Tag Archives: mystery

Full Circle – PROMO Blitz

Crime, Mystery 
Date Published: September 1, 2016
A Haszard Narrative

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When asked to look into the death of a man in a town known for pagan connections, Haszard quickly makes progress, and it isn’t long before matters become dangerous. With little to work with, Haszard makes progress, yet the task is a daunting one, and not everyone he encounters is friendly.
Collating interesting and significant information from various sources along the way, Haszard has to link factors linked with the past, and as he does so, he realizes that in order to save someone from certain death, he is in a race against time.
Other Books in A Haszard Narrative Series
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
Unfortunate in life and unlucky in love, the mysterious Haszard is intrigued by the death of an acquaintance at the local hospital, in which he works. Suspicious about the circumstances, he begins to look into the matter, meeting the woman of his dreams along the way.
After joining forces a local businessman, he speaks to a number of people, discovering irregularities in the life of the murdered woman. As he makes progress, he realises that the key to the matter lies in the dark and murky world of drug dealers, and has to face the possibility that the killer may well be someone he knows . . .
MAPS, LEGENDS AND MISDEMEANOURS
When asked to frame an old map, Haszard discovers that it’s linked to lost valuables from the past. Intrigued, he begins looking into the legend, discovering there to be cryptic clues on the map that must be deciphered. Unfortunately, though, Haszard isn’t the only person interested in the whereabouts of the missing items, and the other contingent resorts to violent tactics, which leads to a chilling climax . . .
PHOENIX FROM THE FLAME
When told by a former colleague that she saw her dead husband walking around a quaint market town, Haszard’s curiosity is engaged. As he begins to look into the matter, he unearths a number of facts that lead him to believe that there’s more to the sighting than merely a dead man walking. Also, there are people who are prepared to kill for something that’s worth a lot of money . . .
THE HEIRLOOM REPOSITORY
Haszard is asked to look for a family’s missing inheritance. Guided by words provided by a medium, he goes about the case with his typical fervour. Side-tracked by other matters, and spooked by a mysterious man in the woods, Haszard soon comes to realise that he isn’t alone in his quest, and persons unknown are not afraid to kill . . .
 
RACE FOR THE PRIZE
When on holiday with his friends, Haszard sees a girl who went missing a number of weeks previous. Fuelled with his usual determination, he sets about looking into the matter, although all is not as it appears, and it isn’t long before matters become eventful.
Having befriended a local artist, Haszard moves closer to an answer, yet the odds are stacked heavily against him. In order to win through, he must endure his most arduous and perilous challenge yet . . .
NO REASON FOR INSANITY
Intrigued by the bizarre events surrounding the murder of a friend, Haszard is asked by the family to look into the matter. Against the advice of his friends, he begins making enquiries, and is disturbed when he realizes that it may well be someone he knows. As progress is made, further events occur, endangering the life of Haszard and his friends, and he is forced to delve into the deepest recesses of his resourcefulness . . .
 
Excerpt 




     Driving away we agreed that a chat with Ed Loughmann, a friend of ours who owned a number of pubs, clubs, and gyms, along with a security protection service for the local businesses, would be of value. My immediate thought was to look obviously at what had been said, therefore finding out something about Paul Tudor should be the first move. If anyone could find out anything about him, it would be Ed. Once we had some facts on the table, we’d then be able to look at the situation differently.
     Another immediate thought was the fact that Dean had been in Lamesford, a place that he was unfamiliar with. With him being a creature of habit, this threw up a major question, possibly even being the key to the entire affair; however, it was far too early for blind conjecture.
     Our destination was a pub owned by Ed—the Railway Tavern, the jewel in Ed’s crown. A grand old building in the area of the main rail depot, the Tavern stood out as out of place. Ed had refurbished every aspect of the establishment, from the interior and exterior decor through to the catering, which was among the finest around.
     After parking up we made our way in to see Ed sitting at his usual table, grinning as we approached. Ed was ex-British Special Forces, and in his early forties. He had short light-brown hair, and stood at around six feet, his features somewhat rugged, though they brightened considerably when he smiled.
     “Sabrina, you survived the weekend with this lunatic. Congratulations,” Ed said, raising himself, holding a seat out for Sabrina, and leaving me to fend for myself as always. Ed was an imposing figure, feared by the local criminals. He ran a security service for local businesses and select private residences. “No mishaps or misdemeanors we should hear about?”
     “Other than eyeing the waitress up, no,” Sabrina said, smiling at me.
     “I was only returning her admiring glances,” I defended. “Is it my fault I’m irresistible? Who’s for a drink?”
     Ed told me what he’d like, and I returned minutes later to see Ed with a serious expression. “Sabrina’s told me. Why don’t you leave this one alone?” He paused and looked around the room. “Did you hear that? That was the sound of me wasting my breath!”
     I grinned. “I don’t think there’s anything dangerous this time.”
     “Haszard, you say that every time, and every bloody time it gets worse,” Ed said bluntly. “What’s more, this happened in bloody Lamesford of all places!”
     “I don’t know Lamesford; what’s it like?’ I said, realizing that I’d regret asking.
     “It’s full of inbred bloody sheep-shaggers that still consider cows lying down as a weather forecast. They’re all as mad as March hares, worshipping and sacrificing God alone knows what!”
     “It can’t be that bad,” I said, suddenly thinking back to the name. Lamesford, I should point out is actually pronounced lambs-ford. I thought, there can’t be anything in that, surely.
     “I’ve heard a few things about it,” Sabrina said. “I’ve a cousin who lived there. She didn’t for long. She couldn’t get away fast enough.”
     I shook my head. “All we’re doing is finding out why he was seen in Southington at the moment of his death. If anything, we’ll be concentrating our efforts there.”
     Ed didn’t look convinced. “If laddo did the big splat in Lamesford, I’d say that Lamesford is where you’ll be looking, unless Old Nick had a hand in it, of course.”
     “Ed!” Sabrina snapped. “Dean was the brother of an old friend of mine!”
     Ed held his hands up. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I can’t see his death having anything to do with Southington, that’s all.”
     “I suppose you’re right,” I said, “but I’ll have to bear Southington in mind. It may hold the key as to why he was seen by another party, but why he was killed—well, that’ll be another matter. Maybe it is something to do with Southington, maybe it isn’t. You putting the feelers out on this Paul Tudor would come in handy, though.”
     Ed raised his eyes to the heavens. “How did I know that was coming? When do you want the info for?”
     “Tomorrow would be great,” I said.
     “No pressure, then,” Ed said with a wry smile. “On one condition.”
     “Go on.”
     “We’ve a twenty-twenty match next Friday. You’re captain.” For those not in the know, twenty-twenty is cricket.
     I smiled. “You just try stopping me.”
     “Good man.”
     I thought back to Grace’s call and the request for Phil to pick her up from Cardiff. “Ed, can you get Phil to call Grace? She wants him to pick her up from the airport and says to take his overnight bag. Apparently, there’s a party on.”
     Ed grimaced and sighed heavily. “If it’s anything like the last one, we may not see him for a few days, and I need my members of staff here.”
     “I’m sure it won’t be for long,” I said.
     Ed looked me in the eye. “Haz, that bloody mad woman creates chaos wherever she goes. Yes, Phil has a few days of leave, but I’d like him compos mentis when he gets back. Whoever has shares in rubber, I’d say they’re in for a decent payout. Anyway, now for some good news, your car should be ready in the next week or so. I had a sneak preview and it looks better than it ever did.”
     “Great,” I said excitedly. My car was badly damaged due to a fire a month or so back. I used to work part-time at the hospital and spend the rest of the time at my shop, but I’d been working in theatres full-time of late, having to use Sabrina’s cabriolet, or Grace’s V12 five hundred-horsepower rocket of a car, when I wasn’t cadging lifts here and there. “Ed, I could kiss you.”
     Ed shook his head. “Haz, I know how much you love that roadster, but there’s no need to come across as a bloody pansy.”

About the Author

Kevin E. Hatt is the author of the Haszard series of narratives. His interest in writing began at school, and he carried it on into his twenties, writing for fun. He wrote the first two Haszard stories in the late eighties, but shelved the project until 2009, when he revived and updated it, going on to write seventeen stories. With the stories having been well received by friends, Kevin published the first five books, and after good reviews is furthering the project.
In 1984 he commenced his training as an Operating Department Practitioner, rising to the height of deputy head, before leaving the profession in 1999 to pursue his other love, that of art. Kevin worked as an art consultant, demonstrator, teacher, retailer and framer, but returned to the medical profession in 2010. His main passions are cricket, running, humour, ale and curries. He lives with his wife of twenty-five years and his twenty-three-year-old daughter. Kevin has never been to Ipswich. Or Scunthorpe.
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THE DEVIL’S ANALYST- PROMO BLITZ

Mystery, Thriller, Crime 
Date Published:  08/11/2016
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Danny Lahti had it all: fame, fortune, friends, love – and an obsessed stalker.
Obsession can be a powerful curse. What happens when you think your world is perfect, but someone behind the scenes is determined to test you in every way possible? As the clock ticks toward the year 2000, Danny’s world starts unraveling without explanation. An unknown hacker unleashes a digital attach on his Internet company just months before its public debut. A prowler attempts to break into his historic mansion which houses, according to Hollywood rumor, secret vaults. A long-time friend goes missing. Is it all coincidence, or are these just the first feats by a crazed admirer determined to force the truth from Danny?
And what is the truth? The complicated days that follow force Danny to have another look at his own relationships, misdeeds, and damaged past. But will he ever learn the lesson that will satisfy the devil who taunts him?
Excerpt
C  H A  P  T  E  R    O N E 

 

Midnight
Twenty minutes to midnight, and the ice on the frozen lake outside cracked. The loud reverberations of winter echoed through the night and invaded Danny Lahti’s peace.
Danny was prepared to let time  move  forward  in   whatever incremental way  it chose. At that moment . . . sitting on a sofa  in  an enormous  room  near  midnight  .  .  .  huddled  within  a  century-old hunting lodge  of a long-dead lumber tycoon . . . on  the shoreline of a lake  nearly forgotten in  the isolated woods of  northern Wisconsin, Danny Lahti was not concerned about the potential for a technological apocalypse as time turned to the year  2000.
But  he  did   feel   on   the  brink. Something was   about to  happen. Things should change;  they needed to change. He  couldn’t  really say why.   Danny never  felt he  was   the   introspective  type.  But he   had always felt connected to a larger universe, one  in  which he  received premonitions of what was to come.
The  end  of the century. Or maybe the start of a new  millennium. It depended on  the pundit. But  computers only  knew what they were programmed to  know, and   they weren’t  programmed to  deal   with changing from 1999  to 2000.  Maybe early computer  scientists never thought about a century starting anew. December 31, 1999  could prove an  existential threat. They called it “Y2K.” Who knows, maybe every generation deserved its opportunity to restart the clock.
For   Danny,  his   past  was   too  painful,  but   the  future  felt  too uncertain. In a way,  his life could be the snowdrift-covered lawns that surrounded  this house. On  the surface, the drifts were unblemished and  glistening in the weak  moonlight. But beneath their surface, under the  shapeless accumulated flakes,  were the  remains of years of living. If Danny had  the time and  the tools and  the  energy, he  could shovel his  way  into discovering the   dead flowerbeds, the   abandoned lawn furniture, and  the  century’s worth of trails across the  grounds. But who could be  bothered?  Eventually, the warm sun  of  spring would surely melt the snow. Just wait. The  past would be exposed.
Danny had  always been the kind  of person willing to wait. When he was only  twelve, his mother committed suicide and  he found her dead body. He  waited then,  always expecting someone  would eventually arrive  to  explain  what  had   happened  and   why.   When  his   father withdrew   into   a   hermit-like   life    that   barely  acknowledged  his adolescent son’s existence, Danny still waited. Someone would surely make his  father forget his  dead wife  and  remember his  child. He  was still waiting.
And  when Josh  came into his  life,  promising an  escape from these cold  woods into the warm, loving life  of the Los  Angeles sun,  Danny followed and  waited for Josh’s direction.
He  waited. He  always had.  Perhaps he  always would. It was  his nature not to rebel and  not to question, to try to be good  and  not rock the   boat.   A  new   year, a  new   century, a  new   millennium, not even “Y2K” could change that. Because Danny Lahti had  never been able  to find  the  energy to  grab the  reins of his  own  life. And  he  didn’t intend to start now.  And  yet something was changing. He felt it.
The  ice cracked again.  Nineteen minutes to midnight.

Dennis Frahmann is a former journalist and marketer,who now resides in Cambria, CA. He is the author of two other novels: Tales from the Loon Town Cafe and The Finnish Girl.
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HIDDEN DECEPTION BY COLLEEN HELME -RELEASE BLITZ

 

Mystery (cozy, psychic)
Date Published: August 12, 2016
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Just back from Paris, Shelby barely has time to get over her jet lag before she is right back in the thick of things. Uncle Joey, the local mob boss, needs her help to find out what his son is hiding from him. Detective Harris, AKA Dimples, has an unsolved homicide on his hands, along with a missing engagement ring. Shelby’s husband, Chris, just got promoted to partner in his law firm, and she has yet to see his new office or meet his new secretary. Add to that the opportunity to purchase a beautiful home, and Shelby is racing from one thing to the next while trying to keep them all straight.
When a courier in Uncle Joey’s organization turns up dead, it’s up to Shelby and her mind-reading powers to find out who killed him and why. The house Shelby wants to buy has a few problems that go beyond the building code, and the murder she’s helping Dimples solve has ties to Chris’ law firm. Even using all of her skills, Shelby finds one hidden deception after another. And if she’s not careful, it might be the one she least expects that will kill her.
EXCERPT
Today began like any other Monday.
The routine of getting my kids off to school was just the same as it had always been, and I found it a little disconcerting to think that I’d just had the adventure of my life in Paris, and now it seemed like I’d never been gone.
We’d gotten home on Friday, so with the weekend to get over my jet-lag, there was no excuse for not going back to my everyday life. It would have been depressing except for the fact that I had something to look forward to. Just thinking about it sent a thrill of excitement through me.
My husband, Chris, had just made partner at his law firm. With that came a few other benefits, one of which was a big raise in pay. On the plane ride home from Paris, Chris had mentioned this to me, along with the news that the house I’d always admired from afar was for sale. Now, there was a real possibility we could afford it.
I’d had my eye on that house ever since we’d moved into the area. It had a certain enchantment about it that fueled my imagination. It was situated on a beautiful, stately, tree-lined street, and was built in the Old Victorian style. It even had a round turret on one side that spanned two floors, and another in the back. A wrap-around porch had recently been added, making it even more inviting.
It wasn’t a huge house, but big enough for our family, and I’d always thought it would be cool to live there. Even better, it was in our neighborhood and school district. So if we did buy it, our kids could stay in their schools and keep their friends.
The only drawback I could see? People moved in and out a lot, so it might need some fixing up, especially the yard. But that also meant the price would be lower, so it could all work out in the end. Chris had called a realtor on Saturday, and I had an appointment to meet him there this afternoon.
This fit into my plans perfectly, since I needed to visit Thrasher Development this morning and have a talk with Uncle Joey. He was the local mob-boss and my employer. And he wasn’t even my real uncle. But since he knew my secret, I was more or less coerced into working for him.
Recently, he’d sent his hit-man, Ramos, to look after me when I’d accompanied a federal agent to Paris on a routine trip. It had turned out to be a heck of a lot more than I’d bargained for. In fact, without Ramos’ help and protection, I’d be dead.
The last time I’d talked with Uncle Joey, he wasn’t too happy with me. And since he’d basically saved my life by sending Ramos… again, I owed him big-time, probably for as long as I lived. Or at least until my mind-reading abilities stopped. So far, that hadn’t happened. And deep inside, I hoped it never would.
It had been a whole year since my life changed during a bank robbery at the grocery store while I was shopping for carrots. A bullet wound to my head had changed something in my brain, and now I could hear people’s thoughts. I could hardly believe how fast the time had gone since then.
In fact, reading minds had become so much a part of my identity that I didn’t think I could ever go back to the person I was before. So, even though it might get me out of helping a mob-boss, and keep me out of trouble, and even keep me from getting killed, I’d hate to lose it. How crazy was that?
On the other hand, Uncle Joey was getting older. He had to be over sixty-five. That meant he should retire at some point in the next few years. Maybe by then, he’d let me off the hook. Ha! Who was I kidding? Uncle Joey didn’t seem like the retiring type. He liked power way too much. And barring death, either his or mine, I didn’t think I’d ever be out from under his thumb.
It also worried me a little that the circle of people who actually knew my secret had just widened to include French Inspector Gabriel Dumont. But since I’d helped save a chunk of Paris, he’d readily agreed to keep it to himself.
So, including Uncle Joey, Ramos, my husband, Chris, and Detective Harris, whom I called Dimples, that still added up to only five people, so maybe it wasn’t so bad. Oh wait, there was one more… Kate.
How could I forget her? She was the main reason I got involved with Uncle Joey in the first place. As a new lawyer at Chris’ law firm, she’d set her sights on Chris, even though she knew he was happily married to me. In order to stop her, I’d threatened to expose her ties to the local mob-boss, Joe ‘The Knife’ Manetto, whom she called Uncle Joey.
That’s when it all went wrong, and I had to tell Uncle Joey my secret in order to stay alive. Kate had since been banished to run Uncle Joey’s operations in Seattle, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t pop back up in my life at any time.
Just thinking about her brought a sick feeling to my stomach, but now that she was involved with Alec Passini and his shipping company, I hoped that kept her occupied. Still, I wouldn’t put it past her to ask for my help if she needed it. So, of all the people who knew my secret, Kate was the one I worried about the most. Good thing I had Uncle Joey on my side. Everyone else thought I had ‘premonitions,’ and I needed to make sure it stayed that way.
Now that I was back in the real world, it hit me that I had a lot to worry about, so to alleviate those worries, I decided to change my focus to the possibility of purchasing my dream home. That helped revive me and, with anticipation, I jumped into the shower to get ready for my day.
An hour later, I pulled into the parking garage of Thrasher Development and gathered the special gifts I’d purchased in Paris for Uncle Joey, his secretary and wife, Jackie, and Ramos. I was excited about the gifts I’d bought for Uncle Joey and Jackie, but more than a little nervous about the one I’d bought for Ramos. I mean, what could I possibly give to the man who’d rescued me from a bunch of crazy terrorists?
Not only that, but he’d stuck by my side when he could have easily been blown up. The little Eiffel Tower I’d gotten him seemed kind of silly, but it was also personal. The first time I’d seen it sparkle was the night he’d saved my life and took me there to help settle me down. Now, when I thought of the Eiffel Tower, it was always of that moment standing there with him.
It was bad of me in so many ways, especially considering the kiss. Of course it wasn’t a personal kiss since Gabriel had kissed me too. It was kind of a French thing to celebrate not getting blown up; Joie de Vivre, and all that.
Still, I had to admit that I’d liked it, and that I didn’t feel too guilty about it. That probably made me even more of a bad person, but it’s not like I’d ever do it again. I loved my husband more than I could say, and we had two great kids together.
But Ramos was special to me too, and always would be. So giving him the Eiffel Tower was an okay thing to do, right? Still, maybe I should forget about it and just give him the extra chocolates instead. Then I wouldn’t have to worry that I’d crossed some sort of line.
“Babe.”
 
About the Author
As the author of the Shelby Nichols Adventure Series, Colleen is often asked if Shelby Nichols is her alter-ego. “Definitely,” she says. “Shelby is the epitome of everything I wish I dared to be.” Known for her laugh since she was a kid, Colleen has always tried to find the humor in every situation and continues to enjoy writing about Shelby’s adventures. “I love getting Shelby into trouble…I just don’t always know how to get her out of it!” Colleen lives in the Rocky Mountains with her family. Besides writing, she loves a good book, biking, hiking, and playing board and card games with family and friends. She loves to connect with readers and admits that fans of the series keep her writing.
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Amazon $25.00 gift card
 
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Scared Witchless Blitz

Mystery, Cozy Mystery 
Date Published:  June 28, 2016
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A witch. A murder. A wedding dress?
Dylan Apel is having one heck of a summer. She knows her hand-made clothing is special, but magical? Discovering that she’s a witch is bad enough, but when Dylan realizes there are folks who’ll kill to possess her witchy powers— that’s enough to make a girl want to hide out in the back of her boutique. Only problem is, Queen Witch is in town, itchin’ to make sure Dylan learns to cast spells, and this witch won’t take no for an answer.
Dylan must learn fast—someone just killed her best client with a poisoned gown meant for Dylan. Was it the tall, mysterious hottie in black, who’s suddenly everywhere she goes? After all, the first thing Roman Bane says is he doesn’t like witches. Is he here to save her, or kill her?
Dylan is barely getting a handle on her new powers when she finds herself surrounded by witches bossing her this way and that, local police nosing about, and wary clients—death by clothing is not good for business. And the solstice is coming … a time when witch powers are at their peak. Can Dylan survive the chaos long enough to figure out her new life?
EXCERPT
CHAPTER ONE
“If that ain’t the other side of stupid, I don’t know what is.”
Reagan Eckhart, all platinum-blonde ninety-eight pounds of her, shoved a newspaper in my face. I winced, barely avoiding a massive paper cut to the nose.
“Those idiots put you in Arts and Leisure. You should have been on the front page of the Birmingham News.” She tapped the newspaper with a single red fingernail. “With as much business as you do, Dylan Apel, you should have been the main story of the day.”
“Don’t you think technically they should have put me in the business section?” I said.
Reagan fluffed the foot of hair teased up at her crown. At least it looked like a foot. Okay, it wasn’t a foot—only six inches. But those were a tall six inches. Big enough to practically be their own person. “Whatever,” she mumbled.
The debutante was in rare form today. Reagan was dressed to the nines in a black halter top and pants that resembled Spandex. Personally, I was waiting for her to break out into the chorus of “You’re the One That I Want,” à la Olivia Newton-John. Harry Shaw, her fiancé—a smallish, bald financial advisor—definitely wouldn’t join her if she did. His idea of playing John Travolta probably resembled hot-and-heavy talk about how gross grease and lightning were and why would you want to put the two together?
I grabbed the paper and scrutinized the picture of me and my sisters, Seraphina and Reid. Bright, beaming smiles on our faces, we stood in front of our side-by-side stores—Perfect Fit and Sinless Confections. Seraphina, tall and slender, her hair shimmering like glass in the sunlight, looked absolutely perfect. Even Reid, my eighteen-year-old baby sis, looked cherubic and innocent, her doe eyes and cheeky smile radiating youthful exuberance.
Then there was me. I sighed. It had taken two hours to smooth my hair, and it had still frizzed on the edges. I wasn’t as tall or slender as Seraphina. But what I lacked in athletic build, I made up for in curves. Good for me. I might not look statuesque and perfect, but I could put on a slutty dress and have enough T and A to get noticed.
Was that a zit on my cheek?
“When I realized you had this store, Dylan,” Reagan said, “and I saw how beautiful the dresses were, I told Harry—I said, ‘Harry, that’s who’s going to design my wedding dress.’ Didn’t I, hon?”
Harry, nose-deep in the business section, remained silent.
Reagan kicked him.
“Ow!” Harry rubbed his ankle. “What’d you do that for?”
“Didn’t I, Harry? Didn’t I say that?”
Harry shrank a little, his bald pate looking even balder under the fluorescents. “Yes, of course you did, dear.”
Poor guy. He probably wouldn’t last a year in the marriage. He’d be whipped, beaten down and likely castrated after two months.
Did I say that out loud?
“Anyway,” Reagan continued, flitting about the room. “I told Harry, Dylan Apel and I were best friends in high school—”
“Mortal enemies,” I corrected.
“—and of course she’s going to be the one to design my dress.” Girlfriend didn’t miss one beat. I don’t think Reagan listened to what people said. Did she even hear them when they talked?
From the corner my assistant, Carrie Dogwood, snickered. I shot her a look of warning. She turned a deep shade of red and pretended to straighten a rack of sequined gowns.
“Reagan, do you want to see your dress again?” I asked.
“Of course,” she squealed. “I can’t get enough of it.”
Carrie crossed to me. She leaned over, kept her voice low. “Wonder what she’ll complain about this time.”
I turned away from Reagan. “Hopefully nothing,” I whispered. “Can you grab the dress?”
“Sure thing.”
An unfinished blue gown caught my attention. The color of a robin’s egg, the dress would be the envy of the Silver Springs solstice banquet, what with its deep vee neckline and overlay of chiffon. I needed to finish it before the dance, which was barely two weeks away.
I sighed. I’d been working a lot lately, thanks to Reagan’s never-ending changes to her gown. There was less than a week until the wedding, and after that I’d have plenty of time to work on my own dress. That is, if I survived Reagan for a few more days.
I stared vacantly at the gown until a bodiless hand thrust the newspaper into my face once more. Reagan popped up in front of me and wiggled the now crumpled article. “But this reporter nails it. She absolutely gets it right. I could have gone anywhere for my dress, but there’s just something about your gowns and your sister’s food. It’s like I’m transported to another place. I don’t know how to describe it.”
I had heard the same mantra over and over from clients. There’s something about your clothes that I can’t put my finger on. It’s almost like they’re magical.
Yeah. Right. Not that I didn’t appreciate the compliment. Believe me, I did. So did Sera. If it weren’t for the folks in our lakeside community of Silver Springs, Alabama, we’d be beggars. Hoboes maybe. Vagabonds most likely. And not the good kind. Not the sexy kind you see on the covers of romance novels.
Wait. There weren’t hoboes on those. Well, anyway, we’d be dirty, covered in rags that smelled of oil and sweat, with grit under our fingernails that not even the best manicure technician could lift.
“Here’s the dress,” Carrie said.
Reagan’s smile vanished. “Oh.”
My dreams, my hopes, my wishes for a beautiful future crashed and exploded like a car careening off a cliff in a 1970s B movie. What could possibly be wrong this time—the hundredth time? I swear, every occasion this girl saw her dress, she found something to criticize. It was a wonder I hadn’t strangled her before now.
I smoothed the lines of frustration that were forming on my forehead. “What’s the problem?”
Reagan wrinkled her nose. “It’s just…well…that’s a lot of sequins.”
I took a deep, cleansing breath and thought happy thoughts. “Last week you wanted more sequins. You said it didn’t have enough bling.”
Carrie bit back a giggle.
I flashed her a seething look. I mean, seriously. I knew it was funny, but it was only good service not to laugh at the customer while she’s standing right in front of you. At least wait until the door hits her backside as she’s leaving.
“Well,” Reagan said, “last week there weren’t any sequins. What were there? Like five on the whole thing?”
I steepled my fingers beneath my chin. “There were two hundred.”
“Oh. How many are there now?”
“Five hundred.”
“It’s too many. Listen, Dylan, just because we were best friends in high school—”
“Mortal enemies,” I said.
“—doesn’t mean you can take advantage of me. If this dress isn’t to perfection by Saturday, then I’m getting it for free. Right?”
Whoa, Nelly. “I’m sorry?”
Reagan batted her fake eyelashes. “That’s just plain old good business. The customer is always right. I mean, we go way back. Too far back to let a little disagreement over some sequins ruin what we had.”
I poked the air with my index finger. “Once again, we were mortal enemies. Reagan, you have brain damage when it comes to what high school was like.”
A tittering laugh escaped her throat. It sounded like a thousand butterflies taking flight. That was right before I lifted my imaginary rocket launcher, aimed high and fired, sending the beauties crashing to the ground in a blazing explosion.
“You’re so melodramatic, Dylan. We had a little disagreement about prom; that was all.”
I crossed my arms. “Reagan, let me remind you of exactly what happened in high school.”
“Why don’t you do that, since you’re so convinced we had nothing to do with each other.” Reagan pulled one of her eyelashes. Ouch. Didn’t that hurt?
I shook my head and said, “You had Colten Blacklock ask me to prom for the sole purpose of standing me up the night of.” I pointed to her and then to me. “You and I—we were never friends, and I’m not giving you this dress for free. We’ve done a dozen fittings, and you’ve found something wrong with each and every one. You can either take it or leave it.”
Reagan’s mouth fell. She swung to Harry. “Are you going to let her talk to me like that?”
Harry squashed the grin on his face and cleared his throat. “Ahem. Well. You have tried the dress on a lot, and Miss Apel has been more than accommodating.”
Reagan stomped her foot. “You,” she said, wagging a finger at him. “You wait until we get home.”
Oh no. I didn’t want Harry to be in the dog house because of me. I reached out and rubbed Reagan’s arm, trying to soothe the savage bridezilla. “Reagan, I’ll lose some of the sequins. Stop by tomorrow and see what you think.”
She flashed a tight, bitter smile. “What you have better be good, or I’m taking my business elsewhere. And that means your sister won’t be doing the catering, either.” She squared her shoulders, swiveled on her heel and stormed out of the shop. Harry gave me an apologetic smile and followed. The little bell above the door tinkled as they left.
“Do you think she’ll back out?” Carrie asked.
I shook my head. “Of course not. Not unless she wants a dress off the rack and a cake from Walmart.”
Carrie laughed. “She’s something else, isn’t she?”
“She’s certainly something.” I rubbed my neck. Tension latched to the cords of muscle. I’d have a headache pretty soon if I didn’t take an ibuprofen. Extending my palm, I gestured for Carrie to hand me the wedding gown. “I guess I’ll alter her dress.”
Carrie stuffed the layers of silk in my hands and nodded to the blue cross-necked dress. “But when are you going to finish that one?”
I peeked out from behind the mass. “I don’t know. We have, what? Two weeks until the summer solstice? I’ll work on it soon.”
The bell above the door tinkled. Seraphina crashed in, a whirlwind of flour following her. Her blue eyes sparkled with delight. How I envied those eyes. Mine were poo brown. Some said chocolate, but I knew better. Those folks were just being Southern polite.
“Oh my God! Did y’all see the article?” She waved the paper like a flag of surrender.
“I did!”
“It’s incredible. The reporter went so far as to say our work is, and I quote…” She scanned the article. “Where is it? Where did that passage go? Oh, here it is.” She jabbed it. “She said our work is ‘inspired by the gods themselves.’ Ha! You couldn’t pay for better advertising.”
“You probably could,” I said.
Carrie flipped the ends of her chestnut hair. “Listen, y’all, I just got this new gel manicure machine in the mail. Do you mind if I go freshen up these bad boys?” She wiggled her perfect coral nails. To my eyes, they needed no refreshing. But hey, every girl has some sort of vice. Carrie’s happened to be that she was ADD about her nails. In the three years she’d worked for me, I’d never seen one chip. Ever. Mine, on the other hand, looked like Godzilla had tried to paint them—there were broken wedges of color that Carrie would have deemed unforgivable.
“Go ahead. We’ll be here,” I said. She picked up a shipping box and exited to the back.
I hung Reagan’s wedding dress on a rack and brushed my hands of any rogue sequins that hadn’t been sewn on properly, which was actually impossible since I’d done the work myself. But my grandmother had always taught me to be humble, so that was my attempt.
Sera chewed her bottom lip. “The reporter says, ‘Dylan Apel’s dresses will transport you to another time and place. A claim I can attest to personally, for I experienced this peculiar phenomenon first-hand when I tried on one of her gowns. When I saw my reflection in the mirror, for a split second I was taken back to the cotillion ball where I met my husband thirty years ago. If that wasn’t enough to put a spring in my step, one bite of Seraphina’s baked treats and I was back in my grandmother’s kitchen as she created confections on the stove. Truly a magical experience.'” Sera paused, looked up at me. “Seriously. That’s some good stuff.”
“Yeah, it’s good,” I said. But the reporter’s description about trying on my clothes bothered me. I shrugged off the uncomfortable feeling and smiled. “Though I have been accused on occasion of drugging my clothes.”
Sera frowned. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
The bell tinkled. I stepped forward, my most welcoming smile on my face.
My sister glanced at me. “You look like a piranha. Tone it down.”
I settled into a half smile. “Good morning! Welcome to Perfect Fit.”
A towering redhead sauntered into the store. Bangles covered both her arms, clinking pleasantly as she walked. Emerald-green eyes fixed on me and Sera. I squirmed. Couldn’t help it. At five-five I wasn’t short. Not by any means. But this was a tall woman. Five-ten easy. And all that hair. A cloud of silky crimson and honey curls cascaded down her back. I don’t even think she had any product in it. It was a totally natural head of hair.
I hated her.
Kidding. But envy did surface.
She smiled brightly. My envy turned into instant like. “Mornin’. I wanted to try on some clothes,” she said in a throaty voice, the kind that drove men mad. I’d never seen her before, and Silver Springs was a minuscule town. From the look of interest on Sera’s face, I guess she hadn’t seen this woman before, either.
I stepped forward. “Absolutely. What are you looking for?”
“Just some regular day-wear stuff.”
My time had arrived. I had a knack, a sixth sense really, about clothes and people. In one try I could create an entire body-fitting wardrobe and not even know the size of the person. What can I say? It came naturally to me.
“Are you looking for sportswear or business?”
“Both.”
Cha-ching! “Let me pull a few items and see what you think.”
“I’m gonna head back,” Sera said. “I’m sure there’s something I need to make.”
I waved. “Bye.”
She waved back and left, leaving me to focus on my client. Five minutes later I had two armfuls of pants, jackets, and blouses. “Let me get you in a dressing room. After you’re done, come out and see what you think in the three-way mirror.”
None of my dressing rooms had mirrors. People thought it weird, but I wanted to be around when my clients saw themselves in my clothing for the first time.
The woman disappeared behind the door, a roomful of clothes at the ready. Two minutes later she reappeared in a pair of jeans and a loose blouse.
“Take a look.”
She stepped forward. The air contracted as if the very atmosphere had been sucked away. The mirror shimmered, and the woman’s image bowed and straightened. It happened fast, so fast no one ever noticed. No one except for me.
So, this is where I tell you what that’s all about. I would if I could. The easiest explanation is that my clothes make people feel great. From what Sera’s told me, putting on one of my garments reminds you of an amazing time in your life. For instance—you’re a fifty-year-old woman buying a dress for your daughter’s wedding. You try something on and poof, you’re transported back to the wondrous feeling you experienced at senior prom. Of course, that would be you, not me. My prom stank thanks to Reagan Eckhart.
At least, that’s what I’d always thought. It’s also why the reporter’s story bothered me. She saw her younger self in that mirror. That had never happened before—at least not that I knew of. My clothes blanketed clients in a wondrous feeling. They didn’t make anyone see visions.
Sera’s baked goods do something similar. Every time I eat something she’s made, I feel amazing, like I could take on the world. One bite of a buttery croissant and I’m totally superwoman. Minus the red cape. And the tights. Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t be caught dead in that outfit.
But why are we like that? We’re gifted; that’s what our grandmother always called it. We have a gift.
“What do you think?” I asked.
She stared at her image. After a long moment her lips curlicued into a smile. She licked the bottom one, her eyes shining.
“Your clothes are breathtaking.”
Thirty minutes and three hundred dollars later, I placed the last package in the redhead’s hands.
“How’d you hear about us?” I asked.
“I saw the article in the paper.”
I clicked my tongue. “Wow. News travels fast.” Sweet. Today might be a crazy, busy day.
She smiled, her eyes glittering. “You don’t even know the half of it.”
“Oh?”
She pinched her brows together, giving her a dark, ominous expression. “In one week I guarantee you won’t recognize your life.”
An awkward laugh escaped my lips. “Oh. Ha-ha. I hope it’s all good.”
She shook her head. “That little article that came out about you? The one that was supposed to help your business? Well, you just did the opposite. You stirred up a bed of fire ants.” She leaned forward and gave me a stern look. “And in case you need remindin’, the sting from a fire ant lasts a long time. Take this as your warnin’.”
I was so confused. “What do you mean, a warning?”
“Watch your back.”
With that she left, her cloud of hair billowing behind her. I stood stone still. Numb shock tingled over my body, filtering down into my fingers and toes.
What the heck just happened?
After living in Chicago, Louisville and New York, Amy Boyles finally settled in North Alabama with her husband.
Along with writing, she has a passion for cooking ridiculously fattening food and complaining about weight gain. She loves to connect with readers.
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REVIEW – ‘TIL DEATH DO US PART BY AMANDA QUICK

9780399174469_Til Death Do Us Part
The author of the New York Times bestseller Garden of Lies returns to Victorian London in an all-new novel of deadly obsession.

Calista Langley operates an exclusive “introduction” agency in Victorian London, catering to respectable ladies and gentlemen who find themselves alone in the world. But now, a dangerously obsessed individual has begun sending her trinkets and gifts suitable only for those in deepest mourning—a black mirror, a funeral wreath, a ring set with black jet stone. Each is engraved with her initials.

Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels. Believing that Calista may be taking advantage of his lonely sister, who has become one of her clients, Trent doesn’t trust her. Scarred by his past, he’s learned to keep his emotions at bay, even as an instant attraction threatens his resolve.

But as Trent and Calista comb through files of rejected clients in hopes of identifying her tormentor, it becomes clear that the danger may be coming from Calista’s own secret past—and that only her death will satisfy the stalker…

BOOK DESCRIPTION COURTESY OF AMAZON

I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley for an honest review.

‘TIL DEATH DO US PART is a suspenseful, intriguing story. I love the characters of Trent and Calista. They just seem to fit each other. Calista owns and operates an introduction agency, basically there version of a matchmaking agency. Calista and Trent meet each other when he goes to Calista’s  to talk about his sister. Later Calista goes to Trent’s place to ask for his help in finding out who is sending her nasty little gifts. The more time that they spend together, makes the attraction stronger. Their investigation takes them down dark paths and the underworld. This is such a great book, and you will never guess who is doing the killing. I was surprised! If you have not read any of Amanda Quick’s books you need to. I have been reading her for a while now and I urge you to start reading her today. I give ‘Til Death Do Us Part 5/5 stars.

 

Excerpt from ‘TIL DEATH DO US PART by Amanda Quick

She belonged to him.

He was locked inside a cage the size and shape of a coffin. A dark thrill heated his blood like a powerful, intoxicating drug.

When the time came he would purify the woman and cleanse himself with her blood. But tonight was not the time. The ritual had to be followed correctly. The woman must be made to comprehend and acknowledge the great wrong that she had done. There was no finer instructor than fear.

He huddled inside the concealed lift, listening to the sounds of someone moving about in the bedroom on the other side of the wall. There was a narrow crack in the paneling. Excitement sparked through him when he caught a glimpse of the woman. She was at her dressing table, adjusting the pins in her dark brown hair. It was as if she knew he was watching and was deliberately taunting him.

She was passable in appearance, but he had seen her on the street and had not been particularly impressed with her looks. She was overly tall for a woman and her forceful character was etched on her face. She was dangerous. It was all there in her unnerving eyes.

The woman rose from the dressing table chair and moved out of sight. A moment later he heard the muffled sound of the bedroom door opening and closing.

Silence.

He slid the cage door aside and opened the wooden panel. The wall sconce had been turned down low but he could make out the bed, the dressing table, and the wardrobe.

He moved out of the lift. The heady exhilaration he always experienced at such moments roared through him. With every step of the ritual he came closer to achieving his own purification.

For a precious few seconds he debated where to leave his gift. The bed or the dressing table?

The bed, he decided. So much more intimate.

He made his way out through the tradesmen’s entrance and slipped, unseen, into the gardens. The gate was still unlocked, just as he had left it.

A few minutes later he was lost in the fog. The weight of the knife in its sheath beneath his greatcoat was reassuring.

The ritual was almost complete.

The woman with the unnerving eyes would soon understand that she belonged to him. It was her destiny to be the one to cleanse him. He was certain of it. The connection between them was a bond that could be shattered only by death.

 

Posted by arrangement with Berkley Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Jayne Ann Krentz, 2016.

Amanda Quick c Marc von Borstel

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