Uncategorized

Love Is Strange Anthology

Title – Love is Strange: A Taboo Anthology
Authors – Yolanda Olson, Elizabeth Cash, Emery LeeAnn, Michelle Brown, Anna Edwards, Addison Kline, Michelle Pace, Chloe Jane, Ally Vance, Murphy Wallace, and Avery Reigns
Genre – Taboo Romance
Release Date – February 12, 2019
Eleven authors band together to show you love in its truest, most forbidden form.
Only when Burnt Embers rise from Cinder & Smoke can you find Absolution from the Indiscriminate. When Becoming Mrs. Ryan is solely possible by crossing into the unknown. Join the Blood Brothers as they bind together while Keeping Secrets from The Thief & The Liar. And in the Encore, sweet, somber songs of Melancholia can we truly find the meaning of Caim.
Love is Strange: A Taboo Anthology for the Ocean Conservancy.
**All proceeds from this anthology will be donated to the Ocean Conservancy. https://oceanconservancy.org/**
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Stained

Title: The Crane Diaries: Stained
Author: Apryl Baker
Genre: NA Horror/Paranormal
Cover Designer: Deranged Doctor Design
Publication Date: February 12th, 2018 Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Blurb: I Am Death.
I Am Darkness.
I Am Creation.
These are the simple truths Emma Rose Crane, AKA Mattie Hathaway, has run from for the last two years, but the situation she finds herself in will not let her flee her past anymore. It’s barreling toward her at the speed of a bullet.
Mattie finds herself back in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the trial of Dan’s mother. She’s determined to see this ordeal through for Dan, even though his vindictive mother uses the situation to try to tear them apart.
If that weren’t enough, she lands on a supernatural hit list and has to rescue a woman who’s close to death—and survive the psycho who took her to begin with.
But just when things start to go right, the unthinkable happens.
Three gunshots.
Three truths.
But in the end, will her past save her future…or will it take everything she cherishes from her?
So who am I?
Well, I’m the crazy girl with an imagination that never shuts up. I LOVE scary movies. My friends laugh at me when I scare myself watching them and tell me to stop watching them, but who doesn’t love to get scared? I grew up in a small town nestled in the southern mountains of West Virginia where I spent days roaming around in the woods, climbing trees, and causing general mayhem. Nights I would stay up reading Nancy Drew by flashlight under the covers until my parents yelled at me to go to sleep.
Now, I live in a small town in West Virginia where I entertain my niece and nephew and watch the cats get teased by the birds and laugh myself silly when they swoop down and then dive back up just out of reach. The cats start yelling something fierce…lol.
I love books, I love writing books, and I love entertaining people with my silly stories.
Author Links:
Buy Links:
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Release Blitz

Beta Test by Karen Renee

Title: Beta Test
Series: Beta Series Novel Author: Karen Renee
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Comedy
Release Date: February 12, 2019
Justine is adjusting to life after a divorce. A friend insists on setting her up with a man. She will not have another Alpha male in her life. Her next man will be an easy-going “Beta” male.
James does not believe in long term relationships. After he meets Justine, he’s certain bachelorhood is it for him. When work brings James to her home, their chemistry ignites.
Will they give love a chance?
“Where are you?” Natasha demanded, then added, “I know you’re at some waxing place, but are you on Fleming Island? How far are you from Ruby Tuesday’s? Mallory and I are en route there, and you’re joining us.”
How had I ever missed just how pushy Natasha could be? I kept that to myself and answered, “I’m probably fifteen minutes from the restaurant.”
“Good. We should be there at the same time then.”
She hung up on me and I realized that was a big part of why I didn’t like pushiness. It often bordered on rudeness. While I was thinking of it, I called Ashley.
“What up, home slice?” she greeted.
“I’d say my hair follicles, but really they’re just gone, not up.”
“Oh! So, you finally went.”
I pressed the start button on my vehicle. “Yes, yes. It’s done, so your discount should be in their system now. Anyway, what are you and the kids up to?”
“The kids are both at parties now until this evening. I should study, but, well, you know how that shit goes.”
“Wanna do lunch? Natasha and Mallory have insisted I meet them at Ruby Tuesday’s on the island. You can be my wing-woman.” 
Ashley mulled it over for a moment. “Sure, I’ll do lunch with you. Just lunch though, because then I’ll have to get back here and hit the damn books.”
***
“What do you mean sometime in the next few weeks? They’re the government, surely they know when a huge-ass ship is going to come into Mayport,” Mallory groused at my sister.
Ashley’s face took on the same patient look she gave me when I didn’t understand something that only military families understood. “First, even if they did have a specific date, Uncle Sam isn’t going to allow the sailors to share that with their families. One, because you never know when somebody could say something to the wrong person and then…well, the old adage could feasibly become true. ‘Loose lips sink ships.’ Two, because navigating the ocean is dependent on the weather even if the ship has motors and doesn’t rely on wind and all that shit like in the old days. They aren’t bringing one of those behemoths into port if conditions are foggy or whatever.”
“Yeah, yeah. Mallory has diverted this conversation terribly,” Natasha said. “Did your husband really say you needed to use a weed whacker on your business? You need to set that sailor straight without delay.”
Ashley looked at Natasha. “That’s why I needed Justine to head over to the spa too. Now, I can see to things and not break the bank.”
“That ain’t what I meant.”
I weighed in. “Natasha, I don’t think you realize this, but one doesn’t just set a Navy bad-ass straight.”
She pursed her lips at me. “Oh, yes I do, Justine. When I met Leon, I was in college and he was finishing out his four-year term with the Navy. I know plenty about getting that sort of alpha male in line. Now seriously, Ashley, are you going to let him get away with that sort of thing?”
Ashley smirked. “Believe me. Jason’s going to be surprised when he sees the measures I’ve taken.”
“Will he be waxing poetic?” I asked.
Mallory suddenly snapped her fingers at me. “You did yours for James, didn’t you? That’s oddly sweet.”
Shaking my head, I said, “No, I did this because Jane of the Jungle, here, needed her discount.”
Ashley shoved me in the arm. “Do not make me get into a knock-down drag-out with you in the middle of Ruby Tuesday’s, Justine.”
Karen Renee is the author of the Riot MC Series. She has wanted to be a writer from a very early age, and she’s finally bringing that dream to life. She has worked in advertising, banking, and local television media research. She is a proud wife and mother, and a Jacksonville native. When she’s not at the soccer field or cooking, you can find her at her local library, the grocery store, in her car jamming out to some tunes, or hibernating while she writes and/or reads books.
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Teasers

Forever Tomorrow by Haylee Thorne

Forever is worth the wait! Forever Tomorrow by Haylee Thorne goes LIVE on February 19th!!!

ADD IT TO YOUR TBR → http://bit.ly/2QYbWWg

FOLLOW HAYLEE FOR ALERTS → http://bit.ly/2GfnqQm

BLURB:

Mikaela Kingsley is finally reunited with the love she didn’t know she lost and has her precious memories back. But with the light, also comes the dark, and the realization that perhaps ignorance really was bliss… With his Lady finally by his side, Eric Hardwick truly has everything he ever wanted in life. But, unexpected additions to the Kingsley clan bring more lies, more deceit, and more turmoil than ever before, putting his world at risk. Eric discovers that once you have everything you want, you also have everything to lose. How far will he go to protect those he holds dear? Will good win over evil? Will love win over hate? Find out if true love reigns in Forever Tomorrow.

Start Eric & Mikaela’s story TODAY → https://amzn.to/2RHaM18 It’s #FREE in KU!!!

About Haylee

When Haylee Thorne isn’t writing her stories, she works proudly as a registered nurse in Kentucky. Haylee loves to read and watch TV (she may or may not be slightly obsessed with anime), and there aren’t many movies she has not seen. She’s known to enjoy a good glass of champagne, and can eat an unlimited amount of French fries (seriously, it’s a problem). When she has some free time (as in time not spend working or writing), Haylee loves spending time with her family and friends.

Follow Haylee online! Amazon: https://amzn.to/2J2oBQL BookBub: http://bit.ly/2GfnqQm Facebook: http://bit.ly/2RTemSt Facebook Group: http://bit.ly/HayleesSweetPeas Goodreads: http://bit.ly/HayleeThorneGR Instagram: http://bit.ly/2rzKUFK Twitter: http://bit.ly/2QqT2HB Website: http://hayleethorneauthor.com

Release Blitz

Finding Marnie


Author: MV Ellis
Title: Finding Marnie
Genre: Rock Star Romance
Series: Heartless Few, book 4
Release Date: February 12th, 2019
Publisher: Hot Tree Publishing
Cover Designer: Claire Smith
 On sale for half price! 
Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU
He is everything I want but know I can never have.

Every fiber of my being has ached for Luke from the very first moment we met. However, with my parents’ legacy of toxic obsession woven into my DNA, I know love is pain and should be avoided at all costs. I’m unloved and unlovable. Still, in moments of weakness, I allow myself to imagine what it would be like if I was the kind of woman who deserved the love of a man like him.

She is hiding in plain sight, waiting for me to find her.

Marnie has had my heart from day one, and always will. It’s just a shame I couldn’t muster the words to tell her so when we first locked eyes. It’s a failing I will live to regret for years to come. However, I’m determined to make things right, even if it takes me a lifetime. I need her to know she is enough. In fact, she is more than that. She is everything.
 On sale for half price! 

 Heartless Few Series 
Available on

Catching London
(Book 1)
Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU

Cold, Hard, & Heartless
(Book 2)
Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU

Pushing Arlo
(Book 3)
Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU

MV ELLIS knows what it’s like to fall head over heels in love with a badass musician. She followed her heart halfway around the world to be with one. She moved from London to Sydney after a steamy holiday romance with a sexy bass player in sultry Brazil.

Twelve years, two children and a dog later, and she’s still smitten. All this with a guy she sat next to on a bus for 36 hours! She has toured internationally as a “WAG,” and her experiences inspire her writing.
Ellis’s love of romance began when she was 11 years old, after a summer spent secretly reading her auntie’s books. She’s been a sucker for an alpha hero and strong heroine ever since.

An avid reader, Ellis always knew she’d write a book of her own one day. She was right about that. Following a career spanning advertising, marketing, and social media, she finally wrote Catching London in 2017.

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 Submissions

Uncategorized

Sing It, Sam by Jennifer Ryder




Title: Sing It, Sam
Author: Jennifer Ryder
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 12, 2019



Blurb

Jane Rhynehart has a cosy shack in the pumpkin-obsessed town of Willow Creek, and a new job—if only she was able to write like the other women in the local writers’ group. But how can Jane write the perfect romance when she’s never experienced love?

After a lengthy stay in hospital, budding singer and songwriter Sam Marshall ends up as a resident in Willow Creek Nursing Home. Jane soon becomes his guiding light. But how can he be a man for her when he relies on so many others day-to-day?

Will Sam turn out to be the perfect muse to help Jane write her epic romance? Will Jane be the one to teach Sam how to truly live? Does love truly know no barriers?  







Purchase Links

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU


Excerpt

I link my fingers behind Sam’s neck. “He cares about you, Sam.” 
“I’m tryin’ to move forward, get somewhere, be somebody. I just feel like he’s holding me back.”
I look down at our feet and back up to meet his frown. “You seem to be moving ahead just fine to me.” 
“I’m no ballroom dancer.”
I press my lips against his. I delight in a long-lasting kiss until Sam moans in the back of his throat. Reluctantly, I pull back. “Then lucky for the both of us, because I don’t want a dancer. I want you.”
The song finishes, but we continue to sway, locked tight in each other’s arms. The young girl nods to Shaun and walks offstage as a lady with wild ginger hair in a ruffled denim dress and cowgirl boots takes her place. The woman, who looks to be in her forties, adjusts the microphone to her height, and then plucks the strings of a mandolin. Her voice crackles as she sings about writing a song, and her tears.
Sam’s arms stiffen around me. “Of all the frickin’ songs, she picks this one by Willie Nelson?”
The lady continues on about sad songs and waltzes. It’s kind of depressing. Ironic, really. I shift my arms around Sam’s waist. 
“I hate country music,” he growls in my ear. 
“The song’s not that bad,” I lie. 
Sam’s mouth moves to my ear. The heat of his breath sends a flood of warmth to my lower belly. “I just wanted this one moment. She’s killin’ me.” 
I tighten my hold around him. “Forget about her.”
Sam grinds his teeth. “How can I? It’s all I can hear.” 
“Then listen to me instead.” I press one hand to the centre of his chest. “We made it, Sam. We made it here to this very spot.”
A lazy smile curls at his mouth. “Now’s not the time to make me weak at the knees, Janie.”





Author Bio


Jennifer Ryder is a bestselling author of the Spark Series and Surfers Way Series. She loves to write about boys on dirt bikes, detectives and strong females who aren’t afraid to fight for what they want.

Living on a rural property in New South Wales, Australia, she enjoys the best of city and country. Her loving husband is ever willing to provide inspiration, and her two young cherubs, and sheep that don’t see fences as barriers, keep life more than interesting. 


Author Links

Release Blitz

NICE AND EASY by Erin Nicholas

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Nice and Easy, an all-new sexy standalone in the Boys of the Big Easy series from New York Times bestselling author Erin Nicholas available now!

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A hot firefighter who just wants to take care of her and her little boy? Sign her up.

Moving in with him and his little girl who already has a huge chunk of her heart? Very nice.

Roommates with benefits? Yes, please.

Convincing this take-charge alpha to let her take care of him too? That’s not going to be as easy.

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Download your copy today!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UQyqqs

AppleBooks: https://apple.co/2BtfRjg

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/NiceandEasy

Nook: http://bit.ly/2Qylojd

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2Glvq2a

Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2MWtNaW

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2QQQUs3

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Start the Boys of the Big Easy series for FREE with Easy Going!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2DjpzIz

AppleBooks: https://apple.co/2AIXN5C

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/EasyGoingEN

Nook: http://bit.ly/2PwKpKj

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2PB9C63

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2yOqmNz

About Erin Nicholas

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Erin Nicholas has been writing romances almost as long as she’s been reading them. To date, she’s written over thirty sexy, contemporary novels that have been described as “toe-curling,” “enchanting,” “steamy,” and “fun.” She adores reluctant heroes, imperfect heroines, and happily ever afters. Erin lives in the Midwest, where she enjoys spending time with her husband (who only wants to read the sex scenes in her books), her kids (who will never read the sex scenes in her books), and her family and friends (who claim to be “shocked” by the sex scenes in her books). ErinNicholas.jpg

Connect with Erin

Instagram: http://bit.ly/2Ghek4N

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2BqNKSU

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2WSZxlR

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2GAUZeb

Website: https://erinnicholas.com

Stay up to date with Erin by joining her mailing list: http://bit.ly/2Gj56oC

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Release Boost

Escape The Night – KA Graham


Escape The Night
The Sparrow and The Raven Novella
By K.A Graham
Published: January 15, 2019


The hardest prison to escape is your mind.

My brother was always the smart one. The one people turned to when they needed guidance and comfort. I looked up to him my whole life. He was my best friend. He had his demons, but so did I.

Until the night my wife was taken away from me and my world crumbled to the ground. Where was he then? He became the face of the man that murdered my wife. All I saw was an enemy, no longer my brother.

It took me years to come to terms with my wife’s death and the fact that Dominic really wasn’t to blame.

I never dreamt I’d find love again, but then I met Morgan. She’s crept into my heart, and there was no way to escape, nor do I want to.

Do I continue to live for my deceased wife, or do I finally open myself up for a second chance at love?




Get your copy here!
Amazon US : AU : CA : UK










Amazon US : AU : CA : UK
**On Kindle Unlimited



~ Meet K.A. Graham ~

K.A. Graham grew up in a small town in Oregon. Through the years, her love for writing and poetry, turned into something she had only dreamt of. Writing her own book. She’s faced many obstacles in her life, but the love and devotion of her parents, have always kept her grounded.

She is an avid reader, blogger and does PA work for a few authors, which keeps her quite busy. Hard rock music lover and horror movie buff, with a love and appreciation for tattoos. Her addictions include copious amounts of caffeine, Chinese food and Haribos candy.

#EmbraceTheLove #ForgetTheHate


~ Connect with K.A. Graham ~
Email : Facebook : Twitter : Instagram : Goodreads : Amazon : Bookbub

Book Blitz

His Hand in the Storm


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Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Date Published: Dec 22, 2018

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 A MAN COPES ANY WAY HE CAN AFTER KILLING HIS ONLY SON.

His team believes he’s calm and Zen. His boss finds him obsessive. Suspects think him gorgeous but dangerous. They’re all right.

Chief Inspector Gray James is sculpting the remembered likeness of his small son when he receives the call – a faceless corpse is found hanging by the choppy river, swirls of snow and sand rolling like tumbleweeds.

Montreal glitters: the cobbled streets slippery with ice, and the mighty St. Lawrence jetting eastward past the city. One by one, someone is killing the founders of a booming medical tech startup – propelling Gray into a downward spiral that shatters his hard-earned peace, that risks his very life, that threatens to force him to care and face what he has shunned all along: his hand in the storm.

From the prize-winning author comes a psychological, page-turning mystery with all the elements one needs on a rainy night: a complex murder, a noble yet haunted detective, and an evocative setting to sink into.



Excerpt


CHAPTER 1
April 1, 5:30 am

MORE NUMBING PAIN.

At precisely five-thirty am on April the first, Chief Inspector Gray James tucked his cold hands into his pockets, straightened his spine, and looked up.

He breathed out through his nose, warm breath fogging the air as if surging out of a dragon and tried to dispel the mingled hints of flesh, cherry blossoms, and the raw, living scent of the river.

The drumming of his heart resonated deep in his chest – brought on more by intellectual excitement than by any visceral reaction to murder. Because of this, Gray accepted an atavistic personal truth.

He needed this case like he’d needed the one prior, and the one before that. That someone had to die to facilitate this objectionable fix bothered him, but he’d give audience to that later. Much later.

A car backfired on le Chemin Bord Ouest, running east-west along Montreal’s urban beach park. A second later, silence ensued, save the grievous howling of a keen eastwardly wind, and the creak of nylon against wood, back and forth, and back and forth.

Heavy boots tromping through the snow and slush came up from behind. A man approached. Tall, but not as tall as Gray, his cord pants and rumpled tweed conveyed the aura of an absent-minded professor, yet the shrewd eyes – not malicious, but not categorically beneficent either – corrected that impression.

Forensic Pathologist John Seymour looked up at the body hanging from the branch of a grand oak, gave it the eye and said, “Well, I can tell you one thing right off.”

“What’s that?”

“You wouldn’t be caught dead in that suit.”

Gray sighed. “What do you suggest? That I refer the victim to my tailor?” To which Seymour shrugged and got to work.

With every creak of the rope biting into the bough, Gray half-expected the swinging shoes to brush the snow-laden grass; each time the cap-toed oxfords narrowly missed. A grease stain marked the bony protrusion of the left white sock (with a corresponding scuff on the heel – from being dragged?), above which the crumpled brown wool-blend fabric of the pants and ill-fitting jacket rippled in the wind – like the white-tipped surface of the river beyond.

Dawn cast a blue light on the water and snow. A damp cold sank through Gray’s coat and into his bones. Amazing how the usually peaceful beach park took on a menacing air: the St. Lawrence choppier than usual, swirls of sand and snow rolling like tumbleweeds, the sky heavy and low. But a children’s playground lay behind the hanging body, and its red swings, bright yellow slide, and empty wading pool offered a marked contrast to the swaying corpse.

With every flash, Scene of Crime Officers photographed the body and documented what remained: only an exposed skull, framed by sparse hair on top, ears on either side, and a wrinkly neck puckered in a noose. A red silk tie under the hangman’s knot accentuated the complete absence of blood. Blood would have been preferable. The features were stripped to the bone, with eroded teeth set in a perpetual grin as if the skull were enjoying a joke at everyone’s expense.

“White male in his early fifties,” Seymour said. “Well off, by the look of him. Only small bits of tissue left on the cheekbones, lips, and around the eyes. Notice the distinctive gap between the two front teeth.”

That could help with identification.

The custom ringtone on Gray’s cell played “She’s Always a Woman.” Why was she calling him so soon? He stabbed the phone and tucked it back into his cashmere coat pocket before circling the body several times.

“What killed him?” Gray asked.

“The facial trauma preceded the hanging.”

That much was obvious since the rope wasn’t eaten away like the face.

“We can’t know the cause of death until I get him on the slab,” Seymour said. “And before you ask, the time of death is hard to say. Parts of him are already frozen. Maybe four to seven hours ago. I’ll have a better window after I’ve checked the stomach contents and what’s left of the eyes.”

Seymour crouched and felt the victim’s knees and lower legs. “Rigor mortis has set in, probably sped up by the cold.” He rotated the stiff ankles. “Look at these tiny feet. Can’t have been too popular with the ladies.”

Gray closed his eyes and counted to five.

All around, professionals bustled gathering evidence, clearing onlookers and photographing the scene. The park lay sandwiched between the beach and parking lot leading to the main road. On one side, the river flowed eastward in a blue-gray haze, blurring the line between water and sky. On the other, traffic going into downtown Montreal grew heavier by the minute. The road led to his neighborhood, where Victorian and Edwardian homes, bistros, and cafés crunched together for ten hipster-infused blocks.

This park held memories of weekends spent with his wife and son. A lifetime ago. Why did it have to happen here, of all places?

“Did some kind of acid cause the burns, Doctor?”

“Yeah. Parts of the eyes are still there. Almost as if they were left for last. I wonder why.”

Gray could think of a reason but didn’t elaborate.

A gust of wind swung the corpse’s legs sideways, narrowly missing an officer’s head.

“What the hell.” Seymour grabbed the ankles. “The sooner we cut him down, the better.”

Which couldn’t be soon enough. Gray bent down and held the lower legs. He gripped the ankle awkwardly with his right thumb and little finger, the middle three immobile these last three years since the accident, and a snake-like scar running from his palm to his wrist blanched from the cold.

Despite his hanging on tight, the corpse danced in the wind. “Don’t rush on my account, Doctor.”

Finally, attendants cut the victim down and laid him on a stretcher. Seymour hunched over, his blond hair parting in the breeze, revealing a pink, flaky scalp, the grinning corpse powerless to refuse examination.

“Definitely acid,” Seymour said. “Going to be hard for you to trace, since it’s so easy to get. Impure sulphuric acid’s available at any mechanic shop. You find the purer kind in pharmaceuticals.” He flashed a penlight into the facial crevices and probed them with a long, needle-like instrument.

The victim couldn’t feel it, but each stab and scrape made Gray flinch. “Must you do that?”

“Look at these chipped bones,” Seymour said. “Here, next to the supraorbital foramen, and here on the left zygomatic arch. They’re edged off, not dissolved by acid.”

“Torture, right?”

“Could be.”

Gray paced his next six words: “Was he alive for the acid?”

“I’m going to have to brush up on vitriolage. If he were, he’d have breathed it in, and we’d see scarring in the esophagus, nostrils, and lungs.”

Looking around at the flat, deserted beach park, the ropy ebb and flow of the water, Gray said, “He didn’t die here, did he?”

“No. From what I can see, livor mortis indicates he probably died sitting and was strung up later. I’ll let you know after all his clothes are off.” Seymour pushed himself up with his hands, his knees popping like the report of a firearm. “What could the poor bastard have done to deserve this?”

Gray didn’t answer. As someone guilty of the greatest sin of all, he considered himself wholly unqualified to make any such judgment.

His cell played “She’s Always a Woman,” again, and he pulled it out. Images from the previous night played in his mind: her hands flat on the mattress, his palm encircling her belly from behind. And those unexpectedly strong martinis she’d made earlier.

Putting away the phone, he spoke brusquely. “When will you have something ready?”

“Preliminary report probably later today. And I’ll send remnants of the acid for analysis to determine the type and grade.”

As the body was carried to a van and Seymour followed, second-in-command Lieutenant Vivienne Caron approached Gray carrying two cappuccinos from a nearby Italian cafe. Wonderful steam rose from the opened lids, and the dark, nutty aroma drifted forward, the first hint of comfort on this bleak morning.

Her chocolate brown eyes exuded warmth – eyes both direct and shy, their color perfectly matching her short, straight tresses now whipping about in the wind and framing gentle features.

“Chief Inspector.” She addressed him formally, despite their longstanding friendship. The sound of her nearly perfect English was pleasant and familiar, beautifully accented with the musical intonation characteristic of certain Québecois.

Even though she held the coffee before his left hand; he grasped it awkwardly with his right.

“Don’t spill any on that thousand-dollar suit,” she said.

It made him gag. “Why do you always add so much sugar?”

“Because I know that with a juicy case to solve, you’ll be too busy to eat or sleep.”

A moment of silence passed between them, pregnant with history he didn’t want exhumed.

“I have to make sure you’re okay,” she said. “Even if you refuse to… She was my best friend.”

He placed a hand on her shoulder. “You live with Sita’s ghost more than I do. Enough time has passed for me.”

“Maybe. It’s changed you.”

“For the worse?”

Vivienne stilled, her mouth open. “Non. For the better. That’s the problem.”

Her eyes were warm yet partly adversarial. He saw it as the conflicting desire for wanting him to be okay, but not to leave her to grieve alone. She’d once told him the same trauma that had disillusioned her had enlightened him.

“It doesn’t matter what happens,” he whispered.

“Doesn’t matter?” Her voice took on an edge.

“As long as you can control your reactions – it doesn’t matter. Freedom comes from living in grays – no black; no white. No convenient polarities.”

Her eyes pierced his, but he knew, out of respect, she wouldn’t directly say what she thought; that he oscillated between Zen and obsession, contentment and blackness.

She shuffled her feet. “I don’t know how you made that leap, after the tragedy.”

“The worst thing that could ever happen to me has happened. After that, I can either fear everything or nothing – I have nothing left to lose.”

Vivienne didn’t reply.

What right had he to preach when he still experienced unguarded moments which filled his insides with quicksand as that malignant though raced through his mind: what do I do now? How do I fill this day and twenty years of interminable days when everything is for nothing? When this life feels surreal, dissociated as though I’m on a foreign planet with strangers.

Those moments often occurred when he didn’t have a case; they occurred before sleep and drove his nightly obsession.

“Living in Gray?” Vivienne shook her pretty head. “I believe in good and evil.”

“Then where do I fall? Or will you make excuses for me?”

“Non. I won’t make excuses for you. “

Her eyes hooded over; she took a step back. A door slammed between them, again.

“No cell phone, no ID,” she said. “Any footprints or tracks are covered by snow.”

“Let’s have someone check with the occupants of the hospital rooms facing the river.”

Westborough Hospital sat directly across the road. A magnificent feat of engineering, its four glass-walled buildings were connected by skyways. It had taken twenty years of fundraising to build (with its founding director recently fleeing to Nicaragua under allegations of embezzling some of those funds) and took up several square blocks.

Gray forced down the coffee. Already, warmth and caffeine coursed through his system, bringing life to his numb toes tucked inside the slush-soaked loafers. “Did you check with missing persons?”

“Only one recent report matches. Norman Everett of Rosedale Avenue in Upper Westmount. He’s only been gone since last night and reported missing by his step-son, Simon Everett. And of note, Norman’s a doctor at Westborough Hospital.”

Gray’s head shot up. “Missing since last night, and works at this particular hospital? The timing’s perfect. Give me his details. I’ll do the interview myself while you finish up here.”

“D’accord.”

She handed over the number, and he made the call to Norman Everett’s house, reaching the missing man’s wife, Gabrielle.

Before Vivienne could go, a Scene of Crime Officer jumped forward and handed Gray a transparent evidence bag.

“Found this by the tree over there, Chief.”

“How recent?”

“It lay just under the snow. The city cleaned this area recently; hardly any debris around.”

Gray thanked him and looked down at the four by six-inch identity badge, examined the photo, and read the identifying details, gripping it tight enough that his fist blanched. The image blurred for the briefest second before clearing.

Vivienne rubbed her hands together. “What’s wrong?”

He didn’t trust his voice yet. A shoal of uncertainties flooded his chest. The case suddenly became more raw, more urgent, but he’d handle it. He always did. Gray unclenched his jaw and fingers, and handed her the evidence bag.

“The killer?” she asked.

“A witness.”

“Look at that ID. Look what it says. You can’t be sure.”

“Yes, I can.” His tone came out harsher than he’d intended. He could guess her next words, and he’d deserve them. Does anything matter, now? Will you be able to control your reactions? But she didn’t say it. Didn’t point out the one circumstance that sliced his calm with the efficiency of a scalpel. Instead, she met his eyes in a gentle embrace before moving farther up the beach.

Bells sounded from St. Francis, the eighteenth-century cathedral up the road for the Angelus prayer. Quebec had the largest Catholic population in the country, and maybe as a result, the lowest church attendance and marriage rate. But the familiar ringing comforted and smoothed the sharp edges of his morning.

Gray left the cordoned off area, crossed the breadth of the beach park, and headed to the attached parking lot and his car; the black metallic exterior gleamed in the distance.

At one time, the Audi S5 had consumed a substantial chunk of his detective’s salary, but he hadn’t cared. Memories of countless family road trips lay etched within its metal frame.

Still twenty feet away, he pressed the automatic start to warm the engine, just as Seymour summoned him from behind.

The doctor jogged over sporting a wry smile, breath steaming in the cold air, and his long coat flapping. Behind him, the van carrying the body left the parking lot.

“I forgot to ask you earlier – about your next expedition,” Seymour said. “Mind having some company?”

“I failed last time,” Gray said. “Or hadn’t you heard?”

“A fourteen-hundred-kilometer trek to the South Pole, on foot, is hardly a failure.”

“It is if you can’t make the journey back. Anyway–”

A boom drowned out his words. The earth shook, and air blasted towards them, throwing Gray to the ground onto his right shoulder, pain searing up his arm. Chunks of metal and debris flew from the newly obliterated Audi in every direction, denting nearby cars and clanging against the pavement. A puff of smoke shot upward, chasing the flames, leaving the smell of burning rubber and metal hanging in a thick cloud – while cars on the nearby road screeched to a sudden halt. The fire swayed as though alive, angry arms flailing and crackling, spitting sparks in all directions.

“What the hell!” Seymour lay in the snow, his mouth open, his arm up to ward off the scorching heat.

Gray’s car lay mutilated, the black paint graying as it burned. People jumped out of their vehicles to take a look. Vivienne and some officers ran towards him, their feet pounding on the asphalt.

“Someone is damn pissed off at you,” Seymour said, eying his own dented Mercedes. He turned to Gray. “What did you do?”


About the Author

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A MYSTERY; A BEACH; A BEER:  Ritu’s favorite vacation day.

Ritu’s first book, His Hand In the Storm has had nearly 50,000 downloads. It became an AMAZON BESTSELLER  in the Kindle free store and was #1 in all its mystery categories. She needs coffee (her patch for Coca Cola), beaches, and murder mysteries to survive – not necessarily in that order. She won the Colorado Gold Award for the first in the Chief Inspector Gray James Murder Mystery Series, His Hand In the Storm. The book was also a Daphne du Maurier Suspense finalist.

She’s fulfilling her lifelong desire of becoming a mystery writer. Many thanks to all the readers who are making that possible.


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