Friday, February 28, 2014
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
The Majestic rose up out of the water in its Liverpool dock with all the glory of its name. Amelia held one hand to her hat and stared at its iron sides, its two dun-colored funnels and three tall masts. The ship was a strange thing to her, a mixture of old and new, progress with hints of the past. It had sails that could be unfurled in a pinch, but with its powerful new engines, the ship could cross the ocean in a week.
Seven days to a new world. It was an exact description of everything her life had become. It was every bit as daunting.
“What am I doing?” Amelia whispered, staring at the hopeful monstrosity in front of her. It was one thing to accept an offer for a new life. It was another thing entirely to go through with it.
She turned away from the ship, swallowing the nausea that had plagued her since she’d left her mother’s house. This time it wasn’t morning sickness. That was long past. At the moment, the baby was the least of her worries. Her stomach rolled over the idea that she was about to board a ship heading for a new life at the mercy of a stranger, a man, no less. The last time she had trusted her life and her future to a man had been a disaster.
She paced, purse clutched to her chest, scanning the busy dock in search of her American savior. Men, women, and children crowded the gangplanks, eager to start their journeys, excited and hopeful. Many of the third-class passengers carried bundles that indicated theirs was a one-way trip as much as hers was. Eric had left her there to go buy her ticket, but there was nothing stopping him from running off and leaving her stranded. Like her father. Like Nick. She was a fool to agree to this. She pivoted and marched away from the ship.
No, she stopped herself after a handful of steps, this was the best decision she could have made. She may have felt small and lonely standing by herself, waiting, heart and stomach fluttering, but she was as much a part of the intrepid adventurers seeking a new life in America as any of her fellow passengers. This was right.
“Well, we got a minor problem on our hands.”
The twang of Eric’s accent shocked Amelia from her worries. She spun to face him as he approached her with wide strides, scratching his head and looking as guilty as a schoolboy.
“A problem?” she asked, voice fluttering.
“Yeah. I went to buy you a ticket, but they’re plumb sold out.”
Amelia’s chest tightened and her tender stomach lurched. “Oh. Oh dear. Well I suppose….”
She lowered her eyes, heart aquiver. As quickly as it started, her chance for a new life was over. All that worrying for nothing.
She squared her shoulders to face her fate. “I … I thank you for your efforts on my behalf regardless, Mr. Quinlan.”
Eric’s brow crinkled into a curious frown. “Regardless?”
“I suppose I could find work here in Liverpool,” she explained. “Surely there must be a shop somewhere that would look the other way from….” She lowered her hand to the mound of her stomach.
Eric’s lips twitched. The morning sunlight caught in his eyes. “I didn’t want to have to put you in third-class, so I told them you were my wife.”
Amelia blinked. “You what?”
“I told them we’re newlyweds. I reserved my stateroom in first class last year when I came over. Good thing I paid for it then too, ‘cuz after this fiasco of a trip I’ll never ride first-class again. Anyhow, when they said they didn’t have any more rooms, I told them you were my wife and that we would be staying in the same stateroom. They sold me a ticket for that.” He handed her a fresh, clean ticket with her name written as ‘Mrs. Amelia Quinlan’. “Sorry.”
Amelia held perfectly still on the outside, but on the inside her heart pounded and her stomach rolled with guilt for questioning him. He wasn’t abandoning her. He had gone out of his way to help her. Her heart squeezed as it never had before. She took the ticket from him with a trembling hand, hardly noticing when her fingers brushed his. She was rescued after all.
“Thank you, Mr. Quinlan. You have no idea how much this kindness means to me.” She had to concentrate on breathing, standing straight, and looking up into his handsome eyes with a smile to keep her tears at bay.
“You don’t mind sharing then?” he asked her.
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Genre – Western Historical Romance
Rating – R
Monday, February 24, 2014
Friday, February 21, 2014
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Volume Four - Riddle Of The Diamond Dove
Where do you hide an ancient relic that has the power to change the course of history? As Cassie Forsythe and her Arkana team discover, you scatter clues to its whereabouts across the entire planet. Five artifacts buried among the rubble of lost civilizations point to the hiding place of a mythical object known as the Sage Stone. Thus far psychic Cassie, bodyguard Erik, and librarian Griffin have succeeded in recovering two of those artifacts.
Cassie and Company find their lives threatened at every turn by agents of a religious cult known as the Blessed Nephilim. The cult's leader, Abraham Metcalf, wants to exploit the power of the Sage Stone to unleash a catastrophic plague on the world. The quest for the next piece of the puzzle has led both sides to Africa. They must comb an entire continent--their only lead a riddle carved onto a mysterious dove sculpture. Even as the Arkana team struggles to decipher the clue, new dangers hover over their colleagues at home.
Metcalf's child-bride Hannah has taken refuge at the home of the Arkana's leader Faye while mercenary Leroy Hunt creeps ever nearer to her hiding place. His search for the girl brings him dangerously close to the secret location of the Arkana's troves--a collection of pre-patriarchal artifacts which confirm an alternative history of the origins of civilization itself. While Hunt closes in on Hannah, Metcalf's son Daniel dogs the footsteps of the Arkana field team in order to claim the next artifact before they do. Daniel recruits a clever ally along the way who might be more than a match for the opposing side.
When the forces of the Arkana and the Nephilim converge on a ruined city in a forgotten corner of the dark continent, the shocking outcome is beyond even Cassie's powers to foresee. The quest for the Sage Stone will veer in an unexpected direction once both sides solve the Riddle Of The Diamond Dove.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Laura watched the clock on the microwave and willed the phone to ring. Patrick would be home within the hour. If “John Smith” didn’t call soon, she’d… Well, she didn’t know what she’d do. If he called after six o’clock, she’d have to try to convince Patrick it was a wrong number.
He wouldn’t fall for that. Even genuine wrong numbers had gotten her into trouble before.
“Please,” she whispered aloud to the phone. “Just ring, please.”
The numbers on the microwave stared back at her, blank and unfeeling. Twelve minutes past five. The clock apparently didn’t care that time was running out, that she was cutting this much too close.
Forty-eight minutes left. Laura’s heart felt like it would jump out of her chest as she cradled her head in her hands. The phone rang causing Laura to jump a foot in the air at the sound. How was it that a sound she was waiting for—hoping for—sent her into a panic?
“Hello,” she said breathlessly into the phone.
“Mrs. Kensington?” came Smith’s voice on the other end. She had talked to him before, but hadn’t met with him in person. He sounded kind, even though she knew he was a man who spent a lot of time with unsavory people. But, that was to be expected given his profession. Despite that, she’d been told he often worked with women who needed to leave a spouse and who wished not to be found again. Maybe there was an empathetic side to him.
“Can you talk now?” he asked and she knew right away what he meant. He had never asked why she was leaving and she certainly hadn’t volunteered the information, but it seemed as if he knew without having to ask. Just the thought that he knew her secret made her uncomfortable.
“Yes, my husband is still at work, but I don’t have long.”
“Did you get the first package?” he asked. He had mailed it to a post office box she’d set up two towns over from her and Patrick’s home in Windsor, Connecticut.
“Yes, the temporary license and birth certificate.”
“Good. You’ll be able to use that for a little while, but I need to get you a real birth certificate and social security card if you want to be able to find a job that doesn’t pay under the table. That’s going to take time.”
“How much time?” Laura asked, wanting the answer to be days, not weeks or months, but she knew that was unlikely.
“Not for another few weeks. It takes time to get a real birth certificate and once that’s in place, it takes a little longer for your social security number to come through,” he said with the tone of a man who had explained this to her all before. He had. She was partly just nervous and partly hoping for a different answer this time. This just had to work. There wasn’t any other option.
Before Laura could answer, he continued with instructions. “Save this phone number. I’ll need you to call me in three weeks and let me know where you are. I’ll need a mailing address.” There was no talk of payment. She’d already paid in full just to get him started on the new identity for her. He also didn’t ask her when she was leaving and she didn’t tell him. He seemed to assume she wouldn’t be in town in three weeks’ time and he was right. Laura would be running next week, as soon as Patrick left on his business trip.
The sound of car tires crunching up the drive sent panic churning through Laura’s stomach. So much so that she thought she’d be sick, but that wasn’t unusual nowadays. She was nauseated for several hours every day and often had to run to the bathroom to be sick.
“I have to go,” Laura whispered and didn’t wait for a response. She tucked the phone in her pocket and turned to the stove, focusing on making her breathing normal, making sure nothing seemed out of place.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Jez let his mind dwell on the ceiling’s dull paint rather than think about his recent nightmares. But those thoughts wouldn’t stay down: whatever happened, he would achieve justice for Viktor.
Anna came out of the bathroom, hair wrapped in a towel, turban style. “We still have time to travel south,” she said. He sighed. She looked desperate again. “Please think about it. I promise this isn’t a test. No tricks. I’m telling you what’s in my heart, and I think we should run.”
Vertical tracks forged between his eyebrows. “We’ve already been through this, Anna. I do trust you, but I’ve made my decision.”
“But I don’t think you’ve thought it out properly. From what I can see, Mitrokhin has high-ranking contacts everywhere and I don’t think even Petrichova can save you. The captain has the guile of a fox and his cunning outwits us all. Please, Jez,” she implored, “go with me now.”
He got off the bed and embraced her. “I don’t know why you’ve become so worried. I’d never imagined you like this, but whether what you say is true or not, I won’t run. I must win justice for Viktor – and for me, come to that. Viktor has been murdered and I’ve been set up to look like his killer.”
Anna wept against his chest, and he couldn’t figure why. Of what he knew about her, it was totally out of character.
“I want you to remember this,” she sobbed. “And I’m speaking from the heart. No matter what happens, this is what is real and this is the memory I want you to hold onto. I love you, Jez, I love you.”
Baffled, he realized that having a real relationship with a woman was an enigma. Her declaration seemed distressed rather than tender. The only way he could think of handling this was to let it go straight over his head.
“And I love you, Anna, but I must go back.”
Outside the hotel the snow lay thick, and despite the best efforts of a heavy blanket of cloud, the cold had worked its way through.
“I’m glad I packed the ski jacket. Cold or not, this suitcase has me overheating. I know you’ve put my stuff in with yours, but what a weight.”
“Just girl things,” she smiled, and stepped out ahead.
“That’s right, don’t wait for me. Oh…” he said, almost stopping, “I forgot to pay for my lodgings at the hotel.”
She turned and raised an eyebrow. He grinned.
“You’re right, all the troubles I’ve got and I should worry about paying for a room. I’ll let the state sort it out.”
They trudged through the snow until they came to Railway Station Square – part of Stalin’s rebuild of the city. Anna wore the same azure coat with fur trimmings and fur hat as on the second day of their reunion, and he wondered how such a beautiful woman could really be interested in him.
“You look like a film star dressed like that, but aren’t you worried someone might be following?”
She tutted. “You seem to be worrying enough for both of us.”
She was so avant-garde, maybe she hadn’t carried out as many missions as she’d suggested. “Oh well, nearly there,” he said.
She smiled sadly.
He stopped to cross an avenue near a trolley rank. Six or seven people queued closely together, ankle-deep in snow, exhaling frosted breath as they waited for their ride. At last, a lull in the traffic. Anna went ahead. Jez kept a half metre behind, but something jarred his senses. Above the din of the city an explosion rang out. He turned to the direction of the noise and then looked at Anna. A hole had opened and blossomed in the back of her coat. His heart seemed to stop beating. She’d been shot and he couldn’t move. The force of the bullet had arched her back. She spun to face him, stumbled, eyes widened in shock.
The crowd at the trolley rank scattered in panic and shrill screams pierced his ears. But still, he couldn’t move – Anna.
Genre - Thriller, Crime, Suspense
Rating – R
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Detective Eric Brennan sat at his usual table and sipped the night’s beverage of choice—a cola. In Chunkers Bar and Grill loud pointless chatter overpowered the ‘80s rock and roll band on stage.
The last week was a blur. Every waking hour he pounded the streets in search of his father’s killer.
Eric knew every detail of the shooters face, but not the kid’s name. He’d heard from one of his informant’s, the kid was a young tough-guy looking to be made—a “cugine” ready to make his mark into New York’s most influential crime network, the Valdina family. As part of his induction into the mob family, the asshole had already killed a low-life rival family member and Eric and his father were working the homicide case when they got a tip.
That steamy June evening had started like any typical bust. Within minutes after Eric and his father arrived at the warehouse, dozens of DEA agents secured the perimeter. Eric entered the warehouse first, his father followed. Amid the stench of mildew and dust, the first pop of an automatic echoed within the barren walls.
They were ambushed.
His father, a veteran with twenty-three years on the force never saw the shots coming. Eric threw his body against his father in hopes of shielding him. It was too late. Instead Eric witnessed his father’s face, the sickening whitish blue tint that came with death...
While Pete checked in with the precinct, Eric shifted in the chair. His left knee still burned where the bullet had grazed his leg. He rubbed the scar, a permanent reminder of a drug bust gone bad. Very bad.
“Hey, Brennan.” Pete threw a twenty-dollar bill on the table and downed the last swallow of his beer. “Come on. I think we got a lead.”
Outside on West 35th Street, a full moon peeked through the clouds. Jagged streaks of lightning ignited the sky as rain sprinkled against Eric’s leather jacket. He lit a cigarette and leaned against his white pick-up truck parked in front of Chunkers.
Pete smirked. “Man, I thought you quit.”
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG-18
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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
As Tara alighted from the vehicle, she found herself facing a ghostly white haze of wispy, low-lying clouds that hung as if suspended in time above the undulating hilltops. The peaks rose from the variegated emerald and olive valley below and stretched into the distance amid a virginal mixture of lush equatorial undergrowth. She drew a deep, involuntary breath.
‘Wow!’ There were no other words to describe the feeling of awe-inspired privilege that washed over her. The vista was about as far removed from Central Park as a New York city skyscraper was from the little pastel coloured huts lining the Carretera Turística.
Aurelio smiled. Intuitively, he seemed to understand that the most appropriate response to this magnificent sight was silence. It was a full two minutes before Tara gathered her thoughts.
‘Let’s get going,’ she said.
They made their way carefully—gingerly climbing over dead logs, negotiating their way around rocky outcrops, and grabbing onto available plant life to steady themselves as they walked and stumbled their way towards the valley below. On either side of the track, a mixture of tall, fronded plants grew in an array of shapes and sizes beside stunted and gnarled old trees with deep green foliage. Tara thought of the trees like friendly bystanders, their leafy branches protectively shading Aurelio and her from much of the glaring sunshine above. They came across a trickling stream, which they followed for a while; Tara ever mindful and vigilant, watching for any sign of wildlife in the undergrowth. Except for the background humming of insects, the occasional noisy squawking of a flock of parrots flying past overhead and, once, the silent imprint of a shoe sole on the muddy banks of the stream, they seemed to be alone.
Then, in a clearing, they came across a group of young men standing seemingly relaxed and chatting. A few feet away, under a lean-to made of branches and palm fronds, one of them squatted while cooking something on a small paraffin or gas stove. Aurelio and Tara had arrived at the mine.
Again, there was a short conversation in Spanish. Again, there was a wrinkling of noses followed by broad smiles of understanding and agreement. There were also some side comments and laughter amongst the men. The word ‘gringa’—foreigner from America—came up a couple of times. Tara thought she also heard the words ‘bonita’, and ‘sexual’, but she couldn’t be sure. She decided to keep a slight distance for the time being. They were in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest civilization.
Aurelio walked back towards her. ‘They will be happy to show you around, but we should remember our time limitations. We cannot spend more that half an hour here if we are to return to Santo Domingo before dark.’
‘Are you trying to protect me from these guys?’ she asked with a smile. Aurelio looked embarrassed.
‘What’s he cooking?’ she asked to change the subject. ‘It smells great.’
‘That is called arroz con abichuelas, a mixture of rice and beans. He is probably cooking some small pieces of beef with it, but it could be any meat.’
‘Can one buy that in a restaurant in Santo Domingo?’
‘Of course, but not exactly the same. This is a local dish for locals. To sell food like this to tourists would be like offering leftovers to your guests. It would not be right. In the restaurants it is much more carefully presented and is usually served with salads.’
The word ‘dignity’ popped into Tara’s mind. Aurelio seemed to have it, and that was what she had seen on the faces of the fruit vendor and the amber polisher and, now, even the miners as she approached them. Other than their initial jocularity, they seemed to consider her as their guest and themselves as hosts who happily welcomed visitors into their world. The men were just being men.
As they approached the entrance to the mine, a happy looking miner wearing a backward facing baseball cap sat with a short-handled pick in one hand, a lump of soft rock in the other.
‘Hola, señorita,’ he said, grinning broadly.
She smiled back at him, lifted her hand in greeting, but continued to follow Aurelio to the mine entrance. It was like standing at the entrance to the burrow of a large animal.