#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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#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 #AuthorInterview Martha’s Revenge by Joanna Larum @jolarum @Books_n_all

Hello lovelies and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Martha’s Revenge by Joanna Larum. Today I’m going to be bringing you a Q&A with the lovely Jo herself but first a bit about the book:

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

Title: Martha’s Revenge by Joanna Larum

Date Published: 5th April 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction

Description:

Martha’s Revenge begins where Martha is pretending to have lost her memory after Dolly attacked her. She is finding playing the ‘angelic younger sister’ a strain but this is compensated by the adrenaline rush that she gets when she murders her next victim, Mrs Browne. This is so addictive she looks out for another victim and settles on Mr Gray, the inoffensive but rather weak printer who made such a mess of her advertising leaflets.

Martha and Daniel’s mother, Edith, falls ill as she pays for all the years she spent working in the damp laundry in the cold and wet. She dies and her husband Bob is devastated, as is Daniel. Martha doesn’t feel anything at the loss of her mother other than irritation at her failure to protect her children from the cruelty of their grandparents.

Georgie hero worships Daniel who rescued him from the work house and has been almost a father figure to him since he came to live in York Street with them. Dolly, a fat and unattractive older woman, was also taken in by Daniel and she adores him for being so kind to her. Her head is stuffed with Irish folk tales which she learnt from her Irish grandmother, as well as the conviction that she can see the kindness or cruelty in other people’s auras. Daniel is the innocent in this, as he believes that Martha has reformed and is the delightful sister he always hoped she was.

Both Georgie and Dolly want to protect Daniel as they know he would be devastated by proof of Martha’s wickedness and they both know that he won’t help them to trap her. When the printer dies, strangled during the night by an ‘unknown’ killer, they realise that they could be next on her list and start to plan how they are going to trap her.

Daniel finds Frank Jackson, a twelve-year-old boy who has an alcoholic mother and younger siblings and has lost his father to the War, who is taken on as a shop boy to help Martha. Frank initially thinks that Martha is a wonderful person but, the more he sees of her behaviour in the shop, the more he realises how wicked and cruel she actually is. He mentions his concerns over Martha’s behaviour to Dolly and she recruits him as a spy in the shop. Martha moves on to another victim, murdering old Mrs Jessop in her own kitchen. Frank is now frightened of Martha and glad that he took his concerns to Dolly.

Lucy Renwick, who Martha blackmailed over her affair with the married David Dundas, has sunk very low in the world. Jobless and living in one room which she can’t afford, she spends her days looking for work, walking up to Normanby every day and then home again, still jobless. Mr Wilfred Chambers owns the manor house which faces Normanby Road and he watches Lucy every day. He has been invalided out of the Army and he wants to open a market garden on the land which surrounds his house, so that he can provide work and wages for those soldiers who have lost limbs to the War, or to the families of those soldiers who gave their lives in service to their country. He goes to the Baptist Chapel one Sunday morning and sees Lucy and offers her the job of housekeeper and overseer of the garden. He has admired the way that she has never given in or up, despite losing everything and wearing out her shoes walking the streets looking for work. She accepts the job and moves into the manor house where she loses her high-handed attitude and is genuinely loved by the garden workers and their families and the staff of the manor house.

Martha writes a letter to Lucy, admitting to being the person who tried to have her framed for burglary in the pawnbroker’s shop. Lucy comes to the shop to see Martha and they make friends – genuine on Lucy’s part but false on Martha’s part. Frank is told to go home but he is frightened of Martha’s mood and reports to Georgie and Dolly. They decide to keep watch on Martha, even if that means taking turns at staying awake all night in order to see what she does.

Martha has been invited to a garden party at the manor house where she decides to make a play for Mr Chambers, but he has eyes only for Lucy.

Meanwhile, Daniel has fallen in love with Bob Prosser’s daughter and is devastated to learn that Bob is also his father. Their relationship is forbidden which plunges Daniel into a deep depression which worries Georgie and Dolly even more. Daniel is oblivious of all that is happening around him as he is so concerned about his love for Grace.

While at the garden party, Martha took the opportunity of taking an impression of the back door key in order to have it copied. Frank, Dolly and Georgie are convinced by Martha’s behaviour that she has planned on killing Lucy as retribution for the times that Lucy was rude to her in Reed’s shop. That night, when Martha sets off to storm the manor house, Georgie and Dolly follow her, unaware that Frank is following all three of them. Martha is also unaware that Mr Chambers has proposed to Lucy, although Lucy has to decline his offer as she is still married to her husband, the one who threw her out when he learnt of her adultery.

Martha reaches Lucy’s bedroom but doesn’t find Lucy as she is in her parlour next door to her bedroom, reliving Mr Chamber’s proposal. A storm arrives and lightning hits the barns which house the tender plants as well as one of them being a dormitory for the workers. Chaos ensues as they all try to extinguish the fires which result from the lightning strike but the water in the pump runs dry and Lucy goes to try and find an old well at the bottom of the manor’s garden. Martha accosts her there, away from anyone else and attempts to strangle her. SPOILER ALERT– Frank pushes Martha down the well and saves Lucy’s life.

Once the fire has been extinguished, Frank explains everything that happened and produces Martha’s suitcase which she had hidden in the garden. She intended killing Lucy and then escaping to London. She has a letter in the suitcase, stamped and addressed to Daniel which Georgie opens. It contains her confession of Lucy’s (and other) murders and explains she is going to move to a city. She has taken all the money she amassed with her blackmailing.

Lucy, Mr Chambers, Georgie and Dolly decide to use the money to rebuild the barns and extend the garden. They tip the detritus from the fires down the well and then seal it, so Martha’s body is never discovered and they all keep the secret of who killed Martha. The rest of the world, including Daniel, believes that Martha has moved to a big city, so no-one misses her.

Q&A with Joanna Larum

What inspired Martha and her story?

I was looking through a Victorian local newspaper at work one day, years ago, when I saw a report about an inquest on two children who had been found dead in their bed. The inquest decided it was as a result of their parents’ treatment of them. It struck me that, even though it was a typical Victorian piece of dramatic reporting, there was a real story behind it. I put it to the back of my mind for the future where it became the story of Martha and her brother Daniel who had a terrible childhood, being very badly treated by their grandparents.

Out of all of the characters in Martha’s Revenge, who is your favourite and why?

My favourite character is Dolly. I love her Irish background and her utter belief in her powers of soul reading. I think it is possible to read a lot about a person’s character in their faces and Dolly has a heightened sense of this. I also love her down-to-earth character and her store of old wives’ recipes.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

I write every morning, 7 days a week. Afternoons are for housework, shopping, ironing etc. I miss it if I have to go out and can’t get any writing done. Writing lifts me out of myself and I can be whoever I want to be while I am pounding the keys!

If you could recommend one book that everyone should read (apart from your own of course), what would it be?

It would be an American children’s book which I read when I was about 8 years old. The Minipins by Carol Kendall. I remember struggling with the different words that are used in America but, once I got my head round them, the book was an absolute joy! I lent my copy to a friend at school who soon lost that title because she didn’t return it and stopped being my friend! I found a copy on Amazon about three years ago, pounced on it and read it again. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, it was even better than when I had read it over 50 years previously! There were some wonderful episodes in it and it was where I first read the word ‘muggle’ – nothing to do with Harry Potter but I’m sure JK Rowling must have read the same book!

Who are your favourite authors?

Life long favourites – Tolkien, CS Lewis, Chaucer, Austen, Jean Plaidy, Barbara Erskine, Catherine Cookson the list goes on!

Modern day favourites – Joy Ellis, Charlie Gallagher, Stewart Giles, Ann Cleves, same comment as above!

From my twenties to my early forties I read the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings every summer and always found something new in them. Now that’s the sign of a great book!

What are you currently working on?

I’ve got two stories I’m working on at the moment. One is another story of life in a North East town at the time of the Great War where a mother has lost her husband to the War and the second is a children’s book about the magic surrounding the Leven Casket. (or Gasket, as a dear friend called it!) It’s the usual magic story where the children save the town ( and probably the rest of humanity!) And there is all the housework I haven’t done because my writing time has overrun!

About The Author:

I only went to school to learn to read. At age 6, I decided I COULD read and promptly left, byjo the school gate, the same gate which my mother marched me back through 10 minutes later. So I had to spend the next 12 years at school, learning lots of different things, none of which lived up to the excitement of reading. Wanting to be a writer was a natural progression, because there is nothing as exciting as inventing the story yourself. But it’s taken over 50 years before I dared to present my stories for other people to read. So, here they are! I’ll just creep behind the sofa.

LINKS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008340517522

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8338673.Joanna_Larum?from_search=true

Twitter: @jolarum

 

#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

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/LCConn
TWITTER:
https://twitter.com/ConnLoraine

INSTAGRAM: https//www.instagram.com/l.c.conn
WEB PAGE: https//
lcconnwriter.wordpress.com/

PURCHASE LINKS

The One True Child Series.

Sentinels: https://t.co/mjUv5CW7KS

Carling: https://t.co/zGBFSNMxc9

Claire: https://t.co/cJWS1h85lJ

Guardians: https://t.co/fAc5PJ2dox

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

Tour Organised by:

R&RButto200x200

#BlogTour #GuestPost The Serial Dater’s Shopping List by Morgen Bailey @morgenwriteruk @BOTBSPublicity

Today I’m excited to bring you a guest post from Morgen Bailey but first a little about her book:

Title: The Serial Dater’s Shopping List by Morgen Bailey

Publisher: Bombshell Books

Date Published: 12th July 2018

Genre: Humour

Description:

Are you looking for the perfect summer holiday read? Then you’ll love this laugh-out-loud comedy about the highs and lows of dating.

Izzy is a journalist who usually writes a technology column for a local newspaper. Her somewhat-intimidating boss William sets her the task of dating thirty-one men, via an internet dating site, all within a month, and writing about it for the paper.

Having an active, though fruitless, social life with her friend Donna, Izzy knows what she wants in a man, so creates a shopping list of dos and don’ts and starts ticking them off as she meets the men.

Follow the ups and downs of the dating process including Tim ‘the Weeble’, whose date leads Izzy to see banoffee pie in a whole new light, Lawrence the super-skinny social worker, Felix with his bizarre penchant for Persian Piranhas, and ‘the music maestro but don’t talk about dead pets’ Jake.

By the end of the month, will Izzy have met Mr Right?

You can buy your copy here: 

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Serial-Daters-Shopping-List-comedy-ebook/dp/B07F8VRRYY/

US: https://www.amazon.com/Serial-Daters-Shopping-List-comedy-ebook/dp/B07F8VRRYY/

B L O G T O U R

Guest Post:

The Reluctant Serial Novelist:

I’d never planned to be a novelist as I loved short stories so much (and still do – I’ve written over 400). I’d heard the average novel takes a year and didn’t want to spend that long on one story but then I discovered NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org), the yearly 50,000+ words in a month project. I ‘had a go’ in November 2008, with a comic crime, which ended up being just over the minimum and I self-published as Hitman Sam.

After writing another standalone, After Jessica, inspired by a true event, it was then late October 2009 and another NaNo was looming so I needed to come up with something to write next. I had a Word document crammed with ideas, amongst which was a variety of ‘weird’ men. After two crime novels, I wanted to write something fun so created Izzy to meet this assemblage, and The Serial Dater’s Shopping List was born. It ended up being a 115,640-word first draft, written with three days to spare! I took over a year to edit (and re-edit) it down to just over 100,000 words while continuing to write short stories.

In November 2018 and half of January this year, I wrote the first draft of the follow-up, The Serial Dieter’s Shopping List, which has Izzy’s sidekick, health and beauty columnist, Donna set with the task of eating thirty-one under-five-hundred-calorie dishes in thirty-one days, a year on… the following May. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, she’s sent to the sister newspaper at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, not far from where I grew up so semi-familiar territory. She works there during the week but stays with her wacky mother, Lesley, in nearby Tring, where my mum lives.

They say to write what you know and while my knowledge influences my writing, I haven’t dated thirty-one men in thirty-one days… despite my brother calling Serial Dater my autobiography. I also haven’t tested that many ‘healthy’ dishes, even as a member of Weight Watchers and Slimming World – not at the same time!

One upside of writing a series is that you already have a bank of familiar characters – familiar to you and to the reader… so they have to be consistent. Series are so popular because most readers (and authors) feel bereft at the end of a novel they’ve enjoyed and want more. Izzy still features in Serial Dieter but Donna and her boyfriend (I won’t say who he is but they get together in Serial Dater) are the main characters so get more airtime although Donna more so because they’re apart during the week.

One downside is that once your first book is published (Serial Dater is published by Bombshell Books), the details are then set in the proverbial stone so if you want to change anyone’s name, a location or other key feature, you’d have to change it in the first book. There was no way with all the office staff, Izzy’s family and her dates, that I wasn’t going to repeat the first letter of some of the names used – it’s how readers remember names best – and in the Serial Daters case I’d like to have changed a couple of the names as they do appear in the second but not in the same scenes so I’m hoping there’ll be no confusion.

I do plan others in the series – the next two being crime rather than women’s fiction, although the lead characters may be women, one certainly can be, but Izzy and Donna will have a rest while I create a whole new set of characters and thus have more freedom, albeit staying within the same ‘Shopping List’ concept. Watch this space!

Morgen’s website is http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com and email is morgen@morgenbailey.com. She is morgenwriteruk on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook where she also runs a free mentoring group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/morgensmondaymentorship. She’s happy to hear from anyone interested in writing and / or reading. Morgen makes a point of the ‘Morgen with an E’ because MorgAn Baileys include a rocket scientist (female) and male: athlete, Green politician, basketball player, and transsexual porn star!

Author Bio:

Morgen Bailey (Morgen with an E) is an author (of novels, short stories, writing and editing 2 Morgen July 2017guides), freelance editor (for publishers and indie authors), writing tutor (in person and online), Writers’ Forum magazine ‘Competitive Edge’ columnist, blogger, speaker, and co-founder of Northants Authors. The former Chair of three writing groups, she has judged the H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, RONE, as well as the BBC Radio 2, BeaconLit, and Althorp Literary Festival children’s short story competitions. She also runs her own monthly 100-word competition. 2018 events include talks and workshops at Troubador’s Self Publishing Conference speakers, workshops and panels at Delapre Book Festival, interviewing and workshops at BeaconLit, and NAWG Fest with her ‘Editing your Fiction’ weekend residential course. Morgen can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and many others. Her blog is http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, and email address morgen@morgenbailey.com.

#BlogTour #GuestPost #Giveaway Fox Halt Farm by Celia Moore @CeliaMooreBooks @rararesources

Today I’m excited to bring you a Q&A with Celia Moore and a giveaway (see bottom of post) but first a little about her book:

Fox Halt Farm Rachel

Title: Fox Halt Farm by Celia Moore

Date Published: 1st November 2017

Genre: Saga

Description:

Opening on a cliff edge, Billy finds herself alone and betrayed. She believes everyone and everything she loves is threatened. Richard’s world is aglow with wealth, love and unswerving family loyalty but then his perfect life crosses Billy’s. He could save Billy, her beloved dairy cows and Fox Halt Farm but this young woman isn’t in the mood to be rescued.

Nothing will stay the same. Should they trust each other? Will their secrets tear their lives apart?

Fox Halt Farm is hard to put down. The story cracks along and you are caught up in Celia Moore’s vivid storytelling from the start. If you love novels by Jill Mansell, Fiona Valpy, Lucinda Riley, Maeve Binchy and Danielle Steel you will love this novel too!

Fox Halt is just £1.99 until 12th April 2019!! You can buy your copy here: https://amzn.to/2BzrEh1

Fox Halt Farm Full Tour Banner

Q&A with Celia Moore:

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your book?

My novel is a dramatic romantic saga set over two decades. The fictional Fox Halt Farm has its warm beating heart on a small dairy farm on the edge of Dartmoor. The story starts in 1986, when Billy May is eighteen and her family farm is struggling to survive. Richard MarcFenn heads up a thriving multinational business in London. Their unexpected meeting leads to consequences for Billy and Richard, their families and their friends. This is a love story with a cast of intriguing individuals all enmeshed in each other’s lives.

Q: Where did the inspiration for Fox Halt Farm come from?

My parents sold their dairy herd when I was just four years old, and as I grew up, I witnessed many of the neighbouring farmers forced to sell up too. My novel came out of a need to reflect on my life so far, especially the bond I feel for Devon. I have worked in jobs as diverse as a chartered surveyor in London, to a climbing instructor and mountain leader in North Wales. I took my life experiences to create a sweeping saga inspired by a dream that wouldn’t go away – I saw four very different characters in a particular situation, and Fox Halt Farm was the tale of how they came to be together.

fox halt pic 1

Q: Could you describe your book in one sentence?

Fox Halt Farm is a far-reaching story of love, families, heartbreak and secrets.

Q: What is a typical writing day for you?

There isn’t a typical day for me, in the summer months, I garden full-time for customers but from late December to the end of February, I concentrate on writing. Starting at 8:30am, and stopping when I have to, often finishing at 11pm. I am passionate about my writing and become wholly engrossed in it. Every minute I can, I write. My workstation is in the kitchen so I am still part of family life.

Q: If you could recommend one book what would it be and why?

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Ablom. It is a wonderful book emphasising to me how precious life is, and how important the people you love are. Beautifully written with heartfelt words.

Q: Who are your favourite authors?

Ann Cleeves for her characters. Maeve Binchy for her exploration of family dynamics, and Jilly Cooper mostly for the descriptions of the worlds her characters inhabit.

Q: Tell me something interesting about you?

I spent 5 wonderful months in 2002 cycling around the whole of New Zealand on the back of a tandem bike. My fellow rider lost 2 stone in weight during our trip, whereas I lost nothing, I was obviously not pedalling quite so hard!

fox halt pic 2

Q: What are you currently working on?

I am currently putting the finishing touches to Culmfield Cuckoo, the sequel to Fox Halt Farm before its release on 20th March.

About The Author:

Celia Moore (1967-now) grew up on a small farm near Exeter. She had a successful career as aFHF Celia Moore Chartered Surveyor working in the City of London before working her way back to Devon. In 2000, she left the office to start a new adventure as an outdoor instructor, teaching rock climbing and mountaineering. Today she gardens for a few lovely customers, runs and writes (accompanied at all times by a border terrier x jack russell called Tizzy). She is running the London Marathon in April 2019 for three cancer charities.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/celiamoore.books  

https://www.instagram.com/celiascosmos/

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/celiascosmos

https://www.celiascosmos.com

https://twitter.com/CeliaMooreBooks

Giveaway to Win a £15 / $15 Amazon Gift Card (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494203/?

 

#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

Nowhere Girls Blog Tour Poster

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/