Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wrath and Bones Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Wrath and Bones
The Marnie Baranuik Files 
Book 4
A.J. Aalto

Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy

Publisher: Booktrope Editions

Date of Publication: December 28, 2015

ASIN: B018MNEBKQ

Number of pages:  486

Cover Artist:  Greg Simanson

Book Description:

Marnie Baranuik is confident that her new psychic detective agency will be a great success, and she has eight million business cards to prove it. But before the paint even dries on her open for business sign, she’s summoned to face the Demon King Asmodeus in His own playground, the revenant court, home of the undead nobility, to participate in a conclave of the most powerful immortals on Earth.

Orc prophets have forewarned her that danger is looming in the far north. In her most ambitious adventure yet, Marnie must harness her powers, gather trusted friends to wade into battle, and complete an international treasure hunt that would make Indiana Jones break into a cold sweat, before raising a new revenant house to rule from the Unhallowed Throne... and do it all without getting her heart or legs broken. Storms are brewing, threats are piling up, and the stakes are higher than ever, but Marnie is determined to dance with danger to the very end. There’s only one thing left to do: deal with it, Baranuik-Style.

Does anyone know if yetis like take-out? And when you're on a date with a mummy, who picks up the check?

Amazon      Amazon CA      Amazon UK

Excerpt

Chapter 1

“Remind me why we’re doing this? On a Friday night? The day after Christmas? With no pizza? And no beer?” Golden asked, standing on her tiptoes so her paint roller would reach the edging along the high ceiling.
“Nope,” I said, turning my binoculars out the frosty office window to peer at the silver Volvo shining beneath the streetlight across the street, commercial-grade parking job and all. No real people parked like that. They'd even got the five-spoked wheels perfectly aligned. The leather of my old tan gloves creaked as I fiddled, adjusting the focus, as if the frogs embroidered on the cuff were getting quietly jiggy; they provided a touch-psychic like me a valuable barrier between my psychometrically sensitive hands and the unfamiliar items in Mark Batten’s new house, any one of which could send me reeling with unwanted visions. Thin and supple though they were, they didn't do anything to diminish my innate klutz tendencies, and I over-corrected back and forth a bunch of times before I could see my target clearly.
“We’re here because of you,” she said. “You can’t say no to Batten.”
“I can so,” I murmured, tempted to believe my own words. I tried to imagine Batten asking me to do something to which I’d say no, but since he’s a sexy jerk, I nearly sprained my brain before giving up. “I didn’t have to say no; he didn’t ask.”
“You offered? You?” She paused in the process of dipping her roller in the tray, blowing her bangs out of her face with an upward puff of breath, then swiping at them with the back of her unoccupied hand. “But that’s a nice thing to do. You don't do nice. You do sneaky, or kooky, or clumsy, or awkwardly slutty, or exploding, or – ”
“I'll throw another zombie spider at your melon if you don't shut your wang-hole. I do the occasional nice thing when I think I’m going to get something out of it,” I reminded her primly.
She aimed the roller at me, and the plastic drop cloth rustled under her feet. “He’s not even here helping.”
“He’s out of town on a case.” In fact, Mark “Kill-Notch” Batten was not just out of town, but out of the country, somewhere in Bolivia; his new independent work as an international vampire hunter, unhindered by his old FBI rules, took him to far-flung places tracking monsters that had chosen not to play by the rules. I didn’t like to think about him adding to the collection of tattoos on his right pectoral with fresh black hashmarks, one for each revenant kill, but I did like to think of him chasing down other types of baddies, and I assumed, with unrepentant sexual immaturity, that he did so buck-ass naked, his bronze tan slick with sweat and his big muscles glistening in the sun. Meowsa.
“You’re thinking about him naked again,” Golden said with a sigh. 
It was bad enough that my brother Wes was legitimately telepathic; having mundane-as-fuck Heather Golden peg me like that was intolerable, even if I was totally obviously ogling Batten's ass in my mind. I had to change the subject, fast. “Nu-unh,” I lied, as tonight’s prey came into sight. “I’m checking out this dweeb.” White kid. Early twenties. Shirt. Tie. Clean shave. Bright smile at the Mustang pulling in his driveway.
My name’s Marnie Baranuik, and being nosy comes with the territory. I’ve worked as a forensic psychic for both Gold-Drake & Cross and the FBI’s Preternatural Crimes Unit. But now, I was flying solo, opening my own psychic detective agency. How I was going to manage as a business owner was anyone’s guess. Since I could pick my own cases, I expected a lot less ghoul scum and fewer opportunities for being chased around in my underpants by zombie Labradoodles. Blowing away human zombies with Diet Dr. Pepper, propane canisters, and kitty litter was still totally on the table, though. I was, I reminded myself, a badass. Now, I just happened to be a badass with tax paperwork. Oh, Goddess, I was turning into an adult. Abort, abort!
“Besides, it’s our office,” I continued. “I’ll be using it, too. I just volunteered us to paint while he’s gone, that’s all.”
“That’s awfully domestic. You hit your head on the refrigerator door the other night?”
“Whoa, slow your roll, troll,” I said. “I’m not helping him pick out fucking curtains.”
“You’re not painting, either,” she said. “I am.”
Point: Golden. “I will, I will,” I promised, “but Volvo Boy’s bugging me.”
She put her roller down and stepped over the mess, weaving through sheet-covered furniture to cross the room. The office was in the front of Batten’s house, a cute two-bedroom-one-bath with a fenced back yard, compact and cozy, perfect for one guy. I hadn’t thought any further than sharing an office, because the idea of pursuing anything domestic with Kill-Notch made me queasy. Didn’t I already have a serious domestic arrangement with Harry? Can you have more than one of those? Come to think of it, I doubted I'd ever seen Batten cook; he'd always come over to my place, where Harry did the cooking, and filched the beer I bought specifically because I knew he liked it.
Batten and I had been on exactly one date. It had started with dinner and a discussion of what movie we might see, and ended in a giant fight about robots followed by vigorous, can’t-make-it-as-far-as-the-bedroom sex on his kitchen floor, sex that had left us both speechless and smelling like lust and linoleum polish. And if I'd hit my head on the refrigerator in the middle of it, I wasn't about to tell Golden.
Two days of stunned silence followed, during which Harry wrestled with the shift in attention, focus, and power by being an absolute prince. My Cold Company’s unperturbed reaction was more disquieting than if he’d blown a fuse, but I was dreading any sort of candid confrontation about it. If I was being honest, I was more afraid he’d say it was fine; I’d learned from Harry's combat butler, Mr. Merritt, that my Grandma Vi had had many suitors while she was living as Harry’s previous DaySitter. Was Harry a Bond-boffing voyeur? I wondered. Bad enough that Asmodeus gets his jollies when I get lucky, but my Harry, too? I pondered the uneasy mixture of trepidation and sexiness into which that might coagulate.
 My intermittently torrid and annoying chemistry with Batten wasn't news to Golden. She was my only girlfriend in the whole country, the only person who could drag my ass to Claire’s Early Bird for coffee, girl talk, and various forms of sugar and grease. She’d settled nicely into her role as my dirty-secrets confidante, sensing my preference for shallow jabs over deep connections, stowing neither her sharp wit nor her blunt attitude. Now, she leaned over my shoulder and squinted through the window at the blond boy standing in the snow across the street. She always smelled like lily of the valley, an old lady’s perfume turned warm and classic by her skin chemistry; it was a scent I was still getting used to. In the field of new relationships, Batten wasn’t the only person dropping their guard, showing me the chinks in their armor, and inching closer to my battlements. My people skills weren’t good enough for me to drop all my defenses yet, but I was trying. 
“Just some punk dealing,” was Golden’s assessment, watching the exchange between the young man and his visitors with cool detachment; though my secondary Talent woke to offer me empathic glimpses of her emotional state, it didn’t take a psychic to gather she was unimpressed. 
I felt a smirk curl onto my lips. “The most notorious vampire hunter in the nation, currently contracted by the Bolivian government to hunt a Hagenbeck’s werewolf in the Andes, Mr. Ex-FBI Badass, is living across the street from a drug dealer?”
“He’ll stop dealing when his mom runs out of pills.”
“This is America,” I chided, aghast. “Moms don’t run out of pills.”
Golden preformed a very feminine move, an effortless sweep that brushed escaped locks of strawberry blonde hair back over her shoulder where the rest of her ponytail laid; I couldn’t have matched the move without teetering over. Then she flipped me off. It was odd seeing her in garage-grey coveralls and black Converse sneakers with little skulls on them. Agent Heather Golden usually wore navy suits and crisp white shirts buttoned to the neck when working at the Boulder branch of the PCU, where I had worked, too, until recently. When we went out for coffee together, she still looked pretty professional, skipping the suit jacket but keeping everything else dry-clean-only. I knew from past adventures that her toenails were likely painted black. They might even have red stick-ons in the shape of little drops of blood. Golden had a fun streak that predated her work with the PCU. I was determined to drag it into the light so it could breathe a little.
She caught me staring up at her and made a face, crossing her eyes and sticking out her tongue. “Adorable, right?” she asked. “So, do you figure Batten moved to Ten Springs to be closer to you?”
I choked on my surprise and horror, and blurted, “No!” Then I went back to a safe subject, returning to hiding my face behind the binoculars; I swung them back to the street. “Look at this twerp.”
Golden would not be distracted. “Why else would any sensible single man move to this godforsaken ass-crack of a town?”
“Sensible?” I snorted. “Batten?”
 I could hear the smug smile in her voice.  “Why would he add long and treacherous commutes to his life?”
“If he didn’t like treacherous, he wouldn’t be dating me,” I pointed out.
“Fair point. Why would he add a long commute?”   
“If you had that Bugatti, wouldn't you want to drive it? Besides, he said he wanted to find peace and quiet,” I said, slowly, like I was explaining to a Cocker Spaniel how not to pee on my shoe.
“He couldn’t find peace and quiet in Boulder?” she asked doubtfully.
“Can’t get much quieter than Ten Springs, population five hundred and forty,” I pointed out.
“Five hundred forty-one,” she amended. The smugness in her voice had thickened, and I Felt her wary approval; she hadn’t always understood Batten chasing my skirt, but her opinion on the matter had changed, and she was currently rolling with it, happy to have something to tease me about.
Point: Golden.  “Look at this dickazoid. Whoever heard of a drug dealer wearing a tie?” I asked, not exactly feigning my outrage, but trying to ham it up and change the subject.
“You’re Canadian. Deal with it Canuck-style.”
“That’s what I’ll do,” I agreed. “I’ll write him a sternly-worded letter. Dear Drug Dealer: You’re doing it wrong, eh? Sorry. Sincerely, Anonymous. P.S. Here's some maple syrup.”
“Things are changing, Marnie-Jean,” she said. Nobody had called me Marnie-Jean except my mother until Golden found out what the J stood for. She rolled paint onto the walls, wide chocolate stripes of paint over the original, boring beige.
“The sissification of punkdom?”
“We’re all heartbroken about it,” she said solemnly. “Especially Henry Rollins.”
“I like my crooks like I like my coffee: strong, smelly, and liable to choke me.” I considered the boy who waved politely at his customers as they drove away; he held up his hand and just curled his fingertips down. Once, twice. A cute little finger-wave.
“Stop obsessing,” Golden said, “and help me paint your boyfriend’s walls.”
“He’s not my... for fuck’s sake, this crook drives a fucking Volvo.” I clutched the binoculars tighter. “No, don’t you do it. Don’t… Ohhhhhh, bitch.”
“What’s he doing? Helping an old lady cross the street?”
“He saw me. He gave me one of his cute waves.”
“You’re going to get shot in the face,” Golden predicted, doing precisely nothing to stop it.
“He went inside and opened the curtains in his living room.”
“Maybe he thinks you wanna jump his bones. Gonna put on a strip show for ya. You're the one ogling him through binoculars like the world's most boring stalker.”
“He took his shirt off. Aaaaaand now he’s doing yoga in his front window. Like a dick.” I shook my head, but could not take my eyes off the wiry little jerk doing inversion poses in what I assumed were Gap for Kids chinos.
“Doesn’t Harry do yoga? Don’t you do yoga?”
We both did, but admitting that wouldn’t support my irritation in this case. Golden passed behind me to look out the window and steal my Dr. Pepper. I would have slugged her if it had been a cup of espresso, but my new machine hadn’t come in, so I was stuck with soft drinks, and she was welcome to them.
I dipped my own roller and started on an untouched wall. In the mixed light from the ceiling fan and the camping lantern we brought to brighten up the corners, the velvety brown paint looked like a delicious blend of rich coffee and dark chocolate. I hadn't covered more than a quarter of it before I felt Harry approaching. Well before Heather or I could have heard the purring rumble of the Kawasaki come down the street, the Bond sending a pleasant thrum of anticipation through my belly, a vibration more metaphysical than biological, designed to awaken a DaySitter’s senses in preparation for their companion’s presence. I knew he felt me, too; like two machines checking one another’s distance and readiness, Harry and I pinged each other, striking metaphorical bells and whistles, and in response, dark urges rolled to life in my veins. It felt like hope, like the night was rife with endless possibilities, like I had sprouted wings and could take a swan dive off the roof without fear. His hopes, his endless possibilities, his reckless excitement, true; I got a mere sampling of his high. The creature who owned me cruised down my boyfriend’s street, an English revenant approaching a vampire hunter’s abode with a monster’s smile hidden beneath a vicuna scarf.
“This guy must travel with Cirque du Soleil,” Golden continued. “I can’t even imag—” She dropped to a crouch, still clutching the binoculars, and the Blue Sense roared open to blast me with an interesting one-two punch: alarm, followed by vigilance.
“Did he catch you ogling him?” I asked, but my humor failed, and I dropped the roller and got down on hands and knees to crawl to her position. “What’s wrong?”
“Harry’s here,” she whispered.
I relaxed with a smirk. “Duh. It’s after dusk, and he knows where I am,” I reassured her. It’s not like I could hide from him if I tried. “It’s absolutely fine.”
That was a minor exaggeration; my relationship with Mark Batten had always been a nettle in my Cold Company’s backside, but one he was tolerating better these days. I often felt a wary concern through our Bond from my companion when the subject of Batten came up, but it was tempered with curiosity, and an eagerness that I didn't quite understand. Harry continued to dote on me while holding ground in a wait-and-see place. What he was waiting for was anyone’s guess.
For my part, I waited until Golden returned to her painting before swiping my roller again.  “So why is he here tonight?” she asked.
“He’ll say he’s coming to help,” I guessed, “but what he’ll actually do is snoop around and make disparaging remarks about the state of Batten’s wardrobe.”
“Care to make a wager?” Golden suggested. “I’m betting because I’m here, he’ll take over the painting. You know, rescue the damsels in distress from the dragon that is this job.”
I smiled; I could see why she’d think that. Saying Harry was a little old-fashioned was like saying the Pope was kinda religious. That being the case, I couldn’t imagine my Cold Company doing manual labor that risked getting paint on his Anderson & Sheppard trousers, not for Golden, not for me, and certainly not for Batten.
“You're on. Next check at Claire's?” We shook on it, and I tried to remember what the most decadent thing on the menu was. I think it was a chocolate croissant with maple filling. Maybe I'd get two, just to rub it in.
When Harry did come wading through the maze of haphazardly-stacked cardboard boxes, wearing the high collar of his bespoke navy pea coat popped against the inclement weather, the temperature of the room began to sink; revenants carry a chill with them like an immutable cloak, and some mortals get an involuntary shiver crossing paths with the undead.  His touch of the grave felt familiar and, oddly, my half of the office began to feel temporary, like my arrangement sharing office space at Batten’s was a short-term deal. Then again, to my Cold Company, Lord Guy Harrick Dreppenstedt, just weeks into his four hundred and fortieth year, most anything would seem short-term. Harry was waggling my cell phone at me urgently; I’d left it in my purse at the front door and hadn’t heard it ring.
“The Orc Quarter is on fire, love,” he informed me without the preamble of a greeting. His posh British accent was crisply summoning, and laced with immortal power that likely set Golden’s goose bumps flaring. I couldn’t have ignored his voice if I tried. Few humans could, but certainly not his DaySitter. “The fire chief would like you to pop over and take a peek.”
Normally I’d have said something cheeky, but the words “Orc Quarter” stomped my wit. I felt my brow knit. “I’m sorry, the what?”
“The Orc Quarter in Schenectady.”
“Schenectady,” I said, seeking clarification, “New York?”
“Just the place, yes.”
 “Has an Orc Quarter?”
“Well, I assume they must have, ducky, if the Schenectady Fire Department is ringing you up to attend to it,” he chided, then tried to hand me the phone. When I scowled at it, he clucked his tongue.
“See, this is exactly why I stopped working for the feds and went freelance, so I can tell people who call me on Boxing Day with flaming orc problems to hop up their own ass,” I said. “Besides, there are two preternatural biology labs in Manhattan and a branch office for Gold-Drake & Cross. Why do they want me?”
“One wonders,” he agreed. “Shall I inquire?” I rolled my eyes; Harry mistook this as a request, and spoke into the phone. “Might one inquire as to why you are requesting the presence of Ms. Baranuik of all people, Chief Fitchett?”
I sighed, took my Dr. Pepper back from Golden, and downed it, wishing there was more. I had a feeling I was going to need it.
Harry relayed, “Mister Fitchett says the Schenectady police have one resident in custody that is refusing to talk to anyone but the Litenvecht Späckkenhuggar.”
I waited for the rest of it. When there wasn’t any more, I prompted, “And?”
“Apparently, my pet, that would be you.”
“I’m the Licken-Vicken Spackle-Smuggler?” I pointed at my chest with a gloved finger.
“Quite so.”
“What the hell is a Lite-Bright Spunk-Shucker?”
 “Since the Orc language is a largely borrowed tongue, and they originate in the area now known as Sweden, I’m going to translate the phrase roughly as either ‘small killer whale’ or ‘Little Orc-Killer.’”
My jaw dropped. “But I’m not the little orc killer. Or a big orc killer. I've never met an orc, much less killed one. Unless they mean I'm little, which, I guess is true. But still, that's some bullshit.”
“This I know,” Harry replied patiently. He continued to waggle the phone at my face.
“I’ve never even seen an orc, except for blurry videos and a preserved fetus in an UnBio lab.”
“This does not surprise me in the least. Nevertheless, they would like you on-site as soon as possible, and when you’re done with that, the Schenectady police have an orc in custody with whom you are to have what I hope should be an illuminating conversation.” When I made no move to take the phone from his outstretched hand, he noted, “My heavens, but your entrepreneurial spirit certainly does leave something to be desired.”
I had started my own business as a private psychic detective, hanging my digital shingle online just the day before – a Yuletide present to myself, in a way – and until Harry had shoved the phone in my face, I wasn’t aware my number was even listed on the site yet. I was tempted to answer with, “How'd you finger my digits?” but that might not be good customer service.
“Harry, you are the worst secretary ever.”
He nodded his head in assent, but I could feel the mirth swirling through our Bond, so I pursed my lips and flipped him and Golden, who was trying to muffle some unprofessional laughter behind one fist, off.
I listened for sounds of drooling or panting or chewing on the other end, and when I heard no such monster noises, I sighed and cleared my throat. “Bare Hand Services, how may I help you this evening?”




About the Author:

AJ Aalto is an unrepentant liar and a writer of blathering nonsense offset by factual gore. When not working on her horror novels, you can find her singing old Monty Python songs in the shower, eavesdropping on perfect strangers, stalking her eye doctor, or failing at one of her many fruitless hobbies. Generally a fan of anyone with a passion for the ridiculous, she has a particular weak spot for smug, pseudointellectual a**holes and narcissistic jerks; readers will find her work littered with dark, imperfect creatures and flawed monsters.

AJ cannot say no to a Snickers bar, and has been known to swallow her gum.

  





Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Annabeth Neverending Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Annabeth Neverending
Leyla Kader Dahm

Genre: YA paranormal romance/historical

ISBN-13: 978-1518613289
ISBN-10: 1518613284 

Number of pages: 300
Word Count: 75,000

Book Description:

At first, teenager Annabeth Prescott thinks she’s found quite a deal when she talks down the price of an ankh pendant she discovers at a flea market. She soon wonders if the bauble is more than she's bargained for when she faints and glimpses images from a past life in ancient Egypt.

The discovery coincides with another new find: Gabriel, a handsome young man who takes an interest in her. When she meets his twin brother C. J. at a Halloween party, she realizes they look exactly like two boys who figure prominently into her memories.

Does C. J. share the heroic qualities held by his past incarnation Sethe, her bodyguard when she was Princess Ana? Does Gabriel possess the same evil powers he wielded as Kha, the black sorcerer who sought her affection?

Love meets the supernatural in this gripping young adult paranormal romance. Readers with an interest in reincarnation, as well as ancient Egypt, will be drawn to its mystical mixture of history and hesitation as Annabeth sways between the two brothers.

Will her reincarnated soulmate win out? Or will Kha finally find the way to her heart?

Excerpt

Chapter One

Mrs. Lansing pulls her SUV into the dusty, unpaved lot, which is located behind two antique malls. I exit and unload her trunk, suppressing a groan as I hoist a heavy cardboard box and set it carefully on the dirt.
I take in the ramshackle affair. I’ve heard that the flea market is a popular meeting place for bargain hunters and collectors, and it looks as strange as its name sounds. There are rows of rickety wooden tables, and it’s surprising that none of them buckle from the sheer number of goods they hold.
“This is the Arundel Flea Market. It’s the hub of Maine’s secondhand economy,” explains my elderly neighbor, who now doubles as my boss and triples as my tour guide.
As we make our way through the helter-skelter maze of booths, the buzz of negotiation can be heard coming from every direction. I drag along the cart of wares, but stop when I’m seized by a sneezing fit, courtesy of free-floating dust and mold. When Mrs. Lansing offers me a handkerchief instead of a Kleenex, I’m made acutely aware of the fact that I’ve entered a new…er, different world.
Mrs. Lansing’s stooped over just low enough that her poor posture has probably cost her a couple of inches, but that doesn’t slow her down. She shuffles toward a vacant table nestled under the welcoming shade of a chalky-white birch tree.
Seeing that she’s claimed a prime spot, I follow her lead by setting out everything from orphan candlesticks to shell cameos to tin wind-up toys. Then, Mrs. Lansing adds a few eccentric items like yellowed tarot cards and an iridescent crystal ball to the collection.
“What’s the deal with this?” I ask while turning over the fortune-telling device.
“It reeks of mystery and the supernatural, which I love. Besides, the weird stuff always sells,” explains Mrs. Lansing, her eyes twinkling.
“So, who usually comes here?”
“Most of the sellers are serious dealers, but there are also everyday folk looking to earn extra cash. Usually by cleaning out their musty attics or basements.”
“I’ve never sold anything before. Not even girl scout cookies,” I admit.
“You’ll get the hang of it. Why don’t we try some role-playing?”
Mrs. Lansing lays down a parchment document with what looks to be a children’s book illustration of an old masted ship. This is something I’ve seen before. Many times. It’s a Mayflower Society certificate.
“My mom’s a member, you know.”
“Now that’s a great angle. The certificate’s going to be passed, in a manner of speaking, from one Pilgrim descendant to another,” states Mrs. Lansing, her voice crackling with wear.
“I’m not a blood descendant. I was adopted, remember?” I gently remind her.
She looks ruffled. Of course, the subject makes everyone feel awkward, especially me.
“Oh, that’s right. I’m so sorry. My mind isn’t the steel trap it once was.”
I shrug it off, not wanting her to feel bad when it’s a common slipup, and we engage in a marathon training session as we try to sell her product that goes on for hours and hours. In addition to the finer points of salesmanship, she fills me in on all the vital information I need to know regarding the current stock and teaches me how to handle the money that comes in.
While learning how to work the old-school cash register, my friend Bernadette, wearing a floppy straw hat and oversized sunglasses, steps up to the stand. She looks over the merchandise, with a mouth that’s either puckered in interest or disgust—I’m not sure which.
“Can I wait on this person I’ve never seen before?”
Mrs. Lansing nods and crosses her arms while standing back to observe my efforts.
“Miss, are you looking for anything in particular?” I ask in my most professional tone.
“Not sure if you noticed…all these things are used but still expensive,” Bernadette states, as though she’d doing me a favor by educating me.
“They’re antiques.”
“In that case, I’ll take none of everything.”
My lips tighten in displeasure.
“You sure about that?” I ask.
Mrs. Lansing chuckles.
“Annabeth Prescott, I’m impressed. Not every new employee cons a friend into acting like a fake customer,” she says with a smile so wide I can see all her dentures.
“You recognized me?” asks Bernadette, sounding genuinely puzzled. She pulls off her hat and glasses, revealing her delicate Asian features.
I sigh, disappointed that my plan failed so wretchedly. I should’ve figured that Bernadette could never fully disguise her…Bernadetteness.
“Shocking, I know. But it does show that you really care about this job, dear,” Mrs. Lansing says, before jotting something in her inventory log.
“Well, I better get back to work. Thanks for coming. Don’t forget to make a purchase before you go,” I say loudly and somewhat pathetically.
“I don’t think so.”
“If you don’t buy something from me, who will?”
“Excellent question,” she agrees.
“Please?” I ask, eyes pleading.
“Begging. Interesting strategy,” Mrs. Lansing says, pretending to mull it over.
“No offense, but I’m heading to the Kittery Outlets. Later!” Bernadette cries as she scurries off.
“Don’t worry. My associate, Gabriel, will help you refine your sales technique. He’s the master.”
I gaze around and notice an elderly army of gray-and-blue hairs surrounds me. I’m the youngest person manning a table by a long shot.
“So he’s…older, huh?” I ask.
            “Yes, you could say that. Of course, everyone seems like a baby to me. Now, let me give you some details about this Bakelite phone.”
I scan my surroundings some more and shake my head in hopes of clearing it. My waning attention must be obvious.
“All right, I’ve been doling out a lot of information. Why don’t you take a break? Walk around the market; get an idea of what the others have for sale? We can pick this up when you get back.”
“OK, but when I do, give me your worst piece of merchandise, and I’ll unload it,” I say with false confidence, hoping to salvage things.
“That’s the spirit!”
I peruse the market, and a strange sense of stillness falls. Brass wind chimes break the silence, eerily clinging and clanging as I wind my way through the many stands. I keep passing one table in particular. Though nothing interests me at first, I repeatedly find my way back to it despite myself. It’s as though I’m on autopilot.
I dig in and pick up a broken tassel necklace, which is entangled with several others. While trying to pry them apart, I knock to the ground a box chain holding a pendant. They’re both caked with grime. I bend down and grab the necklace. I look over the charm, which is roughly three inches long and resembles a cross with a loop on top.
My hands tremble. The wind whips through my hair and whistles in my ears. Are the northeastern breezes whispering to buy it?
I give the piece to the table’s merchant, a middle-aged Mainer in a threadbare brown overcoat and scuffed L.L.Bean rain boots. He turns it over in his stubby, chapped fingers.
“How much is this?” I ask nonchalantly, trying to hide just how much I want it.
“Uh, twenty dollars oughta do it,” he says, in a regional accent so thick it sounds like he has a speech impediment.
“Twenty? That’s kind of steep…I really shouldn’t…” I grumble sadly.
“Ten?”

***

I gleefully run toward Mrs. Lansing, hardly able to contain my excitement. But I manage to rein it in. Which is hard because I suspect that I’ve achieved a tiny triumph.
“Wait till you see what I bought!”
“I thought the point of this job was to make money, not spend it,” she replies tauntingly.
“I know, I know. But you’ll be happy to know that I totally haggled. And this seems…special.”
I give over the encrusted ornament to Mrs. Lansing, who offers to clean the piece. She takes out a cloth and some jewelry cleanser and polishes the necklace in a flash.
“This shape is an ankh. It’s an ancient Egyptian symbol.”
“Do you know what it means?” I ask, curiosity seeping in.
“I believe it represents some sort of key.”
Now that it’s been spiffed up, Mrs. Lansing and I admire my find, which sparkles in the muted autumn sun.
“Is it real gold?” I wonder aloud.
“I’d say so. In fact, this is the darkest, most beautiful gold I’ve ever seen. Just enough alloy was added to the precious metal to make it durable while maintaining its warmth of color. What did you pay for this?”
“Ten dollars.”
“Looks like somebody’s a born negotiator,” Mrs. Lansing states, with a hint of pride. “You got quite a bargain, kiddo.”
I take the ankh back into my possession and caress its cool, smooth surface. I feel everything around me go topsy-turvy, upside down and inside out…

***

I’m enveloped by heat stronger and more intense than any I’ve experienced before. Drops of perspiration tickle my skin as they run underneath my flowing linen gown. I feel arms clasping a chain behind my neck. My hands fly up to find the ankh resting on my collarbone, but I didn’t move them there. It’s as though I’m a mere observer, instead of a participant, when it comes to this body’s actions.
The man who has just bestowed the necklace upon me pulls away, and I’m allowed a good look at him. He’s a hideous fellow with bulging eyes, a hooked nose, and a shock of bright-red hair that peeks out from underneath a black-and-white headdress. His outfit, the way he has about him, makes him seem important. Is he a pharaoh?
He grins, semitoothlessly, and I feel myself smiling in return.
“This is all for you, to commemorate your sixteenth year, your entry into womanhood,” says the probable monarch.
“My gratitude runs as deep as the Nile,” I reply, in a voice that is not my own, in a language that is not my own, and yet I know exactly what I’m saying.
The man, who’s wearing a tunic covered with fringe, motions to a procession of beautiful objects, the likes of which I never could have imagined. Priceless treasures zoom past, carried by servants wearing loose shift dresses and stiff black wigs. Elaborately carved pieces of ivory and ebony furniture, lion and leopard skins, gem-encrusted gold jewelry in the shape of beetles and butterflies, and granite statues of animal-faced men and women are all presented to me individually. Clearly, these are gifts for a very privileged young lady. What I wouldn’t give to own them myself.
Another Egyptian, a young man who is ostensibly a prince, looks to be seething with anger. His arms are crossed, his face set in a scowl. He watches on in disgust as the gifts continue to appear.
“This show of generosity shall stir jealousy in her sisters,” he states venomously.
“I reserve the right to spoil my favorite daughter as I see fit,” replies the suspected ruler.
And now, the last offering, the one with the place of honor at the end of the parade, is finally brought before me.
A boy! Or is he a man?
“This prisoner of war is such a fine specimen, he would be wasted as a lowly house slave. He shall serve as your bodyguard,” announces the intimidating ruler.
“His name is Sethe.”
The captive has shackles on his hands and feet. I can even make out a brand upon his chest. It seems as though it’s still scarring over, which is understandable, since he was not born into slavery. Regardless, he looks like somebody who has done nothing but labor in the sun. His skin is bronzed, and his muscles are impossibly defined. He seems reluctant to look at me.
Finally, his gaze meets mine. I’m at a distance, yet I can still make out the flecks of gold that dapple his hazel eyes. For a blissful moment, I’m lost in them, swimming in their beauty, floating in their comfort.

***

I come to amid a background of concerned chatter and find myself surrounded by a crowd of curious onlookers…and a strange boy. His muscular arms are holding me tight, making sure I don’t RSVP to the gravel’s invitation. He’s impossibly good looking, with the palest-possible blue eyes and the darkest-possible black hair.
He couldn’t be less like the slave in my…hallucination?…but he’s just as handsome. Not like it’s a contest.
“You passed out. Good thing I was here to catch you,” says my hero, while wagging a pair of thick brows.



About the Author:

Leyla Kader Dahm popped popcorn and dreamt of a career in show business when working in a movie theater while in high school. The small-town Midwestern girl went another route and studied communications at Carroll College and Cornell University, but still found herself drawn to the big screen when a temp agency placed her in a production and development gig at Miramax/Dimension Films.

Dahm went on to work as a script consultant for numerous production companies. She appeared in the acclaimed spoken word show Sit ‘N Spin and had her comedy feature spec, Due North, optioned by Michael Levy Enterprises. She sold her pitch, Survival Instinct, to Nickelodeon Original Movies. Dahm lives with her husband, sitcom writer Richard Dahm, and her children in Los Angeles.






Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Spies R Us Tour!

Spies R Us
Amber Malloy

Preorder: 24th November 2015
Early download: 8th December 2015
General release: 5th January 2016

Genre: Erotic Action Adventure. 

Publisher: Totally Bound

Book Description:

The top African American spy, Eden Morgan, was living the good life…

Days away from permanently leaving the spy game, Eden Morgan plan of being a stay at home mom goes up in smoke. Number one on the Russian hit list, Eden must leave her beautiful family and figure out who’s trying to kill her.

Unfortunately, her agency burns her status, so what should have been only weeks on the run turned into years. Instead of accepting her fate, Eden claws her way from the dead to save the next people on the Russian’s hit list… her kids. However, after three years missing, her homecoming isn’t well received. She finds that her awesome husband has moved on with a perky school teacher; not to mention her twins barely remember her. With a good idea who’s behind the plot to kill them, Eden must navigate car pool lanes, bitchy moms, and one angry, sexy husband.

By definition, Vann Morgan was charmed. One gorgeous wife and twins, and the most difficult thing in his life was reconstruction of his Chicago brownstone. Unfortunately everything changes when his lovely wife disappears and no one but him seems to care. After some years, Vann makes a new normal as a single dad, but his routine is blown apart when his long lost wife comes back. Unable to trust Eden with his heart, he soon uncovers that everything surrounding her disappearance was all his fault.



About the Author

Amber Malloy dreamed of being a double agent but couldn't pass the psyche evaluation. Crushed by despair that she couldn't legally shoot things, Amber pursued her second career choice as pastry chef. When she's not writing or whipping up a mean Snickers Cheesecake, she occasionally spies on her sommelier. Amber is convinced he's faking his French accent.


Twitter  @authambermalloy












Smoldering Hunger blitz & Excerpt!


Smoldering Hunger 
(Dark Kings Series, #8)
by Donna Grant

Blurb: 

His kisses were soul stirring, leaving her gasping and hungry for more. They pulled her from the wasteland of her life viciously and ruthlessly. With just one kiss she was clinging to him, silently begging him to show her all that one brush of his lips had promised.

TEMPTING FATE
Darius is back. Edinburgh thought it had seen the last of this seductive Dragon King, but that was before Darius found something worthwhile. He just can’t stay away from the impossibly beautiful Dr. Sophie Martin—even though he knows that a passion this strong could prove detrimental…for them both.

CRAVING DESIRE
Sophie tried to forget her encounter with smoking-hot Darius to no avail. He’s in her dreams, tempting her. But her association with Darius catches the attention of another, putting her in mortal danger. . .and Darius, who has vowed to protect her, is her only hope. But can she trust the notorious dragon shapeshifter? The only thing she knows for sure is that she cannot resist him…





Available for purchase at 

                     



 Excerpts


Alone. It was such an insignificant word. Or it had been for centuries. He’d sought out the solitude, had slept away centuries in his cave without hesitation.
And now? Now he hated the quiet.
He detested being alone.
It wasn’t that he missed the other Dragon Kings. He could communicate with them via their mental link at any time. It was something much deeper, much stronger that twisted his gut.
He’d told the other Kings he wanted to end the war with the Dark Fae so he could return to his mountain and the dragon sleep. It had been the truth. For a bit. Now, he found himself searching for something he didn’t understand or know.
No matter how many times he walked the streets of the city, no matter how many times he killed the evil Dark Fae who sought to slaughter the innocent humans, Darius was never satisfied.
It was as if he were missing something. That only made him hunt longer and harder. He’d tracked the last remaining Dark Fae who hadn’t been smart enough to leave the city, running the bastards to ground.
Since the Dark fed off the souls of the humans, Darius took great pleasure in killing them. But not even that helped to ease the tension within him.
But it did help him remember that he was a lethal warrior. He did what he did not just for himself, but for his brethren at Dreagan who hid amongst the humans distilling world-famous whisky. And he did it for the humans.
The realm might’ve been the dragons first and foremost, but the humans were part of that world as well. The Dragon Kings fought for themselves and the mortals who once tried to kill them.
Darius removed his shirt and folded it before neatly stacking it on the table on the other side of the warehouse. After removing his boots and setting them tidily together, he unfastened his jeans and stepped out of them. Folding them, he set the jeans beside his shirt and turned to face the dead Fae.
With just a thought, he shifted, his body transforming from that of a human into a dragon. He shook his great head and blinked his eyes as he fastened them onto the Dark.
The greed and extravagance of the Dark Fae had caused the city to erupt in chaos. Edinburgh hadn’t been the only place bombarded with the Dark, however. Every major city in Scotland and England had been attacked.
It caused the Dragon Kings to take drastic action against the Fae. In doing so, the Kings played right into the Dark’s hands’.
The Dark Fae filmed the Kings on Dreagan flying, fighting, and shifting. That video had been released onto the Internet, and a fury storm of questions fell upon Dreagan.
Their leader, Constantine, King of Kings, ordered that no Dragon King could shift out of human form. Darius was doing what his brethren hadn’t been able to do in weeks.
He wasted no time in breathing fire upon the Dark. There was nothing on any realm as hot as dragon fire, and it scorched the bodies into ash almost instantly.
Darius immediately returned to human form and dressed. He wouldn’t stay in his true appearance when the others couldn’t. It wasn’t fair. And it only made him hate the Dark Fae even more.
Once, long ago, there was a war on Earth between the Fae and the Kings. The Fae Wars had lasted for decades with hundreds dying.
The Kings eventually won. It was supposed to have been a war that would never be repeated. It would’ve remained that way if the Kings hadn’t had to hide their true selves. There was only one race to blame for that: the humans.
Darius dressed and left the warehouse. It was just after five in the morning. There was still time to do some hunting. Perhaps he’d get lucky and see who was killing the Dark.
He hadn’t gone more than five blocks when he found himself turning to the left. Darius walked another two before he realized he was on his way to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
His feet halted instantly.
Every time Sophie entered his thoughts, he hastily squished it. She was a distraction he didn’t need - and couldn’t afford. Yet, when he walked the streets, every time he saw a flash of red hair, he hoped it was her.
There was only one time in the two weeks since he’d made love to her on the street, shrouded by shadows with a hunger for her riding him hard, had he allowed himself to see her.
A day after their encounter he’d remained hidden atop a roof watching as she left the hospital. She hadn’t even looked in the direction where they’d had sex against the building.
Did she remember how her nails bit into his flesh? Did she recall how her body shuddered with the force of her climax? Did she forget how he had to swallow her screams of pleasure with a kiss?
He had no trouble recollecting all of that and more. So much more. For days after he had the taste of her on his tongue. Even now he recalled the feel of her soft, warm skin beneath his hands. He knew the weight of her breasts and how sensitive her nipples were.
If he allowed himself, he could get drunk off her kisses alone.
It was that reason alone that he hadn’t returned to the hospital or anywhere near Sophie’s home. She was much too alluring and entirely too much of a temptation to put himself in close proximity to her.
So why was he now heading toward the very place he shied away from? His thoughts had been on the Dark and eradicating them forever from this realm. He hadn’t even been thinking of Sophie.

Darius turned on his heel and retraced his steps. He had to get far from Sophie. Nothing good could come of him seeing her again.



The Dark Kings Series





About the Author



Donna Grant is the New York Timesand USA Today bestselling author of the sizzling Dark King series featuring dragons, immortal Highlanders, and the Fae.

She was born and raised in Texas but loves to travel. Her adventures have taken her throughout the United States as well as to Jamaica, Mexico, and Scotland. Growing up on the Texas/Louisiana border, Donna’s Cajun side of the family taught her the “spicy” side of life while her Texas roots gave her two-steppin’ and bareback riding.

Despite deadlines and voracious reading, Donna still manages to keep up with her two children, four cats, and one long haired Chihuahua.





You can find Donna at 

               

   









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