Reviews

Virginia Lee’s Reviews > Conversion (Alphabits #3) by Susi Hawke & Crista Crown

Conversion (Alphabits #3)Conversion by Susi Hawke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the 3rd book in the Alphabits series. This story made me laugh so hard with the antics of Gizmo and Micah. Love the saying cat hate water and love catnip. Cant stop laughing over the STAHP.
Alphabits going after the ones that are hurting children. Cant wait to see which one of the next Alphabits fall over from their dropping in their laps. highly recommend this series


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Teasers

Unbreakable Darkness


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Book 1.5 in The Vigilant Series
YA/Urban Fantasy
Date Published: May 5th, 2018

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Dexter never looked for trouble, it finds him. Moving to a small city from New York wasn’t his idea of an improvement. His plans to make his dreams of being groomed as a pro football running back ended the moment his father uprooted his family. Day one, he landed in jail without bail and realized too late that his father made a deal to get him out, one that would change his life, and put his family forever in danger. Unfortunately, finding love always happens at the worst possible time. Dexter didn’t realize that love could also kill. Again, trouble, it finds him, but this time he’d face it – head on, and hope he survives. Prequel to Scepter of Fire Book 2 in The Vigilant Series.


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Insatiable Darkness – Book 0
Caged Fire – Book 1
Unbreakable Darkness –Book 1.5
Scepter of Fire – Book 2


Excerpt


“Well, I hate to do this, but I am willing to let him go, with no charges if you can convince him to be an informant for me.”

“Excuse me?” Dex’s father responded, irritated.

“I know why you are here. Also, who you are working with and you are playing a dangerous game. I will stay out of that, but, your son is in the position to shed some light on this case and help your cause. There is something going on with the sports teams at that school. Kids going missing at the top of their prime, it’s frustrating we don’t know why.”

“I understand, but why would I put my son in danger to get you your answers?”

“Because it may help you get the answers you seek…for The Vigilant,” Detective Whalen whispered when he mentioned the last word.

“I’m not doing that. Would you put your kid in that kind of danger?”

“I’ve tried, but my son wasn’t good enough to be recruited by the elite on the team. He’s into other things, playing the guitar in a band. The Soul warriors have to be selected, it’s a process. Your son, he’s got what they are looking for, he’s strong, a bit impulsive, a fighter and not a detective’s son.”

Dex almost didn’t catch it, but had leaned in to hear every bit of their conversation.

“How about this, you put things in motion, my son doesn’t know he may be exposed to the information you seek. Let things play out, then if you need to question him, I’ll make sure he’s available for that.”

There was a pause of silence, “That’s fair and a good approach. The less he knows, the more likely he will be exposed too. You’ve got a deal.”

“And detective, don’t ever mention The Vigilant in my presence again. You can get my family and I killed if you do, and I fought too damned hard to be able to live to risk someone putting me and mine in danger.”

“Understood.”

Dex heard a slapping of hands and supposed they were shaking hands.

“Now, detective, can I see my son?”

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About the Author

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L.M. Preston, a native of Washington, DC. An avid reader, she loved to create poetry and short-stories as a young girl. She is an author, an engineer, a professor, a mother and a wife. Her passion for writing and helping others to see their potential through her stories and encouragement has been her life’s greatest adventures. She loves to write while on the porch watching her kids play or when she is traveling, which is another passion that encouraged her writing.



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The Divorce Recovery Ladder


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Parenting, Relationships, Divorce, Nonfiction
Date Published: May 1, 2019

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Are you looking for a guide on how to handle the frightening and isolating experience of divorce? Knowing how challenging and complex divorce can be, Susan Shofer leads you on a safe path to take control of your divorce, learn which battles are worth fighting, and those that are not?

From thorny legal issues to your emotional, mental, and financial well-being, The Divorce Recovery Ladder: Your Step-By-Step Guide to Successfully Climb Out of Your Divorce is the ONLY DIVORCE GUIDE that answers in a straightforward and pragmatic manner your most burning questions about ALL ASPECTS OF DIVORCE. Along with Susan’s personal divorce, her experience in the financial industry and a twenty-five-year career as a private investigator brings you sensible ways to navigate the divorce recovery journey.

Divorce does not have to be financially devastating nor does it have to leave families fractured and shattered. On the contrary, it can be an empowering opportunity for personal growth and finding out what you really want in life. That’s why this insightful and thorough divorce book will show you how to:



• Deal with a contentious (ex)spouse

• Find the best attorney

• Best handle attorneys and evidence

• Be prepared for and make a good impression during court appearances

• Recognize retaliation

• Organize your finances

• Understand settlements

• Cope with parental alienation

• Make the most out of custody and self-parenting

• Stay healthy and energetic through self-care

• Boost up your self-confidence and self-esteem so you can start dating again



Susan’s wisdom and humor forces that enabled her to climb out of her own longstanding contentious divorce shine throughout each chapter of this must-read book for every divorcee out there, turning –The Divorce Recovery Ladder: Your Step-By-Step Guide to Successfully Climb Out of Your Divorce – into a helpful and enjoyable reading.

The Divorce Recovery Ladder Guide is interactive and includes downloadable PDFs that will help you stay organized and on-track, understanding, and taking control of your divorce process.



Excerpt

The chaos that surrounded me, during my divorce, was so overwhelming that each day I clambered to find some semblance of order in my life.  My energies were pulled in so many different directions that I didn’t know where to turn.  I felt inundated with demands and responsibilities.  I became ineffective at everything I did as I tried to work, maintain our family home, and meet the needs of my two very traumatized children.

I felt like I was an island unto myself and knew that my children and I would suffer if I was unable to organize our lives.  To get us on task I purchased a binder, notebook paper and pack of dividers to start.  In the binder, I made sections for each area of my divorce process – one for legal, finance, therapy, the children, and self-care.  The more organized I became, even if only from a very surface stance, my overall perspective shifted from one of despair to that of hope.  Don’t get me wrong, despite being organized I still had a huge hill to climb.  Putting things into order enabled me to compartmentalize each area of the divorce and tackle the issues head on as methodically and rationally as possible.

My life, as I had known it for years, was no longer the same and my future was uncertain.  I had been thrown a huge curve ball when my ex-husband walked out on the children and me with checkbook in hand.  However, I knew that as long as I was organized, I could handle whatever came my way. This workbook is designed to help you structure your life so that you do not cave from the perils of divorce.

The Divorce Recovery Ladder is the program that I would have benefitted from during my divorce.  From the very beginning of my divorce, I envisioned myself climbing a ladder, starting at the bottom rung where I stood bare, raw, and exposed.  As I progressed through my journey, step by step, I eventually rose to the top of the ladder – strong and confident. This imagery, along with the actual work, made me triumphant. This is the process I want to share with you.

The Divorce Recovery Ladder Workbook is divided into two sections.  The first section defines divorce and its key components.  The second section is comprehensive; interactive with checklists and charts (available as a free download on my website) to help you better organize your life so that you may maintain physical, and financial balance. Even the subtle suggestions made in the workbook can help restore your life to a place of comfort and solace.  The workbook is short and very effective.


About the Author

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Susan Shofer is an author, divorce expert, and speaker with many stories to draw upon. She brings a quick wit and humor to her presentations alongside a positive outlook for any situation no matter how bleak it may seem.

As a divorce and custody ally, Susan helped many women and men navigate the troubled waters of family breakup by sharing her own organized and pragmatic approach to the divorce process.  

Susan has a master’s degree in Business from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland. She has over twenty years’ experience as an agency licensed private investigator with emphasis on corporation investigations that included fraud, workers compensation, and insurance liability fraud investigations. Her personal experience and expertise in Parental Alienation as a licensed private investigator gives her a unique ability to instructor attorneys on how to approach and tackle it including how to recognize it early to mitigate it before it starts.

Susan Shofer successfully crossed her own highly contentious divorce and post-divorce battle and was triumphant in her fight against Parental Alienation. Despite that long, contentious journey she now has an amicable relationship with her ex-husband. She is a single mother to her two thriving children, both in college.



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Once Upon A Wedding Anthology

You’re invited…for only 99c!
Once Upon A Wedding Anthology is coming on June 11th!

Amazon — https://amzn.to/2HJQiAm
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Say I do…

Eleven best-selling and award-winning authors request your presence as they share all-new novellas that will have you humming the wedding march and dreaming of champagne toasts. It’s easy to tie the knot with these heartwarming, second-chance love stories.

I Do, Again by Jamie Beck
A makeup artist who is forced to become her bridezilla client’s eleventh-hour bridesmaid is dumbstruck to discover her ex-husband is a groomsman and he wants a second chance.

Weather or Knot by Tracy Brogan
Two meteorologists with a turbulent romantic history join a team of storm chasers and discover that love, like lightning, sometimes strikes twice.

The Runaway Bride by Sonali Dev
A groom has one night to convince his runaway bride that her fears that he’s settling for her are anything but true.

Starboard Vow by K.M. Jackson
A cruise director is taken off course when the country’s hottest bachelor – and her secret husband – arrives aboard her ship for a whirlwind cruise.

Wedding in Swan Harbor by Donna Kauffman
A widowed blueberry farmer is reunited with her late husband’s best friend when he returns to escort her daughter down the aisle.

Snowbound in Vegas by Sally Kilpatrick
A Best Man and Maid of Honor loathe each other…until they’re stuck in a mountain cabin meant for a honeymoon.

Starstruck: Take Two by Falguni Kothari
Embroiled in a Bollywood stunt wedding, an A-list manager is torn between doing what is right for her celebrity client or seizing a second chance with the bad boy groom herself.

Always Yours by Priscilla Oliveras
With love in the air at a familia wedding, two high school sweethearts separated by misguided mistakes just might find their second chance for a happily ever after together.

Home Sweet Home by Hope Ramsay
Family secrets tore them apart as teens but a wedding in Sweet Home, Virginia, may give star-crossed lovers a second chance at forgiveness and love.

Inseparable by Barbara Samuel
Thwarted high school sweethearts meet again in the gorgeous Colorado mountains for a wedding…of their children.

A Morning Glory Wedding by Liz Talley
A florist responsible for the break-up of the bride’s first marriage gets a chance for forgiveness and a new love with a hunky pastor.

Release Boost

Losing Laurel by Kat Mizera

The line between love and hate isn’t always thin… Losing Laurel by Kat Mizera is available now!

Amazon — https://amzn.to/2WzMyVe Apple — https://apple.co/2CZ7XzN Nook — http://bit.ly/2uDaRFJ Kobo — http://bit.ly/2YHPbWY

The line between love and hate isn’t always thin…

Professional hockey team owner Gage Caldwell has it all: Money, friends and a career some would kill for. But everything means nothing if you don’t have someone to share it with. The one thing missing is Laurel, the ex-wife he never stopped loving. Too bad she hates him.

Hockey coach Laurel Saunders will never forgive her ex-husband for not being there when she needed him most, but that doesn’t mean she stopped loving him. Desperate to let go of the past, she’s thrown herself into coaching women’s hockey and made a new life for herself. A life without Gage.

Sparks fly and history repeats itself, when they find themselves thrown together. This second chance might be their last, and Gage is determined to do whatever it takes to prove to Laurel this time will be different. Can he find a way to win her back or she always be the one who got away?

About the Author: Kat Mizera is a South Florida native. Born in Miami Beach with a healthy dose of wanderlust, she’s called Los Angeles, Long Island, upstate New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Atlanta home. She’s never been able to pick which locale is her favorite, but if pressed, she’d probably choose the west coast. Kat’s a typical PTA mom with a wonderful and supportive husband (Kevin) and two amazing boys (Nick and Max). When she’s not writing, she’s either scrapbooking or indulging in her second love (after writing) – traveling. Greece is one of her favorite places in the world. She loves that Athens is a big city with a small-town feel. The food, beaches and culture keep her going back as often as possible. She hopes to retire there one day so she can spend her days writing books on the beach. Kat has been a working freelance writer for nearly 30 years. She sold her first article–a review of a rock concert–for $10 in 1985. Since then she’s been an entertainment journalist, waitress, bartender, legal assistant, food critic, magazine editor, substitute teacher, and sports writer. She also spent some time working at A & M Records in Los Angeles. As you can guess from her series, the Las Vegas Sidewinders, Kat loves hockey. She is also a freelance hockey writer, covering her favorite team, the Florida Panthers, and any other teams that have an interesting story. The rest of the time, she writes novels: sexy, romantic fiction that she hopes makes you as happy as it makes her. There’s something enticing about hockey players and romance… Connect with Kat: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorkatmizera/ Amazon: http://amzn.to/2lzRBG6 Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorKatMiz Bookbub: http://bit.ly/2li6zRe Website: http://www.katmizera.com
Excerpt Reveal

Master of Games by Sienna Snow

These games are ON FIRE! Keep reading for an excerpt from Master of Games by Sienna Snow. It’s LIVE on MAY 8TH!!!

PREORDER HERE: Amazon → https://amzn.to/2FFKuEf Apple → https://apple.co/2V9IuuL B&N → http://bit.ly/2HQ5prN Google → http://bit.ly/2CNuYpk Kobo → http://bit.ly/2U9QoHP

AMELIA:

“This is your last chance to change your mind.” He lifted his hand, cupping my throat and giving it a slight squeeze before he ran his thumb over my lower lip. “You can walk out that door now, and we won’t go any further. We can figure out another solution.”

I stared into his cobalt gaze and for the first time since I came back, I saw the vulnerable boy I’d fallen so hard for. He’d always acted the part of the hard, overconfident man, but deep down he had his own demons and insecurities.

“I already said I accepted your offer.”

“From this moment on, this body.” He shifted until there was nothing separating us.

He gripped my waist, and then trailed the fingers on my throat down between my breasts and to my lingerie-covered crotch. “This pussy.” He grazed my clit, eliciting a moan. “Every sound of your desire will belong to me.”

His palm splayed over my abdomen. “As will the child I plan to put inside of you.”

I opened my lips to respond but nothing came out. Pierce stepped away from me, moving to the far end of the room near the cabinets.

“Strip.”

I stood frozen.

This was it. I was now back in the world of those desires I’d tried so hard to repress.

He glanced over his shoulder. “I said, strip.”

His voice had changed to the thick timbre that caused my skin to tingle and breasts to swell. He took a seat in an armchair and watched me, not saying a word but ordering me to follow his directions or stuff the consequences.

I moved to a chaise, using the back to help me keep balance as I slipped off my heels. Slowly, I opened the threaded binding of my lace corset. Once it was off, I set it on the sofa. Next came my stockings and underwear. In a matter of minutes, I’d gone from Amelia Thanos, international sports promoter-manager, to Pierce Lykaios’s submissive.

“Now come here.”

Taking ginger steps, I walked toward him. His hooded gaze had my pulse jumping. When I was a foot from him, he settled his hands on my waist, pulling me closer. I caught myself from tumbling by clutching his shoulders.

He traced one of the tattoos on my hip.

The trident.

It was the exact replica of the one he had on his hip. I’d convinced Pierce to get the symbol as a way to commemorate his six gold medals and name the press had given him as the American Poseidon.

He lifted his head, beautiful blue eyes locking with mine. There was pain and confusion warring in their depths.

“So I left a mark on you too.” It wasn’t a question but a statement.

He hadn’t a clue as to the marks he’d left on me. When we were younger, I reveled in the torrent of emotions I’d felt for him. Now it was like drowning with no way to escape.

About Sienna

Inspired by her years working in corporate America, Sienna loves to serve up stories woven around confident and successful women who know what they want and how to get it, both in – and out – of the bedroom. Her heroines are fresh, well-educated, and often find love and romance through atypical circumstances. Sienna treats her readers to enticing slices of hot romance infused with empowerment and indulgent satisfaction. Sienna loves the life of travel and adventure. She plans to visit even the farthest corners of the world and delight in experiencing the variety of cultures along the way. When she isn’t writing or traveling, Sienna is working on her “happily ever after” with her husband and children.

Find Sienna Online! Amazon → https://amzn.to/2v3aQOn BookBub → http://bit.ly/2JAPmvI Facebook → http://bit.ly/2GNn5Ez Goodreads → http://bit.ly/2GR1VkC Instagram → http://bit.ly/2UV2kcy Twitter → http://bit.ly/2Hb7v4H Website → https://siennasnow.com

Blog Tour

Damon by Alex Wolf

Damon by Alex Wolf Genre: Romantic Suspense
Available Now! Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2URldgd  Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2vpRCQD FREE on KU Paperback: https://amzn.to/2UOcKdF Add to your TBR #Damon #AlexWolf #ReleaseBlitz #BareNakedWords
Synopsis I’m a guy with a wicked past and she’s the girl of my future. …but she doesn’t know it yet. Rumors run rampant in this small town.  I’m spoken about in whispers, but I hear their words.  I was happy to stay hidden until the new girl arrived. I’m enchanted by her beauty and drawn to her laugh. She’s too good for me, but that doesn’t keep me away. Can I break free of my past or will my demons ruin everything? 
Meet The Author Alex hails from the Midwest and currently resides in New Orleans. He enjoys writing steamy romance but more importantly he enjoys the “research” required to produce the steamy scenes. If you like filthy-mouthed, possessive alpha heroes and steamy romance, then he’s the author for you!
Pre Order, Release Blitz

Promise You

**RELEASE DAY BLITZ**
Book: Promise You
Author: Fabiola Francisco
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
**LIVE NOW**
ADD TO YOUR TBR: Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2MKmOlp
Buy Links:
Eden Books: http://bit.ly/2EdSahJ
Synopsis
I’ve had my eyes set on her for months. The gorgeous brunette captured my attention when I first saw her and stole my heart when I met her. 
Making it in the music industry has taken its toll on me, chipping away at my confidence and patience. The one thing that keeps me going is having Reese by my side. I’m determined to show her how good we can be together, even if she continues to pretend there’s nothing between us. 
One night changes everything, giving me the only thing I’d want more than a career in country music—her. 
Excerpt
“You look beautiful.”
“Thanks. You don’t look too bad yourself,” she winks and orders a martini. “Do you want a beer?” She turns to look my way while the bartender waits.
“I’m going with whiskey tonight.” Reese raises her eyebrows, and I chuckle. “Need something stronger than beer if I’m going to be standing next to you in that dress all night, darlin’.” The bartender bites down her smile, watching our exchange before making our drinks.
“Dex,” she warns.
“Yeah, I know.” I raise my arms, palms facing her. “Just friends.”
“Yeah,” she sighs and grabs her martini. Once I have my drink, Reese links her arm with mine, and we make rounds. “Isn’t this amazing? One day you’ll have an event like this, I just know it.” Her encouragement is welcomed at a time like this when I feel like I may never get to this point in my career.
“Yeah, maybe.” I don’t miss the defeat in my voice.
“Hey,” she stops walking, pulling me to her by the arm she’s holding. “You’re really good. One of the best I’ve heard in a long time, and I don’t just say that because you’re one of my best friends. I mean it. I’ve been surrounded in this industry since my brother was playing in Riot, just like you. I know how hard it is, I’ve met musicians in the past. Your voice is unique.”
“Thanks, Reese.” I lift a shoulder, wanting to drop the subject in a public place.
“I mean it, Dex.” I nod in silence and look away, pretending to take in the atmosphere.
The live music starts, singers congratulating Rebel Desire as they perform a couple of songs. The fans go wild for all the talent spending their evening with us.
“Dance with me,” I grab Reese’s empty glass and place it on the bar. Everyone else around us is dancing to the music, so there’s no excuse that people will talk or get the wrong idea.
Just when I think she’s going to refuse, she puts her arm around me and begins to sway to the soft music. For a minute, all is right in the world. The worries of making it in this industry, the envy of not having the success others do, it all fades away the second Reese wraps her arms around me and moves to the beat.
I may have fucked around a lot in my life, but after meeting Reese and spending time with her, I’m sure I’d never want anyone else but her. If only I can make her see how good we’d be together.
I remember the first time I saw her, weeks before I actually met her. She was at Riot, laughing and drinking with friends. Her laugh reached me through the crowd, drawing my attention to her. Her confidence danced to the rhythm of the song I was performing. After that, she’d come in on her own some nights, and I’d watch her while I sang songs she could’ve inspired.
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Women like Reese, hell, there are no other women like Reese. She’s in a league of her own—gorgeous, funny, and independent.
Author Bio
Fabiola Francisco is a contemporary romance author from South Florida. Writing as been a part of her life since she was a teenager. Even at that age, she dreamed of happy endings with emotional twists. Her novels include Perfectly Imperfect, The Restoring Series, Sweet on You Duet, and Red Lights, Black Hearts.  
Her passion for books and writing has inspired her to write her own stories. She writes novels readers could relate to and grow with. She’s currently working on writing more stories that connect with readers on a deeper.
Fabiola also loves expressing herself through art and spending time in nature. In her spare time, she loves to cuddle with a good book and a glass of wine.
Blog Tour

The Hierophant’s Daughter (The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy, Book 1) by M. F. Sullivan

BLOG TOUR

Book Title: The Hierophant’s Daughter (The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy)

Author: M. F. Sullivan

Publisher: Painted Blind Publishing

Cover Artist: Nuno Moreira

Genre/s: LGBTQ Cyberpunk/Horror, Sci-fi/Fantasy (Adult)

Heat Rating: 1 flame (A romantic relationship between the couple but no intimate scenes or sexual situations are described in the book. The book fades-to-black before any love scene).

Length: approx. 100k words/ 298 paperback pages

It is Book I of The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy

Release Date: May 19, 2019

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Dive into the first volume of a bleak cyberpunk tahgmahr you can’t afford to miss. What would you sacrifice to survive?

  Blurb By 4042 CE, the Hierophant and his Church have risen to political dominance with his cannibalistic army of genetically modified humans: martyrs. In an era when mankind’s intergenerational cold wars against their long-lived predators seem close to running hot, the Holy Family is poised on the verge of complete planetary control. It will take a miracle to save humanity from extinction. It will also take a miracle to resurrect the wife of 331-year-old General Dominia di Mephitoli, who defects during martyr year 1997 AL in search of Lazarus, the one man rumored to bring life to the dead. With the Hierophant’s Project Black Sun looming over her head, she has little choice but to believe this Lazarus is really all her new friends say he is–assuming he exists at all–and that these companions of hers are really able to help her. From the foulmouthed Japanese prostitute with a few secrets of her own to the outright sapient dog who seems to judge every move, they don’t inspire a lot of confidence, but the General has to take the help she can get. After all, Dominia is no ordinary martyr. She is THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER, and her Father won’t let her switch sides without a fight. Not when she still has so much to learn. The dystopic first entry of an epic cyberpunk trilogy, THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER is a horror/sci-fi adventure sure to delight and inspire adult readers of all stripes.  

Buy Links

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  Excerpt The Flight of the Governess The Disgraced Governess of the United Front was blind in her right eye. Was that blood in the left, or was it damaged, too? The crash ringing in her ears kept her from thinking straight. Of course her left eye still worked: it worked well enough to prevent her from careening into the trees through which she plunged. Yet, for the tinted flecks of reality sometimes twinkling between crimson streaks, she could only imagine her total blindness with existential horror. Would the protein heal the damage? How severely was her left eye wounded? What about the one she knew to be blind—was it salvageable? Ichigawa could check, if she ever made it to the shore. She couldn’t afford to think that way. It was a matter of “when,” not of “if.” She would never succumb. Neither could car accident, nor baying hounds, nor the Hierophant himself keep her from her goal. She had fourteen miles to the ship that would whisk her across the Pacific and deliver her to the relative safety of the Risen Sun. Then the Lazarene ceremony would be less than a week away. Cassandra’s diamond beat against her heart to pump it into double time, and with each double beat, she thought of her wife (smiling, laughing, weeping when she thought herself alone) and ran faster. A lucky thing the Governess wasn’t human! Though, had she remained human, she’d have died three centuries ago in some ghetto if she’d lived past twenty without becoming supper. Might have been the easier fate, or so she lamented each time her mind replayed the crash of the passenger-laden tanque at fifth gear against the side of their small car. How much she might have avoided! Of course—then she never would have known Cassandra. That made all this a reasonable trade. Cold rain softened the black earth to the greedy consistency of clay, but her body served where her eyes failed. The darkness was normally no trouble, but now she squinted while she ran and, under sway of a dangerous adrenaline high, was side-swiped by more than one twisting branch. The old road that was her immediate goal, Highway 128, would lead her to the coast of her favorite Jurisdiction, but she now had to rediscover that golden path after the crash’s diversion. In an effort to evade her pursuers, she had torn into a pear orchard without thought of their canine companions. Not that the soldiers of the Americas kept companions like Europa’s nobles. These dogs were tools. Well-honed, organic death machines with a cultivated taste for living flesh, whether martyr or human. The dogs understood something that most had forgotten: the difference between the two was untenable. Martyrs could tell themselves they were superior for an eternity, but it wouldn’t change the fact that the so-called master race and the humans they consumed were the same species. That was not why Cassandra had died, but it hadn’t contributed to their marital bliss. And now, knowing what she did of the Hierophant’s intentions—thinking, always, what Cassandra would have said—the Governess pretended she was driven by that ghost, and not by her own hopelessness. Without the self-delusion, she was a victim to a great many ugly thoughts, foremost among them being: Was the fear of life after her wife’s death worth such disgrace? A death sentence? Few appreciated what little difference there was between human and martyr, and fewer cared, because caring was fatal. But she was a part of the Holy Family. Shouldn’t that have been all that mattered? Stunning how, after three centuries, she deserved to be treated no better than a human. Then again, there was nothing quite like resignation from one’s post to fall in her Father’s estimate. Partly, he was upset by her poor timing—she did stand him up at some stupid press event, but only because she hoped it would keep everybody occupied while she got away. In that moment, she couldn’t even remember what it was. Dedicating a bridge? Probably. Her poor head, what did the nature of the event matter when she was close to death? That lapse in social graces was not the reason for this hunt. He understood that more lay behind her resignation than a keening for country life. Even before he called her while she and the others took the tanque to the coast, he must have known. Just like he must have known the crash was seconds from happening while he chatted away, and that the humans in her company, already nervous to be within a foot of the fleeing Governess, were doomed. Of the many people remaining on Earth, those lumped into the group of “human” were at constant risk of death, mutilation, or—far worse—unwilling martyrdom. This meant those humans lucky enough to avoid city-living segregation went to great lengths to keep their private properties secure. Not only houses but stables. The Disgraced Governess found this to be true of the stables into which she might have stumbled and electrocuted herself were it not for the bug zaps of rain against the threshold’s surface. Her mind made an instinctive turn toward prayer for the friendliness of the humans in the nearby farmhouse—an operation she was quick to abort. In those seconds (minutes?) since the crash, she’d succeeded in reconstructing the tinted windows of the tanque and a glimpse of silver ram’s horns: the Lamb lurked close enough to hear her like she spoke into his ear. It was too much to ask that he be on her side tonight. Granted, the dogs of the Lamb were far closer, and far more decisive about where their loyalties stood. One hound sank its teeth into her ankle, and she, crying out, kicked the beast into its closest partner with a crunch. Slower dogs snarled outrage in the distance while the Disgraced Governess ran to the farmhouse caught in her left periphery. The prudent owners, to her frustration, shuttered their windows at night. Nevertheless, she smashed her fist against the one part of the house that protruded: the doorbell required by the Hierophant’s “fair play” dictatum allowing the use of electronic barriers. As the humans inside stumbled out of bed in response to her buzzing, the Disgraced Governess unholstered her antique revolver and unloaded two rounds into the recovered canines before they were upon her. The discharge wasn’t a tip-off she wanted to give to the Lamb and her other pursuers, but it hastened the response of the sleeping farmers as the intercom crackled to life. “Who is it?” A woman’s voice, quivering with an edge of panic. “My name is Dominia di Mephitoli: I’m the former Governess of the United Front, and I need to borrow a horse. Please. Don’t let me in. Just drop the threshold on your stables.” “The Governess? I’m sorry, I don’t understand. The Dominia di Mephitoli, really? The martyr?” “Yes, yes, please. I need a horse now.” Another dog careened around the corner and leapt over the bodies of his comrades with such grace that she wasted her third round in the corpses. Two more put it down as she shouted into the receiver. “I can’t transfer you any credits because they’ve frozen my Halcyon account, but I’ll leave you twenty pieces of silver if you drop the threshold and loan me a horse. You can reclaim it at the docks off Bay Street, in the township of Sienna. Please! He’ll kill me.” “And he’ll be sure to kill us for helping you.” “Tell him I threatened you. Tell him I tricked you! Anything. Just help me get away!” “He’ll never believe what we say. He’ll kill me, my husband, our children. We can’t.” “Oh, please. An act of mercy for a dying woman. Please, help me leave. I can give you the name of a man in San Valentino who can shelter you and give you passage abroad.” “There’s no time to go so far south. Not as long as it takes to get across the city.” It had been ten seconds since she’d heard the last dog. That worried her. With her revolver at the ready, she scanned the area for something more than the quivering roulette blotches swelling in her right eye. Nothing but the dead animals. “He’ll kill you either way. For talking to me, and not keeping me occupied until his arrival. For knowing that there’s disarray in his perfect land. He’ll find a reason, even if it only makes sense to him.” The steady beat of rain pattered out a passive answer. On the verge of giving up, Dominia stepped back to ready herself for a fight—and the house’s threshold dropped with an electric pop. The absent mauve shimmer left the façade bare. How rare to see a country place without its barrier! A strange thing. Stranger for the front door to open; she’d only expected them to do away with the threshold on the stables. But, rather than the housewife she’d anticipated, there stood the Hierophant. Several bleak notions clicked into place. One immaculate gray brow arched. “Now, Dominia, that’s hardly fair. Knowledge of your disgrace isn’t why I’ll kill them. The whole world will know of it tomorrow morning. You embarrassed me by sending your resignation, rather than making the appearance I asked of you, so it is only fair I embarrass you by rejecting your resignation and firing you publicly. No, my dear. I will kill these fine people to upset you. In fact, Mr. McLintock is already dead in the attic. A mite too brave. Of course”—he winked, and whispered in conspiracy—“don’t tell them that.” “How did you know I’d come here?” “Such an odd spurt of rain tonight. Of all your Jurisdictions, this one is usually so dry this time of year! Won’t you come in for tea? Mrs. McLintock brews a fine pot. But put that gun away. You’re humiliating yourself. And me.”  

About the Author

M.F. Sullivan is the author of Delilah, My Woman, The Lightning Stenography Device, and a slew of plays in addition to the Trilogy. She lives in Ashland, Oregon with her boyfriend and her cat, where she attends the local Shakespeare Festival and experiments with the occult.

Find more information about her work (and plenty of free essays) here.

 

 

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