Thursday teaser: Sugar for Sugar — an excerpt

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Excerpt from Seb Kirby

This week’s excerpt comes from Seb Kirby’s latest novel.

A sound from somewhere far off, getting closer all the time.

I open my eyes. The phone is ringing.

I pick it up and look at the image on the screen.

The bearded man again, the one with the name Colin Tempest next to his photo. Someone I must know. I have to answer.

I take the call.

A male voice. “Issy, I’ve been trying to reach you but you haven’t been answering.”

I can’t concentrate on what he’s saying. I say the only thing that comes to me. “Who are you?”

“Don’t be foolish, Issy. It’s Colin. We need to talk.”

It’s a voice I’ve heard before.

“I can’t talk now.”

He’s insistent. “I can come over. Where are you?”

I look around the room. It doesn’t look familiar. I say the only thing I can. “I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever been in this place before.”

There’s a new note of concern in his voice. “I’ll find a way to help you, to make amends if you just tell me where you are.”

Make amends? So he’s done something to me. He thinks the reason I’m not talking to him is because of that.

“Tell me what you did to me.”

“I’m sorry, Issy. I’m really sorry but he left me no choice. You were the only one I could turn to, the only one who might have convinced him to change his mind.”

“What happened to Mike?”

“You know what happened to him, Issy. He died. A heart attack. You must know that. Why are you trying to pretend that none of this has happened?”

Mike is dead. I must have known that.

Is this the reason for these feelings of guilt I can’t control?

“I’m not pretending.”

He pauses for longer than he should. “The police have been here. What if they start interviewing everyone? It won’t be long before they get round to you and me. Whatever else is said, I need you to promise you won’t reveal our secret. You know it would ruin me and my family.”

I don’t know any secret. Why would he think I did?

“If anyone asks it’s not going to be a problem for me to tell them I don’t know.”

“Thank you, Issy. I knew I could depend on you.”

I stare again at the profile picture of the bearded man.

He wants me to trust him again but I know I can’t.

His voice breaks into my thoughts once more. “Look, Issy. I’ve got to go. Something urgent. Thanks for your help. Thanks for being so understanding. Thanks for everything.”

He closes the line.

I know that what’s been said won’t last long in my mind. I make a note on the phone.

Mike is dead.

Why do I feel so guilty?

Colin behaves like he owes me.

What is Sugar for Sugar?

Did you like this excerpt? Leave a comment.

Issy Cunningham has made a new life for herself but that’s all about to come crashing down. If only she could recall what happened that Valentine’s Eve, she would be able to tell the police what really took place.

But those memories won’t come because there’s too much in the past that troubles her.

How can she set the record straight when her past won’t let her be?

What a great book. It hooked me immediately and I did not want to put it down.—J L Edwards

This book kept me guessing … books are always best when you don’t see things coming!—Dawn

A super read. One of the things I really like about books by Seb Kirby is the obvious attention to detail that he has in his writing, it is quite outstanding.—Susan Hampson, Books From Dusk ‘Til Dawn

If you liked this excerpt, get the whole book from Amazon.

About the author

Seb Kirby was literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More, and the science-fiction thriller, Double Bind.

Visit his

And follow him on Twitter @Seb_Kirby

 

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Thursday teaser: Trojan

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By Alan McDermott

At 3 a.m. precisely, Wahid gave the signal for his men to make their move.

The chemical-weapons storage facility, a huge, one-storey building surrounded by a ten-foot wall made of reinforced concrete, was situated near a village on the outskirts of Homs.

Wahid’s men had been making their way towards the compound for the last four hours, crawling slowly on their bellies while covered with sand-coloured sheets. He had traced their painstaking progress, moving inches at a time to preserve the advantage of a surprise attack. A Syrian military unit was based less than three miles away, giving them minutes to carry out their mission before reinforcements arrived.

Wahid had been sweeping the walls of the compound for hours with his night-vision glasses, but there were no signs of CCTV cameras and no-one had stuck their heads up.

Still, he wasn’t taking any chances.

Seven of his soldiers were now ten feet from the wall, and he watched from 600 yards away as they prepared rappelling ropes with rubber-coated hooks on the end. The first man swung his towards the top of the wall and Wahid saw it come tumbling back down. The man tried again, and this time the hook caught. Three of his people were already halfway up the wall, and he’d heard nothing from inside the facility to suggest they’d been compromised.

He watched as the men disappeared over the wall, then ordered his reserve to move up. His own driver was the first to crank his engine and gun the truck towards the gates. In the darkness, Wahid could see flashes of light dancing off the top of the wall.

By the time he reached the gate, it was already open, with two of his men standing guard. The bodies of four Syrian soldiers lay on the ground. Wahid walked over to one of the dead and removed a plastic card from a chain on the corpse’s waist, then jogged to the glass double doors and swiped it. A click signified that they had entry, and he stepped aside as his men poured into the building.

Gunfire erupted as Wahid’s soldiers pushed forward, then subsided as he entered the building. Three more guards lay dead, leaving another three to contend with. He jogged down the hallway to the junction and looked both ways. The right was clear, and he ordered two men to cover it. To the left, his people were already working to open the door he’d ordered them to look for. He ran to join them just as it burst inwards.

Wahid let the soldiers check the room for guards, then walked inside and looked at the bank of large refrigerated cabinets. Third from the left on the top shelf, he’d been told, and when he looked at the labels, he confirmed that the intelligence his master had paid for was accurate. The cabinet door was locked, so he used the grip of his pistol to shatter the glass and carefully lifted the tray of phials off the shelf. He placed it on a workbench and extracted a leather case from inside his combat jacket.

He’d been instructed to take five phials, no fewer. He stole a look at his watch and saw that it had been two minutes since the first gunshots. The army would have been alerted by now: he had to get his men out of here.

With the small bag now full of glass tubes, Wahid told his men to follow him, and he ran back out into the night.

‘They’re coming,’ his driver told him as he jumped into the passenger seat of the truck. Wahid snatched up the NVGs and saw the army convoy in the distance. He stuck his head out of the window and shouted to his lieutenant. ‘I must get this safely to Karim. You know what to do.’

Without waiting for a response, Wahid told the driver to floor it, and he left the scene trailing a cloud of dust in his wake.

His men would fight until he was well clear of the area, and many of them would die before sunrise. Whatever he was carrying in his small bag, he hoped it was worth the price they would pay tonight.

About Trojan

When MI5 learns that a horrifying new weapon is in enemy hands, agent Andrew Harvey is called in to track it down before it reaches British soil.

The clock is ticking. Andrew and his girlfriend, Sarah, also a secret service operative, have only one lead: a beautiful refugee, desperate not to lose her son. But is she desperate enough to betray everything she believes in? And will she do it in time to help them prevent a terrifying attack?

As Andrew and Sarah race to unravel a convoluted web of subterfuge and exploitation, they discover there is more at stake than even they knew. And somewhere, at the heart of it, lurks a faceless enemy, who is prepared to use everything—and everyone—at his disposal.

About the author

Alan McDermott lives in the south of England,  and is married with beautiful twin daughters. He recently gave up his job of creating critical applications for the NHS to write action thrillers full time.

His debut novel, Gray Justice, was very well received and earned him bestseller status. The next two books in the series — Gray Resurrection and Gray Redemption — were enough to attract the attention of a major publisher, and he has since added Gray RetributionGray Vengeance and Gray Salvation to the list.  Alan’s seventh title, Trojan, released in 2017, is a spinoff featuring MI5 agent Andrew Harvey.

Alan can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page     |     Amazon Author Page     |    Facebook     |    Twitter

|  Website and blog  |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Thursday teaser: The Wife Line

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By Scott Bury

“Drink more wine,” a woman in a white micro-dress said to the nervous blond. “Try to relax.” She also spoke Czech, and had short red hair. Irina was glad she had not opted to dye her own hair. She touched the glass of wine in her hand to her lips, barely tasting it. Thin and sour. She tried to remember the last time she had eaten. Pavel was generous with pills and bad wine, but not so much with food. 

“Pavel said this would be a high-class party. We’re supposed to meet men who could be our husbands,” said the blond. 

Little fool, Irina thought. She took another tiny sip of wine. Stay sober tonight, she reminded herself. “I don’t think these men will be interested in wives,” she said in Ukrainian.  

“The husband option ended last week,” said the redhead, in Czech. “You had one month to become a mail-order bride. Tonight, men are going to select from us to be mistresses.” 

The blond girl’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open. “You had better smarten up and catch one of the men who are coming here tonight,” the redhead continued. “Because if you don’t, the next step is porn.” 

Irina stepped between them. “Stop it,” she said, voice flat. “You’re upsetting her more.” 

“Do you think lying will help her?” the redhead retorted in flawless Ukrainian. “It’s time she faced reality.”

Pavel came in then, short but powerful looking. His hair had been cut to stubble over his scalp, making him look even more dangerous than before. He carried two open bottles of his awful wine and started refilling glasses. “Speak English, ladies!” he boomed. “You are in England now.” He stopped in front of the redhead and refilled her glass. “Why are you not drinking? This is a party,” he said to Irina.” He turned to fill the blond’s glass. She was on the edge of tears. “If you cry I will break your arm.”

The blond girl impressed Irina by sniffling only once, turning her mouth into something like a smile and then drinking half her wine without coughing. Pavel turned to the redhead. “Make trouble again and I will kill you.” 

He left the room and as the door swung shut, Irina heard him booming a greeting. His guests had begun to arrive. 

The blond stepped closer to Irina. “Is she right?” she said in English.  

Irina stepped back and drank her own wine, suppressing a shudder. She wished Pavel had given her some pills instead. “It’s time to grow up, sweetie. Smile and be nice, and maybe you’ll get a man who isn’t too bad.”  

Pavel threw the door open again and shouted “Come in, ladies!” 

Twenty thin, beautiful young women in cheap but revealing party dresses filed from the hallway into the party room filled with middle-aged, fat and bald men in expensive suits. Every one of them had a drink in his hand. They cheered and ogled the women. At each corner of the room was one of Pavel’s men: young, muscular and grim, wearing cheap suits that did a poor job of concealing their guns.

Irina went in last. When she reached the doorway, she heard a low voice beside her say, in American-accented English, “Don’t you want to get out of this?” 

She turned, shocked. The door to the front room closed and in front of her stood a tall young man. There was no way he was one of Pavel’s “gentlemen”—he was far too young, and he wore tattered, cheap blue jeans and a t-shirt with a picture of a cat on it. His blond hair hung past his shoulders as if he had not brushed it in a week and yellow stubble softened his hard jawline. 

She just looked for a few moments, wondering where he had come from. “Where else would I go?” 

“Back home,” said the blond man.

Irina snorted through her nose. “Back to what? Lousy job, good-for-nothing boyfriend, drunk parents, little apartment? Besides, Pavel would find me and kill me.”

“Not if all of you get out of here.” He looked at the door. “We don’t have much time. You’re the smartest one here. When the fire starts, get the girls out. Hide. There are empty buildings used by squatters two blocks west of here.” He pressed a piece of paper into her hand. “Memorize this phone number. It’s a government agency that helps trafficked women. Tell them Van sent you. Be ready to leave in five minutes.”

“What will happen in five minutes?”

“The security alarms will go off and all the doors will unlock because of a gas leak and fire.” 

“How will that happen?”

“I’ll make it happen.”

The door swung open again. “There you are!” Pavel shouted in Russian. She turned toward the mysterious blond man, but where he had stood was only empty space.

About The Wife Line

Human traffickers are selling young women from eastern Europe as sex slaves and killing them when they become inconvenient. Sydney Rye’s job is only to protect her client, until a mysterious, aggravating and irresistible young crusader pulls her and Blue on a far more dangerous path: taking down the whole slaving ring.

If you like Emily Kimelman’s Sydney Rye series featuring a strong female character, her canine best friend, Blue, tons of action and a dash of sex, you won’t be able to put The Wife Line down.

Start following Sydney, Blue and Van across the seamiest part of Europe right now.

About the author

Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has written in the Lei Crime (Torn Roots, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, Dead Man Lying, Echoes), Jet (Jet: Stealth) and Sydney Rye (The Wife Line, The Three-Way) Kindle Worlds.

His latest work is the Eastern Front trilogy: Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War.

Get to know Scott from his:

And follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

 

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Thursday teaser: Wired Dark

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Book 4 in the Paradise Crime series launches today!

By Toby Neal

 

Tech security specialist Sophie Ang walked through the velvet-dark night, patrolling a beachfront property in Wailea on Maui. She found comfort in the familiar weight of her Glock on one hip as her hand rested on it, but she kept her arms loose, ready for action, as she scanned the area. Rocker Shank Miller’s estate was as protected as Sophie and her Security Solutions partner, Jake Dunn, could make it—but something had set off one of the property’s perimeter motion detectors, and it was Sophie’s turn to check out the disturbance.

The hammered pewter gleam of moonlight reflected off a great swath of beach and rendered Miller’s manicured lawn in shades of gray, casting ornamental plantings into black shadow. Natural stone pavers, set into the grass, made an easy route around the clustered ferns, flowering trees, and birds of paradise that ringed the grounds.

Jake had wanted to cut all the plantings way back to improve visibility and monitoring, but Miller had refused. “I didn’t spend ten million on this getaway spot so I could hide out inside a cement bunker with no view,” the rock star had said. “I come here to relax. Growing green stuff helps me relax, and so does my view. Do the best you can with those challenges, but I won’t lose either.”

Her partner never did anything by half measures, and he took Shank Miller’s safety more seriously than the man did himself. Jake had supervised the installation of a Plexiglas wall to preserve that view, a bulletproof, impenetrable and almost invisible barrier on Sophie’s left.

Sophie headed toward the corner closest to the beach where the alarm had sounded. Motion detectors, buried and almost invisible in the plantings, created frequent disturbances for their team, and Sophie was still getting used to being part of that team.

Jake took up a lot of personal space. Sometimes he made it hard for her to breathe, and it was that need for space that had driven Sophie to ask for a guest room inside the main house so that they weren’t both occupying the small cottage that had become the team’s security headquarters. The computer monitoring station had been moved from the main house out there too, and Jake stayed out there with their two backup operatives, Jesse Kanaka and Ronnie Fellowes.

Sophie reached the corner of the grounds where the alarm had gone off. Jake had wanted to put in lights that responded to the motion detectors, but Shank had put his boot-clad foot down again. “I can’t have this place lit up like a stadium every time a gecko runs across the freakin’ fence.”

That meant that the corner Sophie approached, hidden on the beach side by a clump of native bushes, was inky-dark. Sophie pulled out a powerful flashlight and shone it over the area. Illumination played over the smooth grass and shadowy foliage.

Nothing. Probably just a gecko, one of those ubiquitous Hawaiian lizards that hunted insects at night.

Sophie was moving on when the beam caught a flash of color. She turned and lit up the item.

Lying beneath a cluster of bird of paradise were a plastic bride and groom, the toys rubber-banded together, wrapped in each other’s arms.

Sophie scanned for movement along the bushes of the public beach for any sign of who might have thrown the dolls into the compound, but the area was deserted.

Nothing to see but the gleam of the moon on the ocean, nothing to hear but the sound of the surf and the rustle of a gentle night wind in the palm trees overhead.

Sophie reached into her pocket and removed a small plastic bag. She used it to pick up the figures, shining the light over a Barbie and Ken doll. The Barbie was dressed in a wedding gown, her long blonde hair braided, a veil over her face. The groom’s molded plastic hair had been colored over with Sharpie, and squiggles of black ink trailed down inside the doll’s tuxedo, representing Shank Miller’s long dark locks—and the male doll’s right hand, Miller’s guitar hand, had been sawed off.

About Wired Dark

Paradise Crime, Book 4

Paradise can’t contain a thirst for revenge.

Tech security specialist Sophie Ang returns to Maui, working alongside dynamic partner Jake Dunn to solve a series of bizarre and escalating threats against a rocker with a beach mansion. But soon, catching a crazed stalker becomes the least of Sophie’s problems: a deadly enemy is hell-bent to take her down along with anyone she cares about. Sophie’s very identity is tested as she grapples with issues of conscience and survival in a struggle that takes her to the edge of heartbreak, and beyond.

About the author

Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, the islands have been home for the last fifteen years.

Toby is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography, and hiking.

 Visit her on:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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Thursday teaser: The Complete Mailing List Toolkit

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By Barb Drozdowich

Welcome to The Complete Mailing List Toolkit part of an ongoing series of author “how-to” books, which is designed to help you navigate the technical issues of self-publishing. This box set specifically focuses on how to create optimized reader newsletters, how to grow your mailing list, how to ensure your newsletter arrives in inboxes and how to master email marketing services such as MailChimp.

I will use the word “communication” a lot in this box set. I feel to be successfully engaged with your audience, you must communicate with them, not simply bombard them with email and social media posts. Whereas many experts focus on simply gaining subscribers, I argue that this is too narrow of a focus.

Why this book?

Two reasons:

  1. This book is well researched and pulls information from many different schools of thought, and
  2. I take a holistic view of communicating with readers.

Initially, my intention with this box set was to collect information from a wide variety of sources and condense it into a neat and easy-to-understand package for you. However, as I was researching, my opinion changed. I found that much of the information available online and in various webinars seemed to miss the boat in terms of accuracy, while others just seemed fixated on adding people to a mailing list like hoarders would add one more item to a collection. They weren’t looking at their readers as individuals, nor were they treating them as such.

I wanted to create something more “bigpicture-ish” (is that a word?)—that looks at all aspects and all facets,of communicating with readers using newsletters. Hence the box set. For authors who just want to attack one part of this puzzle, the books are available individually, but my wish is that they are all read together.

I come from a background of technical training and while I’m certainly comfortable with technology. I tend to be holistic in my view. I want to break subjects down into manageable sections, and I don’t want to skip topics because they are difficult to explain. I feel that I haven’t done my job unless I can explain complicated things and make them relevant to you. I’m holistic in terms of looking at one subject within a larger context.

In terms of communicating with readers, I don’t focus on only one part of the puzzle in this box set. I want you to understand why I suggest using shorter subject lines for a newsletter. I want you to understand why entertaining readers, is as important as communicating with them. I want you to understand why it is necessary to use an Email Marketing System right from the get go to communicate with readers. I want you to understand how to work within the laws that govern your actions when you communicate with readers. I want to explain why the technical aspects that many overlook are really important to success in your endeavors.

Most importantly, I want you to understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all methods of communication. The way you communicate with a teenager isn’t the way you would communicate with a senior. The material that fans of romance are interested in is not likely to be the same as fans of horror. I want you to learn what your audience wants, not take the advice of an expert without thinking about it and without testing it out. I want you to learn to talk WITH your audience, not AT your audience. I want you to see your readers as more than a wallet.

Seems like I have a huge objective! We are going to break the subject of communicating with readers down into four books. In the first book we are going to address the topic of gathering the names of interested readers. We’re going to view it as something other than hoarding.

Next we’ll learn to use MailChimp really well. There are many Email Marketing Services, but MailChimp is the most popular with folks just starting out. If you have already chosen a different service, note that the lessons in this section are transferable to other services.

In the third book we’re going to talk about making sure that our newsletters actually end up in the inbox of our readers. This book will be fairly technical, but you’ll have a good understanding of why best practices are what they are.

Finally, in the last book, we’re going to talk about how to create really great content that is appropriate for our readers. We’ll bring in some science, some psychology, and some good old-fashioned marketing to help you form a plan for going forward.

I guess it is too soon to say that I’ve really enjoyed writing these books … but I hope that you appreciate my efforts and learn to be better communicators with your readers!

About The Complete Mailing List Toolkit

Is a broken mailing list holding back your author career? Discover how to transform your marketing and attract dedicated readers.

Does emailing your subscribers feel like shouting into the void? Are you struggling to come up with newsletter ideas that resonate with readers? Author consultant Barb Drozdowich has spent decades teaching writers how to navigate the technological pitfalls of publishing. Now, she’s here to help you master your mailing list.

The Complete Mailing List Toolkit provides a holistic approach to reader engagement through the power of direct communication. This bundle of four essential books provides strategies for list building and step-by-step guidelines for creating content that turns readers into lifelong fans. Through a series of easy-to-follow explanations, you’ll finally discover how to optimize your use of MailChimp and revolutionize your author platform.

In The Complete Mailing List Toolkit, you’ll discover:

  • How to create attractive newsletters your readers will eagerly anticipate
  • How to troubleshoot deliverability issues so you can reach more readers
  • How to understand and measure open and click rates to gauge your success
  • How to tailor your message to meet the needs of your unique audience
  • Why quality engagement matters more than subscriber quantity, and much, much more!

The Complete Mailing List Toolkit is your how-to guide for mastering email outreach and connecting with more fans. If you like practical solutions, down-to-earth explanations, and empowering guidance from an industry expert, then you’ll love Barb Drozdowich’s career-changing box set.

Find it on Amazon.

About the author

Social Media and WordPress Consultant Barb Drozdowich has taught in colleges, universities and in the banking industry. More recently, she brings her 15+ years of teaching experience and a deep love of books to help authors develop the social media platform needed to succeed in today’s fast evolving publishing world. She delights in taking technical subjects and making them understandable by the average person. She owns Bakerview Consulting and manages the popular blog, Sugarbeat’s Books, where she talks about Romance novels.

She is the author of 15 books, over 45 YouTube videos and an online WordPress course, all focused on helping authors and bloggers. Barb lives in the mountains of British Columbia with her family.

She can be found on her

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Thursday teaser: A Second Chance with Death

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A short story

By Eden Baylee

The notion that a person might make a pact with Satan is not unheard of. It’s done in exchange for things such as eternal youth, wealth, or power. And the price? Selling one’s soul, of course.

Is this scary? Not to me. Personally, I’d never bargain with the devil. I go after what I want in this life guided by my own moral compass, not by fear of where my soul will end up in the afterlife.

I’m a pragmatist and an optimist. I’m not afraid to die, nor am I all that concerned with how I die, with one exception, that is, and that’s what brings me to the topic at hand—my conversations with death.

I’ve envisioned my own funeral hundreds of times. My body lying in an open casket—friends and family strolling by to pay their final respects, talking to one another in hushed tones, with  comments that go something like this:

Everything was going her way. What a shame.

I know, what a horrible thing to happen to such a vibrant woman. She was so happy too, actually looks like she still has a smile on her face.

Yeah, but I’d hate to die like that.

Yup, and that’s what brings me to my story about my little chats with Death himself. Yes, Death to me, is male. And as men don’t scare me, death doesn’t scare me either, that is, apart from the exception I alluded to earlier.

I know I have to die sometime, and that with each day, I move closer and closer to my grave, and yet, I fight it. I keep going, I keep being, I keep staving off the inevitable for as long as I can. I know Death will overcome me eventually, but it’s not like I think about him all the time. I’m the optimistic pragmatist, remember?

So why is it then , why is it that when I steal some intimate time, some time to engage in a private act that is so naturally human, why then is Death constantly lurking in the shadows, watching me, snickering, anticipating his nasty turn with me?  If this sounds cryptic, I apologize, perhaps it’s better if I show you what I mean.

Follow me to my bedroom, and you’ll see that he’s already there waiting for me.

I masturbate on a regular basis, so you might say, I have personal chats with Death on a  regular basis too. Unlike what most people think, Death is not cold. He’s hot, very, very hot. I feel his presence in the room as I undress. He lies next to me on the bed, and his heat immediately spreads to my body.

I tell him I’m not afraid of him, and he scoffs. I touch myself in the way that I know turns him on. I feel his face nearby as I shamelessly fondle my breasts, squeezing my nipples till they jut out and practically poke him in the eye.

About “A Second Chance with Death”

This story is included in Eden Baylee’s collection, Hot Flash. 

Flash fiction is defined as short written pieces. Twenty stories and poems with an erotic bent make up this collection.

The themes of love, lust, adultery, and regret are told in different voices, sometimes with an irreverent sense of humor.

Some pieces will touch you, others will seep into your subconscious. Don’t be surprised if you flinch from the heat.

WARNING: Contains two non-erotic entries. Pun intended.

About author Eden Baylee

Eden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to write and is now a full-time author of multiple genres.

An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often! She loves talking to readers! Connect to her via all her networks.

her BestSelling Reads author page   |     Amazon Author page    |    website   |    Facebook   |   LinkedIn   |    goodreads

And follow her on Twitter @edenbaylee.

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Thursday teaser: Place of Skulls

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By Caleb Pirtle III

AMBROSE LINCOLN watched the ragged edges of night paint the streets below and waited for the dead man to step from the shadows. They were never together, he and the dead man.

They were seldom apart.

They had never spoken.

Their eyes had not yet met.

Death was the only thing they had in common.

Often Lincoln had wondered which of them had really survived and which was destined to roam the earth in search of an empty grave.

The air around him was always thick with the acrid smell of gun smoke when the dead man was near. It burned his throat. His chest hurt. He screamed the first time he saw the man whose chest had been torn away with a hollow point slug from a 9mm handgun, his 9mm handgun. The screaming was no longer necessary.

The past held its secrets in a tightly closed fist, and only on rare occasions did the fingers of another time, another place, loosen their grasp long enough to provide faint glimpses of what was, what might have been, and what did or did not happen on the landscape of a man’s faith or his memory.

On those rare occasions, his beliefs could be shaken, even shattered, and his hopes dimmed or perhaps darkened forever. Only these words echoed from a distant past: he was wounded for our transgressions. And he had no idea who had said them or what they meant or why only those six words had slipped past the ebony wall that separated time between then and now.

Ambrose Lincoln often thought a man was the most content when he was left in the dark, past and present. He might still fear the shadows. He just had no idea what secrets lay enclosed and mostly forgotten within them.

A man was better off, he reasoned, when he didn’t know. Knowledge could condemn him, convict him, and maybe even kill him. He was wounded for our transgressions. He thought he heard a woman’s voice speaking them. But she was so far away, whoever she was, wherever she had been.

Lincoln stood alone in his small, cluttered hotel room with a stranger who had no past, at least not one worth remembering, and a future just as dark and oblique. The stranger was a man he knew well and hardly at all.

The stranger was himself.

Lincoln’s memory programmed everything he saw and heard. Nothing escaped him.

Graveyards were full of men who ignored or overlooked the things, no matter how insignificant, that could get them killed.

Yet his memory had blown a circuit five years earlier, the night he awoke in a churchyard outside the battle-scarred, charcoal ruins of a crumbling little town in Poland – Ratibor he thought it was. He possessed no wallet, no papers, no passport, no name, no memory, no past. All of his yesterdays had become as vacant as the churchyard, his mind as pitch black as the night around him.

Lincoln had closed his eyes and felt himself falling beyond the crevice of sanity and into the black abyss of a deep sleep. He wondered if the grave would be as dark, if he would ever wake up again and why his frostbitten feet hurt worse than his chest.

When morning at last jarred him awake, he lay on a pile of blankets that served as a prison hospital bed and stared for a long time into a cracked mirror that hung crookedly on a green wall across the bare, sterile room.

The confused face of an unfamiliar, broken man with dark, sullen and hollow eyes stared back at him.
It was, he thought, an ugly face, unshaven and scarred, obviously belonging to some pitiful bastard who had been cast into the drunken innards of hades to cut cards with the devil himself. What troubled him most, however, then as now, was the stranger’s face had been his own.

Lincoln closed his eyes and tried to squeeze the blur that was Poland out of his mind. But the biting cold of the snow, the pain that threatened to rupture his lungs with each ragged breath, the smell of gunpowder, the stench of death all lay upon his psyche, as visible to him as the scar on his face.

The scars did not heal.

About Place of Skulls

A man with no known past and no name has been dispatched to the deserts, ghost towns, and underbelly of drug-infested Mexico to uncover a secret that could forever change the scope and teachings of Christianity.

A DEA agent has written that he possesses the unmistakable and undeniable proof that Christ did indeed return to earth again and walk the land of the Aztecs almost fifteen hundred years after his crucifixion on the cross. But has the agent found a relic? An artifact? A long lost manuscript of the written Word? No one knows, and the agent dies before he can smuggle the secret out of an empty grave.

Ambrose Lincoln can’t dig past the charred fragments of his memory, but he must unravel the legend of Quetzalcoatl, the white-skinned, blue-eyed, god figure whose sixteenth century ministry, death, resurrection, and mystical promise to return someday to gather up his people closely parallels the Biblical story of the man called Christ. Is Quetzalcoatl merely a myth, or was he Christ Himself?

Lincoln’s quest to find the answers, he becomes involved in a rogue CIA plot to invade Mexico and wage an unholy war on drugs, financed by operatives working for Hitler’s Germany. He finds himself pursued by the same mysterious assassin who struck down the DEA agent.

Does the artifact actually exist? Who possesses it now? Lincoln battles an unseen and unknown enemy in an effort to survive long enough to discover the truth. If he doesn’t, he knows that death awaits him on the desert sands of a land held sacred for centuries by the mysterious and holy ones.

Place of Skulls is the fourth noir thriller in the Ambrose Lincoln series, which also includes:

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

 

Prior to Place of Skulls, Pirtle’s most recent novel is Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle

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Thursday teaser: The Girl in the Window

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By Renée Pawlish

It was the same thing, five days a week.

Caleb McCormick backed out of his driveway in his Mercedes S-class sedan. The car was black and sleek, and it shimmered in the morning light. The engine rumbled and growled, but it was a comforting sound to me, like the purr of a cat – a big cat. It was the perfect car for the perfect man, the man I looked for each morning.

The Mercedes reached the street,turned, and drove slowly past my house. I slid to the side of the window. I didn’t want him to see me watching. Not again. But I peeked out anyway.

Caleb McCormick. Thirty-three years old, a financial advisor. His dark hair neatly trimmed, one lost dark curl falling down his forehead in a sexy way. I imagined his blue eyes sparkling as he quickly donned a pair of Oakley sunglasses to ward off the early morning April sun.

Gawd, he’s gorgeous.

The Mercedes neared the corner, slowed down and disappeared. I let out a lungful of air I hadn’t realized I was holding in. The last time he’d driven by – yesterday morning a little after seven – he’d glanced my way. He’d seen me watching – not for the first time –and waved, a half-smile on his baby face. I’d lifted a hand in return and smiled back. It was our morning connection, a treasured moment. At least for me.

What did he think when he saw me, each weekday morning at the same time, standing in the window in my pink silk robe, staring out at him? It must not have bothered him – after all, he always drove by and acknowledged me in a seemingly pleasant way.

With a sigh, I moved back in front of the window and gazed down the street, where the Mercedes had just been. Then I glanced in the other direction, toward his house, and frowned. After what had happened with his wife yesterday, I needed to be careful.

About The Girl in the Window

From the bestselling author of the Reed Ferguson mystery series and the Dewey Webb historical mystery series comes an enthralling story of psychological suspense.

Five days a week, Amber watches from her window as her handsome neighbor Caleb leaves for work. In the midst of a bitter divorce, Amber longs for the seemingly perfect life Caleb and his wife Erin have.

“I’d kill for that kind of life,” Amber says.

But would she?

Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl.

What readers are saying:

Girl in the Window echoes psychological thrillers like Girl on the Train, which I am a true fan of. I loved the suspense Ms. Pawlish creates from a slow build to a fast paced shocking ending I didn’t see coming.”—MagnoliaBelle

“I love all Renee’s books but for some reason this was my favorite. I got hooked right from the start and read it all the way through!” — Jean

“If you like suspense with twists and turns in the plot, you will love this book. Did not see the ultimate outcome if this story. You will not be disappointed by this book.” — M.

“I found this psychological suspense novel intriguing and hard to put down before the end.” E.L.

Available now on Amazon.

About the author

Renée Pawlish is the award-winning author of the bestselling Reed Ferguson mystery series, horror bestseller Nephilim Genesis of Evil, The Noah Winters YA Adventure series, middle-grade historical novel This War We’re InTake Five, a short story collection, and The Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within, a nonfiction account of a haunted house investigation.

Renée has been called “a promising new voice to the comic murder mystery genre” and “a powerful storyteller.” Nephilim Genesis of Evil has been compared to Stephen King and Frank Peretti.

Renée was born in California, but has lived most of her life in Colorado.

Find more about Renée and her books on

 

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Thursday teaser: Unsteady Rhythm

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House of Archer Book 2

By Raine Thomas

It took Lily a moment to register the number of people lining both sides of the walkway from the base of the booth’s stairs to the tunnel leading to the green rooms.

Metal barricades had been set up to keep the people back. A couple of the venue’s security team members stood in the walkway to ensure the more eager fans didn’t attempt to scale the barriers. Lily figured the crowd was waiting for the band.

But that couldn’t be right, she thought. This wasn’t the passage leading backstage.

“Lily!” they cried. “Lily, can I have your autograph?”

“Can I get a photo, Lily?”

She tried to mask her disbelief as the fans spotted her and started shouting, holding phones, Sharpies, and all manner of things over the barricades towards her. The noise escalated the longer she stood there next to Barney without moving. She forced herself to smile.

The walkway looked endless. Anxiety had her rubbing a hand over her stomach. She saw Spence filming her from the far end of the walkway, capturing everything for the show.

“I guess I’ll be signing a few autographs?” Lily said to Barney.

She hadn’t meant for it to come out as much like a question as it did. She handed her notebook and pen to Barney.

“That isn’t a good idea,” he said. “There isn’t enough security. The venue team didn’t plan for this.”

“Neither did I,” she replied. “Just a few, okay? I can’t have people posting that I was too stuck-up to sign a couple of autographs.”

His mouth thinned in disapproval before he nodded. He followed only a foot behind her as she did her best to make her smile look more genuine and approached the first fan.

The next fifteen minutes were a blur of signing, taking photos, and shaking hands. The crowd wasn’t shy about getting right in her face, eager for her attention. Her head pounded from the strain of incessant smiling and worrying that someone might try to stab her in the eye with their pen because they thought she was going to break up The Void. It was a relief to discover that everyone seemed genuinely supportive of her and thrilled to meet her. She wasn’t sure that made this any easier.

When they were about halfway down the path, Barney brought a hand to his earpiece and moved his head to talk into the mic at his cuff. Lily glanced at him as she signed another autograph. She secretly hoped his conversation was a reason to get her out of this. She didn’t know how the band did it night after night.

In the next instant, someone hauled her off her feet.

A man’s mouth pressed against hers.

Knowing it couldn’t be Dane, she tried to struggle. Her arms were pinned to her sides. A tongue ran along the seam of her tightly sealed lips, making her want to gag. It felt like the shocking assault lasted forever.

Then she was abruptly released. She fell hard. Her left ankle twisted under her at an awkward angle that sent pain shooting up her calf. Her teeth clacked together as she hit the ground.

About Unsteady Rhythm

A rock band. A reality show. A recipe for disaster.

Falling in love with your best friend is one thing. Falling in love with a rock star is entirely another. Put those two things together, add in airing your new relationship on reality TV, and you’ve got one volatile mix just waiting to explode.

Lily Montgomery’s life has veered in a direction she never expected. She’s struggling to find her balance after her romance with rock star Dane Archer propelled her into the latest headlines. Her dreams of a successful writing career are fading in the bright lights of unwanted fame. She needs to figure out how to help Dane and his band achieve their goals without losing sight of her own.

Easier said than done…

As The Void’s tour continues, Lily faces family drama, relationship trials, dangerously dedicated fans, and zealous paparazzi. Between that and figuring out how to spin the tabloid-worthy relationship developing between the band’s brooding bassist, Keith Connors, and her conservative roommate, Sydney Ward, Lily has more weight on her shoulders than she ever imagined.

But her choice has been made. For the sake of love and her own reputation, she will have to find her rhythm and rise to each challenge. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose everything…and the whole world will be watching.

Where to get it:

About the author

Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen. She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Where to find Raine: 

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Thursday teaser: Tears of Endurance

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By D.G. Torrens

Ben felt his mobile phone vibrating. It was Arianna; he pressed the reject call button and turned his phone off. He couldn’t face anyone right now. He climbed out of the taxi and walked into his apartment building in a daze. He caught the lift to the top and let himself into his apartment. Charlie walked slowly over to Ben, not his usual bounding self. “You already know, don’t you, boy?” Ben slid down the side of the door and sat on the floor. Charlie lay beside him and rested his head on Ben’s lap, looking up at Ben with his big sad eyes and whimpering.

An hour passed by before Ben realised he was still sitting on the floor. Nothing seemed to matter anymore, time was inconsequential now. He went into the kitchen and reached for the whisky bottle sitting on the top shelf of the cupboard. Grabbing a glass, he walked out on to the balcony. He just wanted to forget the day, he wanted it to melt away like a bad dream. He gulped down the first glass in one go and then poured another, then another and then another. He wasn’t feeling much of anything by the time dusk was setting in. He felt numb and it felt good. Devoid of feeling for now, he walked back into the lounge and put a CD on, playing it full blast.

About Tears of Endurance

A secret can tear you apart … or bind you forever. For Arianna Ferria, a satisfying and challenging life as an art gallery owner takes an unexpected turn into burning romance when she falls for the handsome and successful Ben Fielding. Soon, their relationship blossoms into more than she could ever imagine. But when a black secret comes crashing down around them, their love faces the ultimate test as they come to grips with a tragic fate that will bring you to tears … Tears of Endurance.

Find it on Amazon.

About the author

D.G. Torrens is the author of 14 books, including the bestselling trilogy, Amelia’s Story #1, Amelia’s Destiny #2 and Amelia The Mother #3. This is an emotion-charged true story that the author wrote for her daughter.

Born in England, passionate about writing, D.G. Torrens is a mother, blogger and prolific writer. In 2013, her works were recognized by BBC Radio WM, where she has given several live interviews in the BBC studios in Birmingham, UK. Thereafter, D.G. became a regular Headline Reviewer for the radio show for the next 12 months.

Get to know Dawn on her:

and follow her on Twitter @torrenstp.

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