Blog Tour: Staking Cinderella

Welcome to my stop on the Staking Cinderella blog tour! Today I have an exclusive excerpt for you, and a chance to win one of two digital copies of this very vampy book!

StakingCinderellaCoverStaking Cinderella

Expected Publication Date: April 18th, 2019

Genre: Horror/ Vampire Romance

Gavin’s got a serious problem. A “praise Jee-sus” rich bitch caught him fanging—and banging—his Halloween date. Now she’s playing Holy Vampire Killer, and it’s ticking him off.

Since then, Gavin’s found someone better to occupy his mind and heart. Isolde—in bed, on the couch, in the shower. She has a thing for Disney princesses, but he’s willing to overlook it. Women like her only come around once or twice in five hundred years. He knows.

Then the Jesus-freak kidnaps Isolde to bait a deathtrap for Gavin. Abandoning Isolde is unthinkable, but rescuing her could mean death for both of them.

Excerpt

StakingCinderellaCover

A quintessential cowboy parked his truck in the packed community college main lot. The complete Scooby-Doo Gang walked past on his left, the Bob’s Burgers cast on his right.

He knew he should’ve eaten before coming to this Halloween party. Never go grocery shopping hungry. He was old enough to know better.

A sexy nun and a sexier nurse followed the Scooby Gang. So much exposed neck. He closed his eyes and marshaled his forces. Half an hour to accomplish his objective and he could escape home and feed.

Gavin Donne, historian, costume designer and drama instructor, exited and locked his truck. At the gym entrance he took a deep breath of night air and choked on cigarette smoke. “Fancy-boy actor’s lungs can’t take it.” Male laughter. “Don’t be an ass, Cal.” A pudgy girl patted Gavin’s back. “You okay, Mr. Donne?”

Gavin spat into the barberry bushes lining the sidewalk. “Yes, thank you, Stella. I see your brother is still trying to prove his manhood.”

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Alice Loweecey - Kate Morgan

Baker of brownies and tormenter of characters, Kate Morgan celebrates the day she jumped the wall with as much enthusiasm as her birthday. She grew up watching Hammer horror films and Scooby-Doo mysteries, which explains a whole lot. When she takes a break from inspiring nightmares, she writes ex-nun PI mysteries under her real name, Alice Loweecey. In her spare time she can be found growing vegetables in her garden and water lilies in her koi pond.

Alice Loweecey | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Giveaway Time!!!

For your chance to win a digital copy of Staking Cinderella, click the link below!

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Mini Tour Schedule

April 15th

Reads & Reels (Excerpt) https://readsandreels.com/

Jessica Rachow (Review) http://jessicarachow.wordpress.com

Reading Nook (Excerpt) http://readingnook84.wordpress.com

April 16th

B is for Book Review (Excerpt) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

Little Tinklabee (Review) https://littletinkablee.com

April 17th

I Love Books and Stuff Blog (Excerpt) https://ilovebooksandstuffblog.wordpress.com

April 18th

Breakeven Books (Excerpt) https://breakevenbooks.com

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Is anyone taking part in the Harry Potter Magical Readathon? Here is my video showing the books I chose to read for my OWLS! Let me know in the comments if you are participating.

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Cover Reveal: The Space Between Time

Book Cover

Finally, the much anticipated cover reveal of The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw! Just look at it! Totally worth the wait!

The Space Between Time

Expected Publication Date: June 20th, 2019

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Dark Comedy

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

Pre-Order Here!

Great news for book bloggers! There will be a blog tour for this amazing book running the entire month of June! Click here for more details!

About the Author

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I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.

I was brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.

I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.

I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember

Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.

Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.

I am married with two grown-up children and live in central Scotland. And that’s about it.

Charlie Laidlaw | Facebook | Twitter

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Is anyone taking part in the Harry Potter Magical Readathon? Here is my video showing the books I chose to read for my OWLS! Let me know in the comments if you are participating.

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Book Highlight: The Scented Bones

Congrats to Angelina Kerner on the re-release of her novel, The Scented Bones! Today we have an exclusive excerpt, and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

The Scented Bones e-book coverThe Scented Bones (The Svabodina Case Files #1)

Publication Date: February 25th, 2019

Genre: Paranormal Forensic Fiction / Strong Female Protagonist / Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Churchell Hill Van Cleef Publishing Inc

Angel Svabodina is a rookie forensic anthropologist, enjoying the beginning of her new career. That joy comes crashing down when she figures out the skeleton she’s working on is not human and then it vanishes.

She throws herself fully into the case without thinking about the parties involved, a psychopomp associate, and paranormal mafia families made up of vampires and werewolves–or the consequences.

When she sees there’s no avoiding the inevitable, Angel has to suck it up and work with the werewolves to solve the case but can she trust them?

Werewolves and witches are in a centuries-old feud, but that doesn’t stop the shivers running down her spine from one wolf in particular. Rights and wrongs become blurred, as she is tormented by her past and accepting who she truly is while searching for the skeleton. What’s more, nothing comes for free, including information. To get what she needs from the werewolf don, Angel has to meet with the fae queen. Can she meet her without repercussions and solve the case?

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Excerpt

A parking attendant asked for my car keys and let me know that he’d bring it back when I was ready to leave.

As Laura and I got out of the car, I noticed a couple talking under a tree to the right, by a fountain. They looked to be enjoying themselves, which made me smile and hope for a good time.

I looked at Laura to see her also sizing up the house. Our attention returned to the young man by the massive front door.

He was wearing a suit and a Christmas tree tie.

Laura smiled and yelled, “Lorenzo!” Then she ran up the steps, and into his arms.

Lorenzo was taller than her, and she was wearing heels. He looked fit, healthy, and confident. His blue eyes were striking, and his hair was slicked back. If it weren’t for the tie, I’d have thought he was an international businessman, not a chef; though, I guessed one could be both.

“Hi, you must be Angel, Laura’s roommate,” Lorenzo said.

“And, you must be Lorenzo, her friend,” I said slowly.

He laughed, a nice lilting sound. “A little more than that. Welcome to Paulo Abelli’s house. He’s my boss, but really cool, so just relax and enjoy the party.”

“Thanks,” I replied.

Lorenzo grabbed hold of the crescent-shaped handle, pulled the imposing front door open, and ushered Laura inside the house. “Come on, babe, let me introduce you to some people.”

Laura threw me an excited look, and I followed the happy couple.

Interesting, I thought to myself.

The travertine foyer opened up into an expansive living room with floor to ceiling windows, capturing the magnificent view of the pool, lined with tall cypress trees next to a perfectly manicured lawn. The focal point of the room was the marble fireplace situated in direct view of the front door. It was the two-story Christmas tree next to it that took center stage, with gold and bronze glass balls in assorted sizes, twinkling white lights, and porcelain angels adorning each limb.

Two leather couches with an enormous, square, stone table in the middle were sat in front of the fireplace, facing each other. Another smaller, stone table covered with a cheese and nut tray and bowls of fruit and sweets was at the end of one of the couches. There were matching side tables with vases of red roses and pine branches, giving off the scent of Christmas. As I walked further into the room, it opened up to reflect a larger area off to the left that could be used for dancing and mingling.

I glanced through the windows to get a better look at the pool and back deck and saw marble pillars wrapped with white Christmas lights.

It all looked so. . . Normal— to an outsider or a mundane. However, there was that special scent hanging in the air that let me know the house belonged to a paranormal family.

Hopefully, they were friendly.

At times like these, I felt stupid for locking up my magick. I weaved my senses throughout the house and realized it was full of them–paranormals. I just couldn’t tell what kind they were.

My forensic case involved a paranormal girl, and now I was in a paranormal household. I didn’t believe in coincidences.


republished AK.png

*Now Available*

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Kobo | Book Depository | Indie Bound | BookBub

About the Author

Angelina Kerner

ANGELINA KERNER is an author of paranormal and lighthearted romance. She’s the wife of a photographer/physicist, and the mother of a cute little toddler, but she’s also been a dancer, a psychologist, an anthropologist, a geographer, a dreamer, and an adventurer. She does her best writing while being bothered by her cats, taking care of her son, in dressing rooms while waiting for family to try on clothing, and at home in sunny California. Angelina loves to play goddess-dragon matchmaker, transporting readers to a place where young goddesses have lovable flaws, the Fates plan to dethrone, the universe is endless and untamed, and dragons roam free! She also loves to write carefree romance where one can finish reading with a smile.

Facebook | Twitter | Website | Pinterest | Goodreads | Instagram

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Click the link below for your chance to win a signed paperback copy of The Scented Bones, the first installment in a mysterious Paranormal/ Forensic Investigation series! The giveaway will run for the next 3 days (April 10 -13th).

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Blog Tour: Black Madonna

Linda Lee Kane’s

WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING TOUR

OF

Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession

Tour Begins April 1st

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Book Summary

Luci de Foix was nine when her parents were killed in a car accident. But was it an accident? Unbeknownst to Luci, a group known as The Order, under the protection of the Pope, has been watching her family for many years, waiting for the day that a diary written in the thirteenth century would be delivered to her family-a journal that contains a key to a lost codex-and they would do anything to get it. Early one morning, when Luci is twenty-nine, a bloodied young man delivers a book, claiming it’s from her late grandparents.

Plagued by panic attacks that have left her crippled, Luci struggles to overcome her fears, avenge the death of their family, and search for the lost codex. But who can she trust? Everyone seems intent on betraying her, even the gorgeous, enigmatic Max, a man with secrets of his own.

Print Length: 210 Pages

Genre: Historical Mystery

Publisher: Dark Rose Press

ASIN: B07KJR5WBH

Black Madonna is now available to purchase on AmazoniTunesKOBO, and Barnes and Noble.

linda and Shari- cropped

About the Author, Linda Lee Kane

Linda Lee Kane is an author of fantasies, thrillers, and contemporary fiction works. She is the author of Death on the VineChilled to the Bones and an upcoming re-release of the The Black Madonna ‘A Popes Deadly Obsession’. She lives with her husband, two dogs,  and seven horses in California.  “Whether I am writing for adults or children, the war between my days and nights is reflected in my books. Although the tendency to acknowledge the light and dark sides of life is often disguised in my work, it’s always there, lurking just out of sight.”

You can find Linda at her website: https://www.lindaleekane.com/

You may also follow her on Twitter at @llkane2152.

You may also follow her on Amazon and GoodReads.

Guest Post: Heroes and Villains

Most important, create a credible opponent. Your villain will be the catalyst for everything you write.

Heroes don’t have to be perfect. In fact, those protagonists are rather dull. Great heroes emerge from despair, darkness, and the trials they face.

Because these trails will define your hero, it’s a good idea to develop your villain first, as the villain’s motivations will create the crisis for your hero. Introduce your villain with a bang-sending your reader a clear message that this character is the bad guy. Every villain needs to have their own sense of right and wrong. If a villain spends part of your novel killing people, you need to give them believable reasons for doing it. Make the reader understand exactly what fear or belief has driven him to it. To elevate your heroes, you must give them flaws as well. The villain cannot be the only one standing in your hero’s way; a hero’s personality can just as easily interfere with his quest.

It doesn’t matter what the stakes are in your novel, but they must matter to your protagonist. Your hero doesn’t have to save the world-perhaps he saves his own family from eviction, or he fights to keep his safe.AS long as you establish what’s important to your hero-ideally, something that your readers can relate to and help the reader imagine what could happen. You are the one to create the high stakes that matter.

Develop a hero who reflects things you are interested in. You will be spending a lot of time with your characters to write what you would like to know about. Don’t be afraid to invest your hero with familiar qualities, but prioritize your passions and make sure that both villain and hero emerge from the setting and topics you’ve developed so far. Your characters should have skills that allow them to function in your environment.



Blog Tour Dates

Black-Madonna-BlogTour-Linda-Lee-Kane

April 1st @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Come by today and celebrate the launch of Linda Lee Kane’s book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obession. Read an interview with the author and also enter to win a copy of the book.

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com.

April 2nd @ Breakeven Books

Make sure you visit Erik’s blog today where you can catch Linda Lee Kane’s blog post about heroes and villains.

https://breakevenbooks.com/

April 3rd @ Words from the Heart

Rev. Linda Neas will be reviewing Linda Lee Kane’s book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession. 

https://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/

April 5th @ Words from the Heart

Stop by Rev. Linda Neas blog where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s blog post about heroes and villains.

https://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/

April 8th @ Jennifer’s Deals

Visit Jennifer’s blog where you can read her review of Linda Lee Kane’s exciting historical mystery book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://www.jennifers-deals2.com/

April 10th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Stop by Bev’s blog today where you can read her thoughts about Linda Lee Kane’s historical mystery Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

April 11th @ Oh for the Hook of a Book

Visit Erin’s blog today where she shares her opinion about Linda Lee Kane’s exciting book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://hookofabook.wordpress.com/

April 12th @ Bookworm Blog

Stop by Anjanette’s bookworm blog where you can read author Linda Lee Kane’s post about creating suspense. Plus, be sure to check out the interview with the author as well!

http://bookworm66.wordpress.com

April 13th @ Chapters Through Life

Visit Danielle’s blog where you can read her interview with author Linda Lee Kane and hear more about this interesting writer!

https://chaptersthroughlife.blogspot.com/

April 15th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Visit Bev’s blog again where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s guest post about finding the idea.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

April 16th @ Amanda Diaries

Visit Amanda’s blog where she reviews the exciting historical fiction book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession by Linda Lee Kane.

https://amandadiaries.com/

April 19th @ Bookworm Blog

Stop by Anjanette’s bookworm blog where you can read her thoughts about Linda Lee Kane’s book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

http://bookworm66.wordpress.com

April 19th @ Jill Sheet’s Blog

Make sure you stop by Jill’s blog today where author Linda Lee Kane talks about finding the idea.

https://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

April 20th @ Madeline Sharples’ Blog

Stop by Madeline’s blog where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s blog post about life as a writer.

http://madelinesharples.com/

April 21st @ Coffee with Lacey

Grab some coffee and visit Lacey’s blog where you can read her review of Linda Lee Kane’s exciting thriller, Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://coffeewithlacey.com/

April 22nd @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Visit Cassandra’s blog where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s guest post on research.

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com/

April 23rd @ Joyful Antidotes

Come by Joy’s blog today and find out her thoughts on Linda Lee Kane’s exciting book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://joyfulantidotes.com/

April 24th @ Bring on Lemons

Stop by Crystal’s blog today where you can read her review of this exciting historical fiction book, Black Madonna.

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

April 25th @ To Write or Not to Write

Visit Sreevarsha’s blog where she shares her thoughts about Linda Lee Kane’s exciting thriller Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://sreevarshasreejith.blogspot.com/

April 26th @ To Write or Not to Write

Make sure you stop by Sreevarsha’s blog again where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s fascinating blog post about the anatomy of a thriller.

https://sreevarshasreejith.blogspot.com/

April 27th @ A Day in the Life of Mom

Visit Ashley’s blog and check out what she has to say about Linda Lee Kane’s exciting historical mystery Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://adayinthelifeofmom.com/

May 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Be sure to stop by Anthony’s blog today where you can read his opinion about Linda Lee Kane’s exciting historical mystery Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 4th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

May the 4th be with you on this day! Be sure to visit Anthony’s blog again where you can read Linda Lee Kane’s guest post on the anatomy of a thriller as well as an interview with this incredible author.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 6th @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Visit Cassandra’s blog again where you can read her review of Linda Lee Kane’s book Black Madonna: A Pope’s Deadly Obsession. Plus you can also enter to win a copy of the book!

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com/

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Book Highlight: Stone by L.C. Conn

I’m thrilled to present the next installment in L.C. Conn’s epic One True Child series, Stones! Please read on for an exclusive excerpt, and a chance to win a copy of the book!

Also, for all you fantasy loving book reviewers out there, the entire series is available in exchange for honest reviews. Contact R&R Book Tours for more info!

L C Conn - Stones Book 5 CoverStones (One True Child #5)

Publication Date: March 5th, 2019

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Publisher: Between the Lines Publishing

Deep within the New Zealand bush, lies a plateau with a clearing, covered in the many years of fallen leaves, it is damp and dark. Hidden just under the surface are the stones, green and still polished, placed by the Guardians of this land. There is power in them still and they are about to bear witness to a great battle between light and darkness. Claire Drummond is in danger, her very life depends on the actions and help of her husband and family. Also, the man she thought had left her life for good, Tony Benning. Caught up once more in the heavy turmoil of good vs evil, Claire has much more to fight for than just a set of stones in the highlands of Scotland. This time it’s personal. This time he has her daughter

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Chapter One

The house was deathly quiet, and it suited the moment as Claire Drummond hung up the phone with a frown. She had always known that this time would come, but it still made her heart feel heavy. He was the last of his generation, and now her Uncle Geoff was seriously ill and in decline. The last four years had felt like one long funeral, as her grandparents had passed away one by one. But Lynnette, Grace, and Malcolm had all been there for the two most important moments in her life since meeting them when she was seventeen: her wedding to her wonderful husband, Matt, and the birth of their daughter Breena a year later.

No matter how much she had come to love her grandparents, Geoff held a special place in her heart. It was her uncle who had taken her in and cared for her since she was ten years old after her parents had been murdered. He had been her strength and support when at seventeen she had learnt about her past, her Talents, and the truth of where she had come from. Then again with her ordeal both in Scotland and back home, until Matt had found her again—even though she had not appreciated it at the time.

Quickly she glanced at her watch; it was almost time to collect Breena from school. Claire grabbed her jacket and scarf and headed out into the bitter cold southerly wind. Clouds, dark and threatening, raced overhead; she shivered as the cold winter air blasted around her, creeping under the layers she was wearing. The walk was only a short one, but today her feet felt heavy, dragging as she made her way down the street. She stopped for a moment as the news finally sunk in; a tear escaped her eye and she let it fall.

Steadying her breathing and calming not only her mind but also her heart, she carried on. Claire brought forth the image of her daughter—her long, dark curly hair that refused to stay in a ponytail for longer than a few minutes, the bright blue eyes so much like her father’s, and the image of her namesake—Matt’s long-passed sister. Sometimes when they were alone together, Breena would look up at her and smile. It had a depth to it that suggested something to Claire, but she always put it out of her mind as soon as she thought it, refusing to face what might be true.

The gates of the school were already open, and children of all sizes streamed out of them into the waiting arms of parents or walked together for the trip home. The noise of their chatter and squeals of delight turned to shouts and calls of farewell. Claire smiled and waved at friends, promising to get together for a coffee or a playdate with the kids while she waited for Breena to skip out of the narrow entrance. Normally her daughter was very punctual and the wait at the gate was a short one, but today there was no sign of her.

Glancing around frantically, Claire could feel panic starting to rise inside her chest. Today of all days, Breena had decided to tarry. She searched for her daughter in the still-moving crowd of little people, but she was not there. Claire headed in through the gates and made her way to Breena’s classroom; her teacher was at the door, talking to another mother. She smiled as Claire approached, then pointed inside. Looking through the door, Claire found her daughter still sitting at the table, drawing.

“Bree, what are you doing, sweetheart? School has finished,” Claire said as she entered.

“Hello, Mum. I just wanted to finish this.” Bree indicated the paper she was drawing on. The little girl turned back to her task and the long, wavy black hair fell over her face, free from the hair ties Claire had put in that morning.

“We have to go; you can’t stay here after school. How about you bring it home and finish it there?” Claire knelt down and pushed the hair off her daughter’s face. “What are you drawing?”

“It’s a picture for my friend,” she told her mother.

Claire looked at the picture; it constantly surprised her how well Bree could draw, knowing full well she had inherited it from her father and her grandmother. The picture Bree was so determined to finish before going home was clearly of her and a very tall person.

“Who’s that with you?” Claire asked her.

“That’s my friend—I told you about him. He’s funny. He asked me to draw a picture of us.” Bree smiled and stood up. “Can I really take it home to do?”

“Yes, of course you can. Come on.” She held out her hand for her daughter to take and they collected Bree’s bag from the hook outside. As they walked up the street, Claire pondered the person in the picture with a little concern. “So does this friend have a name?” she asked Bree curiously.

“No, he won’t tell me what it is, so I call him Mr Man. He laughs when I call him that.” Bree smiled.

Claire took her daughter’s hand, and she started to skip beside her mother. Her backpack bounced on her back, and Claire could hear something rolling around inside.

“Did you eat your lunch today, Bree?” She looked down at her.

“No; I told you I don’t like cottage cheese and cucumber. It’s yucky.”

“But you liked it last week.”

“Now I don’t. What I do like is peanut butter and…” Bree stopped skipping while she thought, making Claire come to a halt as well.

“What do you like with peanut butter?”

“Shh; I’m thinking.” Her little finger was pressed against her mouth as she contemplated.

Claire waited, starting to feel frustrated. It seemed her daughter’s taste in food changed from one minute to the next, and trying to keep up was becoming difficult. Fat raindrops started to fall, landing heavily on the path around them, leaving dark splatter spots on the pale concrete.

“Come on, Bree, otherwise we are going to get drenched!” She tugged her daughter into movement and they raced down the street together, laughing and squealing whenever they got hit by a raindrop.

After they reached their front door, Bree raced inside and dumped her bag in the living room, then headed straight for the kitchen. Claire picked up the bag and pulled out the lunchbox. Everything she had put in it that morning was gone, except for the offending sandwich. The picture Bree had been so busy drawing caught her attention.

Taking it with her, she walked into the kitchen. Already strewn across the countertop were bread, butter, peanut butter, and three different types of jams. Bree was attempting to spread the peanut butter on the bread, but she seemed to be smearing it on everything else as well.

“You make the mess, missy, you clean it up.”

“Yes, Mum.”

Claire pinned the picture up on the notice board and looked at it clearly for the first time. It was beautifully done, and Breena had captured her own face very well, but the drawing of her daughter’s mysterious imaginary friend gave her an uneasy feeling once more. He was not quite finished, but already she could see some of his features and they seemed almost familiar.

“Mum?” Bree called her.

“Mmm?” Claire broke her gaze at the page and turned to face her.

“Can we go see Granddad soon?” she asked, taking a bite from her jam-dripping sandwich. As soon as Bree could talk, she’d refused to call Geoff by any other name than Granddad; it had made him so pleased that Claire never corrected her.

Her question stunned Claire, especially after the phone call she had received. “Why’s that, Bree?”

“I just get this feeling we should go see him.” Jam was now smeared on her face, not just the countertop.

“As a matter of fact, my little oracle, we are leaving in an hour and will be there tonight.” Claire grabbed a cloth and handed it to Bree. “So when you have finished eating that sandwich and cleaned up your mess, then go and find some things to take with you. And I don’t mean half of your toys.”

Claire finished packing their bags and dropped them at the front door on the way to the kitchen as she listened to Bree chatting about her day. The evidence of her daughter’s cleaning was still on the bench, with smeared lines of peanut butter and jam heading towards the sink. Claire shook her head and picked up the cloth, rinsed it off and finished the job, then went looking for her daughter.

In her bedroom Bree was sitting in the middle of the floor and staring at a couple of her dolls. She picked one up very carefully and then whispered to it. “I’ll take you; I think you will be good on this trip.” She placed the doll carefully into the bag at her side and then put the other away on her bed. “You can come on our next trip, to Scotland.”

“Come on, Bree; we have to go pick up Dad.”

“I’m ready.” Bree picked up her bag and put it on her shoulder, then took one last look around her room.

Claire hated the rush-hour traffic that was already starting to build and knew that getting out of the city would be a nightmare—even more so now that the rain had set in. She threaded the small car in and out of the lanes and waited impatiently for the many traffic lights that were determined to delay her. Finally, she made it to the university, pulled into the car park, and took out her phone.

“Here he comes, Mum!” Bree squealed from the back seat.

Matt Drummond was running down the steps from the administration building and splashing across the rain-soaked car park with his bag over his head. He jumped into the car and slammed the door quickly behind him.

“How’s my girls?” he asked and then leaned over to give Claire a kiss.

“We’re going to see Granddad,” Bree answered him from the back.

“Aye; I know, my wee angel.” Matt looked hard at Claire. “Have you had any word?”

Claire nodded instead of answering in case she started to cry. “Charlie rang,” she said softly, pulling back onto the road and into the madness of congestion.

“Do you want me to drive?” Matt placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“No, you can take over after we stop for dinner.” She smiled weakly back at him.

After the stop-start congestion of the city and suburbs that surrounded it, the journey to the village was an uneventful one. The small family only stopped once when Bree started to complain about being hungry and then got back on the road as soon as possible. Once Matt was in the driver’s seat, Claire could relax and take a breath. She remembered the first time Geoff had taken her on this journey; it seemed then that her life had been turned completely upside down.

But that had been nothing compared to her first trip to Scotland, where she thought she was going to be on an ordinary excavation. The discovery of the heritage of The Community was still ongoing, thanks to what she had learned in Scotland, but also of her own heritage and learning the purpose for which she had been born. The Talents that the Guardians of the land had given her still had not found their limits, and sometimes that scared her—just as much as the death of Jack at her hands had. And always in the background—supporting and caring for her—was Uncle Geoff.

She had always hoped that one day he would find love again. He had told her once that he hadn’t enough time left to train a new wife. Claire knew this was only an excuse; he had found his love and lost her, and he didn’t want a replacement.

Claire looked over to her husband and thought the same thing. How on earth could she replace him? He was so perfect for her, always knowing when she needed extra love, when she needed calm. He made her laugh—a lot—and kept her on an even keel. The day she met him was still so vivid in her mind. The first thing she had noticed about him was his eyes, those beautiful, bright blue eyes.

It was a little bit after nine in the evening when they pulled up outside Geoff Brown’s house in the village. The porch light blazed a warm welcome with its golden glow, and a curtain twitched briefly, showing a patch of light from the living room. The door was opened before they even reached the steps, and her Uncle Ben and Aunt Charlie came out to greet them.

Ben pulled Claire into a big hug and welcomed her home, then turned to Matt and shook his hand. Charlie was next, with a warm smile and an even warmer hug, and then she guided her into the hallway, telling one of her tall sons to go get the bags from the car.

“Do you want to go straight up, or do you want a cuppa first?” Charlie asked her softly.

“I’ll go up. Matt, can you make sure Bree gets ready for bed?”

“Go on up; don’t worry about a thing, my love.” He gave her a kiss and watched as she climbed the stairs to Geoff’s room.

Claire hesitated at the door; taking a deep breath, she opened it quietly. The inside was lit softly by a single lamp at his bedside, and what she saw made her heart break. Geoff, who had been so full of life and vigour, now lay quiet and thin. His breathing was even and shallow, his skin a pallid colour. The full head of hair, which had stubbornly remained mostly dark with a couple of distinguishing bits of grey at the sides, was now almost fully white. His illness had ravaged his body, and he was now so wasted away she nearly didn’t recognise him.

A chair had been pulled up to the side of the bed, and Claire sat in it. She held his hand and kissed it, his skin dry and thin like paper under her touch. She brought it up to her forehead and did something she had never done with him before—she sought out his subconscious.

As she had expected, Claire found an orderly and tidy mind. Everything was compartmentalised and in its place. She found him with ease; it was almost as if he had signposted it for her.

“I wondered if you would,” Geoff said to her as she entered. He stood before her just as he had been when she was a teenager. Tall, with dark hair and eyes, and a grin from one large ear to another, stretched out under his equally large nose.

“Uncle Geoff!” She ran to him and before he could say no, she hugged him close.

“Claire!” Geoff tried to push her off at first, horrified, but she resisted until he hugged her back, wrapping those ever-reassuring arms around her once more. They stayed that way for some time, and by the time she did release him, her face was awash with tears.

“That was a foolish thing to do, Kid,” Geoff told her as he held her at arm’s length. “But I thank you.”

“How are you? Are you in pain?”

“No, I’m fine. I find that I am quite comfortable and happy. It’s my time, Kid, and nothing you do is going to stop it.”

“I know.” She nodded.

“Now, have you brought that little firecracker with you? I would like to see her one last time.”

“Bree is with us. She even asked this afternoon if we could come and see you.”

“Good. She reminds me so much of you. So full of energy and enthusiasm. And Matt—has he been well, not missing Scotland too much?”

“No, he is going back in a couple of months. His mother isn’t too good.”

“Oh, that’s not good. I liked Leana; I’ll keep an eye out on the other side for her.”

“But you don’t believe in God and the afterlife.”

“Ahh, a human failing it is to change one’s mind when the end is nigh.” He laughed, then his mood changed. “There is one thing I would very much like you to do for me before I go.”

“Anything, Uncle Geoff. Just name it,” Claire promised.

“I would dearly love to see John and Jess one last time. Can you call them here?”

She nodded with another trickle of tears chasing each other down her cheeks. Claire closed her eyes and sent the call into the dark reaches of her own mind, and she heard the answer at once.

On either side of her, a man and a woman materialised. John, her father, was in black, and Jess, her mother, in white. They greeted her with a kiss each and then went to meet Geoff. Claire had to swallow a lump in her throat as she watched them greet each other and stood back to give them some time together.

Sitting on a large green leather chair, Claire waited while they talked until she felt a tug at her mind. She grasped onto it and brought it in, and she found she was holding on to Matt’s hand.

“I didn’t want to disturb you,” he said quietly, taking in the scene before him.

“That’s all right, Matt. I was feeling a bit alone.” He wrapped his arms around her, both mentally and physically, and she cried into his shoulder.

“Hey, I don’t want tears in here, thank you; you’ll make everything wet,” said Geoff’s deep voice, and he grasped Matt’s hand and pulled him into a hug. They became close while they stayed at his family’s home in Scotland and had remained just as close when Matt came to New Zealand.

“Thank you for looking after her; make sure you keep it up. And that gorgeous girl of yours,” Geoff told him.

“I will always. I promise,” Matt vowed.

“Now, I thank you all for visiting me, but I would very much like to wake up for a second and tell Bree goodnight. John and Jess, I have missed you, and it was a very great privilege and honour to look after your daughter. She is the daughter of my heart.”

“It is us who should be thanking you, Uncle Geoff. You have raised her to be such a fine woman.” John shook his hand and hugged him one last time.

“Thank you, Geoff,” Jess said and kissed him on the cheek.

“Right—the lot of you, out,” he said gruffly, trying to hold back his own tears.

Slowly John and Jess faded out, and Matt gave Geoff another handshake. They spoke no words to each other, just nodded.

Finally it was just Claire once more, and Geoff gathered her up again in his arms. “I meant what I said. You are the daughter I never had, and if you were truly mine I couldn’t have been prouder, Claire.”

“I love you, Uncle Geoff, and I am proud to be called your daughter. I am so lucky to have had two fathers who have cared so much for me.” She kissed his cheek and then pulled away.

“Go get Bree; I want to see her one last time.” Claire felt him push her away and she left, very carefully, and finally detached her mind from his.

Geoff’s eyes fluttered open, and Bree was by his side in her pyjamas and ready for bed.

“There she is! How are you, my firecracker?” he asked softly and smiled at her.

“I’m good, Granddad. Are you just about ready to go?” Her voice was very low, almost a whisper.

“I do believe that I am, but I waited till I could see you again.” Bree climbed up on the bed and gave him a hug.

“Matt, can you go get Ben and the others? It’s nearly time,” Claire whispered to her husband. He nodded in reply, gave her shoulder a squeeze, and left to go downstairs.

When Claire turned her attention back to the man who had raised her and the child she loved, she noticed that Bree was whispering something to him. Geoff’s eyes widened, and he looked at his granddaughter with surprise and love.

Ben, Charlie, and their two boys, Oliver and Owen, filed into the room, followed by Matt. Ben sat on the other side of the bed and held his uncle’s other hand. Geoff smiled and took one last look around the room at all who were left of his family. Bree, still at his side, rested her head on his shoulder, and he closed his eyes.

His breathing, which had been so shallow when Claire first stepped into the room, now began to falter and become ragged. They watched over him into the small hours of the morning, until his last breath escaped his lips and he became still.

“Owen, can you and Oliver take Bree out of the room, please?” Charlie asked her son.

Bree reached up and stroked Geoff’s face. “Goodbye, Granddad. I love you.” She stood up and went around to Owen and held his hand. Before Bree left the room, she took one last look at Geoff and sighed.

Claire was still holding Geoff’s hand in hers, and she didn’t want to release it. One of the most important men in her life had just left her for the last time, and she felt that a piece of her heart went with him. Tears coursed down her face and dripped onto her lap. A tissue was produced in front of her, and she took it. Finally she let go of Geoff’s hand and laid it gently back on the bed by his side.

Matt was there immediately to gather her up into one of his comforting embraces, holding her gently and letting her cry. He stroked her hair and kissed her head. When she was ready, he led her out of the room and down the stairs, followed by Ben and Charlie.

The bottle of whiskey was produced from its high cupboard in the kitchen, along with some glasses. With a measure each, they raised them in salute to the man who had meant so much to all of them. Bree climbed onto her mother’s lap and cuddled in, as she had when she was a baby, and fell asleep.

The next few days were a whirlwind of emotions, endless tasks, and cups of tea. And skipping through it all and giving bright smiles and cuddles was Bree; she made sure that everyone benefitted from her sunny nature. Claire had often observed when she was with her friends that this child could make anyone smile.

The day of the funeral, Bree stuck close to her mother all day. Whenever Claire turned around, there she was, slipping her small hand into her mother’s larger one. Claire would instantly feel calmer as she looked into her daughter’s beautiful eyes.

It was a simple service; Geoff had insisted on that. He hadn’t wanted anything too over-the-top or sad. The elders each got up to speak; Claire thought this would have horrified Geoff, as he had often complained about how long their meetings were each month. Claire couldn’t face standing up in front of the large crowd that had gathered in the hall, and she had asked Ben to do the eulogy on behalf of the family.

Ben stood up behind the podium on the stage with a few notes in front of him and cleared his throat. Claire noticed how much he had grown to look like his brother, her father, and reminded herself to tell him. He looked out at the crowd and began. Tales of Geoff from a nephew’s perspective garnered laughter from the gathered mourners. Ben spoke eloquently and long, something he seemed to have inherited from his uncle. He touched a little on Geoff’s relationship with Claire and their history without going into too many details, which had Claire both grateful and a little teary.

The wake was held in the village hall, and it was full of people; he had touched many lives, and they had come from far and wide to farewell him. But the core was the family, and Claire watched them carefully. The boys were now young men; Owen, Oliver, and Hunter, now nineteen, were all at university. The twins were studying architecture, and Ben had great hopes of them joining his construction company. Hunter was following in his father’s footsteps and was studying agriculture. He had declared at the age of twelve that he wanted to take over the farm from his father, much to the horror of his mother. The oldest of Claire’s cousins was Jasper, and he had just graduated with honours in teaching.

As she talked to them, she realised how much they were like their parents. Owen had his mother’s gentle nature and also her Healing Talent, but he confessed to having a phobia of blood. Oliver was more like his father, ready for a good laugh and a joke; he had the Seek Talent. Hunter had Flight and regaled Claire with his exploits in freerunning, something he had long loved, having been taught by her. Jasper, now twenty-three and with Light Talent, told her he had had enough of study for a while and was about to embark on his own adventures overseas before taking up his first teaching job.

Adam and Addy and their two children had come from the city the day before, and Claire was glad they had. Their twin boys, Cameron and Dominic, were great friends with Bree, and they took her mind off the serious and sad nature of the gathering. She decided she still had a great and supportive family.

At one point, Claire found herself sitting in the corner alone, watching everyone as they mingled. Beth was there, but now the laughter and smiles were no longer forced. She talked to everyone with ease, so unlike the Beth Claire had first met that night all those years before. And she had a flashback to the welcome party and Jack approaching her.

“Claire? You okay?”

She looked up and found David standing before her. He was her mother’s twin brother and a great support to Claire; she had taken to him at once with his easy nature.

“Just going down memory lane,” she said and smiled.

He sat down beside her. “A lot has happened.”

“It has indeed. How’s the farm going?”

“Oh, you know, still the same. I can’t wait for Hunter to be finished with his studies so I can take a bit more of a back seat. I thought I might take Beth on a trip to Scotland.” He winked and smiled at her.

“Do you think she will be able to handle all the midges?”

“She’ll be all right. Do you think Gerry, Leana, and Gran would welcome a couple of visitors?”

“I’m sure they would love to see you. They always ask after you and your family. You made quite an impression on them.”

“We get a card from them every Christmas. Even though it was such a strange trip, I really enjoyed myself.”

Claire spotted Addy and Beth talking. “So are they getting on any better?” she asked him with a small grin.

“No, they still have arguments on how to raise the grandkids. I still can’t believe that I am a grandfather!” He laughed at the thought.

“Just remind Beth that her mother-in-law also had small issues with her. That might change things a bit.”

“Are you kidding me? That would be like a red rag to a bull. Just keep that nose of yours out of it, Kid.” He watched his wife a bit more then stood. “I’d better get over there and split them up before it gets too heated. Come for lunch tomorrow; I know Beth would love to fuss over you for a bit.”

“We will. Thank you, Uncle David.” David smiled at Claire; she hadn’t called him that in years, and he left her with a warm heart.

The afternoon dragged on, and Claire kept herself occupied by cleaning up cups and plates in between talking to the elders about the work she was carrying out for them. With everyone gone, she shooed out those who had volunteered to help clean up, declaring that she needed a bit of time to herself and would finish cleaning the hall on her own. She asked Matt to take Bree back to the house; he kissed her after making sure she was all right and left her to it.

The kitchenette was scrubbed and the rubbish bags tied and waiting by the door to go out. Out in the main hall, she held a broom in her hands and started to sweep; it was a great time to be lost in her thoughts in the quiet. Memories of Geoff made her smile and cry in turn. The peace and silence of the large room was just what she needed, having had people constantly around her for the last three days. Her defences were down as she reminisced, and she didn’t hear the silent footsteps enter the foyer.

She turned in front of the stage to make the final run down the length of the hall when she saw movement. Standing in the doorway was a tall figure with wavy dark hair, now with the touches of time showing, and dark brown eyes that stared at her with such intensity.

“Hello, Claire.”

“What are you doing here?” Claire asked.

“I came to give you my condolences.” He started to walk towards her slowly.

“I don’t think you should come any further, Tony.” She leaned on the broom as she watched him get closer.

“I really am sorry for your loss, Claire, for all your losses.” Tony stopped and never took his eyes off her.

“Have you been following me all this time?”

“No, I took your advice. I got a job overseas and got back about a month ago. I’ve only checked up on you once since I returned.”

Claire gave him a small smile. “I’m pleased to hear that. And have you gotten over your obsession?”

“I did hope so, but then I read that Geoff died and I found myself halfway out the door to come see you. You seem to be a hard habit to break.”

“Maybe you need to go see someone, get some therapy for it.”

“Oh, I did that too; I ended up in a relationship with her, and she accused me of transference and then broke up with me. So even that didn’t work.” He chuckled.

“You’re a hopeless case, then.”

“Probably. Or maybe I’m just crap with women.”

“So you couldn’t just stay away, stop yourself from coming all this way. A card would have done.”

He stepped closer to her involuntarily. “I needed to see for myself that you were okay. No matter how hard I try, I still care very deeply for you.”

“Ah! You said care, not love,” she told him. “There is a difference.”

“Yes, there is, but I try not so say it, because if I do…” He trailed away. He was closer now, and Claire did nothing to stop him.

“Your daughter is beautiful.”

“Stay away from her, Tony.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not interested in her.” He smiled down at her; he was close enough to touch her now. “I still remember that night—it haunts my dreams. That kiss.”

“This is not helping.” She took a step back from him, unsure whether he would hurt her. Slowly she gathered her energy around her and held it in place, ready for anything.

“No, it’s not.” He ran a hand through his thick, wavy hair. “Look, my offer is still there. If you ever need me for anything, call me.”

“I threw the card away. I found it when we were moving,” Claire told him.

He pulled his phone from his pocket, dialled a number, and waited. Over by the wall, Claire could hear her phone ringing. She turned automatically to answer it before realising that he had her number already. She turned back to him.

“Hi, Claire; just a gentle reminder that I am still around.” He hit the End button on his phone and put it back in his pocket. “There you are; you have my number now. I told you I will always keep tabs on you.”

“Are you ever going to stop this?”

“Probably not. If I haven’t by now, what’s the point?”

“I’d like you to leave, Tony.” She carried on sweeping down the hall and when she reached the end, she turned to find he had followed her.

“You are still the most beautiful woman in the world, Claire. Matt is a very lucky man; I hope he realises how lucky he is.”

She stood up straight; to her, it sounded like he was threatening her husband. “He does. Every day he tells me how much he loves me and how lucky he is, and I tell him the same right back.”

“Good. Because I have tried everything in my power to break you two up, and not once has he taken the bait.” He had a grin on his face that made Claire very uneasy.

“Please leave—before I do something I might regret.”

“Remember, Claire, I was on that hill top as well that night. The Talents given to me by the Guardians are still with me. I think we would be very evenly matched.”

“Why stand there and throw veiled threats at me, then? Why scare me?”

“I’m sorry if I have; it was never my intention.”

“Well, you did. You have said what you wanted to say; there is nothing more to talk about.” She leaned the broom up against the wall. When she turned back, it was to find him standing only inches from her.

Stepping back hurriedly, Claire tripped over the broom and started to fall. He grabbed her, wrapping his arms around her body, standing her up on her feet once more. She looked up into his eyes and had a hard job pulling away—from both his gaze and his touch—but finally she did both and moved away.

“Please, just go,” she begged him quietly.

“I think I should,” Tony replied. He turned, and Claire watched him leave the hall. He stopped at the door and looked back at her. “I know you were looking at my arse.” He smiled and left, his chuckle of laughter floating back to her.

Claire stood staring at the doorway and shook her head, a wry smile tugging at her lips. Her own parting words the last time she had talked to him came floating back to her. Walk away, Tony…stop watching me. My arse isn’t that great!

She finished cleaning, turned the lights off, and headed out of the hall, shutting the door behind her. Out in the cool wintry air, she shivered and pulled her jacket around her more tightly. She hoped the walk would help get rid of any thoughts of Tony that still remained. Just the thought of him made her look around; she could feel him still near and reached out with her mind.

Having already been inside his mind once before made it easy for her to gain access again. She walked through the various compartments, looking for one particular part. When she found it, Claire noticed that it had changed slightly. The white filigree box with golden coils was now very glossy and slightly larger. Slowly she felt the surface; it was warm and slick, and she trailed her hand around it.

“Now who is intruding on whose life?” his rich voice spoke from beside her. “And how did you get in here?”

“I just wanted to see it again, and it is amazing what I can do now. I can access any part of you that I wish, not just your brain. If I wanted, I could stop your heart. If you wanted, I could make you stop loving me.”

“But I don’t want that, Claire. I would rather you stopped my heart. But I know you. I know that you could not hurt me in any way. You proved it on the hill that night. In your own way, you love me.”

“Please leave the village; don’t stay.” Claire withdrew her thoughts from his and walked down the street. The wind was starting to pick up and the moon was rising over the hill. From behind her, she heard a car starting and then driving down the road in the opposite direction. She listened to it leave with a tear in her eye.

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About the Author

L C Conn - Author Photo

L.C. Conn grew up on the outskirts of Upper Hutt, New Zealand. Her backyard encompassed the surrounding farmland, river, hills and mountains which she wandered with her brothers and fed her imagination. After discovering a love for writing in English class at the age of eight, she continued to write in secret. It was not until much later in life that L.C. turned what she thought was a hobby and something fun to do, into her first completed novel. Now married, L.C. moved from New Zealand to Perth, Western Australia, and became a stay at home mum. While caring for her family and after battling breast cancer, a story was born from the kernel of a dream. The first book of The One True Child Series was begun, and just kept blooming into seven completed stories.

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Book Highlight: Side Chick Nation

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Check out the hot new cover for Aya de León’s upcoming book, Side Chick Nation! The story sounds just as sizzling!

Side Chick Nation (A Justice Hustler’s Book)

Expected Publication Date: June 25th, 2019

Genre: Feminist Crime Fiction

Pages: 352

Dulce García was a teen sexually exploited by a violent New York pimp until Marisol Rivera rescued her. But Dulce didn’t stay rescued for long. In SIDE CHICK NATION, Dulce’s unhealed trauma and appetite for thrills lead her into an endless party of sugar daddies in the Caribbean. Until she gets caught in Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico—and witnesses both the heartbreaking disaster of climate change, and the international vultures who plunder the tragedy for a financial killing, making shady use of relief funds to devastate the island even more . . .

Meanwhile, New York-based mastermind thief Marisol already has her hands full fleecing a ruthless CEO who’s stealing her family’s land in Puerto Rico and getting her relatives out alive. An additional crew member could be game-changing, but she’s wary of Dulce’s unpredictability and history of indiscretion. Still, Dulce’s growing determination to get justice draws Marisol in, along with her formidable Lower East Side Women’s Health Clinic’s heist squad. But their on-the-fly race-against-the-clock plan is soon complicated by a sexy crusading journalist—not to mention powerful men who turn deadly when ex-side chicks step out of the shadows and demand to call the shots…

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About the Author

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Aya de León teaches creative writing in UC Berkeley’s African American Studies Department. Her award-winning Justice Hustlers series has received acclaim in the Washington Post, Jacobin Magazine, and The Establishment. Her work has also appeared in Ebony, Essence, Guernica, Ploughshares, The Root, VICE, and on Def Poetry. She is an alumna of Cave Canem and VONA.

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Book Highlight: Prince of Secrets and Shadows

Welcome to the blog tour for the highly anticipated follow up novel in The Order of the Crystal Daggers series, Prince of Secrets and Shadows! Please read on for an exclusive excerpt, purchase details, and of course, a fab giveaway to enter!

But wait, there’s more! Today I am also revealing the stunning cover for book #3, Heart of Hope and Fear with a little teaser!

2 Prince of Secrets and Shadows final front cover.jpgPrince of Secrets and Shadows

Publication Date: December 4th, 2018

Genre: YA/ Historical Fiction/ Adventure/ Romance

“How do I know you’re telling me the truth?” The last thing I wanted to do was hurt him, but if I did not find a way to break free of him, I would risk doing even more harm.

Ferdy met my gaze with his. “I promise you this, Ella, that as of now, I will never lie to you again.” He leaned forward and kissed me again, and I stood there, letting him, desperately debating whether I could trust him or not. His promise burned through me, his words scorched into my being. It was so tempting to believe him, more tempting than anything else I had ever faced in all my life.

Freedom was only freedom if I could trust it to be true.

PRAGUE, 1870

After joining the Order of the Crystal Daggers, led by her dauntless grandmother, Lady Penelope, Eleanora Svobodová set out to save her kingdom from oncoming devastation.
And she failed.

Following the attack on Prague Castle, Eleanora is determined to redeem herself. She sets out to win Karl’s trust while distancing herself from Ferdy, whose secrets and lies have done nothing to stop her from falling in love with him. As she struggles to let him go, questions about the mission and her mother’s past cause a rift between Amir and Lady Penelope and add to the growing discord between Eleanora and her brother.
But when a cunning provocateur arrives in Prague, Eleanora discovers there is an even more deadly game afoot, one that reaches into Amir’s past and threatens Lady Penelope’s future. Now, the members of the Order must work together if they are to uncover the true enemy hiding in Bohemia.

Can they work together despite their divisions? Or will their division lead to even more destruction?

With spies, secrets, and suspense, Prince of Secrets and Shadows is the second book in The Order of the Crystal Daggers, a spy adventure series from C. S. Johnson.

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Excerpt

2-prince-of-secrets-and-shadows-final-front-cover-e1552480694169.jpg

“I told you the truth about your grandmother’s past, including some of the secrets she carries,” Harshad said. “But you are still not any more inclined to trust her with your secrets, are you?”

I blushed at his perception and shook my head. “No.”

He nodded. “I thought as much. Trust is a process, especially in a fallen world.”

Perhaps for once, I understood why Harshad wanted me to remain silent while he talked. Everything he said was intentional, designed to tantalize the mind. I was suddenly appalled when I realized how much I had likely missed in our sessions before.

I hoped I would be able to make up for it, after our mission was over.

When he did speak again, it seemed as though ages had passed. “You really are so much like Dezda. I wanted to see for myself how different you are, and that required time.” His voice was much more of a whisper, and I knew he was taking a risk, and letting me know one of his secrets. “I know you are different enough that I can freely admit that I came to regret training Dezda. I did not want to make the same mistake with you.”

“This is not a mistake,” I said, but I felt my resolve weaken. I remembered how Ferdy told me that the Order of the Crystal Daggers was full of assassins, and I had nothing to say in return. He was likely right. I did not know if I was comfortable having the talent to kill someone.

Harshad seemed to agree with my unspoken concerns. “Fighting is contrary to your nature.”

“Being stubborn and contrary is not.” A wry grin appeared on my face, and I was suddenly determined to change the subject. “Besides, Lady Penelope says that Society can only exist when people do things that are unacceptable to save it.”

“That does not mean you must be such a person.”

“I do not agree,” I said. “I am free to see the truth of such a calling, even if it is uncomfortable.”

“This is not what you want.”

I did not know how to respond; Harshad was right. I had my doubts about the Order, about working with people who, as Lady POW said, would fail me.

But I was at the castle when Karl and Lord Maximillian’s attack commenced. If I had done nothing at all, if I had backed away from Lady Penelope’s offer, if I had jumped at the chance to travel abroad and find a husband, or if I had taken enough of her money to start up Liberté with Ben, I would not have been able to save Ferdy.

And he was worth it. Protecting Ferdy was worth it.

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Here is the unbelievably gorgeous cover for book #3 in the series, called Heart of Hope and Fear! I also have a little teaser for you below!

3 Heart of Hope and Fear front cover

“What about the Order?” I hesitated to ask, knowing Amir had painful memories of his own. “I wanted to be free before. Lady Penelope pointed out that this is the opposite of what I wanted. I can’t help but feel she is right.”

“Wanting to be free is not a sin in itself,” Amir told me softly. “Only when that is everything and held to the highest priority is it so. We are loyal to the truth, Eleanora, but the truth is complicated, and freedom can be painful.”

PRAGUE, 1871

In the battle between the past and the present, one girl must stand and fight for the future.

Following Lord Maximillian’s escape and Karl’s disappearance, Eleanora Svobodová and the other members of the Order of the Crystal Daggers have plenty to keep them preoccupied. Just as the Emperor calls for a tripartite council to determine the sovereignty of Bohemia, war breaks out in France, and Lady Penelope prepares the Order to come face to face with their true foe at last.

But then Eleanora discovers the startling truth about her mother’s last mission in Prague.

Can she rescue the prince, save the Emperor, and still protect her friends and family?

Ferdy’s mother narrowed her eyes at me. “I am relieved to hear that you have made such a study of both my sons of late, Lady Eleanora. I confess, I was surprised to hear of your engagement to Karl through the papers.”

“I regret to inform you, Your Highness, that Karl made the arrangements with the papers. I did not agree to an engagement.” I did not need a mirror to know my face had flushed over in red.

“Well, that’s not entirely true,” Ferdy interjected. “Ella has agreed to marry me.”

“What?” Lady Penelope, Empress Maria Anna, and Amir all turned to look at me. The heat in my cheeks exponentially increased.

“I love her, and she loves me,” Ferdy continued, clearly indifferent to how uncomfortable he was making me. It was scandalous that he would love me at all, but the way in which he presented his claim on my heart was more than inappropriate—especially given that we had to find his brother, who was, in the eyes of Society, the one who was rightfully engaged to me. “We would like to speak with the archbishop while we are here.”

“Today?” The empress gaped at him.

“Yes.” Ferdy stepped down from before the throne to stand beside me. He took my hand in his and brought it to his lips.

“Ferdinand … ” Empress Maria Anna looked from Ferdy to me, and then back at her son. She seemed aghast at the idea, and I did not know what to do to calm her fears—if I could do such a thing at all. My own stomach was turning and twisting into knots.

“I have fallen deeply under her spell, Mother, and I would hate to fall even further into scandal and temptation,” Ferdy continued, watching his mother carefully. “It would be such a stain on our family’s virtuous history.”

The former empress blushed as she looked at me, and I was too shocked to assure her Ferdy and I were not engaged in an affair; even if I had, I worried Ferdy would divulge more of our stolen moments together, just vague enough to let everyone assume the worst.

I only felt some measure of relief when Amir gave me a small smile. From where he stood behind Lady Penelope, I could see the somberness as well as the sincerity of his approval.

Suddenly, I did not want to know what Lady Penelope was thinking; I deliberately kept my face turned away from hers.

“It was only a few days ago that my life was endangered as I made my way back to Silesia,” Ferdy said, so smoothly I did not even call him on his lie. “Life is so fragile, Mother, and I have been waiting for Ella for so long.”

He looked back up at his mother, resolved and proud, but still pleading for her approval.

Ferdy had told me once before that I was the one who was more determined between us, but as his fingers curled into mine, in a manner that was both so seductive and yet so innocent, I wondered if he had been lying.

Coming Soon!

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Author-CS-Johnson

C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me

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March 18th

Reads & Reels (Excerpt) http://readsandreels.com

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March 19th

Bobo’s Book Bank (Excerpt) http://bobosbookbank.com

Adventures Thru Wonderland (Review) http://adventuresthruwonderland.blogspot.com/

The Hufflepuff Nerdette (Excerpt) https://thehufflepuffnerdette.wordpress.com

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March 20th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Excerpt) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

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Book Highlight: The Onyx Crown

To celebrate the release of Alan Hurst’s debut novel, The Onyx Crown, we are having a week-long book blitz! There will be an exclusive excerpt reveal, and a chance to win a digital copy of the book at the bottom! 

Front CoverThe Onyx Crown #1

Publication Date: January 27th, 2019

Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure

The Onyx Crown is an exciting foray into the world of African fantasy. From the searing heat of the desert to the vastness of the savannah, it tells the story of three children–Sania, Gesi, and Jorann who grow up in a pre-medieval era of wars and successions, not fifteen years after the greatest king in the history of the continent has been deposed and assassinated. They must overcome the traumatic circumstances of their birth as well as many dangerous trials to fulfill the destiny bestowed upon them as infants. Can mere children use their courage, wits, and uncanny abilities to defeat legendary warriors, entire tribes, provinces, and kingdoms–allowing them to lead the worthy to the greatest prize of all, the Onyx Crown?

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Excerpt

For the next few days, the three of them did virtually everything together, including games, horse riding, and spear training with the First Knight, who seemed to be getting sterner and tougher on them with every lesson. The First Knight, whose given name was Jorell Boro, was famed throughout the fourteen provinces as one of the best living warriors of all time. He’d made his name fighting for the upstart Regent Okon in his war of usurpation against the High King Toloron.

After Toloron was defeated, the regent rewarded Boro with the titles of First Knight of the Crown, Protector of the House of the First Prince, and the moniker “the Bloodless Death,” because supposedly his bladed spear could kill a person so quickly and with such precision that they would be dead before any blood was even visible.

Okon, along with the ruling conclave, also granted a treaty to Pala Jorell’s home kingdom of East Rhydor, including a guarantee that no Numerian troops would invade as long as the East Rhydor king or his son, the prince, were in power.

The First Prince had asked Pala Jorell to begin instructing Zadeemo in the ways of knighthood, and also Gesemni himself, most likely reasoning that Zadeemo would need a sparring partner when the First Prince was absent.

The First Knight had been reluctant to train a “commoner” in the higher arts of warfare but, at the insistence of both the First Prince and Zadeemo, had relented. Still, one could tell he took The Onyx Crown -26- great pains to make sure that Zadeemo understood some of the finer points of the moves he instructed, while not deigning to help Gesi.

Luckily for Gesi, he had tremendous aptitude and seemingly a womb-borne comprehension of instinctual combat. As such, he rarely needed the extra tutoring that Zadeemo couldn’t seem to do without. On this day, the two of them were instructed for quite some time on hand-spear counters, an ancient method of grappling that involved an unarmed warrior wresting the control of spears and other long objects away from their adversary. It was an extremely rough and unpolished method of fighting, and the First Knight took the better part of the morning explaining it to them.

Finally, the paladin suggested they work the puzzling elements out with a few rounds of sparring. Boro handed him a bladed spear and marked out a circle four en-yawo in diameter with his carving knife. Zadeemo was given a pair of lyocell gloves, which felt like silk but were made from the toughest fibers in existence. These were to be used to protect his hands from blade cuts.

Gesi shifted nervously. Always when they’d fought before they’d both been armed. Oddly, there’s a certain amount of safety involved when two weapons compete against each other. But with Zadeemo being unarmed, Gesi felt he’d have to be very careful. He was also very conscious of Zoe sitting on her tilbury, watching them both amusedly.

“Engage!” The First Knight’s voice rang out through the square as the boys stepped into the circle. Zadeemo immediately lowered his stance, thrusting the heel of his boot inside Gesi’s left calf to disrupt his balance, simultaneously snatching at the bladed spear handle.

Shuffle-stepping to counter, Gesi twisted the blade ninety degrees, forcing Zadeemo to withdraw his hands. He knew he was supposed to be nothing more than a punching target for Zadeemo, but in situations like this, his stubborn, competitive imoya always got in the way of things, and yes…he also wanted to show off a bit in front of Zoe.

Surprisingly, Zadeemo must’ve anticipated his counter because he nimbly moved to his left, crashing his knee into Gesi’s right thigh and causing him to grimace. Ducking underneath the spear, Zadeemo swung his right elbow fiercely into Gesi’s solar plexus. The few servants and townspeople who were looking on cheered loudly, including Zoe.

At that second, he felt like he was going to black out. Zadeemo may have been slower than a stuck rhino, but he had strength far beyond what most twelve-year-olds could muster.

Instinctively, he twisted his bladed spear to block the next grasping move he felt was coming, slid his left knee under Zadeemo’s right, and reverse-swung the spear in a sweeping arc toward Zadeemo’s chest. The cheering stopped, followed by a deathly silence as Zadeemo crashed down to the dirt awkwardly. Everyone was staring at Gesi. Some looked angry, some fearful, some puzzled. Even he didn’t know how he’d won.

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About the Author

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Alan Hurst is an author and entrepreneur. Hurst who spent most of his childhood reading Asian wuxia fiction, Marvel comics and encyclopedias is delving into trilogy territory with THE ONYX CROWN. He briefly studied religion at Harvard.  Later, he settled in Washington, DC where he founded a software consulting firm, hosted the Urban Nation Radio podcast, and occasionally played the World Series of Poker.  When not writing or enjoying time with his family, he prefers to take his Ducati motorcycle out for the occasional spin!

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Book Highlight: Touch of Smoke

Welcome to the Touch of Smoke tour! This beauty is the latest offering from author, Karissa Laurel. If you like your romance mixed with the supernatural, then this book is for you!

In addition to an exclusive excerpt, you will also have the chance to win a signed paperback copy, and some sweet bookish swag! Be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom!

Touch-of-Smoke-1877x3000-Amazon-300dpi.jpg

Touch of Smoke

Publication Date: February 12th, 2019

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Three years ago, Rikki Albemarle watched her best friend die at the hands of supernatural evil. Certain she was slated to be the next victim, Rikki fled her small Smoky Mountain hometown, vowing to never come back. Plagued by nightmares and knowing she’s the only one who believes Mina’s death was no accident, Rikki returns with hopes of finding answers and holding the killer accountable.

Rikki is convinced the key to unlocking the secret of Mina’s death lies with Owen Amir, the alluring young army vet who once claimed her heart. But the deeper Rikki digs into Owen’s past, the more she’s torn between the urgings of her heart and her memories of him on the night Mina died.

After falling further into the rabbit hole, Rikki lands at the feet of an ancient and powerful evil determined to finish what it started years before. To survive, she’ll have to make a decision: believe Owen is the monster she always feared he might be or trust him enough to stay and fight for a second chance at love.

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Excerpt

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Owen huffed and shook his head but fished in his pocket until he found a small key ring. He selected an old brass one that he jiggled into the bolt lock over the warehouse’s rusty door handle. “Would have told you to put on jeans and boots if I’d known you wanted to go inside.”

Glancing at my shredded jean shorts and low-cut Chuck Taylors, I thanked Jesus I’d recently boosted my tetanus shot. “Not asking for a grand tour. Show me what you can from the threshold.”

Owen shook his head again, but he shoved his shoulder against the heavy door. It squealed as it gave way, swinging open on rusted hinges. I pushed past him, stepping farther into the room, but stopped at the edge of the small illuminated square thrown by Dolly’s headlights. “Just give me the general idea.”

His boot steps echoed in the open space as he moved behind me. Taking my shoulders, he shifted me until I faced the warehouse’s rear, where the light failed to reach. “The back wall there”—he pointed, leaning over my shoulder—“will be where we’ll line up the distilling tanks.” He wrapped an arm around my waist and spun us around like partners in a slow dance. A warm thrill raced through me as his lips brushed my ear. “And over there will be the café.”

My pulse throbbed in my ears, my chest, my lips. It wouldn’t be enough, these limited touches, these coy games, this not-so-subtle flirtation. With Owen, my options were sink or swim, and no matter how much reason and logic urged me to do otherwise, I was sinking, utterly drowning in him. I stumbled back and fought for a breath to clear my head, but my heel connected with an obstacle hidden in the shadows. I lost my footing and squeaked a feeble protest as gravity waged war against my balance.

The moment I was certain I would hit the floor and smash my tailbone, Owen grabbed my arm and yanked. Still off balance but with the added element of momentum, I plowed into him, tackling him to the floor.

Or that was what should have happened.

Instead, the world jumped up and swirled around me in a blur of blue sparks and shadows, air roaring in my ears like a tornado. I blinked, and the impression of someone—or something—huge, dark, and beastly burned behind my eyelids. When the dizzy moment passed, I found myself back on my feet, upright, and firmly wrapped in Owen’s arms. His heat blazed against me, filling my head with his smoky scent until I felt drunk and woozy.

“What…?” I shook my head and cleared my throat, but the intoxicating sensation remained. “What just happened?”

“You stumbled. I caught you.”

“No.” I squirmed, and he dropped his arms, releasing me. A thousand minuscule candles seemed to flicker in his eyes, giving them an otherworldly aura. I inched back, my steps wobbly. “We were falling. We should have hit the floor.”

His lips twitched. “I’m quick on my feet, Rikki. Give me some credit.”

Squinting, I studied him, his wide stance and the set of his jaw, full of self-confidence. He rolled his broad shoulders and grinned, obviously enjoying my scrutiny. Again, his presence seemed larger than the mere height and width of his physical body. Like a cowl and cape, dense shadows draped over him, and they seemed tangible enough to touch. When I reached out to stroke them, Owen drew back.

The shadows fled.

I shivered.

With no better explanation than to assume an overdose of adrenaline and desire had colored my perception, I dismissed my concerns and shrugged, heading for the door. “You’re not quick on your feet. You’re The Flash on steroids.”

His laughter followed me into the parking lot, but it was callous and more than a little cold.

The drive to my house was quiet, the atmosphere between us thick. If humans had animal instincts, then the wild creature inside me was insisting the man sitting in the passenger seat was more predator than appearance suggested. Something about Owen had changed. He was a tiger, I was his mouse, and I should run before he swallowed me whole. When I caught him staring at me, the dark look on his face implied he might do that very thing, given the chance.

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About the Author

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Karissa lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky. Some of her favorite things are coffee, chocolate, and superheroes. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. She loves to read and has a sweet tooth for fantasy, sci-fi, and anything in between. In the summer, she loves to be on the water, on the boat or in her kayak. When it snows, you’ll find her on the slopes.

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Reads & Reels (Review) http://www.readsandreels.com

Where Dragons Reside (Excerpt) https://kernerangelina.live/

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March 15th

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Blog Tour Promo: The Princess and The Peacock

Who doesn’t love a great fairy tale retelling? That’s why I’m so pleased to share this lovely novella with you. I have an excerpt for you to read, and a chance to win your very own print copy of the book! Enjoy!

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The Princess and the Peacock (Birds of Fae #1)

Publication Date: January 25th, 2019

Genre: Fantasy/ Fairy Tale Retelling

The first time I fell in love with Princess Mele was when I saw her smile, and I fell in love with her the second time the moment I heard her sing. Two memories burn within Kaipo’s heart — the death of his mother, which left him alone to die, and the arrival of Princess Mele, which gave him a new reason to live. Together with his adopted brother, Kaipo seeks out Jaya, the Fae Queen who lives on the Forbidden Mountain, in order to gain the beauty he requires to win Mele’s heart. But Jaya has other plans for the scarred outcast who climbs up her mountain …

The Princess and the Peacock is the first in Birds of Fae, a fantasy fairy tale novella series from C. S. Johnson.

Excerpt

THE PRINCESS AND THE PEACOCK: Kaipo desperately requests a wish from the Fae Queen, Jaya, after climbing up the Forbidden Mountain on Maluhia.

Desperate, I hold out my hands, palms upward, in a gesture of pleading. “Queen Jaya, I ask that you grant me my wish, as I stated, and as you promised. It is only fair, after all.”

“Dare you bother me in my own musings?” Jaya slams the end of her staff into the ground. The air around her whips out ferociously, as if her emotions stretch out far beyond her heart. “Very well then, Kaipo. I will grant your wish.”

She comes up in front of me, and I nearly stagger back at the overbearing fullness of her being. Her finger reaches out and touches my forehead.

Instantly, I am frozen; the essence of my soul shines as her power leeches into me. Just before my eyes go sightless, the last thing I see is her triumphant smirk.

“Yes,” she whispers, so softly I almost think I am imagining it. “I do believe this is just the magic needed to give you beauty Princess Mele will be unable to resist.”

Her words brush over me, leaving me weak with joy as my world is drowned with light, and I eagerly fall into its brightness.

For a moment, as I bathe in that transcendent sensation, I wonder if I had actually fallen off the mountain earlier, and this is just a final coming home into the arms of death.

“There.” Jaya’s voice echoes from far away, and behind her, I hear Rahj gasp in surprise. I try to smile, but I feel my face resist the movement.

Taking one last deep breath, I open my eyes.

A bouquet of dark, iridescent color swims before me, and it takes only two seconds before I realize every miracle I expected was horrifically wrong. Instead of scarless flesh, my arms have been transformed into wings of shimmering blue, with hints of green and black tipping off their feathers. My own body, once lean and hungry, is bulging out with meaty bird muscle, and my neck is three times as long. My legs are sticks with claws, and I can feel the ground part eagerly as I stumble, stabbing the divine earth as I go.

Jaya’s laughter follows me cruelly as I hurry around in a circle, frantically trying to find a way to see my new self.

“Here,” she says, and out of the middle of her meadow, a pond appears. I race toward it, ardently wishing this is all an awful misunderstanding of magic or even perhaps a friendly joke from Jaya.

But no; it’s not.

I glance into the water’s pond and freeze, taking in the sight before me in shaking horror.

My beady eyes, still their mix of green and brown, stare back full of fear. My shabby hair has been perked up into a colored crest on my small head, sticking straight up in the air, as the rest of my body gleams with an artful array of feathers.

I open my mouth to scream, but only a squawk sounds out. As I step back in fear, my tail feathers fan out, and I am vividly aware of the truth.

I am no longer a man; I am a peacock.

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About the Author

Author-CS- Johnson

C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me

CS Johnson | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

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There is a new book on the block that I am promoting. This one is called Justice Gone by Nick Lombardi. Justice Gone is the first in a series of psychological thrillers involving Dr Tessa Thorpe, wrapped in the divisive issues of modern American society including police brutality and disenfranchised returning war veterans. You can get it here: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/1785358766/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_ca-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641

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