contemporary romance

New read from the Valesky Crime Family Series!

Target

The Valesky Crime Family Book 1

by Tina Donahue

Genre: Dark Mafia Romance

A Russian kingpin wants her dead… the only one who can stop it is the man sent to murder her.

Toni Flores loved her dream job working for a respected US senator until he raped her. She’s determined to bring him to justice, no matter the cost.

For years, Dimitri Valesky, head of a Russian crime family in America, has bought off those in government. Just like the senator responsible for Toni’s assault. When she won’t keep quiet about it and risks Dimitri’s business, he orders his stepson Michael to kill her.

Michael’s a lobbyist not a mafia enforcer. He refuses the insane demand, but Dimitri insists. The power he holds over Michael and his brothers is absolute… or so he believes.

Rather than murder Toni, Michael intends to romance her. Once he convinces her to keep quiet about the Senator, she won’t be a target any longer and Dimitri will back off on the hit. The plan falls apart and now they are dodging mafia enforcers, bullets, and Dimitri’s outrage.

Michael and Toni fight to stay alive and save those dearest to them as they also fall hopelessly in love.

This is book one in the Valesky Crime Family series and has an HEA.

Publisher’s Note: This contemporary dark mafia romance contains elements of mystery, suspense, action, adventure, adult themes, and possible triggers for some readers.

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Tina’s an Amazon and international bestselling novelist who writes passionate romance for every taste – ‘heat with heart’ – for traditional publishers and indie. Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Romantic Times and numerous online sites have praised her work. She’s won Readers’ Choice Awards, was named a finalist in the EPIC competition, received a Book of the Year award, The Golden Nib Award, awards of merit in the RWA Holt Medallion competitions, and second place in the NEC RWA contests. She’s featured in the Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. Before penning romances, she worked at a major Hollywood production company in Story Direction.

On a less serious note: she’s an admitted and unrepentant chocoholic, brakes for Mexican restaurants, and has been known to moan like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally while wolfing down tostadas. She’s flown a single-engine airplane (freaking scary), rewired an old house using an ‘electricity for dummies’ book, and is horribly shy despite the hot romances she writes.

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An interview with Sarita Leone!

Thanks for being with us today, Sarita! First, would you tell us a bit about yourself?

I love happy endings—in life and on the page.

When I’m not busy writing, I practice and teach yoga. I also like to hike, travel, and dance beneath the stars. I study languages, love baking and cooking, and I can pack a suitcase in less time than it takes to peel an apple. I never say “no” to fun and absolutely plan to make every moment of this journey count.

Are you a coffee fiend, or do you have another “addiction” you must have on your desk at all times?

I enjoy a good cup of coffee, love some wonderful chai, but the one thing I have on my desk is M&Ms. It’s the go-to handful for when I’m contemplating a plot twist or wondering how a character will act. The childhood favorite sits in a jar on my desk and that’s a jar that gets refilled a lot when I’m writing on deadline!

How would you best describe your books?

I hope that my books are heartwarming romances. I love seeing ordinary people find love, especially when it comes with some sort of growth. When we step outside of ourselves and see the world and others in kinder, gentler ways, there’s so much opportunity for growth. Many of my books are set in different times in history, where there was potential for personal expansion. I hope that my books show that there’s room for romance and learning, both.

Tell us about your most recent publication.

Snickerdoodle Snowmen is part of The Wild Rose Press’ Christmas Cookie Series. It releases on November 3 and I’m so excited for this fun romance set in Alaska to come out!

The blurb:

Baker Kris Kringles sends snickerdoodles from North Pole, Alaska, across the globe, spreading holiday cheer like confetti. But she has a secret not dusted with sugar, and an incentive to speak with a slick journalist that isn’t half-baked.

Reporter Santos Kloss hates Christmas. How could he not, with a name that makes him the butt of endless holiday jokes? He’s got one last assignment to complete before he can begin a new chapter in his life, so he grits his teeth, grabs a parka, and heads to Christmas central.

Both expect the interview to be a snap, but a snowstorm, insistent sisters, and a little holiday magic have very different ideas!

What inspired you to write this story?

As soon as I heard about the call for submissions, I knew I had to write this story. I have to admit, I love baking and snickerdoodle snowmen are one of my favorite cookies, both to bake and eat!

Also, I love the Northern Lights. I’ve seen them a number of times from a few different locations, and I’m always mesmerized by the way the sky dances. So, I wanted to set a story beneath the Lights.

Add a couple of loving families, snowy encounters, and two characters who are completely not looking for love and I knew that this was a recipe for a happily-ever-after story. It was a blast to write, and I hope readers enjoy reading it.

What’s your favorite thing about the book featured here today?

I think my favorite thing about this story is that it shows that people’s motivations aren’t always what we imagine them to be. Everyone has a story or something they’re dealing with, so it’s best if we all remember that and treat others with kindness. These characters both have a lot on their respective plates and hide that well. They come to the story with baggage that seems much lighter when they learn to share the load.

aurora borealis on the mountain

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an author. I think I wrote my first story in crayon (probably purple!) and I haven’t stopped since.

Do you belong to any writing groups?

I don’t belong to any formal writing groups, but I’m super fortunate to have a wonderful group of author friends. We chat, support each other, bounce ideas around, and honestly just share the writing journey. They are dear to me and I feel so grateful to have other authors as friends.

Is there any special music you like to listen to while writing?

I don’t generally listen to music while I’m writing. It makes it hard to hear the voices in my head, LOL.

To encourage those still on the path, tell us a little about your path to publication. How many books have you published? How many books did you write before selling one? What do you think was the key to selling that first book?

I don’t count the number of books published, so I can’t honestly answer that question. I sold the first book I wrote and haven’t looked back. I know that’s not everyone’s story, and I’m grateful that it happened that way for me.

I believe a lot of things factor in to selling a book and I don’t have any real idea of what the “one thing” might be. I just honestly believe that the best way to become published is to write. Then write some more. And then, write. Most of us improve with practice, no matter what it is we’re doing, so I think it’s important to practice writing the way you’d do with any other skill you’re taking on.

What are you writing now? What’s next for you—will you be making personal appearances anywhere our readers can find you?

I’ve written a few stories for The Wild Rose Press’ Wylder West Series. I love being a Wild Rose Press author and am having a great time writing for the series. I am currently working on a book called Wylder Promises. It’s a story about second chances and finding love with someone who thinks romance is part of their past, but not their future. I’m enjoying writing this wild west story. It’s such an interesting time in history and I get a kick out of researching the time period.

I am not making personal appearance at the present time. The pandemic still has me sticking close to home. In the future I do plan to do signings again and attend conferences, but just not yet.  

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you so much for having me here today! It’s been a pleasure!

Links:

Snickerdoodle Snowmen (Christmas Cookies) – Kindle edition by Leone, Sarita. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

https://saritaleoneauthor.blogspot.com/

Amazon.com : sarita leone

Finding a new life isn’t easy

Arborview

by Karen Guzman

Genre: Women’s Fiction

When the recipe for a new life is bittersweet…

Ellen Cahill’s financial future rides on the success of her new pastry shop. A bruising divorce has drained her bank account, along with her spirit. A man enters her life promising love, but Ellen, haunted by the past, questions whether she can pull off this new beginning.

College student Rosa Escamilla has her own culinary dreams—and a difficult mother who’s dead set against them. Rosa won’t be deterred. She scrapes up the money to enroll at a prestigious culinary school, setting out to prove everyone wrong.

When hidden betrayals by the people they love most surface for both Ellen and Rosa, can they overcome the blows they never saw coming on the road to where they want to go?

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TheWildRosePress: https://www.thewildrosepress.com/book-post/arborview

Excerpt #1 from Arborview

The light was dying in Arborview. Ellen had to get going, but she wasn’t ready. Descending the ladder meant reentering her life. The time she spent here, suspended among the branches, did not banish the uncertainty that crept back when her feet hit the ground, but it did give her reprieve.

The stillness, the silence, slowed her mind. Be still and know that I am God. She used to love that old Psalm. This must have been what it meant. Her thoughts unraveled in Arborview, exposed in a cool, piercing light, a calm glow giving her hope.

It had been a week since she’d heard from Alice, and the memory of her guilty laundry-room face lingered. Perhaps Ellen had been too harsh, too judgmental. That was a big thing today, wasn’t it? Judging. Nothing was supposed to be off limits, nothing truly wrong, or shameful. Ellen had broken down and left a voicemail, but Alice had not returned the call.

The warm impression William had left in her bed, the faint whiff of his cologne on the pillows, had stayed with Ellen, too. He was coming to take her to dinner in an hour.

William had struck a chord with his pastry shop idea. It had taken root and grown all week within Ellen, its tendrils reaching into her heart. She could see it: a little storefront place, a jingling bell on the door, cakes and pies in the window, a soft wash of light on the gleaming display cases inside.

Excerpt #2 from Arborview

That was how she had come to think of herself: a divorced person. She disliked ”divorcee,” which Alice liked to throw about suggestively. The word had the faint stink of misogyny, of finger-pointing, the whisper of failure—more so a woman’s than a man’s. Why was that? Men were simply “divorced,” a neutral proclamation. No cutesy name had been invented to designate their failed-marriage status.

In truth though, if Ellen had failed anyone, she had failed herself. That stinging little insight had come to her Arborview, lying in dappled sunlight, where she was free to look at things, to test them out, and creep near the truth. The truth was she had fallen like a stone to the earth after all these years, and the voice that she had learned to ignore had only grown louder. God, forgive me. She had abandoned, or at least shelved, herself, long before Zach worked up the courage to do it.

She really should tell Rosa this: Don’t worry about what your mother thinks, or your brother, or anyone else. Choose, or the world will do it for you. That was what the girl needed to hear.

About the Author

Karen Guzman is a fiction writer and essayist. Her new novel, Arborview, will be published on September 29 by The Wild Rose Press. Her debut, Homing Instincts, was published by Fiction Attic Press in 2014. Karen’s short fiction has appeared in a number of literary magazines, and her story collection, Pilgrims, was a finalist for the St. Lawrence Book Award.

Karen is a regular contributor to the Collegeville Institute’s Bearings Online magazine. She is the recipient of a 2021 writing fellowship at the Collegeville Institute.

You can find Karen’s books onAmazon, and learn more about her work at www.karenguzman.com

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Website: https://karenguzman.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kgwriter

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4348296.Karen_Guzman

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An interview with author Darlene Fredette–her new release is Cherry Red!

Thanks for being with us today. First, would you tell us a bit about yourself? What area of the country do you live in, do you have a family, pets, etc.

I live on the Atlantic Coast of Canada with my husband and daughter. We also have a rambunctious three-year old Yellow Labrador.

Are you a coffee fiend, or do you have another “addiction” you must have on your desk at all times?

I don’t drink coffee or tea, but my go-to caffeine addiction is hot chocolate. I have a cup of hot chocolate every day, and my favorite is flavoured white hot chocolate.

Is your education relevant to your writing, or have you branched off in something entirely different to create?

I studied administration in school and followed that path in my career, which led to a position as Director of Administration and Marketing. My writing stemmed from English classes when we had to write essays on books.

How would you best describe your books?

Contemporary Sweet Romances.

Tell us about your most recent publication/whichever book you’d like to talk about today?

Cherry Red is about a woman who owns an ice cream business. Carly has no time in her life for a relationship…until Noah strides into her life and she is forced to pretend he is her boyfriend.

This summer, ice cream entrepreneur Carly Redd’s only focus is expanding her business—until she’s coerced into attending her ex’s engagement party. Showing up without a date is unthinkable. She reluctantly agrees to be escorted by her brother’s co-worker, although doing so breaks her rule of not dating firefighters.

The daughter of the town’s fire chief should wear a Do Not Touch sign, but firefighter Noah Harding’s interest blazed the moment he saw Carly. Agreeing to be her fake boyfriend is a no-brainer, but convincing Carly to trust him with her heart is harder than extinguishing a fire.

Overstepping the platonic-only rule is as dangerous as fire and ice swirling into a tempting combustion.

What inspired you to write this story?
When I learned my publisher was looking for ice cream stories to fit their One Scoop Or Two series, I thought about the perfect storyline to fit the theme.

What interesting thing did you learn or research to write it that you didn’t know before?

Researching ice cream was so much fun!

What’s your favorite thing about the book featured here today? Any special memories you have in the creation of it?

I love the characters I created from the main characters (Carly and Noah) to the whole cast. They were enjoyable to write about.

What do you most like about writing? Least like?

I like getting into the story and seeing the characters grow and interact. I don’t like editing. It’s painful and tedious.

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I wrote a short story for my high school English class and enjoyed developing the plot and characters.

Is there any special music you like to listen to while writing? How does it inspire you?

I listen to the radio while writing. It’s on but not very loud. Music is very therapeutic.

Do you belong to a critique group? What do you find most valuable about the experience?
I am part of a beta group. I don’t know what I would do without their input.

To encourage those still on the path, tell us a little about your path to publication. How many books have you published? How many books did you write before selling one? What do you think was the key to selling that first book?

The main thing is to stay positive, even when rejections hit hard. The key to selling my first book was perfecting the writing craft – reading and learning as much as I could. Cherry Red is my eighth published book

What are you writing now? What’s next for you—will you be making personal appearances anywhere our readers can find you?
My ninth book, Finding Home Again, received a contract and is currently with the proof-reading department. Once proofing is done, it will be formatted, and I’ll receive a release date. I am writing book ten, which brings me back to Redford Falls.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for the opportunity to share Cherry Red with your followers!

Bio: Darlene resides on the Atlantic Coast of Canada where the summers are too short, and the winters are too long. An avid reader since childhood, Darlene loved to develop the many stories coming to life in her head. She writes contemporary romances with a focus on plot-driven page-turners. When not working on her next book, she can be found with her husband, her daughter, and her yellow Labrador. Darlene’s favourite pastime is taking summer daytrips to the Valley to soak in the small-town feel.

This link will bring you to my website which has links to all distributing sites for my books. Universal Purchase Link: http://darlenefredette.blogspot.com/2021/04/my-books-purchase-links.html

Author Web Site: http://darlenefredette.blogspot.com/

Blog: http://findingthewritewords.blogspot.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Darlene-Fredette/e/B005NAF660/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DarleneLF

Murder, mystery, suspense in latest from Brenda Whiteside

The Wickedest Town in the West turned ghost town, turned hippie haven, turned tourist mecca…that’s the inspiration for my latest series, The MacKenzie Chronicles. Although I’ve renamed my city Joshua, Arizona, anyone familiar with Jerome, Arizona will recognize the setting within my stories.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
  • I was born and raised in Arizona and fell in love with the city in the 1960s. Jerome has long been a favorite place to visit for locals. The town nearly died in the 1950s when the mining dried up. What once was a raucous little town hanging on the side of a mountain, inhabited by the men who worked the mines, the wealthy who owned the mines, and the ladies who lived in the cribs and entertained both, became a ghost town. And the city does literally hang on the side of the mountain. Three main roads are stacked like stadium seating.

In the 1960s, hippies discovered Jerome and squatted in the abandoned buildings. But they also bought the homes, improved them, and turned the town into a center for art.

Today, the town flourishes with artists, wine tasting, historical settings, and restaurants. The residents prefer to keep the town looking much like it did in the 1920s when the mines pumped out the minerals that made millions.

Frank MacKenzie, an artist, and Susie Muse, a store owner and mystic, met in the hippie days of Joshua. The MacKenzie Chronicles are about their three children, now grown. Susie died a couple of decades ago, but two of her offspring have mystic talents while one is creative like her father. There is murder, mystery, and suspense in their pasts as well as their presents.

Mystery on Spirit Mountain, book 2 in the series, is Harlan’s book, and officially releases on September 15. Preorder is available now at a sale price.

The past never sleeps.

The truth never dies.

Only Harlan MacKenzie can sense the troubled history of the Big Purple House. When he’s hired to restore the historical mansion, he doesn’t foresee the secrets—secrets that entangle his family in deceit and murder.

Phaedra is selling the house that has been in her family for decades. As her friends-to-lovers relationship with Harlan escalates, she puts her values on the line and chances losing him.

After a stranger comes to town, weaving her web of deception, hell-bent on correcting an old grievance connected to the house, dark revelations of the past implode the present. Harlan and Phaedra are thrown on a dangerous path, not only risking love but possibly their lives.

You can read the first chapter of Mystery on Spirit Mountain here:

https://brendawhiteside.com/mystery-on-chapter-one

To reserve your copy of Mystery on Spirit Mountain (The MacKenzie Chronicles book 2) at the sale price: https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Spirit-Mountain-MacKenzie-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B09CP3BXVG/

BIO:

Brenda Whiteside is the author of suspenseful, action-adventure stories with a touch of romance. Mostly. She and her husband are gypsies at heart having lived in six states and two countries. For now, they’ve settled in Central Arizona, but won’t discount the possibility of another move in their future. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW is fishing, Brenda writes.

Visit Brenda at https://www.brendawhiteside.com

Or on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/BrendaWhitesideAuthor

Sign up for her email newsletter: https://us3.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=4804e039587723cfe02e83f2c&id=5e4b22a4ac

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brendawhitesid2

She blogs and has guests: https://brendawhiteside.blogspot.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003V15WF8

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Check out the Masonville series!

Unexpected

The Masonville Series Book 3

by Jana Richards

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Single dad Ben Greyson wants only to retain custody of his two stepdaughters. A dysfunctional childhood has made family the most important thing in his life. When his late wife’s parents sue for custody, a desperate Ben is left with two choices – run away with his girls or marry his next-door neighbor.
Jamie Garven wants to be a mother. She’s intrigued by her handsome new neighbor and falls in love with his little girls. Then Ben is faced with losing his children, and Jamie agrees to marry him for a chance at motherhood. They’re determined to show the world, and the girls’ grandparents, two loving parents.
Their marriage of convenience turns into unexpected love. But Ben interprets Jamie’s efforts to save their family as betrayal—they could lose everything, including each other.

**Pre-order Now – Sep 17th to get the special discount price of $2.99!**

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To Heal a Heart

The Masonville Series Book 2

Two souls in pain, two hearts in need of rescue.

Garrett Saunders’ world changed two years ago on a road in Afghanistan. Back home, he feels like a stranger. As he struggles to find his place in the world, he meets a horse destined for the slaughterhouse and a woman bent on rescuing the strays of the world, including him.

Blair Greyson moves to Masonville to look after her ailing grandfather and give her rescue horses a home. Right away she butts heads with a surly former Marine. Despite a rocky start, they come to an agreement: Blair will board Garrett’s rescue horse and he’ll help with repairs around her farm.

Garrett finds purpose working with Blair—and falls in love with her. But she’s hiding a secret. Can she forgive herself and accept Garrett’s love, or will she let guilt and regret continue to rule her life?

**On Sale for Only .99 cents Aug 20th – Sep 3rd!!**

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Child of Mine

The Masonville Series Book 1

Is Lauren’s love for Cole stronger than her fear of scandal in her hometown?

Lauren didn’t intend to sleep with her brother-in-law Cole on the day of her husband’s funeral. But now that she is pregnant, she’s not sorry. Cole’s given her a baby, a long-wished-for miracle. He’s been her friend forever, though she never told him or anyone else how unhappy her marriage to his cheating brother was. And she’s afraid to tell the small town that considered her husband a hero that the baby isn’t his.

Cole’s been in love with Lauren since he was sixteen. It kills him that everyone believes the baby is his dead brother’s. All he wants is to claim the baby, and Lauren, as his own. Though she marries him, will Lauren’s heart ever be his?

Lauren must tell the truth or risk losing Cole. Is her newly-discovered love for him greater than her fear of scandal in her hometown?

**On Sale for Only .99 cents Sep 3rd-17th!!**

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When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.

In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.janarichards.com

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Watch out for that first step–this hike’s a doozy!

During the daylight hours, I am a project manager, dad, ranch hand, and general all-around average guy. I spend my free time with my family, reading, playing games, golf, and the working on our small ranch.

A closet romantic, Fate Takes a Hike was a challenge I set myself almost a year ago. While I have been writing short stories and fan fiction for years, I’d never pushed myself to do a full, book-length tale, until now.

With the book’s release, I will start my journey into this world called romance writing. Let’s hope I survive!

EXCERPT:

Prologue— Jacob

Mist from the early morning rain clung to the trees and mixed with the light breeze to cool the sweat on my face as I walked up the small trail.

Just past the halfway point to the glade, I stepped over the roots of old Splitjaw. At some point in its past, the aged fir tree had been bent over and broken, creating a neck-like structure where the shattered ends split open, making the trunk look like the opened jaws of an alligator. Kara, my fiancé, named it Splitjaw during our first hike in this area.

I smiled, thinking back to that day and her silliness. She’d insisted that Splitjaw needed to be fed. She had dug through her backpack and pulled out some beef jerky, which she opened and stuck in its jagged “mouth.” Pleased with herself, she’d shouldered her pack and continued with our trek.

Digging into one of the cargo pouches on my pants, I pulled out the strips of beef jerky I brought with me for this very moment. I unwrapped them and placed them into Splitjaw’s mouth. Pocketing the wrapper, I patted the tree and proceeded on my way. Tradition satisfied.

It was close to noon when I stepped out of the trees and into the clearing. Sunlight bathed the meadow. The tall, waving grasses forming a sea of green, almost like a calm lake. The lone Oregon white oak dominated the center of the clearing, a soldier standing guard over the meadow and its denizens. I had no idea how that acorn made it to this area, but I was happy that it had found a home here.

Its branches spread outward to provide shelter and shade to all those who gathered below them, perfect for the task I had given it.

I drew in a cleansing breath, shaking myself from my reverie, and continued walking until I stood under the oak’s branches. I unshouldered my backpack and set it down against the tree before letting one hand rest gently on its trunk.

“Sorry I’m late. I was finishing up some drywall in one of the upstairs bedrooms and lost track of time.”

I bent down, opened up the pack, and pulled out a collapsible rake. Unfolding it as I stood, I began clearing the detritus of small limbs and leaves from around the area.

“It took longer than I planned, but I got the flooring finished in the kitchen. I know we talked about that white checkered slate tile, but it was out of stock and the backorder was going to take too long. So, I ended up doing a grey, sixteen-inch tile that has four small black diamonds in the center. I think it looks fantastic against the backsplash.”

I continued my rundown of my construction highlights as I kept raking.

Satisfied that no limbs or leaves remained, I collapsed the rake, stowed it back in the pack, and pulled out a small set of shears. I squatted down on one knee and began trimming the grass around the two small bronze markers. I worked in thoughtful silence, letting the metallic snip-snip of the trimmers soothe my mind and heart as I cleared back the grass and weeds that had grown since my last visit.

Once everything was pruned to my liking, I stowed the shears and retrieved a small rag and bottle of brass cleaner. Pouring a small bit of the solution onto my cloth, I began scrubbing the bird droppings off the markers.

With the bronze gleaming again, I stowed all of my tools and supplies and gazed down at the markers, telling myself I wouldn’t cry even as the first tear worked its way down my cheek. Every time I thought I had cried myself out, I found that with these two, I never would.

Kara Berman

Loving Wife

Karen Berman

Beloved Daughter

“I love you both,” I whispered, letting my fingers lightly brush the metal.

I stood up, grabbing my backpack and swinging it up and onto my back. I shrugged my shoulders a couple of times to seat the straps comfortably, then fastened the belly band, tugging on it to make sure it was tight.

With a final, pained glance at the markers, I turned and headed east, passing quickly out of the meadow and into the trees beyond.

Chapter 1 Josie

I shook the small handheld GPS unit in an attempt to make it work.

“You’ve got to be freaking kidding me! I will smash you into a million pieces, you worthless hunk of plastic!”

The small, yellow electronic devil was obviously unimpressed with my threat and mocked me with its refusal to comment. Looking up at the sky, I almost asked the heavens, ‘What next?’ But I didn’t want to tempt fate. Little did I realize at the time that the heavens could read minds, and fate could be a real bitch.

Sighing like a teenager being asked to do the dishes, I shoved the worthless plastic demon into my backpack and pulled out my trusty old compass. Flipping open the lid, I began turning in a small circle, talking to myself while the needle danced inside its glass case.

“Okay, let’s see,” I muttered to myself. “If that’s north, then that way is west and towards the lake. If I can make it to the lake, I should be able to get to the marina and use their phone.”

I nodded to myself, taking a deep, calming breath. This was good. Everything was going to be okay.

“I’m going to call Brianna Cranston and give her a piece of my mind. Wait, no. First, I’m going to get her to come pick me up and take me to my car, and while she’s driving me to it, then I’m going to give her a piece of my mind. She’ll be trapped then and can’t escape my wrath. Nice plan, Josie. Less walking, more righteous satisfaction.”

Brianna had been the one to talk me into this jaunt when I should have been helping Mom with the store. I knew that somewhere in those spreadsheets and invoices was the answer to our financial situation, something that would pull us up out of the hole we were spiraling into.

Apparently, I had been getting a tad bitchy with folks lately. Brianna cornered me in my small office Wednesday. Mom apparently let her slip back to harass me.

“Girl, you need to get away from the sheets of numbers and clear your head before you bite one of your worker’s—or worse, Kaylin’s head off,” she told me, crossing her arms and skewering me with an icy glare.

I scrubbed my tired eyes, glancing up at her. “I don’t have the time. We’re losing money every day and if I don’t figure out how to stop it, Mom and I are toast.”

Brianna began lecturing me, using her finger like a conductor’s baton. “Get your lazy butt out in the woods. You and your dad loved the woods and trails around here. Hell, you were a tomboy for most of your time here. Get out there, walk among the trees, and clear your mind. Maybe an acorn will fall on that head of yours and give you the idea you need!”

I had reluctantly agreed, more to get her to leave and to stop her nagging. And I had to admit … she had a point. I needed a break.

Putting my compass in the pocket of my shorts, I began walking in the right direction, only slightly limping, thanks to the blister on my heel. Normally, I’d have fixed it with some moleskin, but since I was in such a hurry to leave this morning, I neglected to pack my first aid kit.

My pack contained everything else I might need. Bear whistle, snacks, water, and dry socks. I even had a copy of Cosmo that I had filched from the beauty shop. Figured it could double as emergency toilet supplies should the need arise.

No GPS, no moleskin, a squishy blister on my heel, and still a long way from my car. The day was just a winner all the way around.

“Just you wait, Brianna, I’ve got two sweaty socks with your name written all over them!”

I chuckled evilly at the thought of taking off my boots in her car and launching an odoriferous attack. If I were lucky, she’d puke. Hey, if you can’t make your best friend puke, why are they your bestie?

While I might have thought Brianna gagging on sweaty socks would be funny, what galled me the most was that she was right.

About an hour into the hike this morning, I realized I actually felt better. The rich smell of the trees and the sounds of nature slowly eroded my stress level, lowering it to what most folks considered normal. I was bordering on darn near relaxed. Even with the blister and the evil GPS unit, I was feeling better than I had in several weeks.

“Okay, Brianna, maybe no socks this time.” Nodding to myself, I continued on down the trail.

After another thirty or so minutes of walking, I came to a ridgeline. Taking a moment, I glanced down into what appeared to be about a fifty-foot drop-off. It wasn’t a straight drop, more of a steep downhill, something you might ski on if there were snow, and if you didn’t mind rocks and trees at the end of your run. Unhooking my water bottle, I took a small sip as I drank in the panoramic view. I could just see the lake on the horizon. Clipping the water bottle back to my pack, I took a deep, refreshing breath.

“Finally, something is going my way.”

I began walking along the edge, hoping to find a way down that looked less like a blue diamond run and more like a bunny slope. I enjoyed skiing, but the lack of skis and snow put a damper on shooshing down the ledge. With my luck today, I’d fall and break an ankle.

At that exact moment, the heavens showed me that they had been paying attention to my thoughts. Just as I walked near a patch of scrub brush, a small rabbit burst out of it right at my feet, moving as if it was late for something.

Like any red-blooded girl seeing something that looks like a mouse on steroids flying at her, I screamed and high-stepped away from the impending rodent mauling that I just knew was coming my way.

Unfortunately, in my adrenaline-fueled rush to escape, I forgot about the ridgeline I had been admiring. I screamed again as I toppled over the edge. I smashed flat on my side and began tumbling end over end as the loose rocks and dirt gave way. I saw ground, sky, ground and then felt a sharp burst of pain in my leg and a punch to my stomach.

I barely had time to think, “Ow … shit,” before blackness took me.

CONTACTS

Email: bdswritings@gmail.com

Website: https://BDStorey.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BDStoreyAuthor/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/BDSwritings

About The author

When he’s not writing, or working his day job, Bob spends his time helping his wife take care of their three horses, four cats and the multitude of chores one finds around the farm. When there is free time left, he enjoys playing golf, video games, and DnD with his friends on the west coast and watching their three kids grow up and explore life.

New from Aussie author Cynthia Terelst!

Love and secrets are a tricky combination

For Emily, going home isn’t easy, especially when her small town never felt like home in the first place. She escaped Alma seven years ago when she went to university, but now her estranged father needs her help. At least returning means spending time with the only good thing in town—her best friend, Luke.

Luke always knew Emily needed to be free of their hometown, so he withheld his true feelings. Even though she has returned, he knows she will never stay. He tries hard to respect the boundaries of their friendship but every moment they spend together makes it harder to deny their connection. Self-control dissipates. One kiss turns into two…

But is Luke really the man Emily remembers? When Emily discovers Luke has betrayed her trust, they could lose the most precious thing of all—each other.

**This is a standalone romance with medium heat**

Buy Links

Release Price $2.99

Universal Link – https://books2read.com/u/3n7nPK

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08Q2YD2DC/

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08Q2YD2DC/

Aust – https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B08Q2YD2DC/

Canada – https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08Q2YD2DC/

Emily

Luke had been strange all morning. It was weird. Up until our visit to Brodsky’s he’d been fine. His normal Luke self. He seemed to change after he’d held my hand. Maybe he’d read my thoughts when I’d looked at him. He’d always known what I was thinking, sometimes before I did and at that moment, in that store, in front of Callum, I’d thought about kissing him.

I was so stupid. Luke had never shown any interest in me other than being friends even though he was always there for me. Always. I enjoyed spending time with him more than anyone else in the world. Had he read my mind and freaked out?

Filling the kettle, I shook my head. I kept busy, getting the cups out of the overhead cupboard while I waited for the kettle to boil. My thoughts strayed to Luke’s lips, his strong arms, his hands—so much bigger than mine but so gentle, roaming across my body. I dragged my thoughts away. There was no point ruining our friendship for a kiss.

The kitchen door creaked as it opened. Luke came in, running his hand through his hair. He was nervous. What had I done? One stupid slip had led to this. Not even a kiss. A dream of a kiss.

“Need a hand?” he asked, coming over to where the cups were sitting.

“My saviour,” I said, giving him a hip bump. I wanted the old Luke back. I handed him the plate of Tim Tams and started pouring the cups of tea. He grabbed one and took it outside. I watched him leaving, longer than I should have, but damn his arse filled his shorts nicely.

Luke

Callum walked up the driveway and Emily went out to meet him. I raised my hand in greeting but stayed on the porch with Jim. I didn’t need to be in the Emily/Callum bubble. So, I stood at the railing, watching them like a creeper. As they set off Callum put his hand on the small of her back just like he’d done last week at the meeting. Touching Emily seemed so natural to him. Even when he let go, they stayed close. They walked to the end of the field looking back once. Callum said something and Emily laughed, turning her attention back to him.

I could tell she liked being with him by the way she walked with so much energy. I could feel it from where I stood. She turned into him when he spoke, gazing up into his face. My hands hurt from clutching the railing too tight. I kicked at the post, visualising Callum’s shin.

“Looks like you left your run eight years too late,” Jim said from behind me.

I clenched my jaw. I should have known better than to get my hopes up. The kiss the other day meant nothing. Just a moment in time never to be repeated. It’s what I deserved for not putting up an argument about the fake dating and then for not telling Emily about it.

Author Bio

Cynthia Terelst is an emerging Australian author based in regional Queensland, where the sun shines 283 days a year. She is a project officer by day and a writer by night. Cynthia’s mother introduced her to a lifelong love of reading, for which she will be forever grateful. With love for the written word instilled in her, she wrote her first picture book at the age of 8, about her lost cat, Fluffy.

Cynthia writes contemporary romance and has four books published in her Love Down Under series. She refers to her writing style as ‘heat with heart’. In her novels, she likes to share a little bit of history, some Australian scenery and a whole lotta love. Her novels do not shy away from difficult topics, as she feels that they should not be ignored.

Social Media Links

Website http://cynthiaterelst.com/

Newsletter https://www.subscribepage.com/p9p9y0

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Facebook For the Love of Words FB Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/572605370313807/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/cynthiaterelstauthor/

BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/cynthia-terelst

Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-Terelst/e/B07ZCTX8SB/

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/cynthiaterelst

Linktree – https://linktr.ee/cynthiaterelst

Iris Blobel presents Touch Me

Touch Me, the fourth book of the Alinta Bay series comes out this weekend!

Blurb:

She loves the feel of his skin beneath her hands …

Lexie Marshall packs up and moves 3,000 km east with her daughter Zoe, to forget and move on. Now, all that matters is her daughter and her new job. She tries hard to stay focussed, but the sexy and extremely kind park ranger, Jesse, is not making it easy. And when her husband shows up in the small coastal town creating chaos, all she can do is hang on and trust her new friends.

After his last girlfriend walked out on him, Jesse Parker is doing just fine on his own. Until his accidental meeting with single mother Lexie, when he rescues her and her daughter from getting lost in the forest. But when her past catches up with her, he is right in the middle of it all and it might ruin his career.

Will returning to her old life be the only chance to save his career?

Now available on Amazon for 99c or free on Kindle Unlimited

Excerpt:

Lexie Marshall looked around, seeing nothing but trees. Worry crept into her mind. It’d been a while since they’d seen another soul. The old farmer on the tractor had warned them, but she’d been certain she had known the way back to the car.

“Mum, are you sure you know where you’re going?” Zoe asked.

Loosely circling her shoulders to rid herself of the kink in them, Lexie replied, “Sweetie, I’m sure we’re almost there. It can’t be far.”

“Such a stupid idea to go for a bushwalk.”

Lexie stopped and turned, looking at her daughter, undecided whether to be annoyed or feel guilty. “I thought it was a great idea. We’re stuck in that small house seven days a week with the walls closing in on us.”

Zoe met her gaze, tears shimmering in her eyes. “Not my fault we moved here.”

Massaging the temples, she took a deep breath. “I hope we’re not going through the separation discussion again. Your dad and I drifted apart. Nothing I can do about it.”

The girl lifted her shoulder in a shrug. “That didn’t mean you have to drift all the way to this godforsaken place.”

“This godforsaken place is giving me a chance to work in my profession as a lawyer during school hours only so you’re not on your own at home.”

Zoe shrugged again. “I miss my friends.”

“Well, so do I, but I am trying to do the best in a bad situation. How about we try to get out of this jungle of trees and next weekend we’ll check the real estate agent for a bigger house?”

“We had a big house in Perth—”

Lexie looked into the distance and then back at her daughter. “Look, I get it that you’re not happy with the current situation. But I’m trying my best here.” She inhaled a long breath to calm herself. “I don’t really think this is the right place to have this discussion, but maybe the right time for you to ponder about the alternatives. Perth, big house, your mother working massive hours to afford it, which would mean you’re in after care, or Alinta Bay, small house, hopefully we’ll find something bigger soon, and I can drop you off and pick you up from school, plus we will have enough money for two holidays a year.”

Without waiting for an answer, Lexie turned again, but didn’t move. Cursing under her breath, she conceded that they were lost. And it scared her. A lot.

“Mum?”

Lexie whirled around again. “What?” But as soon as she saw her daughter’s timid look in her eyes, she apologised straight away. “I’m sorry, sweetie. But—”

Zoe shook her head. “Mum, listen,” she said just above a whisper.

Lexie focussed and followed the girl’s gaze.

“Look! A car.”

“Hallelujah,” Lexie murmured.

“Can you run?”

Hands on hips, Lexie said, “I’m old, but I’m no geriatric.”

“Well, duh, Mum. Run.”

“Wait,” she almost shouted. “We can’t just—”

“Mum, just run. You’re not wearing your glasses, are you? It’s the Park Ranger vehicle.”

Shaking her head at her own embarrassment, but also at her clever daughter, she rushed after Zoe through the forest, literally over sticks and stones. Worried about her daughter stopping a stranger’s car, Park Ranger or not, she screamed, “Wait, Zoe. Wait for me!”

Without looking back, her daughter replied, “No way I’m letting this guy drive off.”

When Lexie stopped a couple of minutes later in front of the Ranger’s truck, she placed her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath.

“Mum got us lost.”

The Ranger came around the car and placed his hand on Lexie’s arm, “Ma’am, are you okay?”

She straightened. “I’m okay. Embarrassed, my ego dinted, and having aged by about ten years, but I’m okay.”

His deep chuckle invaded her senses with its warmth and did something to her. And it’d been a while since a man had stirred something inside her, not since … she pushed the thought of her husband away, as well as the flutter in her stomach, trying to deal with the problem at hand.