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#Excerpt “The McKenzie Files” by Barry K. Nelson

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McKenzie Files coverTitle: The McKenzie Files

Author: Barry K. Nelson

Genre: Science Fiction,Fantasy, Superhero

The United Protectorate is under attack by the Brelac, a bloodthirsty reptilian alien race bent on destroying humanity. A dark alliance between the Brelac and the Vendetta, a separatist organization, looms over the Protectorate. The Brelac’s onslaught brings forth the creation of the genetically engineered humanoid weapons called Reploids. Reploids are identical copies of real humans captured, killed, cloned, embedded with powerful psionic abilities, and programmed to serve the Brelac. They are untraceable and blend into human society so believably, the Reploids themselves do not know they are clones.

Colin McKenzie, part of a military team sent to a remote planet to investigate and capture a downed Brelac ship, turns on his commanding officer in an attempt to protect a shipwrecked band of Brelac soldiers. But he is captured and reprogrammed – along with two other arrested Reploids – to serve the government they were originally created to destroy.

The balance is upset when a weapon powerful enough to bring the Protectorate to its knees is about to be unleashed – and the Protectorate’s only hope of stopping it is the three Reploids.

EXCERPT

For a moment the Brelac standing before Fenlow remained silent. Fenlow’s skin twitched, apprehensive as to what would happen next. He had limited personal involvement with these creatures, but knew that they were as unpredictable as they were vicious. He eyed the rows of long teeth under the curled lips and suppressed a shudder.

The Brelac uttered a deep growl to slowly form a single name. “Fenlow. So, you’re the Great Doctor Fenlow. One of the first traitors in the brief history of this war. We finally meet.”

“I find the word traitor to be a little too malignant to suit my purpose,” Fenlow said quickly. “I’d like to think of myself as an entrepreneur.”

The Brelac growled again. Showing more of his sharp teeth. “Traitor, entrepreneur. It’s all the same to me. The point is that you’re here. The question is, why?”

“I’m here to speak to Bane Mariner. I have a proposition for him.”

“You are addressing Governor General Bane Mariner. Supreme Commander of the Brelac Empire. And I hope that your proposition is worth my time.”

“It is,” Fenlow assured him. “What I’m about to propose will greatly benefit both you and my company.”

“Carp Technologies,” Mariner leaned back on his heels, his tail stretching out to counterbalance his shifting weight. “I admire your company. Playing both sides of the war for their own benefit. All the while maintaining the facade of a benevolent corporation serving your little corner of the universe. I wonder, what your people would say if they knew that you and your company were working with us to create the Reploid menace?”

“I’m…I’m afraid that the Reploid program has been discontinued for the present time. More especially the advanced Reploids. En-route to Helios on the planet Meridan one of your shuttles carrying several Reploid units was shot down by Protectorate forces. Three Reploids were captured by the military. Carp considered this to be a threat to company security and decided to halt the project.”

Fenlow withheld the fact that he himself had recommended halting the project. Aided by Carp’s resources, Fenlow produced the Reploids in a laboratory within a company research vessel stationed at a secret location in space. Fenlow notified his Brelac contact on a secured channel when each shipment of Reploids would be due for delivery, and would then meet a Brelac transport shuttle at a designated rendezvous point.

Curious about the Brelac’s vision without the use of physical eyes, Fenlow had asked to examine their psionic implants. After months of extensive research he’d been able to create a more advanced version of the implants, and promised to deliver dozens of Reploids armed with the implants to help the Brelac achieve a swifter victory. Highly treasonous acts that would certainly earn Fenlow and others within Carp Technologies a swift death sentence.

“Those Reploids in the hands of your military could pose a problem,” Mariner stated, cracking his knuckles.

“They’re no threat. There are only three of them. The military will make limited use of their abilities, and I’ve already taken steps to diminish their effectiveness,” Fenlow paused. “Carp’s board of directors has decided to move forward with Operation Broad Axe. I have to do what I can to insure that the plan is successful. This means that I have to begin some of the more advanced projects that I’ve been working on.”

“And you need my help to pull all this off,” Mariner added. He went silent, his eyeless face studying Fenlow. “Let him go,” he growled.

Both guards raised their left hands to their heads in a familiar military salute and exited the hall with haste.

Fenlow thought that it was curious how the two Brelac saluted in such a fashion. As if they were mimicking human troopers. He suspected that he would learn a great deal about these creatures by working closely among them in the days ahead.

“Fix this man a seat next to mine,” Mariner blared out. “He’s my guest of honor.”

The attendants serving food and drink quickly provided a place at the table on Mariner’s right side, and Fenlow sat as instructed, his hands slightly shaking in his lap. Using a long, two-pronged fork an attendant quickly loaded his plate with three long sections of the pale snake-like meats and two of the centipedes, steam rising from their cooked flesh.

Fenlow stared at his plate. The appearance of the food before him was nauseating enough, but it’s oily smell combined with a sour milk odor left him near paralyzed. Mariner silently faced him, and a thin stream of saliva dripped out of the right side of his mouth. Fenlow shuddered, slightly spooked in the close sight of Mariner’s scaled face and the long pointed teeth in the constant grin.

Fenlow nervously cleared his throat. “I suppose you’re not serving any salads.”

A faint, hoarse growl came from Mariner’s throat. “Nothing so elaborate here.”

“I see.”

Fenlow looked to the left and right side of his plate and saw no silverware. He quietly groaned in frustration. It was evident that the Brelac were eating with their hands, and Fenlow desired to blend in with his hosts. He gingerly picked up a centipede. It was warm and soft to the touch. He held it up to his face and managed not to flinch away. At least he was able to distinguish which item smelled like sour milk.

A deep grunt came from Mariner. “You look like you were just kissed by Pandora. Don’t worry, Doctor. It won’t bite you back.”

Kissed by Pandora. A strange terminology to use. Perhaps an example of their alien culture?

But the name, Pandora, stuck in Fenlow’s mind. There was something familiar about it. He thought that this would be the perfect time to get a little more background on his allies. He laid his centipede back down on his plate but kept his fingers on it.

“So, I’ve done a little research and found that you Brelac are Reploids yourselves,” he said.

“To a degree we are all the same,” Mariner sluggishly droned out, grabbing his own centipede and downing it in one loud gulp. “Our race needed a technological means to insure its continuation.”

“A technological means,” Fenlow repeated. “And what of your females? I noticed that through all the grunting and growling you all sound male.”

“As I have already explained, we are all the same,” Mariner said. “We have created the means of producing the perfect military force. Our soldiers originate from templates that are devoid of fear, unhindered by compassionate doubts, and minds that are not mired by the frivolous aberrations that obstruct you humans.”

“What about these original templates that you mentioned? I’m assuming that it’s some sort of original genetic stock.”

“Our original source is centuries old and continues to endure. But its history is not important.” He waved a clawed hand. “All that matters is that it serves us as we produce our numbers en-masse in order to achieve our objective.”

“And that objective would be?” Fenlow asked, suspecting he already knew the answer.

“Our objective is to spread ourselves across this universe and administer retribution to any and all opposition. Then we will become the only supreme power.  That is our mission passed down to us through generations. This is what we will achieve. And you, Doctor Fenlow, will help us.”

Fenlow pondered Mariner’s words, fingertips stroking the soft white flesh of the centipede on his plate.  He was still dreading the notion of being forced to eat this thing.

The Brelac mission of conquest and retribution. A chilling thought.

But Fenlow’s job was to find a way to work Carp Technologies’ interests into the mission so that their own plans could materialize unscathed. And with the Brelac’s help his job would be much easier.

“I’ll help you,” Fenlow told him, nodding.

He took a long look at the centipede he was holding. He picked it up and slowly raised it to his face, holding his breath against the smell. He opened his mouth.

 

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Author BioBarry K. Nelson

A Pennsylvania native, Barry K. Nelson has attended college and has worked at a variety of jobs, including retail and the corporate environment. Barry enjoys reading and gardening and is a fan of science fiction and horror movies, Marvel comic collecting, and the X-box gaming.

Barry has written several short stories, and his first book in the science fiction series, The McKenzie Files, followed by the sequels, Assassination Anxiety, Obliteration, and Maximum Deevor.

Barry is a member of Ning and Goodreads, can be found on Facebook, and can also be reached through Dreaming Big Publications..

 

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#Excerpt “Wolf (Tall, Dark & Dangerous #2)” by Bella Love-Wins 18+

 

I found her so she’s mine.
Thorne Pierce
They call me the Hunter;
A cold-hearted predator with the killer instinct.
A deadly threat to anyone who becomes my prey.

I’m pulled off of an existing job to watch a new target and her grandmother until I’m issued the order. I see her for the first time from the edge of the woods. Rose Adams. Silky red hair flowing down past her waist, soft curves, a sassy mouth, and that body that’s made for sin.

I tell myself shes just another target, but I’m dead wrong.
Little Red beats me at my own game.
She sets her sights on me and everything changes.
I shouldn’t feel a thing. Haven’t for years.
But I do.

When it’s time to finish the job, I take her and we run.
Forget the rules; I’m going to follow the only law that matters.
The law of the wild: Possess my prey.

*Author’s Note: Wolf is a Standalone Romance with a guaranteed HEA ending and no Cliffhanger. Each story in the Tall, Dark and Dangerous Series can be read in any order.

Epigraph – Rose

Once upon a time, my life was a fairytale. I had parents who adored me and everything I could ever dream of.
Then, at the age of seven, my world ended.
They murdered my parents in front of my eyes, and I learned that fairytales are only in storybooks.
What I witnessed hardened me. What I saw taught me that to survive in this world, I needed a different skill set from little girls who played with dolls, dated cute boys, and went to college to prepare for their white picket fence lives.
It also built an impenetrable wall of hatred around my heart that only my grandmother’s love could breach.
After I turn twenty, they send someone to keep tabs on me and my grandmother. Probably to finish the job because I was a loose end on their books. I sense him before I see him, and soon, while he’s spying on me, little does he know that I am looking right back at him.
From a distance, my big, bearded, beautiful predator is elusive and evasive. He’s utterly dark and dangerous. A heartless, violent yet gorgeous curiosity that I can’t stop thinking about.
Then, one day, we come face to face and everything changes.

Prologue – Rose

“How the fuck did you find me, little girl?” my tall, dark and dangerous stalker says from his spot at the large bay windows, his voice threatening.
I don’t answer him when he turns to face me. All I do is take him in. The setting sun creates a menacing silhouette of his body as light floods in with hues of gold, orange, and purple. He’s gigantic. He must be close to six feet five inches tall. His broad, muscular frame has a leanness to it. It’s not quite a runner’s build, but I can tell from the fit of his clothes that he has a rigid workout routine.
I scan his body from up in his thick, jet black hair, all the way down to his dark, polished military boots. On instinct, I know to assume that a man like him is packing hidden weapons, but a thorough visual inspection can’t hurt. I can’t help but appreciate what I see in front of me. From his spot at the bay window, the sunset hits his face at an angle, and the flecks of his eyes start to sparkle like diamonds.
Then I notice that he’s doing his own search of my body. His brows raise as he checks me out from top to bottom. Not that he needs to. That camera he’s been using to watch me has a telescopic lens that can probably pick up the finest freckles on my nose and cheekbones. I’m sure he’s seen a lot. Still, that predatory expression in his eyes makes me feel like he’s looking through me, beyond my clothes and possible weapons, beyond my hardened heart, straight to my soul. Heat washes over me under his gaze. My pulse jumps, and I glance away from his face briefly to catch my breath.
Continuing my appraisal, his dark gray muscle shirt and black casual pants show the sharp lines of his fit body. There are no tattoos visible on his body, but I find myself wondering whether he has some elsewhere. I have no reason to, other than the fact that he looks like the kind of man who’d have one or two. His chest perhaps, or maybe something that takes up his entire back. I’d kind of like to find out first hand… if he doesn’t try to kill me first. Or vice versa.
I take one step backward, and that’s all it takes for him to react. He storms over to me, taking surprisingly light, ground-eating steps from the window that served as his perch to spy on me for the last week or longer.
He’s ready to attack.
But I’m ready too.
When his large, callused hand grips my upper arm, my other hand is quickly up at his collarbone. I angle my wrist, and a wave of satisfaction washes over me when my Bowie knife is less than an inch from his throat. But he’s just as quick as I am. I feel the hard steel of a handgun pressing on my ribs. I’m not afraid, though. Everybody dies, eventually. Plus, my odds are promising. I can slice his jugular in about the same amount of time it’ll take for him to let off a round from his gun. Maybe less. Except, keeping a knife at this particular man’s throat will take a hell of a lot of extra effort for me. He’s way over six feet tall, eclipsing my five-foot-one height by a huge margin. I may be small, but I won’t be intimidated. Years of mixed martial arts training, daily practice, and this knife are on my side.
“Who are you and why have you been watching me?” I demand.
He moves forward slightly, ignoring my sharp blade when it touches his skin. “It’ll take a lot more than a tiny pigsticker to scare me, Little Red,” his voice rumbles at me.
I’m not too impressed that he assumes he can call me Little Red. It’s a pet name that I only let Grams call me. Everyone else is at arm’s length, acquaintances who wouldn’t dare get that comfortable with me. And he’s not even that. At best, he’s a complete stranger. Worst case scenario, he’s my enemy.
“Haven’t you heard it’s not the size that matters?” I warn. “And by the way, that’s a nice drawl you have. I take it you’re a southern boy. Let me guess. Houston? Austin? No, wait. You’re either a Baton Rouge or Lafayette native. Am I right?”
“Good ear,” he confirms and presses up closer to me. So close that our bodies touch. So damn close that I look up and see not only his steel gray eyes but the slight trickle of blood at the spot where my knife meets his neck.
“You’d be surprised how much I can figure out about you from just spending a few more minutes here.”
“Show me,” he says, daring me to prove what I can do.
“You lace up your boots like someone with Special Ops training, tight to just below your ankle, with a few rows of the laces undone, just in case you have to wake up and shove your feet into them to move from one place to another at a moment’s notice. You cut your own hair, and I can tell from the slight nick on that one spot on your hairline. You also finished a military op very recently. Somewhere sunny, from the tan line of the chain you hold your dog tags on. Shall I go on?”
“Impressive.”
“Yes, but let’s not get too distracted. I asked you a question.”
“It doesn’t matter who I am or why I’m here,” he growls. “What matters is how much longer I’ll play your little game, and how much time you’ll have left if you keep digging that knife into my neck. By my estimation, it isn’t a lot.”
“Why you’re here is all that I care about. Although I’m starting to think it’s better if you’re not here at all.” I add extra pressure to the knife to get my point across. If I press much more, it’ll cut into his jugular and then it’s bye-bye, Mr. Sexy Stalker. “Do you like your life? Do you like breathing air? It’s a lot easier than choking on your own blood. Tell me what I want to know.”
I’ve been involved in mixed martial arts for a long time. At least ten years. But clearly, I don’t know it all. In a split second, he somehow pivots and finds a way to push the blade away. He instantly lifts me off the floor and turns me around. With one goddamned hand. I’m so angry at myself for giving him the leeway he needed to have this advantage over me now. I try to fight him off as my knife falls, but he’s too fast. He gets behind me, his gun digging into my side, and his big body has me jammed up against the wall beside the door I came in.
He gurgles out a low chuckle. “The only answer you’ll get from me is advice. Do you want to hear it?”
“No, I want you to fuck off and leave me alone,” I shout.
“Well here’s the advice, anyway. Next time you try to confront your pursuer, be ready for anything.”
“Let me go right this instant!” I scream, struggling to break free. “Or just kill me right now, because if you don’t, I’ll be the one after you, you big bastard.”
“If I wanted to kill you, I wouldn’t need to watch you for days or weeks before I actually do it. You’d be six feet under a week ago, long before you had a chance to figure out that I’m watching you.”
He wedges me against the wall with the weight of his body, and his free hand runs slowly up my arm.
“Stop that right now!” I shout.
Ignoring me, his hand moves up from the curve of my hips and past my waist. “Fuck, all these curves in this tiny body are enough to make me want to do more than just this weapons pat-down,” he whispers at the whorl of my ear. He stops over my breasts, massaging the flesh for a moment before slipping his hand past my collarbone and across my neck.
“Please stop,” I say as his straying hand comes to rest with his fingers buried in my long hair. This time I’m begging, but I hear the weakness of my voice and can’t help but become angry at myself. His touch ignites my body, sending heat and need to places I’ve never known could feel this hot.
“Make me,” he dares, and tugs my hair back, immobilizing my head, probably so I don’t reverse head-butt him in the face. I feel his lips at my ear and his hard cock at my back, and when his hips rock forward, I know it’s intentional, to make me fear for what he’ll do next, to show me that I’m at his mercy.
Reaching back with my arms, I catch fistfuls of his shirt and try to move him away, but it only makes him lean more of his body weight into me. I use one foot to back-kick his shins, but it’s no use. I have zero leverage.
“If you’re not going to kill me, let me go,” I ask again. A faint whiff of his woodsy cologne hits my nostrils, and I swear my body reacts with a tremor. Then I feel his mouth at my earlobe. He tugs the flesh with his teeth, and his lips slide down to my neck, sucking one spot so hard I’m sure it’ll leave a mark. I curse myself as my hips push back into him, getting a firmer feel of his dick on me. I want to resist. I want to fight with everything in me, but I have to admit, I also want to stay and find out what else he’ll do to my body. I should be ashamed for feeling this way about the man who’s been shadowing me all week. I just can’t help it.
“I’ll let you go, Little Red,” he growls. “But just remember. You might’ve found me, but I’m the one who marked you. Be grateful that I don’t follow my urge to fuck the fight out of you. Right here against this wall.”
His words hit me like a Mack truck, sending unfamiliar need coursing through my veins, all the way to my pulsing core.
Losing my parents so early on made me mistrustful and at a distance from most everyone. I’ve never had a man or boy put his cock this close to me, and I never had the desire to. Survival and blending in were my only two goals. I think my life or death instinct kept the boys away too. They looked, but they never made a move on me all through high school. I probably intimidated them. But this man, he’s not in the least bit afraid of me. I’m intoxicated. It’s as though his words, his body, his mere presence is a key that unlocks my body and makes it come alive.
“I’m going to count to three,” he continues in a threatening groan and tugs my hair a little harder. “On three, I’ll let you go, and you’ll have five seconds to pick up your pigsticker and get the fuck out of here. Understood?”
“Dammit,” I answer, feeling my anger bubble up my chest for letting him have the upper hand this time. “Okay yes, but can I at least know the name of the man I plan to place at the top of my list of enemies? Just in case it isn’t clear, I mean you.”
“I can give you one of a dozen fake names. None of them will help you track me down. But as you asked nicely, it’s Thorne Pierce. You’ve been marked by The Hunter, Little Red.”
Holy crap.
I gasp and wish I hadn’t made a sound the moment after I hear it. I know exactly who he is, though I shouldn’t have been so obvious about it. I’ve heard of him. He’s a tracker, a mercenary, a cold killer with no mercy. His name is uttered on lowered breaths in underground circles, in places I make it my business to stay connected to, if only to be aware of them, if and when I become the object of a hit. To the outside world, where most people have the mistaken belief that what they see is all there is, this man is no one. A ghost. But I know better. And now, I’ve seen his face.
“One. Two. Three.” On three, he does as he promises, taking one massive step back.
I’m sure that his gun must still be trained on me. He’s not that stupid. Reaching down, I grab my knife, and I run. I’ll live another day. The first thing I need to do is get my grandmother and best friends out of harm’s way. After that, The Hunter will become the hunted, and I won’t stop until one of us is dead.

 

Chapter 1 – Thorne


Three Weeks Earlier

This is it.
Six weeks of intense surveillance has led me to this moment. Scanning every visible room door along the penthouse hallway, I step off the elevator and straighten the electronic hotel manager ID and access badge at the breast pocket of my burgundy blazer. I briskly pass two entrances designed in frosted glass and chrome. Catching a glimpse of my reflection, I smile. The adrenaline pumping through my veins is normal. It makes me sharp, focused, on task, and I’ll put it to good use to ensure this assignment is completed with precision.
I’m a lone wolf by nature. As a former soldier, I much preferred being assigned jobs like the one I’m tasked with at the moment. I get a target, an objective, and I have some leeway and discretion as to how to complete it, holding the quality constant. That’s why I said yes when my employer came knocking.
In some ways, I guess they told me what I wanted to hear. That I’m independent, achievement-oriented, precise and loyal to a fault. Their staff psychologist had a different spin on my style, which wasn’t quite as nice. Something about misogyny and narcissism, mixed with a dose of borderline obsessive-compulsive behavior. But what the fuck do those academics really know? I get the job done.
It’s been close to two years since I’ve had a decent stretch of downtime. A reward will be in order after I’ve wrapped up this job with a neat little bow. Probably a fifteen-year-old bottle of single malt. Or two. It all depends on how much time my employer will keep me on the bench between jobs.
Before turning the final corner toward the presidential suite, I slide the letter-sized envelope out of the inner pocket of my blazer. I give it another look, patting the pen that’s clipped onto the pocket of my black slacks.
Everything is as planned.
Rounding the corner, I catch sight of the four muscle-bound Russian bodyguards, all wearing identical cheap navy-blue dress suits. Two of them turn their heads to me.
“I have an urgent letter for Mr. Mikhailov,” I say from a distance.
“We gave strict instructions to hotel management,” the first guard says in a thick accent. “No disruptions, period. That means no visitors, no letters, no packages, no housekeeping, and no room service, except at our request.”
“This is different,” I explain with a somewhat nervous stammer to maintain my cover. A regular Joe would be scared shitless standing face-to-face with these guards from just their larger than life, intimidating frames and less than polite dispositions. I turn the front of the letter toward them and take a few steps forward. “See? The note reads Urgent communication. Private and confidential. To be hand-delivered immediately and handled only by Mr. Ivan Mikhailov.”
The first guard turns to the one closest to the door, signaling him with a hand gesture for direction.
“Send it back,” says the one higher up the food chain.
I point at the letter again. “Are you sure you want your boss to find out that you’re the one who sent back something he might be expecting?”
Narrowing his eyes at me, he holds out his open palm. “Give it to me. I’ll take it in.”
“My apologies, but I’m afraid I can’t do that.” I show him the front of the letter again. “Our hotel prides itself on catering to the most discerning client request and on ensuring the utmost discretion. I absolutely must hand deliver it only to Mr. Mikhailov.”
Groaning out his impatience, he opens the door a crack and retrieves a state of the art hand scanner that detects metal, radioactive materials, and other undesirable substances.
“Step forward and hold out your letter toward me,” he orders.
I do as he says and he runs the wand over the letter, then scans my body from head to torso, groin to the floor.
“Enter,” he barks after scanning my back, and the next guard pushes the door open for me. “He’s in the sitting room. Boris will take you there.”
“Thank you, gentlemen,” I answer and follow the guard who enters ahead of me. Boris, I assume.
My initial thought as I follow him in is that they made this a bit too easy. All of our scenarios counted on one of them attempting to open and inspect the letter at the door, which would’ve been fine, as it contains a flashbang nanotube prototype we’ve been testing in the field for the last six months. Still, I’m in, and may need to use this weapon to neutralize the guards on my way out.
Boris knocks on the French double doors of the sitting room.
“Enter,” says the voice from inside.
Boris pushes the door half-way. He humbly explains the reason for the interruption, speaking in Russian.
“Fine,” the voice replies, and Boris motions for me to go in, warning me that he and four other men in the room have their eyes on me. None of that matters. I’m a few feet from my target. They led me right to him.
I reach for my pen and delivery pad, explaining that his signature is required. When Mikhailov extends his arm for the envelope, I place the letter it his hand and simultaneously stab him with the pen, which is a hypodermic needle filled with whatever deadly toxin my employer is issuing this month.
The sound of him gasping for air and struggling gets the guards’ attention. Two close in on me, while the other two and Boris go to Mikhailov’s aid. I quickly disarm one, but the other meathead grabs me around my neck from behind. It takes me a few moments, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. A swift elbow to the gut and backward head-butt does the trick to neutralize him. Scooping up the letter again, I slip out the side door that leads to a private elevator down to the service staff level.
Minutes later, I slip in my earpiece and drive away on my vehicle of choice, a Kawasaki Ninja H2 motorcycle. As I speed to the rendezvous point, my employer informs me that plans have changed. The mission to Karachi has been reassigned. They give me the order to restock my provisions at the resupply warehouse in Maryland, then I’ll head to my next stop. I’m being put on what sounds like a dull, three-week surveillance assignment in Midwest, USA.
The targets: An eighty-one-year-old Pearl Adams and twenty-year-old Rose Adams.
I glance back at the six-star luxury hotel, neatly tucked into the side of a low ridge in the Swiss Alps.
It looks like I’ll have my downtime after all.
~~~~~
About me: I’m a Wall Street Journal (Begging for Bad Boys, April, 2017) and USA Today (Begging for Bad Boys, Alpha for the Holidays, Shifters in the Snow: Bundle of Joy, Shifters in the Shadows) Bestselling Author.I love reading and writing steamy, high-action romance stories about firefighters, billionaires, and alpha males who know what they want and aren’t afraid of laying claim to the women who catch their interest. I love a happy ever after ending. I enjoy reading, hiking, the countryside, and traveling to destinations unspoiled by commercial tourism, like Las Vegas… 🙂

Like so many characters in my novels, I enjoy action, romance and unexpected love connections that take your breath away. For the next while, you’ll find me plotting and writing about my latest stories on my Macbook.

 

 

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#Excerpt3 “Everything Under the Sun” by Jessica Redmerski

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EXCERPT #3: “AND YOU ASK WHY?”

“Why are you so angry, Atticus?” My voice was soft and concerned now.

He blinked but offered no response.

“I’ve seen men fight before,” I went on, “but I’ve never seen a man as angry at the world as you are. The way you beat that man in your room”—I shook my head with despondency—“the one just now; Atticus, you’re just so full of rage and hate. Why?”

He snorted as if he’d found my question ridiculous.

Why?” he mocked incredulously, holding out his hands, palms up. “I’ll tell you why, Thais: at every turn, someone wants to rob or maim or kill us; we can’t sleep, night or day, without the thought in our heads as we close our fucking eyes that we might not wake up.” He gestured his arms wildly, his features constricted with indignation. “We’re covering our shit up like animals, sleeping in ditches, watching over our shoulder every second of every day for the chaos to grab us by the ankles and pull us down with it—and you ask why?”

I sat against my quilt, unable to stand to hear this truth. And as if his movements depended on mine, Atticus fell into a crouch in front of me, bouncing on the toes of his boots. I never looked away from the pull of his gaze, trapped by the intensity of it.

“I haven’t slept since you arrived in Lexington City,” he went on. “When I saw you that day, clutching your sister as she was ripped away from you; when you lay on the sidewalk, begging me to help you—it did two things to me, Thais”—he held up two fingers, and then dropped them between his legs—“it fucking killed me; the things I had to do, the part I had to play in not only your fate but the fate of every girl in those ropes—it fucking killed me! It killed what little was left of my humanity!” His voice had risen with his heated words, his memories, but then he paused to calm himself, lowering his head but for a moment.

I remained motionless, speechless, but my heart began to ache and fill up at the same time. I listened raptly to every word, my heart breaking as he spoke them.

“It killed me,” he repeated. “But then something reached into Hell, grabbed me by the throat and pulled me back. I died that day in the street, Thais Fenwick; I died and then there I was, looking down at you with the eyes of the man I used to be, and I wanted to help you. I still fought with myself after that, but I wasn’t going to let you die or be raped or forced to marry a man you didn’t love—I didn’t know what to do, but I was going to do something, goddammit.”

I sighed. I wanted to hold him, but all I could do was sigh.

.

EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN – JESSICA REDMERSKI – COPYRIGHT 2017

~~~~~

Title: Everything Under The Suncover

Author: Jessica Redmerski

Genre: YA/NA Crossover; Dystopian

Thais Fenwick was eleven-years-old when civilization fell, devastated by a virus that killed off the majority of the world’s population. For seven years, Thais and her family lived in a community of survivors deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. But when her town is attacked by raiders, she and her blind sister are taken away to the East-Central Territory where she is destined to live the cruel and unjust kind of life her late mother warned her about.

Atticus Hunt is a troubled soldier in Lexington City who has spent the past seven years trying to conform to the vicious nature of men in a post-apocalyptic society. He knows that in order to survive, he must abandon his morals and his conscience and become like those he is surrounded by. But when he meets Thais, morals and conscience win out over conformity, and he risks his rank and his life to help her. They escape the city and set out together on a long and perilous journey to find safety in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Struggling to survive in a world without electricity, food, shelter, and clean water, Atticus and Thais shed their fear of growing too close, and they fall hopelessly in love. But can love survive in such dark times, or is it fated to die with them?

Buy from Amazon (eBook)

Buy from Amazon (Paperback)

~~~~~

RedmerskiAuthor Bio

Jessica Redmerski is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, international bestseller, and award winner, who juggles several different genres. She began self-publishing in 2012, and later with the success of The Edge of Never, signed on with Grand Central Publishing/Forever Romance. Her works have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Jessica is a hybrid author who, in addition to working with a traditional publisher, also continues to self-publish. Her popular crime and suspense series, In the Company of Killers, has been optioned for television and film by actor and model William Levy.

She also writes as J.A. Redmerski.

Links

Website    |      Twitter    |      Goodreads    |      Facebook    |

~~~~~

~ G I V E A W A Y ~

5 lucky winners will get signed paperback copies of the book, signed bookmarks, and postcards! (US and CA only)

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#Excerpt “Dark Pleasures” by Aja James

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EXCERPT

How did a two-hundred-thirty-year-old vampire find himself on a blind date with a human female cyber genius?

A remote part of Devlin Sinclair’s mind pondered this question with immense curiosity and astonishment while the rest of him focused on the task at hand.

“That seat is taken.”

The Hunter of the Dark Ones flashed his most engaging and disarming of grins, nearly blinding the occupants of the nearby tables at Raoul’s with its brilliance.

At the very least mesmerizing guests of the female variety.

Mith, am I right?” he called the woman seated before him by her encrypted chat room handle, knowing full well that her name was actually Grace Elizabeth Darling. Twenty-nine years old, single, and wanted by several government agencies for her cyber hacking skills since the age of twelve.

She tipped her head slightly to one side and gave him a slow, meticulous, dispassionate appraisal from head to toe.

As if he were the restaurant’s special menu for the evening, and she found every item on the list less than appetizing.

“You’re not Azor Ahai,” she stated with absolute certainty.

Devlin mentally rolled his eyes and stifled a sigh.

No, he was not the Prince Who Was Promised, according to George R.R. Martin’s magnum opus A Song of Ice and Fire.

He wasn’t even the man who used the name as his online handle in the chat room where he occasionally traded conversational volleys with Grace.

No, Devlin Sinclair, Marquess of Hartington in his human life, was the royal henchman to the New England vampire queen Jade Cicada.

Devlin had in the past few months painstakingly insinuated himself into the role of Grace Darling’s chat room flirtation so that he could track the elusive cyber genius down in the flesh.

“I am,” Devlin said presently, blinking his eyes with innocence and injecting a slightly wounded look into his countenance at her immediate rejection of his identity.

She stared unblinkingly back at him, her expression unsmiling and devoid of any emotion.

“I expected you to be balding and pudgy, and maybe a foot shorter,” she said.

“There are no pictures of me anywhere, I made sure of that,” Devlin pointed out, though he knew that the real man was in fact as she described.

He’d chosen to get closer to her through this particular identity precisely because the man suffered from extreme paranoia and took care never to leave traces of himself. Who better to impersonate than a ghost on the Net and an invisible man in real life?

That, and the fact that he engaged in far more conversations and commanded more minutes of Grace’s time than anyone else in cyber space, where she lived for fourteen out of her sixteen waking hours each day, ostensibly as the work-from-home Enterprise Architect at the hottest new tech startup Zenn.

It was a stroke of pure luck that Grace herself initiated this face-to-face meeting just as Devlin almost gave up on tracing her, though his own digital abilities were substantial.

But not as good as hers.

“I hacked some satellite images and filtered the distortion. I got one of you walking through Central Park while eating a Big Mac a couple of weeks ago.”

There was no accusation or apology in her voice. She simply stated a fact and waited for him to refute or confirm.

Huh.

Devlin had to admire her resourcefulness, but he was not surprised. He would have expected no less given her skills.

“I must have had some sun glinting off my hair that day, which you mistook for the bald spot, and I was bundled in a heavy coat, which probably made me look a bit…fluffier,” he suggested smoothly.

“It was nighttime.”

“How forgetful of me,” he corrected with another flash of teeth, but she didn’t seem the least bit distracted by their brilliant whiteness.

“It was the light from the street lamps, not the sun.”

She made no reply.

Instead, she unhurriedly took her napkin from her lap, put it back on the table, pushed her chair back, slung a small backpack onto one shoulder and got up to leave.

Devlin thought fast.

“How is Miu-Miu?”

She paused and looked up at him, her expression still a neutral mask.

“And Antony and Cleopatra?”

Devlin quickly glanced at his watch, quickly because he didn’t trust her not to disappear in a puff of smoke if he took his eyes off her for even a millisecond.

“You don’t need to go home to feed them for another few hours. Let’s sit down and have our dinner, shall we? I, for one, am famished.”

She stood there regarding him with that fathomless dark stare, and Devlin would have given half his considerable fortune to know what she was thinking.

He read people very easily; it was one of his many natural gifts. But this woman was a Sphinx as far as he was concerned.

Perhaps because in order for a human book to be read, there had to be emotional signatures, but in Grace’s case, there was only cold logic. Encrypted cold logic.

Seeing that she was hesitant enough to at least remain stationary rather than dash out the door and disappear without a trace, Devlin pushed his luck further by walking around her and pulling out her chair again.

“Please do take a seat. This is your favorite restaurant, isn’t it? It took some doing to get a reservation. I would hate to waste it.”

He held his position for several seconds, one hand on the arm of her chair, one hand ever so lightly settling on her shoulder to guide her into the chair, while she considered her options.

But really, any choice she thought she had was an illusion.

Now that Devlin had seen her in the flesh, she would only escape him if he allowed it.

The Hunter never lost his prey.

~~~~~

Paranormal, Fantasy Romance
Date Published: June 15, 2018
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Devlin Sinclair, the New England Dark Ones’ Hunter, is on a mission to track down the elusive and mysterious Medusa, perhaps the ultimate nemesis the Pure and Dark Ones have been battling in recent years.
But he can’t do it alone.
Grace Darling has isolated herself from the world since a very young age, after her parents’ death and because of her own social disability. Awkward and brilliant, a born sensualist, Grace agrees to a blind date that changes the course of Destiny.
She has the skills he needs.
Their chemistry is off the charts, but will she, can she give him the love he craves?

~ Purchase Links ~

KINDLE COUNTDOWN – CURRENTLY ONLY 99¢!

Amazon 

Amazon UK

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Amazon AU

~~~~~
About the Author

Aja has been writing stories since the age of six, and novels since the age of thirteen. While she’d be the first to admit that those early efforts weren’t particularly good, she sure loved putting them down on paper!
The best part of writing, according to Aja, is that it’s completely organic, the way the stories develop. When the inspiration hits, she writes just so she herself can learn where the characters are headed because oftentimes, they take her by surprise! It is her ultimate dream to share her stories with as many readers as she possibly can.
Her other loves include art, cooking, old movies (anything with Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford, Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Clark Gable, and all the song and dance numbers because she can’t watch them and not be happy!)
She adores taking long walks with her husband and running after her two rambunctious kids. She has traveled extensively (all seven continents except Antarctica) and has had a multi-cultural upbringing. She speaks two and a half languages and binge watch TV shows when the mood strikes.
Aja has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Comparative Literature and Economics and two Master’s degrees, one of which is in East Asian Studies.
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#Excerpt2 “Everything Under the Sun” by Jessica Redmerski

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EXCERPT #2: “IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I was supposed to travel with him until he got me out of Lexington City and then I was to make a run for it, kill him if I had to—but I didn’t. I was supposed to stay with these people and leave Atticus to do what he wanted, go where he wanted, without me—but I couldn’t. I was supposed to be afraid of him not only because of the terrible man he was when I first laid eyes on him but also because he was a man—but I wasn’t. I wasn’t afraid of him.

I was afraid for him.

I was afraid of being without him…

“Thais?”

I looked up; my bottom lip quivered.

“I will wait for you,” I said, trying to be strong. I wiped my tears, swallowed hard and nodded.

Atticus dashed outside, pushing the barn door out of his way. Seconds later he came back with the horse. He tossed the quilt we’d slept on the night in the barn, over the horse’s back. Then he went over to the backpacks, stepping around Rachel’s unconscious body, and shoved everything back inside. He helped my arms into the straps of the larger backpack.

Fitting his hands on my hips, Atticus hoisted me up and set me on the horse; I grabbed a hold of the horse’s reins.

“Stay out of sight of the house,” he said as he fitted the smaller backpack and his jacket between my legs. “And cut through the woods there”—he pointed toward the back of the barn—“that’s west; just keep as straight as you can in that direction, but don’t leave the woods.”

I nodded.

He walked with me outside the barn, stopped to look out at the flat land beyond the highway where those who were coming for us would likely be, and then led me around the barn. The deep woods beckoned me out ahead; I couldn’t help but feel intimidated by them as if they were some kind of final leg of our journey—or the beginning of my journey alone.

Steadying my breath, I looked down at Atticus once more, transfixed on his intense blue eyes, the sculpted shape and rough texture of his handsome face, and I couldn’t imagine at this point never seeing it again.

“I’ll come for you,” he promised.

Tearing my gaze from his, I faced forward and tightened my grip on the reins.

EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN – JESSICA REDMERSKI – COPYRIGHT 2017

~~~~~

Title: Everything Under The Suncover

Author: Jessica Redmerski

Genre: YA/NA Crossover; Dystopian

Thais Fenwick was eleven-years-old when civilization fell, devastated by a virus that killed off the majority of the world’s population. For seven years, Thais and her family lived in a community of survivors deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. But when her town is attacked by raiders, she and her blind sister are taken away to the East-Central Territory where she is destined to live the cruel and unjust kind of life her late mother warned her about.

Atticus Hunt is a troubled soldier in Lexington City who has spent the past seven years trying to conform to the vicious nature of men in a post-apocalyptic society. He knows that in order to survive, he must abandon his morals and his conscience and become like those he is surrounded by. But when he meets Thais, morals and conscience win out over conformity, and he risks his rank and his life to help her. They escape the city and set out together on a long and perilous journey to find safety in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Struggling to survive in a world without electricity, food, shelter, and clean water, Atticus and Thais shed their fear of growing too close, and they fall hopelessly in love. But can love survive in such dark times, or is it fated to die with them?

Buy from Amazon (eBook)

Buy from Amazon (Paperback)

~~~~~

RedmerskiAuthor Bio

Jessica Redmerski is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, international bestseller, and award winner, who juggles several different genres. She began self-publishing in 2012, and later with the success of The Edge of Never, signed on with Grand Central Publishing/Forever Romance. Her works have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Jessica is a hybrid author who, in addition to working with a traditional publisher, also continues to self-publish. Her popular crime and suspense series, In the Company of Killers, has been optioned for television and film by actor and model William Levy.

She also writes as J.A. Redmerski.

Links

Website    |      Twitter    |      Goodreads    |      Facebook    |

~~~~~

~ G I V E A W A Y ~

5 lucky winners will get signed paperback copies of the book, signed bookmarks, and postcards! (US and CA only)

E N T E R

~~~~~

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#Excerpt “Mary Rosie’s War” by Catherine M. Byrne

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CoverWW2 has been declared. A strange find on the beach gives Mary Rosie the chance to fulfil her dreams and contribute to her country, but all is not what she imagined.

After witnessing the first bomb to be dropped on mainland Britain, Mary watches her friends leave to join the forces and longs to be with them, but is held back by loyalty to her widowed mother.

France has capitulated. Johnny Allan’s regiment has been annihilated by German troops north of Paris. Johnny has to find a way to get home and to the girl who no longer waits for him.

Leisel is a German Jew who lost her family to the Nazis and has to make her way in Britain, a strange new country, while harbouring a desire for revenge.

Their lives become entangled in a way that no one could have envisaged.

A story about war, family ties, love, loyalty and loss.

~~~

EXCERPT

WW2 Johnny Allan’s platoon have been fighting in France. This is a scene from the first time they engaged with the enemy.

The remaining men dug in and waited for the attack to stop. It seemed to last forever. Every now and then, Johnny touched the pocket where he kept Mary’s photograph and, in a whispering,, shaking voice he chanted the Lord’s Prayer.

After it was over and silence reigned, the men slowly emerged to inspect the carnage. All their trucks had been hit and damaged beyond repair if not destroyed totally.

‘We’ll withdraw to the Brussels-Charleroi Canal,’ said the sergeant major. ‘Now fall in.’ Clutching their weapons, the men regrouped and waited silently.

With no transport, they had to march. They passed bands of civilian refugees with their possessions laden on carts of all shapes and sizes, old horses pulling farm carts, dogs pulling dog carts, bicycles piled high with possessions, adults carrying loads on their backs, children plodding along behind them. Old people, labouring under heavy, anonymous bundles, often collapsed on the road and had to be loaded onto a cart among remains of a once happy life. The lines of pathetic humanity seemed to go on for miles. A Persian cat, grooming its coat, sat in an armchair, part of a mish-mash of possessions piled on a cart. Something about that cat, its act of normality, released something in Johnny and silent tears began to trickle down his cheeks.

In order to avoid the stream of human misery, the company had to break ranks and march in single file, often being stopped by a desperate refugee pleading for help the soldiers were unable to give. They filled the roads, mile after mile.

Eventually the sergeant ordered the men to take to the fields to avoid them. They had no sooner left the road than the now familiar drone of enemy planes filled the sky like a swarm of bees. The planes swooped low. The refugees ran for the ditches. The planes opened fire.  From the safety of their hiding places, the soldiers watched in horrifying fascination. Horses, carts and bodies were blown sky high. Women, children and old men thrown up in the air, falling back down in pieces.

Once the planes had gone, the soldiers ran back across the field to offer what help they could, but apart from shooting badly wounded animals there was little they could do. They could not offer the wounded first aid or food. They had nothing themselves. A horse lay screaming by the side of the road, his stomach torn open, his entrails lying in the dust. It was then that Johnny’s numb horror disintegrated and his gorge rose.

A cold anger worse than before, now seethed within him. All those people, hungry and tired with fear on their faces, fleeing the enemy, shot down for no reason, unless it was simple sport.

‘What kind of mentality do these people have,’ shouted Johnny, tears growing cold on his skin. ‘Why did they need to shoot innocent people? Children, old men and women?’

‘It’s not just propaganda, the stuff we heard back home. This is pure murder,’ said Matt Wilson, who served with him.

A baby still wrapped in its dead mother’s arms started crying. Johnny picked it up. He felt the small body squirm against him, the mouth opening like a baby bird as it searched for food.

‘Leave it,’ said Matt. ‘There’s nothing we can do.’

‘I can’t just leave it.’ He looked around desperately for someone who would take the child, but all he saw were the seriously wounded, broken bodies and pieces of limbs.

A few survivors clambered out of the ditch. A young woman stared at the scene before her, her face vacant with shock. She turned slowly until she saw Johnny. The first thing he noticed was the amazing colour of her eyes. They were so pale, like water to which one drop of blue ink had been added.

‘Can’t you help us? Where are your planes?’ She spoke perfect English.

‘We’ve no transport, barely enough food for ourselves.’ Johnny handed the baby to her. ‘Where are you going?’

‘We’re trying to get to the coast. They say there are boats that will take us out of Europe to the Middle East. I have friends who have settled in Syria. But before we get there I am afraid that, even if the Germans don’t kill us, we’ll die of hunger. All we have is hope and that’s fading fast. Every town we come to has already been destroyed.’ She looked down at the whimpering child in her arms. ‘I’m afraid he’ll die soon. We’ve no milk for him. We’ve nothing for ourselves. The first wave of the German Army destroyed everything they couldn’t eat. Crops are rotting on ground covered by abandoned corpses of men and animals. France is a land of the dead.’

Johnny could hardly bear the despair on her face.

‘Private Allan,’ fall in,’ shouted his sergeant.

‘What’s your name?’ he asked quickly.

‘Suzanne.’

‘I won’t forget you. You speak good English.’

‘I am English.’

Surprised, he opened his mouth to reply, but she had turned away.

‘Come on,’ Matt grabbed his arm. ‘We need to move.’

Together, the regiment began to march again.

Three days later, with very little sleep, they were still marching. They marched until their feet were blistered and stinging; they marched past forests where all the trees were uprooted blasted and dead; they marched past many more bands of starving refugees, all trying to reach the coast where they hoped to find boats that would take them to safety.

Johnny discovered that despite blistered feet and empty stomachs it was possible for men to fall asleep while marching. The only time they woke up was when they bumped into the man in front or the man behind bumped into them. At times he imagined he’d died. He envisaged an army of dead men, still marching on, because that was what they had been ordered to do.

~~~

Purchase from

Amazon UK     |     Amazon US

~~~

Author BioCatherine Byrnes

Catherine Byrne always wanted to be a writer. She began at the age of eight by drawing comic strips with added dialogue and later, as a teenager, graduated to poetry.  Her professional life however, took a very different path.  She first studied glass engraving with Caithness Glass where she worked for fourteen years. During that time she also worked as a foster parent.  After the birth of her youngest child she changed direction, studying and becoming a chiropodist with her own private practice.  At the same time she did all the administration work for her husband’s two businesses, and this continued until the death of her husband in 2005.  However she still maintained her love of writing, and has had several short stories published in women’s magazines.  Her main ambition was to write novels and she has now retired in order to write full time.

Born and brought up until the age of nine on the Island of Stroma, she heard many stories from her grandparents about the island life of a different generation. Her family moved to the mainland at a time when the island was being depopulated, although it took another ten years before the last family left.

An interest in geology, history and her strong ties to island life have influenced her choice of genre for her novels.

Since first attending the AGM of the Scottish Association of Writers in 1999, Catherine has won several prizes, commendations and has been short-listed both for short stories and chapters of her novels. In 2009, she won second prize in the general novel category for ‘Follow The Dove’

In 2016 The Road to Nowhere won second prize in the Barbara Hammond competition for Best Self-Published novel. The follow up, Isa’s Daughter won 1st prize in the same competition the following year.

Although the books follow the fortunes of the same family, they are all stand-alone.

The fifth book in the Raumsey series is Mary Rosie’s War.

Catherine Byrne lives in Wick, Caithness.

 ~~~

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~~~

G I V E A W A Y

1st Prize – all 4 of Catherine Byrne’s previous books in paperback.
6 x Runners Up Prizes – Print copy of Broken Horizon (UK Only)

 

E N T E R

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries only.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organizer and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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“A Garden in Cornwall (A Wedding in Cornwall Book 12)” by Laura Briggs

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coverWith their lives exactly what they’ve always dreamed, Matt and Julianne await the arrival of the third member of their family — but their happiness is threatened when their landlady Mathilda announces her intention to sell their beloved Rosemoor Cottage for an impossible value. Devastated, Julianne struggles to accept the cold reality of her and Matt making their home elsewhere.

Matt’s life has taken a new turn as he finally puts aside his academic work to pursue his gardening hobby as a career:  his first new job as a landscape designer involves neglected Penwill Hall’s ‘lost’ garden — one with a truly romantic Cornish past. But the task of restoring its legendary beauty from nearly seventy years ago proves difficult among the ruins lost in weeds and wilderness.

With notions of secret gardens and wartime stories echoing in her thoughts, Julianne is determined to help Matt and the estate’s new owner after the discovery of a hidden mural in the hall itself, depicting a breath-taking garden that may well be the lost one. Her efforts to uncover the past lead her to a curmudgeonly local gardener who just may hold the knowledge that would restore the ‘lost garden’ to its former glory. Will Julianne’s quest help her find a way to deal with losing the home she loves?

Hellos and farewells abound as Dinah returns to lend a helping hand at Cliffs House and Julianne relives her favourite memories of her and Matt’s beloved cottage in Book Twelve — the final installment in the bestselling series A WEDDING IN CORNWALL.

Purchase Link – http://smarturl.it/agardenincornwall

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EXCERPT

Thanks so much to Felicia for letting me share about my latest book with her readers here on Nesie’s Place! It’s called A Garden in Cornwall and is the final installment in a series of twelve novellas about American event planner Julianne’s adventures living in Cornwall. In this scene, Julianne and her husband Matt are discussing his latest job, which involves restoring a forgotten garden among the ruins of an old castle. Which somehow leads to the topic of possible names for their yet unborn baby!

###

I sighed, and settled more closely against him. “I wonder what the castle’s name was, when it was still standing,” I said. “Before it became part of the ‘ruins garden.'”

“We’ll never know,” said Matt. “Not unless someone finds a very antiquated map of Cornwall which happens to reveal it. Although that seems almost as likely at this point as finding a photo of the garden seventy years ago.”

“Does the garden have Cornish heath in it?” I asked.

“I’m afraid not,” said Matt. “Only some lady’s smock in a very small patch. We’re outside the heath’s territory on those grounds, by the realities of both geography and agriculture.”

“A pity,” I said. I felt Matt’s cheek rest against my head.

“You know,” he said. “Heath really would be a decent name for a boy.”

“Wouldn’t it?” I said. “I think Marigold would be a nice name for a girl. It makes me think of the garden. Of the ones you picked for me when I first came here.”

“Of course … Marigold Rose,” he pointed out.

“So?” I said. “I can think of worse names to be stuck with.”

I felt his smile even though I couldn’t see it, the soft movement of his cheek against my hair. “I had forgotten about those marigolds,” he said. “I had an abundance of them in pots. The lady’s smock was in the trench box on the far side of the hothouse that year, where I was propagating more of it for the preservation group.”

“You raided your special stash just for me?” I said. “I’m touched.”

“You were worth it.” He kissed the top of my head. “Where is the list of names?” he asked. “I’ll write these down if you like.”

“Not yet,” I said. “I’m too comfy to let you go,” I said, wrapping my arms around him. “It’s been a long day and we both have to work tomorrow. Let’s just stay here for awhile, and doze off before our tiny fire.”

“I’m not sleepy,” said Matt, chuckling. “Of course, I’m not the one carrying a small entity which relies on me to eat and breathe, either. But if you want me to stay here, I will.” He placed his hand over the baby’s presence beneath my white blouse, fingers moving gently with this touch. “Shall I tell you a bedtime story?” he asked.

“Sure. Tell me more about the garden,” I said. A bedtime story from my childhood, the locked garden of roses and spring crocus and daffodils, slumbering alive beneath the thick blanket of dead leaves.

“I think I told you almost every detail in the car,” he said.

“You must have missed something,” I murmured. “Describe it for me. I won’t see it until Saturday, but I want to picture it in the meantime.”

I felt Matt settle against me more comfortably. “You’ve seen the path to it already from the hall’s windows, but if you follow it into the glen, then climb to the top of the hill that overlooks the partly-dug pond in the field, you see the first stones over the grass on the land rise,” he began. “It’s not wild grass, but a domesticated variety that wrapped itself around the former cornerstone of the castle … ”

I wasn’t drowsy enough to fall asleep, so Matt’s bedtime story only transported me away to the images I had seen of the hall’s famous garden. Curled up on our comfy but stiff old sofa, with the scent of Matt’s garden flowers in the mantel vase in the air and the quiet creak of our house settling, even sleep couldn’t make me more content than I already felt.

~~~~~

Laura Briggs

Author Bio – Laura Briggs is the author of several lighthearted romance novels and novellas, including the bestselling Amazon UK series A Wedding in Cornwall. She has a fondness for vintage-style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, caring for her pets, going to movies and plays, and trying new restaurants.

Social Media Links

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G I V E A W A Y

Win an e-copy (Digital) of A Garden in Cornwall (Open Internationally)

E N T E R

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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