Thursday, December 13, 2018

BOOK BLITZ: Rum & Coke by Kimberly Knight #GIVEAWAY


Rum & Coke
Kimberly Knight
(Saddles & Racks #4)
Publication date: December 11th 2018
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense
Not everything goes as planned …
Vincent Reed always believed he’d play professional volleyball in the Olympics, but when he’s injured his sophomore year of college, his dreams are crushed and he loses his scholarship. Instead of dropping out of school, Vinny began working as a male escort to pay for his education and fulfill his new dream of teaching children. Enjoying the life of luxury and travel, Vinny continues moonlighting as a male escort after graduation. He has everything he could ever need.
Everything happens for a reason …
Teresa Stewart never planned to get pregnant before she was married. She also didn’t plan for the father of her baby to die in combat before she could even tell him the news. Struggling to feed herself and her son, Colton, Tessa moves to Las Vegas where she hopes the cost of living will be cheaper and she’ll find a job in a popular hotel. But finding a job isn’t easy for Tessa, and a neighbor soon convinces her that stripping is the best way to make the money she needs to provide for her small family. All of life’s puzzle pieces are starting to come together, but Tessa knows something is still missing.
They say best friends make the best lovers …
At a bachelor party for his co-worker, Vinny meets Tessa. The sexual attraction is undeniable, but they each have something holding them back from moving forward. They grow even closer when Vinny becomes Colton’s teacher, and it seems as though all the pieces are finally falling into place.
However, sometimes the best-laid plans turn to hell …
Because murder will change everything.

EXCERPT:

Vinny
Present Day

“We’ll always have the Dodgers.”
I took a sip of the rum and Coke I was nursing at the hotel’s bar. I should have been drinking something stronger than rum, or I should have been drinking the 151 proof version that would fuck me up. However, Bacardi had discontinued it, and I was left drowning my sorrows with my usual eighty proof drink of choice because nothing was going to prepare me for today. Not even alcohol.
Especially since it was her wedding day.
When I got the invitation on my doorstep last night, my world came to a screeching halt. Three and half months ago, she’d left me. One minute we’d just started dating, and the next minute she was moving in with the asshole. I tried to go talk to her, but I was never allowed. He lived in a gated community, and she told me on the phone that she was with him under her own free will.
Nothing was adding up, but in the end, I couldn’t get her back.
“We’ll always have the Dodgers.” Those were the last five words Tessa had ever spoken to me. The truth was, we didn’t have the Dodgers. She hated the Dodgers, and I knew it was code— an S.O.S.—but I couldn’t get to her. Couldn’t figure out if it was a cry for help because I was never able to see her again.
I tried.
Now, she was marrying the guy, and I felt as though I was living in some sort of twilight zone. The funny thing was that I was planning on taking a break from escorting for Tessa. I wanted to see where things went with her because she was the first and only woman I’d ever loved. If she were to come back to me, I’d give it all up right now and whisk her away.
If I could.
But I couldn’t.
I drained the rest of my drink and then went in search of the room that would feel more like a coffin to me because watching Tessa walk down the aisle was going to be the death of me. My heart was already breaking, and I hadn’t even seen her yet. Just the mere thought of her taking someone else’s last name was enough to put a crack in my heart—shatter it into a million fucking pieces and cause me to never be whole again.
Why did I even come? Why did I get out of bed this morning? Why did I drive the forty minutes to Henderson and get out of my car? And why was I about to walk into my worst nightmare?
All the questions had the same answer: Because I loved her.
I loved Tessa enough to put her happiness before mine and let her go because now I understood that she did leave me on her own. Maybe I’d never move on. Maybe I’d find someone new and eventually quit escorting and start a family. Maybe. But truthfully, after today, I’d never open my heart to anyone else.
When I found where the wedding was being held, I realized it wasn’t in a room. It was a courtyard, and even though I wasn’t going to feel as though I was suffocating, the hundreds of flowers scattered around, and the altar in the center, taunted me. I made sure to get a seat in the back by the door to the hotel in case I couldn’t handle it and needed to leave.
I pulled a flask of rum from my black suit jacket and took a swig as people started to take their seats. I needed more alcohol to numb the pain. At any moment the wedding would start. Tessa was going to walk in on her father’s arm, and he’d give her away.
And no one would know that he wasn’t the only one giving her away.



Author Bio:
Kimberly Knight is a USA Today Bestselling Author that lives in the mountains near a lake with her loving husband and spoiled cat, Precious. In her spare time, she enjoys watching her favorite reality TV shows, watching the San Francisco Giants win World Series and the San Jose Sharks kick butt. She's also a two time desmoid tumor/cancer fighter that's made her stronger and an inspiration to her fans. Now that she lives near a lake, she plans on working on her tan and doing more outdoor stuff like watching hot guys waterski. However, the bulk of her time is dedicated to writing and reading romance and erotic fiction.
Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest



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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

🎧 AUDIOBOOK RELEASE 🎧 Ribbons & Os by R.E. Hargrave #GIVEAWAY

🎧 NOW LIVE 🎧
 #StripedStockingStory

written by R.E. Hargrave
narrated by Ruby Rivers and La Petite Mort
Listening Time: 1.7 hours

SUMMARY:

Carina Anderson has had a craptastic year. From losing her parents in separate freak accidents to finding her boyfriend and BFF engaged in kinky sex games, her general enthusiasm for life has evaporated. It’s not a surprise that by the time Christmas rolls around, she’s ready to lock her doors and hermit the season away—until a chance encounter forces her outlook to change. With her newfound attitude, Carina takes a wild leap and lands herself in a world she never dreamed of. A world she’ll soon find she can’t get enough of.

Dr. Elijah Davies has been counting down the days until he can return to England—and the creature comforts of his playroom. Now used to the hustle and bustle of London, he’s only come back to Hooksett as a favor to his eccentric uncle. But when an adorable and oh-so-sexy elf crosses his path, Elijah decides his visit to the small New Hampshire town might not end up being so boring after all.

Never underestimate the magic of the season… or the power of attraction.


Get the AUDIO BOOK here:



#LittleElf #AudibleChemistry #MustListen #SupportAudio #JingleAllTheWay

eBook available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, kobo, iBooks, and more via: https://www.books2read.com/RibbonsOs
currently on sale for 99c!


Meet the Narrators:



Author Bio:
Domestic engineer. Dreamer.
And quite possibly certifiable.

Believing every story can shine bright with a bit of tenacious tough love, R.E. Hargrave is thorough and to the point. An international bestselling author, she takes storytelling and manuscript polishing seriously, working with her authors and on her own creations to ensure they come to life, crawling from the pages and into the reader’s souls.

Hargrave lives on the outskirts of Dallas, TX and is married to her high school sweetheart; together they are raising three children. A native 'mutt,' she has lived in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, and California. She is fond of setting her stories—which range from the sweet to the paranormal, to the erotic and horrific—on location in South Carolina and Texas.

Hargrave is best known for her erotic BDSM series, The Divine Trilogy. The final book in the trilogy, Surreal, was a 2015 Golden Flogger Award Finalist with BDSM Writer’s Con. In 2017, her short novella Brooklyn Blues was also a GFAFinalist.

You can find her on her blog: http://www.rehargrave.com

GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a paperback copy of Ribbons & Os signed by the author AND the narrators (plus, a few book related surprise goodies as well).

BOOK BLITZ: What a Wolf Desires by Amy Pennza #GIVEAWAY


What a Wolf Desires
Amy Pennza
(Lux Catena Series, #1)
Publication date: November 21st 2018
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Lizette Butler has the only thing she ever wanted—freedom from her pack Alpha, Maxime Simard, and the ability to decide her own fate. She and Max have a turbulent history and a powerful—if unwilling—attraction. Unfortunately, mere distance can’t stop the past from crashing back in to disrupt her life. Nor can it stop the rush of desire that overwhelms her the minute she sees him again. Her body may crave his physical seductions, but her heart will never let her love him.
As leader of the New York territory, Max has everything—wealth, power, and an army of wolves ready to jump at his command. But a mistake he made five years ago may have cost him the only thing worth living for: Lizette. He also knows something Lizette doesn’t—she possesses a rare ability that makes her a target and a prize.
Max can command Lizette to return to the pack, but he can’t command her trust…or her love. And if he can’t heal the rift between them, he may lose her forever.

EXCERPT:
The inside of the Lodge was brighter than Lizette remembered, the foyer spiraling up a dizzying sixty feet. Twin staircases graced either side, each one leading to a catwalk that appeared to float across the impressive space.
The foyer opened onto a massive great room dominated by a huge stone fireplace. She’d spent many an evening lying in front of it, chin propped on her hand, studying the flames.
She longed to sink into one of the big leather couches in front of the fireplace, but she had her instructions. Her orders. She was to report directly to the Alpha as soon as she set foot in the building. Disobeying wouldn’t be a good way to start her visit.
And a visit is exactly what it’s going to be. As she walked the familiar path to Max’s study, his presence was like a beating heart in the huge Lodge. Each pulse dragged her closer to him, even though every nerve screamed for her to run back out the door and never stop.
“Lizette?” a young, feminine voice called behind her.
She stopped and pivoted toward it. “Haley?”
A dark blur shot from the other end of the hallway. Before she could say anything else, Haley threw itself into Lizette’s arms, wrapping her in a tight, perfumed hug with surprising strength.
She patted her friend’s springy, light brown curls. “Have you been working out?”
Haley laughed and pulled back so they were face-to-face. “It’s the wolf,” she said, her white, even teeth bisected by the thin metal wire of her retainer. “I can’t believe how much it’s changed me in such a short time.”
Six weeks earlier, Haley had convinced her guardians to let her spend a weekend with Lizette. Haley turned seventeen that past Christmas with no sign of her wolf emerging. The Turn happened at different ages for everyone, but it usually happened by puberty—and because girls tended to mature faster than boys, females usually Turned earlier. But Haley hadn’t made the change, and her guardians worried she never would. Among werewolves, such wolves were called latents.
Latents had a wolf counterpart, but they couldn’t Turn. They felt the pull of the wolf’s instincts but had no outlet for them. Lizette had heard it described as being a pianist with your hands permanently tied behind your back.
It was a sad, frustrating existence for wolves, cursed to live trapped inside their human bodies, unable to transform into their other selves. The hope of finding a mate was slim, since they lacked the ability to form the lifelong bonds so treasured by the wolves, and many couldn’t bear to be around normal werewolves.
The problem had even spilled over from werewolf society and trickled down into the human world. Every now and then news headlines told of a madman or killer who’d committed some unspeakable crime. In some cases, it was just a random crazy human. But in others it was a latent who’d lost his or her grip on reality, and the local Alpha would dispatch a group of wolves to quietly take care of the problem.
In the morning the human police would find the defendant hanged in his cell. Was it murder? Yes, but it was too risky to allow those wolves to live.
The human word lunatic was a lot closer to the truth than most people realized.
At first Haley’s guardians thought she might simply be a late bloomer. But when puberty came and went and she still hadn’t Turned, they were desperate. So they sent her to Lizette, hoping some time with another female around her own age might relieve some of the Haley’s anxieties. What if she never Turned? Latents often lived a sort of half-life. Cut off from the werewolf community, many committed suicide.
To everyone’s delight, Haley Turned for the first time during her stay at Lizette’s place. She and Lizette had danced around the apartment blasting One Direction and Taylor Swift until Lizette got a migraine and the downstairs neighbor pounded on the ceiling to shut them up.
Lizette squeezed Haley’s bicep. “I’m impressed. You have Madonna arms.”
Haley laughed, her pretty face lit up with joy. It made Lizette’s heart happy to see her like this. In a way she felt protective of her, and not just because Lizette was there the first time Haley Turned. Like Lizette, Haley lost her parents as a child. Although Haley was raised in a werewolf community, they’d both been foster kids of a sort. Haley knew what it felt like to be an outsider.
Haley’s expression grew abruptly serious. “Have you seen him yet?”
Lizette swallowed. Of course Haley knew why Lizette was here. There was only one thing—or rather one person—who could have compelled her to return. “Not yet. Soon.”
“Oh.”
They stared at each other. Even at seventeen, Haley understood that being summoned to appear before the Alpha was serious business. Everyone did. In Lizette’s case, however, it held a special significance.
“I should go.”
“You should go.”
They both laughed.
Lizette took a reluctant step toward the foyer. “I’m sure I’ll see you later. We have a ton of things to catch up on.” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “Like boys.” Although goodness knew Lizette had little advice to offer in that area. Aside from one brief—and that was generous—relationship as a teen, her love life was DOA.
“Definitely,” Haley said. “And I want to run together before you go.”
Lizette gave Haley a little wave and tried to ignore the way her stomach lurched as she headed back the way she’d come. She stopped in front of a set of big double doors and wiped her palms on her jeans. She angled her chin down and took in her sweater and mint green Chucks. Was Aiden right? Maybe she should have changed.
This is ridiculous. She was twenty-four years old, not fifteen…so why did she feel like a teenager reporting to the principal’s office?
Or a woman on a first date.
Not going there. She’d see what he wanted and then go home. Simple as that. She took a deep breath and knocked.
“Come,” said a low voice from behind the door.
The sound ripped through her like a thunderclap, and her knees almost gave out. She clenched her fists and pressed her fingernails into her palms—a trick she learned from Dom. The pain steadied her. She pushed the door open…
…and locked gazes with the Alpha. Her Alpha. Maxime Alexandre Simard.
He sat behind his desk, his posture relaxed. A lord in command of his domain.
And in the werewolf world, that’s exactly what he was.
The first time she saw him was in the back of a Los Angeles County courtroom. Her caseworker had called her foster parents the day before, breathless, saying a relative had come forward—a distant cousin of Lizette’s mother. He was flying in from New York and would be there the next day to file the paperwork.
In court he wore a charcoal gray suit and a dark blue tie. His jacket sleeves rode up when he shook her foster father’s hand, exposing his shirt cuffs and the strange metal jewelry he wore there instead of buttons. When she slid past him to climb into the limo, she accidentally brushed his sleeve, and the fabric felt like a cloud against her skin. He’d smelled of pine and soap and something…darker…a rich spice she couldn’t identify.
Lizette knew right away that he wasn’t human. There was something other about him. At fifteen, she’d been old enough to see through a disguise, even a convincing one. As soon as the door closed, she’d blurted, “Are you human?”
“Not entirely.”
Her heart had pounded so hard her chest had hurt. “Will you hurt me?”
“Never. I promise you.”
“Are you…” She thought back to the stash of vampire novels she kept hidden under her bed at her foster parents’ house. “Are you immortal?”
“I’m afraid not.”
Disappointment washed over her…followed by renewed curiosity. “How old are you, then?”
“Twenty-seven.” She must have looked surprised, because he smiled. “You expected me to be older?”
“If you’re not human, then what are you?” He spoke perfect English, but he had an accent…something refined and Old World. It curled around her brain like a lazy cat. She caught herself leaning toward him, hoping he’d speak again.
“Ah.” He looked thoughtful for a minute. “What do you think I am, petite?”
“I…don’t know.”
He tapped on the glass dividing the back seat from the front, and the car rumbled to life and slid into traffic. When he turned back to her, his light blue eyes were different. Sharper. “What if I told you that you and I are the same…”
Sitting behind his desk now, Max looked exactly as he had in the courtroom nine years ago. Knowing what she did today, Lizette knew he’d look more or less the same for the rest of his long life.
His face was aristocratic and refined—his patrician nose set between straight black eyebrows. He wore his thick black hair brushed back from a broad, unlined forehead, and his jaw was shadowed by what looked like several days’ growth of beard. But his light blue eyes were his most arresting feature. Pale as a spring sky, they focused on her as if she was the only creature on earth.
He was the only wolf she knew whose eyes changed very little between forms. To notice any difference, a person had to be standing toe-to-toe with him.
Or kissing him.
Her breath hitched. She realized she was staring and dropped her gaze to the thick patterned carpet. Shit. First she challenged Dom. Now she just challenged Max. With Dom, she’d breached protocol because she was angry. This time she hadn’t even realized she was doing it.
“Sit,” Max said, his voice curt. He remained seated as she approached the leather chairs in front of his desk. That didn’t surprise her. Alphas stood for no one—especially this Alpha.
She perched on the edge of one of the chairs, her gaze on the space near his right shoulder. He sat with his elbows on the desk, studying her. He’d rolled back the long sleeves of his starched white button-down, revealing muscled forearms sprinkled with black hairs. The casual style should have made him look less intimidating, but it did the opposite.
She felt his gaze wander across her body, its heat like a spotlight against her skin. All thoughts of controlling her heart rate fled—the meditation she practiced during the drive scattering like a flock of birds.
As if drawn by a magnet, she locked gazes with him again. The back of her neck tingled as they stared at each other. If he felt anything in the soft skin of his right thumb, he gave no indication.
After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, he let his wolf creep into his eyes. “You think to challenge me?” he asked softly, sounding merely curious.
She lowered her gaze to his collarbone. “No.”
His chair creaked as he leaned back. “You’ve been too long in the human world. You forget our ways.”
“So I’ve heard,” she muttered. The thing was, it was true when Dom said it. This time, though, she hadn’t forgotten. Normally the wolf’s instinct kicked in and compelled her to drop her gaze whenever a more dominant wolf was around. Max was the most dominant wolf in any room, which meant her instinct should have been firing on all cylinders. But it had deserted her just now.
For a brief moment she’d forgotten to avoid staring directly into his eyes. She was surprised she was able to maintain eye contact as long as she had. Apparently the usual rules didn’t apply to them.
“Well,” he continued, “we shall remedy that now that you’re here.”
She cleared her throat. “Since you brought it up, I’d actually like to know why I’m here.”
He rose and walked to the floor-to-ceiling windows facing the gorge a hundred feet below. The windows took up the entire wall—a feature that repeated across most of the rear of the Lodge, which had been built to take advantage of the area’s natural beauty. The wall behind his desk displayed a large map of the United States and Canada. Instead of showing the usual boundary lines, however, it was sectioned into sixty territories—each marked with a capital no human would have recognized. They sat in the New York Territory which, predictably, included all of New York. Unlike the human version, Max’s domain extended all the way north to Quebec.
She tore her gaze away from the map. She didn’t need another reminder of his power. It was literally in the room with her, almost like an aura shining around him. She’d never felt it so strongly before. All high-ranking wolves oozed power, but most wielded incredible control over it. If they chose, they could also mute their power so it wasn’t so obnoxious.
Was he displaying his on purpose to intimidate her? But no, displays weren’t really Max’s style. He was far too subtle for that.
“How are your headaches?” he asked without turning around.
She closed her eyes. “Fine.”
“I can smell your lie from here.”
It was impossible to reply without telling the truth—or getting caught in another lie—so she clamped her mouth shut. She had a feeling he was going to say whatever he wanted to say anyway.
“You’ve lost weight.”
She gritted her teeth. “In the human world, that’s generally considered a good thing. Women are always trying to lose weight.”
“You’re not a human.” He rolled his neck on his shoulders, the movement drawing her gaze. She’d forgotten how big he was. Even if he wasn’t an Alpha, he’d still command any room he entered, and not just because of his physical size. The fabric of his shirt stretched tight over powerful shoulders and a broad back that tapered to lean hips. Her stare sank lower…until she realized where it was headed and tore her eyes away.
What was she doing?
She must have made a sound, because he turned away from the window. She had his full attention now.
Crap, crap, crap.
She pressed her damp palms against her jeans as his denim-clad legs appeared before her. He stopped in front of his desk, his body inches from hers. A warm hand lifted her chin and kept lifting her, gently pulling her to her feet.
Her heart threatened to leap out of her chest. He tipped her chin up. He’d stuffed his wolf down so deep, he appeared as a normal man—or as normal as Maxime Simard would ever get. In a blink, his demeanor changed. The wolf bled from his eyes, and his gaze dipped to her mouth. They were no longer speaking Alpha-to-subject. This was something entirely different.
She knew this Max. He was more terrifying than the Alpha.
“You want to know why I called you back.” He made it a statement.
She swallowed. “Yes.”
His eyes glittered. “That’s easy. I wanted to speak with my wife.”

Author Bio:
Amy Pennza has been a lawyer, a soldier, and a copywriter. Although she liked the first two well enough, she decided writing romance is the job she loves best. After years in Tornado Alley, she now makes her home in the Great Lakes region with her husband, kids, and two demanding animals.

You can visit her at www.amypennza.com



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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

BOOK BLITZ: Song of Sacrifice by Janell Rhiannon #GIVEAWAY


Song of Sacrifice
Janell Rhiannon
(Homeric Chronicles, #1)
Publication date: December 26th 2018
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Historical

The heart of the Trojan War belongs to the women.
Mothers and daughters; wives and war prizes, whisper to us across time…
…remember our songs alongside the mighty men of myth.

As the Age of Heroes wanes, the gods gamble more fiercely with mortals’ lives than they ever have before. Women must rely on their inner strength and cunning to survive the wars men wage for gold and glory.
Clytemnestra of Mycenae struggles for control of her life after Agamemnon ruthlessly rips it apart. Leda of Sparta survives a brutal assault by Zeus, shouldering a terrible secret in silence. Penelope raises Ithaka’s sole heir alone, praying for Odysseus’ swift return. Thetis, the sea nymph, despairs of her son’s destiny and resorts to forbidden magic to save him. Hecuba of Troy mourns the loss of her second son to a dark prophesy. And Shavash of Pedasus prepares her daughter to marry the greatest warrior who ever lived.
In a world where love leads to war and duty leads to destruction, the iron hearts of heroines will conquer all.
Sing, Muse, sing their song of sacrifice…
Replaces Song of Princes as the first book in the Homeric Chronicles.
EXCERPT:

LYRNESSUS
THRITY FOUR, Briseis and Mynes
1262 BCE

“YOUR KINGDOM SOMEDAY, little one.” Briseis rested her hands beneath her round belly, as the child stretched against her ribs. Leaning to the side, she attempted to avoid the uncomfortable tightness building at her lower back. The ache eased and she breathed easy again. Standing from the reclining couch, Briseis walked to the balcony overlooking Lyrnessus’ fields. If she squint her eyes, she could just make out the pale blue of the horizon across the Bay of Edremit. Much farther to the north, she knew Troy stood as the shining citadel of the East. “In another time, that would’ve been yours. I’d thought it mine, before―” Another pain doubled her and she gripped the banister. “By the balls of Zeus! What’s happening?”
Your daughter seeks the light …
Briseis looked around the chamber. “Who’s there?”
Have no fear, daughter, I am with you.
Another pain, this time much sharper and stronger, ripped across her belly and a gush of bloody water splashed at her feet. “Bree! Come quickly! Bree!”
The princess’ chamber door flew open, as the maid servant took in the scene before her. “My lady! By the gods, it’s your time!”
Briseis’ eyes widened in fear. “So soon? I’m not ready. I have―” Her knees buckled.
“My lady!” Bree swept to Briseis’ side, lifting the princess to her feet, half carrying her to the chamber bed.
“The pain. By the … balls of … Zeus. I.can.scarce.breathe.”
There is glory in your pain, Briseis.
“Bree, who else is here?”
“No one, yet,” she said, tucking a sheet about the princess. Bree ran to the door, yelling down the cavernous hall for the midwife. Within moments a gaggle of women flew through the door clucking about the impending royal birth.
Briseis’ scream startled them all. The midwife was at the princess’ side in the blink of an eye, pulling back the privacy sheet. Her hands firmly palpated Briseis’ belly. Without a word, she pushed Briseis’ thighs apart. Her eyes widened.
“What’s wrong?” Briseis asked, tears spilling down her hot cheeks.
The midwife pressed her lips together in a grim line. “My lady, this will be a difficult birth. I must put my hand inside of you to confirm my suspicions.”
“Do it!” Briseis screamed as another pain wracked her body. She groaned in agony as the midwife’s hand pressed into her. “By the gods …”
Bree pressed a cool cloth to her lady’s forehead and cheek.
“The child is breech,” the midwife pronounced, wiping her hands on a towel. A hush settled around the chamber. They all knew it was likely a death sentence to mother, child, or both.
Briseis wept. “No. No. By the gods, no!” Another pain tore through her.
Bree dipped the cooling cloth in the water basin again. “Can nothing be done? Can you save Princess Briseis?”
Briseis rolled back against the cushions. “Save my child, please.”
If that is your wish …
Yes, save my child. “Save my child. Take me instead.”
Bree’s face whitened. “What’s she saying?”
The midwife answered, “What all women say, when faced with such a choice.”
A dusty swirl of air blew into the chamber, snuffing out the oil lamps. The women froze, as a tall, glittering woman emerged from the small storm. Her gown flashed silver and gold. They fell to their knees, heads bowed, the goddess’ name on their lips … Eleithyia.
The goddess glided to Briseis’ side, stars blinking along the hem of her gown as she moved. She reached out a pale, cool hand to Briseis’ forehead. “Calm yourself, daughter. I’m here.”
Briseis smiled weakly. “Gratitude, Goddess.”
Eleithyia signaled to Bree. “You appear a strong maid. Help me set her onto her knees and place her hands on your shoulders.” She looked to the midwife. “Watch. Learn.”
The midwife nodded, as Briseis was placed into position.
The goddess moved her hands on either side of Briseis’ hard belly, running her palms flat against the lower abdomen. “Now, push your daughter to the light. Push like a warrior afield. Push for your life and for hers.”
Briseis cried out in agony, her limbs shaking with effort. Blood spilled as the child’s buttocks crowned.
“Hold your lady tightly.” Eleithyia’s voice was steady, as her hands worked calmly. Gently, she pulled each leg to length. “Push, Briseis.” The goddess, holding the babe with both hands, slightly turned the torso, releasing a shoulder blade and freeing the arm. Then, repeated the same for the other arm. The women gasped as the child hung half-suspended, face down, from Briseis’ body. Eleithyia positioned one hand on the baby’s chest, while the fingers of her other hand cradled the neck and head. “One last push, Briseis. Victory is yours with this battle.”
Briseis’ fingers dug into Bree’s shoulders. She screamed with her final effort, as the goddess guided the slippery child to the light. The princess collapsed against her maid, weeping with her exertions and aching body. Gently, Bree lay Briseis down.
Eleithyia handed the limp newborn to the midwife. “Rub the baby with clean linen, until she cries.” Turning to Briseis, she said, “You’ve won this battle, but you’ll lose the war.”
“What do you mean? What war?”
The goddess stood to her full height, sparkling in the dimly lit room. “The one inside of your heart, daughter.” With the ominous words still hanging in the air, Eleithyia’s image shimmered to nothing.
The midwife stared at the spot the goddess had stood. “By all that is sacred, I never thought in all my days to witness this. Blessed be our princess and her child.”
“Bring me my daughter,” Briseis said, proudly. Once the weight of her baby was settled in her arms, she smiled and joyful tears filled her eyes. “Phila, for love conquers all.”



Author Bio:
In graduate school, Janell focused on the ancient history of Greece and Rome. Hooked by the “sword and sandal” world, she studied everything she could about mythology and Alexander the Great.
The Homeric Chronicles series is dedicated to merging dozens of Greek myths, including Homer’s epics, with plays, history, and archaeology. Her intent is to raise the heroines’ voices equally alongside the heroes, opening up a traditionally male focused genre to a female audience.
She lives in CA and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. She has a pack of two big dogs and two cats.


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Monday, December 10, 2018

BOOK BLITZ: Shopping for a Baby's First Christmas by Julia Kent #GIVEAWAY


Shopping for a Baby’s First Christmas
Julia Kent
(Shopping, #15)
Publication date: December 6th 2018
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance
My mother wants all her kids and grandkids to spend Christmas Eve at her house and wake up on Christmas morning together.
Sounds reasonable, right?
And it would be.
If it weren’t my mother.
My husband, Declan, is protesting any involvement, though he’s openly intrigued by the idea of claiming his territory by suggesting we have sex in my childhood bed.
And by ‘suggest,’ I mean make a series of really hot offers that make me whimper when I have to say no.
Wait – why am I saying no again?
Mom has turned her house into a Christmas showcase that makes Frankenmuth look like the picked-over clearance rack at Target on December 26. You know those crazy people on Etsy who make felted gnomes out of belly button lint and use … a certain kind of hair… to make thatched roofs on little decorative elf homes?
Those people are saner than my mother.
There is no force of nature stronger — and more emotionally volatile — than a fifty-something grandmother determined to create holiday memories.
Wait a minute. Maybe there is.
My husband.

EXCERPT:
“Mmmmm,” I hear myself purring as I open my eyes in the big king-size bed at our Victorian B&B here in the Berkshires. A bed that I can stretch out in, because I smell coffee from afar and Dec isn’t between the sheets.
Neither is our seven-month-old daughter, Ellie.
I have the entire bed to myself. I might be married to a billionaire, but when you’re the mother of a clingy baby, this right here is true luxury.
A whiff of cinnamon accompanies that coffee and now I wonder if I’m dreaming. My naked body rolls against the high-thread-count Egyptian cotton and my legs are smooth. As I stretch, I realize my nipples are free. No one is touching me.
This must be a dream.
In real life, there would be a baby babbling “Da da da da da” in tones that either mean happiness, terror, hunger, or plain old pay-attention-to-me-now-because-I-am-the-center-of-the-universe, you-underling.
But not now.
In real life, there are always busy fingers exploring my ears and pulling my earrings and poking into my my mouth when I try to talk on the phone.
And in real life, little teeth bite down, hard, when my milk runs out.
So I must be dreaming, because as I open my eyes, a handsome, hot, endlessly naked man is smiling at me, hair tousled over his forehead as he holds two steaming mugs of coffee and says in a low, happy voice, “You’re up!”



Author Bio:
Gillian has a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering but prefers to spend her time on happily ever after. She writes the kind of stories she loves to read—the hotter the better!
When Gillian’s not pounding away on the keyboard, she can be found surfing the couch indulging in her latest reality tv fixation, baking something ridiculously tasty (and horrible for her waist line) or snuggling with her husband.
Home is currently in the wilds of Nevada with her amazing husband, ridiculously cute kiddo, and goofy dog.



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Sunday, December 9, 2018

COVER REVEAL: Lock by Debra Anastasia #UNBOX



COMING SOON!
Debra Anastasia dares you to read…

LOCK


I met her among the chaos of a gang fight—one that I inadvertently started. 

Ember. 

Beautiful, feisty, and passionate. And the sister of Mercy, an infamous assassin. 

We fell for each other, hard. 

Until forces outside of our control intervened. 

Now, she's a prisoner, doing everything she can to keep her family safe. And I'm her guard, doing everything I can to set her free.

 I'd take a bullet for her...Hell, I’d take a few. 

In this dark, twisted world, we only have each other. But I have to wonder, is that enough?



STAND ALONE 
Release Date:
on Kindle Unlimited Dec 16th,  2018






LOCK TBR: Goodreads

Reader Group: Debra's Daredevils





Amazon: Author Page

Bookbub: Bookbub


BOOK BLITZ: Resurrection: Sign of Six by Summer Lane #GIVEAWAY


Resurrection: Sign of Six
Summer Lane
(Resurrection Series #3)
Publication date: December 7th 2018
Genres: Dystopian, New Adult
The third installment in the hit survival series, following the adventures of Cassidy Hart!

There are many words used to describe Cassidy Hart:
President. General. Sniper. Soldier.
Girl.
Now, just one word echoes through her head: Infected.
Cassidy Hart has been infected with a nanovirus that turns her own body against itself. As civil war with the technologically advanced Eastern Coalition and President Ayad begins to escalate, the need for more advanced weaponry and reinforcements arise.

When the United Kingdom makes Cassidy and the Western Republic an offer they can’t refuse, they board a plane to London to forge an alliance with the first known surviving European country they have truly communicated with since Omega’s defeat. Unknowingly, leaving their home turf may be more dangerous than they think…
Uriah True and Chris Young – two men whom Cassidy cares deeply for – will be pitted against each other in the most unimaginable way.

While Omega may be gone, loyalty to the cause remains. Yet a new, more dangerous enemy arises. An enemy who promises to reshape the known world. Omega was nothing. He will be everything.
Look for his sign. The sign of the sixth.
Heed his promise:
The end of the world was only the beginning. The worst is yet to come.
Even Cassidy Hart may not survive this time…or will she?

From Summer Lane, the #1 bestselling author of more than 20 hit books.

EXCERPT:
I turn my back on Uriah, a man I love, but a man who is also more dangerously complicated than an armed IED. He doesn’t try to follow me. He knows better. In many ways, we are too much alike, and that makes our arguments predictable.
It also makes them repetitive.
I pull my jacket around my shoulders and I head to the trails that lead toward the glacier, away from the noise and activity of the base. I just need to be alone for a while. I need to clear my head. I am the president, and small arguments – even romantic relationships – cannot be allowed to distract me from my job.
I wander through the gravelly, dirt trails, the frigid temperatures pinching my cheeks, turning them red. I pick my way through slick shale and sparse shrubbery as I get closer to the glacier itself, blue and white and crusted with dirt. Truth be told, up close, the glacier looks like a sea of aged snow clumped in a massive pile, something that needs to melt into the landscape but never does.
I stop at the edge of the glacier, standing on an outcropping of rock. Here, away from the noise of the base, despite being protected inside its perimeters, I get a small semblance of silence and peace. The glacier rises up into the mountains that surround the base, stretching for thirteen long, frozen miles.
I sit on the rock and pull my knees to my chest, wondering what the nanobots are doing inside my body. I know that in Clare and Jay, deviating from their programmed directive would result in their immediate death. But what is my directive? What has Ayad programmed these bots to do? Are they going to kill me if I try and pick up a gun? Are they going to shut me down if I attempt to give a speech? As president of the Western Republic, there are a million everyday tasks that could result in my potential termination.
Am I supposed to pause everything until our doctors can figure out how to remove these things from my body? I press the palms of my hands against my forehead.
That’s exactly what Chris wants me to do. Press pause.
Hang back and wait until they figure this thing out.
So not my style. If patience if a virtue, then I’m the most non-virtuous person on this planet. I don’t want to sit around and wait for Ayad to kill me. If I’m going to die, I’ll die doing the same thing I’ve been doing every day since the Collapse: fighting.
Fighting for the simple freedom of taking a walk and admiring a glacier.
These are the things that will be taken from us if Ayad or the EC dominates the Western Republic in this already too-bloody Civil War. I cannot allow that. We already destroyed Omega and their strongholds across the globe during the Last Stand. Ayad may be clinging to shreds of Omega religion and loyalties, but that alone is not enough to resurrect their full might. He relies on deception, trickery, and propaganda to rally people to his cause.
A movement based on deception can be brought to its knees.
The only question is…how?


Author Bio:
Summer Lane is the #1 bestselling author of more than 20 hit books, including the popular Collapse Series and Resurrection Series, featuring feisty heroine Cassidy Hart. She owns Writing Belle Publishing and Writing Belle, an online magazine. Lane is also an established journalist and writing teacher.
Summer lives in the Central Valley of California with her husband, Scott, and their two German Shepherds, Kona and Gibbs.




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Saturday, December 8, 2018

BOOK BLITZ: Reckless by Sybil Bartel #GIVEAWAY


Reckless
Sybil Bartel
(Alpha Bodyguard #3)
Publication date: December 3rd 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Bodyguard.
Escort.
Bad boy.
I didn’t come from the wrong side of the tracks. I was the wrong side. Every cliché you could think of, my family embraced. The only advantage I had was being the best-looking out of all my brothers. Except when I joined the Marines, looks didn’t count for shit downrange.
I wasn’t active duty anymore, and working for the best personal security firm in the business, my looks were getting me in more trouble than they were worth. I just didn’t realize how much trouble until a princess from a country I’d never heard of asked for me by name. Her request was simple—me, my gun, and an art opening. But she recklessly failed to mention one crucial part of the assignment… pretend to be her new fiancé. 
Now she was about to find out how reckless a bodyguard could be.
*RECKLESS is a sexy new standalone book in the Alpha Bodyguard Series
The Alpha Bodyguard Series:
SCANDALOUS
MERCILESS
RECKLESS
RUTHLESS

EXCERPT:
Luna opened the door immediately. “Living room.” He stepped back, letting me in.
I smelled her before I saw her.
Exotic spice mixed with ocean breeze, and I knew I was fucked. That kind of smell only came from someone with more money than I’d make in a hundred lifetimes—the kind of money that was generations deep. I may have grown up poor as hell, but this job had taught me there was all kinds of money.
This one was going to be classy.
I rounded the corner and almost froze in my tracks.
She wasn’t anything like the matriarch I was expecting. She was young.
And fucking stunning.
Covering my surprise, I smiled and, using my manners, held my hand out. “Damian Tyler, ma’am, but everyone calls me Tyler.”
Gorgeous, dark caramel-colored eyes looked at my hand then darted to my face, like she was as surprised to see me as I was her. Then her expression shut down, and her dark brown, almost black, hair shifted to cover half her face. Her hands clasped in front of her, resting regally against her white dress, she didn’t lift her slim, tanned arm to meet my gesture. She didn’t even move. She just stared at me.
Glancing at Luna, I dropped my hand.
Luna tipped his chin toward the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. “This is Sophia Paradis.”
Caught in her unwavering gaze again, I stared back. “Okay.”
Luna glanced at her. “Keep going?”
She inclined her chin once.
“More specifically,” Luna added. “This is Princess Calandra Sophia Paradis Spiros.”



Author Bio:
Sybil Bartel grew up in Northern California with her head in a book and her feet in the sand. She dreamt of becoming a painter but the heady scent of libraries with their shelves full of books drew her into the world of storytelling. She loves the New Adult genre, but any story about a love so desperately wrong and impossibly beautiful makes her swoon.
Sybil now resides in Southern Florida and while she doesn’t get to read as much as she likes, she still buries her toes in the sand. If she isn’t writing or fighting to contain the banana plantation in her backyard, you can find her spending time with her handsomely tattooed husband, her brilliantly practical son and a mischievous miniature boxer…
But Seriously?
Here are ten things you probably really want to know about Sybil:
She grew up a faculty brat. She can swear like a sailor. She loves men in uniform. She hates being told what to do. She can do your taxes (but don’t ask). The Bird Market in Hong Kong freaks her out. Her favorite word is desperate…or dirty, or both—she can’t decide. She has a thing for muscle cars. But never reply on her for driving directions, ever. And she has a new book boyfriend every week—don’t tell her husband.
To find out more about Sybil Bartel, be sure to follow her on Twitter (she loves to hear about your favorite book boyfriend!), visit her website, like her on Facebook or join her Facebook group Book Boyfriend Heroes for exclusive excerpts and giveaways.


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Friday, December 7, 2018

BOOK BLITZ: Clearcut by Jack Mahoney #GIVEAWAY


Clearcut
Jack Mahoney
Publication date: December 6th 2018
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Adrian Cervantes’s Ranger squad was betrayed and ambushed in Iraq, sent to deliver an embezzled payoff to a man who didn’t exist. The lone survivor, Cervantes went AWOL, returning to the States to distribute his purloined cash to the families of his squad. But it’s not as simple as leaving a check in the mailbox. Every family he visits has their own troubles. Law enforcement hunts him at every turn. And Cervantes’s need to see justice done earns him plenty of enemies.
Cervantes’s first stop is the fading lumber town of Cullinan, WA. His plans to visit the Quinones family are complicated by the death of the father and the suspicions of the widow. Teaming up with a local lawyer, Cervantes uncovers enough questions to cast doubt that the father’s death was a drunken accident. But his investigation puts him in the sights of local bruisers, crooked cops, and the real power behind the lumber mill. In the end, Cervantes discovers a conspiracy that’s robbing Cullinan of its livelihood, and he puts it to rest the only way he knows how.

EXCERPT:

PROLOGUE
They were told to take care of the old man, but they weren’t told how, so they decided to have a little fun first.
There were three of them: Payden, the oldest at twenty-six, the acknowledged ringleader, slow to act but definitive; and the two Blaylock boys, Jimmy and Tommy, twenty-two and twenty, given to messing with each other if left untended, like a cigarette butt in a pile of dry leaves.
Even while they were waiting, in the muddy turnout across the lane from the roadhouse, they started fidgeting in the back seat of Payden’s truck. Jimmy accused Tommy of farting. Payden ignored it as long as he could until the squabbling turned to actual violence—the echoless smack of meat on bone, Tommy’s plaintive whine as he fought back—and he had to do something.
“Quit it,” he said. He had one of those deep, tired backwoods voices, the vowels hanging together. The Blaylock boys laid off.
About ten minutes later a rhombus of light cut across the roadhouse’s woodchip lot. A burst of classic rock followed it. Heavy footsteps chuffed across the chips: an irregular stride, weight shifting between worn Carhartt boots. Payden’s vantage point was narrow, just a gap between the thick pine trees at the end of the driveway, but it sounded like the old man. He raised a hand to get the Blaylocks’ attention, quieting them, forestalling a discussion over who’d stayed hot after they graduated that was about to turn into another fight.
It was the old man. He was walking heavily but not staggering. More tired than drunk, Payden guessed. A woman closer to Payden’s age trotted out after him. She caught the old man while he leaned against the doorframe of his Tacoma, one hand on his elbow.
He shrugged her off. Not angry, but weary. Payden, who’d spent two hours in a cramped Ford cab with the Blaylock brothers, almost sympathized. Then he blinked and shook his head, as if cleaning the emotion off the slate of his mind. Sympathy wouldn’t help.
The woman backed away, saying something else. The old man didn’t respond. Her body language cycled from hope, to reluctance, to defeat: hands dropping to her sides, shoulders slumping, turning her back to him as she walked back inside. The old man unlocked his truck and climbed in. In the pale glow of the dome light, Payden saw the old man slump back against the headrest. Sleeping another one off in the parking lot, he thought.

“Here we go,” Payden said.
The three of them got out of Payden’s truck, closing the doors softly at his direction. They crossed the tree-lined road. The night was thick with the smell of damp loam and sharp pine. Payden glanced back once, at the Blaylocks, but they were quiet and kept their hands to themselves. They might have been fuck-ups in every other aspect of their lives, but they could be relied on to follow a leader’s example.

Payden patted the heavy lump in his jacket pocket to keep it from swinging with his stride.
They approached the old man’s truck. Payden waved the Blaylocks around to the driver’s side. When they were in position, Payden opened the side door, pulled himself up via a meaty grip on the cabin roof, and slid into the front passenger seat. He shut the door quietly behind him.
The old man blinked out of his unconscious stupor. He stared at Payden, uncomprehending. Payden had been rehearsing this bit in his head—he had an opening line he was happy with—but for the moment he stared back. For the Blaylocks, the violence was the fun part. But for Payden, it was having someone in his power: that moment they surrendered, acknowledging that they no longer had a say in what was coming. Sometimes they begged, which was always nice.
The old man spoiled it. “The hell you doing …” He trailed off, wiping some spittle off his beard.
The dome light clicked off.
Well, let’s see how that opening line works, Payden thought. “You promised to give us a ride! Remember?”
The old man blinked, processing “us” for a second. He took in the Blaylocks, standing just outside his door. He said nothing, but his breathing grew shallower and quicker.
“Remember?” Payden’s plan didn’t hinge on the old man swallowing this line, but he wanted to try it out. He thought it was clever. “They’re closing up? Kicked us out? I told you we could go drink at my cousin’s cabin, maybe smoke a little. Just need you to give us a ride, is all.”
The old man’s soft chest rose and fell, a pulsing little flannel lump. He looked at Payden’s hands. “I haven’t said anything.”
Payden glanced toward the roadhouse. The old man’s truck faced the front corner. The nearer wall didn’t have any windows. Whoever was inside might see the truck if they went to the front door and stared at an oblique angle through the glass panel in the front, or if they opened the door all the way and poked their head out. But they’d be cleaning up now. Payden could hear the bass of the stereo echoing around the empty interior. The dishwasher would be running and mop water would be sloshing across the floor. They’d have bigger things to worry about than a regular sleeping one off.
“Keys,” Payden said.
The old man didn’t move. “I haven’t said anything.”
“That’s not what I fucking asked you.” He shoved the old man’s arm aside and fished in the pocket of his denim jacket. He took the keys out. He reached across the old man like he was some mute obstruction—a coat thrown over the seat, perhaps—and opened his door. Jimmy caught it and opened it the rest of the way.
Payden got out on his side and dragged the old man across the front bench so Jimmy could get in. The old man didn’t even put up a token fight. Payden watched him—his head limp, staring at his hands curled up in his lap—while Tommy came around and got in the passenger seat. The Blaylocks sandwiched the old man in the front.
“The switchback. Like we talked about.” Payden shut the door. Jimmy peeled out while Payden was still crossing the road. His heavy jacket pocket knocked against his hip bone while he jogged.
Payden got in his truck and followed the Blaylocks as they drove the old man down the road, down the winding tree-lined path that took them out of the hills. Having the Blaylocks out of his truck wasn’t the relief he thought it’d be. It was too quiet. Payden didn’t mind the quiet, but he needed something to set it against. He needed those two morons’ aimless squabbling to be quiet alongside, to be superior to.
They emerged from the trees, with the wall of the hill on one side and the few streetlights of Cullinan in the valley below. Payden wondered who else might be up at this hour. Other drunks like the old man, perhaps, and the businesses that served and cleaned up after them. Maybe one of the sheriff’s boys, circuiting the six-block downtown in his rattling cruiser. But Cullinan didn’t have much of a nightlife. Not that Payden worried about witnesses. He just liked moving around when no one else was.
Ahead, the old man’s truck jinked sharp, left to right. Brake lights flared. The truck pulled onto the shoulder, overlooking the valley.
Payden didn’t swear. Why disturb the quiet with cursing that no one else could hear? Instead, he pulled onto the shoulder about thirty yards behind the old man’s truck. He got out and approached on foot. He pressed one fist against the heavy jacket pocket on his right side.
Jimmy got out while Payden was still approaching. He looked down at himself, preoccupied with wiping something off his jacket. He didn’t seem to realize Payden was approaching until Payden drew within a foot, and even then he didn’t look up. “Son of a bitch,” he murmured.
Payden grabbed Jimmy’s shoulder. Jimmy stopped. Payden angled him forward. “The switchback.”
“I know, Payden, but son of a bitch got sick.” The epithet was slurred, its edges worn off from frequent use: suvvabitch.
“And you had to stop to clean up.”
“It’s all over my fuckin—” Jimmy looked down at his jacket. He let his hands flop to his sides.
“Because you wanted to look good? It’s important for something like this that you look good?”
The truck rocked on its springs. From the darkened truck cabin came a violent motion and the sound of a fist smacking flesh.
Swearing, Payden opened the driver’s door. Tommy wailed on the old man, brushing his arms aside with one hand and punching him sloppily with the other. The old man grunted, trying to stretch back and cocoon up at the same time. The result would’ve been comical, even to Payden, if it hadn’t been a complete waste of time.
Payden tried to reach past the old man to push Tommy off, but there wasn’t enough room in the cabin. The old man flailed, pushing Payden away, as if fearing assault from both flanks. Growling in frustration, Payden got out, jogged around the hood, and opened the door on Tommy’s side. He dragged Tommy out by the belt, tossing him to the muddy shoulder.
Tommy skidded back until he hit the crooked guardrail. He pressed himself against it to help himself up. He glared at Payden. “He got sick on me. All over my pants. Some of it got in my—”
Payden crossed the distance between them in two strides. The second stride turned into a right cross: foot planted, shoulder twitched forward, marble fist into porcelain jaw. It wasn’t a beatdown out of anger, as Tommy’s had been, though Payden was plenty angry. It was discipline.
Tommy’s knees buckled, pointing outward, and he slumped to the mud.
Payden went back to the truck. The old man propped himself up on his elbows and touched his face. He winced as he made contact with his busted lip, his reddened cheekbones. The numbness from his earlier drunk must have worn off.
Payden climbed into the cabin. “Hell.” He took a handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped the blood off the old man’s mouth. “How you feeling?”
The old man’s jaw shook as Payden pulled his hand away. “I haven’t told anyone. I won’t tell anyone.”
Payden nodded. “How’s the jaw? Go like this; does it click or anything?” He opened and closed his mouth like a nutcracker.
“Please.” The old man’s shoulders heaved. “Just … just let me …”
And that was what summoned Payden’s anger back: the sheer stupidity of that plea. Just let you what? Let you keep drinking yourself to death? Let you keep whining to anyone who’ll listen about how you caught a bad rap? What do you have to live for, anyway?
He reached back for his laden jacket pocket. “I’ve got something for you.”
“Payden, no.”
Payden pulled out a fifth of vodka. He unscrewed the cap with one hand. The other hand pulled the old man closer, sliding him across the vinyl bench.
“I haven’t told anyone. I’ll never t—”
With one massive hand, Payden pinched the old man’s nose shut and forced his head back. He forced the bottle between the man’s teeth and tipped it. The sharp varnish smell of cheap spirits filled the cabin. Payden tucked his chin to keep the old man’s flailing from scratching up his face.
The old man started sputtering and choking. Payden kept pouring. Much of the glugging vodka seeped down the old man’s jaw, soaking his shirt.
When the bottle was empty, Payden let go of the old man’s nose. The old man sat on the bench, arms limp at his sides, gasping for air. Payden got out and went to the guardrail, wiping the bottle down as he went. He flung it into the darkness and waited until he heard it land in some underbrush.
He went back around the front of the truck, nearer the road, where Jimmy was helping Tommy walk off that right cross. Jimmy looked up at Payden. His eyes were blank: not scared, not angry, not even questioning what had happened—just a pair of big empty saucers, waiting for Payden’s instructions to fill them.
“Go get your truck from the switchback,” Payden said.
“That’s like …” Jimmy turned, staring into the unlit distance, as if he might see a sign. “… like, two miles from here.”
Payden ignored the interruption. “Stay on the shoulder. If you see headlights, hit the deck. No one can see you out here, remember?”
Without waiting for further objections, Payden clambered back into the driver’s side. The old man hadn’t moved. His breathing had slowed a great deal, like a child about to fall asleep. But he wasn’t out yet. His head turned on his limp neck, and his watery gaze rested on Payden. His lips moved weakly, pulling back from the teeth. “D …” Flooded with cheap vodka and stinking of fear, he lacked the strength to finish. But Payden might have guessed what he was trying to say.
Don’t.
Payden put one hand on the old man’s jaw, the other on the crown of his head. He tilted the chin up, resting the head perpendicular to the spine. Then he took a deep breath and twisted sharply.
The crick-ack reverberated through the cabin.
Payden used his handkerchief to wipe down the steering wheel, console, and bench. He got the door handles, the door levers, and the little calf tongue that adjusted the rearview mirror. When he was satisfied, he pulled on the kitchen gloves he’d tucked inside his jacket earlier in the evening.
There was a narrow gap between the guardrails at the edge of the shoulder. A man would have to turn sideways and shimmy to get through it, and it would lead to nothing but a forty-degree decline and a long tumble through the underbrush. But it was wide enough that a man might stagger up to it and piss if he pulled over.
Payden slung the old man over his shoulder like a sack of laundry. He carried him to the gap in the guardrail. With one grunting heave—bend at the knees, deep breath, explode upward—he tossed the old man down the hill. There were a few moments of splintering branches and dislodged pine needles. Then silence.
Sighing, Payden turned and headed back to his own truck. He left the old man’s vehicle in the darkness behind him, the door open, the door alarm chiming into the night. He trudged uphill, feeling it in his calves, the adrenaline and anticipation wearing off. As much as he hated to admit it, the whole improvisation had stemmed from trying to have a little fun with the old man first. Next time—and Payden didn’t kid himself there wouldn’t be a next time—he’d dispense with the frivolities.


Author Bio:
Jack Mahoney lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts. When he's not practicing jiu-jitsu or catching up on crime thrillers, he's putting in work on the next Adrian Cervantes novel.






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