Summer storm

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A Thursday teaser from the bestselling horror/mystery Velvet Rain

By David C. Cassidy

 Ol’ Ron knew he’d been hustled, and from the look on his sorry mug, probably had some crazy ideas on just how that had happened—ideas that were making him question his sanity.

Kain cursed himself. He should have bolted when he’d had the chance. How many times had he Turned? Small wonder his head was pounding. And what the hell was that damn static? It was coming in fits now, like a circling pack of wild, growling dogs.

Dizzied, he held dead still against the tip of the knife. The smoky air sickened, but didn’t he crave a cigarette, suddenly. Still, after all these years. He didn’t really want one, of course, but what he wouldn’t do to ease the agony in his head.

He looked to the barkeep in the slim hope of a hand. The man regarded the goings-on with but a cursory glance, clearly more concerned with that looker at the end of the bar, chatting her up the way he was. In fact, save this intimate little gathering near the pool table, most of this questionable clientele seemed entirely disinterested. Not good.

“Come on,” Cal said, pressing the nelson. “Bleed this cheatin’ bastard.”

Here we go, Kain thought. Over the edge. Over a couple of sawbucks.

The fat man seemed to panic, then slit him with a quick flick of the blade. It stung. Blood dribbled down his throat to his chest. The nelson tightened, that throb in his neck crushing like a boatload of bricks coming down on him. If the Turn had given Cal a case of the body aches, he sure wasn’t showing it. The man was a bull.

Kain shook it off. He looked up past the knife, past the looker, to the glowing GUYS AND DOLLS sign that led to the restrooms. There was a jukebox on the way, a big rounded Wurlitzer, “Big Bad John” blaring out of its speakers for what must have been the tenth time tonight. Jimmy Dean had been all over the radio these days, would likely hit the top of the charts, and while the man had undoubtedly penned a great song, by this—the twenty-seventh of October, 1961, the biting wind howling hell’s breath beyond the gloom of this place—Kain had pretty much had his fill. And more than enough of this night.

“Twenty and we’re square, sir,” the trucker said, politely as sin. His voice held a touch of that approachable Missouri, but that honest smile had long since fled. His searching eyes narrowed. “I figure it’s likely more. But we can’t know for sure now, can we. Can we?”

At this the man glanced about to garner agreement. Not a word was spoken, but some of the patrons, the rats, mostly, seemed to concur. The eyes—sickly or not—never lie.

Kain capitulated with a nod. His long chestnut hair, cradling the shoulders of his weathered denim jacket, slipped down in front of his face. He held a menacing bad-boy look, and the looker, long since bored with the barkeep, stirred on her high bar stool. She bit down teasingly on her lower lip, handing him a breathless gaze with those perfect green gems. She had no idea how lucky she was; the redhead’s eyes were creepy little pissholes now.

“You win,” Kain said, feigning exasperation.

“No more tricks,” the fat man snapped. He drew the knife back with a step. Nodded to Cal.

Cal let Kain go, giving him a mild shove. “You’re one lucky fuck, drifter.”

Kain gathered himself. He had one chance to get out of this. He just hoped he had the juice.

With a small smile to the looker, he reached for his breast pocket in an innocent gesture of settling up, figuring to give Cal an elbow to the gut before he snatched up his knapsack and bolted for the exit. He was just about to when thunder rumbled and the place went black. Mild chaos turned to utter chaos when the lights didn’t come, and amid the ruckus of shouting, shuffling, and confusion, like a finely tuned magician, the audience astir, he summoned the magic … and popped the rabbit out of the hat.

Velvet Rain

He was born a miracle.

It will take one to save the world.

A mysterious drifter, Kain Richards is the last of his kind—and a man on the run. Once a tortured prisoner and pawn in a clandestine government experiment, his freedom hangs in the balance against the relentless pursuit from Brikker, an obsessed and ruthless madman who will stop at nothing to possess him.

Born with the Turn—the godlike power to reverse time—Kain’s ability is constrained inside a “bubble” that alters time within it. The further back he turns, the larger the bubble, the larger the effect—and the greater, stranger, and more dire and unpredictable the consequences, for those within, and beyond, the Turn’s reach.

Kain also possesses the Sense, giving him knowledge of the previous timeline and fuzzy, incomplete glimpses of the future. While the vast majority of the population don’t have the Sense, some do—and Brikker is one of them. And yet, while those who have it aren’t even aware of it, experiencing little more than déjà vu when time has turned, Brikker’s Sense far exceeds Kain’s, and is utterly dangerous. Not only can he remember every detail of a previous timeline, his glimpses into the future are far deeper, far more telling, giving him a deadly advantage. As these glimpses can only occur when time has turned, Kain is the key to Brikker’s twisted plans that tread an unalterable path to a terrifying future of death and destruction.

Knowing full well he must keep to the road, yet worn from the chase and his curse of the Turn, Kain settles into a job as a farmhand, only to fall for a beautiful and sensible Iowa farmwoman. Unable to stay but unwilling to leave, his dark secret sets their lives in peril. His health and his powers failing, only an iron will in an epic final battle will give him the chance to stand against the evil menace that threatens to consume him and the woman he loves—and to save the world from a hellish apocalypse.

David C. Cassidy, horror and science-fiction

David C. Cassidy

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

Get to know more about David at his:

Website   |     Facebook     |     Google+     |     LinkedIn     |     Twitter     |     Instagram

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The Devil of Light

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The Thursday mystery teaser from the bestselling first Cass Elliot novel

By Gae-Lynn Woods

“What are we tying it up for?”

“Do you know how to tell if a deer’s alive?”

“Good point. By the way, that’s a dollar for the cuss bucket. Might be two. Don’t know about dickweed.”

“What is your obsession with the cuss bucket? Mom’s not even around.”

“The more you put in, the sooner I eat all the pizza the all-you-can-eat buffet will let me.”

“It’s alive,” Mark said, rubbing his shirtsleeve across his forehead as they finished hog-tying the deer.

“How do you know that, Einstein?”

“It snorted. Or farted.”

“Great.”

“Lift on three.”

Grunting with the effort, they heaved the unconscious deer into the back of the Vega. The car moaned with the added weight, creaking as they shoved the lifeless body deeper into the hatch area. Breathing heavily, they leaned against the car.

“You get us into some serious messes.”

Photo by Philip Graves on Unsplash

“Hey man, it could have been you. The coin just flipped my way, and –”

“What’s that?” Matt asked, pointing into the woods. A light bobbed faintly in the distance.

“Not a flashlight.”

“More like a torch.”

They exchanged grins and trotted for the tree line, watching for a fence but finding none. The boys spotted a reddish glow and pushed underbrush aside to change direction, marking their trail. They moved forward another fifty yards and the smell of campfire underpinned with a slight tang hung in the air. The torchlight had vanished, either by virtue of distance or because it had been extinguished.

“Ouch! Damn honey locusts. I hate those things.”

“That’s another dollar,” Matt said.

“Shut up.”

They came to the edge of a clearing and hovered outside the perimeter, watching for movement. It was a crude circle no more than twenty feet across, a natural break in the woods rather than an area hacked open by man. The remains of a fire glowed inside a protective circle of small stones. Larger stones provided seating around the fire pit and the boys moved forward eagerly.

The seating stones were still warm and the stench hung heavier here. The underlying tang they had smelled in the woods had blossomed into a stinging odor.

“Nasty.”

“What did they cook?”

“Something with feathers on it,” Mark said, pointing to white down that clung to the stones ringing the fire.

“Think they would’ve plucked it first.” Matt stepped into the woods and twisted a branch from a bush. He poked at the ash. “They couldn’t have eaten it. Too foul.” He honked with laughter. “No pun intended, of course.”

“Lame, dickhead. If they didn’t eat it, what’d they cook it for?”

Matt shrugged, using the stick to scoot a small bone to the edge of the pit. “They leave anything?”

The two scavenged around the fire and made a quick survey of the surrounding woods, Matt returning to pick up the cooled bone. He turned it over in his hand as Mark wrinkled his nose. “Gross. Put it down.”

“Nope. It’s a talisman.”

“No it’s not.”

“It is if I say it is.” Matt shoved the bone in his jeans pocket and wandered around the clearing, eyes focused on the ground.

Mark scratched his chin, torn over the possibility that the bone could be a talisman, and then grabbed the stick and scooted a larger object out of the ashes. Using the hem of his shirt, he plucked it from the stones and bounced it between his hands until it cooled. “Mine’s bigger than yours,” he said, shoving his find into his brother’s line of sight before tucking it in his pocket, where it bulged.

“In your dreams, nimnod, we’re twins.”

“Let’s go. I’m hungry.”

They wove back through the woods, arguing over how best to inform their mother about the accident. As they cleared the tree line, Mark stopped in his tracks. “Dude.”

“What?”

Mark pointed at the car, where a pair of angry eyes glared through the side window. “It’s awake.”

About The Devil of Light

“This debut effort is further proof that there are undiscovered novelists out there who can more than keep up with the big names. I expect we’ll be hearing more of Gae-Lynn Woods in the future.” — Russell Blake, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Geronimo Breach, Fatal Exchange, and The Zero Sum trilogy.

A BIZARRE MURDER

When young Detective Cass Elliot responds to a 911 call at the home of a prominent businessman, she finds him violently murdered in the barnyard with his battered wife unconscious near the tool that killed him. Still raw from her own unsolved attack six years ago, Cass is stunned when confronted with graphic photographs scattered across their kitchen floor that lead to a shadowy sect called The Church of the True Believer.

A COVERT WEB OF LIES AND EXPLOITATION

Cass and her partner Mitch Stone delve into a cunning world of blackmail and violence – and find a cult concealed for nearly a century beneath the genteel, small town façade of Arcadia in East Texas. Their investigation triggers a brutal response from powerful men who will protect their identities at any cost. They unleash a ruthless killer whose actions create a media frenzy and destroy the fabric of trust within the police department.

A PERVASIVE EVIL

Cass and Mitch circle closer to the cult’s few members, following a slim lead into a night lit by fire. A night that begins with a blood ritual and ends with Cass holding a man’s life – or death – in her hands and struggling to walk the fine line between vengeance and justice.

Get it on Amazon.

Gae-Lynn Woods

is a Texan mystery writer who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |     Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

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From Alaska with Love

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The romance Thursday teaser from the new novel

By Ally James

It wasn’t as if Gabe believed that Sara, this mythical creature who was interested in corresponding with him, had just happened upon his life to be his forever love. That would be foolish thinking, and if there was one thing Gabriel was not, it was foolish. Nor illogical. Contact with Sara would be brief and entertaining. He doubted her intention of writing had been anything other than an obligatory greeting to the overseas soldier she had been assigned. Should I nip this in the bud now? Although what’s the harm in writing back and forth for a bit? He could delete her latest e-mail and let it go. But—he just couldn’t do it.

Military mail was a pain in the ass at times. What if he changed his mind and it was not in the recycle bin? Just that thought alone made him feel a little queasy. So maybe he wouldn’t get rid of her latest e-mail yet. No harm in letting it sit there. The trick was not replying.

Gabe grabbed a nearby folder with some information for the morning meeting and hurried from his office. He would stay busy until the urge had passed.

Two hours later, Gabe felt like a junky deprived of his fix. His knees were bouncing up and down and he was chewing gum as if his life depended on it. It was mean not to send a quick message. A gentleman doesn’t ignore a lady. He knew that last one was a reach, but still, he’d take any justification at this point. It was almost alarming how much he craved hearing from this Sara again. And he knew for that to happen, he had to do his part. Before he could wage another inner battle, he opened her e-mail and hit the Reply button.

Sara:

Yes, I am single and my dog’s name is Trouble. After being surrounded by our uniforms for many years, I don’t think I share your views on them suiting everyone equally well. I would agree that touching your nose with your tongue isn’t necessarily a feature. And I’ve never given any thought as to what mine would be.

Thanks,

Gabe

Gabe shook his head in defeat. He hadn’t thought it could get much worse than his first written disaster, but this one was a strong contender. Why can’t I just talk to her like a friend? If he was this uptight with all women, that might explain why they weren’t exactly beating his door down. Again, he wondered why it suddenly mattered so much to him.

As intrigued as he was with his new pen pal, a part of him resented her as well. He had more than enough shit to keep him awake at night. Now thanks to her, he was actually giving thought to being liked? When had he ever given a damn about anyone’s approval? He’d moved up in the ranks of the military through hard work, dedication, and precision, not kissing ass. Same thing applied to other areas of his life. He was there if needed and stayed out of things that weren’t any of his concern. You’re the social butterfly of Anchorage, Alaska. Winning them over everywhere you go with that personality.

Before he wasted more of his day on self-analysis, Gabe hit the Send button and logged off his computer. He’d never been happier to know he was needed at the airfield. At least that would keep his mind off her for a while. Get out of my head lady, he inwardly groused as he crossed the runway. As if afraid he’d jinxed himself, his next thought was, Please write back.

From Alaska with Love

A soldier has six weeks to convince the only woman he has ever longed for to take a chance on life with him in Alaska….

Sara’s letters were the only bright spot during Gabe’s devastating tour in Iraq. With each new correspondence he fell harder, needed her more, wanted to be with her. Now, after initially rejecting his offer to meet, she’s shown up at the door of his isolated cabin in Alaska looking for…what? Gabe’s not sure what made Sara change her mind, but he knows he never wants to let her go.

Major Gabe Randall is everything Sara Ryan wants but nothing she feels she deserves. A modern-day spinster, Sara hides behind family obligations and the safe, quiet life she’s resigned herself to living. But secretly, even though she may have stretched the truth about who she is in her letters to him, she wants Gabe. Will he still want her when he discovers the real woman behind the pen?

Once they meet, Gabe asks her for six weeks in Alaska. Six weeks to spend getting to know each other, and then she’ll have to decide whether they are better together or apart.

Ally James

is a pen name for bestselling romance author Sydney Landon.

Sydney Landon, romance

Sydney Landon is the New York Times & USA Today best selling author of:  Weekends Required, Not Planning on You, Fall For Me, Fighting For You, Betting on You, No Denying You, Always Loving You, Pierced and Fractured.  Sydney is currently working on the next book in the Danvers’ Series as well as the Pierced Series.

When she isn’t writing, Sydney enjoys reading, swimming and the beach.

She lives with her family in Greenville, South Carolina.

Get to know more about Sydney:

BestSelling Reads author page     |     Website    |    Amazon Author page    |    Barnes & Noble    |    Kobo    |    Google Play    |    iBooks

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Summer reading season will soon be here

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While there is some unexpected weather in the Rockies, summer is coming up fast. And even though the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into many plans, there’s no reason that readers are looking forward to a book, or a lot of books, for reading under the warm sun, on the dock, or on a rainy day.

You know by now that your favorite BestSelling authors would never let you down! Here are the best summer reads that you can download to your e-reader for warm weather entertainment.

Samreen Ahsan

Once Upon a [Fallen] Time

If you love stories about medieval castles, lovers bound by destiny, characters steeped in reality and a plot shaded by fantasy, you will love the second book in the Stolen Series.

“Pure reading bliss!”

Scott Bury

Wildfire: Wine Country Mystery #1 by Scott Bury

Wildfire

A hot, dry summer in California’s wine country heats up mystery and love for a law-school grad. After fleeing from wildfires that sweep through the winery, Tara finds her employer’s body in the ashes. Was it an accident, or hiding a murder?

“It starts out at a run, and keeps you hooked til the end.”

David C. Cassidy

Velvet Rain

An occult paranormal love story set in a long hot summer in the Midwest. Drifter Kain Richards has mysterious abilities that put him on the run from a shadowy government agency.

When he falls for a beautiful and sensible Midwest farmwoman, his past puts them both in danger. With failing health and strength, he must find the will to save himself, his love—and the world.

“Exceptional writing on a par with Stephen King.”

M.L. Doyle

The Bonding Blade

Can the embodiment of an ancient goddess live a balanced life in modern times?

The second book in the Desert Goddess series is a rich, tense, action-packed and often hilarious urban occult fantasy that takes the reader from Minnesota to ancient Mesopotamia.

“Fun, funny, dark, serious: a joy to read.”

DelSheree Gladden

In What Had to be Done

Anna Elizondo is going on three years of bad days. Finding her ex-best friend living in her new home town and still hating her with a passion does nothing to improve her outlook for better days. If Anna can’t find a way to make things at least tolerable with Felix, it’s going to be a very long summer.

“Great read for teens.”

Seb Kirby

Double Bind

This psychological thriller cum science fiction mystery is perfect for a summer read. You won’t be able to predict what Bridges is dealing with.

“So compelling that you’re drawn in from the start. “

Sydney Landon

NEW: Nicoli, the ninth novel in the Lucian & Lia series

Out now!  

Nicoli Moretti, the top lieutenant of the Moretti crime family, falls deeply in love for the first and only time in his life with the one woman he should not have: the daughter of a rival mafia family. 

“The best in the series.”

Alan McDermott

Gray Genesis

A Tom Gray prequel and the newest thriller in this bestselling series.  

SAS Sergeant Tom Gray leads 8 Troop to disrupt Taliban operations in Afghanistan and stop them from kidnapping a world-leading virologist and unleashing a new kind of warrior.

“His most explosive adventure yet!”

Toby Neal

Wired Ghost

In the latest Paradise Crime thriller, security specialists Sophie and Jake find themselves trapped underground in a lava tube, engulfed by darkness and heat, struggling to outrun a deadly force that consumes everything in its path.

“Adrenaline overload!”

J.L. Oakley

Timber Rose 

In 1907, the best families did not approve of their daughters taking up mountain climbing. And when Caroline Symington elopes with a working-class man who works for the new Forest Service, her father disowns her.

Caroline builds a new life, but when her ruthless uncle muscles his was into the Naitonal Forest, Caroline must take a stand to defend the man and land that she loves.

“A talented writer with a fantastic concept.”

Raine Thomas

Meant for Her

In this bestselling baseball romance, photographer Sierra Stratton’s uncanny sense about people tells her the sexy and brooding major-league baseball player Evan Dorsey is he’s suffering. She wants to be the one to help him—but Evan has some mysterious enemies.

“I love the characters, the dogs, the plot and the surprising twist!” 

D.G. Torrens

Broken Wings 

A bomb-disposal expert in the British Army and a newspaper editor are brought together unexpectedly and fall in love immediately. But when Joshua is posted to Afghanistan, it will change Angelina’s life forever.

“A beautiful love story and tribute.”

Gae-Lynn Woods

A Case of Sour Grapes - mystery by Gae-Lynn Woods

A Case of Sour Grapes

Wine, women, and song. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, it seems, for private investigator wannabe Maxine Leverman. Cheating spouses, dead bodies, and a Mexican drug cartel. Who knew a gal’s first day at work could be so exciting—and dangerous?

“Enticing and enjoyable!”

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Launch day: Gray Genesis

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Today is publication day for the new Tom Gray thriller

By Alan McDermott

Miriam Dagher had never had a fear of flying. But as she stood at the gates waiting to board the British Airways flight to Kabul, she felt ready to throw up. Her hands trembled as she gripped her boarding pass, and the sweat accumulating in her armpits was growing increasingly uncomfortable.

Am I doing the right thing?

She’d asked herself the question a hundred times that day, and she still didn’t have the answer. Only time would tell. It was too late to back out now, anyway. The decision had been made, plans put in place, promises made and bridges burnt.

Her old life was over.

A cheerful steward motioned her forward and held out her hand. Miriam gave her the sweat-stained card.

“Are you okay? You don’t look so good.”

“I’m a nervous flyer,” Miriam lied with an apologetic smile.  “I’ve done it hundreds of times, but it never gets any easier.”

“Well, don’t you worry.  You’re in good hands.  This is one of the safest planes in the sky.”

Miriam tried to smile graciously but it came out as a grimace. She hurried through the gate and down the tunnel that led to the door of the Boeing 777, where a stewardess checked her seat number and pointed Miriam towards the first class section. As this was going to be her last flight for some time—perhaps forever—she’d splashed out on an expensive upgrade.

She took her seat by the window, buckled herself in and clasped her hands together, her eyes closed tight. 

Why am I doing this?

She wanted nothing more than to leap from her seat and run from the plane, go back to her home and undo everything she’d done. But that was impossible. She’d made a deal to protect her country, to take lives in order to save lives.

That was the hardest part; knowing she’d be responsible for countless deaths. It flew in the face of the Hippocratic oath she’d taken as a medical student, as well as the years spent looking for ways to improve healthcare outcomes.

A stewardess cleared her throat to get Miriam’s attention, and when she opened her eyes she was offered a hot towel.  She took it and wiped her hands and face, knowing that little luxuries like this would soon be a thing of the past.  Where she was going, all she had to look forward to was baking heat and basic sanitation at best.

The itch under her breast was annoying in the extreme, exacerbated by the sweat accumulating under her ample bosom.  She turned to face the small window and massaged the area gently, the sensation clawing at her like the never-ending doubts that flitted around inside her head.

She declined the offer of a pre-flight drink, preferring instead to try to sleep. But her vision was immediately filled with images of the dead, men young and old torn from families, their agonising death throes ringing loud in her ears.

And it was all her fault.

Gray Genesis

Tom Gray is back in his most explosive adventure yet!

Afghanistan. As the war on terror intensifies, Taliban leader Abdul al-Hussain has plans to turn the tide in his favour. His objective: a US virologist named Miriam Dagher. She’s about to pay a visit to the land of her birth, and al-Hussain has her in his sights.

Out to stop al-Hussain is Sergeant Tom Gray, SAS veteran and leader of 8 Troop. His team are tasked with disrupting Taliban operations, snatching high-profile targets and wreaking havoc on enemy supply lines. Their missions are routine, until the Taliban unleashes a new breed of warrior.

Gray Genesis is a prequel to the million-selling Tom Gray series, a familiar blend of intrigue, camaraderie and explosive action.

Alan McDermott

is a husband, father to beautiful twin girls, and a full-time author. Alan lives in the south of England, and in 2014 he swapped writing critical application for the NHS to penning thrillers that have gone on to sell close to a million copies. His debut novel, Gray Justice, was well received and by the time he’d written the follow-ups, Gray Resurrection and Gray Redemption, it had attracted the attention of a major publisher.

Alan signed with Thomas & Mercer in 2013 and has now written six novels in the Tom Gray series and a spinoff called Trojan. Alan’s eighth novel, Run and Hide, introduced a new female lead, Eva Driscoll, and a new thriller series that includes Seek and Destroy and Fight to Survive.

Alan can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page   |   Amazon Author page   |   Website   |   blog   |    Facebook    |   Twitter

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Volcano House

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A Hawaiian mystery Thursday teaser

By J.L. Oakley

Photo by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

Kilauea, Hawaii, 1889

The lava lake glowed, its light reaching up into the deep night sky like a living thing. As the volcano belched, coughed and hissed, its light created wavering red and gold images on the ‘ohi’a trees and giant hapu’u tree ferns that dared to grow so close. From the crater’s belly, a tall column of cloud rose to the stars.

Almanzo Almeida stood on the long veranda of Volcano House and watched the party of twenty guests and their guides depart for Little Beggar on Pele’s Throat a half mile away. It would be a good night to descend onto the floor of Kilauea Crater. Their candle-lit lanterns twinkled in the dark like little fairy lights in counter march to the heavens above. Some of the guests, he suspected, wouldn’t want to go all the way across to the far lake, but might stop to pull out some thin glass threads of Pele’s Hair.

Volcano House, 1877

From outside the long ranch-style hotel, Almeida could hear the late night guests chatting around the great stone fireplace inside. At this elevation, nights at Kilauea could be chilly, even cold. The fireplace was always the focal point of the establishment overseen by the superb hospitality of Colonel and Mrs. Malby. Almeida patted his stomach. The food was outstanding, too, something that always amazed visitors, including Mark Twain, who came some years back. No matter if you came up the new carriage road from Hilo or came from Punalu’u by tram and horseback, Volcano House stood out as a first class hotel next to a volcano on a tropical island in the middle of nowhere: a jewel in the Royal Hawaiian Kingdom’s crown.

Volcano House restored, now the Volcano Art Center.

Out in the dark, a horse nickered down by the stables. Almeida pulled out his chain watch. Under the soft glow of a lantern he checked the time, then looked down in the direction of the stables. Shortly, a light appeared and began to swing back and forth. So Casper DeMello was back. Almeida put on his jacket. Moments later he was heading down across open ground, his only light a candle in his lantern.

Down by the low shed that served as a waiting station for guests, a shadow emerged.  

“What did you get this time? Anything good?” Almeida asked.

“Yeah, yeah. They nevah gonna miss it. Stupid tourists.” The young Portuguese man set his lantern up on a wide stump. When Almeida added his, the area bloomed with light.

DeMello pulled a bag of gold coins, a lady’s watch and chain, a silver comb out of a satchel and set them on the stump. Other items of value were added, all of them sparkling in the candle light.

“Were you careful?” Almeida asked as he handled one of the gold chains, weighing it back and forth through his fingers.

“Course I’m careful. It’s all stuff dropped on the steamer and the tram. The rest I just nipped. I was plenty careful.”

“Hmph.” Almeida grunted. It wasn’t easy getting up to the hotel. Tourists who came by a steamer to Punalu’u went from tram to road cart to horseback. It took hours. Almeida opened the bag of coins and counting them all out on the stump, he gave half to DeMello. “Once again, you did good.” Almeida gathered up the stolen items and put them back into the satchel. “When do you go back?”

“Tomorrow. I’ll catch the W.G. Hall going back to Honolulu.”

“Good. Got to keep these things irregular.”

A burst of laughter from inside Volcano House sliced the thin night air. Both men froze and looked blindly in that direction. Almeida shielded his eyes from the lanterns to see more clearly. As his eyes adjusted to the dark beyond the corral, he saw no movement on the veranda. He began to relax.

“I betta go,” DeMello said. He shouldered a haversack and picked up a walking staff leaning against the corral rail.

Almeida pointed to the haversack. “What’s in that?”

“Nuthin’. Just paper.”

“Let me see.”

DeMello scowled. “What’d you think? I’m cheating you?”

“Just curious. That’s nice leather. Nice silver clasp. That a—a thistle?”

DeMello shrugged. He unlocked the clasp then flipped open the flap. “See? Papers.” He pulled a packet of papers wrapped with a heavy cotton cord half-way out. The mouth of the haversack sagged wider.

Behind the packet Almeida could see another packet and a Scribner’s Magazine. “Where’d you get this stuff?”

“Ho’okena.”

Almeida’s eyes grew sharp and wary.

DeMello pulled the packet out further. A title was neatly handwritten on the front page, but all Almeida could read were the words, “Bottle Imp.”

“See? Papers.” DeMello grasped the straps tighter. He jammed the packet back in, but when it wouldn’t go in straight, Almeida grew suspicious and jerked the haversack out of DeMello’s hands.

“Hey!”

“What is this?” Almeida lifted out a long, sharp letter opener. The jewels in the silver handle sparkled in the lantern light—green, white and ruby. At the top was a thistle. “Cheating me, were you?”

“Cheating? You forget we both thieves, only I take all the risks.”

“But we must share.” Almeida hung the straps of the haversack on his shoulder. He turned the letter opener around in his hands. “I’ll keep it. Once I sell it, I’ll split the money.”

“No! It’s mine. I found it. Give it back—”

DeMello’s words ended in a cry as Almeida grabbed DeMello’s walking stick and slammed it on his head. DeMello staggered back, his hands pressed to his head. Blood began to flow between his fingers. His vision blurred. The last thing DeMello saw was Almeida’s sneering face and the letter opener raised high.

Volcano House

Auntie Bee Takahashi is turning 80 and her friends in the U’ilani Book Lovers Club are planning a big celebration up at historic Volcano House.

Plans take a dangerous turn when a long missing manuscript of The Bottle Imp, Robert Louis Stevenson’s great horror story, shows up among Bee’s stack of books. Tied to an unsolved murder 125 years old at the old Kilauea hotel, someone doesn’t want the crime to come out.

When weird accidents and mysterious happenings threaten Auntie Bee and members of her book club, her great-niece crime reporter Wendy Watanabe will have to step in to keep her safe. At the heart of her investigation, are the secrets behind two warring families spanning four generations and a land grab.

Find it on Amazon.

J.L. Oakley, historical fiction

J.L. Oakley

writes award-winning historical fiction that spans the mid-19th century to WW II. Her characters come from all walks of life, but all stand up for something in their own time and place.

Her books have been recognized with a 2013 Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award, the 2013 Chanticleer Grand Prize, the 2014 First Place Chaucer Award, 2015 WILLA Silver Award and the 2016 Goethe Grand Prise.

When not writing, Janet demonstrates 19th century folkways, including churning some pretty mean butter.

Her most recent historical novel, Mist-chi-mas: A Novel Of Captivity, launched in September 2017. It is set in 1860 on San Juan Island in Pacific NW during a time with the British Royal Marines and US Army jointly occupied the island—peacefully.

Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley.

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