leah stared after him, eyes glittering.
“I’ll take one of those,” she said with a soft growl. “To go.”
“You won’t find Mr. Right in a toy store,” Sadie said dryly. “They’re usually all taken. And somehow I don’t think you’re gonna find him at Karma either.”
Klub Karma was a popular nightclub on Whyte Avenue. It boasted the best ladies’ night in Edmonton, complete with steroid-muscled male strippers. Leah was a regular.
“And why not?”
Sadie rolled her eyes. “Because Karma is packed with sweaty, young puppies who are only interested in one thing.”
Leah gave her a blank look.
“Getting laid,” Sadie added. “Honestly, I don’t know what you see in that place.”
“What, are you daft?” Leah arched her brow and grinned devilishly. “I’m chalking it up to my civil duty. Someone’s gotta show these young guys how it’s done.”
“Someone should show Philip,” Sadie muttered.
“Why―can’t he get it up?”
“Jesus, Leah!”
“Well? Fess up.”
“Later maybe. When we stop for coffee.”
Leah glanced at her watch. “We going to our usual place?”
“Of course. Do you think Victor would forgive us if we went to any other coffee shop?”
Leah chuckled. “No. He’d start skimping on the whipped cream if we turned traitor. So what are you getting Sam?”
“I’ll know it when I see it. I’m waiting for a sign.”
“You’re always such a sucker for this fate thing.”
Sadie shrugged. “Sometimes you have to have faith that things will work out.”
They continued down the aisle, both searching for something for the sweetest boy they knew. When Sadie spotted the one thing she was sure Sam would love, she let out a hoot and gave Leah an I-told-you-so look.
“This bike is perfect. Since his birthday is actually on Monday, I’ll give it to him then. He’ll get enough things from his friends at his party on Sunday anyway.”
Little did she know that Sam wouldn’t see his bike.
He wouldn’t be around to get it.

 

Children of the Fog is available for purchase at:

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

 

Connect with Cheryl Kaye Tardif:

Website: http://www.cherylktardif.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cherylktardif

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cheryl-Kaye-Tardif-novels/29769736630

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Wakefield (The Mad World Saga Series), Troy H. Gardner & Erin Callahan {$5.95}

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Description:

Orphans Astrid Chalke and Max Fisher meet when they’re sent to live at Wakefield, a residential and educational facility for teens with psychiatric and behavioral problems. Astrid’s roommate cuts herself with anything sharp she can get her hands on and Max’s roommate threatens him upon introduction.

Just as Astrid and Max develop a strong bond and begin to adjust to the constant chaos surrounding them, a charming and mysterious resident of Wakefield named Teddy claims he has unexplainable abilities. Sometimes he can move things without touching them. Sometimes he can see people’s voices flowing out of their mouths. Teddy also thinks that some of the Wakefield staff are on to him.

At first, Astrid and Max think Teddy is paranoid, but Max’s strange recurring dreams and a series of unsettling events force them to reconsider Teddy’s claims. Are they a product of his supposedly disturbed mind or is the truth stranger than insanity?

 

Accolade:

“The ending of this book blew me away and I’d definitely be interested in reading the next book. It was a pleasantly surprising read with plenty of action and suspense! And a book I would definitely recommend.” – TotalTeenFiction

“Great story, anxious to read the next chapter. Encouraging all to buy and enjoy! Great setting, authentic, well written. Could be read by teens and adults.” – Amazon customer

“outstanding writing, strong characters and interesting plot make this book hard to put down. i look forward to the next book!” – Amazon customer

“Very fun story. The dual narration allowed for multiple perspectives on the storyline as well as great character development. It was fun getting to know the characters through different sets of eyes, including their own. Can’t wait for the second book to be released.” – Amazon customer

Amazon Reader Reviews:

Wakefield (The Mad World Saga Series) currently has an Amazon Reader Review rating of 3.9 stars, with 14 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from Wakefield (The Mad World Saga Series):

I ran a hand lightly against the cold wall, imagining the force it would take to smash through it. The yellow lights above shone with a dull intensity that turned my stomach. The doors all matched, and I felt claustrophobic. The only thing that broke up the monotony was the random graffiti scribbled on the walls. Most of it had been scrubbed off, but I could make out faint lines here and there. They were like ghosts, just out of reach. Realizing I wouldn’t be able to leave these walls, I slunk down to the shiny, white floor and nearly cried.
“Hey,” a timid voice called out. It was the goth kid I’d noticed earlier. He was bone thin and had a long mop of straight hair that matched his black shirt and pants. He pushed the hair out of his face; the movement showed off his seven or eight bracelets.
I ignored him completely, so he approached very slowly and said, “You’ll get your regular clothes back tomorrow.”
“Yeah?”
“They give them back the next day.” He bobbed his head. He was younger than I was, but I couldn’t tell by how much. Dark hair covered half his face, which made him look younger, or he might have been little for his age.
“I look stupid,” I confided.
“Yeah, those suck,” he went on. “They made me feel like a tool when I got here. But you won’t have to wear them again. I haven’t.”
“That’s cool.”
“So, welcome to Newton,” he said with a half grin.
“Newton?”
“Yeah, this part of the building. We have to pretty much stay in our own area. There are three other units—Whitehall, Lancre, and McCarthy. We’re the best.”
“Clearly. I’m Max,” I introduced myself as he sat down against the opposite wall. He acted like I was a dangerous animal, moving slowly, like I might pounce at any minute. The woman at the staff desk looked up over her laptop for about twenty seconds before going back to whatever she was doing. I wondered if he thought he was fast enough to outrun me. I doubted he was. “So what do I call you?”
“Uh, I’m Azrael,” he told me shyly. He looked away, down the hall, in case I’d laugh at him.
“Your name is Azrael?” I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to scare him off, but it was a weird name.
“No,” he admitted and looked up at the ceiling. “It’s really Jon Applegarth, but I like Azrael better. It’s stupid, I guess.” He shrugged and let out a deep breath. I could tell he was not a fan of Wakefield.
“Did you get your name from the cat in The Smurfs?” I asked.
“No, I just like it. It sounds vampiric,” he said, brown eyes glistening with excitement.
“All right. Azrael it is then,” I reassured this kid.
He turned his face back to me and grinned. He had a tiny row of neat, little teeth.
“So, Simon’s your roommate, huh?” he asked, though he was fully aware of the answer.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“I’m sorry,” he squinted at me, lowering his voice.
“He’s that bad?”
“Some guys like him. Couple of the girls do, too,” Azrael told me. “I stay away if I can.”
“Maybe he’ll be cool to me.” I shrugged.
“Yeah, maybe,” Azrael lied. “I gotta go.”
I doubted Azrael had any pressing business to take care of, but I didn’t say anything as he stood up and skittered away. This wasn’t the sort of place you tell people how you really feel. I’d have to start practicing biting my tongue and letting people do what they want. At least it was nice of Azrael to sit with me for a few minutes, even though he only worried me about Simon. If people liked me before I came here, then why wouldn’t they like me here at Wakefield?
A fat guy, older than me, left a room up ahead. He looked at me for a few seconds and then continued on to the bathroom. I hung my head low as I stood and walked down the hall to stare at my darkened reflection in the small window. It was gray outside, and I couldn’t see much, but I would have given anything to be on the other side of that glass. It showed me a face that looked at least two years older than the last time I’d seen myself. Maybe I could get into R rated movies now. If only they’d let me out to see movies. I went back to my room, where Simon sat at his desk.
“Hey, do they ever let us out to the movies?” I asked Simon.
He grunted, so I sat on the empty bed to wait for my stuff to come. I didn’t know how long it would take the state social worker to bring my things to Wakefield or the staff to pour through all my belongings. I’d later hear how they’d go through all the pockets and seams for anything cutters use. They’d also check my music and movies to make sure none of it was inappropriate.
My “new” dresser was a simple, beat up, wooden monstrosity shoved against the wall. At least it looked more inviting than the bed I sat on. It was a wooden box with eight holes on the sides for straps to pass through in case the staff needed to restrain anyone in their rooms. Small rails cradled the thin, uncomfortable mattress.
Then I noticed a small rectangular camera hanging from the ceiling.
“Um, do all the rooms have cameras? Is that thing on?” I asked Simon.
“Yeah, dumbass, it’s on. And no, not every room has one. But because of your newbie ass, I have to live with a camera until they decide to trust you. Thanks a lot.”
At least I knew why Simon was angry with me.

 

Wakefield (The Mad World Saga Series) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $5.95


Connect with Troy H. Gardner & Erin Callahan:

Author Website: madworldseries.com

Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MadWorldSeries

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: My Wolf’s Bane (Shapes of Autumn, book one), Veronica Blade {$4.49 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of My Wolf’s Bane (Shapes of Autumn, book one):

Autumn Rossi thought she was a normal teenager. Suddenly, she can outrun every critter in the forest, making her wonder if she’s even human.

When the new guy at school, Zack de Luca, witnesses a questionable scene, he unfairly pins her as stuck-up. He acts like he hates her, yet he keeps bailing her out of trouble. Not only is Zack both insufferable and irresistible, he seems to sniff her anytime he gets close.

As passion flares between them, Autumn isn’t sure which is more dangerous: her psycho ex-boyfriend, or falling for Zack — who’s risking his life just by being near her.

Accolade:

“Un-freakin-believable!!…This is truly one of the best YA Paranormal novels that I have ever read…” — CafeOfDreamsBookReviews.com

“I just can’t say enough how much I loved this book!”— InJuliesOpinion.blogspot.com

“A fast-paced, intriguing start to the Shapes of Autumn series, My Wolf’s Bane is an awesome read.” — Susan Hatler, International bestselling author


Amazon Reader Reviews:

My Wolf’s Bane (Shapes of Autumn, book one) currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 5 stars with 20 reviews. Read the reviews here!


An excerpt from My Wolf’s Bane (Shapes of Autumn, book one):

CHAPTER ONE

Scooping up my backpack, I abandoned my geriatric car and forged through the double doors of the school. The patter of my sandals echoed through the hallway as I smiled at a group of classmates passing by.
My nose detected the bathroom before my eyes did, filling with the smell of disinfectant and… paint? Whatever. I’d take the toxic fumes over my former home school days, where my parents had kept me trapped without a social life.
Inside the empty restroom, I rummaged through my backpack for my makeup bag. I set it on the edge of the sink, then surveyed the damage. At least I’d had time to do my hair before I’d stormed out of the house. Long, dark brown hair cascaded over my shoulders in thick waves. My face was a different story though. Evidence of sleep deprivation circled my eyes and my normally olive skin was pale.
As I stared at my reflection, I wondered how to handle my very dead car without involving my mom or dad. After the bomb they’d dropped last night — that we’d be moving again in just a few weeks — I didn’t want to speak to either of them. I mean, what kind of parents uproot their kid two to three times a year? There had to be a way to convince them to stay a few weeks more, until I turned eighteen. Then I could make my own choices.
The restroom door swung open behind me, letting in the dull roar of voices and banging lockers, and a younger girl disappeared into a stall. Was it time for my first class already? I checked the time on my cell and realized I’d been holding the mascara brush for several minutes, yet my lashes were still naked. Crap.
I tossed the makeup bag into my backpack, slung it over my shoulder and whipped open the door. Barreling out of the bathroom, I slammed into what felt like a walking boulder. I ricocheted off the human rock and my backpack hit the wall behind me, throwing me off balance and pitching me forward into the hard, linoleum tile.
My palms cushioned my fall, but I winced as pain spiked up my wrists. On all fours, I lifted my chin and peeked through my curtain of dark hair.
He wore a black tee that molded to his wide, muscular shoulders and jeans that fit over powerful legs. Wow. I’d thought my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend was cute, but this guy…
“You okay?” the hottie asked in a sexy, gravelly voice, stretching a hand toward me. His hand wrapped around mine and effortlessly pulled me up, as if I weighed no more than my calculus book. Maybe it was the throbbing in my limbs or the warmth of his hands on my elbows. Or maybe it was his earthy scent invading my senses, but a wave of dizziness hit me and I tipped forward.
His hands shot to my hips to steady me. “Easy there.”
I stared into his deep, green eyes as my palms rested on his hard biceps for support. Lord, he smelled good, like the forest after rain.
My breath hitched.
The scuffling of feet and rustling clothes seemed quieter than it should’ve been. I glanced over my shoulder to see what was up. Nearly everyone in the hallway had their eyes fixed on me. No doubt, most of them had witnessed me doing the Humpty-Dumpty and, by the end of the day, the incident would be all over school. Probably even caught on video and uploaded to YouTube, me with no makeup and totally un-cute. Ugh.
Hot Guy may have been standing right in front of the bathroom in my way, but I shouldn’t have been speeding. I opened my mouth to apologize when I recognized Daniel’s voice.
“That’s my girl you’re touching, freak.” Daniel sneered, flicked his long, dirty-blond hair over his shoulder and clamped onto my wrist. “Hands off.”
Hot Guy nudged me aside and stepped forward until he almost butted chests with Daniel. “You need to learn some manners.”
“Oh, yeah? You gonna try to teach me, girly boy?”
Though I knew Daniel was acting like an idiot, the school gossip mill didn’t need any more material on me today. I was more than finished with Daniel, but I didn’t necessarily want him to get a public smack-down — even though he probably deserved it. Wedging myself between them, I twisted to meet Daniel’s gaze. “Let’s just go.”
“Good idea.” Daniel gave Hot Guy another scalding look before grabbing my hand and jerking me away. I breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to referee a brawl.
“Ass hat,” Hot Guy muttered.
Daniel kept walking, practically dragging me along. He couldn’t have heard the insult or he would’ve stopped and turned on Hot Guy. But I had heard it so clearly. Weird.
“Hang on and I’ll walk you to class.” Daniel paused at his locker and spun the combination lock.
“Sure,” I said absently. I glanced over my shoulder to Hot Guy, who was leaning against a locker fiddling with his cell phone. The least I could do was give him an apologetic smile and mime, “Sorry.”
I didn’t get a chance. His gaze met mine, his mouth twisting as he raised one brow. Okay, so this wasn’t going to be an easy fix. Hot Guy seemed too old to be in high school anyway. Probably a college student dropping off his younger sibling, which meant I’d never see him again.
I wanted to keep staring at his perfectly sculpted nose, angular cheekbones and deep brown hair that fell haphazardly over his forehead, but he spun and strolled off in the opposite direction. A tug of my hand drew my focus back to my future ex-boyfriend.
“Hold up,” I said. The warning bell sounded, but I barely heard it as I yanked my hand from his. “Why’d you have to act like such a psycho?”
Daniel shrugged, as though the answer was obvious. “He was touching you.”
I laughed. “Seriously?”
“You’re mine, Autumn. No other guy can ever touch you again.” He said it like he couldn’t believe I’d even question him.
“I’m no one’s property,” I hissed. “Besides, I tripped and he was just helping me up.”
“Why are you defending that loser?” His voice rose and his face flushed.
My hands balled into fists. “Because I don’t like how you treat people.”
“What are you talking about?” He gave me a look that said it all — I was insane. I opened my mouth to start in on him, but his eyes swept the corridor before he said, “We’re gonna be late for class.”
Daniel was right. The hall was deserted. A stream of mild curses spewed from my mouth as I sprinted to homeroom with only seconds to spare.

 

My Wolf’s Bane (Shapes of Autumn, book one) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $4.49 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

Connect with Veronica Blade:

Website: www.VeronicaBlade.com

Twitter: @VeronicaBlade

Facebook: facebook.com/VeronicaBlade

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Darkride (The Darkride Chronicles), Laura Bradley Rede {$0.99}

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Description of Darkride (The Darkride Chronicles):

Ander McNair used to be the favorite son of a great monster-hunting family – until he was bitten by a werewolf and the hunter became the hunted. Now anything that makes his pulse race, even a kiss from his girlfriend Cicely, is enough to turn him into a monster. When he finally has his chance to earn his cure by killing a vampire prince, Ander finds he has to choose between his own past and the future of the girl he loves. Can a guy who’s not even human learn what it means to be a man?

Luke Marianez used to be an immortal vampire prince – until the witch he loved betrayed him and cursed him with the ability to die. Now he lives in the world of vampire blood bars where the waitresses are the drinks, and dreams about killing the last of the witch’s line so he can live forever. But revenge doesn’t just mean breaking the curse. He wants to break the girl’s heart, too. Can Luke seduce Cicely without falling in love himself?

Cicely Watson doesn’t believe in werewolves or vampires. She’s not even sure she believes in true love. But she’s about to discover what every werewolf knows:

People change.

Accolades:

“Darkride had everything I need in a good fantasy/paranormal book. Action, romance, a heap of steamy and amazing supernatural creatures, and a main character that will affix herself to you. Everything about this book was fierce!” ~ Sizzling Reads

“Darkride is one of those books that you sit down to read, and find yourself physically incapable of stopping until it’s done – and when it is, you still are burning to read more.” ~ Ricochet Reviews

“The story was filled with action, tension, difficult decisions, and touching romance. I was swept away by the story…” ~ Ms. Martin Teaches Media

“Darkride keeps you guessing from the moment you read page one. Author Laura Bradley Rede does a great job of keeping you hooked till the very end. There is a major love triangle… but this is no Twilight romance.” ~ ParaNormal Romance Party

“I really loved this book with its fairy tale qualities mixed in with real life/fantasy. It was done beautifully and it still seemed fresh and new in this ever growing popular genre.” ~ Once Upon a Twilight

 

Reviews:

Darkride (The Darkride Chronicles) currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.6 stars from 44 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from Darkride (The Darkride Chronicles):

Ander seems to feel better, too. He jogs a little ways ahead of me, then doubles back, high-fiving the trees as he comes. “So,” he says, “Your birthday. What are you doing to celebrate?”

I shrug. “You know, helicopter ride, movie premier, champagne toast at sunrise. The usual.”

His eyes are full of sympathy. “Mom working, huh?”

“For the caterers tonight, then she has a wedding to do tomorrow, so I’m sure she’ll be busy. But she might make a cake.”

“Oh,” he sighs, “your mom’s cake! Damn, that’s good.”

“She’s a pro,” I say.

“So,” he says, “What are you going to wish for?”

I’m suddenly glad for the shadowy darkness. It hides my blush. “Same thing I wished for last year.”

“And you haven’t gotten it yet?”

“No,” I say, “Not yet.”

“Well,” he says, “Maybe this is your year.”

Right now all I wish for is to be able to see the expression on his face, but the shadows hide it. Does he know I wished for him? Is there some hidden promise in his words? There can’t be. I mean, if he felt the same, why wouldn’t he just tell me? If he felt the same, why didn’t he kiss me back there, when his arms were already around me? He can’t feel the same. I put a little extra stomp in my boots, trying to crush out any spark of hope before it has the chance to catch. This is how I get hurt.

We walk for a while in silence. What is he thinking, I wonder? His face is unreadable in the half-light. Trying to see him makes my eyes hurt, and trying to understand him makes my brain hurt. Being best friends with Ander is like doing long division in your head all day. It’s like trying to follow a foreign film without the subtitles. How can Zoe say he’s straightforward when I feel like everything he says is in secret code?

The woods have begun to thin. Up ahead, through the trees, I can just see Ander’s house, as dark and elongated as the shadows around us. It’s the only house around, shielded by trees on every side. Ander used to joke that I was the “girl next door,” because my mom’s trailer is the next closest place, and we’re on the other side of the woods. Only the long gravel drive connects Ander’s house to County 13 and the rest of the world. Its gray paint is peeling and the porch sags, but there are yellow marigolds in the window boxes and a welcome mat by the front door.

I wonder who that welcome is meant for. I’ve never been invited in.

Without saying a word about it, we both stop a respectful distance from the yard, like there’s an invisible line I can’t cross. “Well,” Ander says, “I guess I should go in.” He looks up at the sky, then glances at the house. There’s a light on in the kitchen window. His uncle is home.

“Yeah,” I say, “I guess you should.” But neither of us goes anywhere. Ander takes a little swig of Gatorade. I take a deep breath. I almost hate to ask him, because I know he’ll have to say no. His uncle never lets him go out.

But I promised myself I’d ask him. It’s a new year and I’m starting it right.

Now or never, Cicely.

“Do you want to go out tonight?”

Darkride (The Darkride Chronicles) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

Connect with Laura Bradley Rede:

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Afterlife and Times of Herbert S. Cooper, M.D. Cain {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of The Afterlife and Times of Herbert S. Cooper:

What happens to our loved ones after they die? What happens to us after we die? What is the Afterlife like? Is the notion even real, or will we just cease to exist? The Afterlife and Times of: Herbert S. Cooper is a firsthand account of what the Afterlife is and will be like, told from the viewpoint of someone who has already died. Prepare yourself for a journey to the other side for a view of the opposite end of eternity, a glimpse of what is just beyond the veil. Read the first book in the new series by M.D. Cain, and come and discover what awaits us all…

Accolades:

This book has a unique twist on the afterlife that is very interesting and well written. The characters are well developed and you will love Herbert and Cadence. The author has an engaging writing style and captures the emotions of the characters. This is a great read and I would highly recommend it This story outlines an afterlife none of us would expect, with characters who are realistic and with whom one can care what happens to them. The author has a unique and engaging writing style and the story flows very well. This book is worth reading and I would recommend it to anyone.

Reviews:

The Afterlife and Times of Herbert S. Cooper  currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 5 stars from 2 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from The Afterlife and Times of Herbert S. Cooper:

There are a few things nobody ever tells you about being dead. The first thing being that dying really bloody hurts. Before you even think to object, I’d ask you to just hear me out. I already know that you’re planning on blowing a bit of sunshine up my arse. All you fleshies do. You people go on and on about seeing a great, bright light or you say how dying feels just like going home. It’s all well and good if you want to believe that nonsense, but first may I suggest that you try death by asphyxiation and then give me your thoughts on the matter. Considering the manner in which most people die, I’m stunned by the amount of dunces out there who think it’s a walk in the park.
My mate James happens to think it’s bullocks too. He was shot twenty-two times by a pair of Thompson automatics in a dirty Chicago alley on a cold day in January. When he was lying there, bleeding out on the cracked cement, his life did not flash before his eyes. Instead, he told me that his last thought was that it might’ve been a good idea to keep the gun in his coat pocket as opposed to underneath the seat. The thought preceding his last was a very appropriately placed “Oh, shit.”
So please, take it from someone with firsthand experience: dying will hurt. I have been dead for many years now, and I’ll be damned (excuse the pun) if I’m going to let any other bloody nonsense on the matter go on for one minute longer. When I died, it was a proper death. An Englishman’s death. No begging, no bartering, no bullshit. In the time leading up to my timely demise, it had been a very bad week anyway, so to be honest with you it wasn’t too much of a surprise. The day that I died, it had been a long day indeed. I had been thinking the entire day of all that I didn’t have going for me.
My loveless marriage to a witch of a woman. My boring job. The insurmountable mountain of debt I had accumulated as result of keeping my wife, Mary, in the manner to which she was accustomed. But that became a secondary problem the day that I walked in on her and her lover in my own house, in my bedroom nonetheless, the latter of them brandishing a very menacing revolver. Mind you, I didn’t go down without a fight of course. I knew he was a little mincing ponce that didn’t have the stones to pull the trigger anyway. After a hasty dustup with him though, I wound up on the short end of the fight with his hands wrapped quite snuggly around my neck. Seems he didn’t appreciate it when I’d wrestled the gun from him and broke his nose in the process.
To this day I still don’t understand why my wife, soon to be widowed at the time, was screaming so damn loud. It was quite rude of her to be yelling about the two of us carrying on so violently. Considering I was the one being choked to death while she screamed her head off, I think it was uncalled for and rude. To be honest, I think I deserved a bit of cathartic release myself. I would have liked to yell myself, but as I mentioned earlier, her lover’s hands wrapped around my neck crushing my larynx made that a tad bit difficult.
Either way, at some point during the screaming and the choking and the all around chaos of our little skirmish, I realized one thing. I was going to die. Kick the can. Fare thee well. Buy the farm and the whole forty acres or whatever it is you yanks like to say. I didn’t really mind the prospect of dying to be honest with you; I was becoming rather nagged by Mary’s incessant screaming, and her beau’s hands around my neck were becoming increasingly uncomfortable.
The odd thing is, up until the point that I knew I was going to die, I hadn’t given much thought to my death. Of course, I hadn’t given much thought to my life either, but who’s keeping score? I wasn’t raised in a necessarily religious family. Unless you would consider working a religion. My father taught me how a man ought to work, and how a man ought to act. I was raised a blue collar gentlemen, and I had no proclivity whatsoever towards spending my Sundays in a pew. I’d rather spend them in a pub resting up for the workweek. Suffice it to say, I had no expectation of heaven or hell or anyplace at all really. I fully planned on spending the rest of eternity not existing. I should be as lucky.
My luck (or rather bad luck) happened to land me someplace I hadn’t expected at all. Instead of disappearing into nothingness and spitting in the face of Descartes’ absurd philosophy, I found myself in a somewhat peculiar setting. At the end of the deep, dark abyss that I sank into as my pulmonary system shut down and my brain died from lack of oxygen, I found myself in…a waiting room. That’s right, a bloody waiting room.
I knew right away that it couldn’t be heaven because the interior decoration was horrid. The floor was a terrible drab of yellow linoleum against bright blue walls. At the front of the room there was a counter with an attendant present like I had landed in some sort of bureaucratic nightmare. The worst part was still to come though. I was stuck at the end of the line leading up to the counter. My very first words upon arriving to the Afterlife were an extremely annoyed “Oh, shit.”
I had just been murdered by my wife’s lover, expecting to disappear into nothingness, and of all the places to wind up, I get stuck here. Mind you, it wasn’t so much my discovery of the existence of a human soul that I found perturbing. What invoked this response was the fact that I absolutely loathe lines. I had been queuing up my entire life, and the avoidance of this was one of the perks of my death that I was very much looking forward to.
But somehow I was still alive, in some form or manner, and I was in the very unfortunate position of being stuck right behind a grotesquely large woman in a bathrobe that didn’t quite cover everything. She looked to be in her fifties and was rambling on to me about having a tight chest just a moment before she came to where she was. She just couldn’t understand why she was in a “hospital waiting room.” I choose to ignore her because I was also still in something of a shock at my circumstances.
I was the same as I had been a moment before. Before I was dead. I saw my reflection in the window that looked out onto a treed courtyard, and saw that there was still very little hair on my head, a dark brown peppered with distinguished gray. I still had a bit of a crooked nose and light brown eyes windowed behind my spectacles. The only difference, actually, was that I was in much different attire than what I’d died in. This was good for me, because I’m pretty sure I had spilled some mustard on my shirt before coming home to be murdered, and that wouldn’t have done at all. Can’t very well show up to the Afterlife in a stained shirt. First impressions are everything, even when you’re dead.
Thankfully, somehow I was in my best suit, the two piece twill that bore the signs of a man who had worked very hard every day in his life. It was explained to me later that when you die, you appear as you wish. Whatever is the best possible version of you that could have been, that is who you become when you cross over. I was just glad to be in my Monday best, but for others the experience was a bit more dramatic.
People who’d been blind their entire lives. People who had been deaf. The sick, the disabled, those who had lost their limbs to war or ravage. They were full. Returned to a glory either formerly known and lost or never known at all. They were given the body of what they could have been, what they should have been. As for myself, if I had been blind my entire life, I don’t know if the first sight that I should ever like to see would be this room, but I imagine it was still something to be cherished, to be a joyous occasion for all of those who were relegated in life. It was small miracles like those that took place in this room frequently. The only regrettable thing about the human state in death, though, was that the stupid were still stupid. No manner of miracle could ever fix that.
I was grateful, however, that the people running this bonanza weren’t stupid at all. It seems they had it down to a science. Newcomers would warily approach the counter, and most if not all would be subsequently redirected to a door on the left marked “Grief Counseling.” Most people hadn’t quite come to the realization that they were dead, and in their incredible foresight, this office had therapists on standby to help them deal with that shock. The banner that hung above the counter that read “Welcome to the Afterlife” was a pretty good clue to me that I was dead, along with the whole being murdered just minutes before part, but like I said, there’s no fix for stupid. At least that’s what I took them to be. Either that or they just hadn’t or couldn’t accept it. The line moved quickly as person after person filed through other doors to meet with the grief specialists, which was fine by me because it meant less time queuin g up.
“Name?” the woman at the counter said briskly as I approached. Straight to the point. No diddly-daddling about with the pleasantries. Very professional.
“Herbert Sycamore Cooper,” I replied. My middle name. Another thing I loathed. My father was an avid arbor enthusiast, and thought it appropriate to give me a name that would get me tossed about by the other boys in grammar school. She began jotting my name down on the some very official-looking paperwork and the process took no more than ten minutes. It was just the usual information: name, place of death, occupations as a fleshie, special skills, religious affiliation (atheist), last of kin (if desired). My family and I didn’t exactly have the best relationship, and by that I mean none at all.
In the Afterlife, the obituaries were always on the front page, above the fold. Whereas on your side they were usually bad news, over here they were like bloody wedding announcements. And heaven forbid your dead relatives somehow found out you were on your way out. They’d be waiting in the Welcoming Station (the nickname for this place) for you when you died, with balloons and streamers and all other sorts of nonsense that shouldn’t be shoved onto a newdead as soon as they get here. In case you hadn’t picked up on that, newdead is the slang around here for those who’ve just expired. We call the living “fleshies,” although you can’t say that in mixed company because it’s not politically correct. Rubbish.
After she had written down all my information, she promptly handed me a brochure and told me to have a seat and wait for my case manager to arrive. I took a look down at the brochure as I took my seat. It read as follows:

SO NOW YOU’RE DEAD
Greetings, newdead! Welcome to the Afterlife. There are a few things nobody ever tells you about being dead. The first thing being that dying really bloody hurts. Before you even think to object, I’d ask you to just hear me out. I already know that you’re planning on blowing a bit of sunshine up my arse. All you fleshies do. You people go on and on about seeing a great, bright light or you say how dying feels just like going home. It’s all well and good if you want to believe that nonsense, but first may I suggest that you try death by asphyxiation and then give me your thoughts on the matter. Considering the manner in which most people die, I’m stunned by the amount of dunces out there who think it’s a walk in the park.
My mate James happens to think it’s bullocks too. He was shot twenty-two times by a pair of Thompson automatics in a dirty Chicago alley on a cold day in January. When he was lying there, bleeding out on the cracked cement, his life did not flash before his eyes. Instead, he told me that his last thought was that it might’ve been a good idea to keep the gun in his coat pocket as opposed to underneath the seat. The thought preceding his last was a very appropriately placed “Oh, shit.”
So please, take it from someone with firsthand experience: dying will hurt. I have been dead for many years now, and I’ll be damned (excuse the pun) if I’m going to let any other bloody nonsense on the matter go on for one minute longer. When I died, it was a proper death. An Englishman’s death. No begging, no bartering, no bullshit. In the time leading up to my timely demise, it had been a very bad week anyway, so to be honest with you it wasn’t too much of a surprise. The day that I died, it had been a long day indeed. I had been thinking the entire day of all that I didn’t have going for me.
My loveless marriage to a witch of a woman. My boring job. The insurmountable mountain of debt I had accumulated as result of keeping my wife, Mary, in the manner to which she was accustomed. But that became a secondary problem the day that I walked in on her and her lover in my own house, in my bedroom nonetheless, the latter of them brandishing a very menacing revolver. Mind you, I didn’t go down without a fight of course. I knew he was a little mincing ponce that didn’t have the stones to pull the trigger anyway. After a hasty dustup with him though, I wound up on the short end of the fight with his hands wrapped quite snuggly around my neck. Seems he didn’t appreciate it when I’d wrestled the gun from him and broke his nose in the process.
To this day I still don’t understand why my wife, soon to be widowed at the time, was screaming so damn loud. It was quite rude of her to be yelling about the two of us carrying on so violently. Considering I was the one being choked to death while she screamed her head off, I think it was uncalled for and rude. To be honest, I think I deserved a bit of cathartic release myself. I would have liked to yell myself, but as I mentioned earlier, her lover’s hands wrapped around my neck crushing my larynx made that a tad bit difficult.
Either way, at some point during the screaming and the choking and the all around chaos of our little skirmish, I realized one thing. I was going to die. Kick the can. Fare thee well. Buy the farm and the whole forty acres or whatever it is you yanks like to say. I didn’t really mind the prospect of dying to be honest with you; I was becoming rather nagged by Mary’s incessant screaming, and her beau’s hands around my neck were becoming increasingly uncomfortable.
The odd thing is, up until the point that I knew I was going to die, I hadn’t given much thought to my death. Of course, I hadn’t given much thought to my life either, but who’s keeping score? I wasn’t raised in a necessarily religious family. Unless you would consider working a religion. My father taught me how a man ought to work, and how a man ought to act. I was raised a blue collar gentlemen, and I had no proclivity whatsoever towards spending my Sundays in a pew. I’d rather spend them in a pub resting up for the workweek. Suffice it to say, I had no expectation of heaven or hell or anyplace at all really. I fully planned on spending the rest of eternity not existing. I should be as lucky.
My luck (or rather bad luck) happened to land me someplace I hadn’t expected at all. Instead of disappearing into nothingness and spitting in the face of Descartes’ absurd philosophy, I found myself in a somewhat peculiar setting. At the end of the deep, dark abyss that I sank into as my pulmonary system shut down and my brain died from lack of oxygen, I found myself in…a waiting room. That’s right, a bloody waiting room.
I knew right away that it couldn’t be heaven because the interior decoration was horrid. The floor was a terrible drab of yellow linoleum against bright blue walls. At the front of the room there was a counter with an attendant present like I had landed in some sort of bureaucratic nightmare. The worst part was still to come though. I was stuck at the end of the line leading up to the counter. My very first words upon arriving to the Afterlife were an extremely annoyed “Oh, shit.”
I had just been murdered by my wife’s lover, expecting to disappear into nothingness, and of all the places to wind up, I get stuck here. Mind you, it wasn’t so much my discovery of the existence of a human soul that I found perturbing. What invoked this response was the fact that I absolutely loathe lines. I had been queuing up my entire life, and the avoidance of this was one of the perks of my death that I was very much looking forward to.
But somehow I was still alive, in some form or manner, and I was in the very unfortunate position of being stuck right behind a grotesquely large woman in a bathrobe that didn’t quite cover everything. She looked to be in her fifties and was rambling on to me about having a tight chest just a moment before she came to where she was. She just couldn’t understand why she was in a “hospital waiting room.” I choose to ignore her because I was also still in something of a shock at my circumstances.
I was the same as I had been a moment before. Before I was dead. I saw my reflection in the window that looked out onto a treed courtyard, and saw that there was still very little hair on my head, a dark brown peppered with distinguished gray. I still had a bit of a crooked nose and light brown eyes windowed behind my spectacles. The only difference, actually, was that I was in much different attire than what I’d died in. This was good for me, because I’m pretty sure I had spilled some mustard on my shirt before coming home to be murdered, and that wouldn’t have done at all. Can’t very well show up to the Afterlife in a stained shirt. First impressions are everything, even when you’re dead.
Thankfully, somehow I was in my best suit, the two piece twill that bore the signs of a man who had worked very hard every day in his life. It was explained to me later that when you die, you appear as you wish. Whatever is the best possible version of you that could have been, that is who you become when you cross over. I was just glad to be in my Monday best, but for others the experience was a bit more dramatic.
People who’d been blind their entire lives. People who had been deaf. The sick, the disabled, those who had lost their limbs to war or ravage. They were full. Returned to a glory either formerly known and lost or never known at all. They were given the body of what they could have been, what they should have been. As for myself, if I had been blind my entire life, I don’t know if the first sight that I should ever like to see would be this room, but I imagine it was still something to be cherished, to be a joyous occasion for all of those who were relegated in life. It was small miracles like those that took place in this room frequently. The only regrettable thing about the human state in death, though, was that the stupid were still stupid. No manner of miracle could ever fix that.
I was grateful, however, that the people running this bonanza weren’t stupid at all. It seems they had it down to a science. Newcomers would warily approach the counter, and most if not all would be subsequently redirected to a door on the left marked “Grief Counseling.” Most people hadn’t quite come to the realization that they were dead, and in their incredible foresight, this office had therapists on standby to help them deal with that shock. The banner that hung above the counter that read “Welcome to the Afterlife” was a pretty good clue to me that I was dead, along with the whole being murdered just minutes before part, but like I said, there’s no fix for stupid. At least that’s what I took them to be. Either that or they just hadn’t or couldn’t accept it. The line moved quickly as person after person filed through other doors to meet with the grief specialists, which was fine by me because it meant less time queuin g up.
“Name?” the woman at the counter said briskly as I approached. Straight to the point. No diddly-daddling about with the pleasantries. Very professional.
“Herbert Sycamore Cooper,” I replied. My middle name. Another thing I loathed. My father was an avid arbor enthusiast, and thought it appropriate to give me a name that would get me tossed about by the other boys in grammar school. She began jotting my name down on the some very official-looking paperwork and the process took no more than ten minutes. It was just the usual information: name, place of death, occupations as a fleshie, special skills, religious affiliation (atheist), last of kin (if desired). My family and I didn’t exactly have the best relationship, and by that I mean none at all.
In the Afterlife, the obituaries were always on the front page, above the fold. Whereas on your side they were usually bad news, over here they were like bloody wedding announcements. And heaven forbid your dead relatives somehow found out you were on your way out. They’d be waiting in the Welcoming Station (the nickname for this place) for you when you died, with balloons and streamers and all other sorts of nonsense that shouldn’t be shoved onto a newdead as soon as they get here. In case you hadn’t picked up on that, newdead is the slang around here for those who’ve just expired. We call the living “fleshies,” although you can’t say that in mixed company because it’s not politically correct. Rubbish.
After she had written down all my information, she promptly handed me a brochure and told me to have a seat and wait for my case manager to arrive. I took a look down at the brochure as I took my seat. It read as follows:

————————————————————

SO NOW YOU’RE DEAD
Greetings, newdead! Welcome to the Afterlife. We realize that this is a hard and trying time in your Death, and we would like to extend our deepest condolences. However, this brochure is to inform you of procedures and policies in effect for the duration of the Afterlife.
1. Access to the mortal realm is strictly prohibited. Anyone committing unsanctioned movement across the plane will face severe penalties. Anyone caught aiding and abetting a person committing cross-realm travel will be prosecuted as well. Soliciting services for communications across the plane is also illegal.
2. You are classified as a perpetual life-force. While you retain a seemingly physical body with all five senses available, you cannot become hungry, die again, become sick, or injure yourself in any manner. Please do not purchase any sort of medical or death insurance, as this is a scam and the bureaucracy does not insure against idiocy.
3. Please refer to your case manager for any problems including but not limited to: employment, residential accommodations, grief counseling, educational benefits, and any other question or concerns you may have.
As we await the next step in our existence, please take this time to enjoy Death. You only die once.

Always Dead,
Alberta Fennimore
Bureau of Newdead Integration

 

The Afterlife and Times of Herbert S. Cooper is available for purchase at:

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

 

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Brightside, Mark Tullius {$4.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime}

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Mark Tullius‘ Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of Brightside:

They call us Thought Thieves, but it’s not like we have a choice. All the sick twisted things rolling around in people’s heads, we can’t help but hear.

That’s why they rounded us up, stuck us in this little town. It’s to make you feel safe. But they can’t keep us here forever.

It’s Day 100 and it’s all gonna end. One way or another, I’m getting out of Brightside.

“My faith has been restored, great story tellers are still alive!” Dragonfly

“I’d recommend this book to anyone! Amazing thriller that will keep you engaged to the very end!” Shari Lindsay

“The tension builds with every risky encounter with another thought thief until you’re frantically churning through pages to reach the ending – which comes not with a whimper but a wailing scream.” ElementalX

“From the first few pages you find your self wondering what will happen next and trying to guess how it will end.” LVguy702

“An amazing story, told at breakneck pace…who says science fiction writers cannot develop characters? I don’t need to describe the book but only guarantee you won’t put it down unfinished.” Wardog

If you enjoy dark, fast-paced fiction, Brightside is for you.

Accolades:

“I read this book in one sitting. With well developed characters, a quirky plot, powerful descriptive language and images and a classic theme, I thoroughly enjoyed it.” Cynthia R.

“This story of loss, family, and childhood trauma is a great read- I read it one night- and you’ll start evaluating your life the way Brightsiders are forced to do. It’s a really fresh premise, very unlike anything you’ve ever read.” Ariana R.

“I couldn’t put this book down. It is suspenseful, with a great premise and some truly great writing. If you like intelligent, psychological thrillers, you will like this book.” jjt

 

Reviews:

Brightside currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.1 stars from 43 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

Brightside is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $4.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime


An excerpt from Brightside:

CHAPTER ONE 

They call us Thought Thieves, but it’s not like we have a choice. All the sick, twisted things rolling around in people’s heads, we can’t help but hear. God knows I’ve tried to turn it off. The sexual perversions, the violent fantasies about your boss, that annoying neighbor you want dead, even those unfortunate thoughts about your kids. I’ve had to stand there and listen.

I’d never wish this upon anyone, not even my mom, the woman who’s been over-sharing since I slid from her womb.

You wouldn’t believe the awful shit I’ve heard.

Imagine if you knew every dark thought people had about you.

Trust me, it’s not pleasant. In any given moment, the person you love is thinking about someone else she’d like to screw, how fat you’ve gotten, how unbearable it is to hear you chew. Later, she’ll hold you and kiss you and regret most of it, and you’ll fall asleep hating yourself for having all the same thoughts.

Secrets keep the world from burning. I know this now more than ever. The secret I have left could get everyone killed. One person’s already dead, more are sure to follow. All because I couldn’t keep my stupid thoughts shut.

So I understand why they rounded us up, Thought Thieves like me, and took us to this little town on top of a mountain with drops so steep there’s no need for a fence. It keeps the country functioning, lets everyone feel safe, knowing we’re up here in the sky, far away from everyone’s thoughts, except our own.

They call our town Brightside because, as they like to remind us, things could be worse. Some Thought Thieves weren’t so lucky. They were beaten and hanged, shot in the streets. Others were wrapped in straightjackets and locked away in squishy-walled rooms.

Brightside was our chance to start over. We could hold jobs and have apartments; we could even go on dates and shop in the little stores. It wouldn’t be so bad, they told us. As long as we never tried to leave.

But now it’s Day 100, the day it’s all going to end. Guess we’ll find out how bad it can get.

My bedroom window’s right in front of me, but I’ve got my eyes closed. The warm glow of the sunrise is trying to make me peek, but I can’t look at the jagged crack running down the center of the glass. I can’t look at the pool of blood on the chair, the tiny drops on the ceiling.

Eight pounds of power rest across my thighs. My Mossberg 12-gauge. American metal. Dad’s special gift.

Odds are this is my last sunrise. I open my eyes, take in the absolute beauty. I wonder if Danny and Sara are awake and seeing it, too. If I can somehow help them escape, it might make up for some of the things I’ve done.

Not Rachel, though. What happened with her is beyond redemption; I can’t go back and change it. If I’d just given her what she needed, told her what she wanted to hear, she’d be coming with us. I know what happened to Rachel goes beyond Day 39, but that’s when it all started.

* * *

It was seven hours before Day 39 officially began. Rachel and I were in our office, the only one with two desks. They put us there because of our shitty sales record. Jobs in Brightside were based on the ones we held in our former lives. I used to sell BMWs. Here, I sold timeshares. At BMW I never missed a quota, never blew a sale, but I was always within six feet of the customer, the range I needed to hear someone’s thoughts. On the phone, I was next to worthless.

The clock on the wall showed the same time as my computer. All the clocks in Brightside were perfectly in sync. No reason to be late. No reason to think this wasn’t all perfectly normal.

They even hid the security cameras to help us relax. They put them inside light fixtures, behind bushes in the Square, where we have a bakery, a bar, and even an electronics store. All built for us. To make us believe this is just a regular town, a place like any other. No reason to ever escape.

Rachel got hung up on before she could finish telling the guy how close the condo was to the beach. We had five minutes left of work, enough time for her to make another call, but she just opened the bottom desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of lotion. She squirted it onto her palm and rubbed her legs that were spilling out from under the desk.

Rachel and I had been dating for close to three weeks. Long enough for Rachel to decide I was the one. Long enough for me to give her a key to my place, to convince myself I loved her back.

Everything gets accelerated in Brightside, because you can’t lie. Everything’s exposed. Normal couples take six months to admit how they feel. Brightsiders do it on the first date.

Rachel rolled back in her chair and looked at me like I’d just said something. It made me feel sorry for all the people I’d done this to over the years. Taking whatever I pleased.

She got up with a smile and walked over to my desk. Her red skirt stopped mid-thigh and was tight enough to be painted on. She didn’t need to listen to my thoughts to know I liked it.

The last couple days, Rachel only saw me at work, and she knew I was ready to break up with her. It’s not that things were bad. They were just too intense. Rachel was the first Thought Thief I’d ever been with. I had no idea how exhausting it could be. You can’t just say you’re tired or that nothing’s wrong.

Rachel knew everything, even though I never said a word.

That’s why she sat on the corner of my desk, crossed her legs so I couldn’t focus on my computer screen. She’d put her dark hair in a ponytail so it looked less Jewish. I’d only thought that once, but she never let it go.

Rachel smiled and took off the glasses she didn’t need. The ones that looked exactly like Mom’s.

She took the part of the frame that rested behind her ear and put it in her mouth. She sucked on it a bit then spoke around it. “You got plans tonight?”

I noticed Rachel had gotten contacts, her eyes so fucking blue. Just like Michelle’s, my last girlfriend before Brightside.

Rachel turned her legs toward me. They were shiny and smooth and smelled like piña colada. “I just shaved,” she said.

We both knew I wanted to feel the inside of her thigh, run my hand up to see if she was telling the truth, but I just mumbled that they looked nice and powered off my computer.

Rachel rubbed her calf against my knee until I looked up at her. “I need to see you tonight,” she said.

I adjusted my khakis, pointlessly trying to conceal the fact her plan was working.

“We can go out,” she said. “Something nice. I’m thinking Oscar’s.”

Oscar’s meant a lot of money, something I wasn’t making in Brightside.

Always staying one step ahead of me, Rachel said dinner was on her. She wanted me to know things could be different. She was willing to change. It didn’t have to be so intense.

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” she said. “And I don’t even need to stay over tonight. Unless you want me to?” Rachel took hold of my collar and pulled me in, her red lips so close.

I could feel the security camera zooming in from its hiding spot. I pushed her back and said, “Fine, we’ll go to Oscar’s.”

Rachel smiled and spun off my desk. She let me watch her ass as she picked up her purse and walked out the door.

 

Oscar’s was only a few blocks from my apartment and, even though I was dressed and ready, I waited until the last possible minute to leave. I didn’t want to get there before Rachel.

I passed under the bronze archway and entered the park with its enormous pine trees. Someone had decorated them with little white lights to make it look like a winter wonderland. There were no rules about sticking to the path, so I cut across the grass, staying far away from the edge where the mountain dropped off. A full mile, straight down. Heights threw my stomach around in my chest and made me shake like a little girl.  I passed the pond and took deep breaths to clear my head. The air was cool, everything silent.

The Cabin was high up on the hill, with its big red logs and long bay window. The curtains were always pulled back, so we’d see the residents who’d broken the rules. Some had refused to go to work or started fights. A few had slit their wrists too shallow.

In the common room, a small blonde in a nurse’s uniform sat behind the desk reading a magazine. The rule-breakers sat in chairs, their faces pale, eyes ringed in black. They weren’t allowed to talk during rehabilitation. They were given pills to keep them calm.

The Cabin was the big reminder in Brightside that our town was still a prison.

I focused my eyes straight, kept walking, went through the South archway and stepped onto Main Street. The six small stores were dark and closed, but everything else was lit. Every ten feet, a lamp post to wipe out any shadow. No place to hide.

I strolled down the deserted street as the American flag flapped high above the Square. The flapping like a goddamn slap in the face.

I knew I had to clear my head. I needed to blow out all the bad thoughts before I turned the corner.

Rachel was waiting for me on the bench outside Oscar’s. She was wearing her fancy green dress. The one she’d worn under her robe at graduation. Back then it fit perfectly. Now, she had to suck in.Her hair was up in a French twist, and her makeup was thick. Especially her lips. Dark red. Her glasses were gone. She wanted me to know she’d been paying attention.

I didn’t realize it was supposed to be that kind of dinner, but at least I had on my nice pair of jeans and my shirt had a collar. Rachel didn’t care what I was wearing. She was just happy I showed.

I took her hand and said, “Let’s go eat.”

Oscar’s windows were tinted just enough so you had to press your face against the glass to see the idiots paying thirty bucks for the same steak they could buy for ten across the street. Brightside liked to remind us we could still be special.

The hostess was going to seat us in the back, tucked away in the corner. Rachel asked if we could sit at a table. She knew I wouldn’t break up with her in the open. We sat in between two couples silently engaged in conversation.

Rachel wanted to talk though, wanted me to feel this was a normal date. She knew I was thinking about The Cabin and that fucking flag. She told me to order anything I wanted. She asked about my day, even though she’d been sitting next to me the entire eight hours.

Our steaks arrived, and Rachel kept asking questions, like the first concert I went to and the last book I’d read. She was trying, and I felt like an asshole. I answered her questions and even asked a few of my own.

 

Brightside is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $4.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime

 

Connect with Mark Tullius:

Author Website: http://marktullius.com

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Repeaters, Erica Ferencik {$4.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of Repeaters:

Repeaters are everywhere.

Their bodies bear the marks of their death: a gunshot scar, a rope burn at the neck, the slash of a knife. They are the murdered among us; slipping out of one life and instantly forced into another, and another. Nothing will free them from this endless cycle of return, except to love another human being.

Of all Repeaters, one has come back more than any of the others. Ruthless, charismatic Dr. Astra Nathanson seems to have everything – a brilliant career as a psychiatrist, wealth and great beauty. But her inability to love has doomed her to an endless half-life as a Repeater.

Until now.

This time, she will do anything to have the love she needs for a final demise, even if she has to betray her own flesh and blood to claim it.

 

Accolades:

Named to Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012
Recently optioned for a feature film

“With prose this poetic, it’s easy to forget that this is a horror story…more than a battle of good and evil, Ferencik’s story is rich with layers, well developed characters, and moments of gruesomeness and tenderness. A petrifying tale of a chain of reincarnations.” – Starred Kirkus Review

“Mary Shelley gave us Frankenstein and Erica Ferencik gives us Dr. Astra Nathanson in Repeaters…This is one scary story that readers who like their thrills bloody will love.” – Alan Caruba, Bookviews

“Repeaters is the story of black and murderous love, a cautionary tale that is often terrifying and truly unforgettable. You’ll be riveted by this bold and brilliant novel.” – Mary E. Mitchell, Love in Complete Sentences

“Repeaters is an original and much recommended novel, not to be missed.” – James Cox, Midwest Book Review

“Astra is one of the most monstrous villains ever written.” – Margot Huysen, Blogcritics

“Repeaters is terrifying new novel that takes you to the darkest netherworlds of the human heart. Not a book to begin at night if you need to sleep before dawn.” – Robert Tremblay, Gatehouse Media

“A chilling, suspenseful, erotic read.” – Chris Mooney, Remembering Sarah

“A wild read – sexy, scary and smart…a one-of-a-kind take on reincarnation.” – William Walsh, Questionstruck

“An exciting new voice in horror.” – Betsy Fitzgerald, October Run

“A riveting supernatural thriller filled with reincarnation, romance, and the vilest villainess this reader has ever encountered. Truly, a chilling page-turner!” – Jeffrey Thomas, Deadstock

 

Reviews:

Repeaters currently has a customer review rating of 4.9 stars from 27 reviews. Read the reviews here.


Repeaters is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $4.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

An excerpt from Repeaters:

Afterwards he slept, his arm leaden across her shoulders. Astra lifted it off her, pulled on his workshirt and stepped out to the bathroom where she flipped on the overhead light. Staring at herself in the mirror, she slowly opened the shirt, all the time willing her skin to stay normal, smooth, unmarked. A little trick she had always been able to perform but lately there had been surprises…in the shower…changing rooms in clothing stores…on the beach…the shock of the past rising up on her skin.

She locked eyes with herself. Seconds passed, a minute, two; she became dizzy, pain stabbed at her skull and still she stared, praying, commanding her body to obey, for her skin to stay unblemished and beautiful. Sweat gathered at her skull and dripped down between her breasts. She began to shake; she gripped the sink to still herself. Her image doubled in the mirror, quadrupled, until all the Astras blurred together and she swooned and fell back against the door, sliding down to the cold tile. With great effort she lifted her head off her chest and tried to open her eyes. The bolts holding down the toilet swam into focus.

Already knowing she’d lost the fight, she reached inside her shirt and felt the skin on her torso. It wasn’t right. Already it was changing. Gagging, she pulled herself to her knees and threw up in the toilet bowl. She cried as she cleaned herself, needing some sort of plan but bereft of one. She had gotten away with it this time, but in the end she knew it would never again be safe to show him her body in the light.

 

Repeaters is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $4.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!


Connect with Erica Ferencik:

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Kiss of Midnight, Lara Adrian {$0.99}

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Description of Kiss of Midnight:

Prepare for seduction as New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author Lara Adrian unleashes a dark new breed of vampire. . .

Part human, part otherworldly, the Breed has lived among humankind for thousands of years, maintaining a tentative peace built on secrecy, power, and the dark justice carried out by the formidable warriors of the Order.

In KISS OF MIDNIGHT, the first book of the wildly popular Midnight Breed vampire romance series, a gifted young photographer gets caught in the crosshairs of a growing war within the Breed, thrusting her into the arms of the darkly sensual leader of the race’s warrior Order.

Special limited time offer — get KISS OF MIDNIGHT in ebook for just 99 cents! There’s never been a better time to dive into the Midnight Breed series or introduce Lucan and the Order to the vampire-loving readers on your holiday shopping lists.

 

Accolades:

KISS OF MIDNIGHT is dark, edgy and passionate, an irresistible vampire romance.” –Chicago Tribune“One of the best paranormal series around . . . a must-read series.” –Fresh Fiction

“One of the consistently best paranormal series out there . . . Adrian writes compelling individual stories (with wonderful happily ever afters) within a larger story arc that is unfolding with a refreshing lack of predictability.” –Romance Novel News

 

Amazon Reader Reviews:

Kiss of Midnight currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 3.9 stars, with 314 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

Excerpt from Kiss of Midnight:

CHAPTER ONE

Present Day

“Remarkable. Just look at the use of light and shadow–”

“You see how this image hints at the sorrow of the place, yet manages to convey a promise of hope?”

“–one of the youngest photographers to be included in the museum’s new modern art collection.”

Gabrielle Maxwell stood back from the group of exhibit attendees, nursing a flute of warm champagne as yet another crowd of faceless, nameless, Very Important People enthused over the two dozen black-and-white photographs displayed on the gallery walls. An introvert by nature, it made her uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of this much praise and attention . . . but it did pay the bills. Quite nicely, at that. Tonight it was also paying the bills for her friend Jamie, the owner of the funky little art gallery on Newbury Street, which, at ten minutes to closing, was still packed with prospective buyers.

Numb with the whole process of meeting and greeting, of smiling politely as everyone from moneyed Back Bay wives to multi-pierced, tattooed Goths tried to impress one another–and her–with analyses of her work, Gabrielle couldn’t wait for the exhibit to end. She had been hiding in the shadows for the past hour, contemplating a stealth escape to the comfort of a warm shower and a soft pillow, both waiting at her apartment on the city’s East side.

But she had promised a few of her friends–Jamie, Kendra, and Megan–that she would join them for dinner and drinks after the showing. As the last couple of stragglers made their purchases and left the gallery, Gabrielle found herself being gathered up and swept into a cab before she had a chance to so much as think of begging off.

“What an awesome night!” Jamie’s androgynous blond hair swung around his face as he leaned across the other two women to clutch Gabrielle’s hand. “I’ve never had so much weekend traffic in the gallery–and tonight’s sales receipts were amazing! You weren’t too miserable in there, were you?”

“How could she be, with half of Boston falling at her feet?” gushed Kendra, before Gabrielle could answer for herself. “Was that the governor I saw you talking with over the canapés?”

“Yeah,” Gabrielle replied without much enthusiasm. She had a stack of business cards in her pocketbook–at least a year of steady work, if she wanted it–so why was she tempted to open the taxi window and scatter them all to the wind?

“Is anything wrong, Gab?” Megan asked from beside her on the taxi’s bench seat. “You seem quiet.”

Gabrielle shrugged. “I’m sorry. I’m just . . . I don’t know. Tired, I guess.”

“Somebody get this woman a drink–stat!” Kendra, the dark-haired nurse, joked.

“Nah,” Jamie countered, sly and catlike. “What our Gab really needs is a man. You’re too serious, sweetie. It’s not healthy to let your work consume you like you do. Have some fun! When’s the last time you got laid, anyway?”

Too long ago, but Gabrielle wasn’t really keeping track.

“Jamie is right, you know,” Kendra added. “You need to loosen up, get a little wild.”

“If you like dance clubs, there’s a new one just opened in the north end,” the cabbie interjected, his spearmint chewing gum cracking as he spoke. “I been takin’ fares over there all week. Fact, took two already tonight–fancy after-hours place called La Notte.”

“Ooh, La No-tay,” Jamie purred, tossing a playful look over his shoulder and arching an elegant brow. “Sounds perfectly wicked to me, girls. Let’s go!”

# # #

The club La Notte was housed in a High Victorian Gothic building that had long been known as St. John’s Trinity Parish Church, until recent Archdiocese of Boston payouts on priest sex scandals forced the closings of dozens of such places around the city. Now, as Gabrielle and her friends made their way inside the crowded club, synthesized trance and techno music rang in the rafters. On the dance floor–and in nearly every square foot of La Notte’s main floor and the gallery above–people moved against one another in writhing, mindless sensuality.

“Holy shit,” Kendra shouted over the music, raising her arms and dancing her way through the thick crowd. “What a place, huh? This is crazy!”

They hadn’t even cleared the first knot of clubbers before a tall, lean guy swooped in on the spunky brunette and bent to say something in her ear. Kendra gave a throaty laugh and nodded enthusiastically at him.

“Boy wants to dance,” she giggled, passing her handbag to Gabrielle. “Who am I to refuse!”

“This way,” Jamie said, pointing to a small empty table near the bar as their friend trotted off with her partner.

The three of them got seated and Jamie ordered a round of drinks. Gabrielle scanned the dance floor for Kendra, but she’d been devoured in the midst of the crowded space. Despite the crush of people all around, Gabrielle could not dismiss the sudden sensation that she and her friends were sitting in a spotlight. Like they were somehow under scrutiny simply for being there in the club. It was nuts to think it. Maybe she had been working too much, spending too much time alone at home, if being out in public could make her feel so self-conscious. So paranoid.

“Here’s to Gab!” Jamie exclaimed over the roar of the music, raising his martini glass in salute.

Megan lifted hers, too, and clinked it against Gabrielle’s. “Congratulations on a great exhibit tonight!”

“Thanks, you guys.”

As she sipped the neon yellow concoction, Gabrielle’s feeling of being observed returned. Or rather, increased. She felt a stare reach out to her from across the darkened distance. Over the rim of her martini glass, she glanced up and caught the glint of a strobe light nicking off a pair of dark sunglasses.

Sunglasses hiding a gaze that was unmistakably fixed on her through the crowd.

The quick flashes from the strobes cast his stark features in hard shadow, but Gabrielle’s eyes took him in at once. Spiky black hair falling loosely around a broad, intelligent brow and lean, angular cheeks. A strong, stern jaw. And his mouth . . . his mouth was generous and sensual, even when quirked in that cynical, almost cruel line.

Gabrielle looked away, unnerved, a rush of warmth skittering along her limbs. His face lingered in her head, burned there in an instant, like an image set to film. She put down her drink and braved another quick glance to where he stood. But he was gone.

A loud crash sounded at the other end of the bar, jerking Gabrielle’s attention over her shoulder. At one of the crowded tables, liquor seeped onto the floor, spilled from several broken glasses that littered the black lacquered surface. Five guys in dark leather and shades were having words with another guy, this one wearing a Dead Kennedys wife-beater tank and torn, faded blue jeans. One of the thugs in leather had his arm slung around a drunk-looking platinum blond, who seemed to know the punker. Boyfriend, apparently. He made a grab for the girl’s arm, but she slapped him away and bent her head to let one of the thugs put his mouth on her neck. She stared defiantly at her furious boyfriend, all the while playing with the long brown hair of the guy fastened to her throat.

“That’s messed up,” Megan said, turning back around as the situation escalated across the bar.

“Sure is,” Jamie added as he finished off his martini and flagged a server to bring another round. “Evidently that chick’s mama forgot to tell her it’s bad news not to leave with the guy who brought you.”

Gabrielle watched for another moment, long enough to see a second biker move in on the girl and descend on her slackened mouth. She accepted both of them together, her hands coming up to caress the dark head at her neck and the pale one that was sucking her face like he meant to eat her alive. The punker boyfriend shouted a string of obscenities at the girl, then turned around and shoved his way into the crowd.

Gabrielle’s skin prickled. “This place is creeping me out.”

Her friends didn’t seem to hear her over the driving pound of the music. They also didn’t seem to share Gabrielle’s unease. Something wasn’t quite right here, and Gabrielle could not shake the feeling that eventually the night was going to get ugly.

She found her gaze drifting over the sea of bobbing heads and swaying bodies, surreptitiously searching for the sunglass-shaded eyes that had been watching her before. Was he with the other thugs–one of that gang of bikers still stirring up trouble on the other side of the bar? He was dressed like them, certainly carried the same dark air of danger about him.

Whoever he was, Gabrielle saw no trace of him now.

She leaned back in her chair, then nearly jumped out of her skin when a pair of hands came to rest on her shoulders from behind.

“Here you are! I’ve been looking all over for you guys!” Kendra, sounding breathless and animated at the same time, leaned over the table. “Come on. I’ve got a table for us on the other side of the club. Brent and some of his friends want to party with us!”

Gabrielle stood up and looped the strap of her handbag over her shoulder. “You guys go on, have fun. I’m beat. I think I’m just going to catch a cab and head back home.”

Kendra gave her a little girl pout. “You’re sure you won’t stay? Just one more drink?”

“Nah. I really need to take off, and get some air. Enjoy yourselves, but be careful, right?”

“Suit yourself.” Kendra stepped in and planted a quick peck on her cheek. As she withdrew, Gabrielle caught a whiff of vodka, and, beneath that, something less obvious. Something musky, queerly metallic. “You’re a buzzkill, Gab, but I still love you.”

With a wink, Kendra looped her arms with Jamie and Megan’s, then playfully tugged them toward the churning mass of people.

Gabrielle immediately started her trek for the door, anxious to be out of the club. The longer she had stayed there, the louder the music seemed to get, drumming in her head, making it hard to think. People pushed at her from all sides as she tried to pass through them, squeezing her into the press of dancing, flailing, gyrating bodies. She was jostled and nudged, pawed at and groped by unseen hands in the dark, until, finally, she stumbled into the vestibule near the club’s entrance, then out the heavy double doors.

The night was cool outside, and dark. She drew in a deep breath, clearing her head of the noise and smoke and the unsettling atmosphere of La Notte. The music still throbbed out here, the strobe lights still flashed like small explosions behind the tall stained glass windows above, but Gabrielle relaxed a bit now that she was free.

She spotted a yellow cab coming her way, and thrust out her hand to call it over. “Taxi!”

As the empty cab navigated across the lanes of nighttime traffic and roared up beside her, the doors of the nightclub burst open with the force of a hurricane.

“Hey, man! What the–” Behind Gabrielle on the steps, a male voice rose to an octave just north of fear. “Touch me again, and I’ll–”

“You’ll what?” taunted another voice, this one low and deadly, and flanked by several others that were chuckling in amusement.

It was the gang from the bar, the bikers or whatever they were, in black leather and shades. The six of them circled the punker like a pack of wolves, taking turns swiping at him, toying with him like prey.

The kid threw a swing at one of them–missed–and the situation went from bad to worse.

All at once, the scuffle came crashing toward Gabrielle at the curb. The gang of thugs threw the punker up against the hood of the cab, slamming their fists into the kid’s face. Blood splattered like raindrops from his nose and mouth, some of it hitting Gabrielle. She took a step back, stunned and horrified. The kid scrabbled to get away, but his attackers stayed on him, beating him with a fury Gabrielle could hardly fathom.

“Get off my car!” the cabbie shouted out his open window. “Jesus Christ! Take it somewhere else, you hear me!”

One of the assailants turned his head toward the cabbie, smiled a terrible smile, then brought his large fist down on the windshield, shattering the glass into a spiderweb of cracks. Gabrielle saw the cabbie cross himself, his mouth working soundlessly within the car. There was a grinding of gears, then a piercing screech of tires as the taxi jerked into reverse, dislodging the burden from its hood.

“Wait!” Gabrielle screamed, too late.

Her ride home–her escape from this brutal scene–was gone.

With a cold lump of fear lodged in her throat, she watched the cab speed off, careening into the street and its red tail lights disappearing into the dark.

 

Kiss of Midnight is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99


Connect with Lara Adrian:

Author Website: http://www.LaraAdrian.com

Author Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/LaraAdrianBooks

Author Twitter Page: http://twitter.com/lara_adrian

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Ephemeral (The Countenance), Addison Moore {$3.99}

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Description of Ephemeral:

Young Adult/ Mature Situations

In the grand scheme of things, you’ll be dead a lot longer than you’ll ever be alive.

The last thing Laken Stewart remembers is the oncoming car, then bursting through the windshield.

Two months dissolve without her knowledge and she finds herself in unfamiliar surroundings with strangers who not only profess to know her but insist she’s someone else entirely.

Laken discovers her long dead boyfriend, Wesley, has been thrown into this alternate world as well. He is quick to inform her she suffered a horrible fall and that her memory hasn’t fully returned. According to Wesley the other life she had—her name, her family, they were simply a side effect of her brain trauma.

In her quest for answers she meets Cooper Flanders, the son of her psychiatrist who readily believes every word she says.

Laken Stewart knows she died on that hot July afternoon, but now she’s alive—or is she?

**Addison Moore’s Celestra Series has been optioned for film by 20th Century Fox**

Other books by Addison Moore

ETHEREAL (Celestra Series Book 1)
TREMBLE (Celestra Series Book 2)
BURN (Celestra Series Book 3)
WICKED (Celestra Series Book 4)
VEX (Celestra Series Book 5)
EXPEL (Celestra Series Book 6)
TOXIC Part One (Celestra Series Book 7)
TOXIC Part Two (Celestra Series Book 7) Coming Soon!

 

Accolades:

J Bernard – Addison Moore does NOT disappoint with her new Countenance Series. Ms. Moore always leaves you wanting more, her writing is fantastic and her storyline transports you directly into the world of her characters.

K. Valentine – This book twists and turns and leaves you wanting more. If you have already read Addison Moore Celestra Series you will love this one too. If you read this one and never read the Celestra series, go get it, you wont be sorry.

Scooby4281 – You’re pulled into Laken’s world from the start. I am already addicted to the series and can’t waiit until the next book! The incredible. Ms. Moore has done it again!


Amazon Reader Reviews:

Ephemeral currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 5 stars, with 73 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

Ephemeral is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $3.99


Excerpt from Ephemeral:

Preface

I used to believe in things, in people, in places, and names—concrete forms of life that end at some point in the unknowable future. I used to believe memories were infallible—that they could never collapse around you like a house of cards or burn to cinders before ever touching the ground.
People vanish all the time. Other people. You hear about it on the news, see their smiling faces staring back at you on milk cartons—their pictures plastered around town like wanted posters. But it was a world within a world, and you innately knew this could never really happen.
I used to believe in death. I used to believe once they put you in that box and tucked you away for one very long night, it was finished. The sunlight, fresh air, a warm embrace, they would never be yours again. It was the final vanishing act—your curtain pulled down and covering your casket. That was the day it would all start anew. Staring into the face of God, awaiting your final judgment.
But I was wrong about everything.
I had my name, my life, and my eternal judgment revoked in one passing hour at the hands of madmen who share my bloodlines.
They took everything but my memory. They tried and failed, and now I’m nothing more than a liability—a spark in a bed of dried timber, waiting to unleash an inferno. I don’t know how long I can go before they stop me or if they even care.
I used to believe so easily, and now I strain the most insignificant details from each passing day as if they were poison.
I know one solid truth. Everything about this new world is a lie.
I’m going to infiltrate their ranks—dismantle their kingdom—take them down until they all vanish, evaporate like smoke from the planet. I plan to erase any memory of them as if they had never happened.
Or I’ll die trying.
And I just might.

1
In Memory of Me

In the grand scheme of things, you’ll be dead a lot longer than you’ll ever be alive.
I marinate in that truth, baste in the beauty of its wisdom while peering out at the dull emerald world. I fumble through dense woods with roots that race across the forest floor like wild, petrified snakes. Wisps of lamp-lit fog twist throughout the narrow trails as gnarled branches coil around the evergreens.
Something stirs from behind, disrupts the silence with the heavy crush of leaves. I jump—startled, as though waking from a very bad dream. My chest thumps in rhythm to the pounding in my head.
“Hello?” I call out.
I try to remember how I got here. The last solid memory I have is driving to my boyfriend Tucker’s house to rip him a new one for sleeping with Megan Bartlett, a girl I know from volleyball. I was distracted with rage, the light turned green, and I never saw the other car coming. Then the crash—I remember kissing the windshield as I bristled through it at a horrific velocity.
A groan emits from the branches—more rattling.
My feet crush over a bed of dried maple leaves, filling in the haunting void of silence.
A hard thud lands square behind me, and I turn slow on my heels.
It would have been understandable to see a deer, a bear, or even another human being. But this…
A whimper gets caught in my throat and drowns out the idea of a scream. My heart seizes and I freeze.
It’s a man—a thing, his grey skin decomposed beyond recognition, exposing dried muscle over bone, one eye missing, teeth all but gone.
It staggers forward, slashing the air with a violent swing.
I start in on a full-blown sprint, trip over an errant branch and land hard on my chest.
It comes at me—falls on its knees beside me omitting a sharp putrid stench. I let out a gurgled cry—twist and claw, scampering to my feet.
Its crooked fingers tear my sweater, easy as shredding paper.
I bolt deeper into the thicket. The forest gyrates, turns into a viridian kaleidoscope as I fumble through a dizzying maze of branches.
Loud guttural moans vibrate throughout the woods. I can feel its footsteps seconds behind. The forest darkens. The fog presses in and coats my throat with its oily haze.
Panic enlivens me. Adrenaline courses through my veins creating a heartbeat in my ears.
None of this is real—this is hell—a trapdoor within a nightmare.
My breathing quickens and my head starts to spin as I navigate the spindles, the heavily shadowed woods.
My mother once said most people are prone to run through this world blind. I remember her words and the soft mannerism in which she spoke them as I stumble from branch to branch, ripping a hole in my jeans, and losing my jacket on the offshoot of a pine.
The creature gains speed, touches me. It grazes over my hair with its necrotic fingertips. I race blindly through the woods, pushing past the pain searing through my skull. My foot catches on a root and I crash to the ground with finality.
I glance back, fully expecting to find the decaying body, the stench of death, but instead I see a boy my age—a look of surprise ripe on his face. He pulls me to safety behind the trunk of a pine and then lunges at the monster. He plucks a knife from his back pocket and wrestles the decrepit beast as it latches onto his face.
I pick up a loose branch and give a hard jab at the creature’s groin. It gives a soft gurgle as if laughing at my efforts.
A rock the size of a football catches my eye. I hoist it off the ground and lob it at the tangle of flesh rolling around in front of me.
It hits the boy on the side of the head, and he lets out an agonizing groan.
Shit!
He flips the creature and lands it hard on its back. Its face holds a lavender hue, blue lips, unnatural bumps and lesions over its cheek and decomposed forehead.
The boy pummels its malformed face. He digs his knife into the eye of the beast, over and over until it ceases to writhe beneath him.
He jumps up and cleans his blade against the soft trunk of a maple with two easy swipes.
The creature sizzles. Its ragged clothes engulf in flames quick as a grassfire before extinguishing in a ball of smoke.
“What’s happening?” I pant.
“Don’t you know?” He replaces the knife in his back pocket. The hard line of his jaw pops as he suppresses a smile. “They’re biodegradable.” A rumble of laughter trembles out of him. He comes over and cradles the side of my face with his open palm, observes me as though he were a doctor. “You okay?” A stream of light falls over him, amplifying the fact he’s alarmingly handsome: tall with sandy hair and eyes the color of a lifeless sky.
“I’m fine.” I want to say. I don’t know where the hell I am, but I think there are more pressing matters than my lack of topographical orientation. “What was that?”
His brows knit together. He leans in to inspect me, skeptical that I even had to ask.
“What’s your name?” he asks, wiping the dirt off his jeans.
“Laken Stewart.” I grab him by the arm—feel his warm flesh come to life beneath my fingers. “Where am I?” I’ve never been a hundred miles from where I was born. Hell, I’ve never left Kansas. For sure, I’ve never seen a forest this dense, let alone barreled through it with my life on the line.
“Ephemeral.” He dips into me with his gaze. “Connecticut,” he adds with a touch of sarcasm.
“Oh, my God,” I whisper in fright. “I think I’m lost.” I touch my fingers to my temple as an explosion of pain rips through me.
“Laken!”
In the distance a woman shouts my name.
“Looks like you’ve just been found.” He offers a reserved smile and holds my gaze a little longer than necessary before turning away.
There’s something intoxicating about this stranger, this earthly savior of mine, and a part of me wants to discover everything about him.
“Wait.” I catch him by the elbow. “What was that thing?”
He doesn’t say a word, just gazes at me perplexed and sorrowful.
“Laken?” The female voice spikes with agitation.
“I’d better go.” He takes a full step back. “Nice to meet you.”
“You saved me,” I say. He walks off into the fog until he disappears like an apparition. “Hey—what’s your name?” I shout after him, but he’s already vanished.
“Laken?” A raven-haired woman dressed in a power suit and heels snatches me by the wrist. “You need to keep out of the woods.” The words stream out of her like a death rattle. “Do you understand?” Her hair is slicked back in a knot, reflecting blue highlights as she moves. Her face is unearthly pale, her skin thin as paper, and I can see a track of blue veins around her eyes.
“Who are you?” I pull my hand back.
“It’s me, Laken—Ms. Paxton.” She offers a short-lived smile. “You need to get back to campus.” Her chest rises violently as she struggles to catch her breath. “Never venture outside of the academy.”
She guides me out of the oppressive forest onto a red brick path that rolls out toward a monolithic series of ivy-covered buildings. The landscape opens up in a fog-kissed world. Relief as wide as the ocean fills me as I escape those woods. I glance back into the curtain of darkness—the evergreens stand tall as a mountain, black as iron, and a shiver of fear grips me.
“Your uncle requested you meet up with your brother tonight.”
“My brother?” Fletcher died over a year ago, along with Wes, the only boy I ever loved. They drank their way into oblivion before taking a fatal swim in the lake.
“Yes, your brother.” It strangles out of her. “Do you think this is funny?”
“No.” I rub my arms. “I—”
She shoves a yellow student card at me. “You dropped this on your little jaunt in the woods.”
Laken Anderson—right face, wrong name. Issue date September 4th. Junior, Ephemeral Academy.
“Ephemeral.” I test the word out on my tongue. I stare at the student card, confused as to what it might mean.
“You’re a resident in Austen House.” Her lips twist with pride as if she procured the living quarters for me herself. “I realize how overwhelming your first day must be. Your sister is the dorm mother. She’s been waiting to orient you all afternoon.”
“My sister?” I have two. Jen is studying abroad her second year of college, and Lacey. The epicenter of Lacey’s world is plundering all my free time to help plan for her epic tenth birthday party. I love Lacey. I couldn’t love her more if I had her myself.
“Jen—your sister, Jen.” Ms. Paxton nods in frustration. Her eyes widen with horror as she circles over me with an epiphany. “I have to go.” She darts down the road in the opposite direction.
“Wait!” I call out as she evaporates in the evening shadows.
I don’t have a brother anymore.
I don’t have an uncle.
My mother is a drunk, and my sister, Jen, left the country first chance she got. I’m from Cider Plains, Kansas. I live in a dilapidated bungalow that belonged to my grandmother, which is haunted by her pissed-off ghost and the curse she bestowed upon us before she hung herself from the rafters.
My last name is Stewart, not Anderson. After I shot through the windshield, a tall radiant being declared it was not my time. He placed a hand the size of a catcher’s mitt over my face and submerged me back onto the planet.
I know for a fact I died on July 13th, the day before my cheating boyfriend’s seventeenth birthday. According to this I.D., two calendar months have dissolved without my knowledge. Here I am—same body, different name.
All I really want to know is what the hell is going on.


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