An Affair to Dismember (The Matchmaker), Elise Sax {$0.99}

Certain to appeal to fans of Janet Evanovich, Jennifer Crusie, and Katie MacAlister, Elise Sax’s hilarious series debut introduces matchmaker-in-training Gladie Burger, who stumbles into a dangerous quagmire of murder and red-hot romance.

Three months has been Gladie Burger’s limit when it comes to staying in one place. That’s why Gladie is more than a little skeptical when her eccentric Grandma Zelda recruits her to the family’s matchmaking business in the quaint small town of Cannes, California. What’s more, Gladie is also highly unqualified, having a terrible track record with romance. Still, Zelda is convinced that her granddaughter has “the gift.” But when the going gets tough, Gladie wonders if this gift has a return policy.

When Zelda’s neighbor drops dead in his kitchen, Gladie is swept into his bizarre family’s drama. Despite warnings from the (distractingly gorgeous) chief of police to steer clear of his investigation, Gladie is out to prove that her neighbor’s death was murder. It’s not too long before she’s in way over her head—with the hunky police chief, a dysfunctional family full of possible killers, and yet another mysterious and handsome man, whose attentions she’s unable to ignore. Gladie is clearly being pursued—either by true love or by a murderer. Who will catch her first?

What readers are saying:

“Elise Sax’s new Matchmaker series is off to a rousing start! . . . Sax gives the comic mystery genre a new spin. . . . A fun read sure to entertain.”—RT Book Reviews

“Fans of laugh-out-loud romantic suspense will enjoy this new author as she joins the ranks of Janet Evanovich, Katie MacAllister, and Jennifer Crusie.”—Booklist

“Elise Sax will win your heart.”—New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis

“In the tradition of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Elise Sax’s new novel is a funny, sexy ride.”—Valerie Frankel, author of Four of a Kind

“What a fun book! It will leave readers begging for more.”—Kim Gruenenfelder, author of There’s Cake in My Future

The average Amazon Review is currently 4.5 stars {55 reviews}.

 Click here to read more about and purchase An Affair to Dismember (The Matchmaker) for  $0.99 from Amazon!

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft), Kim Foster {$4.61}

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Description of A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft):

Everyone has a talent. Some are just more legal than others. Cat Montgomery steals jewels for AB&T, the premier agency for thieves in Seattle. Career perks: good pay, great disguises, constant adrenaline rush. Drawbacks: the possibility of jail time…or worse. Now she’s taken on a lucrative side job—recovering a priceless Faberge egg for an alleged Romanov descendant.

Though Cat is working solo, there are plenty of interested players. Her FBI ex-boyfriend is nosing around, as is her former mentor-turned-nemesis. Then there’s the charming art thief helping—or is he hindering?—her mission. If her luck holds out, this could be the case that allows Cat to retire with her conscience and her life intact. If not, it’ll be her last job for all the wrong reasons…

 

Accolades:

If you are a reader who enjoys thrills coupled with well-developed characters, pick up A Beautiful Heist. Not only will it have you on the edge of your seat at times, it will also give you a character who promises to only get more interesting in future installments. (Tia Bach, Mom In Love With Fiction)

Kim Foster’s debut novel is an enjoyable, convoluted and action-packed caper. It’s a nonstop ride from the first chapter until the very end. Full of schemes and betrayals, human sacrifice and treasure hunts, this new but capable author captures her audience in a tightly-plotted and intricately set up first-in-series. A complicated plot, likeable but imperfect characters, and Foster’s clear style of writing lend for an easy, entertaining and fast-paced read. A Beautiful Heist is less than three hundred pages, but the author manages to contain an interesting, complex, and original plot within those few hundred pages. (Jessie, Ageless Pages Reviews)

Cat herself proves to be more nuanced than I expected…A Beautiful Heist is a fun read–light, fast-paced, yet with enough character development to deepen the reader’s enjoyment. It’s got a good balance of action and suspense with real-life choices and implications. It’s a great summer read. (Elizabeth, 5 Minutes For Books)

A Beautiful Heist is a satisfying caper novel, with lots of twists and turns in the plot and plenty of glamour in the settings and the characters. There’s enough romance and suspense for readers of romantic suspense, but the complexity of the story and the characters lifts it from the genre. It’s a gripping novel and would make a great movie. (Rebecca, More Than A Review)

Reviews:

A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft)  currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 3.8 stars from 11 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft):

Everyone breaks the rules eventually. It’s just that some of us make a career out of it.
Lingering by the bar, I sipped my Veuve Clicquot and, with the utmost subtlety, tugged at the short neoprene wetsuit concealed beneath my cocktail dress.
The warm September evening air swirled with lush jazz; the chime of crystal mingled with the laughter of socialites and millionaires. It was a graceful affair. But I, for one, was far from relaxed. My eyes roved the party restlessly and my nerves sizzled with anticipation. And fear.
My safety that evening hinged on my skills of deception. On my ability to conjure the illusion that I belonged at this party. Whether I got my assignment done, however, depended on an altogether different sort of talent: the particular skill-set I happened to be born with.
As always, I needed to keep my fear in check and stay focused on my goals. Do the job, Cat. Make it out of here alive. Don’t get arrested.
I tucked a short lock of my platinum blond wig behind my ear. A saltwater breeze teased the hem of my black Dolce & Gabbana gown. The party occupied the lido deck of a 280-foot luxury yacht moored in Seattle Harbor. Which should explain the wetsuit. Rule number one for every professional thief: always have as many getaway options as possible.
Now—before you judge too harshly, consider this: everybody in this world is guilty of something. Everybody has dirty truths they keep tucked in linen closets and shoe boxes, secreted away in diaries and letters and the dark alcoves of their minds. Maybe yours isn’t anything all that grievous. Maybe you just cheat a little on your taxes. Maybe you sneak into a different movie once you’re inside the theater. Or, perhaps your dark secret is something worse. The point is, sooner or later, everyone behaves badly. Some of us are just better at it than others.
I curled my way through multitudes of rich and beautiful people who were busy rubbing shoulders and sundry other body parts. My muscles were coiled tight as a librarian’s bun, my face was impassive. I watched for signs that someone suspected what I was up to. The people at this particular party—and their hired security staff—would not react well knowing someone like me was in their midst. Weapons would be drawn. Blood would be shed. This was a state of affairs I preferred to avoid. Just thinking about it made the hairs at the nape of my neck curl with sweat. My mouth felt dry; I took another sip of champagne.
Maybe this was a mistake. I glanced at the exit points. Should I really be attempting this tonight? It was risky pulling a job on the night of a gala.
But no–I was prepared. Besides, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity—it meant too much to me. I had to do this. I couldn’t back down now. This could be the job that would finally banish the shadow.
I selected a vantage point on the upper deck and wrapped my palms around the cold chrome handrail. Stars dazzled in a tuxedo sky high above, reminiscent of the shimmering gowns and sparkling flutes of champagne below.
I kept my face expressionless and methodically scanned the glittering party below me. Glamorous young things lounged on curved banks of white tufted leather sofas, orchids spilled out of crystal vases, hundreds of fairy lights twinkled along the sleek lines of the yacht.
I was scouting for telltale signs: the distracted expression of someone listening to an ear-receiver, unusual body language, a waiter or a musician who looked strangely uncomfortable. Markers of a person who could interfere with my ability to do my job tonight, be it security staff, FBI, or—worse—one of those damned concerned citizens.
Then my stomach tightened: was that red-haired man by the oyster bar watching me? I narrowed my eyes and slid to my left, concealing myself behind a post. There was something odd, something furtive about the small actions of his hands. He was standing beside a woman, his date or girlfriend, but he seemed to be avoiding her gaze. Very strange. The set of his jaw betrayed a degree of anxiety. I bit down on the inside of my cheek. Then, I saw him reach into his jacket pocket and a small Tiffany box appeared in his hand.
Ah. I rolled my eyes and focused my attention elsewhere. He was going to propose tonight. Fine. Not interesting.
I continued raking the crowd of partygoers. But as I did so, I must confess to a small twinge of envy. As they sipped their mojitos and nibbled their canapés, everyone looked so, well, relaxed. I glanced back at the couple by the oyster bar.
For a moment I considered stuffing this assignment and simply enjoying myself, perhaps trying my chances at meeting my own Prince Charming equivalent, of which there appeared to be plenty.
No, Cat. I scolded myself and pushed those thoughts firmly from my mind. That was not for me. I had to get this job done. Besides, the truth was, people like me were not destined for storybook endings. Dreams of the moon belonged to much worthier people; I’d abandoned those hopes a long time ago.
No. This girl didn’t deserve the fairy tale. It wasn’t usually the villain who got the happily-ever-after.
A white-gloved waiter approached and, after mentally clearing him as a non threat, I accepted a divine smoked salmon crostini from his silver tray. I smiled at him, confident in my disguise: the wig, of course, plus chocolate-browncolored contact lenses and painstakingly applied theater makeup conveying much sharper cheekbones than I myself, sadly, possessed. I took a mouthwatering bite of the crostini and allowed a small shiver of delight. Another fringe benefit to the job.
On the surface, becoming a crook is an ill-advised choice. I get that. Very few people would see the appeal and, fair enough, it’s not a way of life that would suit everyone. But let me assure you: it’s a thrill like no other. And isn’t that what we all want, ultimately? A life purpose that we’re good at, and that we love?
Of course I’m making it sound like I had a choice in the matter. As if being anything other than a criminal was an option for me. It wasn’t. The universe made it clear, long ago, that being a thief was my role in this life. Bucking that fate was not only futile, it brought dire consequences. I know. I had tried it.
At the party, I popped in one last bite of crostini and was on the move again. I buried myself in the crowd and wove my way to a less populated area of the party on the aft deck. I needed to choose my moment precisely. It was a matter of sharpening my awareness of other people’s attention. I needed to have a clear perimeter in my peripheral vision, to know there were no eyes directly on me.
But although the crowd here was thinner, there were still a lot of people. I experienced fresh anxiety about doing this job tonight. It was never my first choice to do the actual heist on the night of a gala. Too many potential complications. Most crooks will tell you: parties are better suited for reconnaissance.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have an option. Davis Hamilton Jr, the steel magnate, sailed the Elysia into Seattle this morning and he was staying one night only. The next morning he would sail down the coast for California and I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity. I had done that before; it would never happen again.
Then, I noted that in the nearby knot of people a man was entertaining the group with an anecdote. I readied myself–this would be my chance. As he wrapped up the story and delivered the punch line, the group was laughing and distracted. That was my moment. I made a sharp right turn, melted into the shadows, and dove down the steps leading belowdecks.
The corridors were dark, narrow, and quiet. The ceiling hung low. The layout of the yacht and its suites was firmly etched in my mind, memorized from the blueprint. Fourth door on the left, just after the corridor took a sharp right turn. I was skulking along when a large, lumpy man suddenly emerged from a doorway and lurched out, smashing into me. Damn.
I’d have to bluff it. “Oops!” I giggled, stumbling against the wall. “Where’s the little girls’ room?” I said with an intentional slur. The man possessed an unfortunate physique: slopy shoulders and barrel torso. His small eyes were too close together, his teeth tiny and spaced apart, like those of a third-grader.
Unfortunately, the man moved closer. And started leering. “Hey, sweetheart, what’s your hurry?” A hot cloud of liquor-spiked breath floated my way. And now I had a problem.
Memo to self: Take a moment, next time, to size up your audience before knee-jerking into drunk, giddy female bit.
“What’s your name?” he said, taking another step closer. I cringed. Even an expensive suit couldn’t minimize the impact of hair like a Brillo pad. Why, oh why, was it always this type? Why couldn’t this be that Hugh Jackman-lookalike I noted by the Jacuzzi upstairs? I was sure I wouldn’t have been quite so irritated.
This was exactly the sort of thing I was afraid of. I should have aborted the job, right then.
But I didn’t.

A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft) is available for purchase at:

 Amazon Kindle for $4.61

Connect with Kim Foster:

Website: http://www.kimfosterbooks.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorKimFoster

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

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: LOVER IN LAW, Jo Kessel {$0.99}

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Description of LOVER IN LAW:

Harbouring an unmentionable secret is not an obvious route to maternal bliss……….or is it?

Ali Kirk’s had a bad year. An ambitious London lawyer, her courtroom performances have started to slide and her obsession with having a baby is undermining her relationship with boyfriend Adam. Come January 1st she resolves that in the next twelve months her life has to turn around.

Life, however, is about to get worse. Busy juggling fertility tests with a high-profile criminal trial at the Old Bailey, Ali starts burning the midnight oil with powerfully handsome colleague Anthony de Klerk. On a night that she’s slipped on some sexy underwear to boost her flagging self-esteem, Ali and Anthony finally end up in bed together. And then she falls pregnant. Ali turns super sleuth on her own secret paternity suit – who is the father, Adam or Anthony?

En route to childbirth there are romances and rows, dalliances and denials, secrets and suspense. And the ultimate, uncomfortable realisation that only one thing will set Ali free: the truth.

Lover in Law is Jo Kessel’s first novel. Her second novel, Weak at the Knees, will be published this Summer. It’s a story about love, loss, friendship and broken promises which travels from London to the heart of the French Alps.

 

Accolades:

I LOVED this book. It was so good that the last bit kept me awake way past my bedtime – it was impossible to put down! The story was well written and the characters easy to identify with straight away. It was a great story with some interesting little twists and a realistic take on modern day life and all the expectations that go with that. A mixture of detective, love, intrigue and suspense! It’s the sort of book that makes you question your own morals and principals! What would I have done in Ali’s situation – would I have got into it in the first place??

This is not my usual reading fodder but I found myself looking forward to getting back to the story every time I had to put the book down. Interesting to read about life in chambers and very good storyline. I enjoyed this book immensely and find myself thinking back to it often now that I know what happens in the end. What a pickle that Ali got herself into !

The writing is sharp and to the point, the characters are very realistic and her description of life as a barrister very interesting. Jo kept you wondering who the father was right to the very end.

Jo Kessel is a great story teller and has written a real page turner. I was gripped from the start and could not put it down once started. Ali Klerk is a modern day woman and this book covers issues that women could easily relate to. I can’t wait for Jo Kessel to bring out her next book. Brilliant!

A real page turner, couldn’t put it down. Anthony is your fantasy come true.

It’s entertaining, and I like the author’s voice in this book. I always like to read something a little different than most books in this genre, and this was definitely different (in a good way, of course).


Amazon Reader Reviews:

LOVER IN LAW currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.6 stars, with 7 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

LOVER IN LAW is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99


Excerpt from LOVER IN LAW:

My pink panties are lying somewhere on Anthony’s bedroom floor, strewn with the rest of our clothes. They’d been lying at the back of the cupboard, unworn since that day I tried them on in France. Why I put them on this morning, of all mornings, is probably best understood by my subconscious. They were the last item of clothing to be removed and didn’t go unnoticed. They should have though, because they should never have come off, but it’s as much as I can do to concentrate on the here and now. On Anthony running his hands masterfully over my body, up and down the insides of my legs, tracing a teasing line from my collar-bone to my navel, dwelling lightly on my breasts as I arch to meet his touch, telling me they’re not too big, not too small, but perfect. I writhe underneath as he lies on top of me, softly kissing the sides of my neck, the front and then my mouth, more urgently. I dare a man to have a better body than his. His frame is tall, per fectly proportioned, broad yet lithe, naturally athletic with beautiful muscle definition. He is, quite simply, gorgeous. And the feel of his skin, oh his skin, on my hands and my body. It’s soft and smooth and I can’t get enough of it as my hands stroke up and down his back, from his shoulders to his sculpted buttocks, pulling him tighter and closer, yearning to have him inside. His eyes, big dark brown eyes with flecks of black and green, his thick, yielding, sexy mouth and the deep, rich, coffee-colour of him are intoxicating. In all my life I’ve only ever been with one man. I never knew I could feel so heated, this animal, this necessity, this pleasure and such ecstasy as he finally enters huge and deep and slowly and expertly, exquisitely brings us to climax.
————————-

“Don’t go,” he says, trying to catch my arm as I roll over to get up.
“I’ve got to,” I say.
It doesn’t feel right to stay the night, even if Adam is away. Anthony offered to drive me home, but I opted for a cab, which is on its way. I get dressed, item by item, as he lies there, watching.
“You have got the most beautiful body. You know that, sexy lady?”
He must be talking about somebody else.
“You’re not bad yourself.”
I turn my head. I shouldn’t be here, having this conversation. Accepting and paying compliments this way.
“What is it?” he asks.
He can’t see my face, but the way I’m holding my body, so very, very still, probably gives away how I’m feeling. Tense, confused, excited and yes, the first soupcon of guilt is seeping in. I’ve never done anything like this before, never even been tempted.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I know you’re attached. I should have left well alone. It’s just there’s something about you,” he peters out.
I don’t want to ruin the beauty of what we’ve just shared and it’s not about attributing blame anyway.
“Don’t apologise,” I say. “It takes two to tango.”
“I know, but I want you to know that I don’t make a habit of this,” he carries on. “Seducing women who are attached isn’t really my style.”
The buzzer rings.
“Right then,” I say, picking my jacket up off the floor. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Anthony pulls the sheet round his waist, gets out of bed and follows me to the front door.
There’s an awkward moment. I’m not quite sure what to say. I turn the latch.
“Right then. See ya.”
“See ya,” he replies.
He bends down, kisses me on the mouth, I open the door, kiss my finger, place it to his lips and leave.
—————

 

LOVER IN LAW is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99


Connect with Jo Kessel:

Website: www.jokessel.com

Twitter: @jo_kessel

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jo.kessel.75

Kaleidoscope World, Tomica Scavina {FREE!}

A collector of kaleidoscopes and lousy relationships, Dahlia Kasper leaves her possessive alcoholic mother and moves from New York to Barcelona. In search of lost bits of her childhood, she starts living in an apartment where her father was murdered when she was four. As soon as she enters the apartment, strange things begin to happen.

Her favorite kaleidoscope becomes a gateway to another dimension where she encounters a ghost of a famous physicist from the 19th century who tries to persuade her that reality is like a moth-eaten sweater – full of holes. He needs her to help him plug up these holes and save the world from vanishing, while the only thing Dahlia really wants to save is her sanity.

This is just a part of Dahlia’s problems. An elderly cello-playing neighbor turns her emotional world upside down and her longing for lost home takes her further than she ever imagined she could go. To collect all the scattered kaleidoscope-bits of her life together, Dahlia needs to go through an intense inner transformation that takes courage and a sharp sense of humor.

What readers are saying:

“This is a brilliant mind-questioning page-turner with a unique plot and some amazingly surprising turnouts, filled with humor and fresh writing style.”

“One of the best books I have read in a long, long time, and I am really looking forward to reading the next creation of this writer’s mind.”

“You could tell that she knows and truly understands her characters’ deepest fears, flaws and needs.”

The average Amazon reader review rating is currently 4.9 stars, with 18 reviews.

Click here to read more about and purchase Kaleidoscope World  for FREE

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Death Turns A Trick, Julie Smith {$4.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of Death Turns A Trick:

A rollicking tale of murder, romance, and bordellos…

Rebecca Schwartz, nice Jewish lawyer with a few too many fantasies, is happily playing the piano in a whorehouse when she suddenly finds herself assigned to make sure a near-naked state senator escapes a police raid. That dirty job done, a lovely evening turns even more delightful when she’s picked up by the cops and spends the next two hours at the Hall of Justice. Could this day get any worse? Of Course! Guess who arrives home to find a dead hooker on her living room floor?

Handsome Parker Phillips, Rebecca’s new beau and the most attractive man she’s met in ages, is arrested for the murder. (Worse, she suspects he might actually have done it.)

On the plus side, another very attractive man is following the case–reporter Rob Burns of the San Francisco Chronicle, a possible ally. And there are other possibilities.

 

Accolades:

A lively romp of a novel … Smith shows an Agatha Christie-like capacity for making much ado about clues, concocting straw hypotheses, and surprising us, in the end … Smith’s crisp storytelling… and her likable, unpredictable heroine will make readers look forward to more.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“Funny and witty, with a clever, outspoken heroine.” — Library Journal

“Rebecca’s lively first-person narration brands her a new detective to watch.” — Wilson Library Bulletin


Amazon Reader Reviews:

Death Turns A Trick currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4 stars, with 10 reviews! Read the reviews here!


Death Turns A Trick is available for purchase at:

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

 

Excerpt from Death Turns A Trick:

The argument was getting loud, so I played loud to drown it out. I was looking at the keyboard, I guess, or maybe staring into space, I don’t know which. Anyway, I didn’t see two uniformed cops come in the door with guns drawn. I just heard a hush and then some screams. That made me look up. I saw them and stopped playing. People in the foyer were crowding back toward the stairs. Elena Mooney was backing toward the fireplace.

“Awright, everybody quiet,” said one of the cops. “This is a raid.” Those very words.

It’s funny how you react in a situation like that. I should have been terrified. I should have had visions of lurid headlines: “Lawyer Caught in Bordello Raid.” I should have despaired of my Martindale-Hubbell rating and started planning how I was going to explain to my mother. But I didn’t. I was looking down the barrel of a gun and hearing someone say “This is a raid”—a thing I’d done a million times in movie theaters. I gripped the piano so I wouldn’t holler, “Cheezit, the cops!”

Then the lights went out. I don’t mean I fainted; I mean it got dark. A hand closed over my forearm, jerked me to my feet and started pulling. People started screaming again, and one of the cops fired. I didn’t know if anybody was hit or not, but the reality of the situation dawned on me and I offered whoever was pulling me no resistance. We bumped into a lot of people getting through the saloon room, but it took about two seconds, I guess. I vaguely heard things like “Don’t panic” and “Be quiet,” which I suppose came from the cops, and I heard two more shots and a lot more screaming.

My rescuer pulled the kitchen door open and me through it. The kitchen window had cafe curtains, and there was a little light from outside, enough to see that I was with Elena. She dropped my arm, grabbed a flashlight from the top of the refrigerator, and opened a door that I imagined led to a pantry. But I was wrong. Elena shone the light on steps descending to a basement.

She gestured for me to go first, then followed, locking the door behind us. There was a tiny landing at the bottom of the stairway and, on the right, a doorway to the basement itself. You couldn’t see into it from the stairs.

When I got to the landing, I waited for Elena to join me with the light, but she turned it off as soon as she got there. I noticed a faint glow coming from the doorway to the basement. Elena put a finger to her lips and squeezed past me into the room. I followed.

The room was unfinished, but the plasterboard was painted. The light came from a silver candelabrum on the floor, with all its black candles lighted. Attached to two beams on the far wall were manacles at ankle and shoulder level. Some scary-looking hoists and pulleys hung from ceiling beams, but I can’t say I was in a mood to examine them too closely. In fact, it’s a miracle I noticed them at all, considering what else was in the room—a brass bed with a naked man lying face up, spread-eagled on it.

His wrists were tied to the headboard and his ankles to the footboards. Even without his customary conservative suit, I recognized him. He was State Senator Calvin Handley. That same week I’d seen him on TV holding a press conference about the bill he’d just introduced to legalize prostitution. At least he wasn’t a hypocrite.
Elena still had her finger to her lips for his benefit. She removed it and started untying his wrists. “Rebecca, get his ankles,” she whispered.

She spoke to the client, without addressing him as “Senator”—on the off chance, I suppose, that I wouldn’t recognize him. “There’s been some trouble. The cops are here, but the door’s locked and we’ll have time to get you out of here. Where are your clothes?”

“I think Kandi forgot to bring them down. We came down the usual way.”

“Damn her!” Elena finished freeing the senator’s hands, and he sat up and rubbed them. She looked in an armoire at the front of the room. “She forgot, all right. You’ll have to wear this.”

She picked up something black from a low chair. In the chair underneath the black garment were a pair of handcuffs and a square of black fabric fashioned into a blindfold. I figured it must be quite a trick to negotiate those stairs coming down “the usual way,” but chacun a son gout. Consenting adults and all that.

I finished with the senatorial ankle bonds, and the lawmaker slipped the black garment on. It was a floor-length robe with full sleeves and a hood, perfectly decent but damn-all odd.

“Shoes?” asked Elena. The senator shook his head. “Okay, come on. You too, Rebecca.”

She pushed aside the armoire, revealing a crude passageway—a tunnel, really. She gave me the flashlight and fished a key from her bodice. As she handed it over, I could see that her hand was shaking. “Listen, both of you,” she whispered. “Shots were fired up there. For all I know, someone may be dead or hurt. This is my house and I can’t leave. Rebecca, this is . . . Joe. I’m depending on you to get him to his car. Then go home, change into street clothes, and get back here. We’ll be needing you. The door at the end of the tunnel is padlocked, and this is the key. My car is parked almost dead against the door. It’s unlocked and the keys are in it. Take the padlock with you; we may need to use the tunnel again tonight. Just get the sen—get Joe out of here. I’ll wait five minutes after I hear the car drive off before I go back up. Good luck.” She squeezed my hand.

We had to bend nearly double in the tunnel. I went first with the light, the senator following with a hand on each of my hips. I felt this was not completely necessary, but I put up with it. It was the least of my problems at the moment. I cursed whatever insanity had made me comply with Elena’s request, and I cursed Elena for making it sound so safe.

She hadn’t exactly lied. It was true no one was turning tricks at the party. But leaving out a naked senator in the basement was a rather serious sin of omission, if you ask me.

Senator alter kocker took his hands off me long enough to hold the light while I unlocked the door. Elena’s Mustang was parked close, all right, but not close enough to avoid stepping in a mud puddle getting in. Since I had on sandals and the senator was barefoot, it was deuced inconvenient.

The Mustang snorted a couple of times, then laid back its ears and reared. We were in a lane that led to Broderick Street.

“Where’s your car?” I asked as we reached the street.
“Oh my God. I’ve got to go back—I haven’t got my keys.”

“Keys, hell. You can’t go back. I’ll take you home.”

“But my money! My ID! They’ll find it. I’ve got to get it. Turn around.”

“No.”

“I said turn around.”

“Look,” I said. “The cops don’t care about johns. They’ll probably just return your things discreetly. It’ll be embarrassing, but nothing compared to being caught traipsing around a bordello in that outfit.”

“Goddammit, turn around.”

A citizen likes to think her elected officials have at least a minimal amount of brains in their tiny heads, whatever their sexual proclivities. But this guy had fried eggs. I stopped trying to reason with him. I could see he wasn’t used to taking orders, except maybe from Kandi when they played amusing games, so I stopped being firm. I just drove, more or less in the direction of my apartment, and carefully, because of the rain.

He was quiet for a minute or two, so I tried again as we turned onto Fillmore Street. This time I tried to sound helpful and cheerful like a secretary or a wife, someone he could identify with. “Where can I drop you off?”

“Goddammit, young woman, take me back!” he shouted.

“You’re out of your senatorial head!” I shouted back.

“Where the hell do you live?”

He reached over and grabbed the wheel. I lost control and we skidded to the right, tires squealing like seagulls. I jerked the wheel back in time to avoid plowing into a parked car, and slammed on the brakes. But I overcompensated and winged the parked car with the rear end of the Mustang. I heard a siren even as I felt the bump, and I looked in the mirror. The red light of a police car was half a block away.

Before I could get my bearings, that fruitcake of a senator had his door open and his bare feet on Fillmore Street. Without so much as a “thanks for the lift,” he rounded the car wed hit, stepped up on the sidewalk, and took off running, with that silly black robe billowing behind him. In that context, he looked like just another San Francisco freak, only they don’t usually have a fine head of silvery hair. I leaned over and shut the passenger door, hoping the cops hadn’t seen him. They pulled up as he turned the corner.

The cop who got out of the patrol car had a fine silky mustache, and the rest of him looked okay, too. “Are you all right, ma’am?” he asked.

“I think so. I skidded in the rain and pulled too far back.”

“Let’s see your driver’s license.”

“I—uh—had an emergency. I don’t have it.”

“You’ve got your keys. They must have been in your purse with your license.”

“No, they were already in the car.”

“What’s your name?”

“Rebecca Schwartz.”

“You been drinking, Miss Schwartz?”

“A little. That’s not why I hit the car, though. I skidded.”

“How about parking the car over there on the curb, Miss Schwartz? I’ll be with you in a minute.”

I don’t do my best parking jobs in situations of stress, but I don’t think the cop noticed. He was doing something with his partner in the patrol car.

He joined me in a minute. “You got any ID at all?”

“I told you I didn’t.”

“We just ran this car through the computer. It’s registered to an Elena Mooney.”

“I know. I borrowed it from her.”

“Does she know you’ve got it?”

“Certainly.”

“Miss Schwartz, I’m going to have to ask you to take a roadside sobriety test. Would you mind just stretching your arms out horizontally? Good. Okay now, put your head back a little, close your eyes, and touch your nose with the tip of your index finger.”

“Left or right?”

“Both. Three times.”

I never have been good at silly games. I hit my nose three out of six times, and that’s as well as I can do cold sober. I know, because I’ve tried it a million times since. But I don’t have to tell you the attractive cop wouldn’t believe it was just a personal idiosyncrasy. I have to say he was nice about the whole thing, though. He seemed almost apologetic: “I hate to ask you on a night like this, but do you think you can walk a straight line, toe-to-heel?”

“I’ll get wet.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am.” He was really nice, that fellow, especially considering I wasn’t looking any too respectable.

The rain pelted into my cleavage as I got out of the car. I got up on the sidewalk, put one shoe in front of the other, and kept on doing it until the cop told me to stop. I wanted to go on, because I knew that line would straighten up as soon as I got the hang of it, but the cop wasn’t convinced. I’d meandered pretty far off course.
“I’m afraid that emergency of yours is going to have to wait, Miss Schwartz. You’ve just had an accident in a car that’s not yours, and you got no driver’s license and no ID, and you can’t pass your sobriety test. And the car’s got 200 dollars’ worth of traffic warrants on it.”

“But . . .”

“I don’t think you’d better drive the Mustang. Just lock it, please, and get in the backseat of the patrol car.”

“Wait a minute. I can explain what I’m doing with the car.”

“All the explaining in the world’s not going to convince me you’re sober.”

So I locked the Mustang while they inspected the parked car for damage. Then we sat in the patrol car, the cop with the mustache and me, while his partner made out an accident report. I never did figure out why that had to be done at the scene instead of at the Hall, but it did give me time to pour out my story.

I said I’d been to a costume party—which I had hoped might explain my get-up—and that a friend had been suddenly taken ill. I was driving him to the hospital when I hit the parked car.

“So where is he now?”

“He got frightened when I hit the car and ran away.”

“How sick was he?”

I lowered my eyes. “I don’t know. He was acting very strangely. I think he was having some sort of nervous attack.”\

The cop came to the conclusion I wanted him to. He raised an eyebrow. “Were there drugs at that party, Miss Schwartz?”

I said there were, and he didn’t ask any more questions.
On the way to the Hall, I assessed the situation. I was dressed like a hooker, so they probably thought I was one in spite of my lame little explanation; no one has costume parties three weeks after Halloween. So there was no use protesting that I was a lawyer without an ID to back it up. It wouldn’t do any good anyway, since they thought I was drunk.

I figured Elena and the others would be at the Hall. We could straighten out the ownership of the car and maybe establish my identification. Then we could call my partner to get us out.

But I wondered if she could. It might just be that Rebecca Schwartz, Jewish feminist lawyer, was about to spend a night in jail. I prayed I would pass my breathalyzer test. And when I got done praying, I mused on the dark and sinister forces that had gotten me into the backseat of a patrol car.

 

Death Turns A Trick is available for purchase at:

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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Phone Kitten, Marika Christian {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Marika Christian‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of Phone Kitten:

Think “Bridget Jones meets Nancy Drew”. Throw in a gig as a phone sex operator, an unexpected hunk of a boyfriend, and a client’s murder and you have all the ingredients for the perfect chick-lit romp.

What’s Emily Winters, a self-described “chubby girl with a sexy voice,” to do when she loses her dream job as a newspaper writer? Why, phone sex, of course. After landing a gig as a phone sex operator, no one is more surprised than Emily to finds she’s good at channeling a wild alter-ego named Peyton. When a client is murdered and Emily becomes a person of interest, she decides to do a little sleuthing of her own. Along the way, Emily finds herself entangled with shady characters and an intriguing new romance, all colored by her sharp-witted and often hilarious observations.

 

Accolades:

“Christian hits it out of the ballpark with this hysterical, quirky, and endearing story … Phone Kitten is laugh out loud funny from page one. I was immediately captured by Emily and her innocence, and had to laugh at most of the phone sex scenes.” -ChickLitPlus

“When I first heard of this book I was intrigued; a phone-sex worker turned sleuth? Sounds like the perfect mix … Marika is an excellent writer and I simply loved Emily … A fabulous book.” -Trashionista

“Marika Christian’s debut novel was one of the most fun reads I have had this year. Sweet Emily taking a job as a “phone actress” has to be one of the funniest things ever. And after chatting with Marika and knowing these phone calls were real, amused me all the more.” -Just Jump


Amazon Reader Reviews:

Phone Kitten currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.5 stars, with 88 reviews! Read the reviews here!


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Excerpt from Phone Kitten:

Chapter Two

ARE YOU ALWAYS ON THE PHONE?

GET PAID TO TALK TO GUYS FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY!

NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY!

We offer a signing bonus, incentives, flexible hours, insurance and 401k benefits! Call now for more information!

Phone sex girls get retirement benefits? Who knew? But there it was, written in black and white. The job had everything I needed. The question was, could I do it? Was phone sex going to be my path to success? There’s just a chance, I thought.

Just so you know, not only am I invisible, I’m also a stereotype. I’m a chubby girl with a sexy voice. When telemarketers call me, one of two things happens. If it’s a woman, she’ll ask if my mother or father is home. If it’s a man, he’ll try to get a date. I don’t know how they’re able to determine that I’m of age, but somehow they can and they go for it. My voice is a little squeaky and little breathy. It’s a love-it-or-leave-it kinda voice. Some people call it annoying, but I’ve always preferred the term kittenish. The people who love it really love it, and that’s three-fourths of the male population.

Could I actually whisper dirty words in a stranger’s ear? There was only one way to find out. I called for an interview.

The girl who answered the phone sounded a lot like me. She was perky, upbeat, and wanted me to come in that night for an interview. The thought terrified me, but my only other option was Walmart. I heard Walmart locks employees in the store. I’ve often wondered what would happen if one of the employees were pregnant and went into labor while locked up. Would they let her out? Would her supervisor deliver the baby in housewares and slap a little smiley face sticker on the baby’s bottom? Phone sex had to be better than twenty-four hour retail.

The company name was Dimensions. Located in the back of an industrial park, it was a little scary. There was a gravel parking lot with a dozen cars and only one door with a camera to capture anyone who pressed the call button. I was buzzed in immediately. I wondered, Why does a phone sex place need this much security?

I was met by Taylor, the bubbly girl I talked to on the phone. “Come on, I’ll take you in the back and we can talk.”

She wasn’t what I pictured. Taylor was a tattooed Goth chick, with every piercing imaginable. Taylor isn’t what most people envisioned when it came to “bubbly.”

Once we were in her office, she quickly closed the door. “Look, we talk dirty here. The language is sexually explicit. You have to say it all. Tits, cock, and fuck. Can you do that?”

“Yes.” There, I said it. I said I could do it. I hoped I really could.

She whipped out a headset, plugged it in, and said, “I want you to listen to a call. We get a lot of girls who come in here and think they can do it, and then freak out on their first call. It really pisses me off. You aren’t going to piss me off, are you?”

Taylor didn’t seem like the type of girl I wanted to piss off. I put on the headset and listened as a girl named Raven guided some guy through the “manipulation of his instrument.” Like a man really needs that type of instruction. There were moans, groans, panting—even a few noises I couldn’t identify—and that was just from her. He screamed once, and then it was over. Raven went on to her next call. It occurred to me that freaking out wasn’t going to be my problem. Trying not to laugh was going to be my problem.

I did my best not to smile. “I think I can do that.”

She studied me for a second and said, “I think you can, too. Here, fill out these forms, and write down the hours you want to work.”

“That’s it?”

Taylor looked at me. “Well, this isn’t the kinda job that checks references.”

That made sense. What could they really check for?

When I left, I had my schedule. I was starting in two days, and my shift began at midnight. I’d even managed to score weekends off. At the end of the first week, I would have my signing bonus. Now all I had to do was learn to talk dirty, and there was only one man who could help me with that.

“You want me to what?”

“I want you to talk dirty to me. I want to see if I can do this. I got a job as a phone actress.” Why was Dennis making such a big deal about this?

He seemed stunned. “You’re a phone whore?”

“Phone actress,” I corrected.

“Phone whore. You’re talking nasty for money, right?”

“Given your past, do you really think you’re in a place to call me a whore? I know all about the debauchery that is Craig Boone.” Craig Boone is Dennis’s only weakness. Not only could Craig get Dennis to do anything, he could get him to do it anywhere, at any time.

“That’s slut, not whore. You’re going to have to learn the difference.” He sighed. “Were there no waitressing jobs in town? Emmie, what are you doing? I heard Walmart is hiring.”

“This will pay more, there are incentives, and a bonus, and… ”

Dennis screeched. “I do not even want to hear what your bonus is. Jesus! If someone had told me you’d be asking me to do this, I’d have said they were nuts! I’d have said, not my Emmie.”

“Come on, Dennis, I need you to help me! I wouldn’t do it if I weren’t desperate. Ask me about my boobs.”

“The less I know about your boobs the happier I am.”

“Dennis, they aren’t really my boobs, they’re Delilah’s boobs.” “Delilah? Who’s Delilah?”

“Delilah is the girl I’ll be playing. It’s my character. I told you: it’s acting.”

“Is that what they told you?”

His smug little chuckle was starting to annoy me, so I talked over it. “I thought Delilah was a good name. You know—Biblical temptress and all.”

“Emmie, do you think the men who are going to be calling you are going to be interested in Biblical temptresses? Do you think that after talking to you, they’re going to reach over to the night stand and get the good book?”

“Can you please do this?”

He groaned, cleared his throat, and in his sexiest hey-baby voice, he said, “Tell me about your breasts, Delilah.”

“Dennis! Say it right! A guy calling wouldn’t say breasts. He’d call them tits!” I was beginning to wonder what Craig saw in him. Dennis was being rather unsexy right now.

“I’m in character. My name is Arthur Wuller. I’m a shoe salesman from Beloit, Wisconsin, and Arthur would say breasts. He’s respectful.”

“Artie has had a couple beers and is looking to have fun. He’d say tits.”

“You’re making up a whole lot of rules for my dirty phone call!” He cleared his throat and said, “Take two.” Like he was directing. Once again, he started in his sexy voice. “So tell me about your tits.”

I started to laugh.

“You can’t laugh, Emmie! You’re supposed to be naked, nubile Delilah, who sits at home all day masturbating. Start with the nipples. Tell me about your nips.”

 

Phone Kitten is available for purchase at:

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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: On the Nickel (A Cleopatra Jones Mystery), Maggie Toussaint {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of On the Nickel (A Cleopatra Jones Mystery):

Mama’s strange behavior jolts accountant Cleopatra Jones from her whirl of late summer activities with her daughters, her pregnant Saint Bernard, and her new boyfriend. When Cleo overhears the heated argument between Mama and her church-lady rival, Erica Hodges, she realizes Mama is out of control. Erica files a police report about Mama’s threats, which adds to Cleo’s growing unease.

Two days later, Erica is dead, the victim of a hit and run at the church. Though Erica’s reputation for arrogance, bossiness, and rudeness is well-deserved, she is descended from the town’s founder, and the mayor pressures the police to obtain justice for the town’s leading citizen.

To Cleo’s horror, there’s a person-sized dent in Mama’s gray Olds. Mama denies killing Erica but refuses to account for her whereabouts that night. Mama’s secrets are maddening, but are they deadly?

 

Accolades:

The second book in this amusing and romantic series is a welcome addition to the cozy ranks. — Kirkus Reviews 

What a complete and utter delight this book is. — The Reading Reviewer

On the Nickel is a fast-reading, enjoyable mystery, replete with agreeable characters and a picturesque setting –Mysterious Reviews

A fast-paced, light read, we need more like this one. Well done. — Johanna Williams, Amazon Reviewer

 

Amazon Reader Reviews:

On the Nickel (A Cleopatra Jones Mystery) currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.6 stars, with 19 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

On the Nickel (A Cleopatra Jones Mystery) is available for purchase at:

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Excerpt from On the Nickel (A Cleopatra Jones Mystery):

Numbers flowed in satisfying streams through my ink pen onto the Sudoku puzzle. A nine here. A two there. I scribbled a possibility in the corner of a grid square and sipped my coffee.

Patterns emerged. I inked a seven in the top row, leading to three other filled-in numbers.

Without warning, Mama upended her oversized purse on the kitchen table. Junk clattered. Loose coins clinked. A tube of mulberry-colored lipstick rolled on top of my folded newspaper. Alarmed, I studied her as she pawed through the mound of personal items. A can of hair spray tottered on the edge of the table, and I caught it a moment before it fell.

“Lose something?” I asked, placing the can squarely on the table.

Mama muttered out of the side of her mouth. “My car keys.”

Her color seemed a bit off. I set aside my puzzle to help sort through the jumble. I lifted the umbrella and plastic rain bonnet and moved them to the side. Her wallet was large enough to give birth. No keys hiding under it. I checked beneath her new hairbrush, a tube of toothpaste, and a pack of breath mints. Nothing under the mini-photo album, tissue packet, or her dog-eared credit card bill.

“Don’t see any keys,” I said. “Where did you have them last?”

“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be looking for them,” Mama huffed.

Was something else wrong? I chewed my lip and replayed the morning in my head. Mama ate a good breakfast. Her buttercup yellow pant suit appeared neat and tidy as did her mop of white curls. Her triple strands of pearls were securely clasped around her neck. So, her appetite and grooming were fine, but her behavior was off. Probably not a medical emergency.

I breathed easier. “What’s wrong, Mama?”

“What’s right, that’s what I’d like to know.”

There was just enough vinegar in her voice to make me think I’d missed something big. Like maybe a luncheon date with her. Or broken a promise. But I hadn’t done those things. I pulled out a chair and invited her to sit down. “Tell me what’s on your mind, Mama.”

“The price of gas keeps rising.” Mama sat and enumerated points on her fingers. “World peace is a myth. Social Security isn’t social or secure. And Joe Sampson had no business dying on me.”

She’d run out of fingers, but I got the message. Guilt smacked me dead between the eyes. I had forgotten something. The anniversary of daddy’s aneurism. Usually we took a trip to the cemetery on August 21. I gulped. “Oh, Mama, I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you say something yesterday?”

“I didn’t want to make a big deal of it.” Mama’s voice quivered. “It’s been three years, Cleo. I should be able to go by myself.”

I reached over the kitchen table and covered her hands with mine. “You don’t have to do that. I’ll drive you to your meeting, then we’ll swing by Fairhope on the way home.”
Mama sat up soldier straight. “That will eat up your whole morning.”

“No problem. We mailed all the quarterly tax payment vouchers to our Sampson Accounting clients last week. I can’t think of anything at work that won’t keep until this afternoon.”

Half an hour later, I was sitting in the hall at Trinity Episcopal while Mama attended her Ladies Outreach Committee meeting. I’d brought a magazine to read, but there was something else about Mama this morning that worried me.

Something more than our delayed cemetery visit. I wished I knew what it was. Even though I’m good at puzzles, I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. Knowing Mama, I wouldn’t have long to wait. I dug my magazine out of my purse and flipped through the glossy pages.

In a little while, the gentle murmur of conversation from the meeting room rose to an angry buzz. Mama’s sharp voice sliced through the fray. “Mark my words. If you don’t change your ways, Erica, someone will change them for you.”

My heart stutter-stepped at the heat in her voice. This was not good. How should I handle it? Mama would not appreciate me trying to straighten this out. My intervention would be the equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a penned bull. I hesitated, hoping that the women resolved their difference of opinion on their own.

“You threatening me, Dee?” Erica’s nasty tone ruffled the hair on the back of my neck and spurred me into defense of my mother.

I stashed the magazine in my shoulder bag and hurried down the pine-scented corridor, the soles of my loafers smacking against the hard tile. After years of insulting each other, would the hostility between Mama and her arch nemesis turn physical?

I entered the back of the meeting room in time to see Mama stride up to Erica’s podium. Ten seniors sat transfixed by the live drama. I had a very bad feeling about this. As emotional as Mama was today, her patience wouldn’t last for long. And Erica seemed to be spoiling for a fight. That wasn’t going to happen on my watch. I hurried forward, edging past the U-shaped log jam of tables and chairs. My eyes watered at the thick cloud of sweet perfume.

Mama planted her hands on her hips. “I’m saying what nobody else has the guts to say. You are despicable. That outreach activity was supposed to bring joy and laughter to those dying children. You crushed their hopes. Worse, you gave them false hope. They were crying, Erica. You caused those dying children to suffer more.”

Except for the red stain on Erica Hodges’ rigid cheeks, I couldn’t tell she was upset. Next to Mama’s sunny yellow suit and old-fashioned pearls, Erica’s sleek jewel-toned slacks suit, gold-threaded scarf, and apricot colored hair looked fresh, contemporary, and on-point.

Looks could be deceiving.

“Errors happen, Dee,” Erica said.

Mama huffed out a great breath. “This one could have been avoided. Francine was doing a good job with scheduling before you horned in and messed it all up.”

Across the room, Francine gasped at the mention of her name. She slid down in her seat, covered her face, and ducked her white-haired head.

Erica surveyed the room, staring down the other matrons, before turning back to Mama. Her back arched, and her thin nose came up. “You think you could have done better?”

“I know so. All that hard work the committee put in. You wasted it. You hurt those kids. Those circus tickets were nonrefundable. You threw away money we worked hard to raise.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Erica barked out a sharp laugh. “We’ll find more needy kids to show our civic merit. The hospital has a never ending supply.”

A collective gasp flashed through the room. My stride faltered as distaste soured in my stomach. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A glance at Mama’s flame-red face and I knew Mount Delilah was about to erupt. I hurried forward.

“That does it. I demand your resignation as chair of the Ladies Outreach Committee!” Mama shouted.

“You’re out of order, Delilah Sampson,” Erica shrilled. “Sit down and shut up.”

Mama’s mouth worked a few times with no sound emerging. She clutched her heart. I stepped up and planted my hand on her shoulder. “Mama?”

She glared at Erica. “You can’t talk to me that way.”

“Think again.” Erica smacked her open palm on the podium. “This is my meeting, my committee, my church, my town. I can talk to you any way I want.”

Mama turned to face her friends. “Say something.”

Brittle silence ensued. Not a single eyelash fluttered on the downturned gazes. Disbelief flashed through me. These women were Mama’s friends. Her best friends, but they were all intimidated by this big fish in our tiny pond. Poor Mama.

We needed to get out of here before both of us did something we’d regret.

I tapped Mama’s shoulder again. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have a family situation and have to leave. Please come with me now.”

Mama nodded to me and inhaled shakily. She narrowed her eyes at Erica. “This isn’t over.”
+++

The events of the day returned in a rush as I locked my car a few nights later. I ticked them off on my fingers.

One, there had been a vehicular accident at the church. Two, Erica Hodges was dead. Three, Mama had a history of run-ins with Erica Hodges. Four, on Monday I listened to Mama and Erica Hodges exchange insults in public. Five, Mama’s whereabouts today were a mystery and her over-the-top behavior even more of a mystery.

I don’t know what made me look at her Oldsmobile. Honestly, I don’t know why I looked at all. But I did. And then I wished I’d gone straight inside the house and minded my own business.

The motion-detector light on the corner of the house had activated when I pulled into the driveway. The parking pad was now brightly illuminated.

I touched the jagged safety glass of Mama’s shattered headlight cover. A suffocating sensation tightened my throat at the large indentation in her not-so-shiny bumper. The hood of her car mounded in the middle, pushed back from the leading edge. This car had hit something.

Or someone.

Dread charged through my veins, taking my breath away. Fear clawed at my heart, dragging me down to a place where I didn’t want to go. Dazed and bewildered, I staggered over to my Volvo for support. The hood warmed my cold fingers.

This was very, very bad.

Unthinkable.

The pieces of the puzzle resolved in my head. With each connected piece, the picture became clearer. Mama and Erica. Rivals and combatants. Mama alive. Erica dead. Mama’s car damaged. Erica dead.

Even to a rank amateur like me, the evidence pointed to a devastating conclusion. I shook my head in disbelief. This was Mama I was talking about. She was stubborn, opinionated, and bossy, and those were her finer qualities.

Stars twinkled in the night sky overhead. Crickets chirped in the darkness. A light went on in my next-door neighbor’s kitchen. A diesel pickup truck rumbled past on Main Street. And I stood beside my mother’s damaged car in my driveway.
Ordinary things. Trivial things.

But my life wasn’t ordinary or trivial any longer.

A cold-blooded killer lived under my roof.

 

On the Nickel (A Cleopatra Jones Mystery) is available for purchase at:

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Terminal Ambition: A Maggie Mahoney Novel, Kate McGuinness {$4.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

Woody Allen once said, “There are three sexes: men, women and lawyers.” Woody never worked in a big law firm. Sexual secrets threaten to blow up Sweeny, Owens & Boyle, the Wall Street law firm at the center of Terminal Ambition, A Maggie Mahoney Novel. Sexual harassment is routine there, but disclosure of the firm chairman’s kink could disqualify him as the next U. S. Attorney General. He’s lined up for confirmation hearings when female partner Maggie Mahoney uncovers the bargain he made to hide his secret. Panicked, he ups the ante to try to buy her silence. If ambition rules, can justice prevail?

What readers are saying:

“Kate McGuinness knows all too well the corporate world of go-along-to-get-ahead that so many women face today. In Terminal Ambition, she’s crafted a firm as believable… and as slimy… as any created by Turow or Grisham. Read it!” Melanie Rigney, former editor at Writer’s Digest magazine

“A fast, lean read that charges to a big bang finish.”

“Got me from page 1!”

“Terminal Ambition hits all the marks for a legal thriller: masked motivations, hidden histories, personal perils and high stakes. ”

“A woman’s fight for justice in the workplace.”

“Satisfying and engrossing.”

The average Amazon reader review rating is currently 4.6 stars, with 47 reviews.

Click here to read more about and purchase Terminal Ambition: A Maggie Mahoney Novel Mystery for $4.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime at Amazon

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Crazy in Paradise, Deborah Brown {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of Crazy in Paradise:

Dying in the middle of the summer in the Florida Keys is sweaty business.Welcome to Tarpon Cove. Madison Westin has inherited her aunt’s beachfront motel in the Florida Keys. Trouble is she’s also inherited a slew of colorful tenant’s – drunks, ex-cons, and fugitives.

Only one problem: First, she has to wrestle control from a conniving lawyer and shady motel manager. With the help of her new best friend, whose motto is never leave home without your Glock, they dive into a world of blackmail, murder, and drugs.

 

Accolades:

“Zany, amusing, entertaining, interesting, – great characters and a fun read.”

“Well thought out plot…kept my interest right through to the end.”

“Great storyline…hooked to the very end. Action, Romance, and Intrigue.”

“Crazy is as crazy does.”

“Suspense, Mystery, Comedy makes for a fast and enjoyable read.”


Amazon Reader Reviews:

Crazy in Paradise currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.5 stars, with 229 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

Crazy in Paradise is available for purchase at:

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Excerpt from Crazy in Paradise:

Chapter 1

There should be a law in South Florida that a person can’t die during the summer. The death of a loved one was hard enough without the added humiliation of sweat. I felt it rolling down my back, like a stream trapped by the belt of my dress with nowhere to go.

My name is Madison Elizabeth Westin, and I’m seated at the funeral of my favorite aunt, people watching, of all things. Most of the mourners looked ready for a pool party, some of them in shorts and bathing suit cover-ups. I was the only one dressed in black; even my brother wore khaki shorts.

The minister began, “We are gathered here today to give thanks for the life of Elizabeth Ruth Hart, who shared herself with us. It is in her memory we come together and, for all she meant to us, we are thankful.”

My mother had named me after her older sister. Elizabeth was like a second mother to my brother Brad and me. We spent summers with her in Florida, running and playing on the beach, building sandcastles, and she was a regular visitor to our home in South Carolina.

After five years of not seeing her, I had packed for a several-month stay and planned to spend the summer with her. That’s when I got a phone call from her lawyer telling me she had died. I still found it difficult to believe it had happened so suddenly.

When I walked into the funeral home earlier, the heat had smothered me; this main room was suffocating. The air conditioning wasn’t working and it felt as though it was more than one hundred degrees. The director, Dickie Vanderbilt, had apologized for that, telling me that the central unit had gone out earlier in the day. He informed me he had all of the ceiling fans on high, which, in my opinion, were only circulating hot air.

Dickie Vanderbilt gave me the creeps. He had a slight build, pasty white skin, and long skinny fingers. When he reached out to touch my arm, I tried hard not to squirm.

I’m not a big fan of shaking hands. I find people only want to shake your hand when they can see you’re not interested. A friend suggested I perfect the dog paw shake for those who insist. I extend my hand like a paw and let it hang loose. Often times, they jerk their hand away and give me an odd stare, which makes me want to laugh every time.

The minister rambled on. I found him to be uninteresting, his speech dry. He talked about Elizabeth as though she were a stranger to him and everyone here. Apparently, Elizabeth’s jerk attorney, Tucker Davis, hadn’t given the minister any information about her. I didn’t understand why my aunt left all of the details of her funeral to Tucker. Why would she exclude the people who loved her and knew her best from having input? I wished I had one more day to walk along the beach to laugh, talk, and collect shells with her.

On Sunday, Tucker called to inform me that Elizabeth had died in her sleep from a heart attack. “The funeral is Wednesday, 1:00 p.m. at Tropical Slumber Funeral Home on Highway 1 in Tarpon Cove,” he told me.

“I want to help plan the funeral.”

“All of the arrangements have been made.” He sounded impatient, emphasizing his words. “If you want to, you can call anyone else you think should be informed.”

“My aunt would’ve wanted her family to be involved in the decision-making for her funeral. After all, my mother, brother, and I are the only family she had.”

“Elizabeth appointed me executor. She left me written instructions for everything she wanted done after her death, including her funeral.”

I didn’t believe him. Elizabeth loved us. She never would’ve excluded her family in this way, knowing how important it would be to us.

“I oversaw all of the arrangements myself. I’m sure you’ll be satisfied. If you have any other questions you can call my assistant, Ann.” He hung up the phone.

My aunt never once mentioned Tucker Davis to me or anyone else in the family. Here he was, a stranger, handling her estate.

The next day, I called the lawyer back to tell him that Elizabeth’s sister Madeline, her nephew Brad, and I, would attend. He refused to take my phone call, and I was frustrated.

“This is Madison Westin. May I speak with Tucker Davis?”

“I’m Ann, Mr. Davis’s assistant. He’s not accepting calls at this time. Can I help you with something?”

“I wanted to ask again if there was anything I could do in preparation for Elizabeth Hart’s funeral? Surely, you can understand how her family would want to be involved in any final decisions.”

“Mrs. Hart wanted Mr. Davis to make those arrangements, and he has. She didn’t indicate that she wanted anyone else involved in the planning. I can assure you he’s seen to all of the details. He worked directly with Mr. Vanderbilt at the funeral home.”

“I’ll be arriving later today. Would you tell Mr. Davis I’m available to help with anything that needs to be done? He can reach me at Elizabeth’s house.”

“Does Mr. Davis know you plan to stay in Mrs. Hart’s house?”

“I don’t need Mr. Davis’ permission. I’ve never stayed anywhere but the Cove Road house, and this trip won’t be any different. If Mr. Davis has a problem with my staying there, he can call me,” I said.

“Any more messages?” Ann sniffed and, without waiting for a response, hung up on me.

* * *

Tarpon Cove is an unsophisticated beach town situated at the top of the Keys off the Overseas Highway, which begins just north of Key Largo and ends in Key West. Tropical Slumber Funeral Home is located on the main street that runs through town. In a previous life, the building had obviously been a drive-thru fast food restaurant, the kind where you drove through the center of the building to place your order for a hot dog and fries. The new owners hadn’t even bothered to take down the concrete picnic tables that were on the side of the building. But they had replaced the old metal umbrellas with tropical thatched-style ones. A red carpet ran from the parking lot to the front door and continued to the door of the hearse parked behind the building.

We’d taken our seats on the rock-hard old church pews. I turned to look at my mother. “People are going to hear you laughing,” I whispered. “What’s wrong with you?”

My mother, Madeline Westin, had aged well; she looked younger than her sixty years, her short blonde hair framing her face. She wore a colorful sundress that showed off her long tanned legs.
She put her head on my shoulder. “I think Elizabeth is staring at me,” she whispered back.

Mother was right about one thing: it did appear as though Elizabeth was staring at everyone. They’d propped her up in the casket, and positioned her to sit straight up. She was dressed in a tent-style dress that was bright yellow and flowery, with a wilted corsage pinned to the front; a dress she never would’ve chosen for herself. Yellow was her least favorite color, and here she was surrounded by all white and yellow daisies and carnations, when she loved bold color and exotic blooms.

I tried to speak to Dickie about the arrangements when I first arrived in town. He told me firmly that he only took instructions from Tucker Davis and he wasn’t allowed to discuss any of the final details. I wondered why the secrecy, but he was so nervous I didn’t ask any more questions. He told me not to worry; he had worked hard to make everything memorable.
I appealed to him, “Don’t family members usually participate in the planning?”

But he was very clear; Tucker Davis’ approval was the most important thing to him.

I took a deep breath. Later, our family would create a lasting tribute to Elizabeth showing how much we had loved and respected her, and how we would deeply miss her. But for now, this would have to do, I guess.

I glanced up and saw a man who looked to be in his 60’s walking to the podium. He was well-worn, beer-gutted with dirty looking grey hair, and dressed in jean shorts and a tropical shirt that looked as though he’d worn them for several days.

“Hey, everyone,” he said into the microphone. “My name is…” he paused, “well, all my friends call me Quattro.” He held up both of his hands in a two-handed friendly wave.

He was missing his middle finger on his right hand and his thumb on his left hand. Brad and I glanced at one another and laughed. I mouthed “Quattro” at him and waved four fingers. He turned away, biting his lip.

“I told Dickie I’d speak first because he worried no one would come up and say anything and it wouldn’t look right. I told him don’t worry so much.” Quattro slowly scanned the crowd. “I reassured him there were a few people here who could think of something nice to say.” He ran his fingers through his hair and scratched his scalp.

“Elizabeth was a great old broad. Too damn bad, she died so young. She seemed young to me. Hell, I’m only a few years younger. You know she checked out in her sleep, and in her own bed. How much better does it get than that?”

I looked around. A few people were nodding their heads in agreement.

“Now that she’s kicked the bucket…” He paused. “Well, everyone knows there’s no bucket involved.” He laughed at his own humor. “Have you ever wondered what the reward is?” He waited as though he expected an answer. “Hmm, I’ve no idea either. Damn, it’s hot in here. You’d think a funeral place would turn on the air conditioning.”

“Yeah, I’ve got sweat in my shorts,” I heard someone say. A few others voiced their agreement.

“Keeps the smell down and all,” Quattro continued. “I know when it was a drive-thru the air worked good and sometimes the place was downright freezing.”

I saw a few people sniffing at the air. Were they sad? Or were they disappointed they couldn’t smell hotdogs and fries?

Dickie Vanderbilt stood off to the side, staring at his shoes, and picking at his rather large tie tack in the shape of a flamingo.

“But back to Elizabeth. I called her Betty once and, boy, she got mad.”

Mother sobbed loudly, which I knew was actually laughter. People turned to stare. I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. “Mother, please. This funeral is bad enough.”

Her body shook with laughter. I gripped her tightly. “Oww,” she whispered.

“Behave yourself, or I’ll keep squeezing.” I shifted again on the bench, having a hard time sitting still when my legs kept sticking to the wood.

“Elizabeth was good to a lot of people,” Quattro continued. “Too bad she won’t be around to do any of us any more favors.” He looked around and rubbed the end of his nose.

I stared wide-eyed at him wondering if he was about to pick his nose.

“The truth is, I’ve run out of stuff to say. I know she wouldn’t have wanted to die so soon, but the problem is we all think we’re going to live forever, and we don’t. So, ‘God Bless’.” He waved and walked away from the podium.

 

Crazy in Paradise is available for purchase at:

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Connect with Deborah Brown:

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

Author Twitter Page: @debbrownbooks

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Description of Crazy in Paradise:

Dying in the middle of the summer in the Florida Keys is sweaty business.Welcome to Tarpon Cove. Madison Westin has inherited her aunt’s beachfront motel in the Florida Keys. Trouble is she’s also inherited a slew of colorful tenant’s – drunks, ex-cons, and fugitives.

Only one problem: First, she has to wrestle control from a conniving lawyer and shady motel manager. With the help of her new best friend, whose motto is never leave home without your Glock, they dive into a world of blackmail, murder, and drugs.

 

Accolades:

“Zany, amusing, entertaining, interesting, – great characters and a fun read.” 

“Well thought out plot…kept my interest right through to the end.”

“Great storyline…hooked to the very end. Action, Romance, and Intrigue.”

“Crazy is as crazy does.”

“Suspense, Mystery, Comedy makes for a fast and enjoyable read.”


Amazon Reader Reviews:

Crazy in Paradise currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.5 stars, with 229 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

Crazy in Paradise is available for purchase at:

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

 

Excerpt from Crazy in Paradise:

Chapter 1

There should be a law in South Florida that a person can’t die during the summer. The death of a loved one was hard enough without the added humiliation of sweat. I felt it rolling down my back, like a stream trapped by the belt of my dress with nowhere to go.

My name is Madison Elizabeth Westin, and I’m seated at the funeral of my favorite aunt, people watching, of all things. Most of the mourners looked ready for a pool party, some of them in shorts and bathing suit cover-ups. I was the only one dressed in black; even my brother wore khaki shorts.

The minister began, “We are gathered here today to give thanks for the life of Elizabeth Ruth Hart, who shared herself with us. It is in her memory we come together and, for all she meant to us, we are thankful.”

My mother had named me after her older sister. Elizabeth was like a second mother to my brother Brad and me. We spent summers with her in Florida, running and playing on the beach, building sandcastles, and she was a regular visitor to our home in South Carolina.

After five years of not seeing her, I had packed for a several-month stay and planned to spend the summer with her. That’s when I got a phone call from her lawyer telling me she had died. I still found it difficult to believe it had happened so suddenly.

When I walked into the funeral home earlier, the heat had smothered me; this main room was suffocating. The air conditioning wasn’t working and it felt as though it was more than one hundred degrees. The director, Dickie Vanderbilt, had apologized for that, telling me that the central unit had gone out earlier in the day. He informed me he had all of the ceiling fans on high, which, in my opinion, were only circulating hot air.

Dickie Vanderbilt gave me the creeps. He had a slight build, pasty white skin, and long skinny fingers. When he reached out to touch my arm, I tried hard not to squirm.

I’m not a big fan of shaking hands. I find people only want to shake your hand when they can see you’re not interested. A friend suggested I perfect the dog paw shake for those who insist. I extend my hand like a paw and let it hang loose. Often times, they jerk their hand away and give me an odd stare, which makes me want to laugh every time.

The minister rambled on. I found him to be uninteresting, his speech dry. He talked about Elizabeth as though she were a stranger to him and everyone here. Apparently, Elizabeth’s jerk attorney, Tucker Davis, hadn’t given the minister any information about her. I didn’t understand why my aunt left all of the details of her funeral to Tucker. Why would she exclude the people who loved her and knew her best from having input? I wished I had one more day to walk along the beach to laugh, talk, and collect shells with her.

On Sunday, Tucker called to inform me that Elizabeth had died in her sleep from a heart attack. “The funeral is Wednesday, 1:00 p.m. at Tropical Slumber Funeral Home on Highway 1 in Tarpon Cove,” he told me.

“I want to help plan the funeral.”

“All of the arrangements have been made.” He sounded impatient, emphasizing his words. “If you want to, you can call anyone else you think should be informed.”

“My aunt would’ve wanted her family to be involved in the decision-making for her funeral. After all, my mother, brother, and I are the only family she had.”

“Elizabeth appointed me executor. She left me written instructions for everything she wanted done after her death, including her funeral.”

I didn’t believe him. Elizabeth loved us. She never would’ve excluded her family in this way, knowing how important it would be to us.

“I oversaw all of the arrangements myself. I’m sure you’ll be satisfied. If you have any other questions you can call my assistant, Ann.” He hung up the phone.

My aunt never once mentioned Tucker Davis to me or anyone else in the family. Here he was, a stranger, handling her estate.

The next day, I called the lawyer back to tell him that Elizabeth’s sister Madeline, her nephew Brad, and I, would attend. He refused to take my phone call, and I was frustrated.

“This is Madison Westin. May I speak with Tucker Davis?”

“I’m Ann, Mr. Davis’s assistant. He’s not accepting calls at this time. Can I help you with something?”

“I wanted to ask again if there was anything I could do in preparation for Elizabeth Hart’s funeral? Surely, you can understand how her family would want to be involved in any final decisions.”

“Mrs. Hart wanted Mr. Davis to make those arrangements, and he has. She didn’t indicate that she wanted anyone else involved in the planning. I can assure you he’s seen to all of the details. He worked directly with Mr. Vanderbilt at the funeral home.”

“I’ll be arriving later today. Would you tell Mr. Davis I’m available to help with anything that needs to be done? He can reach me at Elizabeth’s house.”

“Does Mr. Davis know you plan to stay in Mrs. Hart’s house?”

“I don’t need Mr. Davis’ permission. I’ve never stayed anywhere but the Cove Road house, and this trip won’t be any different. If Mr. Davis has a problem with my staying there, he can call me,” I said.

“Any more messages?” Ann sniffed and, without waiting for a response, hung up on me.

* * *

Tarpon Cove is an unsophisticated beach town situated at the top of the Keys off the Overseas Highway, which begins just north of Key Largo and ends in Key West. Tropical Slumber Funeral Home is located on the main street that runs through town. In a previous life, the building had obviously been a drive-thru fast food restaurant, the kind where you drove through the center of the building to place your order for a hot dog and fries. The new owners hadn’t even bothered to take down the concrete picnic tables that were on the side of the building. But they had replaced the old metal umbrellas with tropical thatched-style ones. A red carpet ran from the parking lot to the front door and continued to the door of the hearse parked behind the building.

We’d taken our seats on the rock-hard old church pews. I turned to look at my mother. “People are going to hear you laughing,” I whispered. “What’s wrong with you?”

My mother, Madeline Westin, had aged well; she looked younger than her sixty years, her short blonde hair framing her face. She wore a colorful sundress that showed off her long tanned legs.
She put her head on my shoulder. “I think Elizabeth is staring at me,” she whispered back.

Mother was right about one thing: it did appear as though Elizabeth was staring at everyone. They’d propped her up in the casket, and positioned her to sit straight up. She was dressed in a tent-style dress that was bright yellow and flowery, with a wilted corsage pinned to the front; a dress she never would’ve chosen for herself. Yellow was her least favorite color, and here she was surrounded by all white and yellow daisies and carnations, when she loved bold color and exotic blooms.

I tried to speak to Dickie about the arrangements when I first arrived in town. He told me firmly that he only took instructions from Tucker Davis and he wasn’t allowed to discuss any of the final details. I wondered why the secrecy, but he was so nervous I didn’t ask any more questions. He told me not to worry; he had worked hard to make everything memorable.
I appealed to him, “Don’t family members usually participate in the planning?”

But he was very clear; Tucker Davis’ approval was the most important thing to him.

I took a deep breath. Later, our family would create a lasting tribute to Elizabeth showing how much we had loved and respected her, and how we would deeply miss her. But for now, this would have to do, I guess.

I glanced up and saw a man who looked to be in his 60’s walking to the podium. He was well-worn, beer-gutted with dirty looking grey hair, and dressed in jean shorts and a tropical shirt that looked as though he’d worn them for several days.

“Hey, everyone,” he said into the microphone. “My name is…” he paused, “well, all my friends call me Quattro.” He held up both of his hands in a two-handed friendly wave.

He was missing his middle finger on his right hand and his thumb on his left hand. Brad and I glanced at one another and laughed. I mouthed “Quattro” at him and waved four fingers. He turned away, biting his lip.

“I told Dickie I’d speak first because he worried no one would come up and say anything and it wouldn’t look right. I told him don’t worry so much.” Quattro slowly scanned the crowd. “I reassured him there were a few people here who could think of something nice to say.” He ran his fingers through his hair and scratched his scalp.

“Elizabeth was a great old broad. Too damn bad, she died so young. She seemed young to me. Hell, I’m only a few years younger. You know she checked out in her sleep, and in her own bed. How much better does it get than that?”

I looked around. A few people were nodding their heads in agreement.

“Now that she’s kicked the bucket…” He paused. “Well, everyone knows there’s no bucket involved.” He laughed at his own humor. “Have you ever wondered what the reward is?” He waited as though he expected an answer. “Hmm, I’ve no idea either. Damn, it’s hot in here. You’d think a funeral place would turn on the air conditioning.”

“Yeah, I’ve got sweat in my shorts,” I heard someone say. A few others voiced their agreement.

“Keeps the smell down and all,” Quattro continued. “I know when it was a drive-thru the air worked good and sometimes the place was downright freezing.”

I saw a few people sniffing at the air. Were they sad? Or were they disappointed they couldn’t smell hotdogs and fries?

Dickie Vanderbilt stood off to the side, staring at his shoes, and picking at his rather large tie tack in the shape of a flamingo.

“But back to Elizabeth. I called her Betty once and, boy, she got mad.”

Mother sobbed loudly, which I knew was actually laughter. People turned to stare. I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. “Mother, please. This funeral is bad enough.”

Her body shook with laughter. I gripped her tightly. “Oww,” she whispered.

“Behave yourself, or I’ll keep squeezing.” I shifted again on the bench, having a hard time sitting still when my legs kept sticking to the wood.

“Elizabeth was good to a lot of people,” Quattro continued. “Too bad she won’t be around to do any of us any more favors.” He looked around and rubbed the end of his nose.

I stared wide-eyed at him wondering if he was about to pick his nose.

“The truth is, I’ve run out of stuff to say. I know she wouldn’t have wanted to die so soon, but the problem is we all think we’re going to live forever, and we don’t. So, ‘God Bless’.” He waved and walked away from the podium.

 

Crazy in Paradise is available for purchase at:

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

 

Connect with Deborah Brown:

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

Author Twitter Page: @debbrownbooks

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