#BlogTour #Extract The Chain by Adrian McKinty @Tr4cyF3nt0n @orionbooks #DontBreakTheChain

Hi lovelies! Today I’m bringing you an exclusive extract from The Chain as part of the blog tour but first a little about the book:

Title: The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Publisher: Orion

Date Published: 9th July 2019

Genre: Thriller

Description:

VICTIM.
SURVIVOR.
ABDUCTOR.
CRIMINAL.
YOU WILL BECOME EACH ONE.

YOUR PHONE RINGS.

A STRANGER HAS KIDNAPPED YOUR CHILD.

TO FREE THEM YOU MUST ABDUCT SOMEONE ELSE’S CHILD.

YOUR CHILD WILL BE RELEASED WHEN YOUR VICTIM’S PARENTS KIDNAP ANOTHER CHILD.

IF ANY OF THESE THINGS DON’T HAPPEN:
YOUR CHILD WILL BE KILLED.

YOU ARE NOW PART OF THE CHAIN

Extract:

1

Thursday, 7:55 a.m.

She’s sitting at the bus stop checking the likes on her Instagram feed and doesn’t even notice the man with the gun until he’s almost next to her.

She could have dropped her school bag and run across the marshes.

She’s a nimble thirteen-year-old and she knows all the swamps and quicksands of Plum Island. There’s a little morning sea fog and the man is big and clumsy. He’d be nervous about pursuit and he’d certainly have to give up the chase before the school bus came at eight o’clock.

All this goes through her head in a second.

The man is now standing right in front of her. He’s wearing a black ski mask and pointing the gun at her chest. She gasps and drops her phone. This clearly isn’t a joke or a prank. It’s November now. Halloween was a week ago.

Do you know what this is?” the man asks.

It’s a gun,” Kylie says.

It’s a gun pointed at your heart. If you scream or struggle or try to run, I’m going to shoot you. Do you understand?”

She nods.

All right. Good. Keep calm. Put this blindfold on. What your mother does in the next twenty-four hours will determine whether you live or die. And when . . . if we do let you go, we don’t want you to be able to identify us.”

Trembling, Kylie puts on the padded, elasticized blindfold.

A car pulls in next to her. The door opens.

Get in. Watch your head,” the man says.

She fumbles her way into the car. The door shuts behind her.

Her mind races. She knows she shouldn’t have gotten into the vehicle. That’s how girls vanish. That’s how girls vanish every day.

If you get in the car it’s over. If you get in the car, you’re lost forever.

You don’t get in the vehicle, you turn around and you run, run, run.

Too late.

Put her seat belt on,” a woman says from the front seat.

Kylie starts to cry under the blindfold.

The man climbs into the back seat next to her and puts her seat belt on. “Please, just try to keep calm, Kylie. We really don’t want to hurt you,” he says.

This has got to be a mistake,” she says. “My mom doesn’t have any money. She doesn’t start her new job until—”

Tell her not to talk!” the woman snaps from the front seat.

It’s not about the money, Kylie,” the man says. “Look, just don’t talk, OK?”

The car drives off hastily in a slew of sand and gravel. It accelerates hard and moves up through the gears.

Kylie listens as the car drives over the Plum Island bridge and with a wince she hears the tubercular grumble of the school bus go by them.

Keep it slow,” the man says.

The doors power lock and Kylie curses herself for missing a chance. She could have unclicked the seat belt, opened the door, rolled out. Blind panic is beginning to overwhelm her.

Why are you doing this?” she wails.

What should I tell her?” the man asks.

Don’t tell her anything. Tell her to shut the hell up,” the woman replies.

You need to be quiet, Kylie,” the man says.

The car is driving fast on what is probably Water Street near Newburyport. Kylie forces herself to breathe deep. In and out, in and out, the way the school counselors showed her in the mindfulness class. She knows that to stay alive she has to be observant and patient. She’s in the eighth-grade accelerated program. Everybody says she’s smart. She has to be calm and notice things and take her chances when they come.

That girl in Austria had survived and so had those girls in Cleveland.

And she’d seen that Mormon girl who’d been kidnapped when she was fourteen being interviewed on Good Morning America. They’d all survived. They’d been lucky, but maybe it was more than luck too.

She swallows another wave of terror that almost chokes her.

Kylie hears the car drive up onto the Route 1 bridge at Newburyport.

They’re going over the Merrimack River toward New Hampshire.

Not so fast,” the man mutters, and the car slows for a few minutes but then gradually begins to speed up again.

Kylie thinks about her mom. She’s driving to Boston this morning to see the oncologist. Her poor mom, this is going to—

Oh my God,” the woman who’s driving says, suddenly horrified.

What is it?” the man asks.

We just passed a cop car waiting over the state line.”

It’s OK, I think you’re in the . . . no, oh Christ, his lights are coming on,” the man says. “He’s pulling you over. You were going too fast! You have to stop.”

I know,” the woman replies.

It’ll be OK. No one will have reported this car stolen yet. It’s been on that side street in Boston for weeks.”

The car’s not the problem, she’s the problem. Pass me the gun.”

What are you going to do?”

What can we do?”

We can talk our way out of it,” the man insists.

With a blindfolded kidnapped girl in the back seat?”

She won’t say anything. Will you, Kylie?”

No. I promise,” Kylie whimpers.

Tell her to be quiet. Take that thing off her face and tell her to lower her head and look down,” the woman says.

Keep your eyes shut tight. Don’t make a sound,” the man says, taking the blindfold off and pushing Kylie’s head down.

The woman pulls the car over and the police vehicle presumably pulls in behind her. The woman is evidently watching the policeman

in the rearview mirror. “He’s writing the license plate down in his logbook. Probably called it in on the radio too,” she says.

It’s OK. You’ll talk to him. It’ll be fine.”

All these state police prowlers have dashcams, don’t they?”

I don’t know.”

They’ll be looking for this car. For three people. We’ll have to hide the car in the barn. Maybe for years.”

Don’t overreact. He’s only going to write you a speeding ticket.”

Kylie hears the crunch of the state trooper’s boots as he steps out of his vehicle and walks toward them.

She hears the woman roll down the driver’s-side window. “Oh God,” the woman whispers as he approaches.

The state trooper’s boots stop crunching by the open window.

Is there a problem, Officer?” the woman asks.

Ma’am, do you know how fast you were going?” the state trooper asks.

No,” the woman says.

I clocked you at fifty-two. This is a restricted twenty-five school zone. I guess you didn’t see the signs.”

No. I didn’t know there was a school around here.”

It’s heavily signposted, ma’am.”

I’m sorry, I just didn’t see them.”

I’ll have to see your . . .” the trooper begins and pauses. Kylie knows he’s looking at her. She’s shivering all over.

Sir, is that your daughter in the seat next to you?” the trooper asks.

Yes,” the man says.

Miss, can you show me your face, please?”

Kylie lifts her head but keeps her eyes tightly shut. She’s still trembling.

The state trooper has seen that something is amiss. A half second goes by while the cop, Kylie, the woman, and the man all decide what to do next.

The woman groans and then there is the sound of a single gunshot.

Blog tour graphic


About The Author:


Adrian McKinty is a crime novelist from Belfast, Northern Ireland.adrian mckinty

His books have won the Edgar Award, the Anthony Award, the Ned Kelly Award and the Barry Award. Adrian is also a two time Dagger nominee and shortlistee for the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year.

He studied law at Warwick University and philosophy at Oxford University before emigrating to New York City in the mid 90s.

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#GuestPost #Excerpt Universe: Awakening by D. Ellis Overttun @neoverttun

Hello lovelies! Today I want to welcome back D. Ellis Overttun who I featured recently with a cover make over (you can see it here). Today I’m bring you an excerpt and guest post with some more fabulous artwork from his wife Natasha but first a little about the book:

Title: Universe: Awakening by D. Ellis Overttun

Date Published: 7th October 2018

Genre: Science Fiction

Description:

The year — 526,780. A probe is deployed from ISV Intrepid at the outer edge of the universe. It is the last of a complement of twelve that is part of the Deep Exploration of Uncharted Space or DEUS. Its mission: collect data on the redshift of light and spatial distortions. Time horizon: 1,000 years.

Before ISV Intrepid can return to base, something goes wrong. There is an accident. The ship is later salvaged but its pilot is missing, its copilot in a coma.

The probes collect their data with uneventful regularity.

Fast forward to 526,880. A sole surviving probe still sits in the darkness at the outer edge of the universe. Now, unseen to the naked eye, the space around the probe begins to stretch and distend. Then, the probe disappears, engulfed by an energy of unknown origin and unknown composition. However, it manages to transmit one final message.

CD3C has monitored the disappearance of each probe over the last three years. While the interpretation of the data remains a mystery, speculation is that something has invaded the universe and is moving a superluminal velocity. Its effects could be manifested in as little as the next thousand years. To the Celesti, this is one lifetime.

What can be done?

The one person who might be able to solve this problem is the copilot of ISV Intrepid. He has been lying in stasis suffering from mental trauma. He has been this way for the past century, the longest recorded case in medical history. His unchanging condition has been a convenient solution to stall any inquiry into the accident that put him there.

This threat changes everything. Now, he is needed.

Is it possible to unlock his mind?

The task falls to Auberon, a career nobody inhabiting the lower level of the hierarchy of the Ministry of Science. Can something be awakened in him to allow someone ordinary do something extraordinary?

Universe: Awakening answers this question. In the process, it explores the world of the Celesti, a highly evolved humanoid species with advanced technology, physiology and a unique way of procreation. It blends science and political intrigue to reveal the interplay of storyline and character development that forms the staging ground for the Terra Nova Series.

Guest Post: Background and commentary of Chapter 85:

Auberon and Natasha, two ministerial aides to the First Minister, have been tasked with purchasing a gift for, Minister Abhean, one of the ministers on the Governing Council, just prior to an upcoming meeting to elicit his “consideration and favor”. The phrase is a polite euphemism for sanctioned bribery. Natasha knows the minister has an appreciation for a certain kind of art. So, the two aides make their way to an exclusive gallery in Old Eden to meet with its proprietor, Heron of Edenoud.

Auberon is new to this position, having been recently seconded from his role as an advisor to patients suffering from mental trauma. He has heretofore been disappointed with this promotion from the lack of privacy in his living accommodations to the bland and austere cuisine to the constant environment of quiet and contemplation. As we shall see shortly, he will find an oasis in this excursion.

Culturally, Old Eden is a place where the two peoples of the planet set aside their differences and co-exist in harmony. The descriptions were inspired by a day trip my wife, Natasha, and I took to Vieille Ville (Nice) on a 2009 vacation to Provence. I have taken some artistic license with the imagery but that is to be expected.

I have used language from across time and around the globe to give Universe an other-world feel. To make the grade, a word or phrase has to roll off the tongue and have a coolness factor to it. The name “Heron of Eden” or “Heron of Old Eden” sounded too blah so I added the Dutch word “oud” (meaning “old”) and voila – Edenoud. “Danu” is a Proto-Indo-European word for “water” whose cognates can be found in the names of many European rivers. “Sro kanti” means “bread” in Tocharian B and is the bouquet of good champagne. “Drekka” is an Old Norse word for “drink”.

How do I make a visit to an art gallery interesting? Why with holography and music, of course.

I wanted the scene to start from nothing as Auberon and Natasha enter a dark empty space and then transform into something full of life. Enter a memory from my childhood watching reruns of old cartoons. There’s one I remember of a fox hunt that starts off with a tranquil scene of a meadow at dawn. The music opens with the Ranz des Vaches part of the William Tell Overture. (However, as I seem to recall they skipped the flute intro and went straight to the English Horn.) Try to hear this as you read the part in question. (You’ll know it when you read it.) Then, at the appropriate time, imagine the Finale to the Overture. (You’ll also know it when you read it.)

Holograms are used to populate the walls of the space the same way we look at catalogues or see the results of internet searches. It is an interesting way to show you how an art gallery in a very technologically advanced society might look.

My wife, Natasha, has created a visual representation of the chapter to stir your imagination to help create what Rod Serling has described as “a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind”.

Universe - Chapter 85 - Gallery (Apr 20, 2019 1362 x 977 400 DPI)

Without further ado, please partake of Universe: Awakening, Chapter 85 – “Heron of Edenoud”.

* * * * *

Old Eden, as its name might suggest, was the oldest part of the city. It was situated on the west bank of the River Danu. It was a true melting pot, where the two cultures intermingled without regard for race or status. It was a labyrinth of narrow cobble-stone streets with low-rise stone and plaster-finished earth-tone and pastel-colored buildings. The widths of the streets gave the structures a towering appearance, as though one were walking through a valley gorge. Shops sold a variety of foodstuffs, clothing and curiosities. Bakeries, eateries, outdoor patios and cafes carried the delicious aromas of arusha, warm buns and fried meats. Auberon had been here many times before but it was always something he relished with anticipation. Vehicles were not permitted inside this part of the city and they would have to travel on foot from the parking area to their destination. They stepped out of their transport in a parking lot filled with electric vehicles. As they exited the lot, the holograms on the transport faded and the slab placed itself in the storage rack.

Where are we going?” Auberon asked.

Minister Abhean appreciates a certain type of art. We are going to see one of the exclusive art dealers in the city.”

They made their way through the busy streets until they came to an odd-looking store front. No signage identified the name of the establishment. In place of the display window, there was simply a large wooden sign of the profile of a painter holding a parallel palette. He was dressed in a dark-green tunic and trousers. He seemed to be contemplating something just out of an onlooker’s visual range, his unkempt hair and scruffy appearance reinforcing the image of an artist. There was a narrow pair of French doors inset into the wall just to the right.

Here,” Natasha said.

The interior space was square. It seemed too small and confined for an art dealer. The walls were eggshell white not unlike the walls in postop but were devoid of any art. The dark wood floors ported no displays of any kind. They merely squeaked with each footfall, echoing the loneliness of a barren cavern. The entire space was poorly lit and completely empty. The only point of focus in this unremarkable environment was a small door at the far side.

Are you sure this is the right place?” Auberon whispered.

Natasha put her index finger to her lips and said nothing. They waited. At length, the dim light began to change and soon it looked as though they were in natural daylight. Something caught Auberon’s nose. His head snapped to attention and he began to sniff the air almost like a wild animal trying to catch the scent of its prey. He turned to Natasha. She simply smiled and again put her index finger to her lips. The smell became more and more savory with a multitude of different layers. Then, the sound of a horned instrument began to play the introduction to a very well-known classical piece. The legato had always reminded him of looking out at a meadow at dawn, so peaceful. The music slowed to a stop. Then, one, two and then many different brass instruments joined in as the tempo quickened. As drums began to beat, the door burst open and four beautiful Gendu women, wearing long-sleeve ankle-length forest-green linen tunics emerged. Two took up position on either side of Auberon and two took up position on either side of Natasha. Another Gendu male entered the room pushing a table on wheels with trays of food that connected the aromas Auberon had detected earlier. Another Gendu female entered the room pushing a smaller table on wheels porting different chilled beverages.

Finally, a large Gendu male was the last to emerge from the door. He was dressed in a long-sleeve ankle-length tunic made of white silk. The color accentuated his olive complexion and long straight jet-black hair. It was apparent from the way the tunic hung from his body that he was a fine physical specimen with a chiseled physique. He had smoldering eyes that seemed to look right through Auberon.

Wow,” Auberon said, acknowledging this man was striking.

Ministerial Aide Natasha,” the man said bowing his head.

Heron of Edenoud,” she replied also bowing her head. “I am pleased to present Ministerial Aide Auberon.”

I am honored,” Heron said bowing his head.

As am I,” Auberon replied bowing his head.

Please partake,” Heron said pointing to the two tables.

Auberon was at a loss and was carefully watching Natasha’s lead.

Is it permitted?” the woman on Auberon’s right asked Natasha.

Yes,” Natasha replied bowing her head.

Asking the question was a Gendu custom that simultaneously addressed two possibilities. The first gave permission to the woman to cater to Auberon if he was Natasha’s husband. The second was an acknowledgement that Auberon might be a single male and could be catered to by the woman without offending Natasha.

Thank you,” the woman replied also bowing her head.

Please this way,” they said to him in unison, pointing to the tables.

The two women then locked arms with him. A contented smile spread across his face as he felt the breast of each woman snuggly against his arms. Auberon did not know what to expect but he knew it would be pleasant and he found it very easy to follow these two women. They took him to the food table and began to explain each dish. Finally! This is what it was like to be a ministerial aide!

And you Ministerial Aide Natasha,” Heron said, “will you not partake?”

Perhaps in a moment.”

What assistance may I offer you today?”

Ministerial Aide Auberon has a meeting later this morning with Minister Abhean and we need a gift.”

Really?” Heron replied looking at Auberon.

Yes, you are aware of Minister Abhean’s preferences in art. We would like you to recommend something appropriate.”

Computer. Present recent woodblock print acquisitions,” Heron said.

The walls were immediately filled with dozens of holographic representations requested by Heron. Natasha did a cursory walk around the room. In the meantime, Auberon had returned from the food table and stood in the background. Each woman was carrying a small plate with a small selection of finger foods and a linen napkin.

After a time, Natasha narrowed her selections down to two pieces. One was a picture called Waves Against Shore by Daruma and a second was called Fish at Sea also by Daruma. Each piece was about a shoulder’s width in length and about half of that in width.

I will choose between these two,” she said.

As always, your taste is impeccable,” replied Heron.

A short time later, two Gendu males brought the two pieces from storage and hung them on the wall.

Could I please see each throughout the day?” Natasha asked.

The lighting began to change to reflect the cycle of natural light throughout the day and different kinds of artificial light.

We will take Waves Against Shore.”

Excellent choice! Shall I have it delivered to the Ministry of Arts?”

No, we will take it with us.”

As you wish,” Heron replied with a bow. “Now, we must celebrate!”

He went to the beverage table and picked one of the fluted glasses. Each woman to the right of Auberon and Natasha did the same and presented them with a glass filled with a golden chilled bubbling liquid.

What is this?” Auberon asked.

We call it ‘sro kanti’. I think you will find it to your liking.”

Auberon looked toward Natasha who closed her eyes and nodded her head slightly.

May your gift bring enjoyment to the recipient,” Heron said as he raised his glass. “Drekka!”

Drekka,” Natasha and Auberon repeated also raising their glasses.

When they left Heron’s, Auberon carried a nondescript bag with a beautifully wrapped package inside. As they walked back to the parking lot, the warm summer sun and the effects of the toast made his face flush and he began to feel dizzy.

That sro…sro stuff is strong.”

Sro kanti and yes, it is very strong. Here, you better let me carry that.”

I thought the Code did not permit us to drink alcohol.”

You are correct.”

Then, why did you drink it?”

I did not. It was only sufficient that I bring the glass to my lips.”

Oh no. Am I in trouble again? But you said it was ok.”

It was. Since this matter is classified,” she replied smiling, “you are safe.”


About The Author:

I grew up in a town in the Midwest, my mother was a bookkeeper for a small HVAC company and my father was a draftsman. At university, I studied chemistry. However, when I graduated, I did not (or could not) pursue that vocation because I was terrible in the lab.

I have been a storyteller ever since I can remember. It started as a way to get out of trouble and evolved as a way to entertain those around me. My first recollection of writing prose was in elementary school when I had to write a short essay about a picture from a magazine. (Mine was a freshly baked loaf of bread.) In grade 7, I penned two short stories for a school writing competition. One was entitled “My Funny Cousin”, a descriptive piece about a relative (a little older than me) who stayed with us one summer. My mother very quickly killed that story. At the time, it didn’t make sense to me because she told me she thought it was very funny. It was only later that I figured out that I could have replaced “Funny” with “Flamboyant” in the title. So, it was back to the drawing board. My second attempt was a collection of anecdotes about the life of my maternal grandfather titled “The Hilarious Things My Grandfather Did”. That one went on to win.

My first complete novel was a story about a soldier of fortune in the age of horse and bow. At the time, I had contact with people in the entertainment business in California. The feedback I got was that I should take one of the chapters and expand it into a novel. That made no sense to me. What the heck did that mean? How could you expand something so small into something big? So, I never pursued it. However, the comment stuck with me. It was only much later that I figured out that it meant that I should never rush the telling of a story.

This brings us to the present and the Terra Nova Series. (Book 2 has just been published and Book 3 is in progress.) I write for an audience of one: my wife. She loves the stories. Now, all I have to do is get 99,999 more like her and I’ll have a hit!

#BlogTour #Excerpt #DeathBeforeCoffee by Desmond P. Ryan @RealDesmondRyan #damppebblesblogtours

Hello lovelies and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Death before coffee, today I’ll be bringing you an exclusive excerpt, but first a little about the book:

Title: Death Before Coffee (Mike O’Shea 2) by Desmond P. Ryan

Date Published: 8th February 2019

Genre: Police Procedural

Description:

By 2:27 on a Thursday afternoon, the one-legged man from Room 8 at 147 Loxitor Avenue has been beaten to death with a lead pipe. Twenty-eight minutes later, Detective Mike O’Shea is testifying in a stuffy courtroom, unaware that, within an hour, he will be standing in an alleyway littered with beer cans and condoms while his new partner—the man who saved his life thirteen years ago—flicks bugs off of a battered corpse with a ballpoint pen. When a rogue undercover copper prematurely hauls in the prime suspect, Mike blows a fuse, resulting in an unlikely rapport developing between him and the lead homicide detective sergeant, a woman known for her stilettos and razor sharp investigative skills. At the end of his seventy-two-hour shift, three men are dead and Mike O’Shea is floating in and out of consciousness in an emergency room hallway, two women by his side.

Death Before Coffee, the second book in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, weaves a homicide investigation through the life of an inner-city police detective intent on balancing his responsibilities as a son, brother, and newly single father with his sworn oath of duty. When faced with death, Mike is forced to make decisions that stir up old memories, compelling him to confront his demons while fighting the good fight.

You can buy your copy here:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Before-Coffee-OShea-Fiction-ebook/dp/B07NJNYGP3/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Death-Before-Coffee-OShea-Fiction-ebook/dp/B07NJNYGP3/ref=sr_1_7?keywords=death+before+coffee&qid=1552730233&s=gateway&sr=8-7

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/death-before-coffee-1

Death Before Coffee Blog Tour

Excerpt:

But for the screeching of the tires as Amanda wove in and out of traffic, the car was silent again.

Michael!” Amanda yelled. “Fucking talk to me, Michael!”

Huh?”

Your son, Mike. Tell me about your son. Yeah, I know. Go fuck yourself!Amanda yelled out the window as she narrowly escaped being T-boned by a car that had the right-of-way as she raced through yet another red light. “Where the hell is a cop when you need one? An escort would be nice about now,” she muttered to herself. Then, “Tell me about your son, Mike. What’s his name?”

Max, zizz namez Max,” Mike slurred.

Okay. Tell me about Max.”

Nothing.

Don’t you fucking die on me, Mike! Stay with me! Max? How old is he?” Amanda was practically screaming at Mike.

Sev’n… sev’nteen.”

What colour is his hair?”

Red.”

His eyes. What colour are your son’s eyes, Mike!”

Wha…?”

How tall is he?”

Silence.

Mike! Tall. How tall is Max?”

Mike was losing consciousness fast. Amanda shoved his slumping body off her in a last-ditch attempt to find that goddamn police light that she knew must be somewhere in this car. She reached behind her but found nothing.

How fucking tall is Max, Michael? Michael, wake up!”

With the next turn, Mike’s body fell back onto Amanda’s right side. He wasn’t answering any of her questions now.

Holy fuck, Mike! Talk to me!!”

Amanda’s foot was as far down on the accelerator as she dared press it. With both hands on the wheel, she maneuvered the car through the streets, over sidewalks, through red lights.

Holy fuck! How far away is this goddamned hospital? Fuck. Don’t die, Mike! You can’t die. None of us signed up for that. Don’t let those bastards win. We’re the good guys. We win. We gotta win. You gotta live. I cannot bury you. I will not bury you. I will not let them bury you. Fuck you, Mike O’Shea. Fuck you!”

Amanda could hear sirens. Lots of sirens. The road seemed to clear ahead of her. She raced through red lights, marked scout cars now blocking on-coming traffic. She was going too fast for a marked car to get in front of her as an escort, but she could see officers in the distance on foot, waving cars and pedestrians out of the way as she approached. As she got closer to the hospital, every intersection was closed so that she could get through. It was officially another emergency run.

Don’t you die on me, mister,” Amanda whispered, releasing one hand from the steering wheel to gently rub Mike’s head, leaving the other glued to the wheel as she sped through traffic towards the hospital. “We’re all out here for you, buddy. You gotta live, okay? You gotta make it. You’re too good a cop to go out like this. Not now. Please, not now.”

The car screeched around the final corner before Amanda fishtailed into the ambulance bay. A group of scrubs surrounded the waiting gurney. The team quickly removed Mike from the car and whisked him inside, leaving Amanda alone, sitting behind the wheel of the car, shaking, tears streaming down her face.

Don’t die, Mike. Please don’t die,” she whispered through her tears. “Every time one of us dies, a piece of each of us dies. And I’m running out of pieces.”

About Desmond P. Ryan:

For almost thirty years, Desmond P. Ryan worked as a cop in the back alleys, poorly-lit DesAuthorPhotolaneways, and forgotten neighbourhoods in Toronto, the city where he grew up. Murder often most unkind, assaults on a level that defied humanity, and sexual violations intended to demean, shame, and haunt the victims were all in a day’s work. Days, evenings, midnights–all the same. Crime knows no time.

Whether as a beat cop or a plainclothes detective, Desmond dealt with good people who did bad things and bad people who followed their instincts. And now, as a retired detective, he writes crime fiction.

Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealDesmondRyan

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

Website: https://realdesmondryan.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B07H9MMV81?_encoding=UTF8&redirectedFromKindleDbs=true&ref_=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1&rfkd=1&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

 


#BlogTour #Excerpt Deliver Us From Evil by Conrad Jones @ConradJones @Bloodhoundbook

Hello lovelies, today I’m bring you an excerpt from Conrad Jones’ latest novel, Deliver us from evil but first a little about the book:

Title: Deliver Us From Evil by Conrad Jones

Date Published: 26th March 2019

Publisher: Bloodhound Books

Genre: Police Procedural

Description:

Detective Braddick is summoned to a horrendous crime scene, where it appears a double murder has taken place. The victims’ bodies are missing and the police have no clue as to their identities or who killed them.

As the investigation snowballs, the potential body count rises and the Major Investigation Team have little to go on until DNA evidence is examined.

There appears to be no motive for the dreadful murders until an ancient script is found daubed on the walls of a nearby property. As the clues are unravelled, Braddick and his team realise they are dealing with something they have never experienced before. Because this time they’re tracking evil itself…

Excerpt from Deliver Us From Evil:

CHAPTER 1

The whirring sound of a power saw woke him from his sleep. He couldn’t tell where it was coming from – above or below. The flats were well soundproofed, but the high-pitched sound of the saw travelled through the structure, grating on his nerves. He checked his watch: it was three o’clock in the morning. What type of idiot would use a power tool at that time? One without a job, that’s who. A lot of the flats were occupied by wasters now. It hadn’t been like that when he’d moved in. The landlords had since dropped their standards and allowed the unemployed to rent apartments next to hard-working residents. Some of the newer families were African and Eastern European, and they all seemed to work hard. It was like the United Nations in the lifts but they all had jobs. The jobless were the problem. He didn’t think of himself as a snob, but the unemployed had lowered the standards in the tower block; it was noisier, dirtier and more dangerous. No one had used power tools in the middle of the night until the landlords allowed the unemployed to move in. The sound pierced the night again, louder this time. He tried to pinpoint where it was coming from. Below him, someone shouted angrily in a foreign language. A baby started crying, followed by more shouting. The saw whirred again, provoking more angry protests from below. He swore beneath his breath and threw the quilt off. He couldn’t sleep through that nonsense. Enough was enough.

Paul Skelton was angry. He was angry most of the time. Life was one monotonous pile of bullshit. Stupid people made him mad, and most of the people he met were very stupid. People who used power tools at night were incredibly stupid. He switched on the light and swung his legs out of bed. The saw had stopped, momentarily. He paused and listened; the baby downstairs had settled down and the angry voices were muffled and less frequent. He thought about climbing back into bed when a sudden thud on the ceiling made him jump; it was followed by the sound of something heavy being dragged across the floor. It wasn’t directly above his bedroom, but it was close. His heart quickened and he held his breath. Another thump rattled him.

You’re taking the piss, stupid idiot,’ Paul muttered. ‘That’s enough.’

He struggled into his tracksuit pants and pulled a vest over his head. The dragging sound began again. Then another thump. He stuffed his feet into his trainers and padded over to the door, muttering to himself about what he was going to do with that saw and where he was going to shove it. Then the lights went out.

I don’t believe this,’ he said, searching for the door handle.

His hands touched the cold metal and he opened the door, feeling his way through the darkness while his eyes adjusted. A yellow glow filtered through the blinds from the streetlights below. The power cut was localised to the tower block – it happened in the building quite a lot. Too often. The last time it had happened, it was off for over an hour. He reached the kitchen and fumbled his way to the bits-and-pieces drawer. There was a torch in there, somewhere amongst the adapters and old phone chargers. The baby started crying again, joined quickly by another. A man and woman started arguing on the floor below in a language he didn’t recognise. Getting to sleep tonight was going to be difficult. He found the torch and switched it on. The beam cut through the night and he aimed it at the ceiling. A circle of light shimmered. The knife block caught his eye and he thought about taking one, just in case, but dismissed the idea just as quick. A blade glinted in the light, its edge cold and sharp. Taking a blade to a noisy neighbour was a touch over the top. He would ask them politely to be quiet. If that didn’t work, he would give them a slap. Nothing too heavy, just a jab on the nose. Make their eyes water and they would think twice about building an extension in the middle of the night. Another heavy thump from above steeled him on. The idiots were not giving up on whatever project they had started.

Paul walked to his front door and unlocked it. He opened it and the cold night air rushed in, touching his exposed flesh with icy fingers. Goose bumps appeared on his arms and he felt a sense of dread growing inside him. He looked across the landing at the city below. The lights twinkled like yellow jewels on a sea of black ink. A gust of wind whistled along the landing, blowing a polystyrene cup towards the stone stairwell. It tumbled over and over before disappearing into the dark. He listened as it clattered down the steps. A deep chill made him shiver, his mind searching for excuses not to step out of the warmth into the darkness.

It occurred to him that the power cut would silence the saw. He thought about not going upstairs, about going back to bed and trying to sleep despite the noise. The saw whirred again and the hairs on his neck bristled. Obviously they had a battery-powered tool. That was it. The final straw. He shone his torch towards the stairs and tried to close the door quietly behind him but the wind caught it, slamming it loudly. The noise echoed through the building and he froze to the spot, waiting for a torrent of abuse to be shouted from the neighbours below. None came. He took a deep breath and moved down the landing.

The stairwell was pitch black and looked like the entrance to the underworld. He shone the torch up the stairs and the beam of light illuminated the concrete steps. Black blobs of chewing gum stained them and there were dark patches in the corners. The reek of urine drifted to him. He whispered a curse that was carried away on the wind. The entire block was turning into a giant toilet. He was going to make a complaint to the estate managers directly. There were so many landlords in the building that nothing got done unless they were bypassed. Another gust of wind urged him up the first tier of steps; the cold made the task more pressing. He turned on the landing and took the steps two at a time. The wind was stronger as he climbed, funnelled along the balcony by the angle of the roof. The stench grew stronger and it was darker on the top floor – the power of the streetlights became diluted as he climbed.

He moved quickly from the stairwell along the landing using the torch to light the way. The windows in the first flat were boarded up. Scorch marks reached from the top of the lintels to the roof. The flat had caught fire in suspicious circumstances months ago. Paul heard the wind whistling through the handrails. It was then that he caught the smell of cooking: garlic, onions, pork. He glanced at his watch again. Three fifteen. What was wrong with these people?

Paul marched past two more empty properties and stopped outside the door of number ninety. The curtains were clean and tidy and drawn. Everything was quiet. He wasn’t sure where the noise had been coming from but he knew it was above his flat somewhere. That meant it was either ninety or ninety-one. He walked to the flat next door and looked in through the window. The kitchen inside was stripped, only the sink remained. Electric wires hung from empty sockets and a pile of copper pipes were leaning in the corner. Tins of contract paint were stacked near the door. Paul could see it was being renovated and ruled it out as the source of the noise. The flats beyond were all boarded up. That meant that the occupants of number ninety were the culprits. He walked back and listened outside the door. Someone was gently humming. He recognised the tune but the name of it eluded him. The sound of the saw whirring made him jump.

Shit!’ he hissed. He knocked on the door and waited. Nothing happened. He knocked again, louder this time. Nothing. ‘Don’t pretend you’re not in,’ he muttered as he knocked again. There was no response.

Paul moved from the door and looked in through the windows. He aimed his torch through the cracks in the curtains, but he couldn’t see anything – the light was reflecting on the glass. He went back to the front door and opened the letter box. The odours of cooking drifted to him, making his mouth water. His hunger added insult to injury. He pointed the torch through the narrow gap and searched the hallway. There was no sign of life. He noticed some dark spots on the door near the kitchen that looked like fingerprints.

Hello!’ he shouted through the letter box. A clatter from the kitchen echoed up the hallway. Then it was still again. ‘Hello?’ he shouted again. He heard footsteps but it was impossible to make out where they were coming from. ‘I’ve come to ask you to keep the noise down,’ he shouted. ‘Using power tools at this time of night is ridiculous, mate!’ Paul looked through the letter box again. The beam of light scanned the walls but nothing moved. ‘I know you can hear me,’ he shouted. Another clatter came from the back of the flat. ‘You can talk to me, mate, or you can talk to the police. Make your mind up.’

There was no reply. Paul went back to window and tried to penetrate the blackness inside with the torch. It was impossible. The glare on the glass was blinding. He heard the front door open and he turned around.

About time,’ Paul said, angrily. The man stepped out and looked around. ‘You’ve woke up the whole building, mate. What do you think you’re playing at, using tools at this time of night?’

The man looked at him blankly. His eyes looked as black as the night. Paul felt uneasy. The man smiled and Paul saw dark smudges on his teeth. He was about to take a step backwards when, too late, a flash of dull metal registered. The hammer hit him upside the temple. He felt his knees buckle as the man swung again.  A strong arm came from behind him, choking him. He felt himself being dragged inside the flat but he couldn’t shout for help. There were two attackers. One of his shoes became snagged on the sill and he kicked out to free it. The front door slammed closed and Paul knew he was in dire trouble. He struggled desperately to release the grip on his throat but his attacker was too strong. The first man raised the hammer again and brought it down on the top of Paul’s skull; there was a blinding flash. White-hot bolts of pain shot through his brain. This time, the lights went out completely.

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About The Author:

Conrad Jones is a 50-year-old Author, originally from a sleepy green-belt called Tarbock Green, which is situated on the outskirts of Liverpool. He spent a number of years living in Holyhead, camperbookAnglesey, which he classes as his home. He worked in management at McDonalds Restaurants Ltd from 1989-2002, working his way up to Business Consultant (area manager) working in the corporate and franchised departments.

On March 20th 1993 he was managing the Restaurant in Warrington`s Bridge St when two Irish Republican Army bombs exploded directly outside the store, resulting in the death of two young boys and many casualties. Along with hundreds of other people there that day he was deeply affected by the attack, which led to a long-term interest in the motivation and mind set of criminal gangs. He began to read anything crime related that he could get his hands on and links this experience with the desire to write books on the subject.

He signed a three book deal with London based publishers, Thames River Press. The Alec Ramsey series is now 7 books long with an average of 4.8 stars from over 2000 reviews. Conrad has also written The Soft Target series, which has received critical acclaim.

#BlogTour #Excerpt Stones (Book 5 One True Child Series) by LC Conn @ConnLoraine @RRBookTours1

Today I’m bringing you an excerpt from Stones by LC Conn but first a little about the book:

L C Conn - Stones Book 5 Cover

Title: Stones (Book 5 One True Child Series) by LC Conn

Publisher: Between the lines publishing

Date Published: 5th March 2019

Genre: Fantasy

Description:

In the six years that have passed since Matt came to find Claire in New Zealand, their lives have changed. They married and soon after welcomed the birth of their daughter, Bree. They are at peace and happy. All seems settled and calm, until her Uncle Geoff passes. So starts her nightmare as darkness and despair try to take over her mind. Soon after she is rushing to be by her husband’s side in Scotland, after his mother, Leana, passes. The stones above the cottage in the hidden valley have their pull and soon draw in both Matt and Bree.

Claire wakes one morning to find Bree gone, and she chases after the man she thinks has her, Tony Benning. Only to find that he is just as much caught up in the chaos as she is. Marcus Ryder is truly to blame. His plan to have Claire for himself is nearly complete, he now just has to convince her to join him—or force her. And his insurance that she complies is Bree and Tony’s son, Johnny.

Hidden in the hills of New Zealand, near where Marcus is holding her and the children captive, are the ancient stones of the Guardians of this land. Their energy is still strong, and he uses them as a focal point for who is truly behind this madness. It will take the combined efforts of those left behind in Scotland and those in New Zealand to defeat the darkness that threatens the world.

It is a story of love. The strength of love given freely as a family, the complete unconditional love that gives strength from a soul-mate, and a brother. It is about connections and how it can support an individual in a time of desperate need; the strength of self-love, and the belief in yourself to get you through the tough times, no matter how dark they are. There is always light in the form of love. Love is stronger than hate.

Excerpt:

Chapter One:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But you liked it last week.”

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

What do you like with peanut butter?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, Mum.”

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

Mum?” Bree called her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you? Are you in pain?”

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

I know.” She nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will always. I promise,” Matt vowed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claire? You okay?”

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

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

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

It has indeed. How’s the farm going?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello, Claire.”

What are you doing here?” Claire asked.

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

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

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

Have you been following me all this time?”

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

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

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

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

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

You’re a hopeless case, then.”

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

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

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

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

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

Your daughter is beautiful.”

Stay away from her, Tony.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you ever going to stop this?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please, just go,” she begged him quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About The Author:

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

MEDIA LINKS:

EMAIL: raindropc1970@gmail.com

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PURCHASE LINKS

The One True Child Series.

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Stones: https://www.amazon.com/Stones-One-True-Child-Book-ebook/dp/B07NDB7LQ5

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#BlogTour #Excerpt #Giveaway The Onyx Crown by Alan Hurst @AlanHurstJr @RRBookTours1

Today I’m bringing you an excerpt from The Onyx Crown by Alan Hurst and a giveaway (see bottom of post) but first a little about the book:

Front Cover

Title: The Onyx Crown #1 by Alan Hurst

Publication Date: 27th January 2019

Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure

Description:

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


Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43863506-the-onyx-crown

You can buy your copy here:

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0578411210?pf_rd_p=1581d9f4-062f-453c-b69e-0f3e00ba2652&pf_rd_r=EX1WATF316TJ0V8B1ZB8

Nook:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130619075;jsessionid=F7EEA04D780543692E4A306B6D0F2001.prodny_store02-atgap12?ean=2940161390238

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Excerpt: Gesemni’s Conflict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About The Author:

Alan Hurst is an author and entrepreneur. Hurst who spent most of his childhood reading Asian Author Pic (6)wuxia fiction, Marvel comics and encyclopedias is delving into trilogy territory with THE ONYX CROWN. He briefly studied religion at Harvard. Later, he settled in Washington, DC where he founded a software consulting firm, hosted the Urban Nation Radio podcast, and occasionally played the World Series of Poker.  When not writing or enjoying time with his family, he prefers to take his Ducati motorcycle out for the occasional spin!

Website: https://www.alanhurstjr.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlanHurstJr

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/882960.Alan_Hurst

 

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#BlogTour #GuestPost #NowhereGirls by Teuta Metra @Teuta_Metra @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Today I’m excited to bring you a guest post and extract from Nowhere Girls by Teuta Metra but first a little about the book:

Title: Nowhere Girls by Teuta Metra

Date Published: 8th February 2019

Genre: Literary Fiction

Description:

Friends Alba and Sara could not be more different. While Alba is forcing her way into the upper echelons of Albanian’s richest and most powerful, Sara is working more than one job as a struggling journalist. Both desperate to escape their corrupt country, they’re quickly dragged into a sordid world of politics and lies.

When tragedy strikes their friend Ina, the two women must come together to save her little boy. Can they put away their troubles and secure a better future for the child? Or will their past catch up with them?

NOWHERE GIRLS is a thrilling tale of love, lies and the lengths a woman will go to for freedom.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nowhere-Girls-Teuta-Metra-ebook/dp/B07NCY2Q26/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1549383008&sr=1-1&keywords=nowhere+girls+teuta+metra

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Guest Post:

This is one of my favourite parts of the book. Ina sends her best friend Sara a letter from beyond the grave. Like many women in Albania, Ina is suffering at the hands of an abusive husband with no way to defend herself, no money and no support network. It’s easy for those living in other countries to expect a woman in her position to have somewhere to go – but in Albania, most women don’t have a voice. This letter was hard to write because I’ve known many women in her position. I needed to readers to understand her plight.

It’s also the turning point in the book. It’s this letter that forces Sara to work with Alba and rescue her godson from a country they all fear.

Dear Sara,

If you are reading this letter, then I’m already gone. I knew my luck would run out eventually with that man. Please don’t judge Ardit too harshly. He wasn’t always this bad, but life, the people he hung around with and the suffering we have endured have made him like that. He started drinking more in Thessaloniki. Things went from bad to worse when we arrived back in Albania. We lost everything in Greece because of the crisis – our jobs, money, our home. When we got back to Albania, he started gambling, telling me he would make everything right again. He lost us the last of our savings I’d somehow managed to gather in Greece. Any guilt or remorse he felt he just drank away, blotted it out. It made him forget how bad things really were.

I rang him one night. Johan was very ill with fever and I was afraid. His friends mocked him: you better run home to your wife. Your boss. He became more violent that night, and ever since then, the violence never stopped. He hit me hard. I ended up with a black eye and a cracked rib. I felt sorry for Johan. He cried and screamed, ‘Daddy, please don’t.’ That boy has seen things no child should see. I didn’t know how to walk away without making things worse for the children.

You were right, Sara, I rushed into marrying him and didn’t listen to anyone’s advice. I cheated. Yes, I cheated on him. Only once, I swear. He never found out. You’re the only one I’m telling my secret to. Please keep this to yourself. Don’t misuse my trust. I don’t want my children to ever find out. I often ask myself why I did it? At the time I saw it as an escape, I convinced myself that this handsome Russian man would rescue me and the children and whisk us away from our horrible lives. But in reality he only wanted one thing – and if I’m honest with myself, it was just nice to feel free and wanted for a short while. Afterwards I treasured that liaison, it was my secret revenge on Ardit. My own silent rebellion.

There’s something else I haven’t told him about. Alba has been putting money into my two grown children’s accounts. She is helping me a lot and, I must say, I never expected that from her. Perhaps I judged her poorly and she’s a lot kinder than I gave her credit for. This is why I kept it from you, Alba said you would be suspicious and I didn’t want to worry you.

Sara, here is the important part, if you’re reading this and something has happened to me – please look after Johan. He is your Godson and it pains me that the two of you never got to meet. I know we never managed to hold a proper baptism for him, but I’m sure God will forgive us under the circumstances.

I’m counting down the days until Ardit kills me. Isn’t that a terrible thing to say? I did what I could, I even told the police. I don’t know why I bothered. They laughed at me every time I went to the station, with black eyes and torn lips. There’s that whore again; they would say to one another. I wonder what she did this time to piss her poor husband off. I gave up expecting any help from them eventually.

My dear friend, I hope you are not crying. This letter wasn’t written to make you sad, but to ask for your help – you’re the only person who never pushed me away. I’m including 200 euros in this envelope – I know it’s not much but perhaps you can buy Johan a prom suit for his graduation. He’s seven now, but who knows how old he will be when you read this. I like the idea of Johan wearing something from me on his special day that I don’t expect to ever see, even if it’s only a pair of socks.

Please tell him that he had a mother who loved him very much. Take care of him, now that I am gone. And I love you too, so much. Never forget that. You were like my mother, my sister, my everything.

Ina x

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Now a fiction writer, Teuta Metra’s experience as an Albanian journalist has made her an expertTeuta Metra Author Picture on the struggles of women from her country. Author, journalist and teacher, Teuta now lives in The Netherlands with her husband and two sons. 

Twitter @Teuta_Metra

Website : http://www.teutametra.com/