Gone Blog Tour: Excerpt

Gone
by S.H. Love
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Rory Richards is self-absorbed and suicidal.
Over the last year, he has lost his job, has attempted suicide multiple
times, and has gotten his relationship to the point where it is
heading for divorce. Fed up with everything, Rory has accepted his fate.
When he wakes up from a failed suicide attempt, he learns that his wife,
Maggie, has disappeared without a trace. Her car is found abandoned
on the highway, miles away from home. Her purse and her cell phone
are discovered in the trunk. There is no sign of Maggie.
All Rory can remember about the previous night is that the two had the
fight of a lifetime. The dispute causes him to storm out of the house
and steal prescription pills from his neighbors in an attempt to
overdose.
After that, everything is a blur.
Maggie’s sudden disappearance becomes a mystery.
Was she kidnapped? Did she disappear on purpose?
To avoid coming across as insensitive, Rory plays the part of loving
husband and attempts to find his wife. He gives an emotional plea on
television, reaches out to the Missing Persons Network, and even
hires a private investigator to gather information.
All of these actions are to show police that he is actively searching.
Deep down, though, he just doesn’t care anymore. But, does Rory’s
lack of affection mean that he is responsible for Maggie’s

disappearance? Or will he serve as the unlikely hero who finds her?
What happened the night she disappeared?

The taste of charcoal briquettes lined the inside of my mouth. It was chalky, almost sweet, but not in a good way. The charcoal’s texture was thick, pebbly tasting, and difficult to swallow. The sensation remained in my mouth and almost made me puke.
I had just woken up after what seemed like days. Months, really, the time just flew by. Just like that, it was gone. My brain was resting after a lifetime of activity, dreams creeping in, only to disappear again.
Body collapsed, exhaustion forcing me to nearly drift into another blackout, I inhaled quickly in order to stay conscious. Inhaling made my throat sore, the roughness scratching like sandpaper.
In and out, my mind went black, only to resolve to faint lights with warped images. Nothing really resonated inside, the time lapse unknown in my current state.
What day is it?
Where am I?
My eyes opened wide. Dried and strained, they focused on the ceiling. The drop ceiling tiles multiplied in front of me, expanding outward, adding four times the amount. Growing larger and then shrinking in a fast instant, the tiles kept going in and out of focus until they became clear. The mineral fibers absorbed all the ambient noise that surrounded me. Not that it mattered in my case. I was as laid up as one could get.
After a rush of constant blinking, my vision came into focus. The ceiling was again normal. Water stains shaped like countries struck out against the plain white tiles. Italy was to my left. Thailand was to the right. The United States’ forty-eight, it was as if the South had actually won the Civil War and had relocated to Africa. Stretched across one of the corners in the room was a thin spider web. Part of it was unattached and blowing from the air conditioner vent. The cold air pushing out of the vent kissed my face, tickling my cheeks and making them numb.
Looking around my environment, my body depressed in a slow, dragged out sigh.
My tongue worked around my lips, licking the spots where my skin and lips met. The heavy, smoky flavor was all I needed to know to describe what happened the night before. My face began to crease from the burnt charcoal taste within. Caving in, it was a crushed aluminum can bending inward. It was as if someone punched me super hard, my face staying locked in its current position.
The medical staff used the charcoal to absorb the toxins from the pills I had swallowed. All one hundred thirteen of them. In a single sitting, swallowing the enteric-coated pills until my vision faded. One by one by one, I had attempted to take my own life. It was a smorgasbord of poison with various colored pills. Some I had recognized. Others I had not.
There was a bottle for sleeping disorders. There were various prescriptions for pain. One container was filled with Ativan. Another, filled with God knows what. I had no idea.
It was the perfect cure for anxiety, pain, and seizures, for one low price.
Who would have thought that that many pills could be found inside your neighbors’ medicine cabinets? Then again, who would have thought that amount of pills could be pumped out of a human body? Gastric lavage and activated charcoal, these were two procedures that I didn’t recommend.
If you ever need an emergency antidote to combat the dangers of prescription drugs, consider the two-step process of gutting and then grilling your face. The stomach pump was to remove the pills. The charcoal was used as a poisoning antidote, to interrupt the circulation of drugs from the liver to the bile, back into the small intestine, and ending back into the liver. The process was called enterohepatic circulation.
Coming to, I was greeted by a small, empty hospital room. A single bed surrounded by varying degrees of medical equipment. There was a heart monitor near my bed. An overbed table pushed off to the side. A cabinet filled with supplies. All the ingredients were present to revive the damaged soul of a person.
The television hanging from above was turned off, an old tube unit sitting on a shelf that was bolted to the wall. The screen was dirty; it was covered in dust particles from not being turned on.
The thick curtains were closed. Peeking in underneath and on the sides of the curtains’ fabric was a parking lot streetlight. The light from the tall post cast dark shadows into the room; the shadows creeped me out. They were monsters ready to attack, ready and willing to conquer under their master’s order. Whoever their master was, I wasn’t sure.
Swallowing was difficult. There was a tightening in my throat each time I’d attempted. Harder and harder to bring the saliva up my esophagus, I could feel it start in the pit of my stomach.
This was not my first attempt at suicide. No matter how hard I had tried, I could never fully succeed. Three fucking times was definitely not the charm.
My first attempt at offing myself happened about a year ago. My wife and I had begun to feel the effects of money shortfalls.
I had lost my job when the economy crashed and had never really gotten back on track. Sure, there were a few part-time positions here and there. And one full-time job that was so out of my field I had to quit. But there was nothing that had brought in near the same salary, near the same satisfaction, of what I had been living with for years before.
My wife, Maggie, had said that she understood. That working in a job that did not complement your skillset was difficult. Deep down, I knew my not being employed (or as Maggie had put it, sitting around) had still bothered her. She would often throw in sentences such as, “But every little bit helps,” and, “Maybe just stick it out for a while,” ending in, “Well, it’s your decision and I will support you nonetheless.”
She was just going through the motions at that point. This marked the beginning of the end for us. We were heading for a divorce.
The truth was jobs were not that available in our hometown of Rock Island, Illinois. A stagnant population of just under forty thousand, with only a handful of big employers that could provide a decent living. The cost of living was low, but you would have to be in a position that paid well enough. Most of the residents in the area worked at John Deere and the Rock Island Arsenal. Neither of which seemed to ever be hiring. It was almost as if you had to know or be related to someone in order to get your foot in the door. Of course, generations upon generations handed these jobs down like relay runners passing the batons behind them. With so much history between the two organizations, getting a job at either of these places was equivalent to being born into the royal family.
Me, I used to be the operations manager of a manufacturing company. Relative to the size of Deere and Arsenal, our company was small, a blip on their financial scope, a mere footnote in the conversation. But it was big for me, and it was what worked. That was, until I was let go.
We specialized in packaging, various types of packaging and shipping methods. One of our contracts was with John Deere, so you could say that I was a bastard stepson of the prestigious royal family. I was more of a second cousin that hardly came around, one that never saw the photo ops or royal invites.
I oversaw the plant workers at different locations around the area, who spent most of the days boxing items and getting them ready for shipment to wherever it was they were headed. Much of my time was dedicated to streamlining the process in order to cut costs. It took me several months to scheme up the process, paying particular attention to its destinations and what trucks needed to be loaded and at what times. Logistics wasn’t difficult; rather, you had to be on your game to know the shortest routes possible. You could say I was so good at my job that I cut my own salary out of the company. Shipped it out in a nicely packed container. Really, there wasn’t a need for me anymore. A win/lose situation.
My job, my life, my marriage, they were all packaged and ready to be shipped out. And to be honest, I didn’t care anymore. To be frank, getting divorced was the only true thing I had looked forward to.
Lying on the bed, my head facing the ceiling, I moved my eyes left to right, and screamed, “NO!” Clenching my teeth until my jaws hurt, bringing my voice down to a hush, I whisper-screamed, “FUCK YOU!” I had convinced myself that I had wanted to die this time. Deep down to the depths of my soul, I wished that I was dead.
All the while, the chair shadow creature was lurking in silence, staring in my direction.
The angled door monster sat mocking me. A malicious grin on its face, it could turn on me at any moment.
My body tightened until I turned bright red. Holding my breath in a weak attempt to suffocate, hopes of passing out to prevent my brain from picking back up again, my mind started racing. Through the half-closed blinds leading into an illuminated part of the hospital, two detectives were talking to a doctor. They were in mid-discussion ever since I had come to. The doctor was, on occasion, looking into my room while he continued to speak.
Struggling on the bed, kicking my legs under the sheets, the jerking of my body like a possessed demon, I was vying for their attention. Whipping my head side to side, the air from the vent reminding me that I was alive and well, I screamed inside, my mouth wide open, stretching until my cheeks became sore.
The officers looked serious, their bodies stiff and alert. Staring with intent into the doctor’s eyes, one of the policemen leaned in closer. A concerned look on his face, the detective nodded in agreement to whatever it was the doctor was discussing.
The window made it difficult to make out what they were saying. The light, reflecting off from the other side, made the men appear translucent. Squinting with a brave optimism that I could read their lips, I saw the policeman with the crew cut on the right side crane his neck toward me and then slowly return to the doctor.
Leaning in closer to the door, my head pulling forward, a sharp pain ran up my spine and into the nape of my neck. My body tightened into a crunch, my abs flexing for the first time in years. The balls of my feet were blistering for some reason, as if I had been on them for days. The soreness caused me to straighten, and before I could readjust my body, the door opened.
Flipping the light switch, the doctor, wearing multi-colored scrubs and a white smock, entered with the officers in tow. The shadow demons, they disappeared into tangible objects. One became the sink faucet. Another transformed into the tissue paper box. In an instant, the monsters assumed their positions in the real world. Their master, so it seemed, signaled them to be calm. It only took a second for my eyes to adjust to the bright light. My brain was still disordered. My recollection, it was groggy to say the least. The three men came into focus as they approached me.
“Mr. Richards,” the doctor said, his eyes scanning the paperwork on his clipboard, never making eye contact. Nodding his head, his lips curled downward. Skimming the chart before speaking again, he mouthed some words to himself. He then looked up, rejoining the conversation, and said, “I’m Doctor Wynn.”
Dr. Wynn was a skinny Asian man, his hospital garb baggy off his legs. He was a middle-aged gentleman, mostly wrinkle-free with not much grey. He had a full head of hair. Crow’s feet branched out from his half-opened eyes when he spoke. I could tell that he laughed a lot. Other than that tiny flaw, he was well put together.
I pegged him for having a trophy wife, brunette and much younger, and driving a convertible Mercedes-Benz. Aside from announcing that he was a doctor, his pickup line could have been, “If you go out with me, it would be a Wynn/Win.” And then a sparkling smile filled with whites. Who wouldn’t fall for this? Hell, I was beginning to fall in love with him. But that could just be the medication.
Reading through my charts more in-depth, his lips moving slightly, he scanned the file and then re-addressed me.
Tilting his head, he smiled, flashing his medical school teeth. “And how’re you feeling today?” His cadence was quick and with crisp enunciation. He displayed a charming politeness to his audience when he spoke.
Before I could answer, the doctor said, “You’re very lucky, Mr. Richards.”
Was I? Tracing the words with his index finger, he said, “You swallowed a lot of pills.” He was lecturing me like a third grade teacher would do to one of her students—“Do you know what happens when you don’t finish your assignment?” I was waiting for him to put me in the corner, but I guess this was close enough.
The officers stood stoic, hearing the diagnosis from the medical expert. Each was attentive for the most part, often looking down at the floor or around the room to inspect the potential sleeping monsters.
Casual demeanor, reading the shorthand notes scribbled on the paper, Dr. Wynn gave an inappropriate smile. He said, “Over one hundred.”
One hundred thirteen to be exact.
He looked me in the eyes and said, “How do you feel?” The doctor was full of questions. For someone who was a supposed expert, he was definitely curious. “Does your throat hurt?” he said.
The large thirty-six gastrostomy tube that was jammed into my esophagus was, to be very thankful, lubricated. Just because I had tried to kill myself did not warrant a dry throat fuck. Leaning in toward me, he said, “You were administered two hundred milliliters of warm tap water on a repeated basis in order to be fully drained.” His crow’s feet, they branched out as he emphasized certain syllables. He said this as if this was an everyday occurrence, as if he saw attempted suicides all the time.
A cop, the one with shaggier hair of the two, glanced at the doctor’s clipboard, squinting at the small lettering. The other, staring through me, stood statue still with his eyebrows lowered. He was thinking, or waiting his turn to speak, one of the two, or both. Dropping the clipboard down toward his waist, cupping it in his hand, Dr. Wynn said, “I recommend getting some rest. Your body blah! blah! blah! gone through some blah! blah! blah! and you’ll need some time to recover. And then we’ll have—”
The toll on my body caused me to almost crash out. My attention drifted with quick ambition with every other word the doctor said. I could hear the voices in the room, consulting each other, but the dialogue was incomprehensible. It was as if I was sitting next to Charlie Brown in school. At this stage, I wasn’t even sure it was happening.
Then, my head fell backward, my mind going blank.
Before I went under, the room spun out of focus. The countries on the ceiling tiles began to swirl, spinning around in a clockwise motion until they transformed into something else. Slowly, the shadow creatures came out of hiding, taking their positions as the hand sanitizer and drawer handle. My eyes wandered, attempting to escape their reach.
The voice of Dr. Wynn dissolving, I fell into a deep sleep.

S. H. Love writes mysteries and thrillers. S. H. Love is the psuedonym
of a critically acclaimed author.
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Don’t Call Me Cupcake Blog Tour: Book Review

DON’T CALL ME CUPCAKE
The Holloway Girls #1
by Tara Sheets
Genre: Supernatural Romance

Synopsis

Most families have a favorite recipe or two, handed down through generations. The Holloway women are a little different. Emma Holloway, like her grandmother before her, bakes wishes into her delicious cupcakes, granting the recipient comfort, sweet dreams, or any number of good things. It’s a strange gift, but it brings only happiness. Until gorgeous, smooth-talking newcomer Hunter Kane strolls into her shop, Fairy Cakes—and Emma makes the mistake of selling him not one, but three Sweet Success cupcakes.

Hunter, it turns out, is opening a fancy new restaurant and bakery right on the waterfront—Emma’s competition. To make matters worse, the town committee has decided to split the upcoming summer festival contract between the two, forcing Emma to work with her nemesis. But she can’t afford to split her profits. The solution: create a recipe that will make Hunter leave town permanently.

The Holloway charms are powerful. But there are other kinds of magic in the world—like red-hot first kisses, secret glances, and the feeling that comes with falling truly, madly, inconveniently
in love . . .

Add to Goodreads
Amazon * Apple * B&N * Google * Kobo

Review

I really enjoyed reading this romance novel. There were so many things that I loved about this book, the characters, the small town setting, the heartwarming romance and obviously the cupcake magic.

From the very first page, the author draws you into the world of Emma who is has a gift using which she can make magic cupcakes. I loved how the story progressed through hate then love, and in the middle some self realization, heartfelt talks and some magic.

Don’t Call Me Cupcake was like every other love story but was still different, it holds some really nice surprises for the reader. The whole magic angle adds something different to an all too common enemies to lovers story.

I just feel that this book could have been a bit shorter, because at some parts I felt it dragged on unnecessarily. But still Don’t Call Me Cupcake was a really nice read and I would love to recommend this book all romance readers out there.

LIFE AT 17 RATING

🎐🎐🎐🎐

(4 out of 5 stars)

About the Author

Tara Sheets is an award-winning author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. Her debut novel, Don’t Call Me Cupcake, won the 2016 Golden Heart® award sponsored by Romance Writers of America. Tara began her career as an author in the Pacific Northwest, inspired by the rain and the misty mountains and the rivers of Starbucks coffee. She now lives in the warm, wonderful South where she can stand outside with no coat on, and she finds that pretty inspiring too. When not writing, Tara enjoys life with her book-loving family and a book-eating dog named Merlin.

Author Links
Website: https://tarasheets.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraSheetsBooks/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tara_sheets
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tarasheets/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tarasheets3/
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/tara-sheets
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tara-Sheets/e/B078BRTFVZ
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17082616.Tara_Sheets

Giveaway

$10 Amazon, ebook

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The Forgotten Blog Tour: Book Review #lovebooksgroup

THE FORGOTTEN

By J.V. Baptie

Genre: Crime Fiction

Synopsis

What if everything was a lie?
Newly-promoted but not welcome in CID, Detective Sergeant Helen Carter is tasked with investigating a murder in an old abandoned picture house. The case takes a chilling turn when the business card of an ex-cop is found at the scene.
Helen must piece together the case before the bodies mount up around her, and before the killer strikes closer to home…

Delve into the underworld of Scotland’s capital city in this fast-paced thriller!

Goodreads|Amazon

Review

I quite enjoyed reading this novel. It has been a long time since I read a police procedural, so I was really looking forward to reading this novel and I am so happy The Forgotten didn’t disappoint me.

I would say the book actually gripped me after the third body was found, before that it had my attention but the book wasn’t what I would say gripping… But after the third body was found this book actually became an absolute page turner. New twists and turns came hurling at me from all directions and I was always at the edge of my seat, till the very climax scene.

Another thing that I loved about this book was Helen’s character. She was such strong, brave and determined woman.

I would say I am a wee bit dissatisfied with the part before the third body was discovered. I wished that it had more twists and turns and it had been a little more gripping. Other than this I don’t have any complains with the book and I would love to recommend this book to all Crime fiction readers out there.

LIFE AT 17 RATING

🎐🎐🎐🎐

(4 out of 5 stars)

Praise for The Forgotten

“A genuine page turner.” Bestselling author, Alex Gray
“Fast-paced and gritty Tartan Noir. A Brilliant Debut.” Bestselling author, Frances Di Plino
“Fans of Rebus will love this.” Thriller author, E.A Clark.
“Memorable and smart.” Tom Ward, author

About the Author

J.V. Baptie graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2017 with an MA in Creative Writing. When not writing, she is also an actress and has appeared in a
variety of children’s shows and stage plays. You can find out more about her at jvbaptie.com on Twitter @jvbaptie and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJVBaptie/

Stolen Obsession Blog Tour: Book Review

STOLEN OBSESSION
By Marlene Bell
Genre: Romantic Mystery

Synopsis

PEOPLE DIE, BUT LEGENDS LIVE ON.
Manhattan antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury dreams of a quiet life on the family farm among the sheep she loves, when her best friend is murdered. The police assume robbery is the motive because her friend’s expensive bracelet is missing. But the 500-year-old artifact is rumored to carry an ancient curse, one that unleashes evil upon any who dare wear the jewelry created for the Persian royal family—and Annalisse believes her friend is the latest victim.
Weeks later, Annalisse sees a necklace matching the stolen bracelet at a gallery opening. Convinced the necklace is part of the deadly collection, Annalisse begs the gallery’s owner to destroy the piece, but her pleas are ignored— despite the unnatural death that occurs during the opening. With two victims linked to the jewelry, Annalisse is certain she must act.
Desperate to keep the gallery owner safe, Annalisse reluctantly enlists the owner’s son to help—even though she’s afraid he’ll break her heart. Wealthy and devastatingly handsome, with a string of bereft women in his wake, Greek playboy Alec Zavos dismisses Annalisse’s concerns—until his parents are ripped from the Zavos family yacht during their ocean voyage near Crete.
Annalisse and Alec race across two oceans to save his mother, feared dead or kidnapped. As time lapses, the killer switches mode and closes in on the man who’s meant for Annalisse with the lifestyle she wants most.
But when it’s her turn as the hunted, will she choose to save Alec and his mother, or sacrifice everything to save herself?

Review

Stolen Obsession is filled with suspense. Right from the moment Harry was killed, this book takes you deeper and deeper into the mystery with twists and turns and some very unexpected incidents.

Another thing that goes side by side with the mystery is Alec and Annalisse romance. I loved reading about their love story. Though I am some who complains about love story taking away the spotlight from mystery, but in this nothing of that sort happened. Both mystery and romance went side by side, never trying to take away the spotlight from the other.

Though I loved reading this book but I had a problem with this book too. I don’t know in some places I just failed to understand certain things, like there were some jokes that went totally over my head and there were few other things that I think I would have a liked a bit more clarity about.

Even though I had the problem above, but still I really enjoyed reading this novel and would love to recommend this book to all romantic suspense readers out there.

LIFE AT 17 RATING

🎐🎐🎐🎐

(4 out of 5 stars)

About the Author

Marlene M Bell is an acclaimed artist and photographer as well as a writer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of publications such as,Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News. Ewephoric, her mail order venture, began in 1985 out of a desire for realistic sheep stationery. A color catalog of non-fiction books and sheep-related gifts may be requested at http://www.marlenembell.com orwww.texassheep.com.

Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside on a wooded ranch in East Texas with their 50 head of Horned Dorset sheep, a lovable Maremma guard dog named, Tia, and 3 spoiled cats who rule the household.
On Facebook: fb.me/marlenembell
On Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ewephoric

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0794B81QG
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38189444-stolen-obsession

Excerpt

Chapter Ten

On the short drive past boutiques filled with weekend shoppers to her place on Bank Street, Alec’s behavior froze Annalisse to the leather upholstery. When he’d bothered to talk, curt and formal blasted her side of the car, making her uncomfortable the entire trip. She couldn’t blame him. He’d been very kind to her since the gallery party and Harry’s death, and she’d offered him ingratitude in return. A sheet of solid ice separated them rather than the beautiful wooden console at her left. In fact, the entire dashboard of Alec’s distinctive car was polished to a shiny gloss, not unlike the deck on a fancy boat. The convertible had to be worth more than her annual salary—ex-salary.
“How long should we stare at the dash?” Alec leaned over, squinting into the direct sun.
“Honestly, I’ve had some body language training, and yours is a doozie.”
Alec’s expression hardened and his eyes flashed. “What happened back there?”
“When?”
“You choose.”
“You heard everything I told Mooney. Do I have to regurgitate it again?”
He shook his head. “Help me out, here. I’m trying to understand what I’ve done.” Alec squeezed the steering wheel, his frustration evident. “I feel like you’re letting everyone in but me.”
“Chase is family. We’ve been a team for a long time.”
“If you’d been—”
“It’s hot, and I’m hungry. Come inside and help me eat all this pastrami before it turns.”
He huffed disappointment and looked away.
“I’m offering an olive branch. Let’s eat, then we’ll talk.” She batted her lashes flirtatiously. “Promise.”
She turned to open her door and he touched her arm.
“Hold on.” Alec leapt out of the driver’s seat and bounded over the hood in one giant vault to the passenger side.
He opened her door and she slid around and made as gracious an exit she could from a car whose frame sat six inches from the asphalt.
“Give me your key.” He held out his hand in a way that suggested he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
She dug into her zipper compartment and gave him the fob, house key extended.
With a gentle nudge, Alec guided her up the steps.
She flinched from his touch but, at the same time, felt somewhat grateful for the caring gesture after what she’d been through with Peter.
He turned the knob before inserting the key.
The door gave way.
“Don’t you lock up before you leave?”
“I’m sure Chase did.”
“Ladies first.”
The door swung in but caught midway on an overturned chair.
“What happened?” Annalisse felt lightheaded. She caught her toe on the threshold, and unbalanced by the tote on her shoulder, fell against the jamb, her funny bone taking the brunt.
“Ouch.” She cupped her elbow while the pain dissipated. “Who’d do this in daylight?” She scanned the room. “All my stuff.”
“Stay outside while I check the house out, but if you won’t, stick close.”
If someone had taken a high velocity fan to the room it would’ve been an improvement. Following Alec, she picked her way over magazines and binders scattered over the hardwood. Nothing was in its rightful place.
He reached back for her, his vision still trained ahead. “Stay close.” Alec locked his fingers with hers.
“My cat! Boris! Here, kitty. Alec, what if something’s happened to him? Boris! Please be hiding somewhere.” She left Alec’s side to close the front door and swallowed back tears. Her faithful little roommate had been a rescued stray. He’d shown up at the farm as a few week-old kitten, thin and hungry. A pile of trembling orange fur who’d nestled into her palm, his golden eyes unsure of her. She forced back the fear of losing him, too.
Tiptoeing around books and papers, she surveyed the damage from kitchen to living area and went back to Alec. She took his warm hand and a shiver fluttered through her body. Home invasions happened to other people. She found no logic in the break in unless the act was a random burglary.
“I’d better check for anything stolen.”
“No.” He turned to her, his Adam’s apple working his throat. He stared at her as if he were trying to read her innermost thoughts.
Neither of them spoke.
Annalisse was certain Alec could hear the banging in her chest, or maybe it was his heart hammering her ears.
Most of her paintings were ripped from the walls, twisted in broken frames, lying helter-skelter. Chunks of white plaster at the missing nail heads and hangers marked their places. Every kitchen cupboard and drawer was slid to the stops or spilled on the tile. Pots, skillets, tableware, canned goods, junk drawer, and glassware—her favorite set of iced tea glasses were among the broken and injured. Not the work of a typical rob-and-run burglar, but the handiwork of a creature who preyed on destruction of the psyche.
“Why the demolition? What were they after?” Annalisse looked over at her pristine desk—empty. “My life was on that computer, dammit.”
Alec broke eye contact, then dropped her hand. “Yeah, but you were gone. Stuff can be replaced. I’d better check the rest of the house myself.” He moved deliberately toward the staircase.
Annalisse set her purse down into the flipped over cushions on the couch, repositioned them, and stepped through what used to be neat stacks, years of gallery research. A groan passed her lips when she walked to the desk marred with new scratches, bereft of her monitor and tower hard drive. She looked around the room for her laptop; it, too, was missing.
Cursing under her breath, she saw her prized possession, a two-foot bronze statue of a shepherdess with a pair of sheep grazing near her feet, lying on its side next to a toppled plant stand. An expensive work of art from Florence she’d had no business buying, but she couldn’t resist. When Generosa had called from Italy describing it, Annalisse had to have it. Everyone who knew her well understood her love for sheep. Even if she’d declined Generosa’s offer to bring it back for her, she’d felt certain the bronze would end up in her hands eventually.
Alec waited by the stairs and whispered, “Your bedroom up there?” He pointed upstairs.
She nodded, lifted the mahogany stand upright and, with both hands, replaced the hefty bronze to its rightful place next to the desk. Close enough to admire its detail while she worked. “Wait for me. I need to see what’s missing upstairs.”
Standing at the oak banister, he shook his head.
“No. You’ll be safer down there. I won’t be long, and I’ll look for your cat while I’m up there.”
“Be careful.”
Boris had to be scared out of his mind. She hoped he’d escaped to his hiding place in the closet.
Whoever destroyed her home had acted with malice. They had her personal data and internet search history, where she shopped online, email correspondence as well as business contacts. A privacy breach she couldn’t afford. Compiling a list of possible suspects in her head, she felt so violated, even more so than by what had happened with Peter. Names and faces blurred together. With fingertips pressed at her temples, she willed the jackhammers in her head to stop.
Raising her arms, as if a make-believe thief told her to, she said, “I give up. I may as well set a match to this place, for all the good it’s going to do me now.”
Alec uttered a sentence upstairs she couldn’t make out.
“Alec, did you find Boris?”
The sound of shuffling filtered downstairs then a thump.
“Alec, what fell?” She looked up at an empty landing. The unnatural silence pricked the hairs straight out on her neck. “Answer me.”
A mechanical voice broke the silence. “Don’t move.”
She stopped breathing and froze, afraid to look up, but then looked anyway.
A figure in a brownish ski mask and desert camouflage occupied the top of the staircase. Holding Alec. He—or she—held him at gunpoint. One arm cradled Alec’s waist and a black pistol so close to Alec’s right ear, his curls hid part of the barrel.
She’d expected Alec’s expression to be as wild as hers must have been, but he appeared strangely calm.
“I’m all right, Annalisse.”
“Shut up.” The voice was distorted with some kind of voice altering mechanism. Deep tones, similar to a bumblebee in distress.
The masked person let go of Alec long enough to backhand him across the mouth.
The intruder sure smacked like a man.
Annalisse covered her mouth in horror. Her blood boiled as she watched the two men descending the stairs side by side. She was several feet from her pistol at the bottom of her purse, and the man who held Alec had to be the same man who’d turned over everything in her home. Where were her computers? Did he have a partner? Soon, he’d find what he wanted. She suspected that since the opening, or earlier, either she or Alec had been surveilled.
The buzzing voice came again, and an evil glint shone through the eyeholes in the mask. “You run, he dies. Get into kitchen. Let’s have a little zakuski, malysh.”
A breath caught in her lungs. They were Russian terms she understood.
She’d nearly become a main course earlier in the day. Damned if she would stand back and play appetizer to another creep.

Father Figure Blog Tour: Book Review

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FATHER FIGURE

By James J.Cudney

Publication Date: April 2, 2018

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Drama

Between the fast-paced New York City, a rural Mississippi town, and a charming Pennsylvania college campus filled with secrets, two young girls learn the consequences of growing up too quickly. Struggling to survive in a claustrophobic, unforgiving world, they embark on a journey to overcome all the pain, disappointment, and horror of their experiences.

Amalia Graeme, abused by her mother for most of her life, longs to escape her desolate hometown, connect with others, and fall in love. Contemplating an impending loss of innocence and conflicting feelings between her boyfriend and the dangerous attraction she’s developed for an older man, Amalia suffers devastating, life-altering tragedies. No matter where she turns, someone or something always steals her hope of finding happiness, protection, and love.

Brianna Porter, a sassy yet angst-ridden teenager raised in New York City, yearns to determine her life’s true purpose, conquer her fear of abandonment, and interpret an intimidating desire for her best friend, Shanelle. All the confusion stems from desperately needing to find the father whom her mother refuses to reveal, but an unexpected discovery of a journal leads Brianna to a shocking revelation about her missing parent. Unfortunately, by casting the net to find him, she’s unleashed a tragic history that was meant to stay buried and might now completely change everyone’s futures.

Through alternating chapters set two decades apart, each girl’s plight unfolds revealing the parallels between their lives and the subsequent collision that is bound to happen. In an emotional story filled with mystery, romance, and suspense, fate intervenes forcing someone to make a dreadful decision that will leave permanent scars.

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Review

Father Figure gripped me right from that very first page when a glimpse of a future event was shown. With each passing page the story became more and more captivating, pulling me right into the worlds of the two girls, two worlds too different yet somewhat similar.

This book made me feel every possible emotion, sometimes I felt happy, sometimes I felt sad, sometimes I felt angry, sometimes I felt confused. It has been such a long time since any book made me feel so many emotions.

I was able to connect with the characters so well. More often than none I found myself comparing their emotions with emotions I had faced. Obviously I didn’t have a abusive mother or didn’t have secrets kept from me…. But still I was able to connect with them so well.

This whole book is filled with suspense and so many, so many twists and turns. From the very first page to the end, with every turn of a couple of pages there was a new twist ready to strike me and blow my mind off.

Father Figure kept me at the edge of my seat throughout, with its mystery, and with the whirlwind of emotions that the two 18 yr old characters faced. I think everyone should go and give this book a read…. This book is just too awesome….

LIFE AT 17 RATING

🎐🎐🎐🎐🔸

(4.5 stars out of 5)

(Don’t ask me why I didn’t give the rest 0.5 stars, I don’t know….)

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Excerpt

(Brianna’s Complicated Feelings)

Brianna and Shanelle have been best friends for years, but something more is brewing and Brianna doesn’t know how to handle it. She’s debating whether to sleep with her boyfriend after prom, but finds herself drawn back to a gift.

– James J. Cudney

“What are we gonna do about Doug?” Shanelle grabbed Brianna’s wrist, led her to the bathroom, and situated her on the toilet seat. She opened one of the boxes from the heaviest bag and considered what to do with a few curlers. “He’s gonna push you to sleep with him. Maybe I should show up to protect you. I could taser him if he does anything wrong.” Shanelle rifled through her cosmetics bag pulling out three types of eyeliner. “Choose.”

“Does it matter?”

“If I taser him? Probably not, though that asshole may get turned on. Hell, I might enjoy watching him piss himself from the electric shock.” She freakishly shook her body and feigned surprise after pretending to become incontinent.

“Not Doug, the eyeliner.” Brianna held up the makeup clueless about which color to select. She’d worn very little of her own following in her mother’s footsteps. Less is more is a motto often chanted around their apartment.

“Oh, my lovely little Bree. We’ll make a woman out of you someday.” Shanelle chose the thickest one and applied a generous line around Brianna’s eyes. “I’m jealous of these high cheekbones. They so perfectly shape your face.”

“Umm, thanks.” Brianna, often incapable of accepting praise, glanced at the mirror, then updated Shanelle about the information she discovered on Lenny’s mail in the jazz club. “Maybe I’ve got a new lead, huh?”

“It’s possible. That would be a big help.” Shanelle shrugged her shoulders, then excitedly changed the subject. “Ooh, grab the bag on the floor.”

Brianna tried to reach for it but couldn’t without bending forward. Shanelle’s hand slipped and traced a line of dark black liquid across her cheeks. “Bree, you’re such an awkward mess.”

“Just finish, will you?” Brianna grabbed the bag and shook a small blue box with a white bow. “You bought me something from Tiffany’s?”

“Yeah, even though you don’t deserve it.” Shanelle capped the eyeliner and opened a tray of varying shades of blue eyeshadow. “You need a darker, smokier color to highlight your eyes.”

“You shouldn’t have bought me anything after the way I behaved last night.” Brianna pulled the bow off the box and removed the lid. A pair of diamond teardrop earrings caused her to swoon. “They’re beautiful. You really are amazing.”

Available on Amazon and from Creativia

About the Author

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James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter,’ a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com

What do I do outside of writing: I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 500 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, I started the 365 Daily Challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dog has a weekly segment called “Ryder’s Rants” where he complains about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.

A bit of humor: Everything doubles as something else when you live in NYC. For me, it’s the dining room, my favorite space in the apartment, where more than just my cooking is on display! As I look out the windows onto a 12th floor terrace, various parts of nature (trees, bushes, flowers, bugs & animals) inspire me to write. Ryder, my 10-year old shiba inu, usually lays on my feet, growling when I shift positions too many times or when I forget to share my food! Although he’s only 20 pounds, he’s quite strong and pushy. But how else can you pen the best story possible without these things by your side?

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Giveaway

The prize is 1 print copy of Father Figure (Available to North America only)

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For those of you who cannot enter the giveaway because you’re outside of North America, Father Figure will be available later this month on Amazon for only $0.99!!!

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R&R Book Tours

Always Forever Maybe Blog Tour: Spotlight

ALWAYS FOREVER MAYBE
by Anica Mrose Rissi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Synopsis

When Betts meets Aiden at the candy store where she works, their connection is like a sugar rush to the heart. Even before they share a first kiss, Betts already knows the two of them are destined to become an us.

Betts has a bruised, cautious history with love, but she feels safe and empowered in Aiden’s arms. He trusts her with the darkness in his troubled past, and his devotion opens up a new future for Betts just as everything else in her world is changing. With graduation inching closer, Betts and her best friend, Jo, have been sliding slowly apart, and that fissure is blown wide open by Aiden.

Betts has only ever kept one secret from Jo, but suddenly there’s a long list of things she won’t tell her, things Jo wouldn’t understand. Because Jo doesn’t see how good Aiden is for Betts. She finds him needy. Possessive. Controlling.

She’s wrong. With a love like this, nothing else matters.

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Tour Schedule

Follow the tour here: http://fantasticflyingbookclub.blogspot.com/2018/05/tour-schedule-always-forever-maybe-by.html

About The Author

Anica Mrose Rissi grew up on an island off the coast of Maine. After college, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a cheesemonger and book editor. She now writes, fiddles in the electro-country band Owen Lake and the Tragic Loves, and walks with her dog, Arugula, near their home in Princeton, New Jersey. Anica is the author of several books for younger readers, and her essays have been published by The Writer and the New York Times. Always Forever Maybe is her YA debut. Visit her online at anicarissi.com, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @anicarissi.

GIVEAWAY!

• Prize: 1 copy of ALWAYS FOREVER MAYBE
• Starts: 5/29
• Ends: 6/14

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My San Francisco Highlander Blog Tour: Excerpt

My San Francisco Highlander

by Aleigha Siron
Finding My Highlander, #2
Publication Date: August 23, 2017
Genres: Adult, Time Travel, Contemporary, Historical, Scottish, Standalone, Romance

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SYNOPSIS

A love three hundred years in the making — After being knocked out in battle, Angus Cameron wakes in a terrifying new world with flying beasts, horseless carriages, crazy music, and strangely dressed people. Has he gone mad? When Angel Adair discovers a man in 1975’s San Francisco Lands End park dressed in little more than a Scottish kilt, is he just a confused drifter or her dream-lover come to life?

MY SAN FRANCISCO HIGHLANDER PROMO BOOK TRAILER

Excerpt

Rage burned through Brian’s limbs. The flash of sharp-edged knives drew his attention to the men’s hands. One of the ruffians held Angel with one arm wrenched behind her back and a knife at her throat. Something about them clicked his memory, throwing him back to the first day he’d arrived in San Francisco.

He stepped into the room. “Let the lass go. She cannae help ye.” Brian held his hands loosely at his sides, a sharp double-edged sgian dubh tucked behind closed fingers in his right hand.

“Well, lookey what we have here, a fairy in a skirt.” Brain wore his kilt several days a week and Granny had managed to procure a second one for him. It generated no shortage of bold approaches from both men and women when he donned his kilt, but he hated the chaffed, confining feel of modern day pants.

The second man wrapped a chain around his hand and clutched it in a menacing fist. “Give us the drugs, and we might let you watch as we play with this lovely flower. Perhaps we’ll even let you take a turn, if you’re man enough.”

The first man snarled, “Get moving,” he pushed Angel still holding the blade at her throat. All the blood had drained from her face, but she didn’t shriek or faint. What a brave lass.

“I’ll give ye what ye want, just let the lady go.” Brian moved slightly toward the door and closer to the man advancing with Angel in his grasp.

“A lady. De ya hear that, Carl. That’s a laaady you’re hold’en.” His laugh held no note of fear. It was clear they thought they had the upper hand, but Brian had faced worse ruffians than these bullies.

ABOUT ALEIGHA SIRON

My San Francisco Highlander is Aleigha’s second full-length romance novel in her Finding My Highland Series. Now, an Amazon best-selling author of Time-Travel romance, she is working on the third book in her Finding My Highlander Series as well as a collection of romance poems. She’s also working on early character sheets for a Regency Romance series.

After more than twenty-five years writing and delivering management and other training programs, Aleigha Siron turned her writing efforts to fiction and poetry. When not writing, you’ll often find Aleigha walking along the shore with her trusty four-legged companion, Strider. The whoosh of waves across glistening sand and the turbulent swell of the sea at sunset dissolves the noise of the day. If this fails to conjure the muses and stimulate her creative juices, she’ll sip a glass of wine and read.

Aleigha loves all forms of writing, but historical and romance fiction provide a favorite escape, especially those with time-travel themes. A firm believer that everyone secretly yearns for the romance novels’ essential HEA, she knew this was her genre.

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