The Alibi Girl by C.J. Skuse @HQStories #Extract #BlogTour

Today I’m bringing you an extract from CJ Skuse’s latest thriller The Abili Girl but first a little about the book:

Title: The Alibi Girl by C.J. Skuse

Publication Date: 6th February 2020

Publisher: HQ

Genre: Thriller 

Description:

Joanne Haynes has a secret: that is not her real name.

And there’s more. Her flat’s not hers. Her cats aren’t hers. Even her hair isn’t really hers.

Nor is she any of the other women she pretends to be. Not the bestselling romance novelist who gets her morning snack from the doughnut van on the seafront. Nor the pregnant woman in the dental surgery. Nor the chemo patient in the supermarket for whom the cashier feels ever so sorry. They’re all just alibis.

In fact, the only thing that’s real about Joanne is that nobody can know who she really is.

But someone has got too close. It looks like her alibis have begun to run out….

Extract:

1

Ellis

Monday, 21st October

I can’t read this Hello! magazine again. There’s only so many times I can admire Brooklyn Beckham’s left armpit. It’s not as though there’s anything else to read either. There’s a Vogue with dried snot on the contents page. And Charlize Theron is on the cover of Cosmo so I can’t even touch that one. I’ve been afraid of her since Snow White. Keep thinking she’ll come out of the page and bite me.  

So, in the absence of reading material, I’m squinting at a cockroach scuttling across the floor with a clump of shorn hair on its back like some tiny game show host. My own hair sits lankly around my ears – it can’t wait another day. I’ll give it another five minutes before I go back to the flat and dye it myself over the bath with a kit.

And now the baby’s grizzling. I’ve tried sticking my knuckle in her mouth but she’s hungry. I’m not feeding her here. How can you talk to a perfect stranger quite politely one moment and then flop your boob out the next? How do women do that? And what is the stranger supposed to do? Not look at it? A boob is my third most private part after my feet and my noo-noo. I’d look. Not for long, but I would look.

After fifteen-and-a-half full minutes, a short Roseanne Barr-ish woman scuffs through the beaded curtain. She has Hobbit feet wedged into mint-green flip flops and tattoos up and down both forearms – Tom Hiddlething as Loki all up her right, Chris HemWhatNot as Thor all up her left.

‘Hiya I’m Steffie. Is it Mary?’ Her eyes don’t smile.

‘Yes. Mary Brokenshire.’

Steffi’s in a washed-out Gryffindor t-shirt and her hair is spare rib coloured, parted and shaved severely up the side. 

 ‘If you’d like to come this way …’

Steffi leads me through the beads, across the glittery black floor tiles and through a grubby woodchip archway towards the sinks but not quite at them. We swerve over to a side chair with a mirror in front of it and she sits me down and places her hot hands on my shoulders. She gives me an unnecessary chat about what I want done even though she already knows because I came in last week for a patch test and we went through it all then.

‘Right, black it is then. Have you been offered a tea or coffee?’

‘No.’ I don’t like tea or coffee. I’d prefer a juice but they don’t have juice, only some value squash which I only have to look at to feel my teeth rotting at the roots. Even I know asking for a milk would be too childish in this environment so, for appearances sake, I say ‘I’d love a tea, thanks.’

Steffi disappears and returns with a cape but no tea. She waits for me to take Emily out of the papoose and transfer her to the pushchair, hoping to catch a glimpse. I get it: people love babies. I tuck her into the buggy and drape a muslin over the opening. I don’t like people looking at her, or me, for too long. Just in case.

Steffi sweeps the cape around my body, rendering everything but my head invisible. I used to like wearing a cape. Or an oversized bath towel. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of getting out of a hot bath, wrapping the big bath towel around you and pretending to fly up the corridor with the towel flapping along behind. Me and my cousin Foy used to do that all the time after our baths. Or was it only once?

‘How are you coping with the little one?’ Steffi asks.

‘Fine thanks. She’s our fifth so we’re used to being tired all the time, you know what it’s like I’m sure!’

‘Oh yeah,’ she says, face brightening. ‘We’ve got four and it’s chaos. We love it though. Love the chaos!’ We share the laugh only parents can share as she begins pasting on my colour. ‘Have you got anything planned for the rest of the day?’ I get the impression she’s asked this question 11,000 times. There’s no inflection. No real note of interest. I still answer.

‘Not really. A bit of shopping. Pick the kids up. I’m still on maternity leave from my practice so it’s nice not to have such a rigid timetable.’

‘What sort of practice?’

‘I’m a doctor. A GP.’

‘Oh right. Where are they all today then? At a friend’s house?’

I’m momentarily confused. ‘My children? They’re all at school.’

‘They not on half term?’

‘They’re all at private school,’ I say. ‘Their half term was last week.’

‘Oh,’ she says, with more than a hint of lemon juice about it. ‘You’ve got four of them at private school?’

 ‘Yeah,’ I tell her proudly, rocking the buggy. ‘Apples of their daddy’s eye. We’re stopping at five though. I’m having my tubes tied in January, I’ve told him already. He’d have a football team, given half the chance.’

‘Yeah, I think mine would!’

‘It’s our anniversary today so my mum and dad are going to have the kids tonight so we can go out for a meal.’

‘Ooh, where are you going? Anywhere nice?’

What a stupid question that is. No, we’re off to a complete dive with a one star hygiene rating and a chef who wipes his bum on the lettuce. ‘The China Garden. The one with the gold dragon hanging from the ceiling? His treat.’

‘What does he do then, your bloke?’

I ignite when she says ‘Your bloke.’ It’s lovely to have a bloke who belongs to me. ‘He’s a personal trainer.’

‘Nice. I wish my old man would take me out. Do you know I don’t think we’ve had a night out since our Livvy was born. And she’s starting Reception next month.’

‘Oh really?’

‘Yeah. We can’t afford it anyway. Rich’s been laid off from the airport.’

‘Oh right,’ I say, with the hint of gloom she seems to expect. ‘What did he —’

‘—baggage handler at John Lennon. Twenty years he gave them. Went in on his days off when they were striking and everything. And he caught a terrorist.’

‘Oh gosh.’ Cockroach Game Show Host scuttles back along the skirting board. I pretend to have a coughing fit and Steffi asks if I’d like some water, which is when she’s reminded about the tea she hasn’t made me yet and scurries off to see “where it’s got to” like tea has a mind of its own.

I’m finally brought my tea and two Custard Creams – one with a corner snapped off. I remove the top of one biscuit and scrape out the cream with my bottom teeth. I put the two sides back together and munch it until it makes a neat circle of spitty biscuit between my thumbs, then I put it in my mouth til it dissolves. I don’t realise until I swallow that Steffi has been watching me. My cheeks flame as red as my roots.

But then, my phone pings in my handbag and I riffle around to find it. ‘Probably Daddy, checking in on his girls.’

‘Ahhh,’ says Steffi, all misty-eyed.

It isn’t Daddy. It’s an email from eBay, letting me know about their half term sale on personalised school stationery.

‘Was it him?’ says Steffi, combing my colour through.

‘Yeah. He’s asking if I want anything brought in. Bless him.’

‘He sounds like a keeper.’ I hold up my iPhone screen to show her his photo. She takes it off me and squints. ‘Blimey, he’s gorgeous.’

I know what she’s thinking – that a woman like me couldn’t have possibly ‘got’ a guy like him. ‘I’m very lucky.’ She returns me the phone and I put him away safely in my bag. ‘We were childhood sweethearts.’

‘You started early then. I thought you looked young to have five kids.’

‘I had the first one at fourteen.’

‘Blimey.’

‘Then the twins, then Harry. Wasn’t easy with the medical degree, but we managed. Then this little surprise came along.’

‘I met my Rich on a hen weekend.’

I hadn’t asked and it’s not interesting to me but I pretend it’s the most interesting thing because for some reason I’m happy in her company. Two married mums together. ‘I love a good knees up.’

‘Yeah it did get a bit rowdy,’ she laughs. ‘He did karaoke to Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady and pointed at me when he was singing. I knew then he was The One.’

I smile at the mirror. ‘The One. It’s a nice feeling, isn’t it?’

‘Oh don’t get me wrong, we have our moments. He woke up yesterday with a cold, right? And his breathing has become all like that Darth Wossit. And I said to him “Rich I swear to God, if you breathe like that anymore, I’m gonna ram your head in the bacon slicer.” He was winding me up that much.’

I don’t get that. Why stay with a person whose breathing makes you want to commit actual murder on their head? So I ask her.

‘So you don’t love him anymore?’

‘Oh course I do,’ she laughs, ‘I were only joking. Just wish he worked on an oil rig or summut so he’d leave the bloody house once in a while, you know?’

I don’t get that either but, before I can ask, she hands me the same magazine I read six times in the waiting room and I’m treated to another glimpse of hairy Brooklyn and interviews with Liam Payne’s mother and the Britain’s Got Talent failure who’s had twenty facelifts and still hates himself. 

AlibiGirl_BTB

About The Author:

C.J. SKUSE is the author of SweetPea, In Bloom, Pretty Bad Things, Rockaholic, Deadc j skuse Romantic, Monster and Deviants. She was born in Weston-super-Mare. She has first-class degrees in creative writing and, aside from writing novels, works as a freelance fiction consultant and lectures at Bath Spa University. CJ Skuse’s Rhiannon Lewis series (SWEETPEA and IN BLOOM) has sold over 20,000 copies in PB and been optioned for television by See-Saw, the company behind the Oscar nominated film Lion. 

#BookSpotlight Death in Smoke (The Cape Mysteries #2) by Barbara Elle @barbaraelleauth @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #Thriller #Books #promo #Giveaway #excerpt

Congratulations to author, Barbara Elle, on the release of her exciting thriller, Death in Smoke! I have an exclusive excerpt, plus your chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift card but first a bit about the book:

Death in Smoke Cover

Title: Death in Smoke (The Cape Mysteries #2) by Barbara Elle

Publication Date: 5th December 2019

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Description:

A bloodied body buried in a snowbank on a remote island off Cape Cod.

A cold case in Kansas.

What’s the connection between two unrelated murders over a thousand miles away and decades apart?

In Death In Smoke, the thrilling sequel to Death In Vermilion, artist Leila Goodfriend unravels the truth about two brutal killings.

From Cuttyhunk Island to a Native American casino in Kansas, Leila tracks a trail of blood and revenge, littered with smoke screens and stone relics of a faded past.

Once again, Leila has to trust her instincts, which puts her at odds with Detective John Grace—a relationship of attraction that, in the end, reveals a tragic secret from her own past.

Despite the detective’s warnings, Leila puts her life at risk, obsessed with proving her friend’s innocence, at least of murder.

Death In Smoke, the new psychological thriller from acclaimed author Barbara Elle, takes readers on an inner and physical journey across clashing cultures and time, challenging assumptions about what is truth—what remains a mystery.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49906431-death-in-smoke

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Y7PT1B6

Excerpt: 

Her fingers bled as she dug, the blood spread like a stain, but she couldn’t know now whether it was her blood, or the blood seeping up from beneath the surface.

She knew what she’d find now. There was no urgency. Not anymore. Not with this spreading stain. She slowed down. She brushed aside the snow carefully, like an archaeologist at a dig; she had to see the eyes. The eyes would tell whether there was life, or death. It was silent, except for the pounding of blood in her ears.

The blood, coagulated into a fibrous mesh-like flesh, was more like a birth than a death. It was a woman. The crown of the skull had been split, maybe cracked along a fissure? The features were contorted. Had there been time to beg, no, no, don’t? Had there been time to scream? 

She brushed the bloody flecks away. Horrified. There was no question now. The eyes were open. The woman was dead. 

It was a queer, horrible irony that suddenly struck Leila: she had found another dead body. Iris. Now, there was this poor woman. This was supposed to be a walk in the woods.

Although the violence of death had distorted the features of its victim, there was something familiar in the angular chin, the cheekbones, and the mannish set of the jaw. It was a face she never expected to see again. 

Damn. It was Susie.

Giveaway: Win a $25 Amazon gift card:

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0e7c6a8f129/?

About the Author:

In her stunning debut thriller, Death In Vermilion (The Cape Mysteries Book 1), barbaraelleacclaimed author Barbara Elle paints a clever and twisted picture of women and sisters, whose lives are entwined by a brutal murder in a Cape Cod town. Who can you trust?

Now, Death In Smoke (The Cape Mysteries Book 2) asks what’s the connection between a bloodied body buried in a snowbank on a remote island off the Cape and a cold case in Kansas? Can artist and amateur sleuth Leila Goodfriend solve this new mystery?

Barbara Elle fell in love with books and writing at a young age, honing her writing chops as a copywriter at major publishers and as a freelance journalist.

Growing up in Boston, but she became a New Yorker as an adult. Her writing draws on people and places she remembers, setting The Cape Mysteries on Cape Cod, a place of memories.

Barbara Elle continues collecting characters and plots, often traveling the world with her touring musician husband, the musical director for rock and roll icon Cyndi Lauper. In her travels, Barbara has explored Buddhist temples in Beijing, crypts in Vienna and Kabuki Theater in Tokyo.

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17931175.Barbara_Elle

Twitter: https://twitter.com/barbaraelleauth

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

Blog Tour Schedule

January 6th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com

The Bookworm Drinketh (Review) http://thebookwormdrinketh.wordpress.com/

January 7th

Jessica Belmont (Spotlight) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

My Bookish Bliss (Review) http://www.mybookishbliss.com

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

January 8th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

Shalini’s Books & Reviews (Spotlight) https://bookreviewsbyshalini.com/

Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com

January 9th

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

On the Shelf Reviews (Spotlight) https://ontheshelfreviews.wordpress.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Tranquil Dreams (Review) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

January 10th

Ally’s Reading Corner (Spotlight) http://allysreadingcorner.wordpress.com

The Genre Minx Book Reviews (Spotlight) http://www.thegenreminx.com/

Crossroad Reviews (Spotlight) http://www.crossroadreviews.com

Blog Tour Organised By:

R&R Book Tours

R&RButto200x200

Link: http://rrbooktours.com

#BlogTour #GuestPost A Cornish Inheritance by Terri Nixon @TerriNixon @PiatkusBooks @annecater #ACornishInheritance

Hello lovelies! Today I have a fantastic guest post from Terri Nixon about the inspiration behind her novel A Cornish Inheritance but first a little about the book:

Title: A Cornish Inheritance by Terri Nixon 

Publisher:  Piatkus 

Date Published: 5th December 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction

Description:

Welcome to Fox Bay Hotel, where family fortunes rise and fall.

1920, Bristol. Helen Fox is happily married to the love of her life: charming, former playboy Harry. With their three children, glamorous lifestyle and extravagant parties, they have the perfect life. But after a tragic motorcycle accident, nothing will ever be the same…

Helen is forced to leave their home and move to the Fox family’s hotel on the Cornish coast – where she discovers her perfect life has been based on a lie.

Now Helen must find a way to build a new life for herself and her children with the help of a vivacious new friend, Leah Marshall.

But when the future of the hotel is threatened, Helen discovers that she hasn’t left her past behind after all, and unless she takes drastic action, she’s going to lose everything all over again…

You can buy your copy here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cornish-Inheritance-Fox-Bay-Saga/dp/0349423989

Cornish Inheritance BT Poster

Guest Post: Meet the Foxes of Fox Bay

1920s Fox Bay Hotel is a bit of a glamour trap. A former monastery, now a holiday destination for the most discerning of guests, and situated on the coast within a stone’s throw of a picturesque village. An art deco dream of a place… Too too perfect, darling, you simply must go! But sign up a lawyer first…

I was all fired up ready to write a fourth volume in the Penhaligon Saga; I’d written a detailed outline, which I loved (I still do) and was hoping my publisher would pick it up. But they decided the saga had run its course, had tied everything up nicely in book 3, and answered all the questions I’d asked in book 2. ‘We’d like you to write something new.’ 

So I plucked something out of mid-air and threw it at my agent. ‘Uh, how about a… a hotel? Set on the South Devon coast?’ It would be so wonderful to write something set in the area in which I was born, and a hotel would give me the opportunity to have any number of different types of guests, with their own interesting secrets and stories. I was buzzing already.

The publisher was equally enthusiastic. ‘Sounds great, send in a submission package. We particularly love that it’s set in Devon!’ 

Hooray! 

I wrote an outline and the first three chapters, and sent it all off. 

‘Yes please, we’ll take 3. Only please could you set it in Cornwall instead?’

So I happily re-set my fictional village on the west coast of Cornwall and began the exciting job of getting to know my characters.

A few years ago a good friend of mine moved into a gorgeous flat that had once been part of a military hospital here in Plymouth. He’d gone exploring up in a communal attic space and found this painted on one of the beams: 

a cornish inheritance pic

H & H, The Heavenly Twins… what’s not to love about that? He knew I’d be all over it, and he was right; when I realised I’d called my main character Helen, and her husband Harry, I knew I had to incorporate that mysterious, hastily-painted little slice of history somehow. 

And so the Heavenly Twins were born. 

Harry the bon viveur and former playboy, living – in modern parlance – his “best life,” in the years immediately following the Great War, and throwing the biggest and glitziest parties, with the brightest and smartest friends.

Helen, not quite timid, but certainly no social butterfly, could hardly believe he’d chosen her at first, and she wasn’t the only one, but in the years since they married they have defied expectation and silenced the critics. Their marriage has been passionate and rock-solid, and their three children are adorable but headstrong individuals, who have grown up rich in matters both material and emotional. Everyone loves the Foxes.

But of course this can’t last; it’s a family drama! If this family existed in a soap you’d just know there was something nasty in the woodshed; some shade from the past, or a terrible decision, is going to shove a spanner in the spokes, and the fates just sit back and watch with a sly grin, while everything collapses.

So it is with the Foxes. When Helen has to take the children away from the home they’ve known all their lives, and even the memories of those halcyon days are tainted, she has to re-evaluate her situation, and, at the same time as she’s coming to terms with her own “new normal,” she has to protect her children’s futures. 

She makes a new friend, Leah Marshall, a widow with a shady past, but such a talent for mimicry and play-acting that the Foxes warm to her immediately. She brightens everything, becomes an honorary aunt to the children, and later, when Helen has cause to question her honesty and her intentions, I hope the readers will feel the conflict as deeply as if Leah is a real member of the family. She’s a question mark, hidden by the brightness of her own smile. 

Helen herself is unused to standing her ground and having to fight for what’s hers, and all we can do is watch, and will her on. The family motto is Vulpes latebram suam defendit – The fox defends his lair. Helen has a lot of work to do…

The second half of the first book, A Cornish Inheritance, prominently features one of the now grown “children,” and each of the next two books will do the same for the others. It’s been interesting to see how the sudden change in lifestyle has affected the “cubs” during their formative years, and each of them has their own individual set of interests and ambitions, which can lead them into dangerous, potentially deadly, situations. But will they listen to me, the mere author? As if! They’re just going to go right on with what they’re doing, and if they won’t listen to me, what do you suppose chances are that they’ll listen to Helen?

So hold on to your hats; those Fox cubs are going to shake things up at the bay, and the shockwaves might well stretch across the whole of Cornwall!

About The Author: 

Terri was born in Plymouth. At the age of 9, she moved with her family to Cornwall, to Terri Nixon Author Picthe village featured in Jamaica Inn — North Hill — where she discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She also discovered apple-scrumping, and how to jump out of a hayloft without breaking any bones, but no-one’s ever offered to pay her for doing those.

Since publishing in paperback for the first time in 2002, Terri has appeared in both print and online fiction collections, and is proud to have contributed to the Shirley Jackson award-nominated hardback collection: Bound for Evil, by Dead Letter Press.

As a Hybrid author, her first commercially published novel was Maid of Oaklands Manor, published by Piatkus Entice.

Terri’s self-published Mythic Fiction series set in Cornwall, The Lynher Mill Chronicles, is now complete and available in paperback and e-book.

Terri also writes under the name T Nixon, and has contributed to anthologies under the names Terri Pine and Teresa Nixon. She is represented by the Kate Nash Literary Agency. She now lives in Plymouth with her youngest son, and works in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Plymouth University, where she is constantly baffled by the number of students who don’t possess pens.

Twitter @TerriNixon

Website : http://www.terrinixon.com/

#BlogTour #AuthorInterview Jupiter’s Fire by William Osborne @rararesources @ConradPress

Hello lovelies, today I have a fantastic Q&A with author William Osborne but first a little about his new book:

Jupiters Fire cover v1

Title: Jupiter’s Fire by William Osborne

Date Published: 1st December 2019

Publisher: Conrad Press

Genre: YA Historical Adventure

Description:

When Franco, a teenager living in the monastery at Monte Cassino in 1944 uncovers a long-lost Roman Eagle, the fabled Aquila for the Jupiter Legion, he sets in motion a desperate struggle to prevent the Nazis from using it to win the war. In a do-or-die mission, Franco and Dulcie, a teenage mountain girl, must steal the Eagle back and escape before its deadly power is unleashed. Pursued by the implacable forces of the SS they will discover not just the secrets of the Eagle but also themselves.

Q&A with William Osborne:

Can you tell me a little bit about your book? 

It’s the third book in a trilogy, all featuring a teenage boy and girl who get caught up in an exciting adventure set in World War Two. In Jupiter’s Fire the two protagonists must steal a mystical and dangerous Roman artefact before the Nazis use its power to win the war. So, not much at stake then!!


Where did the inspiration for your book come from? 

A trip to Naples, learning about the city, Vesuvius and remembering a quote from my time as a screenwriter.  “Start with a volcano and work up to a climax!” Unfortunately the volcano is at the end in my story. 


If you could describe your book in one sentence what would it be? 

Amazeballs.


What is a typical writing day like for you? 

I don’t really have one. Some days I start early, some days late. But always put in two to three hours minimum.

 

If you could recommend just one book to read what would it be and why? 

HMS Ulysses by Alaistair Maclean. I’m not sure why because it is dated and old and nobody has heard of it any more, but it’s depiction of the North Atlantic Convoys going round the Arctic Circle to Russia in the Second World War while being hunted by U Boats is shattering in its verisimilitude. 


Who are your favourite authors?

Scott Fitzgerald

Boris Pasternak

William Boyd when he’s on form.

George McDonald Fraser

Mal Peet

I have so many… 


Is writing your only job? If not, what is your other job?

I started life as a barrister, then became a screenwriter which I still do though I am concentrating now on my fiction writing. 


Tell me something interesting about yourself (that’s not in your author bio!)

I collect old Military helmets from the German and British Empire time, ie, pre 1914.


What are you currently working on? 

I have two screenplays on the go, a romantic comedy set in 1980s England and a dark thriller set in up state New York in 1960.  I am also planning my next novel where the hero is a young woman secret agent in yes, World War Two!!

Jupiters Fire Full Tour Banner

About The Author: 

William Osborne – Born 1960 – educated at Greshams School, Holt, Norfolk and Robert Louis Stevenson, Pebble Beach, California,  studied law at Cambridge,(MA),  barrister at law, Member of the Middle Temple. Screenwriter and member of Writers Guild of America (West) – Author (published works, 1994, 1998, Hitler’s Angel, Winter’s Bullet, Jupiter’s Fire).  Lives in Norfolk, enjoys life, film, dog walking, cold water swimming, lego, collecting odd stuff, driving his beach buggy.

#BlogTour #Excerpt Corners Untouched by Madness by N. Daniel @MyUnsafePlace @btwnthelinespub @RRBookTours1 #Giveaway #MentalIllness

Hello lovelies! Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Corners Untouched by Madness plus a giveaway to win a copy of the novel but first a little about the book: 

Book Cover (5)

Title: Corners Untouched by Madness: A Personal Journey of Overcoming Mental Illness by N. Daniel

Publication Date: October 1st, 2019

Publisher: Between the Lines Publishing

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Inspired by True Events/ Mental Illness

Description:

A raw story of courage and redemption.

Daniel settles for a mundane office job in the suburbs but is haunted with guilt. When a beautiful woman from his past appears, it ignites a chain reaction, setting him on a journey to confront his troubled history. Based on actual events, this inspiring story attempts to enlighten its audience with humor, passion and a lesson in perseverance. Will Daniel be able to brave his trauma and put his inner demons to rest? Or will he be consumed by the most cunning adversary of all? The truth.

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48266662-corners-untouched-by-madness?ac=1&from_search=true

You can buy your copy here:

Amazon.com: 

https://www.amazon.com/Corners-Untouched-Madness-Personal-Overcoming-ebook/dp/B07YBSNX8L/

Amazon UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Corners-Untouched-Madness-Personal-Overcoming/dp/1950502139/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=corners+untouched+by+madness&qid=1574667520&s=books&sr=1-1

Barnes and Noble: 

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/corners-untouched-by-madness-n-daniel/1133915760?ean=9781950502127

Excerpt:

As I navigated my way home through the darkened streets I could think only of Mei. I hadn’t ever really known her in school. Shy, quiet and extremely brilliant, she was in a class of her own. With raven hair, caramel skin, a round face and wire-rim glasses, she was the quintessential brainiac. From those innocent days she had grown into a beautiful woman with a mind as sharp as an acute angle. She made me feel like I was someone valuable. To most women I wasn’t worth the honesty of a rejection. They just ignored me. I was dying for Mei, but the fact that she lived in Baltimore was something of a problem. On lonely nights spent whittling away in my apartment I longed to know what she smelled like, what she tasted like, how her skin would feel against mine. It would have been heaven. I feared she would always remain an intangible muse, an archetype for the perfect female and, I suppose, to others, this would seem blown completely out of proportion. She was human after all, but the ideal of Mei was irresistible to me.

In high school I was no one, just a pot-smoking art student who had no reservations about making a complete ass of himself. Someone like Mei had no reason to talk to me and vice versa. When I did see her in the hallway, she was usually carrying her books and smiling with her friends. I was like a little kid with no money and his face pressed up against a warmly lit shop window. She was so desirable. Even if I had realized it back then, I still couldn’t compete with the other males in our class. So, I eventually gave up, taking harder drugs and letting my addictions lead me into an accidental overdose. I hit rock bottom. Piece by piece I rebuilt my life in an image more like hers. I got clean, went to college and graduated with distinction. Suddenly she had reappeared in my life, though up until now I seldom spoke of her. Who was she, really, and why had she made this entrance?

It started raining a little and the pavement glistened. I looked down at my ragged tennis shoes splashing through the puddles. I was home late. My cat was there to greet me at the door, and I paused by the cutting board on my kitchen counter. Placing my hands on the edge I stared into the woodgrain. I could feel her arms around me. It was love. It was hurt. It felt real but I was all alone. I reveled in the stillness and knew I was powerless. Pursuing her felt criminal. To catch her would be like capturing a butterfly, putting it in a jar and screwing down the lid. It wouldn’t survive for long. All I could do was stand there in silence, tracing the whorls in the wood, trapped by a figment of my imagination. Was she thinking of me too? Her virtual presence remained for several more sensual moments before fading into the small fissures that had formed around the edges of the board. 

Walking into the bathroom I returned to the mirror and stared hard at my lanky frame. In the corner of my eye I caught a flash of a dark image lurking behind me. Startled, I shook my head and rubbed my eyes with my open palms. Was my mind playing tricks on me? I groaned. 

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I wondered aloud. For some reason I felt as though I would never really know. I pulled some pills out from behind my reflection and swallowed them down. Burrowing under the covers, sleep came quickly.

 

About the Author:

Daniel currently resides in Downtown Minneapolis and works as a live-in caregiver for aAuthor Pic (14) quadriplegic individual. When he isn’t writing or caring for his client you can find him wandering the city’s skyways, music blasting in his headphones, or walking along the Mississippi river with family and friends. He frequently volunteers at outreach organizations in the Twin Cities community.. His beliefs center strongly around charity, service to others and supporting causes that protect personal freedoms, especially for the disabled, the poor, those unfairly stigmatized by mental illness, and anyone who suffers. He is inspired by redemption stories, especially the character arc of Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. 

Author Website: https://www.ndaniel.us

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MyUnsafePlace

Between the Lines Publishing: https://btwnthelines.com/

Giveaway: Print copy of the book

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0e7c6a8f122/?

Blog Tour Schedule

November 25th

Reads & Reels (Guest Post) http://readsandreels.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Guest Post) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Crossroad Reviews (Spotlight) http://www.crossroadreviews.com

Splashes into Books (Spotlight) http://splashesintobooks.wordpress.com

Vick’s Bookish Writing Blog (Review) https://vicksblogcom.home.blog/

November 26th

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

I Love Books and Stuff (Spotlight) https://ilovebooksandstuffblog.wordpress.com

On the Shelf Reviews (Spotlight) https://ontheshelfreviews.wordpress.com

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com

November 27th

Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1

Life’s a Novelty (Spotlight) https://lifesanovelty.blogspot.com/

Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

Books, Teacup, & Reviews (Spotlight) https://booksteacupnreviews.wordpress.com/

November 28th

B is for Book Review (Spotlight)  https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

My Bookish Bliss (Spotlight) http://www.mybookishbliss.com

The Bookworm Drinketh (Review) http://thebookwormdrinketh.wordpress.com/

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

November 29th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

I’m All About Books (Spotlight) https://imallaboutbooks.com/

Port Jerricho (Spotlight) http://www.aislynndmerricksson.com

Heidi Lynn’s Book Reviews (Review) https://heidilynnsbookreviews.blogspot.com

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

Blog Tour Organised By: 

R&RButto200x200

R&R Book Tours

Link: http://rrbooktours.com

When Stars Will Shine: An Anthology compiled by Emma Mitchell @emmamitchellfpr #WhenStarsWillShine #bookpromo #H4HAnthology

Hello lovelies, today I’m very excited to share a very special book When Stars Will Shine, an anthology of short stories compiled by Emma Mitchell and released on the 9th December. It’s just £5 or $6.47 to pre-order on Kindle and every penny goes to the charity Help For Heroes. If that doesn’t tempt you enough, then here’s the blurb:

When Stars Will Shine is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a Christmas read with a twist.

With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty Christmas crimes that will shake you to your core, and heart-warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops, you can rest assured that you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.

From authors such as Louise Jensen, Graham Smith, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Lucy Cameron, Val Portelli, and Alex Kane, you are in for one heck of a ride!

When Stars Will Shine is the perfect Christmas gift for the bookworms in your life!

Full contents:

Fredrick Snellgrove, Private 23208 by Rob Ashman

Four Seasons by Robert Scragg

The Close Encounter by Gordon Bickerstaff

Believe by Mark Brownless

What Can Possibly Go Wrong? by Lucy Cameron

Mountain Dew by Paul T. Campbell

The Art of War and Peace by John Carson

A Gift for Christmas by Kris Egleton

Free Time by Stewart Giles

Died of Wounds by Malcolm Hollingdrake

The Christmas Killer by Louise Jensen

The Village Hotel by Alex Kane 

A Present of Presence by HR Kemp

The Invitation by Billy McLaughlin

Brothers Forever by Paul Moore

Girl in a Red Shirt by Owen Mullen

Pivotal Moments by Anna Osborne

Uncles Christmas by Val Portelli

Time for a Barbeque by Carmen Radtke

Christmas Present by Lexi Rees

Inside Out by KA Richardson

Penance by Jane Risdon

New Year’s Resolution by Robert Scragg

Family Time by Graham Smith 

I’ve pre-ordered a copy myself, if you’d like to order your copy, you can use the links below:

Amazon 🇬🇧 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08234131P/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_JMJ7Db9GJP01N

For more information, please contact Emma Mitchell: emmamitchellfpr@gmail.com

 

#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.

#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

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