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Loreth Anne White guest post, THE DARK BONES excerpt, & giveaway

Hunting For Betrayal with Author Loreth Anne White

My newest novel, THE DARK BONES, is about a cop, Rebecca North, who learns that her father—a retired police officer—has killed himself. She can’t believe it. But in order to prove it was murder she must return to her small, rural home town and face a lot of dark things she’s been running from including the man she left behind long ago, and a cold case thought long buried.
At the core, THE DARK BONES examines the lies people tell each other and themselves—the false narratives they construct in order to hide mistakes, or bad deeds, or hurtful truths, or realities that shame and burden them. And as Rebecca North, my detective, digs deep to find the truth of what really happened to her dad, she begins to crack open a carapace of old lies that wraps around a cold case—a  heinous deed that occurred in her small community twenty years in the past, a crime from which people are still hiding.
Rebecca fast learns that the secrets she is beginning to unearth are secrets people will still kill to keep. However, opening up this vault of lies and betrayals in the small town also reveals to Rebecca truths about herself, and about the man she once loved, Ash Haugen. A man who betrayed her. And in confronting those betrayals and old lies, and the reasons that underpinned them, Rebecca and Ash can finally heal, and open themselves to a love that was always meant to be. At the heart THE DARK BONES is also about second chances, and getting that opportunity to try and set right the collateral damages around betrayal.
Although THE DARK BONES stands alone, it also revisits the setting and some of the characters from an earlier book, A DARK LURE. Those earlier characters were left with a hard road to travel toward their happy end, and as some of them play a key role
in Rebecca and Ash’s story, we see them also confronting outfalls around betrayal, and getting chance to continue their journey towards a good life.
 

Rebecca felt warmth. She was enveloped by it. She heard the crackle and pop of dry logs burning and, in the distance, dogs barking. The smell of … fire—

Her eyes shot open, her heart thumping.

He sat there. Ash. In a chair by the fire, watching her with his ice-blue eyes. She was in his living room, and the lighting had been dimmed. The flickering glow of the flames in the hearth behind him cast his rugged features into sharp relief. The scar down the side of his face looked harsh. An old brown dog with a white muzzle slept on a rug in front of the hearth.

Rebecca’s brain slotted puzzle pieces into place as she struggled through a mental haze to backtrack and figure out how she’d gotten here: The lights following her. The razed cabin and the clues that someone had been inside the shed and maybe fled the scene. Ash shooting at her. No gas in her truck. Fear of dying. Coming here to Haugen Ranch. Shucking her dad’s gear in Ash’s mudroom. Him helping her into the living room of his old family home—a great big log house built by his grandfather. Seating her on the sofa.

She sat up slowly, trying to pull her brain into sharper focus. A down duvet was wrapped around her, a heated blanket beneath that. The duvet smelled of fresh laundry. Yes, she recalled, the fire had already been going in the hearth when he’d brought her in—she’d noticed that. Next had come hot tea with honey, warm clothes handed to her—fleece, oversize. More tea.

He’d told her not to talk. Discussion could wait.

She met his eyes now and felt a visceral connection across the darkened room. This was her first proper look at him after all these years.

Her teen lover had aged. As she had. But he’d matured in a way she found attractive. He was neither sweet nor handsome. Rugged rather. A brooding look. Sun bronzed and weathered. Her attention returned to his scar. So prominent, cutting down the left side of his face from eye to jaw. He could have had plastic surgery over the past decades, but clearly hadn’t. Her memory slipped back to the day she’d tried to patch him up with the help of a small medical kit and knowledge she’d gleaned during her part-time job as a veterinary assistant.

He lied…

Her attention shifted to his hands. His knuckles were scarred.

What were you protecting him from that day?

She recalled the blood she’d seen on those ragged and bruised knuckles that day. Why had she not told her father she didn’t know for certain he’d fallen off his horse and been dragged across sharp terrain?

Why had she not questioned more firmly, at age sixteen, Ash’s refusal to go to the ER facility on that particular day? What deep psychology had driven her to possibly blind herself to search for a darker truth?

In that tempestuous, hormone-filled year she was sixteen, had she conveniently compartmentalized something that had created cognitive dissonance, because she’d just recently started sleeping with Ash, and needed to believe him? Needed to trust him again?

How had her actions that day shaped this present? Could it—she—have possibly played a role in her father’s death?

And why, oh dear God why, did Ash still make her feel things? This—this—was why she’d stayed away. He held an animal kind of magnetism over her. She felt it now, her gaze locked with his arctic eyes. Her attraction had blinded her to the fact he was not good for her. He was a liar.

She cleared her throat. “What time is it?”

“Almost midnight. You going to be okay? Do I need to drive you to Clinton?”

From his ranch it would take almost an hour, in the dark, on bad roads. And the ER would be closed. They’d have to call 911 for emergency to open up with an on-call physician. It reminded Rebecca that out here, one looked after one’s own.

“I … I must have passed out.”

A half smile. “Slept like a baby. You must have been tired.”

A desire to tell him all rose in Rebecca: How rough her journey home had been with the storms. How seeing her father’s body had gutted her. How exhausted she felt, emotionally. But she held back as her mind sharpened and the immediacy of why she was here, with him, in this house, was pulled into clear focus.

“What made you return to my father’s place when you did, Ash? How did you come to find me?”

“I go up to the Broken Bar mesa sometimes. The view of the valley on a clear, cold night is surreal.” A pause. “I needed to think.” After seeing you. The unspoken words seemed to simmer between them. “Someplace above it all. Then as the moon rose, I caught light glinting off metal where your father’s place was. I thought it might be a vehicle, so I went to check before heading home.” He paused. “You could have died out there.”

Rebecca swallowed as this fact sank like a stone through her gut.

“Have you been sitting there watching me like that all night?”

“You worried me,” he said. Then, very quietly, he added, “And I like to look at you.” He paused. “It’s been so long.”

***
 
 
When Detective Rebecca North left her rural hometown, she vowed never to return. Her father’s apparent suicide has changed that. The official report is that retired cop Noah North shot himself, knocked over a lantern, and set his isolated cabin ablaze. But Rebecca cannot believe he killed himself.
 
To prove it, she needs the help of Ash Haugen, the man she left behind. But Rebecca and Ash share more than broken hearts. Something darker lies between them, and the investigation is stirring it back to life. Clues lead them to the home of Olivia West and her deeply troubled twelve-year-old daughter, Tori. The child knows more about the murder than anyone can imagine, but she’s too terrified to say a word.
 
And as a cold-blooded killer resurfaces from the past, Rebecca and Ash begin to fear that their own secrets may be even harder to survive.
 
Author Biography
 
Loreth Anne White is an internationally bestselling author of thrillers, mysteries, and romantic suspense. A three-time RITA finalist, she is also the 2017 Overall Daphne du Maurier Award winner, and she has won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the Romantic Crown for Best Romantic Suspense and Best Book Overall, in addition to being a Booksellers’ Best finalist and a multiple CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award winner. A former journalist and newspaper editor who has worked in both South Africa and Canada, she now resides in the Pacific Northwest with her family. Visit her at www.lorethannewhite.com.
 
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THE BLUESTOCKING Excerpt & giveaway with Christi Caldwell

Who was this . . . daughter of Diggory? The one few spoke of and about whom little was known.

Edwin pushed himself away from the door, and folding his arms at his chest, he took slow, predatory steps closer, walking a path around her. His earlier assessment in the darkened foyer of the woman had proven correct. Drab brown hair. Nondescript brown eyes. Of medium height, and in possession of a slender frame that left her cloak hanging unflatteringly upon her, there was nothing extraordinary about the last unwed Killoran. Which was no doubt why she’d not snagged herself a wealthy or powerful husband as her sisters had already done. At his lengthy scrutiny, she dared him with her eyes. And yet for her . . . ordinariness, there was a strength of spirit that radiated, casting a soft blush upon cream-white cheeks, that marked her as . . . interesting. She was interesting. He stopped abruptly. Seeing this woman in any light except the darkened one was a betrayal to his late wife and his children, both living and dead . . . and himself.

“I was clear with my demands. Get out now, Miss Diggory.”

The stubborn chit pursed her slightly too-full lips. “As I said earlier, you were less clear than you give yourself credit for,” she challenged, ignoring the latter part of his directive. My God, she is an insolent bit of baggage. “And my name is Killoran.”

The names were synonymous and interchangeable.

Edwin stopped before her so only a pace divided them. “And tell me, where was I not clear?” he purred. “Was it the part about making sure Broderick Diggory hangs, as he deserves, that was not clear?” The color bled from her cheeks. “Or was it my stated intentions for your sisters . . . what are their names? Ophelia? Cleopatra?” he asked, mocking that Shakespearean queen’s name, and the woman in front of him frowned deeper. “How . . . unfortunate it would be if their business ventures were both to fail.”

The young woman curled and uncurled her coarse hands at her sides. “Do not threaten my family,” she said coolly.

He’d hand it to her. She remained undaunted.

“Or what, Miss Diggory?” A muscle ticked at the corner of her right eye, but she did not rise to the bait, either. “Will you set my townhouse afire and attempt to steal my son . . . again?”

Her features leached even more of their color, leaving those previously blushing cheeks a ghastly grey-white. And for her earlier brave show, it was her turn to falter. “I didn’t . . .” And he celebrated that triumph over his enemy.

“What was that?” he barked, cupping a hand around his ear. “You didn’t what?” Destroy my life? Shatter my family? “Kidnap my son?” he settled for, refusing to voice aloud his greatest agonies before this of all women.

She flinched.

“Now leave, and tell your real brother if he violates our arrangement once more, using you or another one of your . . . sisters or his henchmen to do his work for him, I’ll take you all down.” His in-laws’ earlier recriminations flooded forward. It was just something else they’d been right about.

Edwin had stomped over to his desk when he registered the absolute silence—more specifically, the lack of retreating footfalls.

He turned back.

Miss Diggory jutted her chin up defiantly. “No one sent me, my lord. I am here of my own volition.”

He chuckled, that rusty, ill-used laugh more a growl than anything that could ever be confused with a real expression of mirth. No one came here of their own volition. As a rule, the world avoided him.

Shifting direction, he returned to the stubborn chit’s side, and leaning down, he placed his mouth close to her temple once more and fought the maddening pull of whatever damned perfume she dabbed behind her ears. “Do you think I’m foolish enough all these years later to believe a lie dripping off a Diggory’s lips?”

The young woman’s back moved up and down, an indication of her rapid breath. Of her fear. A lifetime ago, he’d have sooner chopped off his left hand than deliberately taunt a woman and take pleasure in her fear. No longer. That pathetic excuse of a man who’d gotten his wife and babe killed, and the other son snatched, reveled in this woman’s unease. “Hmm?” he prodded, and she jumped.

“I have no reason to lie to you, my lord,” she said calmly, and as she spoke, her breath, containing a whispery trace of honey, filtered from her lips and fanned his mouth. Another unexpectedly sweet scent, at odds with her past and name and sins. It enticed, drawing his gaze to her mouth and holding his focus there, mesmerized. “There is nothing I want, need, or desire.” She darted her tongue out and traced the plump seam of her lips. And God forgive him, his gut clenched. For even as self-loathing spiraled through him, something far worse, far more perilous and viler and more treacherous, held him in its snare: desire. “The only reason I’ve come . . . the only worry I had . . . was for Stephen.”

Stephen.

That single name, spoken aloud, snapped whatever siren’s trap she’d sucked him momentarily into. “August.” Had there ever been a doubt as to his insanity, this quixotic fascination with the woman’s slightly too-full mouth as she spoke was evidence enough of it.

She tipped her head, and one of the few brown strands that had managed a curl bounced at her shoulder.

Edwin flared his nostrils. “His name is August Rudolph Thadeus Stephen Warren, the Earl of Greyley.” He flicked a stare over her face. “You’ve no relation to him. He is His Lordship to you.” Stalking over to the front of the room, he pulled the door open. “Now that you’ve seen him”—he peeled his lip in a mocking sneer—“safely delivered to his rightful home, you are dismissed. You may leave now.”

Gertrude Killoran drew in a breath. “I am afraid I cannot do that.”

He narrowed his eyes. “And whyever not?”

“I’m not leaving.”

“I beg your pardon?” What more could she possibly want or expect of him?

The young woman clasped her palms before her, like a nun at the abbey. “I’m staying.”

Confusion rooted around his mind. “Staying?” he repeated. “Staying where?”

“Here.” She settled her features into a serene expression he’d have believed impossible for a Diggory. “Indefinitely,” she clarified.

Edwin rocked back on his heels.

My God, I’ve finally found someone madder than myself.

*****

Gertrude, the eldest Killoran sister, has spent a lifetime being underestimated—especially by her own family. She may seem as vulnerable as a kitten, but given the chance, she can be as fierce as a tiger. Her adopted brother, Stephen, has just been snatched back by his true father, and she’ll be damned if she relinquishes the boy to the man reviled throughout London as the Mad Marquess.

Still haunted by a deadly tragedy that left him publicly despised, Lord Edwin holds only hatred for the Killorans—the people he believes kidnapped his son. And not one of them will ever see the boy again. But when Gertrude forces her way into the household and stubbornly insists that she remain as Stephen’s governess, Edwin believes he may have found someone madder than himself.

With every moment he shares with the tenderhearted Gertrude, Edwin’s anger softens into admiration . . . and more. Is it possible that the woman he loathed may be the only person who can heal his broken soul?

USA Today bestselling, RITA-nominated author Christi Caldwell blames authors Julie Garwood and Judith McNaught for luring her into the world of historical romance. When Christi was at the University of Connecticut, she began writing her own tales of love. She believes that the most perfect heroes and heroines have imperfections, and she rather enjoys torturing her couples before crafting them a well-deserved happily ever after.

The author of the Wicked Wallflowers series, which includes The Governess, The Hellion, and The Vixen, Christi lives in southern Connecticut, where she spends her time writing, chasing after her son, and taking care of her twin princesses-in-training. Fans who want to keep up with the latest news and information can sign up for Christi’s newsletter at www.ChristiCaldwell.com or follow her on Facebook (AuthorChristiCaldwell) or Twitter (@ChristiCaldwell).
 
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Get to know Meghan Quinn & enter to win a Gift Card & THAT SECOND CHANCE

Get To Know Author Meghan Quinn

  1. In the past few years you have written dozens of novels! First off, how do you find the time? And second, how has becoming a bestselling author changed your life? 

I have the best partner in life ever that helps out with everything around the house, including the kids. I also have a very overactive imagination so when I get into a scene, my fingers fly, giving me high word counts in a short amount of time. Even though it looks like I’m working all the time, I make sure to make time for my family, ending every day at five at night. And hitting the USA Today bestselling list was a huge goal of mine I had ever since I started writing. It meant everything to me.

  1. What can you tell us about the first time you sat down to write with the goal of completing a novel? 

I was a maniac. I wrote the book in a week. Yes, a week. It was insane. I had so much to say because I was thinking about it consistently while commuting an hour and twenty minutes one way to work. When my fingers hit the keyboard, it al flew out of me.

  1. What is the best part about being a romance author? What is the most difficult part? 

The best part is constantly being able to create, break it up, and then find it again. It’s such an old, classic formula, but it’s my favorite of all time. The most difficult is trying not to gross people out with terminology during sex scenes. There are only so many words that are on the OKAY list. Sometimes it can be restricting.

  1. What draws you to writing romance novels? Specifically why is it important that your characters have happily-ever-afters? 

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved love. Instead of going out in high school, I would stay at home and watch romantic comedies. I was fascinated with falling in love and the heartbreak, and then the make up. I love everything about it. I think we all deserve a HEA, why not give it to our characters too?

  1. Even though you include realism and heartbreak in your books, the thing readers really takeaway is sense of fun you pack into the novels. How is it you (and your characters) are able to find humor in everyday things? 

I’ve always found myself to live in the clouds, in a land of cupcakes and fun, it’s just my personality so whenever I’m in a situation, I usually can find the fun in it and of course, I’m really good at embellishing.

  1. Give us a quick snapshot of your newest novel That Second Chance

Four brothers, small town romance, all single, all cursed. Will they be able to find love, even though they’re the most eligible yet untouchable bachelors in Port Snow, Maine?

  1. What makes Ren and Griff’s story special to you? 

Their meet cute is probably one of my most favorite of all time. Wayward moose, volunteer firefighter, a crazed woman new to town, looking for help. It’s all charming, funny, and perfect.

  1. What’s next for this series? 

Rogan!!! AND OH MY GOD!!! His story is . . . gah! I can’t even tell you how in love with it I am. There is mystery, intrigue, questions that need to be answered and so much swoon you might just fall off your chair while reading.

 

I’m counting out our register drawer, trying to stay focused on the numbers whipping through my head, but it’s difficult with Reid’s constant small talk. I jot down another tally mark on the paper in front of me and set aside a stack of bills.

“Hello, are you listening?” Reid asks, sounding annoyed.

“No. I’m counting.”

“Well, I’m talking about you, so you might want to lend me your ear for a second.”

Huffing, I set the cash on the counter, knowing my very persistent brother won’t be quiet until I give him my full attention. “What’s up, Reid?”

Satisfied, he smiles. “You should ask her out.”

“Ask who out?”

“Ren.”

Yeah, that’s not going to happen. “No.”

I go back to counting, but Reid starts snapping his fingers at me. “Hey, I wasn’t finished.” I look back up at him, not even slightly interested in this conversation. “I saw the way she was looking at you today. I think she likes you.”

“You’re confused. She was probably just being nice, since I’m the guy who pulled her out of the window of her car after her accident. And even if she does like me, which I highly doubt, there’s no interest on my end. So that’s the end of that.”

“Bull,” Reid and Jen both say at the same time.

Christ. My two most nagging siblings are ganging up on me. Just what I need when I’m trying to get home and relax.

“Can we not make this into a dissection of my personal life, please? I’m not in the mood, and I want to get this done so I can go home.”

“Griff, she’s pretty, she’s sweet, and she’s smart. She’s new to town and, I’m sure, could use a friend,” Jen says just as the door opens, its bell chiming through the space. Brig pops in, grease all over his shirt and a smirk on his face.

Uh-oh. There’s only one reason why he’d be smirking at me that way.

“What are we talking about?” He rubs his hands together and takes a seat on a barstool near the window. “If it’s about the hot new teacher in town, I want in on this conversation.”

“We’re trying to convince Griff to ask her out.”

Brig slow claps his appreciation. “Novel idea. I think they’re a perfect match.”

“I’m not asking her out,” I huff, giving up on the register and leaning against the wall behind me, arms crossed. There’s no way I’ll be able to concentrate on counting while these three are yapping in my ear.

“Why the hell not? She’s perfect for you,” Brig says, a little insulted at my rejection. “Before you even say no, you should at least get to know her a little. I told her today she could borrow your truck while her car is in the shop.”

I count to five before answering, tamping down my temper. “Why the hell would you do that?” Okay, maybe I didn’t tamp it down enough.

“Uh, because she lives three houses down from you?” Brig rolls his eyes as if I’m the stupid one in this conversation. “She needs some help, so be a knight in shining armor, dude. Help out the damsel in distress and then make out with her on the beach. Maybe cop a feel; get some for once.”

“I’m not doing that,” I answer, going back to the money, letting them know this conversation is over.

“And why not?” Jen asks.

“Because I’m not interested in starting or being in a relationship. I’m happy with how my life is right now, and I don’t need anything complicating it.”

“But she has heart eyes for you,” Brig says like a jackass.

“Don’t worry; there are plenty of Knightly brothers to choose from,” I reply.

“Come on, Griff, how fun can going home to an empty, lonely house really be?” Jen chimes in, concern evident in her voice.

I shift on my feet, my voice terse. “I like my house. It’s fine. I’m fine.”

Silence falls between us, an awkward air moving in like a fast-moving cold front.

“Is this because of New Orleans?” Reid finally asks, taking a seat next to Brig. Both of my brothers fix their gazes on me, waiting for an answer.

Why is this a thing whenever we talk about my love life? Can’t they just let it go? What happened was … hell, I don’t even know how to describe it. All I know is I don’t foresee love in my future.

Claire was the love of my life, and I lost her; in a blink of an eye she was gone. I’m not going through that again. Not ever.

Shaking my head, I turn away from my family. This conversation is over.

And with that, I take the cash to the back office, where I can get some peace and quiet.

Ask Ren Winters out on a date? Not going to happen.

And she’s not going to drive my truck either. I think that’s evident in the fact that she drove her car in between two trees.

Can’t blame a guy there.

***

It was supposed to be an innocent night, celebrating my brother’s birthday. Nothing was supposed to go wrong. We’d vowed to be on our best behavior after all . . .

But it only took one rowdy night with my brothers to flip my world upside down. One unlucky encounter saddled us with a family curse and the promise of doomed relationships. I laughed it off immediately. “Yeah, right,” I thought. “A love curse. Ha!”

Boy, was I wrong.

Word spreads quickly in a town like mine; rumors about that night soon made us the most eligible yet untouchable bachelors in Port Snow, Maine. As a subject of endless gossip and speculation, I could kiss my dating life goodbye.

It would have stayed that way if Ren Winters, the new girl in town, hadn’t crashed into my life. Brave, beautiful, and smart—her vivacious thirst for a fresh start has given me hope that maybe, just maybe, I can have one too.

Everyone wishes for that second chance . . . but could this really be mine?

USA Today bestselling author, wife, adoptive mother, and peanut butter lover. An author of romantic comedies and contemporary romance, Meghan Quinn brings readers the perfect combination of heart, humor, and heat in every book.

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S.C. Stephens UNDER THE NORTHERN LIGHTS guest post, excerpt, & giveaway!

My latest book, Under the Northern Lights, is about Mallory Reynolds, a driven, passionate woman who is pursuing her dream of photographing wild animals in remote locations. On the way to her favorite spot in the Alaskan wilderness, the unthinkable happens—the engine on her plane stalls and she crashes. Mallory survives the crash only to find herself injured with limited supplies and no hope of returning home. Just when all seems lost, Michael Bradley, a mysterious mountain man, comes to her rescue.

Planning on being in the wild for just a couple of weeks, Mallory only brings a few important items with her into the wilderness—a gun for protection, survival gear, a limited amount of food, her cross necklace for her faith, and her most prized possession, her camera. After realizing that she’s going to be spending the entire winter in a secluded cabin with a stranger, she probably wishes she’d brought a few more items along with her. Things like a high-powered rifle, a chainsaw, a snow mobile, a lot more food, and even better—a satellite phone.

We both heard a loud clatter outside. Michael instantly snapped to his feet, his face intently focused as he listened for further sounds of trouble; he had no human neighbors to speak of, so things were generally silent here.

Fearful curiosity was killing me, and I was dying to ask him if he knew what was out there, but I didn’t want to disrupt his concentration. And it turned out I didn’t need to ask. Seconds later, I heard the deep, resonant, unmistakable growl of a bear.

Michael turned my way, his expression serious. “Stay here.”

He grabbed his high-powered hunting rifle, and my heart started thudding. Was he nuts? If there was a hungry bear out there, we should be barricading the cabin, not going out into the wilderness. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Lips twisted in a frown, he told me, “All our food is out there, our meat. If I let the bear destroy it, we’ll have nothing to get us through the winter.”

I knew he was right, but still, I was terrified. “Okay … I’ll help.” I grabbed my gun and checked it for bullets. It wasn’t as powerful a rifle as Michael’s, but it might hurt the bear enough that it would change its mind about gorging on our food stash. Or it might just piss it off.

Studying my gun, Michael shook his head. “No, stay in here—guard the cabin.”

His answer made me frown. “The bulk of the food isn’t in here. There’s nothing to guard.”

His eyes softened then. “Yes … there is something to guard.”

My cheeks heated when I realized he meant me. “Be careful,” I whispered.

“Always am,” he stated; then he darted out the door.

Racing to the window, I peered outside, searching in vain for some sign of Michael or the bear. The moonlight wasn’t strong enough to illuminate much, and even though only candles were lit in the cabin, it was enough to wreck my night vision; I couldn’t see a damn thing out there. My nerves spiked, and my heart started racing. I felt like I was out there in the woods, possibly about to get mauled, and following Michael’s orders and staying put grew harder and harder with every second.

I strained my ears, listening for the bear since I couldn’t see it. Sounds of lumbering steps crashing through brush met my ear. Then I heard the dreadful sound of sharp claws raking down wood. With no electricity, freezers weren’t an option here. Michael stored his food the old-fashioned way, either drying it into jerky or curing it with salt. The prepared food was kept in his enclosed workshop, and while Michael had bear proofed the shop as much as possible, hungry bears were tenacious. With food being so close to its reach, the grizzly might not stop until it had ripped the door to shreds.

Knowing where the bear was outside calmed my nerves somewhat. I fingered my rifle, debating whether running out there would help Michael or hurt both of us. It was dark, and if Michael thought I was inside, he could shoot me just as easily as the bear. And verbally warning him would get the bear’s attention—attention I’d rather not have. No, it would be best to stay put and let Michael handle it. But still … that was hard to do.

I heard Michael shout then, yelling at the bear to leave. A gunshot rang through the night, startling small nocturnal animals and rattling the windowpanes. Another one followed shortly after, and fear trickled down my spine. Was that a warning shot? Or was the bear attacking?

Michael wasn’t shouting anymore, and the night was still, silent. Oh God, no … The ball of dread in my belly was too great to ignore, and I nearly tripped in my haste to get to the door. “Michael!” I screeched into the night as I flung the door wide.

A dark shape was suddenly right in front of me, and as I stared in shock, a gaping mouth of thick, sharp teeth opened, and a powerful roar pushed me back a step. I’d never been so close to a bear before, and my legs felt like water. I couldn’t move them, couldn’t move anything. My mind was trying to avoid the here and now by drifting off to happier times with my family, my friends. Death was once again staring me in the face, but even still, the part of me that was still cognizant of the present was awed and amazed by the ferocious beauty of the beast before me. There was a reason these creatures ruled the forest.

The bear rose up on its hind legs, visually warning me that it was bigger, stronger, and most likely hungrier. My eyes flashed to the various weapons it could use in an instant to end me—talonlike claws, ice pick–like teeth, or just its massive weight. All I had was a gun.

Thinking of my own weapon jostled me from my state of panic. Raising the barrel, I chambered a bullet and yelled at the bear to back off. It seemed a poor tactic at this point, but I didn’t really want to kill the animal. If I could scare it into submission, I’d take that as a win.

The bear, however, was unimpressed by my shouting. Landing heavily on its front feet, it began lumbering toward me. Damn it, I was going to have to shoot. And hope my gun did more than anger it. With shaking fingers, I lined up my shot. “Please go away,” I murmured, putting light pressure on the trigger.

Like it heard me, the bear suddenly looked to its left. It growled again and took a step back, away from the cabin. I heard Michael’s voice, and then a gunshot rang out in the night. The bear roared again, then seemed to realize it was outmatched. It turned and ran, its winter bulk vibrating with each thundering step.

I was still shaking as Michael stepped into view. Disengaging the gun, I dropped it on the ground and flew over to him. Before I knew it, my arms were around his neck, and I was pulling his firm body into mine. Thank God he was okay. Thank God I was okay.

“Oh my God, Michael,” I murmured into his shoulder, inhaling his woodsy scent. “That was terrifying. I thought for sure…”

Once I fully comprehended that I was squeezing the life out of him, I froze, every limb rigid with tension. I wasn’t sure if Michael would push me away or not, but then he surprised me by wrapping an arm around my waist and pulling me into him just as hard as I was holding him, maybe harder. As we held each other, the anxiety and fear started easing, and I was flooded with warmth; I’d never felt more at peace.

***

Mallory Reynolds is a driven woman fueled by her passion for photographing wild animals in remote locations. Every year she makes a trek deep into Alaska, but this time the unthinkable happens: she crash-lands after her plane stalls out in a storm. Injured, vulnerable, and threatened by the very creatures she loves, Mallory fears the worst—until she’s rescued by Michael Bradley, a mysterious mountain man living in self-imposed exile. Mallory is grateful for Michael’s help but desperate to return home to let her family know she’s alive. Unfortunately, neither of them can leave Michael’s secluded cabin until spring. Mallory’s stuck with a stranger for months. As Mallory recovers, a deep bond begins to form between the pair. Mallory is convinced that fate brought them together, but Michael is buried in his past, unable to move forward. Undaunted, Mallory tends to Michael’s heart as tenderly as he cared for her wounds—but will her love be enough to heal him?

S. C. Stephens is a bestselling author who enjoys spending every free moment creating stories that are packed with emotion and heavy on romance. Her debut novel, Thoughtless, an angst-filled love story featuring insurmountable passion and the unforgettable Kellan Kyle, took the world of romance by storm in 2009. Stephens has been writing nonstop ever since. In addition to writing, Stephens enjoys spending lazy afternoons in the sun reading fabulous novels, loading up her iPod with writer’s block–reducing music, heading out to the movies, and spending quality time with her friends and family. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her two equally beautiful children.

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DOES YOUR VISION NEED AN ENGINEER by Rufus Chambers III ~ Spotlight

Write Now Literary Book Tours is pleased to be organizing a two-week book tour for Does Your Vision Need An Engineer? by Rufus Chambers III.  This tour will run April 22- May 3, 2019. Click here to book your own book tour. 
Genre: Christian Leadership

Please tell us your 10 favorite authors, Rufus.

Dr. Sam Chand      Dr. Cindy Trimm       Dr. Mike Murdock        Dr. Myles Munroe       Andy Stanley

Rick Warren      John C. Maxwell      Kimberly Daniels      John Eckhardt          IV Hilliard

Rufus Chambers is a dynamic business & ministry professional with over 20 years of experience who built a successful career in the construction industry. He has an expertise in Project Management and a teaching gift that empowers leaders and individuals to overcome challenges and achieve greatness. He has worked on numerous construction projects in the role of an Owner’s Representative, General Contractor, Construction Manager, and Construction Manager at Risk.

As a dedicated ministry leader with significant corporate and ministry achievements, Rufus has been afforded the opportunity to make significant inroads in the communities of Oakland, Pittsburg, and Richmond. These inroads consist of partnering with local school districts, faith-based organizations, non-profit agencies, and law enforcement agencies in serving the previously mentioned communities.  Rufus resides in Los Angeles with his wife of over 15 years, and they have 2 beautiful daughters together. 
  




Does Your Vision Need An Engineer? It is a simple question with an answer that may seem to be obvious.  Countless people have dreams and visions, but few are able to translate them into a practical plan that can followed.  Rufus Chambers takes readers on a journey of understanding how to connect a plan of action to their divinely inspired vision.  If you are struggling with understanding what to do next or who to recruit to join your team, this is the book for you.  There is nothing more frustrating than having a vision but being clueless on how to actively pursue.  Rufus will take you into the mind of a vision engineer, whose singular focus is creating a strategic plan that can systematically execute vision.
ISBN-10: 1795624744
ISBN-13: 978-1795624749



 

Tour hosted by wnlbooktours.com

 







Mary Burton's HIDE AND SEEK excerpt & giveaway

Vivid blue sky, white clouds, and golden fall leaves blanketed the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains and created a picture-perfect day in the valley. In Macy’s book, the beauty was wasted. If she had God’s ear, today would have been cold, overcast, and damp. Save the pretty days until she caught this killer.

As she drove south down I-81, Macy mentally replayed her ten minutes of regional research. In the last couple of decades, the Shenandoah Valley’s population had ballooned thanks to a growing university, its proximity to Washington, DC, and a thriving tourism trade peddling vineyards, Civil War battlefields, and railroad museums. Filling in the economic gaps were warehouse distribution centers, chain hotels, and strip malls.

The voice of Macy’s GPS cut through AC/DC’s Back in Black blasting from her playlist and instructed her to take the upcoming exit toward Deep Run. As she rolled onto Route 250, a sign for her go-to fast-food eatery gave her an excuse to stretch her legs before driving the remaining ten miles to the crime scene.

Parking, she gingerly rose up out of the car. Her leg hurt. Stretches weren’t optional any more. She grabbed her ankle and pulled until the bunched muscles in her thigh released. After a quick walk around the lot, she made a beeline for the restaurant bathroom.

She glanced into the mirror as she washed her hands. Even after five months, she still didn’t recognize the woman with the short hair and thin face.

Nevada was in for a rude awakening.

She wiped her face with a paper towel. “Macy Crow, you’re above ground and headed in the right direction. That’s what counts.”

At the counter, she ordered a supersize bucket of fries and a large soda. It wasn’t that she loved the food—okay, maybe she did love the fries—but the chain restaurant’s predictability and sameness was comforting after so many life changes.

A few fries later, she was in her car and backing out of her space when her phone rang. Nevada’s number appeared. She cleared her throat and sat a little taller.

“Agent Macy Crow,” she said.

“Ramsey tells me you’re on your way. Where are you?”

He was direct, rarely charming, and she always knew where she stood with him. “Fifteen minutes from the barn.”

“I’m here now.”

The transition back into a working relationship appeared effortless. Whatever they had was over and done. No hard feelings.

“See you soon,” she said.

En route on the interstate, she ate her fries and drained her soda. There were no guarantees on when the next meal would be.

The last few miles took her down smaller roads until she spotted the driveway marked by stacked stones. Gravel crunched under her tires as she passed a freshly cleared field. Over the rise of a hill, she saw the old barn encircled by yellow crime scene tape.

When she had been researching the area, slogans such as “Best Quality of Life” and “Raise Your Family in Deep Run” popped up on her computer screen. As she had read about the area, she had kept glancing toward her open case file filled with images of Tobi Turner’s scattered bones. Recent pictures had captured the barn surrounded by dozens of state and local law enforcement vehicles crammed side by side in the grassy field.

Now as Macy parked, she noted that all the vehicles were gone expect for a lone black SUV. She grabbed her Glock from the glove box, holstered it, and stepped out of her car. Her worn hiking boots sloshed in the damp muddy soil. She tugged on an FBI windbreaker and draped her FBI credentials around her neck. As a stiff breeze blew a lingering chill and autumn scents, she checked her pockets for latex gloves, sunglasses, a small pocketknife, and pendant light.

Edginess and excitement fused as she strode toward the stretch of yellow tape and searched for Nevada. She ducked under the tape and stepped inside the barn.

Special Agent Macy Crow is a survivor. After a vicious hit-and-run nearly kills her, she gets right back to work, and now she’s gunning for a spot on the FBI’s elite profiling team. As an audition, she offers to investigate the recently discovered bones of Tobi Turner, a high school girl who disappeared fifteen years ago.

While investigating with local sheriff Mike Nevada, a former colleague and onetime lover, Macy discovers a link between Tobi’s case and several others that occurred around the same time as her disappearance. As Macy interviews victims and examines old cases, she uncovers a sinister picture of a stalker who graduated to sexual assault—and then murder.

Macy and Nevada race to put this monster behind bars before he can come out of hiding. But the murderer’s had years to hone his skills, and soon Macy herself becomes a target. She’s no stranger to pain and terror, but will Macy’s first profiling case be her last?

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Mary Burton is the highly praised author of twenty-six romance and suspense novels and five novellas. She lives in Virginia with her husband and three miniature dachshunds.
 

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THE PERFECT DRESS & GIVEAWAY With Carolyn Brown

Mitzi rushed back to the sewing room, where the hum of two sewing machines filled the air. “Graham Harrison just came in the shop to set up an appointment for his two daughters. He said they only live a few houses up the street from us. He looked like a bull in a china shop sitting on that pink sofa. And of course he didn’t even recognize me, but I sure knew him the minute I laid eyes on him.”

At the mention of that name from the past, work jolted to a halt.

“All the girls in high school swooned over him, including Mitzi, but she hasn’t told us if he’s still as sexy as he was back then.” Jody took a bowl of salad from the fridge along with a plate of vegetables that she stuck into the microwave to heat.

“He’s aged very, very well, and I’m having cookies,” Mitzi said.

“Smart girl,” Fanny Lou said. “Life is short. Eat dessert first. So you had a little crush on Graham?”

“Everyone did,” Mitzi answered.

“Not me. I was always in love with Lyle,” Jody said.

“Well, according to what I heard at the church bake sale today, Graham moved his daughters here to Celeste because they were being fat shamed down in Greenville. One of them knocked a girl on her butt, blacked both eyes, and bloodied her nose with one punch. It was the last day of school and they said they were going to suspend her for the first two weeks of next year for fighting,” Jody said.

“She should get a medal, not suspended,” Mitzi fumed.

Fanny Lou took a gallon jug of sweet tea from the fridge. “Who all wants a glass?”

Three hands went up.

She filled four glasses with ice and then tea and carried them to the table. “I remember when he went to work for his dad at the Cadillac dealership—right after he and Rita got married. His dad gave him a job on the lowest level, and he had to work his way up. Rita was furious because she thought they’d get a big house and a new Caddy every year. Stupid woman figured since his folks had money that he had an open bank account.”

Paula took the ham and cheese containers from the fridge while Mitzi pulled a loaf of bread from the cabinet. “You eating with us, Granny?”

“I’ll eat with you and Paula, but I don’t want any of that stuff Jody is having. I don’t eat fake meat. I’ll eat what I want and die when I’m supposed to. Slice some of them tomatoes I brought in here earlier. And I’d rather have bologna instead of ham and mustard instead of mayo,” Fanny Lou answered.

“Me, too,” Paula said. “I want one like hers.”

“I was thinking the same thing.” Mitzi set about making three sandwiches.

So Graham was divorced and raising girls on his own. Bless his heart for getting them away from a school that bullied them because of their size. Mitzi could relate to the girls. But then, so could Jody and Paula. She’d always figured that Jody adopted her own modern-day hippie style to combat those feelings of insecurity. Paula had retreated into superstition. Mitzi had just plowed her way through emotions and other kids, spending a lot of time in the principal’s office for fighting.

She pushed all that to the back of her mind, put the sandwiches on plates, and carried them to the table. “Y’all know that this job for Ellie Mae could turn into a big thing. I bet her older sister will be the maid of honor and her mother will want a fancy dress.”

“That’s what you’re in business for, isn’t it?” Fanny Lou said. “Man, this brings back memories. Friday night was bologna sandwich night when I was a kid.”

“Why?” Jody asked.

“Because Mama always cleaned house on Friday, and she didn’t have time to make a big meal,” Fanny Lou answered.

“Funny how an hour of beading takes forever and our noon hour goes so fast.” Jody pointed to the clock.

“Good Lord!” Fanny Lou finished off her sandwich and grabbed a cookie. “I’ve got an appointment with my CPA at one and it’s a fifteen-minute drive to Greenville. See you girls later. You have my permission to flirt with Graham, Mitzi.”

Mitzi’s cheeks began to burn. “I had a teenage crush on him. I’ve grown up since then.”

Fanny Lou winked as she headed for the door. “Paula, since you live with Mitzi, I’m putting you in charge of being sure she takes her birth control pills every morning.”

Mitzi felt even more heat in her cheeks. “Granny!”

“When you get old you get to say whatever the hell you want to.” Fanny Lou closed the door behind her.

***

In the small town of Celeste, Texas, Mitzi Taylor has never quite fit inside the lines. Nearly six feet tall, flame-haired, and with a plus-size spirit to match every curve, she’s found her niche: a custom wedding-dress boutique catering to big brides-to-be with big dreams. Taking the plunge alongside her two best friends, she’s proud they’ve turned The Perfect Dress into a perfect success.Just when Mitzi has it all pulled together, Graham Harrison walks back into her life, looking for bridesmaid dresses for his twin daughters. A still-strapping jock whose every gorgeous, towering inch smells like aftershave, the star of all Mitzi’s high school dreams is causing quite a flush.

For Mitzi, all it takes is a touch to feel sparks flitting around her like fireflies. She can just imagine what a kiss could do. Graham’s feeling it, too. And he’s about to make that imagination of Mitzi’s run wild. Is it just a hot summer fling, or are Mitzi’s next designs for herself and seeing her own dreams come true?

Carolyn Brown is a New York TimesUSA TodayPublisher’s Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and a RITA finalist with more than ninety published books. Her genres include romance, history, cowboys and country music, and contemporary mass-market paperbacks. She and her husband live in the small town of Davis, Oklahoma, where everyone knows everyone else, knows what they are doing and when . . . and reads the local newspaper every Wednesday to see who got caught. They have three grown children and enough grandchildren to keep them young. Visit Carolyn at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.

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LOGAN'S LADY & giveaway with Rosanne Bittner

May 29, 1870

Logan strolled into Sheriff Adam White’s office in Abilene and handed him a letter. White looked up at him and frowned. “You again?”

“Yup.” Logan noticed the man had a few crumbs in his long, black beard, probably from breakfast. “I already checked at Rinker’s saloon, and he’s out of town again, so I’m bringing you proof that I found the man Rinker was looking for. Rosell still had over three thousand dollars on him.” Logan handed out a leather satchel. “The money is in here. That letter is from a Mr. Clive Macy and a few citizens of Mirage, Colorado, saying I brought them Mr. Ben Rosell. The town promptly hanged the man for kidnapping and raping Clive Macy’s thirteen-year-old daughter.”

White looked into the leather satchel, then back up at Logan. “You actually found the man? He had a good three-week start on you.”

“He was easy to track. He was a braggart, and every place he stopped people remembered him. He also spent a few days at each stop along the way to Denver—liked to show off. That slowed him down.”

White shook his head. “I’ll be damned.”

“I want you to give all that money to Mr. Rinker and tell him I’ll be back to collect my bounty. Right now, I’m in kind of a hurry because  I  intend  to  find the man behind Rosell. His name is Robert Alexander. Have you—”

Alexander?” White interrupted, speaking the name as though in shock.

It was then Logan heard an odd whimper from a jail cell behind the wall where the sheriff sat. White got to his feet.

“Logan, you have no idea—”

“Do you have a woman back there?” Logan interrupted.

“Well…yes. That’s what I started to tell you. We didn’t quite know what to do with her. She just rambles crazy when she talks.” White leaned in closer and dropped his voice. “Logan, she shot a man on  the Kansas Pacific. Bloodiest mess you ever saw! She claimed he attacked her, but heck, they were traveling alone together, so I don’t know what to believe. We found the mess just this morning on their Pullman car when the train came in. The man’s identification says his name is Robert Alexander.”

Logan stepped back. “What?

“Yes. And he was layin’ in a sleeper car buck naked and covered in blood. There were dresses all over the bed in the back bedchamber, and they were covered in blood, too. We found a small pistol laying on the floor, and the woman—she’s a young thing—she was just sitting in a chair in the parlor area wearing   a nightgown and covered in blood—her clothes, her face, her hands—it was the most god-awful mess I ever saw. We’ve been trying to decide what to—”

Logan left him and hurried around the corner, and there in the jail cell sat what he thought might be a very beautiful woman with blond hair. He couldn’t be sure because she was covered in so much blood. Even her hair was stuck together in places from dried blood. His rage knew no bounds. After what Rosell had told him about Robert Alexander, he could just imag- ine what this woman had been through. He turned to Sheriff White when the man followed him to the cell. “Why in hell is this poor woman sitting in there unwashed and unattended! Can’t you see she’s been through something awful?”

“We just weren’t sure what to do with her—what to believe. She could be a murderess.”

Murderess! Hell!” Logan roared the words so loudly the sheriff stepped back defensively. “I know all about this Robert Alexander, and I can tell you if she shot him he damn well deserved it! Get that woman out   of there.”

Sheriff White shrugged. “What the hell are we supposed to do with her? She doesn’t talk any sense.” “Look at her! She’s shaking from shock. And she’s probably scared as a baby rabbit. I guarantee Alexander brought her out here under false pretenses, and then he took her for every dime she has and was going to sell her to a whorehouse. Get her out of there. There are more men behind this, and I need to know what she knows and what Alexander took from her.”

“You sure—”

“Get her out of there!” Logan raged.

White ran for the keys. Logan’s shouted words made the woman look up. Her eyes widened, and   she quickly curled up onto the cot where she sat and shook even harder.

“It’s all right,” Logan told her. “I’m going to get you some help.”

She just kept staring at him as White returned with the keys and opened the cell door. Logan stepped inside.

The woman shook her head. “Don’t let him touch me!” she screamed at the sheriff. “He’s here to take me away to someplace awful!”

They were the first coherent words she’d spoken since Sheriff White had pulled her off the Pullman car. Logan stepped closer. “Ma’am, I’m not going to—” “His name is Chad!” she screamed at the sheriff. “He’s here to pick me up and take me away. He rides with a lot of bad men! Robert told me about him!” “Ma’am, this man isn’t called Chad,” the sheriff tried to assure her. “This is Logan Best. He’s a bounty hunter, and he was after that man you killed. He wants to help you. His word is good, so we won’t hold you any longer. Logan claims Alexander was a swindler of some kind.”

“Don’t believe him! He’s Chad Krieger, and he’s going to take me someplace where I’ll never be found again. Look at him! He’s filthy and wears guns and— he looks like an outlaw! Don’t let him take me!”

White stepped closer and leaned down to look into the woman’s eyes. “Ma’am, I assure you, this man isn’t Chad Krieger. He’s a bounty hunter. He hunts down men like Chad Krieger. His name is Logan Best, and he wants to get you some help. You’ll be safe with him.”

The woman buried her face in her bloody hands and wept.

Logan turned to White. “Where is the closest doctor’s office?”

“Couple of doors down. Doc Billings. This is the best time to catch him sober. It’s still early. The man is pretty useless by eight o’clock or so at night.”

“I’ll carry her. You lead the way.”

“Sure.” White stepped back, and Logan walked closer to the woman. She shrank back again. Logan knelt in front of her.

“I’m not that man called Chad,” he assured her again. “My name is Logan Best, and I was here in Abilene to collect bounty on a man called Ben Rosell. You ever hear that name?”

She shook her head.

Logan looked her straight in the eyes and hesitantly reached out to touch her arm. She didn’t pull away. “Let me help you. What’s your name?”

She watched his eyes, and her shaking stopped. “Elizabeth Baylor.”

“Let me guess. Are you British? I mean, your accent tells me you are, but I need to know for sure.”

Elizabeth nodded.

“And this man called Sir Robert Alexander duped you into trusting him—offered to bring you west and then managed to steal your money and turn on you. Right? He was taking you to someone. He was going to leave you with the man called Chad.”

Elizabeth swallowed. “How—do you know all that?”

“It’s a long story. But I’m not this man you call Chad Krieger. I’m hunting for Krieger.”

Elizabeth broke into tears. “I’m alone out here. I don’t know what to do. I killed him! I killed Robert!” “And I’m betting it was for a damn good reason,”

Logan told her. “We need to talk, Miss Baylor. Is it Miss?”

Elizabeth wiped at her tears, smearing the blood on her face. “Lady,” she answered, showing a spark of pride. “I am Lady Elizabeth Baylor…from London.” She cried even harder. “I loved him! I was going to marry him! Why did he…do this?”

“Because he’s a swindling sonofabitch,” Logan answered. He rose. “Come on. Let me get you to a doctor.” He looked at White. “Where are her things? She needs to wash up and get dressed. For God’s sake, how could you leave her in this condition, and in a jail cell to boot?”

“We were going to have a meeting soon to discuss what to do with her.”

“Common sense should have told you this woman didn’t do anything wrong. Look at her! She’s been abused, and she was probably just defending herself. If you weren’t a lawman, I’d land a fist into your face. Where are her things?”

“They’re still down at the depot.”

“Then have somebody go get them and bring them to the doctor’s office.” Logan reached out for Elizabeth. “Can you walk?”

Elizabeth crossed her arms over her breasts as though she thought Logan might be able to see through her gown. “I don’t want people out there to see me. And…I’m barefoot.”

Logan grasped her arms and pulled her up. He noticed she winced.

“Are your arms bruised?” he asked. Elizabeth nodded.

Logan reached down and yanked a wool blanket off the cot. He wrapped it around her shoulders, covering her completely before lifting her into his arms. He thought how small and light she was. Her situation reminded him of what had happened to MaryAnne. He’d killed every last one of the men who’d hurt her before coming out here to hunt down every damn wanted man he could find.

“Let’s get her to a doctor,” he told the sheriff. White obliged, heading out the front door.

A few people gathered to watch Logan Best carry the strange, bloody woman who’d killed a man to the doctor’s office.

Elizabeth curled against him, her head on his shoulder. At least he could get help for this woman. He’d never had the chance to help MaryAnne.

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Two worlds in conflict

Two hearts intertwined

One love worth fighting for

Wealthy Englishwoman Lady Elizabeth Baylor longs for adventure. She leaves for America full of hope, only to lose everything to a villain hiding treachery behind his smile. Lost in this strange and lawless land, Elizabeth vows to track down the man who did her wrong…but she can’t do it alone. What she needs is someone hardened by the west and unflinching toward its dangers: notorious bounty hunter Logan Best.

Ill-mannered and seemingly ruthless, Logan exorcises his dark past by throwing himself into his vengeful profession—hunting wanted men. There’s nothing about the pampered Englishwoman that should call to him, and yet as their adventure takes them across the wild and treacherous west, he realizes he’ll do anything to keep her safe…and defend his Lady to his final breath.

USA Today bestseller and award-winning novelist Rosanne Bittner is known as the “Queen of Western Historical Romance” for her epic love stories and family sagas. Her award-winning, well-researched books span 1800’s America from coast to coast. Devoted readers have described her books as “awesome,” “realistic,” and “unforgettable!” Rosanne and her husband live in southwest Michigan. Visit her at www.rosannebittner.com.

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FOREVER WOLF & giveaway with Maria Vale

Born with one blue eye and one green, Eyulf was abandoned as an infant and has never understood why, or what he is…Varya is fiercely loyal to the Great North Pack, which took her in when she was a teenager. While out on patrol, Varya finds Eyulf wounded and starving and saves his life, at great risk to her own.

Legend says his eyes portend the end of the world…or perhaps, the beginning…

With old and new enemies threatening the Great North, Varya knows as soon as she sees his eyes that she must keep Eyulf hidden away from the superstitious wolves who would doom them both. Until the day they must fight to the death for the Pack’s survival, side by side and heart to heart…

Maria Vale is a journalist who has worked for Publishers Weekly, Glamour magazine, Redbook, the Philadelphia Inquirer. She is a logophile and a bibliovore and a worrier about the world. Trained as a medievalist, she tries to shoehorn the language of Beowulf into things that don’t really need it. She lives in New York with her husband, two sons and a long line of dead plants. No one will let her have a pet. Visit her at mariavale.com.

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I focus on the still-pink circlet of scars around his leg, pulling the scar tissue gently apart with two fingers to see how elastic it is. Then I push down, softly at first, and gradually harder. If it starts to swell or bruise, the change will tear apart the underlying network of blood vessels.

He jerks.

“That’s a bad sign.” “What?”

“Well, it shouldn’t hurt that much.” “Doesn’t,” he says.

“This is not the time to hide what you’re feeling. If you change before you’re fully healed, you will tear yourself open again. I know what I’m doing.”

He leans forward, his arms draped between his legs. “I’m not sure you do.”

Ah. The towel that was barely adequate before is simply laughable now that it is also responsible for covering a thickly engorged cock.

I look up, up, up to his eyes. They’ve changed, darkened. They are no longer the pale blue of old ice and bright variegated green of forest depths, but the deep blue of late evening and the dark green of rain- drenched fir. His white hair loops forward and then falls over his shoulder. A sharp, green muskiness like rubbed coriander bothers my nose with something warm and dangerous.

I jump away, like a skittish fawn.

“I don’t think it’ll open up. Remember, your trigger is here.” I point without touching toward the place I’d found before. “It’s inside, not outside, so you need to tighten those muscles. But take your shirt off first.”

“Okay,” he says, pulling off his shirt. “Why?” “Because if by some miracle you get it right, I’ll have to cut you out of it, and we don’t have that many changes of clothes.”

Turning away, I smooth the T-shirt still warm from his body against my chest. Philadelphia Frostbite Regatta, it says. When I glance back, his eyes are closed and a tremor roils through the cut muscles. Parts of him around his pelvis that don’t look like they could tighten any more ripple.

Sitting down on a dry trunk, I stare at the lower slopes of Norþdæl, blanketed with wine and gray and dark gold, dotted with dark-green evergreens and occasional skeletal fingers of white birch.

“How are you doing over there?”

“Working on it.” He coughs a handful of fake coughs, trying, I suppose, to reproduce whatever caused that earlier change.

“Hey?” he says.

“Yes?”

“I’m going to be able to change back, right?”

“Of course. Once you learn what your trigger is, you’ll never forget it.”

“Like riding a bike.”

I scratch my ear. “It’s nothing like riding a bike. You’re changing into a wolf. Wolves don’t ride bikes.”

“It’s a… That’s not what I… Never mind.”

A squirrel squats on his hind legs, eyeing me from a distance. At this moment, from this angle, the daylight moon forms a curved crown above his head. “Except… you do know not to change before the Iron Moon, right?”

“Why?”

The squirrel’s whiskered nose twitches, worriedly. “Because the Iron Moon takes us as she finds us and makes us wilder. If she finds us in skin, she makes us wild. But if she finds us wild, she makes us æcewulfs. Real wolves. Forever wolves.”

“And you don’t change back?”

“That’s why they’re called forever wolves.”

He stares down at his feet, clenching and stretching his toes, as though confirming that for now at least, he still looks human. “Is it like when you’re a wolf, but you still know who you are? You still remember everything?”

“Nobody knows what they remember or don’t, but they’re definitely not the same. They’re not Pack any- more.” Over my shoulder, I see the panic on his face, his hand clinging to the little towel, like the last vestiges of his humanity.

“Don’t worry. I won’t let that happen to you,” I say. His eyes consider mine for a moment. I nod at him, and he starts again, pressing harder, moving, clenching, roiling, undulating.

The squirrel takes advantage of my distraction and bolts up a nearby tree. High up, he hangs, head down, legs splayed, and chitters at me for invading his territory.

Varya!

I leap at Eyulf’s strangled cry, just managing to catch him as he pitches forward, his feet narrowing, arch elongating, calf muscle tightening.

How did I forget to tell him to lie down?

I stagger to the ground, his body writhing in my arms. His green eye searches blindly, his grotesque mouth mangles a groan before going silent. The towel drops away from his narrowing hips and his clutching fingers. My hair falls forward over him.

Astille, wulf. Þu eart gesund mid me.

Hush, wolf, you are safe with me.

My hands run over his skin, like water.

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THE PROMISE OF US excerpt & giveaway

Claire McKenna knows about loss. The bullet wound that ended her promising professional tennis career drove her to make a quiet life for herself working with fabric samples, chatting with her book group, and spending time with her parents in her sleepy coastal Connecticut hometown. Then there was the boyfriend who dumped her to pursue her adventurous childhood friend. Now, Claire’s business has hit a financial snag, but she’s up to the challenge. After all, she can survive anything. At least she thinks so . . . until her teen crush, Logan, returns to town with his sister, Claire’s traitorous friend.
Photographer Logan Prescott is more playboy than homebody. But his sister’s illness teaches him that there’s more to life than chasing the next thrill. Bent on helping her win Claire’s forgiveness, he turns his charm on Claire and offers her big bucks to renovate his multimillion-dollar New York City condo.
After years of playing it safe, Claire must now take some risks. The payoff could be huge, but if it all falls apart, can her heart recover from another loss?

“What are you thinking?” Claire dropped her hands to the table.

Steffi shook her head, waving one hand. “Nothing.”

“Don’t lie. Is there another problem I’m not aware of?”

“No.” Steffi inhaled, held her breath, then exhaled slowly.

“I know of one project that would make a sweet profit and let you really stretch your talent. ‘Sky’s the limit’ kind of budget.”

Excitement lifted Claire’s spirit, straightening her spine. Anything that accelerated plans to open a retail outlet merited her attention. “Sounds amazing. What’s the catch?”

Steffi hesitated.

“Never mind. You won’t take it, so let’s move on.” Steffi spooned whipped cream into her mouth. “Oh! Molly says that Mrs. Brewster is thinking of remodeling her master bath.”

Mrs. Brewster’s late husband had left her comfortably well off, but you’d never know it. She clipped every coupon available to humanity—Claire had been behind her at the grocery store more than once. She put only two dollars in the collection basket at church each week, despite having enough money to leave more. And she gave out bite-size candy at Halloween. Bite-size!

“We can’t rely on Ryan’s mom as our major source of leads, and Mrs. Brewster spending big bucks on a remodel sounds improbable..” She leaned forward, elbows on the table. “Don’t make me beg. If you have a solution, I won’t dismiss it out of hand, I promise. I’m not an idiot. We need income. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep the doors open.”

Steffi went still, her chin just above the mug held midair. “Whatever it takes?”

Claire’s hair stood on end, but she motioned “Let’s have it” with both hands.

Steffi hesitated. “How would you like to redecorate a high-end condo in Chelsea?”

“In the city?” Her entire body prickled painfully at the thought of putting herself in the midst of that chaos and danger. She’d already been one madman’s random victim. Manhattan teemed with crazy people, not the least of whom were the ones who drove their cars like heat-seeking missiles. “Who’d hire us instead of any of the premier designers there?”

Steffi met Claire’s gaze. “Logan.”

Claire’s tongue seemed to swell and turn sticky. Work with Logan … Her blood thickened like warm syrup. Tingles and terror all at once—a sensation she both loved and loathed. Her own brand of crazy. Maybe she did belong in New York, after all. “No.”

“You just said you’d do whatever it takes.”

“Not that. Never that.” Claire didn’t need to look into a mirror to know that her fair, lightly freckled cheeks now looked like someone had smeared them with ripe strawberries.

“As I suspected.” Steffi shrugged nonchalantly, as if she hadn’t just pulled the pin from a grenade and dropped it on the table. “So that leaves us a little tight until something else comes up. In terms of our social media presence, I just read an article …”

Claire heard Steffi talking, but the words ran together like white noise because Claire’s brain was still stuck on the idea of working with—no—for Logan Prescott. His obvious ploy made her want to laugh. Did he really think he could buy her forgiveness for his sister? Well, Claire would never, ever forgive Peyton. Not even if he paid her a million dollars to renovate his condo.

“Claire? Did you hear anything I said?” Steffi turned her hands out in question.

“Sorry.” She rubbed the scowl from her forehead. “I’ll find another way to turn up new leads. Working with Logan is a hard no.”

“Too bad. You’d have so much fun decorating his place. I’m sure he’d let you do whatever you wanted. Anything would be better than how it looks now. Guess he never cared before, since he was rarely around to enjoy it.”

Only a Prescott would own a million-dollar property that sat vacant as often as it was occupied.

“I’m not an idiot.”

“Did I call you one?” Steffi had the gall to look stunned.

“This has Peyton’s paw prints all over it. I’d bet my last penny that she put him up to it. I don’t know what I hate more, that she did it, that you took the bait, or that she knows we’re desperate for money.”

“It’s not a conspiracy. I mentioned that I felt bad about putting you in this situation because of this home. Logan tossed out the idea on the spot.”

“I can’t deal with the strings that would come with his offer.” Except now Claire couldn’t focus on anything else because thinking about Logan took up all the space in her head. If Peyton hadn’t stolen Todd, she might’ve pounced on a chance to work closely with Logan. Of course, then she wouldn’t have been free to act on her desire. Not that she had ever acted on it before Todd, either. The hawkish way Logan could stare at her turned her to jelly around him and—oh, just no. “I thought you finally understood that.”

“I do. That’s why I wasn’t going to say anything.” Steffi crossed her arms. “You forced me to tell you.”

True enough. Logan’s image flickered through Claire’s mind again, poking at the tender spot of her pointless longing, like always.

She shook her head, dislodging all thoughts of Logan. “I’ll catch up with Mrs. Brewster and pitch a proposal for her bathroom. But we also have to scrape together funds to advertise and update the website, and you need to scare up reno work pronto. Promise me we’ll earmark new revenue toward retail space—”

A knock at the door interrupted her monologue.

Steffi rose from the table and disappeared around the corner.

From the other room, Claire heard Steffi’s surprised voice say, “Oh, we didn’t expect you so early.”

“Hope that’s not a problem,” replied Logan, in his unmistakable baritone.

 

 

 
National bestselling author Jamie Beck’s realistic and heartwarming stories have sold more than one million copies. She’s a Booksellers’ Best Award and a National Readers’ Choice Award finalist; and critics at KirkusPublishers Weekly, and Booklist have respectively called her work “smart,” “uplifting,” and “entertaining.” In addition to writing, she enjoys dancing around the kitchen while cooking and hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah. Above all, she is a grateful wife and mother to a very patient, supportive family.
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