THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: THE ORANGE MOON AFFAIR (A Thomas Gunn Thriller), AFN CLARKE {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of THE ORANGE MOON AFFAIR (A Thomas Gunn Thriller)

The Orange Moon Affair - by the bestselling author of CONTACT - is the first book of a compelling new thriller series, an action-packed conspiracy with a hero and heroine you hold your breath for. If you enjoy the action of Robert Ludlum, the intensity of Brad Thor and the international intrigue of Daniel Silva, then this book’s for you!

Ex-British Special Forces soldier Thomas Gunn is drawn back into his old life of international intrigue and danger following the murder of his billionaire father. The deeper he digs the more complicated the puzzle becomes until he finds himself working for MI5 uncovering a global conspiracy that puts the freedom of the western world at grave risk. His unlikely accomplice becomes his girlfriend Julie who constantly surprises him with her loyalty, insight and abilities and whose actions directly affect the outcome of the plot in a significant and unexpected way.

While traversing the globe being shot at, shot down and losing loved ones – a haunting question tears at his soul – was his father really at the heart of this evil conspiracy? Or was he a pawn in a larger more insidious game that even he could not control?

Seeking the final answer could cost Thomas dearly, ripping from him all that he most loves and cherishes and leaving him questioning his past, his future and what kind of person he is or wants to become. The final outcome depends on him. Or does it?

As a former Captain of Britain’s elite Parachute Regiment and son of an MI6 operative the author brings his own unique and eye-opening experiences to the character and exploits of Thomas Gunn, as well as an unsettling blurring of the lines between fiction and reality when exploring the ruthless abuse of power and position for personal gain.

Don’t miss the book trailer:
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AFN Clarke is the author of the bestseller Contact as well as CollisionsAn Unquiet AmericanDry TortugasThe Book of Baker Satire Series (Dreams from the Death Age; Armageddon; Genesis Revisited) and The Orange Moon Affair, the first of the Thomas Gunn series with more coming soon. Please visit afnclarke.com for more information and to leave your email address for further updates.  Deep appreciation for any reviews you post for this or other AFN Clarke books.

 

Accolades:

Brian 5 stars.
The Orange Moon Affair is a suspenseful cloak and dagger thriller. The book is well-written, containing unforeseen twists and turns as well as characters you find yourself cheering for. It is the first in a series of novels featuring Thomas Gunn. I look forward to those works as I really enjoyed this story very much. 

5 Stars Ric Down. Absolutely magnificent. 
AFN Clarke is a writer who can really pull you into a story. Is it his writing style? Is it his characters? Is it his captivating plot? Whatever, it grabs you by the collar and never lets you go until the end.

Thomas Gunn looks to be a runaway success as a character and hero, and with it being just part 1 of a series, it could be mega. It has “make me into a movie” written all across it, and you can’t help wondering if its just a question of when not if it happens. Clarke is one talented writer, and I already await his next novel.

4 Stars, giri. The pacing and weaving of the story is marvelous.
The author does a good job of slowly twisting and revealing just enough of the story to keep you wanting to learn more about the main character Thomas Gunn and how he has got himself and girlfriend Julie into such a difficult situation. 

The intensity of the action also compels you to read on. Mr. Clarke manages to make the stakes high, then raises them further. This is a master storyteller at work who keeps your adrenaline pumping along much of the whole way. I was not surprised to learn he is already a Best Seller author through his earlier novel Contact.

Reviews:

THE ORANGE MOON AFFAIR (A Thomas Gunn Thriller) currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.7 stars from 39 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from THE ORANGE MOON AFFAIR (A Thomas Gunn Thriller):

THE ORANGE MOON AFFAIR by AFN CLARKE
In Memory of my Brother-in-Arms, Terry Forrestal

© 2013 by AFN Clarke. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author and publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. All characters appearing in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This eBook edition published by Clarke-Books LLC in 2013. ISBN: 978-1-938611-12-4

ONE

Mojave Desert – October 2012

Flying a helicopter requires a clear mind, concentration, balance and a delicate touch.
Flying a helicopter you are unfamiliar with, in the dark, with two nasty bullet wounds in a body that has not slept in thirty hours, is an exercise in surreal survival. I had ten hours flight time in this model MD 902 Explorer, so it wasn’t total guesswork.
I made sure Julie was strapped in tightly and flipped on the switches. There wouldn’t be enough time to sit and let the engines warm up completely. We needed to get airborne before the local police showed up. In the distance beyond the factory building, where the car exploded in the arroyo, a pall of smoke billowed into the moon lit night sky.
Once I got the machine off the ground, stabilised and then flying on the heading Danny had given me, I asked Julie to call him and write down the co-ordinates of the destination, then talked her through entering the figures into the GPS navigation system while I concentrated on the instruments. All I had to do was make sure I didn’t hit anything flying at an altitude of fifty feet across the desert, following the route on the EFIS from Mojave to Desert Rock airstrip, wherever the hell that was in the vast expanse of the Nevada desert.
As we flew, the rising sun glimmered just below the horizon to our left. Dark sky turning light blue just before the sun appeared as an orange-white ball throwing shadows across the desert. The distant terrain rose in craggy rock mountains, rising ever higher to about five thousand feet, and I had to fly the aircraft through the narrow gorges maintaining the pretence of a special operations training flight at ultra-low level.
“Can you see if there are any sunglasses in the side pocket,” I asked Julie, feeling my left arm begin to stiffen.
“Here you go.” Her voice sounded strangely distorted in my headphones. Or perhaps it was just my mind beginning to shut down as my body leaked valuable blood onto the seat from the wound in my side.
“Thanks.” I tightened the lock on the collective and flexed my left arm, ignoring the pain, just trying to get some feeling back into it.
Estimated flight time was just under an hour and a half, and I wasn’t confident of being able to last that long.
“I’m sorry I got you into this,” I said stupidly, as if what I said would make any difference.
“I could have said no.”
“But you didn’t.”
“Nope. Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t.”
“Did you get the bug into the computer before they ambushed us?”
“I did.”
“Well at least one of us accomplished something today. How’s your head?”
“Hurts like hell. How’s your…?” she paused looking across at me. “Everything?” She laughed. A desperate sound hurled against a bleak outlook.
We hurt more than either of us could describe.
We didn’t know what the future held for us, but we laughed anyway as the sun rose across the desert, and I banked the helicopter into the first of the rising mountain ravines.
After an hour throwing the helicopter through the narrow canyons and rocky gorges, I could feel my strength and concentration ebbing slowly away. But that seemed inconsequential in the surreal experience that was the excuse for reality.
Julie massaged her temples, and when she spoke her speech was slow and slurred. I knew she was concussed and slipping into shock.
By ‘red-lining’ the helicopters engines I could force more speed, but as the sun came up the temperature would rise, and everything could go very wrong very quickly.
But there was no choice.
I inched up the collective, dropped the nose and advanced the throttle a touch, watching the gauges creep toward the danger zone.
Waves of nausea blurred my vision, so I used the only tool I had to sharpen my mind.
Pain.
By wriggling in the seat I could press against the wound in my lower abdomen, not too much, but enough pain to sting my sagging consciousness into wakeful concentration. Now was not the time to sink into peaceful, blissful oblivion. I had a precious cargo to deliver, a woman I loved more than my own life.
At any other time, flying low level through the desert canyons as the sun rose above the horizon, would have been an extraordinary experience. One of those almost vivid adventures that stays in the memory forever. But I wanted this experience to be over as soon as possible.
Every part of my body and soul willed the airstrip into view.
Flying is a slow inevitability.
You know you’re going to get there, and yet the more desperate you are to arrive, the more time drags.
Another rising ridge after fifteen minutes of undulating desert, and the sweat dripped down my face, arms and back, seeping into the wounds and causing more pain as my body salts stung raw flesh. I glanced quickly at Julie who sagged forward against the seat harness, semi-conscious, head flopping as the helicopter rose, fell, and banked through the ravines. I just wanted to take her in my arms, hold her and tell her everything was going to be fine, but now was not the time to drift into sentimentality, there was still the task of getting this machine on the ground.
The gauges swam in front of my eyes as I struggled to pick out the speed dial. That and the vertical speed indicator were my guides as we crested the ridge and Desert Rock airstrip lay in front of us just beyond a dry lake bed.
Was it a lakebed or a mirage?
I dropped the collective and pulled back slowly on the cyclic, slowing the aircraft down, establishing an approach to the runway. The speed bled off and I nosed down a little to keep the aircraft’s forward speed at forty knots, but my eyes refused to focus properly, and darkness appeared at the corners of my vision as if I was looking through a telescope at an image that kept getting smaller. No matter what my mind was telling my body it wasn’t responding, running out of blood and slowly shutting down.
But not before I got this machine on the ground.
Only a few more feet.
Maybe twenty-five, maybe thirty-five, maybe….
I didn’t know anymore.
Then I saw the FIM-92 Stinger ground-to-air missile spearing up toward us from a far ridge.
My reactions were slow and for a fatal moment I watched the white smoky trail from the rocket motor arc its way through the sky. I pulled on the collective and kicked the anti-torque pedals to port, almost escaping the oncoming death, but the rocket slammed into the tail boom.
The earth spun in a lazy arc as the helicopter arched over backwards at fifty feet above the rocky desert as I lost control, spiralling to the ground, pieces flying in all directions, the only section remaining relatively intact being the forward cockpit, saved because the main rotor head deflected the impact.
There was no pain, just a smashing, grinding, splintering sound. I felt a violent lurch as my head slammed into the side door, then silence. Almost lying on top of me, held by her seat harness, Julie stared into my eyes, blood dripping from her nose and ears, trying to speak.
“Julie,” I gasped trying to reach up and touch her face, but my arm wouldn’t move.
Car engine noises.
Voices.
I was struggling with consciousness.
With reality.
Where was I? What had happened? I didn’t know.
Images from the past flashed through my mind.
My father’s dead face.
Julie naked on the catamaran.
Julie. My Julie.
Then nothing.

TWO

Belfast – Six Weeks Earlier

It was an odd experience to look down on the dead face of the man who had once been my father. Not that I was unfamiliar with seeing dead bodies, I’d seen too many in my previous job, it’s just that I never expected I would be staring at him.
A single shot to the forehead had killed him instantly.

 

THE ORANGE MOON AFFAIR (A Thomas Gunn Thriller) is available for purchase at:

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

 

Connect with AFN CLARKE:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AFNClarke

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AFNClarkeInc?fref=ts

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: When Lightning Strikes (Whiskey Creek), Brenda Novak {$1.99}

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Description of When Lightning Strikes (Whiskey Creek):

Simon O’Neal’s causing trouble again. And it’s up to Gail DeMarco to stop him.

Gail DeMarco left Whiskey Creek, California, to make a name for herself in Los Angeles. Her PR firm has accumulated a roster of A-list clients, including the biggest box office hit of all—sexy and unpredictable Simon O’Neal. But Simon, who’s just been through a turbulent divorce, is so busy self-destructing he won’t listen to anything she says. She drops him from her list—and he retaliates by taking the rest of her clients with him.

Desperate to save her company, Gail has to humble herself by making a deal with Simon. The one thing he wants is custody of his son, but that’s going to require a whole new image. He needs to marry some squeaky-clean girl who’ll drag him off to some small, obscure place like Whiskey Creek….

Gail’s the only one he can trust. She agrees to become his wife—reluctantly. But she isn’t reluctant because he’s too hard to like. It’s because he’s too hard not to love!

 

Accolades:

National Reader’s Choice Finalist!
Write Touch Reader’s Award Finalist!
Book Buyer’s Best Finalist!

“Brenda Novak is always a joy to read–and never more than with this new series!” #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Debbie Macomber

“A rare treat! Brenda Novak draws you in from the first page!”
#1 New York Times Bestselling Author Barbara Freethy

 

Amazon Reader Reviews:

When Lightning Strikes (Whiskey Creek) currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.6 stars, with 72 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

When Lightning Strikes (Whiskey Creek) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $1.99


Excerpt from Of When Lightning Strikes (Whiskey Creek):

Simon spotted Gail almost immediately. In a sea of silicone, Botox and spray tans, she stood out. Maybe it was her chest, flat by L.A. standards, the severe cut of her business suit with its starched white shirt or the stubborn set to her jaw. Or maybe it was her general disdain for the Hollywood crowd and her unwillingness to dress up and join the fun.
Regardless, Simon had always liked the fact that she wasn’t an adoring fan—almost as much as he hated it. One would think she’d at least try to blend in, if she was going to crash the party. He was fairly certain she hadn’t received an invitation.
“What’s wrong?”
He jerked his gaze back to the stunning blonde sitting in the booth next to him. A “hot yoga” instructor he’d met through a friend, her name was Sunny Something and she was smarter than the stereotype her short skirt and low-cut blouse brought to mind. She was a nice person, too. But he was bored. These days the women he socialized with seemed almost interchangeable.
“Nothing.” He tossed back the rest of his drink. “Why?”
She angled her head to be able to see where he’d been looking but skimmed right over Gail. She probably couldn’t imagine such a nondescript woman being of any consequence to him. If not for the guilt that plagued him, he probably wouldn’t have given Gail a second thought. When he’d told Ian Callister, his business manager, that he wished she’d go broke and return to the small town she called home, he hadn’t meant it literally. He’d been drunk when he made that statement. But Ian had decided to take revenge for the damage her defection had caused, and Simon had been preoccupied and angry enough to turn a blind eye to it. He hadn’t even asked what Ian was up to. Part of him figured Gail DeMarco deserved whatever she got. The other part didn’t see why Ian would go to too much trouble.
But just yesterday he’d learned that Ian had stripped her of almost every client.
“You were frowning,” Sunny said. “Is there someone here you’re not happy to see?”
“No,” he lied.
“What did you say?”
She couldn’t hear him for the music. He raised his voice. “Just getting tired, that’s all.”
“Tired? Already?” She offered him a pout. “It’s barely ten o’clock.”
His lack of interest was an insult to such a sought-after woman. He understood that. If he were a better man he’d pretend to be entertained, but he simply couldn’t fake it. Not tonight. He did enough acting when the cameras were rolling. Besides, he didn’t care if she moved on to someone more attentive. He’d been telling the truth when he said he was tired. He’d been tired since before he came, hadn’t slept in days. Every time his mind grew quiet, the regret that tortured him constantly swallowed him whole.
“Would you like another drink?” he asked.
She didn’t get a chance to answer. When Gail started making her way over, his attention shifted. She’d located him, as he knew she would. She was nothing if not focused. And it wasn’t as if he could disappear into the crowd. He was always the center of attention whether he wanted to be or not.
What would happen from here, however, was anyone’s guess. He’d never dreamed his ex-PR agent would have the moxie to show up at such an event, where he’d be surrounded by friends and supporters, not to mention the regular contingent of hangers on–people who were willing to kiss his ass regardless of what he did.
The girl had guts. He had to give her that.
“Simon?”
He gazed up at her from beneath his eyelashes, as if he was too lazy or intoxicated to move. Maybe his temper had sparked the conflagration that’d consumed her business, but he hadn’t intended for Ian to be quite so vindictive and didn’t want to take responsibility for it. Barring a few minor faults, Ian was a good manager. He’d certainly never done anything like this before. She could call Ian if she wanted to talk. It wasn’t as if she was entirely innocent; she’d vented her fury by making a series of unflattering statements that’d wound up in the press.
Maybe when Simon O’Neal grows up, he’ll realize that women are good for more than one thing….
Simon O’Neal is his own worst enemy. He hates himself in direct proportion to everyone else’s admiration. Why, is anyone’s guess. The guy’s had it all. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no excuse for his actions….
Maybe some people find him attractive. But I wouldn’t sleep with him if he were the last man on earth. There’s no telling what kind of disease he’s carrying….
There were others he couldn’t remember verbatim. A comment about him needing more therapy than even a fortune like his could support, as well another about him being a waste of God-given talent, a man without decency, a charming Dr. Jekyll on screen and an evil Mr. Hyde off….
“What can I do for you?” he replied, using the same overly polite tone with which she’d addressed him.
She lifted her chin. “Could I have a word with you, please?”
Was she crazy? He had no interest in walking off with her. “’Fraid not. Maybe you don’t remember, but we don’t have anything to discuss these days. And in case you haven’t noticed, I’m with someone.” He could feel Sunny’s interest in their exchange; she watched them but didn’t say anything.
Gail ignored her completely. “It’ll just take a minute.”
He flicked his hand, hoping she’d interpret the gesture for what it was—an indication that she should take herself off. “I’m busy.”
Unfortunately, she didn’t go anywhere. With a decisive tug on her tailored jacket, she cleared her throat. “Fine. We’ll talk here. I-I’d like to offer you an apology.”
He didn’t want an apology. People were beginning to stare, to realize she was the PR lady who’d dissed him so badly. Everyone would want to hear what she had to say; he should get rid of her as soon as possible. But she’d just offered him an opportunity to challenge the integrity she clung to like a battle shield, and he couldn’t resist.
“Are you saying you didn’t mean all the terrible things you said about me?” he drawled.
She couldn’t go quite that far. She hesitated while searching for words, eventually coming up with a response designed to placate without being overtly untruthful. “I shouldn’t have said them.”
Damn right she shouldn’t have said them! She’d drawn first blood. She’d been so sanctimonious while sitting on the throne of her PR empire that Ian had shown her just how vulnerable she was. It’d been tit for tat, no big deal. And as far as Simon was concerned, their little…disagreement was over.
“No problem. I’m willing to let bygones be bygones if you are,” he said. “Have a nice night.”
“That’s it?” Her blue eyes widened.
He slung an arm around his date, slouching into her so he’d look comfortable and cozy and unlikely to go anywhere. “Were you hoping for more?”
Her bottom lip quivered as tears filled her eyes.
Ah, shit.
“I was hoping that maybe you might—”
Jerry Russell, the director of his latest project, interrupted by walking up and bending to see into her face. “What’s going on here? You making the ladies cry already, Simon?”
“You got trouble, Simon?” someone else piped up, and that was all it took to send a murmur through the crowd that made everyone turn toward him.
Tears rolled down Gail’s cheeks. He could tell she was trying to hold back but that only seemed to make matters worse. She was emotionally strung out and under scrutiny….
He had to get her out of here before he wound up on the front page of the tabloids yet again. One picture of her sorrowful face and some stupid paparazzi would report that he’d purposely and vengefully acted to destroy her: Box Office Hit Simon O’Neal Sends Small Town PR Girl Packing. Which, thanks to Ian, was close enough to the truth that he wouldn’t even be able to fight it.
He couldn’t afford to give his ex-wife any more fodder for the bitter war she was waging. If he didn’t clean up his act he’d never gain custody of his son. The judge had been very firm about that.
“No trouble,” he said with a reassuring smile and, telling Sunny he’d be right back, slid out of the booth. “It’s damn hot in here. I think we’ll get some air.”
Taking Gail’s hand, to throw any curious onlookers off the scent of a possible disagreement, he led her at a measured pace, nodding and exchanging greetings as they passed through the crowd to an expensively appointed back room, one that’d been designated for his use. No one ever specified what such a room was for because it was for anything he wanted. He could do drugs in here, have sex, throw a smaller, more private party…whatever.
He’d never been more grateful for it than now.
“What were you thinking coming here?” he growled as soon as he closed the door securely behind them. “And for the love of God would you stop crying?”
She dashed a hand across her face. “I’m sorry. I…I’m embarrassed, but…I can’t seem to help it.”
Tears made him feel inadequate. Especially coming from her. She’d always been so composed. “Try harder.”
“Thanks for the empathy,” she ground out.
Partially so he wouldn’t have to look at her, he crossed the room and poured a glass of champagne from the bottle that’d been left on ice, then pressed it into her hands. “Here, maybe this will help.”
“I don’t drink.”
He grimaced. “One of the many reasons I don’t like you. Drink it anyway.”
She downed it as if it was mere water and the resulting coughing fit distracted her enough that she was able to shut off the waterworks.
“So what is it you want from me?” he asked. “How do I make this…go away?”
The shrewdness in her eyes returned. “You mean me? How do you make me go away?”
After taking a second to think about it, he shrugged. “Basically, yeah.”
“You can say that so nonchalantly after destroying my business?”
He considered explaining that he hadn’t been as actively involved as she might imagine, but didn’t bother. He doubted she’d believe him, anyway. “You need money, is that it?”
“No! I want my old clients back. And not for my sake–well, not entirely. The way things sit right now, I’ll have to let my employees go, and…they need their jobs.”
Her situation was that dire? Already? He was going to kill Ian. Why’d he have to take it so damn far? “Fine. I’ll see what I can do to reverse the damage. Call me next week. Good enough? Will you go home now and…watch TV or reorganize your cupboards or whatever exciting thing such a fastidious person does in her spare time? Maybe you can go online and look for a dress that would be appropriate for a party such as this.”
He could tell she was tempted to land a good jab of her own. He knew she was capable of it. But held her tongue. With a sniff and a nod, she handed him the glass he’d provided and started to leave.
“And Gail?”
She glanced over her shoulder.
“I don’t have a disease, sexually transmitted or otherwise.”
At least she had the decency to blush. “Sorry,” she muttered and slipped out.

 

When Lightning Strikes (Whiskey Creek) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $1.99


Connect with Brenda Novak:

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Jake (California Dreamy), Rian Kelley {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Rian Kelley’s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description:

Red-Hot and Ready!
Ivy has been too good for too long,
so when wickedly hot, but by-the-book
Marine Lieutenant Jake finds
her stranded on the side of the
road, she decides giving into temptation
is exactly what she needs.
But will they burn as brightly outside
the bedroom?

 

Accolade:

5 Stars on Amazon!

This review is from: Jake (California Dreamy) (Kindle Edition)
Wow! Hot and steamy. The romance was fantastic. The story line was good .It fit together nicely and made for enjoyable reading.

This review is from: Jake (California Dreamy) (Kindle Edition)
Really great book. It has a really great story line & that’s what I love. Absolutely great!!! Highly recommended. Great!!!!

This review is from: Jake (California Dreamy) (Kindle Edition)
I have to admit, I’m a sucker for strong military men, and Jake fits that to a T! I wish he was my boyfriend, and I can’t wait to check out more books in this series!

This review is from: Jake (California Dreamy) (Kindle Edition)
This is a sexy story and this author has just become a new favorite.
I can’t wait to read the next book.

This review is from: Jake (California Dreamy) (Kindle Edition)
I loved this story. Jake was the perfect hero. A few flaws but hardly noticeable when you looked at the whole picture. The heroine had a good brain in her head and a backbone. They had a few issues to work thru but they did so. Their connection could be felt through the page. I love this kind of story. A man and a woman and their coming together. Perfect. I highly recommend. Jake will be one of my favorite heroes. Great read. Give it time because you won’t be able to put it down until you finish it. Loved it.

This review is from: Jake (California Dreamy) (Kindle Edition)
Can’t wait til the continuation of Jake and Ivy.

We all want to fall in love at first site and this books lets that happen for us. Ms. Kelley hits
the nail on the head. Nice to read about a couple who don’t start out hating each other like most romance books do. Ivy and Jake take us with them on their whirlwind romance and we develop a vested interest in what’s going to happen next with them.

I look forward with anticipation for Ms. Kelley’s next book.

Easy read with a page turning storyline. You did good Ms. Kelley!


Amazon Reader Reviews:

Jake (California Dreamy) currently has an Amazon Reader Review rating of 4.5 stars, with 29 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from Jake (California Dreamy):

Chapter One

The road was dusty and potted and sure enough the bald tires on her Jeep Patriot weren’t up to the challenge. Ivy heard the pop before the steering wheel jerked in her hands and pulled the car left, into on-coming traffic—if there was any. But her luck was running in negative numbers lately. She was on a desolate stretch of state road, between islands of civilization, with a cell phone that had a weak battery.
She pumped the brakes and wrestled with the steering wheel. As the car slowed, the wind through the open windows calmed enough that she could hear the crunch of gravel under her tires. She coasted to a stop on the shoulder, then pried her fingers loose and flipped on the emergency flashers.
She had no spare. She’d loaned it to her neighbor, who was in thicker dire straits than Ivy.
But she had a can of Repair! that promised to re-inflate tires and keep them going fifty-plus miles; she had flares, a marker and cardboard she could rip off a box in the back and make into a distress sign if the ‘miracle in a can’ didn’t work.
This was not her first emergency; just the latest in what seemed like a lifetime of living
on the edge, waiting for the next round to begin.
She pulled her purse into her lap and rummaged through it for her cell phone, a Blackberry more than four years old and dropped so many times the red veneer had chipped off around the edges.
Cell phones were a luxury. As were movie rentals and pedicures, her morning frappuccinos and shoes priced over forty dollars. She’d given up a lot over the past nineteen months. She had no regrets about it. Not even now.
Although tires were not an excess, two repairs in a single month was more than her budget could sustain. She’d had to choose between those and a tune up. A fifty-fifty gamble she’d just lost.
She pressed her thumb to the ball on her phone and the screen lit up. Then faded. Before it went black, Ivy noted the red x over the tower icon and the complete absence of reception bars. Even if her phone was capable of a full charge, it would be of no use to her here.
She climbed out of the car and into a dry wind that plastered her cotton skirt to her bottom and legs. Long, supple legs. She’d given up her membership to a fancy gym and purchased a pair of running shoes. That was one of her better decisions. She felt stronger than ever, had shed the eight pounds she hadn’t been able to chisel away before hitting the pavement, and her mind was a lot clearer, too. She loved a landslide win. The thought of it made her smile, which instantly covered her teeth in grit.
The desert. August. Sand and wind and plenty of both. Ivy had trouble remembering that. She made this drive twice a month, without fail, but the sharp air and the unrelenting sun, which dried everything to tinder, was always on the outside. It was three hundred and thirty miles from San Diego to Las Vegas and Ivy did it in one long stretch, fueling up before departure, loading up on water and fresh fruit. She did the same for the trip back. There was nothing worth pausing over out here. Not a lick of green in the landscape. No scent of salt in the wind.
Ivy loved San Diego, even if living there meant a five hundred square foot studio apartment and street parking. All she had to do was throw open her windows and inhale. She was less than a block from the Bay and just a short sprint from the boardwalk and the beach. When she wasn’t working late or already outside running, she perched in one of the windows and watched the sun slip through its palette of colors before disappearing into the sea. Nothing beat that.
She walked around the car, stood at the hood and noted its unnatural leaning. The wind pulled her hair into long streamers, the sun catching the red highlights. She was dark where her sister was light. Ivy had taken her coloring from her father, who was born in Mexicali. She’d gotten her bone structure from him, too, with broad cheeks and full lips and a straight nose that flared slightly. Of course, she had only her mother’s word on that—Ivy’s father left long before she’d developed any meaningful memories of him.
She took a step back and bent slightly at the waist to examine the extent of the damage.
Front tire, driver’s side. She’d known that before getting out. But the tire was a goner. It had already started to shred, rubber peeling away from the rim. Not good news.
She didn’t panic. She was a pro, now, at handling crisis situations. At saving herself. She’d had to do it at thirteen, when her mother, in one of her drunken stupors, had set fire to their home, and again at twenty-two, when she’d walked away from an abusive marriage. A blown tire in the middle of nowhere was an inconvenience. It wasn’t life-threatening.
Ivy lifted her chin and propped her hands on her hips. The wind blew drifts of sand over the hood and roof of the car, coating the black paint and the windshield. She felt it in her hair and knew she probably had a fine dusting of pale over mahogany. She gazed beyond the car, but there was no traffic coming from the west. She turned and looked east, the way she’d come. Nothing.
She had taken this two lane interchange on purpose. Less traffic meant swifter travel. She worked Sunday evenings at a job doing what she loved—respiratory therapist. Nights on the pod, as they called it, were no less busy than her days on the acute care unit at Children’s Hospital, but there was a hushed quality to them that soothed her. She worked a twelve hour shift, seven to seven, checking ventilators and coaching children through coughing and breathing exercises.
It was rewarding. And it had given Ivy her first flush of personal value.
She didn’t want to be late. At ten after four in the afternoon, that gave her an hour to get help and get on her way and almost two hours to finish the drive.
So she would slip out of her sandals and into her running shoes and trek however many miles to a call box. In California, that could be as much as seven miles. She’d run five that morning.
Ivy opened the back hatch of the car and pulled the cardboard box toward her. She kept supplies in here—oil, coolant, jumper cables, a flashlight. She tore off a flap and then searched for a black Sharpie, which she found pushed to the back of the glove compartment. ‘Call police,’ she wrote in big block letters and then taped the sign to the back window. Next, she wrote a note on the back of a grocery receipt: ‘Walking west to call box.’ She slipped this on the dash, in front of the steering wheel, and then dug her running shoes out of her bag in the back seat.
Running was a privilege. Holly wasn’t able to, not yet. Her sister, who had run track in high school—mostly so that she had a reason to be out of the house—and then spent the past ten years competing in long distance races and always placed, was no longer able to run. She was still relearning to walk. Ivy blinked away the first sheen of tears before they could overwhelm her. Holly had worked relentlessly for the past nineteen months to get her mobility back, and yesterday the doctor had said that she was at the halfway point. He’d said that three months ago, too. He’d warned them from the beginning that Holly could hit a brick wall anywhere along the way. It was inevitable. And Ivy worried that maybe that time was now.
Ivy was in the car with Holly the night their lives had changed forever again. She remembered everything about the crash. How they had left the restaurant laughing and it had felt so good after such a long silence—Ivy’s fault for refusing to speak to her sister for nearly three years. They had gotten on the freeway, determined to catch the sunset while sitting on the beach sipping margaritas. A celebration and a promise not to let anything—or anyone—come between them again.
And then, in the gathering dusk, a car had come barreling toward them. The wrong way on the freeway. Ivy remembered seeing the flashing bar of police lights behind it. And how those colors had seemed to merge and shatter on impact. But she never lost consciousness. For a few moments, while her mind and body absorbed the shock of the crash, all had gone dark. But she was still able to hear—Holly’s gasps shuddering into a low groan and then into silence.
She had used her medical training to keep her sister alive while the police fluttered around her peripheral, offering help, following Ivy’s instructions. Then the wail of the siren as the paramedics arrived.
Ivy had broken her wrist. Her sister had lost her leg, above the knee, and had broken several bones including a vertebrae and femur.
They rode to the hospital together inside an ambulance that rocked through sharp turns and gathered darkness as the sun set and her sister’s conditioned worsened.
When they were kids, Ivy had been all about Holly. She was her big sister by two years and Ivy wanted to do everything she did. Holly had tolerated it well. As teens, the tables turned and it was Holly who spent much of her time looking out for Ivy. Nothing like a dysfunctional family life to pull siblings together—and then eventually tear them apart. Ivy had allowed all those insecurities that were planted by the experience of never being good enough to command their mother’s attention or to deserve the presence of a father, whittle away any shred of self-confidence or value.
After high school, Holly had tried to take Ivy with her. Her sister had received a scholarship to UC Berkeley. California. A fresh start, leaving a dripping Oregon behind and the damp, shadowed mobile home where they had lived with their sometimes sober mother. Her sister was willing to work nights—every night—waitressing, and attend school full time as well, if it meant Ivy was with her and safe.
But Ivy had other ideas, and they all revolved around Trace Patrick. She was in love and so sure of it, at the age of sixteen she’d accepted his proposal, declared herself emancipated and finished high school—because Trace’s parents had insisted—with an engagement ring on her finger. Instead of donning cap and gown, she and Trace had climbed into his shiny blue Ford 150 and shot over back streets and down the thin ribbon of highway all the way to the coast and gotten married, with two strangers as their witnesses.
Ivy had worn a pair of blue jeans, split at the knee, and a red t-shirt with their school mascot holding a baseball bat and with the number four printed on the back—Trace was the state’s top homerun hitter and a killer first baseman with only two steals his entire four years.
They had left the next morning for Arizona, where Trace had been placed by the San Diego Padres. He’d made it to their farm team. A place where he would bulk up and perfect his swing. Only that never happened. And Trace, who had been so full of dreams he’d seemed to float—the very trait that Ivy had needed in her life—came crashing down.
He’d taken Ivy with her. And the only swing he’d improved upon was his left hook. He brawled at the bars and he brought it home afterwards. It took Ivy four years to find her way out.
Ivy had made mistakes. More than a few. Some more serious than others. But she’d fixed what she could and put to rest what she couldn’t. And there was no looking back.
Holly insisted she didn’t. Not even now. Nineteen months after the crash, her sister was still using a cane. The doctors had expected much less of her. They had said that she would never recover full mobility. That she may never do more than sit upright. But they didn’t know Holly, or Ivy, or the circumstance in which they were raised.
The Warner girls were not quitters.
They didn’t run away from their problems—not anymore—they ran toward them.
Holly would walk again, under her own steam. She would run again, with a new
hydraulic leg crafted specially for her. And Ivy would be there with her. For now, it had to be every other weekend. But she hoped that would change. That Holly would finally agree to move west.
Ivy pulled a pair of socks out of the bag, along with a pair of shorts and her runner’s bra. If she ran to the call box, it would cut off a good chunk of time. She stood inside the open car door for a little modesty, dropped her sneakers on the blacktop, and slipped off her sandals. She shimmied into the shorts and then rolled her skirt down to her ankles and off in a single, economical movement. Ivy was a doer. She didn’t like feeling swamped by a problem and knew life was in the solution. She was living proof of that.
She sat down on the edge of the seat and pushed her feet into socks and then shoes and started lacing up. If the call box was close enough, she might even have time for a quick dinner before her shift started. A shower, too.
“Ma’am.”
She was so engrossed in carrying out her plan that she didn’t hear the approaching car. Later, she would blame it on the wind that clapped in her ears. On the zone that she always slipped into whenever she became a woman of action, which is how she liked to think of it—whether she was running or pulling herself out of one of life’s nose dives.
Ivy dropped her hands, which had been gathering the hem of her shirt in order to pull it over her head, and looked up. Way up.
Six feet, broad shoulders, buzz cut. Probably a Marine.
That ribbon of thought was immediately followed by: rugged, like the man was cut out of
the dry, craggy hills that surrounded them; intense—his mouth was firm, lips thin, eyes a startling, clear shade of green-blue and focused relentlessly on her face.
Blond. Ivy had a weakness for blonds built like a god.
Of course, with her current work schedule and her history of poor relationships, she indulged only from a distance now.
Ivy placed a hand on the open door, and realized that she still held her bra, as white as a flag of surrender. She tossed it into the backseat behind her and ignored the flush of heat that swept up her neck and settled in her cheeks.
But he had noticed and a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. He was an imposing figure. Not just tall and broad, but cut. The muscles of his shoulders and pecs were clearly outlined by his t-shirt.
Her skin tingled and flushed with sensitivity. Even her nipples responded, puckering into beaded delight.
Ivy made herself blink—it was the only way to break the tension between them.
She wondered where it came from. The sudden awareness of him—his shape, his strength, the chiseled features—and her swift reaction to his everything male.
She never responded this way—so quickly and completely—especially to a stranger.
She thought: Wow. And it kept repeating, like ticker tape running through her head.
She stood and said, “It’s about time.” Thinking about all the scenarios in which she’d found herself over the years—wishing someone would send in the Marines—but with no one but herself to rely on, and not at all about the timing of his arrival. But her words irritated him. She could tell by the way his face tightened, his eyes became hooded.
He lifted his hands—strong, long, tapered fingers—and placed them on his hips. Narrow hips in snug denim. The move caused his biceps to bunch, the corded muscles in his forearms to ripple. And she noticed three things at once—a hot spear of need shot through her body; she was badly in need of some male attention; and them were fighting words.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” he returned, sarcasm slicing and dicing his words.

 

Jake (California Dreamy) is available for purchase at:

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


Connect with Rian Kelley:

Author Website: riankelley.blogspot.com

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Hostage in Havana (Cuban Trilogy, The), Noel Hynd {$2.99}

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Noel Hynds Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of Hostage in Havana (Cuban Trilogy, The):

From bestselling ABA author Noel Hynd comes this new series set against the backdrop of Havana, an explosive capital city of faded charm locked in the past and torn by political intrigue. U.S. Treasury Agent Alexandra LaDuca leaves her Manhattan home on an illegal mission to Cuba that could cost her everything. Accompanying her is the attractive but dangerous Paul Guarneri, a Cuban-born exile who lives in the gray areas of the law. Together, they plunge into subterfuge and danger. Without the support of the United States, Alex must navigate Cuban police, saboteurs, pro-Castro security forces, and an assassin who follows her from New York. Bullets fly as allies become traitors and enemies become unexpected friends. Alex, recovering from the tragic loss of her fiance a year before, reexamines faith and new love while taking readers on a fast-paced adventure. Readers of general market thrillers, such as John le Carre, David Baldacci, and Joel Rosenberg, will eagerly anticipate this first installment.

Noel Hynd has sold more than four million copies of his books throughout the world, including The Enemy Within and Flowers From Berlin. His most recent novel, Hostage in Havana, is the first book in the Cuban Trilogy starring Alexandria LaDuca. Hynd lives in Culver City, California.

Accolades:

Classic, inventive, well-written novel by Noel Hynd. This novel uses the same heroine as the Russian Trilogy and a few other characters from the Trilogy as well. As always, his novel is well-plotted and well written. The pages just keep flying by as you are led to the ironic climax. – 5 Stars


Amazon Reader Reviews:

Hostage in Havana (Cuban Trilogy, The) currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.3 stars from 22 reviews. Read the reviews here!

Hostage in Havana (Cuban Trilogy, The) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99

Also note that ALL of  of Noel Hynd’s individual titles for HarperCollins are on sale for $2.99 this week!

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: City of Beads (Tubby Dubonnet #2), Tony Dunbar {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of City of Beads (Tubby Dubonnet #2):

New Orleans lawyer Tubby Dubonnet is bored. He wants to bill enough hours to pay his alimony and keep his daughter in college, with enough left over for an occasional drink and a good meal, but he longs for something different and exciting.

When he’s offered a job researching the licensing requirements of the city’s new and lucrative gambling casino, he doesn’t care if he’s working for the Mob. Meanwhile, he becomes involved in executing the estate of an old friend who controls some dock leases on the wharf, and he agrees to help his daughter’s environmental group stop illegal dumping into the river.

As one might expect, the three cases curiously begin to converge: the toxic dumping, the dock leases, and the too-good-to-be-true casino job lead Tubby to the conclusion that he’s been set up to be the fall guy in an effort by the casino to expand its operations.

Suddenly Tubby is doing something different and exciting — he’s running for his life…

New Orleans-based attorney and writer Tony Dunbar is the Lillian Smith Book Award-winning author of books about Mississippi, Appalachia, migrant workers, and the Southern labor movement as well as the acclaimed Tubby Dubonnet mystery series.


Accolades:

“A charming guide to a side of New Orleans few see.” –Wes Lukowsky, Booklist

“Dunbar weaves together the many strands of his highly entertaining tale with much skill and wit, as well as some relaxed local color.” –Publishers Weekly

“A real work of mystery art.” —New Orleans Times-Picayune


Amazon Reader Reviews:

City of Beads (Tubby Dubonnet #2) currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.5 stars, with 8 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

City of Beads (Tubby Dubonnet #2) is available for purchase at:

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

 

Excerpt from City of Beads (Tubby Dubonnet #2):

Down by the river, Potter Aucoin was putting up a hell of a fight, but he was losing it quick.

He got in a solid clip on one of his attackers, right above the ear, with a rusty black iron jack handle. The man careened backward across the room and slammed against the wall, tipping over a filing cabinet. The other assailant, the smaller of the two but still linebacker size, leapt up behind Potter and wrapped his arms around him in a bear hug. He was blowing hot gusts of garlic into Potter’s face, yelling for his partner to get off the floor and help him.

Although he was pinned, Potter managed to jab the sharp end of the jack handle into a soft part of the man holding him from behind. It dug into flesh, high on the thigh. He did it again, and a painful howl roared out of the mouth by his cheek. Potter’s arms came free, but not soon enough. The beefy one on the floor, his yellow paisley tie tangled up in his blue polyester shirt, had stopped seeing stars and got up. His meaty fist was armored by an old-fashioned ring of aluminum knuckles, and it swung in a wild haymaker that landed hard on Potter’s forehead. Potter’s last picture of humanity was of a stranger’s face, the mouth knotted in rage, before blood covered his eyes. Then the view in Potter’s fading mind changed to a sandy blue seashore, and he collapsed with the taste of fresh mangoes and papayas on his tongue.

“Jesus Christ,” the man with the chain-link knuckles cursed as Potter slumped down into the arms of his gasping partner, just another stranger, who held the weight for a second, then let the limp sweaty body drop to the stained concrete floor.

He stepped back with a curse, and said something like a prayer, before he gave the limp and bleeding form a tentative kick.

“I think he’s dead,” he said.

“Ah, no,” the bigger man complained. “That shouldn’t have killed him. Good God almighty, what a mess.”

 

City of Beads (Tubby Dubonnet #2) is available for purchase at:

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

 

Connect with Tony Dunbar:

Author Website: www.booksbnimble.com

Author Facebook Page: facebook.com/booksbnimble

Twitter: @booksbnimble

KINDLE DAILY DEAL: Oliver Pötzsch’s Best-Selling Hangman’s Daughter” Series are Just $0.99 Each Today Only!

Today only, the Kindle editions of Oliver Pötzsch’s internationally best-selling “Hangman’s Daughter” historical thriller series are just $0.99 each, and the deluxe, hardcover version of “The Hangman’s Daughter” is 60% off.

The Hangman’s Daughter: Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play. So begins The Hangman’s Daughter–the chillingly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller from German television screenwriter, Oliver Pötzsch–a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan.

The Dark Monk: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale: THE ANTICIPATED FOLLOW-UP TO INTERNATIONAL BEST SELLER THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER

1660: Winter has settled thick over a sleepy village in the Bavarian Alps, ensuring every farmer and servant is indoors on the night a parish priest discovers he’s been poisoned. As numbness creeps up his body, he summons the last of his strength to scratch a cryptic sign in the frost.

Following a trail of riddles, hangman Jakob Kuisl; his headstrong daughter, Magdalena; and the town physician’s son team up with the priest’s aristocratic sister to investigate. What they uncover will lead them back to the Crusades, unlocking a troubled history of internal church politics and sending them on a chase for a treasure of the Knights Templar.

But they’re not the only ones after the legendary fortune. A team of dangerous and mysterious monks is always close behind, tracking their every move, speaking Latin in the shadows, giving off a strange, intoxicating scent. And to throw the hangman off their trail, they have ensured he is tasked with capturing a band of thieves roving the countryside attacking solitary travelers and spreading panic.

Delivering on the promise of his international best seller The Hangman’s Daughter, Oliver Pötzsch takes us on a whirlwind tour–once again based on prodigious historical research into his own family tree–through the occult hiding places of Bavaria’s ancient monasteries, bringing to life an unforgettable hangman and his tenacious daughter, painting a robust tableau of 17th-century Bavaria as it navigates the lasting impacts of war, and quickening our pulses with a gripping, mesmerizing mystery.

Click here to read more about and purchase both titles for $1.99* from Amazon

*Price goes back up to $9.99 tomorrow!

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Royal Dragoneers, M. R. Mathias {$3.33}

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Description of

The Royal Dragoneers:

The Royal Dragoneers was deemed one of the top indie fantasy releases of 2010 by Fantasy Book Critic, and was listed in the first ever Publishers Weekly Indie Select issue in Dec. 2010.  This 115k word dragon-fantasy is the first full length installment of The Dragoneers Saga.  The novella-length primer, The First Dragoneer, also by M. R. Mathias, is available FREE in the Amazon Kindle Store, for a limited time.

M. R. Mathias has several other titles available from Amazon as well.

The Royal Dragoneers

After struggling for more than two centuries to tame the inhospitable islands where they washed up, the descendants of the survivors of a lost passenger ship are now striving to tame a more substantial “Mainland” they have found.

For as long as mankind has been stranded, dragons have been their sworn enemies.

But no longer…

Sixteen year-old Jenka De Swasso wants nothing more than to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a King’s Ranger. But when he one day finds himself surrounded by vicious trolls, a young pure-blood dragon comes to his rescue and they become bond-mates.

Meanwhile, the goblins have a new king, Gravelbone, and have allied themselves with the tainted “mudged” dragons to drive mankind out of its lands. Setting his sights on a vast manmade wall, Gravelbone and his wicked hell-born Nightshade, seek to poison the entire human kingdom and enslave any survivors.

Jenka and his companion, a druida warrior named Zah, soon realize that they and their bonded dragons are mankind’s only hope for survival. Forced to defy their arrogant king’s wishes, the pair set out on a desperate quest to stop Gravelbone’s forces and save mankind from its terrifying fate.

With action so intense you’ll forget to breathe and intrigue around every corner, The Royal Dragoneers is one adventure you cannot miss.

Hold on to your dragon… your journey is about to begin!

 

Accolade:

5 stars - A Great YA Author and Trilogy

“This review applies to the entire trilogy of the Dragoneers, not just the first book. The series is a really good YA trilogy, with real characters who have real foibles, dreams, fears, desires, unkind thoughts and everything else that comprises the range of human emotion. There are no “Mary Sues” in this saga. The female characters are smart, strong and emotional; the male characters are confused, brave, and scared. They are all elated at the bond they share with their dragons and absolutely terrified of the alien menace that reveals itself gradually through all three books. There is no “magic bullet” or “super-mage” that comes along to make an end to the devastating problems faced by all characters (not just the Royal Dragoneers). The solutions come along gradually with trial and error; various other entities decide to help or not as the story unfolds. I would definitely recommend this series (and the short stories that accompany it) for anyone whose teens/young adults are looking for something other than vampires, magical solutions, or werewolves but still want to read good fantasy.”

 

Reviews:

The Royal Dragoneers currently has a customer review rating of 4 stars from 32 reviews. Read the reviews here.


The Royal Dragoneers is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $3.33!

 

An excerpt from The Royal Dragoneers:

“I’m going to give Jenka’s ears a look-see,” Zah told Linux, then went to her saddle pack to rummage for something.

“Keep watch till well past midnight, boys, then give Master Kember a shake,” Herald rumbled to Stick and Rikky, who were at the far edge of the illuminated, blue area. Then he made to turn in for the night. “If there comes a problem, don’t wake me,” he added with a nod of grudging respect at Zah’s back. “Wake that girl. Let her do with it.”

Jenka had to bite back a chuckle. He didn’t want anyone to know that he could hear just yet. He needed to think long and hard about everything he was learning about the dragons, the trolls, and the ways of men. It was hard to imagine that, not so long ago, his life’s entire focus had been narrowed down solely to his quest to become a Forester and then a King’s Ranger. Now he wasn’t sure what he wanted, or needed, to do.

Jenka looked up and smiled, as Zah eased up beside him. Her pale face shone blue in the magical fire’s steady light, and the triangle on her forehead glittered faintly with the reflection. When she whispered, “How are you feeling?” he acted like he hadn’t heard her.

Tenderly, she inspected his ears. Her fingers were soft and tickly on his neck, and he had to wiggle his shoulder when the sensation became too intense. He truly liked her touch. When she softly whispered to him, her warm breath found his skin and stirred his feelings on a whole other level.

“Thank you, Jenka De Swasso, for that chivalrous attempt to rescue me today. If you could hear me, I doubt I would be so bold with my heart, but the spark you have tendered in me is potent.” Her lips were so close to his temple that she might as well have been kissing him. “I have a feeling that the emotion might someday grow into an inferno and consume me. I know beyond a doubter’s shadow that I’m not the one for you. That is why I have to ignore my feelings. I must keep them to myself. There is too much at stake.” With that, she kissed his forehead softly, like a loving sister might, then went and curled up in her blankets near where Linux was quietly meditating.

After a short, confusing while, Jenka rose and joined Rikky and Stick, where they were posted at the edge of the weird blue-green fire’s light. “What happened to Solman and Mort?” he asked them quietly. “Where are they?”

“So you can hear again, then?” Rikky grinned with relief. “You’re a dimbuss, Jenk. You almost got charred up. You’re lucky Zah did that … that … that yellow thing.”

Jenka feigned a sharp whack at the younger hunter. Rikky ducked playfully. “I asked where Solman and Mort were, not for your thoughts on my foolishness, boy.” Jenka’s imitation of Master Kember was spot-on, but he was paling as he hunkered down between the other two.

“They rode off into the Strom,” Stick said, with a look at Jenka that, somehow, combined reverence with doubt and concern. “Are you all right? You don’t know how close you came today.” The odd light caused Stick’s eyes to contrast drastically with his dark skin.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jenka sighed. He knew that Solman was an expert woodsman and would be able to take care of himself if he hadn’t drowned. Mortin he wasn’t so sure about. Either way, he was fading quickly. He felt as if he had to rest now, and his body was demanding that he do just that. He lay back and closed his eyes, and immediately fell asleep on the turf. Rikky covered him with a blanket, and Jenka didn’t wake until nearly dawn when Master Kember started booting him in the side.

“If you’re drilling with the others, then get your arse a ‘moving, Jenk,” the old man said with another nudge of his boot-tip. “If not, then get your arse up and start saddling the horses!” Jenka didn’t move. “Rikky done told me you could hear again, so quit testing me.”

 

The Royal Dragoneers is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $3.33!

 

Connect with M. R. Mathias:

The Dragoneers Homepage

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Twitter

Chances, Jackie Collins {$7.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

From “Lucky” to “Lady Boss” to “Vendetta: Lucky’s Revenge” and “Dangerous Kiss”… Jackie Collins’ sizzling Lucky Santangelo saga all began with CHANCES.

The book that made Jackie Collins one of America’s favorite authors sweeps you from the sophisticated playgrounds of Europe to the glittering gambling palaces of Las Vegas.

It plunges you into the reckless, dangerous world of the Santangelo crime family. It introduces you to Gino Santangelo, the street kid who makes it all the way to the top.

And then brings you Lucky—his sensual, stunningly beautiful, and passionate daughter; a woman who dares to win her father’s empire for herself; a woman unafraid of taking… CHANCES.

What readers are saying:

5 Star Review – “Compelling, and out of this world, CHANCES is really a 10 star book. I will definitely be picking up the 2nd book in the Santangelo saga.  Bravo Ms. Collins!!”

The average Amazon reader review is currently 4.5 stars {53 reviews}.

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: INITIATION (Bonfire Academy Book One) (Bonfire Chronicles), Imogen Rose {$3.99}

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Description of INITIATION (Bonfire Academy Book One) (Bonfire Chronicles):

Welcome to Bonfire Academy!

Set in the foothills of the alpine mountains in St.Moritz, this exclusive private school caters to a special kind of student. Enter at your own risk… but if you are human, you may not want to enter at all.

WARNING: This YA story is set in a school for paranormals who are very different from normal human teens. Thus, the language and some scenes might not be appropriate for younger YA readers. Recommended for those sixteen and above.

INITIATION is the first book in the prequel series (Bonfire Academy) of the Bonfire Chronicles.

 

Accolade:

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” – Herman Melville. That one phrase changed my life, AND my perception of what people expected. So I wrote it down, in a little black book, and put it in my purse. Now, I can’t tell you exactly how many times I have read that 1 phrase since I wrote it down, but every time I read a book, and then bask in the brilliance of it’s originality I think of Herman and his wise advice. THEN…I think of the authors that exude this quality more than most. Imogen Rose is one of these authors. – KindleObsessed

Let me lay it out for you. This is a five star book. Period. Heck, I think nearly all of Imogen Rose’s books are five stars in my eyes so far. It’s kind of crazy. Did the author make a deal with the devil or something to get this level of pure talent or what? Or maybe one of these demons from this book? Hmmm… – Candy Beuchamp (Candy’s Raves)

Initiation is the irresistibly addictive, action-packed first book in the new prequel series to The Bonfire Chronicles. – Fiktshun

Paranormal fans are going to go insane when they read this cool tale, that is almost reminiscent of the Xmen school, but so much more. – Freda’s Voice

 

Amazon Reader Reviews:

INITIATION (Bonfire Academy Book One) (Bonfire Chronicles) currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.5 stars, with 36 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

Excerpt from INITIATION (Bonfire Academy Book One) (Bonfire Chronicles):

Chapter One

Trust No One. The wooden plaque hanging over the bed couldn’t be any more in-your-face. As if I could ever forget one of the three Golden Rules.

After I dumped my suitcase on the crisp burgundy comforter, I picked up the envelope I spotted lying on my pillow and sat down to check out my new room.

The room was much bigger than the one I had last year. It even had a breakfast table with two padded chairs–one of which I was sitting on–and a sofa bed for guests. Cool. That would come in handy for sleepovers. All the East Tower bedrooms, including mine, had been rebuilt after the fire. They had been restored to their previous condition, as if the fire had never happened. Whoever had been in charge of the restorations had even managed to replace the old burgundy towels. However, as I breathed in the air, I noticed that the old familiar smell had been replaced by a new one–the odor of newly painted walls, laced with a hint of orange from the freshly polished wood.

It was hard to believe that the entire wing had gone up in flames just three months ago. The rest of the school hadn’t escaped the fire and smoke damage either, causing Bonfire Academy to close its doors for the first time in its history.

Bonfire Academy, hidden in the outskirts of the luxury ski-resort town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, is an exclusive school for paranormal preparation. The small, but chic town caters to those who enjoy a champagne lifestyle. It’s legendary for being the playground of the rich and famous. So, naturally, the school caters to the offspring of the upper crust of paranormal society. The thorough vetting process and annual tuition costs make sure of that. Students come here from all over the world–and beyond.

After the fire, all of the students had to be sent home, apart from the newbie vampires, who were sequestered in the basement during the restoration. Apparently, that had been a total nightmare. Still, the fact that they were able to reopen in such a short time was amazing. I was glad to be back for my third year.

There would be plenty of new rules, of course. The twins had made sure of that. But Jacques and Mariel, the infamous twins, weren’t returning to the Academy. They had been legends long before they decided to turn the place into a giant firecracker. So after six years at the school, they had been crowned the first non-graduates ever.

I tore open the wax-sealed envelope embossed with the official BA insignia. Sliding out the parchment-like sheet, I read the handwritten note. It was a short message from the student council president asking me to come to his office. I had heard rumors that it was a guy this year, though the identity was kept a secret until the school year started. Anyhow, a meeting? Ugh. That couldn’t be good. A meeting with the president was so rare that most new students thought he was a myth made up by the school to keep us in line–an imaginary creature painted in colors of fear. I knew better, of course, but the thought still made me uncomfortable. Why would he want to see me?

I was beginning my third year at the Academy, a purely voluntary year reserved for self-development enrichment, where we were allowed to choose our own course of development. Many chose to mentor incoming students; others chose to spend a year further developing their skills. I wanted to concentrate on tennis. Plus, my boyfriend was staying on for another year, and I wanted to stay close to him.

I couldn’t for the life of me understand why the student council president had summoned me. Suddenly feeling a bit anxious, I stood and tried to get a handle on my churning emotions. Jeez, it was just another student, not a monster! And even if he was, he’d be no match for me, of that I was sure. So why did I feel sick? Maybe it was just something I ate on the plane.

I decided to check out the view through the window to calm my nerves. As usual, the snowcapped peaks of the breathtaking alpine mountains transported me to a place of peace and calm. I felt my stomach begin to relax, and I put my nose against the window, letting my breath form cloudy patches on the glass.

I looked down at the note again and decided I better just suck it up and get over there. The message had asked me to come as soon as I could. I twirled around for a quick once over in the mirror. If I was going to see the president, I better look presentable.

I didn’t look bad at all, and certainly not as though I had been traveling. Although, the trip from Paris in my dad’s private jet hadn’t exactly been tough. My straight blond hair, which I had highlighted with red streaks during the break, just needed a quick run-through with my fingers. After straightening my red-and-orange striped tie, I ran out and up the stone steps toward the student president’s room.

By the time I got there, my stomach had turned to mush again and was making the most embarrassing gurgling sounds. What the heck was wrong with me?

I just stood outside the metal door, my knuckles refusing to make contact. The pink-tipped nails of my right hand trembled as I willed my hand to knock. But I just couldn’t make it.

Five minutes later, I had come up with an awesome collection of reasonable excuses to ignore the note altogether–the top one being that I hadn’t seen it in the first place. Relieved and pleased with myself, I spun around to go back to my room.

I needn’t have bothered.

The door flew open, and my jaw dropped in shock. Goosebumps formed over my arms as a chill enveloped me. I looked up and stared into a pair of cold, silver-gray eyes.

I held his gaze, locking into it for an uncomfortably long time. My heartbeat quickened as I fought to maintain control, finally managing to disengage my eyes from his. I couldn’t help but notice the shine from his freakishly white hair, which bristled like spines atop his head. He arched his dark eyebrows and smiled, relaxing his angular features. I melted into his gorgeous eyes, which were framed in dark lashes, and smiled back, letting my defenses drift away.

His jaw jerked, and his smile faded so quickly that I wondered if I had imagined it. I stood paralyzed, mesmerized by the most spellbinding guy I had ever met in my life, my face plastered with the world’s goofiest grin, while he looked at me like I was totally nuts.

“Cordelia. May I call you that?”

I nodded, desperately trying to transform my moronic expression into a more neutral, acknowledging one, but probably failing miserably.

“You seem surprised. Can’t imagine why. I decided to help you with the door, since you’ve been lurking outside my room for over five minutes.” He shrugged. “Come on in. I’m Jagger, by the way.”

I followed him in and sat down when he waved me toward a French Renaissance chair. He walked around the metal desk and sat down in an overstuffed black leather chair. I glanced around the room while he shuffled some papers. The office space was large and airy, a corner room, with two walls replaced by floor-to-ceiling windows offering a breathtaking view of the snow-capped peaks. The windows were ajar, the icy wind stabbing its way into the room. The other two walls were covered in ski and boarding photos and posters. Trophies and medals filled a corner display cabinet. I could peek into the adjoining room–a bedroom–through a crack in the door. Finally recognizing him as the captain of the school ski team, I glanced over at Jagger again.

So, this year’s mystery student council president was the ski team captain! Well, that ought to make him more approachable, though considering his intimidating stare… maybe not. I wondered whom he had replaced.

I shuddered. The cold from the open window was freezing me into an icicle. Jagger looked up, his eyes following mine as I cast a brief glimpse at the open window, but he made no move to get up and close it. I fumed as he sat looking smug in his long black leather trench coat.

“Well, Cordelia, are you glad to be back?”

“Yes. Why did you ask for me?”

“Ah, straight to the point.” His eyes narrowed into slits. “Very plucky. Most would have the sense to be more fearful and not ask questions,” he growled softly.

I held my breath, controlling my instincts. A snarl was always a signal for me to transform. But, I held back, on full alert.

“I was told that about you. And that’s one of the reasons you’re here. You’ve been appointed as a mentor.”

It was my turn to smirk. I got to my feet. “I can’t be appointed anything. Thanks for thinking of me, though. I guess it’s some kind of honor. But, no thanks.” I made my way to the door.

And crashed right into Jagger’s chest. I should have anticipated his move; lightning-fast location transfer was something covered in the first semester. I clumsily stepped back, then met his darkened gaze.

He lowered his head, brushing his nose along my neckline, breathing me in. I stood dead still, letting my fingers fuse. I shivered as his lips found my right ear, his every breath forming icicles against my skin. Then, he touched my fused fingers.

“Easy, demon princess. Relax.”

I boiled over with anger. Who the fuck did he think I was? Some silly human girl who’d melt under his pathetic attempt at intimidation? Not so.

“Step back, and I will.” My words were supposed to come out in a firm demonic growl, but instead, they slithered out in an unfortunate raspy whisper.

He chuckled under his breath and took a half step back. He needed to be taught not to mess with demons. Slapping the smirk off his face would be too much of a cliché. My mischievous demon instincts took over.

As the corners of his lips curled into a leer, I jerked up my arm and swiftly wrapped my fingers around the back of his neck, pulling his face down to mine. His eyes widened in surprise, but he made no move to resist as I stood on tiptoes and roughly parted his lips with mine. I kept my eyes wide open, gazing into his, as I explored his mouth, drinking him in. He yielded under my touch. The kiss became more and more fervent, until a surge of hot and cold, of terror and excitement, zapped through me–and him, by the surprise on his face–leaving us shocked and unable to move. Our eyes remained locked together as we stood suspended in time.

Jagger looked as dazed as I felt. His eyes searched mine, but I had nothing to offer, no explanation. Then, it hit me. Dad had mentioned the extremely rare phenomenon. I raked through my mind, trying to remember what he had said.

Listen for his heartbeat, synch with it.

I closed my eyes, tuning out all other distractions, including Jagger himself. I listened and picked up the drum of his pounding heart. I imagined myself conducting the rhythm, my own beat taking the lead. I forced his tempo in line with mine, which thudded loudly and erratically. I managed to slow it by breathing in and out, controlling myself, concentrating on keeping us steady. His heart started to pace mine, slowing until we both beat to a steady pulse. I put my hand on his chest, slowing us even further, until my heart stopped. So did his.

He put his hand on top of mine, compelling our hearts to beat again. I felt his heart begin to pick up speed, and mine followed. He managed to bring us back to a comfortable rhythm.

The phone buzzed, causing both of us to jerk upright. Our beats disengaged.

Jagger’s face was tight and severe as he squeezed past me to get to his desk. He picked up his cell phone. “Yes?” His voice didn’t betray the confusion on his face. His eyes never left mine, not even for a second, during the entire one-sided conversation. I should have turned and left, but I couldn’t break away from his gaze.

“Cordelia.” His voice was soft and cold, sending a new kind of chill through me. “Frau Schmelder asks that you go to her office. Your ward has arrived.”

I wanted to protest, but if Frau Schmelder wanted to see me, I had no choice but to go. Frau Schmelder, the headmistress of Bonfire Academy, was commonly referred to as Frau Smelt, or The Smelt.

“Let me brief you first. Come and sit down.”

I did, feeling a bit embarrassed. What had just happened?

He smiled, his face softening. “Cordelia, going back to what we were discussing before, I am completely aware of your status and that you can’t be appointed to any task. I know you’re here to concentrate on tennis this year. But that shouldn’t take up all your time, so I am asking you as a favor. I’m in charge of the mentoring program, and I can’t think of anyone else who’d be appropriate. I really need you.”

I barely heard him, imagining the feel of his taut muscles instead. “Um. Jagger, what are you?” His taste and smell were unmistakable, yet unfathomable. I clearly detected faery in him, but also something else. He had to be a hybrid of some sort.

He looked surprised by my question. Asking it had been forward of me. The school rules were clear. We weren’t allowed to pry, and asking him such a thing, directly as I had, was strictly forbidden, but I couldn’t help myself. I had always been nosy.

“Fey.” He sounded resolute and didn’t offer anything further.

“Winter?”

“Yes.”

I could have guessed that just by his appearance, but there was more. However, it wasn’t the time to delve into it. Frau Smelt didn’t like to be kept waiting. Or so I had heard. “Why do you need me?”

His eyes narrowed. “You ask, after what just happened?”

Awkward. I didn’t want to talk about that. “I mean, why do you need me as a mentor?”

I almost snickered when I detected a red hue forming on his snow-white skin. An embarrassed winter fey. Cute.

“Oh. The student in question is Faustine Spencer, the half-breed daughter of the demon king of London.”

“Sheesh.”

“Indeed.” He smiled knowingly. “Have you met her? I hear your fathers are good friends, in a demon sort of way.”

“Nope, never heard of her. Half what?”

“Human.”

“Ugh.”

“Indeed. Though, hopefully she won’t be as much trouble as the last set of his spawn.”

One could only hope. The last set had been the infamous twins, Mariel and Jacques. They had been sent back to Paris, under my father’s dominion. They were hybrids as well–half demon, half werewolf. King Sebastian seemed to favor mating with non-demons. What kind of self-respecting demon mated with dogs? I was glad my father had more self-control.

“The main issue is her safety. Her human blood is going to be a prime commodity around here, especially among the vampires.”

“No kidding. Though not as enticing as fey blood.” I wondered how he kept them at bay.

“Perhaps, but she is, in addition, young, just twelve, and completely green.”

“Um, a human twelve-year-old? How human is she?”

“I don’t know. Does it matter?”

“It’s not that.” I sighed. “Well, you know all the stupid rules humans bind themselves with. We don’t do that here. I mean, why would we? Her world is so much more restricted by moral dilemmas and concerns. How is she going to cope with our lack of inhibitions? If she was older, I don’t think she’d have a problem. Hell, even human teens get busy, but mostly in private. However, she will be exposed to stuff here that a normal twelve-year-old wouldn’t be back home; that’s all I’m really trying to say.”

“She’s here to learn about her demon nature, and about paranormals in general. That’s why we think you will be a particularly suitable mentor. You’ve lived in human society, even attended a human school. She wouldn’t have been sent here if she wasn’t ready.”

“Why exactly is she here?”

“She’s transforming, more dramatically than one would expect from a half-human. Her father wants her trained. She’s his heir.”

“Heir? As in the next Queen of London? A half human? That’s insane!”

Jagger shrugged. “I don’t know much about all that, but I’ve been told that she doesn’t know that she’ll be taking over his reign, and we’re to keep it that way. Anyhow, you’ll report to me daily. I need you to keep her safe. There’s more, and I’ll brief you further, later. Right now, please get her settled in. I’ve arranged for her to have the room next to yours. She won’t have a roommate, even though she’s new. We couldn’t find anyone suitable. Ready to meet her?”

“I guess.”

“She’s waiting for you in Frau Schmelder’s office. I won’t come with you, but could you report in later tonight?”

“Sure.”

He walked me to the door and stepped aside so I could pass. I inadvertently rubbed against him on my way out. I felt every beat of his heart as we made contact, and I struggled to keep my own at even a remotely normal level.

I stopped and cocked my head. “Jagger, how much does she know?”

“She doesn’t know anything, yet. She’s a nice kid, apparently.”

“What about her schedule?”

“I’ll give that to you this evening. It’ll be finalized this afternoon.”

“Okay, I guess I’ll see you later.”

“And about that other matter.” He scrutinized me with unabashed hunger.

“What about it?”

“Get rid of Quinn. You belong to me now.”

 

INITIATION (Bonfire Academy Book One) (Bonfire Chronicles) is available for purchase at:

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