"Otherwise Unharmed: Evan Arden Trilogy #3" by Shay Savage

NOTE: This book is suitable for adults only.
EXCERPT and GIVEAWAY
Otherwise Unharmed:
Evan Arden Trilogy #3
by Shay Savage
Otherwise Unharmed is the final book in the Evan Arden Trilogy. Also available: Otherwise Alone, Otherwise Occupied, and Uncockblockable.

  

Otherwise Unharmed is currently on tour with MaE Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt. You can also enter the giveaway for your chance to win books Shay Savage books. Please visit all of the other tour stops as well.
Description
After Evan Arden was imprisoned by the enemy for a year and a half, he returned from the desert as a military hero. He’d suffered some minor injuries during his captivity, was discharged from the Marines with a touch of shellshock, but was considered otherwise unharmed. Now he wonders how he ended up where he is – incarcerated in Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center for using his sharpshooting expertise to take out the neighborhood park with a high-powered sniper rifle and multiple rounds of ammunition.
Lia Antonio, the woman he rescued from the desert heat the previous year, is the only person who can bring him out of his sleep-deprived psychosis and mounting PTSD. When she does, Evan knows he can’t just let her go again. He’s never considered leaving the business before – who retires from the mafia? – but he’s determined to get both Lia and himself out of harm’s way.
Evan faces overwhelming forces from multiple directions as a deal to get him out of jail turns more dangerous than he imagined. With a mob war on the horizon and the feds holding evidence over his head, Evan has no choice but to throw himself into the middle of another warzone.
In his efforts to make things right, Evan crosses the wrong man and finds himself on the business end of the crosshairs. With his acute perception and intelligence, he tries to stay a step ahead of his former co-workers, but this time, it isn’t just his own life on the line – he’s got to protect Lia from the man who once called him son.
Excerpt
I resisted the urge to pull out the Beretta and shove it in his face.
“I assume I have you to thank for all of this,” I muttered back.  “What the fuck do you want?”
“Just wanted to make sure you weren’t packing up to leave town or anything stupid like that,” Trent replied.  “I also wanted to make sure you realize I know exactly where you are and what you’re doing—at all times.”
I watched him closely.  He crossed his arms as he leaned casually against the door – too casually.  He was making a point of looking nonchalant, which meant he didn’t completely feel that way.  My eyes searched for other clues about him, but he was practiced in the art of being a complete and total asshole, which was throwing me off my game.
In an attempt to gain some ground, I snapped my fingers and pointed to Odin’s bed.  He quickly moved from my side and went to his place but continued to growl low at the federal agent.
“I told you I would take care of it all,” I reminded him.  “Fuck off and let me do it.”
“You’re quite the conversationalist,” he said with a snide laugh.
“I don’t converse with feds,” I snapped back.  I was immediately pissed off at myself for letting him get to me.
“Just don’t forget to take your dick out of your slut long enough to get your job done.”
I clenched my teeth and glared, trying to keep myself from just walking over and beating the living shit out of him.  I had no doubt that Johnson was nearby, and assaulting a fed in my apartment while I was out on bail wasn’t the very best idea.
“Are you going to spend a lot of time keeping me from getting shit done?” I asked through my teeth.
“I’m going to spend a lot of time making sure you are getting shit done,” Trent retorted.  “If I feel like you’re stalling, I’m going to take it out on her.  What do you think of that?”
“I think that’s an invitation to an underground party.”
We locked stares for a long moment.  Trent eventually cracked half of an insincere smile and then nodded.
“I’ll be seeing you around.”  He turned and walked out the door.
I dropped my ass on the couch and rubbed my temples.  Odin assumed he was free to leave his bed because he came up and leaned his fuzzy mug on my knee.  I rubbed at his head and tried to calm myself down a bit.
None of this was going to work.
Book Trailer
Review
I just finished reading it. It’s one of those stories that really submerges you in its plot. It made me feel everything with its characters. I laughed, cried, it made me so angry at times and then happy again. It was a real roller-coaster and that’s what makes a good story, in my opinion. It’s a hard story to read at some points, but if you have read Savage’s stories before, you know that’s just how she rolls. I’m not a person that is easily surprised, yet she manages to do it with every single one of her stories. This story has action, love, sexy times, distrust, revenge; pair it with Evan’s psychological distress and this story blows up. If you read the other two books, you MUST read this one.
I couldn’t be happier with the conclusion of this series. It does feel final. The story comes to a full circle, but there is hope for Evan and Lia. I liked that given the circumstances, they manage and move forward. Evan even gets a treat at the end 😉
About the Author
Shay Savage lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, two children, and a variety of household pets. She is an accomplished public speaker, and holds the rank of Distinguished Toastmaster from Toastmasters International. When not writing, she enjoys science fiction movies, and loves soccer in any and all forms. During the fall, she coaches her daughter’s soccer team. Though she currently works in the technology field, her school background is in psychology, and she brings a lot of that knowledge into the characters within her stories.
Giveaway
Enter the tour-wide giveaway for your chance to win Shay Savage books.
Links

"Empty Places" by Martin Roy Hill

NEW RELEASE
Empty Places
by Martin Roy Hill
This is the second of my two-part feature on Martin Roy Hill. Today I feature the author’s newest release, Empty Places. You can also read about The Killing Depths in my earlier blog post.
Description
The year is 1987. America is clawing its way out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Washington pursues illegal and unpopular wars in Central America. In the wealthy desert playground of Palm Springs, storefronts that once catered to the rich sit empty and shuttered. Crowds of bored rich teenagers in designer clothing entertain themselves with expensive cars and cheap drugs, while those less fortunate haunt darkened street corners, offering themselves for sale.
This is the country to which war correspondent Peter Brandt returns. Physically and mentally scarred by the horrors he’s covered, Peter comes home to bury his ex-wife, TV reporter Robin Anderson, only to discover she had been brutally murdered. With the local police unwilling to investigate her death, Peter sets out with retired cop Matt Banyon to expose Robin’s killer. They uncover a shadowy world of anti-communists, drug smugglers, and corrupt politicians, and lay bare old wounds – including Peter’s deep guilt over his failed marriage. In a final, cliff-hanging struggle, Peter faces his own fears – and death in a dark and empty place.
Excerpt
PROLOGUE
Coachella Valley, California
July 1987
A three-quarter moon bathed the dunes with a blue white light. It shimmered through ghostly rays that rose like apparitions from the still warm desert floor and gave the desolate landscape a spectral quality. Shadows moved in the haunting light, and the warm soft breeze gave rise to disembodied voices wheezing through dry, brittle creosote bushes. She turned at every sound, each crack of a broken twig, saw monsters in the movement of each rolling tumbleweed, and shivered in the warm desert night from the chill of her imagination.
Occasionally a car raced down the unlit two lane road, its headlights slicing slivers of light out of the black night. She watched each one approach, wondering if this was the one. Then, as the red tail lights faded into the dark distance, she scanned the road again for the right one, the one that would slow and turn into the narrow dirt access road. Somewhere in the distance, a coyote wailed.
“Never meet a contact in an out of the way place,” Peter once told her. “Always meet them somewhere where there’re a lot of people. People die in lonely and empty places.”
She could almost hear his voice telling her that. After all the years, Peter’s voice still came to her in small phrases. Short fragments of sentences, spoken in his quiet, halting manner, explaining what she should do, warning what she shouldn’t. “Never meet in out of the way places.”
She hadn’t much choice in choosing the rendezvous. The man she was meeting was very explicit: here or nowhere. And there were other conditions. No camera crew. No sound crew. No one but her. If he spotted a van or truck other than her own car, the meet was off. If he saw a helicopter flying over and a video transmission could be beamed to it, she could just color him gone.
In all honesty, she appreciated his precautions. The little she had told him of her findings had obviously convinced him that no one could be trusted. No one, not even those who worked for him. She was certain if anyone knew of the information she had, her life wouldn’t be worth the dirt she was standing on.
She thought of Peter again. Maybe he was right. Maybe the two of them should have left this place together. Maybe it would have been better for her career. Better for her and Peter. Maybe.
The young woman shook her head, and fingered the small tape recorder in her hand. The thought of the recorder’s contents made her mouth twist with distaste. She still felt unclean, but what else could she have done? She was desperate. She needed this story badly and it was the only way she could get the confirmation she needed. She shook the images the recorder conjured from her head and tried to look forward, into the future. This would be the story that lands her a job in a bigger market, she told herself. Maybe Los Angeles. Maybe a network. The indignity would be worth it.
“I just can’t take this place any longer,” she said aloud to no one, not certain whether she meant the patchwork of small communities she lived and worked in, or the empty desert surrounding them where she now stood alone.
Automobile lights appeared at the crest of a hill, then rolled down the incline and raced along the two lane road. The car slowed and turned into the access road, its headlights flaring momentarily as it bounced over a rut. It was a large vehicle, a four door model and, by the way it bounded over the dip, sturdily built. That, and the heavy roar of its powerful, supercharged engine, indicated it was well suited to both speed and the tortuous going of desert driving. It didn’t slow as it approached. Its headlights glared directly at the young woman, growing brighter as it streaked forward, blinding her to all. For a frightful moment she thought she had been betrayed, that the driver was aiming for her with no intention of stopping. She thought of jumping out of the way, but she could not move. In the heat of the desert night, she was frozen stiff with fear.
The car braked and came to a screeching, dust swirling halt just yards from the woman, the headlights still washing her in a blaze of white light. The glare revealed the features of a blonde in her late twenties, attractive but not beautiful, not even strikingly pretty. Her face was a shade too wide in the jaw, the nose too flat to be truly pretty, and her pale skin – bleached colorless by the headlights – was slightly pocked by a severe adolescent bout with acne. Her figure was tomboyish from years of high school and college athletics, but appealing in its slender firmness. Her looks were her nemesis; she could easily attract men, but producers didn’t believe she could attract viewers. So she was relegated to being a reporter, a couple minutes a night face on the local evening news, deprived of the anchor spot she wanted so badly.
Raising her arm against the glare, the young woman tried to see beyond the headlights. It was like trying to see beyond the sun. The car stood motionless for what seemed minutes, then the driver’s door opened. The woman tried to see inside the car, but the interior light failed to go on. The door closed with a loud crump, and a large, dark figure strode forward. At first he was only a dark shadow against the darker night, then a silhouette against the edge of the headlight’s glare. Then he walked into the light, and she recognized the man.
“Miss Anderson?”
“You,” she answered. “Good.”
“You were expecting someone else?” the man asked.
“No, but -” She turned and looked back at the empty road. “But out here there’s no telling what you could run into.”
Her contact turned and studied the road, nodding as if he admired the desolate location. “That’s true. You never know, do you?” He turned to face her. In the light his eyes looked hard, threatening. She had seen him angry before, but his eyes never struck her as they did now. Cold, dead. The eyes, she thought, of a killer.
“You have the tape you told me about?” he asked.
“I have an excerpt.”
His eyes seemed to grow meaner, angrier. “An excerpt? What do you mean an excerpt?”
She turned slightly on her heel and cleared her throat. “Some of what I recorded was of a – a personal nature,” she said. “I brought you an edited version with the pertinent conversation.”
She showed him the tape recorder, then turned it on. The machine came alive with the voices of two people, a man and a woman. The woman’s voice was her own. It was coy and teasing, the voice of intimacy, the words of a lover. The male voice responded in the guttural tones of male intimacy, yet with the bravado of a small boy bragging of his deeds. The young woman looked away as the tape played, afraid the flush she felt in her face would reveal her embarrassment. The man’s eyes slowly dropped from the recorder to the ground, his mouth turned down in disgust. Then the tape died out, and there was a long moment of silence.
“That’s a very interesting recording, Miss Anderson,” the man finally said. “You have an interesting way getting information.”
“I use whatever means are available to me,” she answered defiantly. She made a production of stopping the tape and rewinding it. “As you can see – or heard, I should say – my methods work.”
“And very well, too.” The man looked back at the car and nodded, then turned back to the woman. “Very well, indeed.”
The young woman’s eyes followed the man’s to the car. The passenger door opened with a creak, and another figure climbed out. She heard the crunch of footsteps in sand, then the figure emerged from the dark. The glare of the headlights revealed his identity.
“My God.” She half choked on the words. “What are you -“
The second man raised his right arm and pointed a large revolved at her. Her mouth formed in an attempt to scream, but the pistol shot cut her off. It was followed by another, each sounding like the roar of a cannon in the quiet of the desert night.
The double punch of the bullets threw the woman backwards. Two dark wounds appeared on her chest. The one nearest the heart spurted bright red blood. The second, farther to the right, oozed darker red. Twin exit wounds burst through her back, disgorging blood, muscle, flesh, and bone. She was thrown four feet before hitting the ground on her back. Then she tumbled several more feet, finally coming to rest against a thick, spiny creosote bush, one arm twisted behind her back, the other cocked under head. Her legs were entwined at odd angles.
His pistol still extended like a shield, the gunman walked up to the body and bent over, examining his handiwork. After a moment he stood straight and turned to his companion. “She’s gone.”
“She’d better be.” The first man stooped and picked up the tape recorder where it had fallen, then switched it on. Disgust twisted his features again as he listened. When it finished, he looked at his partner. The shooter dropped his head sheepishly, like a school boy caught red handed in some misdeed. “Brush this area down, then let’s go,” the first man ordered.
The gunman looked around and found a broken piece of desert brush that he used to sweep away their footprints. The first pocketed the recorder and climbed into the car, backing it slowly down the dirt road as the other man swept away both the tire tracks and his own retreating footsteps. When they reached the asphalt road, the gunman threw away the limb and climbed back into the car. Within seconds, the car disappeared into the darkness.
Robin Anderson, the young reporter, lay in the dirt unable to move. For what seemed a long time she laid there stunned and without a thought. Then she sensed someone near. She tried opening her eyes, but they were as lifeless as her arms and legs. She heard voices and tried to speak, but her mouth was frozen.
Nothing would work, nothing would move. She could feel her wounds, feel the life oozing from them. “My God!” she screamed, but there was no sound save her own thoughts and a deep throated rumble followed by a strange sweeping noise. The reddish light she seemed to sense rather than see faded away, as did the two strange noises she heard. Then there was quiet, pure silence like she’d never experienced before. Even the voice of her own thoughts seemed to be drifting inexorably away, as if falling into some deep canyon.
She realized suddenly her worst fear was coming true. She was dying, alone and without anyone she could call out to, anyone who would hold her, who could save her.
Alone in a dark and empty place.
Review
I was given this book by the author for review and enjoyed it.
Within the darkened world we follow Peter Brandt, already weary of the human condition, who must investigate his ex-wife’s death, he the only one its seems that takes it seriously.
I don’t give spoilers so will say that this story is fast-paced, gritty (if somewhat despondent about the lives we lead and the powers that take advantage) and well written.
Worth reading if you enjoy crime novels with extra dimension.
About the Author
Martin Roy Hill is the author of the military mystery thriller, The Killing Depths, and the award-winning short story collection, Duty.
Martin spent more than 20 years as a staff reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines, before becoming a military analyst specializing in battlefield medical operations for the Navy. His freelance credits include Reader’s Digest, LIFE, Newsweek, Omni, American History, Coast Guard Magazine, Retired Officer Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Opinion Section, and many more.
Much of Martin’s freelance work involves historical topics, especially military history. He was a lead contributor to the 1995 WWII anthology, From Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki: America at War, published by the Retired Officer Association (now called the Military Officer Association).
Martin’s short stories have appeared in such publications as Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Plan B Mystery Anthology, San Diego Magazine, and San Diego Writer’s Monthly. His first book, Duty, was named the Best Short Story Anthology/Collection during the 2013 San Diego Book Awards (SDBA). The Killing Depths was also named a finalist in the Mystery section of the SDBA.
Martin’s new novel, Empty Places, a murder mystery, has just been released.
Links

"The Color of Murder" by Loretta Moore

ON SALE
The Color of Murder
by Loretta Moore
The Color of Murder by Loretta Moore is currently ON SALE from the publisher, Black Opal Books, for 10% off. Simply enter code moorel-10 at the checkout. The Color of Murder is also available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.
Description
A sensational murder trial brings a young African American attorney, Kevin Johnson to Briarton, Connecticut to represent a black drug dealer accused of murdering a Caucasian socialite, Charlotte Knowles. Kevin does his best to defend his client, even though he knows the real reason his two white law partners have given him this high-profile case is that he’s black and so is the client. Even though he’s the “token-minority” partner, Kevin is still determined to do the best job he can. But is his client telling him the truth? And if he didn’t kill Charlotte Knowles, who did?
Excerpt
Kevin Johnson saw Mathew Cook’s hands shake as he reached for the cigarette Kevin offered him.
“Mr. Johnson, I did not kill that lady. I never even heard of her; don’t know her family, nothing’. I been out here in this drug world, mindin’ my own business. I admit I like gittin’ high, but I ain’t ever bothered nobody.
Kevin had believed in Mathew’s guilt, just like everyone else in Briarton, Connecticut, but after seeing the dismay and confusion etched on the twenty-nine-year-old black man’s face, he began to have doubts. Bob and John only gave me this case because I’m black and so is the client. It’s been done before. They’re good men, but I have to say that my law partners really handed me one this time. No case in the five years I’ve been with them even comes close to this one.
“I just can’t believe I’m sittin’ here in a jail cell talkin’ about bein’ charged with killin’ somebody,” Matt continued. “If it was a drug bust, I could see it. I been down that road a coupla times. But killin’ some rich, old white lady? I feel like this is some kind of prank. I’m sittin’ here wonderin’ how did I end up a suspect for murderin’ somebody.” Shaking his head, almost in time with his trembling hands, he groaned, “This can’t be for real, Mr. Johnson!”
Kevin felt a pang of sympathy. “It’s alright to call me Kevin. I’m here because I believe you, okay?” He handed Matt another cigarette. “Now, you say you never even met the lady, and I believe that, too.” He sighed. It looked pretty bad for his client, but Kevin didn’t believe he’d committed the crime. “Do you know anyone who just might know Mrs. Knowles? Anyone at all? Think hard, because it could be our best lead.”
Waiting for Matt to speak, Kevin made notes on his legal pad. Someone had entered the socialite’s home and murdered her. And from the forensic evidence, it was clear that Charlotte Knowles let the person in. Just who was it, and why?
When Matt continued to stare at his hands without speaking, Kevin stood. “We’ll stop here for today. Remember, you need to be careful what you say and to whom. Don’t talk to anyone without me present. Understand?”
Matt didn’t answer, just turned his sad, tear-filled eyes on Kevin as if hoping he were a miracle worker. Kevin sighed and called the guard to take the man back to his cell.
***
December, 2001
“Court is in session,” announced the bailiff. Silence fell over the eager, chatty crowd in the historic courthouse. Kevin looked over at his client. The man’s eyes had lost none of their hopelessness. Kevin could relate. During the two weeks since the trial began, the only time he had had a reason to smile was after he’d returned to the courtroom following a phone conversation during recess with his son, Junior, and his mother-in-law who was taking care of him while Kevin worked.
Still, he had to keep Matt’s spirits up or the man would be useless in testifying for his own defense. He leaned over and placed his hand on top of Matt’s trembling one. “Things are not as grim as they seem. Just stay calm and tell the jury the truth.”
The bailiff called Matt’s name. He rose from his seat and headed for the front of the courtroom to take the stand. The prosecutor, forty-year-old John Goodman, brushed back his red hair from his forehead as Mathew approached. Goodman’s sparkling eyes and bright smile said he relished the opportunity to cross examine the defendant. Goodman had recently won an important case involving six young black males who’d killed a young white man in a restaurant parking lot during a robbery, and that had apparently bolstered his confidence.
Kevin took Matt through his normal daily life and then his actions on the day Charlotte Knowles was murdered. He encouraged him to expound on his alibi, such as it was. But eventually, he had to give the floor to Goodman for his cross-examination.
“Mathew Cook, did you sell drugs in Briarton?” Goodman demanded, surging to his feet.
The defendant nodded, and softly answered, “Yes.”
“You sold drugs for quite some time, I take it?” Goodman paused for a moment to let Matt nod in response. “Things began to get a little rough,” the prosecutor continued, “business started to dry up and you needed money for more drugs. You had a big drug habit, right?”
“Your Honor, I object,” Kevin declared, rising as he spoke. “Whether or not my client has a drug addiction does not make him a murderer!”
“Overruled. The defendant will answer the question.”
“No, sir, I don’t have no drug habit,” Matt replied solemnly.
“You needed money and so on the evening of February twelfth, two-thousand, you went to the home of Charlotte Hornsby Wainsborough Knowles.”
Matt mutely shook his head, his eyes bleak.
No, Matt, don’t squirm up there for God’s sake, Kevin silently commanded his client. It makes the jury think you’re guilty.
“Was the gun one you stole or one you purchased?” Goodman demanded. “Did you have a license for it? You found the victim in the kitchen, used the gun you carried there, and shot her to death. You then grabbed valuables and money, and left the house.”
The courtroom was so quiet Kevin could swear he heard Matt’s heart pounding in fear. Or maybe it was his heart and not Matt’s he was hearing, he thought.
***
December, 2001
Lying in bed the next morning, Kevin still couldn’t believe the judge had dismissed the trial and told Goodman that he didn’t have enough evidence to support a murder charge against Matt. “Maybe some of this luck will rub off on my other trials.” He had to admit, his two white law partners had done a lot for him. The cases Robert Gordon and John Wright had given him were for his benefit. Kevin realized he wouldn’t have had it better with any other law practice. But then, Robert and John had every reason to accept him, didn’t they? Ideally he possessed everything they wanted in a token African American law partner. He was clean cut, with a medium-brown complexion, and a close cropped afro. He also had impeccable scholastic credentials. And personality wise, if he had to say so himself, he was likable, calm and reasonable. Over his five years with the firm Robert and John had given him the kinds of opportunities any ambitious attorney would want. Nonetheless, all of his clients had been black. It pleased him to be able to say that he’d won every case they’d given him.
But out of the cases he handled for Gordon, Wright and Johnson one – where he’d defended a woman who’d killed her abusive husband – had affected him more than any other.
It had come at a time when Kevin’s wife, and the love of his life, Chanel was dying. The abusive young husband had had a chance to be happy, to protect and enjoy his wife, something that Kevin could no long do. But instead, he’d beaten her until she broke.
Chanel’s death had thrown Kevin into a dark depression, deeper than he could have ever imagined. It was as if a watershed had overtaken him, drowning him inch by inch. He suffered from panic attacks and often felt as though he was suffocating slowly, for all eternity, unable to give up and die. But he had won the young wife her freedom.
Even now, two years after Chanel’s death, Kevin still lay in bed some mornings, staring blankly at the ceiling asking how God could have done this to their family.
But he had a young son to care for and self-pity wasn’t an option. With a sigh, he climbed out of bed. Each day it seemed he had to reach further down inside of himself to find the strength to go on.
Review
The Color of Murder by Loretta Moore is a novella revolving around Kevin Johnson, a black attorney, who is what Moore calls “the token black man” at a prestigious East Coast law firm. Although Kevin’s white partners give him some good cases, it does not slip Kevin’s notice that all of his clients so far have been black.
When Kevin is handed the case of a black drug dealer accused of murdering a wealthy, white, socialite, Kevin wants to believe his client is innocent. Although the reader knows from the beginning who the killer is, the plot revolves around how Kevin finds out in order to save his client.
The story is intriguing and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. For a debut novel, The Color of Murder is a very good effort.
From the Author
Loretta Moore is an African American female writer of many genres, residing in Dover, Delaware. She is married, the mother of three, and grandmother of eight.
Loretta is the author of From a Narrow Path and The Color of Murder (Black Opal Books). Other published works include poetry, essays, and short stories in several magazines and journals. Wright also contributes to a church newsletter.
Loretta is also a playwright and several of her dramas and musicals have been full productions. Presently, two of her plays are in the hands of theater in Philadelphia, PA and Roanoke, VA. Ghostwriting is another area which Moore enjoys. She have a college degree in English and has received literary and theatrical recognition and awards.
Loretta belongs to an honor society and other laudable organizations, and volunteers in her community and church. Her interests include writing, reading, music, and attending the theater and concerts, as well as some involvement with outdoor activities. She is currently busy writing two new novels, The Light of Day and Saving Grace and Love.
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"Reflection" by Kim Cresswell

ON SALE to 31 August
Reflection
by Kim Cresswell

Kim Cresswell’s debut novel, Reflection, is ON SALE for $2.99 (reg. $5.95) to 31 August. Buy it at this discounted price before the sequel, Retribution, is released later this year.

Description
Whitney Steel found her big story … Now it may kill her!
Florida investigative reporter, Whitney Steel, has lived in the shadow of her legendary father long enough. To prove herself she needs to find the “big” story. She finally found it, and now it may kill her.
After receiving a lead pointing to the world’s first cloned human, now a small child, Whitney vows to unravel the truth. However, sifting through the facts proves to have dangerous results, including death threats and murder.
When she’s nearly killed, but is saved by undercover FBI Special Agent, Blake Neely, he refuses to let her get in the way of his own objective – at least not right away.
Caught in a lethal game between a billionaire obsessed with genetic perfection, his hit man’s thirst for retribution, and a Colombian drug lord fresh out of prison determined to make Blake pay for his twin brother’s death over a decade ago …
Can they save an innocent child before it’s too late?
Faced with tough choices, with deadly consequences for many – Whitney soon realizes that sometimes a story becomes more than just a story.
Excerpt
Mason Bailey gulped down his third Glenlivet. “I didn’t kill her.”
How many times had Whitney Steel heard those words? Dozens. But never from the mouth of a United States senator. For all she cared, the man could drink himself to Mars, but not until she got what she’d come for. An exclusive.
Under the awning shading the Pink Flamingo Club’s patio, she took a sip of her lime daiquiri, and couldn’t help notice the way the mid-afternoon sunlight brutally magnified every line on Mason’s tanned face.
“Of all the reporters in Panama City, let alone Florida, why me? We cut our ties years ago.” And our losses, she wanted to say, but didn’t.
“I know I can trust you.” His gaze darted across the street then back to her. “Besides, we were married once. That should count for something.”
Whitney straightened. Anger coiled in the pit of her stomach. “Give me a break. For a year and a half, I thought we were married. Too bad your girlfriends didn’t know about our little legal arrangement.” Especially, your twenty something assistant.
“Damn it, Whitney. I didn’t ask you here to rehash our past.” He yanked a monogrammed handkerchief from his jacket pocket and dabbed the sweat from his forehead. “I need your help. I know why Carmen Lacey was murdered.”
Her eyes widened. Now they were getting somewhere. “You have my full attention. Are we on the record?”
Mason shoved his empty glass aside. “Yes.”
Her heart thumped with anticipation. This story would be the topic du jour for months. Her ratings at WBNN-TV would soar, and finally her colleagues would take notice and treat her with the professional respect she deserved.
For the past twelve years, her colleagues said she’d had a free ride because of her father, an award winning war correspondent, and her ex-husband’s political connections. This time she’d prove them wrong.
She rummaged through her leather bag, placed her digital voice recorder on the table and gave the record button a firm push. “For the record, Senator Bailey, did you kill Carmen Lacey?”
“No.” He leaned back in the chair and loosened his pinstriped tie. “It’s true. I was the last person to see her alive. But there’s more to this than you think.”
Brown eyes that once set her heart hammering now conveyed a chilling, hollow look. Was it guilt? Desperation?
No. Fear.
Uneasiness slid down her spine. She stopped the recorder. “Mason, you’re scaring me. What the hell is going on? It’s been over three years since we last spoke. Then, out of the blue, you beg me to meet with you today. I know the police don’t believe you killed that woman.”
“But do you, Whitney? Do you believe I killed her? I need to know. It’s important.”
Stunned by the urgency in his voice, she answered carefully. “Of course not. You’re many things, but you’re not a killer.”
“Thank you. That means a lot to me.” He reached for his empty glass and tapped his chunky gold ring against the side.
Whitney turned the recorder on again.
“Carmen was a scientist working for a biotech company in Nevada. ShawBioGen. Heard of it?”
“Who hasn’t? They were one of the first to clone animals in the eighties. Caused quite a stir. But I don’t understand. What does that have to do with Carmen’s death?”
He opened his mouth to answer.
The large window behind them dividing the patio from the main restaurant exploded. A storm of glass rained down, showering the patio.
There was no warning. Everything moved so fast, yet in slow motion as if part of a horrid nightmare.
Screams. Rushed, heavy, thumping footsteps.
A few feet away, a male waiter dropped the two plates of food in his hands. He froze.
“Get down!” Mason yelled.
Whitney dropped. She huddled into a ball under the table and squashed the side of her face against the patio stones. Amid the chaos, a gunshot echoed and the waiter ran for cover.
A bullet ripped through the man’s shoulder and spun him around, the force slamming his body against the restaurant door. He folded to his knees and howled out in pain.
More shots rang out. Debris spewed through the air. Food, glasses, plates. The sickening smell of deep fried food and scorched cordite assaulted her nostrils. She gagged.
Crimson snaked toward her hand. The warm, sticky liquid met her fingertips.
Blood. Lots of blood. But it wasn’t hers.
Her gaze snapped to Mason, lying on his back. Dark red blood pumped from a gaping wound in his chest, soaking his white shirt. She held her breath to keep from screaming.
He raised his arm and reached for her. “I swear—I didn’t kill her. I swear.”
“I believe you.” Whitney kept her head down and inched her body closer. She grasped his hand. “I do. Oh, God.”
Please don’t die. Her pulse roared so loud in her ears she couldn’t hear her own words. “You’re bleeding so much. Someone help us!”
Another bullet whizzed through the air and slammed into the bottom of wooden table leg.
Needle-like splinters from the wood slashed through her pants and drilled into her thigh like a hundred slivers. The pain knocked the breath from her. The world twisted and turned yellow. Darkness thickened and threatened to overpower her. Can’t pass out…help Mason.
He gasped a ragged breath and shoved a key into her bloody palm and curled her fingers closed. “Don’t trust—anyone.”
She clutched the piece of metal. A knot wedged in her throat, one she couldn’t swallow. “I’m going to get help.”
“No—stay.” Blood bubbled at the corners of his mouth and trickled down his jaw. “They cloned…”
His eyelids slid shut.
“What Mason? They cloned what?”
Whitney lowered her head to his chest. “Oh, Mason, no.”

Book Trailer
Review
Reflection by Kim Cresswell is her debut novel featuring FBI Special Agent Blake Neely and Journalist Whitney Steel.
I was drawn in and engaged with the story from the first page. The story is captivating and the characters likable. This book has it all the ingredients: mystery, suspense, romance, action and a touch of humor.
Agent Blake Neely has been deep undercover for almost a year as head of security for Biotech owner and Billionaire, Nathan Shaw. Shaw has cloned the first human who is a small female child, but the outside world is unaware of this, although there are rumors. Even Blake hasn’t seen the child. But another purpose of Blake being undercover is because he believes Shaw is responsible for his sister’s death.
Whitney’s ex-husband and Senator was recently gunned down in her presence. Shortly after his demise, Whitney receives a video that her ex-husband had in a safe, proving that Shaw has indeed cloned a small child.
Now the action really starts. Both Blake and Whitney have recently survived attacks, now they team up to expose Shaw, take him down, or out, and save the child.
Fast-paced and gripping, this is a riveting story that action readers will enjoy.
Interview With the Author (reprinted from Amazon.com)
Q: What inspired you to write Reflection?
A: The story evolved after Clonaid (a company founded by the religious sect called the Raelians) announced the birth of Eve, the “first human clone” in 2002 using the similar technique to clone Dolly the Sheep. About 160 nations in the world have yet to outlaw the birth of human clones and others are allowing the creation of human clones as long as they are not put into a woman’s womb (how do we know they aren’t implanted?). Add a kick-ass heroine, a sexy FBI agent, and a villain you love to hate, thus, Reflection was born.
Q: Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
A: They are, especially the main characters. My heroine is strong, independent, an investigative reporter. I wanted her name to reflect her character traits and career, so I chose Whitney Steel.
Q: Why do you think what you do matters?
A: Being an author does matter. I’m a huge supporter of freedom of speech. I also try to use some type of controversial topic in all my books. Human cloning is one of them and has caused lots of debate over the years. It gets people talking.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: Next comes Lethal Journey. A killer lurks in the shadows of Hyde Park, New York … waiting. Also, great news for fans of Reflection. Blake and Whitney’s story isn’t over … yet! Retribution is coming in late 2013! I’m also thrilled to announce I’m one of ten authors contributing to the True Crime Serial Killers Anthology (2014) due for release in December 2013!
About the Author
Kim Cresswell resides in Ontario, Canada. Trained as a legal assistant, Kim has been a story-teller all her life but took many detours including working for a private investigator, running a graphic design business, and teaching computer classes at a local business school. After becoming disabled with Fibromyalgia and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, Kim returned to her first love, writing. For her, writing suspense fiction is an incredible adventure and she’s surprised where the journey takes her. She’s also an avid reader who enjoys playing computer games, ghost hunting and loves anything paranormal.
Her debut romantic suspense, Reflection, has won numerous awards including; UP Authors Fiction Challenge Winner (2013), Silicon Valley’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) “Gotcha!” Romantic Suspense Winner! (2004) and an Honourable Mention in CARWA’s The Writer’s Voice Contest (2006).
Kim has a few new books in the works including the sequel to Reflection which will be released in late 2013.
Links

"Cordon of Lies (A Sgt Major Crane Crime Thriller)" by Wendy Cartmell

NEW RELEASE
Cordon of Lies 
(A Sgt Major Crane Crime Thriller)
by Wendy Cartmell
Wendy Cartmell has just released Cordon of Lies, the fourth book in her crime thriller series featuring Sgt Major Crane. Don’t forget to check out the other books in the series: Steps to Heaven (you can also read my blog post), 40 Days 40 Nights, and Violation. No Mercyis a series of short stories also featuring Sgt Major Crane.
Description
Two murders 10 years apart.
An injustice wrapped in a cordon of lies.
An SIB detective determined to uncover the truth.
When Carol Newton was murdered 10 years ago her killer was spirited out of the country by the British Army. But now, it seems he’s back. Another young army wife Melanie Green has been murdered. In the same place. In the same way. A stiletto type dagger plunged into her heart.
Sgt Major Crane, a Branch detective with the Royal Military Police, must battle against an army that is closing ranks to protect their reputation, their killer and their indiscretions. Can Crane blow the case wide open and find the killer and his conspirators? Will he achieve justice for the two women? Or will the army win – again?
A military mystery, that reads like a police procedural.
Excerpt
The footsteps echoing through the underpass weren’t hers. She was wearing trainers and the footsteps sounded like military boots. Stopping, she held her breath and listened to the drops of moisture falling through cracks in the concrete structure, their irregular tattoo sounding like gun fire. She inhaled the damp air, turned and peered into the darkness behind her, but couldn’t see anyone. The grey gloom of early evening was glowing weakly, just visible at the tunnel entrance. Beyond that she could see the garish lights of the revered Tesco superstore she had left a few minutes earlier. Overhead she heard the faint rumble of tyres on tarmac, as cars hissed though the rainy night.
She tried to still her shaking hands by grabbing her bag and lifting it higher onto her shoulder. The end of the underpass, leading towards the relative safety of Aldershot town centre, was still some way away. As she started walking towards it, so did the boots. Matching her step for step. She broke into a run, her large bag weighing her down and banging against her hip. Her husband kept telling her not to carry such a big heavy bag and tonight she wished she’d listened to him. Her purse, umbrella, book and make up bag had turned into heavy stones, forcing the bag off her shoulder and down her arm. It landed with a thump on the concrete. She couldn’t leave it behind, if nothing else she needed her purse, so she squatted down and retrieved the bag which had up-ended on the floor. With fumbling fingers she stuffed her purse safely back into the bag and began scrabbling for the rest of her stuff, scattered around her feet. Her lipstick had rolled away and looking around she saw it lying up against the wall of the underpass. As she reached for it, a black boot landed on her hand.
“Hello Carol,” she heard over the snapping of bones, as her hand was ground into the floor.
If he said anything else, she wasn’t aware of it. All she could feel was the extreme pressure of his boot and intense pain as the bones along the back of her hand cracked and crumbled. It felt like she was being been run over by a car, but whereas a car would move off her hand as it travelled on its way, Foster didn’t liberate it, merely slightly shifted the position of his foot and placed it over her fingers. As he slowly pressed down on them, she blacked out.
When she came round he pulled her onto her feet from behind. His head was next to hers. His lips by her ear. The pain in her hand was abating, but she was incapable of moving it. She couldn’t even wiggle her fingers and the shock of that realisation made her slump against Foster. He was muttering something and she strained to hear.
“Oh dear, have I hurt you Carol? Well now you know what it’s like. You’re feeling pain just like I did when you ended our relationship. The type of pain that fills your head, so you can’t think of anything else. Well, I can’t think of anything else apart from your betrayal. It just keeps going round and round in my head. I’m not able to do my job properly and it’s all your fault. So I’ve got to get rid of you. Yes. That’ll work. That’ll get you out of my head.”
“Barry, I…”
“I, what Carol? I’m sorry – is that what you wanted to say? Well sorry just doesn’t cut it. You picked me up and then put me down, just like a plaything you’d grown tired of.” His hand grabbed her chin, pulling her ear even closer to his lips. He hissed, “What was I, Carol? Just a diversion while your husband was away? A bit of fun on the side? Well, it’s not bloody funny now is it?”
“No, Barry,” she managed, hoping that if she tried to placate him, agree with him, he would let her go. But then she felt him release her chin and press something cold against her neck.
“Maybe I should just slit your throat with this dagger and leave you here to bleed out. That way, while you die, you’ll have time to think about what you’ve done to me.”
Carol swallowed, making the tip of the blade move slightly and dig into her skin.
“But your regret would be too little too late wouldn’t it, Carol? So no, I don’t think I’ll do that.”
Carol’s relief was short lived as he continued, “I’ll do what you did to me. Break your heart as you broke mine. That’s more fitting don’t you think? Breaking your treacherous heart?”
But she wasn’t able to answer, only gasp, as the sharp point of his knife broke through her clothes and then her skin, pressing onwards through fat and muscle, towards her beating heart.
Review
Author Wendy Cartmell delivers again with another rip-roaring page turner of a Sgt Crane novel.
When Carol Newton was murdered 10 years ago her killer was spirited out of the country by the British Army. But now, it seems he’s back. Another young army wife Melanie Green has been murdered. In the same place. In the same way. A stiletto type dagger plunged into her heart.
The pace is crisp and it’s really nice to see new character perspectives introduced which makes the book feel more rounded than the others. Overall thought this was a great read, quick and emotive. Can’t wait for the next one!
About the Author
Wendy Cartmell is the author of the internationally acclaimed British crime thriller series featuring Sgt Major Crane. Steps to Heaven is the first in the Sgt Major Crane series. It is followed by 40 Days 40 Nights, and Violation. No Mercyis a series of short stories also featuring Sgt Major Crane. Wendy has just released the fourth book in the series, Cordon of Lies.
The author states, “My inspiration for the Sgt Major Crane novels has been my love of crime writing (which I read voraciously) and my husband’s 22 years service in the British Army. I am aiming them at the Police Procedural market and aspire to write a series of books. I believe being set in the British Army gives a new dimension to the books and I hope there is a gap in the market for this type of crime novel, especially in the light of heightened public awareness of and support for the Armed Forces.”
Wendy also writes children’s books, including the Professor Letters series and is a reviewer for www.e-thriller.com.
Links

"Interrupting Infamy" by Inara Everett

Interrupting Infamy
by Inara Everett
Description
Dylan finally lands his first job. His boss, Larry, steals Dylan’s ideas and pretends they’re his. Dylan angrily protests – only to find himself unceremoniously sacked.
Unemployed once again, Dylan burns for revenge. To please his family, he consults a lawyer and starts a lawsuit – all the while secretly plotting a workplace massacre.
Will Dylan go through with his brutal plan? His life spins in and out of control – and he must confront his violent past – as he wrestles with his desire for vengeance.
Excerpt
Dylan examined his appearance in the full-length mirror at the end of the hall. He disliked the spikiness of his newly cut hair, and thought for the millionth time about how he detested his large, rounded nose. But when he smiled at his reflection, to his surprise, he looked almost handsome.
In the eight months since graduating from high school in 1999, Dylan had sent out hundreds of job applications, and received exactly one offer – for the job he was starting today. As he finished getting ready, he wondered if he’d meet any hot chicks at his new place of employment, his face brightening at the thought. He had never had a real girlfriend – only friends who were girls – and desperately hoped this was about to change.
Dylan called out a goodbye to his Uncle Jack and Aunt Marcie, who were eating breakfast in the kitchen of the ranch bungalow where they all lived. Jack and Marcie weren’t really his aunt and uncle but good friends of his family, as well as his godparents. Dylan’s own parents had recently decided to take an eighteen-month “voluntourism” trip now that all their children had graduated from high school, and they were in Sri Lanka, helping a local community build a school. Jack and Marcie had no children of their own. Dylan knew they thought of him as the son they never had, which he appreciated, but also frustrated the hell out of him – too many questions, too much nagging.
“Good luck at your first day at work,” Jack said. “Remember – be polite.”
Dylan wondered what his uncle thought he planned on doing at work – telling his boss to shut up, or screaming at his co-workers for some minor infraction? Geez, he wasn’t a kid anymore. He was a man with a job.
A few patches of snow covered the ground and Dylan shivered as he walked down the driveway. Jack and Marcie’s home, in the same suburb as his parents’, had a spectacular view of the Rockies and backed onto a forested area, giving the place an isolated feel. It gave off a sense of loneliness that Dylan didn’t like – he preferred to have more people around, and he planned on getting his own place as soon as he could afford it. But on a minimum wage salary, that was going to take a while.
Dylan got in his car, a used BMW his parents had given him in high school. His breath quickly fogged up the interior windows. He turned on the ignition and let the fan blow for a while, and once the windows had cleared he backed out and drove out of the subdivision. He passed by empty fields with occasional patches of tall grasses before he reached the highway, where he merged with the other traffic.
Surrounded by commuter traffic, on his way to his first real job, Dylan revelled in his new feeling of independence – he was a working man now, not an unpopular kid in high school. Thank God the misery of high school was over – particularly the six months of probation he had suffered through for owning an illegal handgun. He would never forget the judge yelling at him to get his act together, and a cop telling him that if he didn’t watch out he’d be on his way to hell in a handbasket. What a jerk, Dylan thought, and just what is hell in a handbasket anyway?
But now, Dylan had a full-time job. He’d proven the judge and cop wrong. He would get a steady paycheque. Soon he’d be able to buy a new computer, video games, clothes and maybe a new car – and best of all, eventually get his own place. Oh man, it was going to be great. He turned on the car stereo and put in a CD; the sun was shining and he turned the music up loud.
As Dylan rounded a curve on the highway he saw his workplace: an eight-storey building with a stylized checkbox and arrow logo and the name “LOGIN” affixed to the exterior. LOGIN, short for Logical Solutions International, provided office management technology, including both software and hardware, for the business community. The company had branch offices in fifteen countries; Dylan’s job, as an IT support representative, was at the company’s head office in Denver, Colorado.
Dylan took an exit ramp and then inched through stop-and-go traffic for a mile or so. In spite of the slow traffic, he reached the LOGIN building about ten minutes early, having built in some extra time to his trip. He parked in the front lot, turned off the car and decided to wait a few minutes before going in. But then he began fidgeting, tapping his thumb on the dashboard and shifting his feet as nervousness overwhelmed him, so he got out of the car and walked toward the building. Its exterior was made entirely of gold-coloured glass and Dylan could see the clouds reflected in its upper storeys.
LOGIN’s front entrance was attractively tiled with interlocking stones surrounded by gardens with euonymus and evergreen bushes, as well as river stones and the odd small pine tree. Dylan made his way through the revolving doors and into the spacious marble lobby, which soared three stories above him. Thriving palm trees stood in tall planters at the edges of the lobby, surrounded by exotic-looking flowering plants. The sun streamed in the gold-tinted windows. Pretty impressive, Dylan thought, feeling pleased with his new place of employment so far.
He walked toward the guard at the front desk, anticipating a cheerful greeting. But the guard, who wore a stiff suit and tie, peered at Dylan suspiciously through heavy-framed glasses. His ferret-like face had a yellowish tinge and his slightly greasy hair had a short, unflattering cut.
“Yes?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. His look suggested that Dylan’s status was only slightly above that of an insect.
Well, well, well, isn’t he Mr. Friendly, Dylan thought. Great choice for reception.
“It’s my first day at LOGIN,” he said.
The guard nodded his head abruptly and showed him a list of names.
“Please check off your name and write your licence plate number in the space provided. Then you can take the elevator to the fourth floor,” he said. Dylan did as he was asked and handed back the list, which the guard took without even a thank you. Dylan hoped the other employees at LOGIN would have more people skills than this guy – although he acknowledged that his own people skills weren’t exactly outstanding.
He walked over to the elevators. The ceiling was lower in this area of the lobby and there were no palm trees, but the walls glittered with black marble and the elevators had elegant brass trim. He joined the two other people who were waiting for the next elevator to arrive, checking them out surreptitiously. One was a slight young Asian man with acne and glasses, wearing jeans and a white dress shirt – probably a computer nerd, Dylan thought – and the other looked somewhat like his aunt, plump and friendly with iron grey hair. No hot chicks so far.
When the elevator doors opened, Dylan stepped in after the other two and pushed the fourth floor button. As the elevator moved soundlessly to the next level, his earlier feelings of euphoria left him. Doubts about his new job crept in. What if he couldn’t do it? He and his friends in high school had always mocked the idea of working in an office 9 to 5, and now here he was. What if his skills were all wrong for the position? What if no one liked him?
Dylan brushed these thoughts aside as the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor. He walked across the marble floor to glass doors that opened into the reception area. He gave his name to the receptionist, an attractive woman in her forties with long dark hair that fell in waves, and she smiled and asked him to have a seat. Then she paged Dylan’s supervisor over the intercom.
“Larry Roach, please come to the front desk,” she announced.
Dylan sat down in one of the armchairs in the waiting area and picked up a magazine. Larry Roach, he thought as he leafed through the magazine, what the hell kind of a name is that? Sounds like he should have a carapace and pincers, for God’s sake. Or maybe he smokes a lot of joints – ha ha. He told himself to shut up and be polite as his uncle had advised.
Larry approached Dylan a few moments later.
“Dylan?” he asked, and when Dylan nodded his head, grabbed Dylan’s hand and shook it hard. “Come with me, young man.”
Larry turned to Dylan as they walked down the hall.
“A word of advice,” Larry said. “You gotta work on that limp handshake. You don’t want people to think you’re a pansy, do ya?”
Dylan hid his irritation at Larry’s criticism. He studied his new boss. When Larry smiled, he revealed yellow, snaggled teeth. He stood as tall as Dylan, but was far broader, barrel-chested with a big paunch, and his wire-rimmed, outdated glasses revealed pale blue eyes. He wore navy dress pants and a light blue dress shirt which strained against his large stomach and beefy arms.
“This is your first job, isn’t it? Still wet behind the ears – you’ve got a lot to learn,” Larry said with a superior-sounding chuckle.
Dylan gave a small nod. He detected a hint of mockery in Larry’s tone. Great, it’s only been two minutes and I don’t like my boss already, he thought.
“Let me show you the kitchen first. You can grab a coffee if you want,” Larry said.
They stopped in front of a room at the end of the hall. It held a table and chairs, fridge, stove, sink and dishwasher. Larry pointed out the coffee pot and showed Dylan the cupboard where he could get a mug.
“Your mug has to be put in the dishwasher at the end of the day, or Sylvia, the floor monitor, will have your hide,” Larry said, evidently taking it very seriously.
God, he’s worse than Uncle Jack and Aunt Marcie, Dylan thought.
As Dylan poured himself a coffee, two workers, a young man and woman, came into the kitchen. Dylan and Larry overheard them chatting about a meeting with one of the LOGIN managers.
“Don’t forget to send your reply to the meeting request you received. I already did,” Larry interrupted them. “It’s important to reply so that the meeting agenda lists everyone attending it.”
The man nodded his head and gave Larry a forced smile. When Larry turned to pour himself some coffee, Dylan saw the man and woman laughing at him behind his back.
“Hi, I’m Will,” the man said. “You must be the new IT guy. Just ignore Larry and his obsessive rule-making or he’ll drive you crazy.” Larry grunted and rolled his eyes in reply.
Will was very thin, with a scraggly beard and a friendly grin; his shirt had come untucked in the back. The woman’s long, dark hair hung below her shoulders, framing the Asian features of her delicate, pretty face. She appeared to be in her twenties and smiled shyly at Dylan, introducing herself as Mandy. Now this is getting interesting, Dylan thought as he shook her hand. He gave her an admiring glance as she left the kitchen with Will.
Dylan picked up his coffee mug and followed Larry past a bank of cubicles and down another hall. The hall opened into a large, fluorescent-lit room filled with rows and rows of grey cubicles and after winding his way through the maze of desks Larry showed Dylan his workspace. The cubicle had just enough room for a chair and two drawers.
“Your name’s already up,” Larry said, pointing to a placard on the exterior of the cubicle. Dylan smiled weakly. The hive-like aspect of the rows of cubicles, with all the worker bee employees tap-tap-tapping away diligently on their keyboards, was just like what he and his friends had laughed about in high school. And not only that, Larry seemed like a loser.
Just my luck to get Weird Larry as a boss, Dylan thought, and I’m going to have to look at his ugly mug every morning. He tried to put a positive spin on it, noting that Larry had taken the time to show him around a bit, but wasn’t able to force down a feeling of gloom.
“You’ll have access to email soon,” Larry said, revealing his yellow, snuggle-toothed smile again. “There’s an online presentation for new employees you can review for now. We’ve got a meeting at ten thirty and I’ll introduce you to a few of the managers. They always like to meet new employees.”
He pointed to Dylan’s computer screen, which flashed Welcome to LOGIN! with an icon labelled “Click here to begin” below. Larry told Dylan to ask him if he had any questions about the online presentation. Then he walked to a cubicle across from Dylan’s, sat down and began working.
Dylan jammed himself into his cubicle. At six foot four, his long legs barely fit under the desk. He clicked to open the online seminar and was surprised by its rudimentary technology. There’s no interactivity and way too much text, he thought. He debated whether to mention this to Larry and decided against it, concluding it would be best to keep his opinions to himself on his first day.
After half an hour, Larry stood up.
“Ok, let’s go to our meeting,” he said. “We can get a snack at the vending machines on our way.”
As they walked, Larry told Dylan he had worked at LOGIN for six months, after leaving his previous job at a tech company in Michigan.
“I was the team leader in IT sales back in Michigan,” he said, going into a long, boring ramble about his sales duties and some award he had won. Dylan noted that Larry’s prior job seemed to involve the sale of computer equipment rather than actually working with software – he didn’t seem to have much real IT experience. Dylan also noticed that Larry wore no wedding ring and didn’t mention anything about a wife or kids in discussing his move from Michigan. With that paunch and great personality, I’m sure Weird Larry’s a real chick magnet, Dylan thought. Not.
Larry stopped in front of one of the vending machines that stood in a row at the end of the hall. He fished around in his pocket for change, put a bunch of quarters into the machine and punched out a number and letter on the grid on the front of the machine. There was a brief whirring noise and then the clip at the front of one of the rows of food items behind the glass opened to release a large Danish pastry into the trough of the machine. Larry pulled the huge, greasy-looking pastry out of the trough and peeled back its plastic wrapper. He took a big bite out of the pastry and began chewing noisily.
“Want one?” he asked Dylan, who shook his head.
Larry and Dylan continued walking until they came to a small room with a frosted glass door labelled 105. Larry went in and plunked down in one of the chairs surrounding a large table which nearly filled up the room on its own. Dylan sat down in another chair. As they waited for the others to arrive, Larry continued to chew his Danish noisily; a ridge of crumbs formed at the side of his mouth. Dylan tried not to stare but found his eyes returning to the glued-on pastry flakes with morbid fascination.
To distract himself from Larry’s chewing, Dylan studied the room. The table had a black surface and the metal-framed chairs had burnt-orange polyester padding, a change from LOGIN’s ubiquitous shades of grey.
“You know, you could add a few black cat decorations and we could hold a Halloween party here,” Dylan said, to make conversation and to drown out the sound of the chewing. He desperately wanted the chewing to stop – and it did, as Larry stared at him with a puzzled expression.
“You know, the colours in here – black and orange for Halloween,” Dylan clarified.
“Oh yeah,” Larry replied. “Whoever chose the colour scheme must’ve had their sense of decor up their ass.”
Dylan laughed. At least they agreed on something.
A woman came into the room and sat down at the table.
“Hi, you must be Dylan,” she said, reaching over the table to shake Dylan’s hand. “I’m Nora Balodis, Senior IT Manager. I’ll be chairing today’s meeting.” Middle-aged, short and plump, she had slightly frizzly blond hair and very blue eyes, with round, owlish glasses. She gave Dylan a friendly smile.
Next, a young man entered the room and introduced himself as Carl Colacicco, IT support manager. Tall and muscular, with handsome features, dark hair and smooth skin, he was maybe ten years older than Dylan. He looked confident and capable.
“Hi, Dylan,” he said, giving him a firm handshake.
Carl and Nora seem okay, Dylan thought, his mood picking up.
A few more men and women entered the room, and then Nora asked Dylan to tell everyone a bit about himself. Never good in front of a crowd, Dylan felt his mind go blank. It felt like a barrier coming down inside his brain, preventing the synapse from retrieving the desired words. The more he panicked, the blanker his mind became.
“I…I…it’s like, um…” he gabbled. Finally he closed his mouth, took a deep breath and forced himself to start talking. Mercifully, the blankness dissipated.
“I’ve had experience as, like, an IT tutor in high school,” Dylan said. “I’ve also designed video games and software programs.”
Carl asked him about the video games and Dylan launched into a discussion about KAOS, his most popular game. Nora smiled and nodded encouragingly as he spoke.
“Thanks, Dylan. We’re all looking forward to getting to know you better,” she said when he finished speaking. He felt good about the introduction in spite of his awkward beginning.
Nora looked at her agenda and began discussing the first item – something from her department’s budget. The managers reviewed it at length and went on to talk about a number of other topics that didn’t sound too interesting to Dylan, but when Nora mentioned the marketing department’s work on email sales notifications to clients, he listened closely. He knew a lot about this, having created a program himself in high school that handled automatic emails.
“Larry, can you help us out with this?” Nora asked.
“Nah, it’s a new area,” Larry replied. “I’ll see if I can hire a consultant to give us some advice.”
“I was involved with email notifications at my high school and set up a program that sent automatic emails to everyone on various lists,” Dylan piped up. “I could help out on that project if you want.”
Everyone looked at Dylan in surprise. Carl asked Dylan for details about the program, which he happily provided, talking enthusiastically for several minutes. This was a subject he knew thoroughly – no blank-outs here.
“Dylan, I’m really impressed with your know-how on this,” Carl said. “Maybe you could help us develop our program.”
Larry shot Dylan a stay-off-my-turf look which startled Dylan, but he forgot about it as he continued discussing the automatic email program.
“Dylan, you really know your technology,” another manager said. A murmur of agreement filled the room.
“I’ll send you an invitation to attend the next meeting on the notifications,” Carl said. Dylan smiled and nodded an agreement. “Larry, there’s no need for you to come, since Dylan seems to know so much about it.”
Larry didn’t reply. Instead, he glowered at Dylan across the table.
“That’s it for today’s meeting,” Nora announced. “Thanks for coming. And I’m sure everyone will agree that it’s been a real pleasure meeting Dylan.”
The managers gave Dylan a round of applause before they left the room, chatting and joking with each other as they walked down the hall. Larry and Dylan walked together in the opposite direction as they headed back to their cubicles. Once they were alone, Larry turned furiously to Dylan.
“Okay, you little bastard, don’t you ever show me up like that again,” he said, his voice low but very sharp. “If you pull another stunt like that, I’ll make sure you regret it.”
“But…but…I was just helping out,” Dylan replied, his forehead furrowing in shocked puzzlement.
“Oh, I get it. You think you’re better than me, don’t you?”
“I never said that.”
“I could tell you were a smart-assed punk as soon as I saw you, but the hiring committee insisted on bringing you in. I’m warning you, stay in your place or you’re gonna be real sorry.”
Larry gave Dylan a look of disgust and walked away at a rapid pace, leaving Dylan standing in the hall in open-mouthed astonishment.
Review
By Avid
I really got into the main character Dylan. He really suffered when his boss fired him, and his pathetic love for his imaginary friend Elvie fascinated me.
I found the book’s alternate reality approach to the Columbine killers intriguing. I’ve always wondered what would have happened to them if the police had stopped them before the massacre – now I have a thought-provoking answer. We all need to hope that evil can be purged or else give up to defeat.
I read this book because I enjoyed reading I.Y. Everett’s prior novel – Judging Nicky. These two books are very different – and both very good. Everett has a great range.
This book got my attention and kept it from beginning to end. A great read!
About the Author
Inara Everett is a Canadian lawyer and writer with a passion for all things jurisfictional. Jurisfiction describes the genre of legal fiction – fiction with a law-related theme. Inara’s blog, jurisfictional.com, covers her e-publishing experiences and thoughts about life in this crazy, infuriating, uplifting, exciting world.


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Nightingale Vale: Murder is Relative by Declan Munro

Nightingale Vale: Murder is Relative

by Declan Munro
Description
Nightingale Vale: Murder is Relative is the first novel in a new series by Declan Munro. It covers the terrible prospect that you might move into the wrong neighborhood and meet the neighbors from hell. How unfortunate if you happen to move next door to perhaps a whole host of unsavory neighbors. What if those neighbors are plotting your downfall and you don’t even know it?
A slick, taut thriller with a gut-wrenching premise: No one is who you think they are. CREEPY and claustrophobic, ruthless killers carry out a series of gruesome murders. When a new tenant moves to creepy Nightingale Vale she hooks up with the disturbing Lindsey family. The Lindsey’s are no ordinary family, they are the neighbors from hell. These characters have one thing in common – they give another meaning to being related.
In this novel, the author aims to tap into that stomach churning feeling when you finally figure out that nothing you have believed is what it seems, it is a whole lot worse.
Review
By Carole A. Spalino
I had the creeps from the first chapter. Right from the beginning, I was thinking that there was something wrong with those neighbors. I don’t want to give any part of the story away, so buy this and read it. It’s good, it’s creepy, and you won’t put it down. I didn’t. There are so many creepy twists and surprises, and I keep using the word CREEPY! That’s because it fits. Great read. Good job.
About the Author
Declan Munro lives and works in London. Declan writes with an associate author, Belle Marsh, who is also his partner. They have pooled their resources and experience to tap into the world of the psychological thriller. Declan is a blue collar worker with experience in the building industry and who does a bit of acting on the side. He pulls no punches in his no-nonsense writing; he does the meaty, tough stuff. His writing partner, Belle, refines the rougher edges and adds the psychological twists and the turn-of-the-screw weird stuff.
Look out for the next novel in the series, coming soon.
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