Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Talk Derby to Me Blitz and #Giveaway

Talk Derby to Me
R.H. Tucker
Publication date: August 3rd 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
As the editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, Evan Maldonado is right on track for college next year and pursuing his dream of being a journalist. To put the finishing touch on his college applications, he’s taking an intern position with a well-known newspaper where he’ll receive a letter of recommendation from the editor. There’s just one little problem. The business intern spot he was expecting to get is taken. The only other position they have available is covering the local roller derby league.
Mari Valdez isn’t worried about getting into college. All she’s concerned with is getting through the repulsive world of high school. Sure, she has her best friend, but she still has to put up with teasing because of her multi-colored hair or bruises. The bruises are from roller derby, by the way, the only thing that Mari looks forward to. It’s been her safe haven since her world imploded.
In order to get more information on the derby league, Evan follows Mari to her practices and games. To call their friendship rocky would be an understatement, but the more Evan and Mari are together, the more they seem to connect. When Mari’s personal life boils over, she finds herself confiding in Evan. And just when everything seems to be coming together for the two, a horrible mistake may separate them for good.
Talk Derby to Me is a stand-alone, YA romance novel.
There are only a few minutes left before the bell rings for the end of lunch, so I grab my backpack, sling it over my shoulder, and head over to them. The lunch tables Vince and I sit at are under a roof, off to the side of the courtyard, but the entire thing is open air. Mari and Albie are sitting in their usual grassy spot, next to a huge tree. There aren’t many clouds above, but I feel like it’s about to rain on me. There’s no reason she’d agree to this, but I have to take the chance. I want that letter of recommendation.
Albie is the first to see me approach. “How ya doin’, Chief?” she says in the twenties flapper accent again. She really never gets tired of that joke.
“Uh, hey. What’s up, Albie?” She smiles, but Mari doesn’t look up from the book she’s reading. She has the cover wrapped around, reading with one hand.
I step closer, trying to see what she’s reading. I’m hoping to make a little comment as an ice breaker, but she gazes up at me, annoyed. “Can I help you?”
“I need you,” I blurt out, then immediately cough in embarrassment.
“Excuse me?” she says.
“Whoa, moving awfully fast there. Buy a girl dinner first.” Albie laughs.
“No, sorry.” I shake my head at myself. “I don’t mean I need need you. I mean, I need an in with you.”
Her eyes widen. “You need a what with me?”
“No, like—” I growl in embarrassment and stupidity at myself. “Sorry. Okay, so, I got a reporting internship with Riverside Tribune. I was supposed to write articles in their business section, but I got stuck with roller derby.”
She scowls, curling a lip, staring at me. It takes a full five seconds for it to dawn on me how rude that sounded. “No! Not stuck, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“How’d you mean it, then, White Boy Evan?”
First of all, I’m a little caught off guard that she knows my name. Secondly, it sounds racist, so that’s what I jump to first. “I’m half Mexican. Only my mom’s white.”
“Well, I’m just saying, you said White Boy Evan.”
“You look white.”
I hold up a finger. “The politically correct way of saying that is Caucasian.”
“Yeah? What’s the politically correct way of saying stop talking to me?”
Taking a deep breath, I attempt to gather my thoughts and figure out a way of recovering the bang-up job of an introduction and request. She stares back at me, brushing a strand of green hair from her forehead, then quirks an eyebrow. It’s like she’s daring me to say something else.
There’s no time, though. I’m just about to try again when the bell rings. She hops to her feet, grabs her backpack, and struts away without another word, leaving Albie and me behind.
“That could’ve gone better,” I say, slumping my shoulders.
“Yeah,” Albie agrees, throwing her arm over my shoulders. “You really know how to talk to the ladies, Chief.”

Author Bio:
RH Tucker writes cute & edgy YA romance. He also lives in Southern California, consumes too much caffeine, eats too much pizza, and firmly believes Rocky Road is the best flavor of ice cream.
You can sign up for my newsletter for previews, excerpts, and short stories at:


Endless by Kaylene Winter Blitz and #Giveaway

Kaylene Winter
(Less Than Zero Rockstar Romance Series, #1)
Publication date: June 26th 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
It’s my only chance to make it.
To escape my abusive childhood.
A new album and tour with my band family are weeks away.
Success and stardom are all but guaranteed.
Then I saw Zoey at our biggest show, and everything changed in an instant.
She’s my soulmate. My lover. My best friend.
Ty is my one and only true love.
I never imagined feeling so loved, cherished and adored.
Then he said he’d give it all up and I couldn’t stand in his way.
So I ghosted him, only so he’d be free to follow his dream.
Now the world sings along to his anthems about me.
The girl who never wanted the spotlight.
Their reunion is explosive.
On so many levels.
Ty’s not proud of the man he became.
Zoey has to live with her own bad decisions.
With so many forces keeping them apart…
Will they find redemption?
Will they ever be able to forgive each other and move on?
ENDLESS is a steamy, sexy, rock-and-roll full-length Romance with a HEA
ENDLESS is book 1 in the Less Than Zero Rockstar Romance Series.
Get ready for the gorgeous, sexy rockers of Less than Zero and the strong, feisty women who bring them to their knees.
Only $1.99 for a limited time!
I burrowed into my delicious rocker’s side, breathing in his manly scent, a mix of leather and grapefruit body wash. I reached up to carefully brush a long, chocolate-brown wave from Tyson’s full lips while he slept deeply. His long, silky hair cascaded over the pillow; his square jaw was covered with the beginnings of a beard because he hadn’t shaved in a few days. It made my sweet rocker look slightly dangerous. Gazing at the three small scars nearly hidden in his thick, dark eyebrows, I still couldn’t fathom how tough his childhood was and how anyone could hurt such a beautiful soul.
My breath hitched. I tried to memorize everything about him, to soak in every detail of my gorgeous man. I knew I was about to hurt him, and it destroyed me. When I traced my finger over a smattering of his rough stubble, he sighed in his sleep and pulled me in even closer. I held him tightly too, resting my head on his lithe but defined chest and gripped his hip, careful not to rouse him. I wished I could gaze into the pools of his deep-blue eyes one more time.
If only I didn’t have to leave him.
I was moving to Bellingham to embark upon my new normal, living with a roommate in a dorm and working toward my college degree in social services. Ty’s band departed for their first tour in a few hours, traveling cross-country in a small van for six months. Letting him sleep was important. It would be grueling enough spending long hours in such cramped quarters without the added weight of heartbreak. The least I could do was let him get some rest now.
So I laid for as long as I could against my love and listened to his heartbeat. My mind was a hamster wheel. Second-guessing. Third-guessing. Then—resolved. I had been asked by possibly the most influential person in his life to do something for Ty. For his future. As much as I didn’t want to, leaving him now was the right thing for me to do. But it didn’t make it any less devastating.
When my tears wet his chest, I knew it was time to go or I’d wake him. My heart seized in agony at the thought of never seeing him again. I wasn’t sure how I’d survive. Yet, I knew that I had to set him completely free, without any ties to me, so he could embrace his shot at fame.
Maybe someday Ty would understand why I left him.
Maybe someday he’d forgive me.

Author Bio:
When she was only 15, Kaylene Winter wrote her first rocker romance novel starring a fictionalized version of herself, her friends and their gorgeous rocker boyfriends. After living her own rockstar life as a band manager, music promoter and mover and shaker in Seattle during the early 1990's, Kaylene became a digital media legal strategist helping bring movies, television and music online. Throughout her busy career, Kaylene lost herself in romance novels across all genres inspiring her to realize her life-long dream to be a published author. She lives in Seattle with her amazing husband and dog. She loves to travel, throw lavish dinner parties and support charitable causes supporting arts and animals.


Tortured with Love by J.T. Hunter Tour & #Giveaway

Tortured With Love by JT Hunter Banner

Tortured With Love

The True Crime Romance of the Lonely Hearts Killers

by JT Hunter

on Tour August 1 - September 30, 2020

Tortured With Love by JT Hunter


What is the price of passion? What is the power of love?

Meet Martha Beck, a young nurse dedicated to healing others, until her own hurting heart lured her down a darker path. Loneliness led her to Raymond Fernandez, but love led her all the way to the electric chair.

This is the tragic story of the Lonely Heart Killers.

Book Details:

Genre: True Crime
Published by: JT Hunter
Publication Date: May 15th 2020
Number of Pages: 210
ISBN: 9798646112720
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

On an otherwise mundane March day, a peculiar piece of paper arrived in Martha Beck’s office mailbox. It came with the usual medical correspondence and junk mail, giving no indication of its importance. Yet, this one particular envelope would change Martha’s life forever.
The envelope arrived on a cool afternoon, the temperature hovering just below 60, the highest it had climbed all day in the Pensacola area of the Florida Panhandle. But Martha was not in the mood to enjoy the weather. She was still down in the dumps about her recently finalized divorce from Alfred Beck, a Pensacola bus driver who had married her when she was six months pregnant with another man’s child. Although she had been separated from Alfred since May 1945, nearly two years earlier, the formal entry of their divorce had the nearly 27-year-old Martha feeling like an old maid doomed to live out the rest of her life alone.
Martha was not unique in that respect in post-World War II America. With well over a million more women than men, the United States population of the mid and late 1940’s left many lonely women in its wake.
A visit from Elizabeth Swanson, one of the nurses she supervised at the Crippled Children’s Home, temporarily distracted Martha from feeling sorry for herself. She considered Elizabeth her closest friend. When Elizabeth knocked on her office door, Martha had just started going through the mail. As the two engaged in the latest gossip and friendly chit-chat, Martha resumed sorting through the assortment of envelopes. The first was an advertisement from a Jacksonville company selling medical equipment. She quickly flipped past it as well as a few other pieces of junk mail until a mysterious envelope caught her eye. It was made of thin, pale-brown paper with the name, Mrs. Martha Jule Beck, typed prominently on the front.
“What’s this?” she asked, the question directed more to herself than her friend.
“What is what?” Elizabeth replied, sipping from a mug of coffee.
“This . . . this odd envelope,” Martha said, holding it up to show her.
“Beat’s me,” Elizabeth remarked coyly. “I wonder who sent you that.”
“I’m sure I don’t know,” Martha remarked, her curiosity now piqued. She turned the envelope over to inspect it further, and seeing nothing hinting at its contents, opened it to find a thin, paper pamphlet inside. It was a promotional mailing and application for the Standard Correspondence Club, one of many “lonely hearts clubs” operating across the country. The return address gave Standard’s location as Grave Lake, Illinois.
LONELY?, the pamphlet asked in large, bold letters, Let us help you find that certain someone. Join old reliable Club, 50 years of dependable, confidential service. Correspondents most everywhere seeking congenial mates, proven results. Interesting photos, descriptions FREE. There were several pictures of women spaced throughout the page, each next to a testimonial about a happy marriage brought about by contacts made through the club.
“Now why on earth would they send this to me?” Martha wondered aloud, taking a little offense that such a “lovelorn club” would be contacting her.
Elizabeth’s coyness now morphed into a broad grin that spread across her face.
“Now why on earth would they send this to me?” Martha wondered aloud, “I have a confession to make,” Elizabeth said as she started giggling. “I wrote the club and asked them to send you information and an application.”
Martha studied her friend’s face, deciding whether she was serious.
“Whatever for?” she asked in a tone matching the astonishment in her eyes.
Still giggling, Elizabeth moved to a chair closer to Martha and sat down beside her.
“I originally did it as a joke,” she explained, “but the more I thought about it, the more I decided that you should give it a try. Three of my daughters are writing to me that they have met men through this correspondence club, and this is the very same club that I met my husband through thirty years ago. And after all, what do you have to lose?”
Martha rolled her eyes.
“I may be a little lonely,” she acknowledged, “but I’m not THAT desperate.”
She glared with some annoyance at Elizabeth. “I swear, sometimes I really wonder what’s going on in that head of yours.”
Martha tossed the pamphlet onto a pile of papers stacked on the side of her desk and made no more mention of it for the rest of their time together. But the seeds of intrigue had already been planted in her mind.
Later, after Elizabeth had left, Martha retrieved the discarded pamphlet and read it more closely. Part of the pamphlet contained a form asking her to fill out information about herself and write a letter detailing what kind of men she would like to meet. Sitting down at her desk, she carefully completed the form and took her time crafting the letter, being sure to mention how people often commented that she was witty, vivacious, and oozed personality. She also emphasized that she was a trained nurse with her own pleasant apartment. When she was satisfied with what she had written, Martha carefully folded the papers, enclosed $5.00 for the required membership fee, and licked the envelope to seal it. That evening, she dropped it in a mailbox on her way home from work.
Years later, when asked whether she had experienced any misgivings about joining a lonely hearts club, Martha candidly replied, “Yes, as soon as I’d put the letter in the mailbox, I began thinking I’d made a mistake.”
Questioned about what kind of man she hoped to meet through the club, Martha took a little more time before answering.
“Well, I don’t know,” she confessed. “I guess I hadn’t thought about it much.
But I sure didn’t think I’d ever meet anyone like Ray.”
Excerpt from Tortured With Love by J.T. Hunter. Copyright 2020 by J.T. Hunter. Reproduced with permission from J.T. Hunter. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

J.T. Hunter
JT Hunter is a true crime writer with over fifteen years of experience as a lawyer, including criminal law and appeals. He also has significant training in criminal investigation techniques. He enjoys being a college professor teaching fiction and nonfiction to his creative writing students.

Catch Up With J.T. Hunter:

Enter The Giveaway!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for JT Hunter. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on August 1, 2020 and runs through October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours


Monday, August 3, 2020

Alpha Night by Nalini Singh (Psy-Changeling Trinity #4)

Alpha Night 
by Nalini Singh
My Rating:  ****

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh returns to her breathtaking Psy-Changeling Trinity series with a mating that shouldn’t exist…

Alpha wolf Selenka Durev’s devotion to her pack is equaled only by her anger at anyone who would harm those under her care. That currently includes the empaths who’ve flowed into her city for a symposium that is a security nightmare, a powder keg just waiting for a match.

Ethan Night is an Arrow who isn’t an Arrow. Numb and disengaged from the world, he’s loyal only to himself. Assigned as part of the security force at a world-first symposium, he carries a dark agenda tied to the power-hungry and murderous Consortium. Then violence erupts and Ethan finds himself crashing into the heart and soul of an alpha wolf.

Mating at first sight is a myth, a fairytale. Yet Selenka’s wolf is resolute: Ethan Night, broken Arrow and a man capable of obsessive devotion, is the mate it has chosen. Even if the mating bond is full of static and not quite as it should be. Because Selenka’s new mate has a terrible secret, his mind surging with a power that is a creature of madness and death…

Alpha Night (Psy-Changeling Trinity, #4; Psy-Changeling, #19)Alpha Night by Nalini Singh

We are, once again, brought back to Russia and the Black Edge Wolf Pack and the alpha, Selenka Durev, and she becomes mated at first sight to the “broken” psy Ethan.

The dynamic is fresh, the relationship is embraced by both. Even though they had their issues both accepted the relationship then built on what was immediate with spending time together and getting to know each other.

I am a Nalini Singh fan. She writes it, I read it. It is that simple. Alpha Night is an excellent addition to Singh’s outstanding repertoire. She gives us a story about an alpha female that delights her fans, rivets the readers, and makes us wish for more.

I received this ARC copy of Alpha Night from Berkley Publishing Group. This is my honest and voluntary review. Alpha Night is set for publication June 9, 2020.

Rage and Ruin by Jennifer L Armentrout

Rage and Ruin 
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: The Harbinger Series (#2)
FRONTLIST | On Sale Date: June 9, 2020
Hardcover | 608 pages
Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy / Contemporary
$19.99 USD, $24.99 CAD, £12.99 GBP
ISBN 9781335018250, 1335018255

Dangerous secrets and forbidden desires lead to shocking consequences… Don’t miss book two of the fantastical Harbinger trilogy from #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Half-angel Trinity and her bonded gargoyle protector, Zayne, have been working with demons to stop the apocalypse while avoiding falling in love. The Harbinger is coming…but who or what is it? All of humankind may fall if Trinity and Zayne can’t win the race against time as dark forces gather.

As tensions rise, they must stay close together and patrol the DC streets at night, seeking signs of the Harbinger, an entity that is killing Wardens and demons with no seeming rhyme or reason. Forbidden to be with each other, Zayne and Trinity fight their feelings and turn to unusual sources for help—the demon Roth and his cohorts. But as deaths pile up and they uncover a sinister plot involving the local high school and endangering someone dear to Zayne, Trin realizes she is being led…herded…played for some unknown end. As anger builds and feelings spiral out of control, it becomes clear that rage may be the ruin of them all.

Rage and Ruin (The Harbinger, #2)Rage and Ruin by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Jennifer Armentrout, once again, blows me away with her storytelling abilities!

Rage and Ruin is the second book in The Harbinger Series. Following the plight of half angel, Trinity and her bonded gargoyle protector, Zayne. Despite their attraction, Trinity and Zayne must keep from falling in love or face a devastating outcome while uncovering the secrets behind the coming Harbinger.

They uncover demons at the local high school but are helped by an unlikely ally, Roth, a demon himself.

The plot was injected with the perfect amount of heart wrenching moments, action, and chemistry to bind you to the characters plight. While the passion and chemistry sizzle and the humor will have you laughing out loud. Only to be topped by the epic ending, which you will have to read to believe.

Total. Book. Hangover. But worth every single second.

I received this ARC copy of Rage and Ruin from HarperCollins - Inkyard Press. This is my honest and voluntary review.

Series: The Harbinger Series (#2)
FRONTLIST | On Sale Date: June 9, 2020
Hardcover | 608 pages
Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy / Contemporary
$19.99 USD, $24.99 CAD, £12.99 GBP
ISBN 9781335018250, 1335018255

Splintered Emerald by Jane Blythe (Broken Gems, #5)

Splintered Emerald
by Jane Blythe

My rating: 5 stars

Series: Broken Gems - Book 5
Publisher: Bear Spots Publications (October 5, 2020)
Publication Date: October 5, 2020
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Print Length: 238 pages
Available from: Amazon

Fifteen years is a long time to be missing.

Emerald Hatcher was the baby of the Hatcher family. Sweet, kind, compassionate, a dreamer who would give the shirt off her back to someone who needed it more than her.

But that was then.

What have fifteen years away from her family, tortured and abused, done to her?

The Hatcher sisters have been desperate to find the last sister and bring her home, but what they get is not what they bargained for.

Is anyone really ready for Emerald Hatcher to return home?
Splintered Emerald by Jane Blythe (Broken Gems, #5)

Splintered Emerald (Broken Gems, #5)Emerald, the last of the Hatcher sisters sold to human traffickers, is found. But this time, Jane Blythe has turned the series, the sisters and their lives upside down with a twist that had me reeling! Talk about taking the path least expected! Just when I thought I could see what was going to happen, BAM! I couldn’t have been more wrong, more off-base.

Forget what you think you know about Jane Blythe and her high angst, high drama writing, because this time out she has set her readers up for one heck of a twisted ride, so hang on tight, buckle down and be prepared! Ms. Blythe has added a new dimension to her writing that will have readers completely enthralled.

Remember soap operas? The Broken Gem series has always been an emotional rollercoaster, but never and I mean never have I felt so tied in knots, so unsure of what I want to happen, let alone ready for what does happen. Page after page of a side to this author that is simply brilliant!

Will Emerald be welcomed home with open arms? Is she ready to let go of the life she was once forced into? Is she capable of returning to a new normal or has she succumbed to another lifestyle where there is no room for her sisters? Hope you are comfortable with the edge of your seats as this gritty tale takes off full bore into the unexpected!

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Jane Blythe! This is my honest and voluntary review.

Young Adorok by A.J. Gallant (Adventures of Adorok, #1)

Young Adorok
By A.J. Gallant

My Rating: 4 Stars

Publication Date: July 25, 2020
Publisher: A.J. Gallant
Genre: Fantasy
Print Length: 167 pages
Available from: Amazon
An exceptional warrior will be forced to take a new path in life. An elf leaves her own kind and joins humans for some excitement and adventure. An old wizard seeks to help the world one last time before he dies.

Young Adorok by A.J. Gallant (Adventures of Adorok, #1)

Quirky, irreverent, funny, serious. A.J. Gallant has customized fantasy story telling again with YOUNG ADOROK a new series about Adorok before he became an ancient wizard. As he begins a new path in his life, one that will take him to faraway places with an unlikely group of allies.

Liberally peppered with A. J. Gallant’s wit, we meet Adorok before he became an old and powerful wizard. Watch dragons fly across the skies, picture Adorok in his youth, powerful, yet na├»ve to the ways of the world, even as a warrior. War has devastated his world, the death toll is high and the hatred runs deep.

Through it all, A.J. Gallant brings his characters to life, imbuing them with humor, strength and determination without weighing his tale down. A good read, a fascinating escape and one that fantasy lovers will find completely entertaining as an escape into another world filled with magic, mayhem and adventure. Don’t expect difficult dialogue, prepare to enjoy the natural flow that frees the mind to capture each scene more clearly.

August Fog by A.L. Goulden Blitz and #Giveaway

August Fog
A.L. Goulden
(August Fog, #1)
Publication date: August 1st 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction
Monica Waters has 31 days to choose between the love of her life or her soulmate. Juggling an unglamorous Hollywood career and a clumsy injury with an endless cocktail of antidepressants and dull daily routines, Monica moves through her thirties in a fog, avoiding the pain of her damaged marriage, broken body, and fragile mind.
Until he comes along.
When emerging artist Quinn Matthews moves next door, just coping with the downward spiral of life is no longer feasible. Their powerful connection ignites a relationship that will tip the boundaries of their perfectly balanced lives, sparking a mutual obsession and life-altering affair.
Monica tosses her prescriptions, striving to be free of their control, but with each passing summer day, dangerous secrets seep into their quiet suburban life, inching toward disaster. Sometimes the truth is hidden for a reason.
“This is a contemporary tale of a woman’s struggle to navigate love and mental illness, while defining where and how she will land on her own feet.” –Independent Reader
“A raw and honest look at the ugly secrets behind a flawed marriage and the stigmas of depression.”
They meet
Fusion can happen when two objects reach an extreme heat. When the blood boils, the same can be said of hearts. The connection can excite and ache and torment, yet the demise of will goes unnoticed when the thrill renders an addictive high. Monica Waters once loved getting high, both literally and figuratively, but outgrew the juvenile practice of artistic inspiration. She had responsibilities now, like a mortgage and an admirable career… and a husband.
Antidepressants helped too.
When Los Angeles soared past eighty-five degrees in April the unsettling promise of perpetual summer ignited tension across freeways. Monica shielded anxiety with music and a fun car. Bob Marley had eased an hour-long commute, also known as Thursday, delivering her to the sanctuary of home until she slammed the brakes.
A yellow Nissan blocked the driveway with no owner in sight. Her best friend owned the same vehicle but not with New York plates so she glared next door. Sharing a driveway with Rebecca’s bohemian flophouse had reached its limit.
Monica wedged her BMW into an ivy-covered carport at an awkward angle and pried herself out, trying not to scratch her paint against the fence. She mumbled a few obscenities when she couldn’t get leverage to slam the door but squeezed past the filthy SUV, smoothing her long chestnut hair. The tall Japanese-style gate that led to her bonsai garden greeted with Zen and wafts of jasmine.
That’s when she saw him.
On the wooden staircase that wound up to Rebecca’s converted attic was a man that shifted everything into slow motion. A man, that for a second at least, she would follow anywhere. Her reaction defied rational explanation. The guy wearing jeans and t-shirt carried a box but even his muscular build was common in this town. Still, he had a gentle force of gravity tugging like a current.
The back of his shaved head lacked noticeable character, but his climb was hypnotic. She stopped breathing while her heart pounded at an alarming speed. A beautiful tattoo engulfed his entire right arm with gnarled branches and scattered leaves of an old tree. It rooted around the box and swayed like a breeze as he moved.
When the gate slipped from her fingers, the slam jolted her from the daze and he turned. She inspected her purse and fumbled with her keys even when he paused near the top of the stairs, waiting for attention. She rushed to her back door but couldn’t resist the draw of his stare.
His eyes were crystal blue and pensive under a low-slung heavy brow. He stood confident like carved hardwood left unpolished with ample lips, a strong jaw, and a rugged nose, but didn’t come off as arrogant or boring. Her stomach twisted at his asymmetrical smile.
He was beautiful.
Flushed, she returned a tight grin and nod before barreling into her laundry room. “Who’s the guy next door?” she asked, dropping her stuff on the counter next to the deep sink.
Alex, still sweaty from work, gave her a quick kiss, which was followed by the smacks of a powerful dog tail to her thigh. Her husband’s own shaved head and brawny build still resembled an action hero but his gray eyes lacked the dangerous edge that once made him magnetic.
“You mean the Kelly Slater look-alike?” He laughed. “Rebecca’s renting out the upstairs to some artist. She says he’s bi-coastal… whatever that means. Pretty sure he’s gay.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Did you see what he drives?”
She cocked her head. “So.”
“So? That’s what Robin drives.” He flashed his hands.
“That might be the dumbest thing ever said. Did he look at you too long or something?” “Hey, I’ve got no problem if he’s gay. He can look all he wants. I’m just saying.” Alex flexed his arms and inspected himself.
“Just because Rebecca’s a lesbian doesn’t mean everyone she’s around is gay.” Monica reached to pet their rambunctious Lab Pointer mix, Lacey. “I just hate that she and Julie split. I miss her.”
“Me too. I wish she won the house but Rebecca could afford it.”
“Then why’s she renting out rooms?” Her words had that petulant tone she hated with an unwarranted volume.
“I don’t know,” he said, flicking the counter. “It’s not like we have control over our neighbors.” He shuffled towards the bathroom, stripping for his shower along the way. She watched, remembering when that used to send her running after him, but now he hopped around in his socks and underwear looking more child-like than sexy.
In her ballerina flats, Monica was two inches shy of six feet and two years shy of forty. Her curvy size fourteen worked in Hollywood, the land of size zeros. Sometimes she resented being a giant next to tiny, beautiful people because it equated invisibility, but she faked smiles in the back of every crew photo despite the obscurity of an editing career.
She bent to give Lacey attention and propped the back door open while Mr. Bi-coastal moved from his vehicle to the yard. The redwood fence obscured his face but a childhood crush on Yul Brynner embedded an allure to a nice shaved head. Staring like a lech though erased dignity, so she mustered the nerve to make an introduction.
She stepped outside but an eruption of vicious barking made her yelp. Two enormous Rottweilers flanked the middle landing on the staircase, flinging drool over the fence. Lacey ducked behind Monica in fear.
“No. No barking!” Mr. Bi-coastal bounded up the stairs. “I’m so sorry,” he said, setting another box down. “I promise I’ll keep them quiet. They’re friendly, I swear.” He drew an X over his heart like a seven-year-old but his intense expression was all grown-ass-man.
“It’s alright.” She swallowed hard. “My husband had lovable Rotts growing up.” Spitting out her marital status made her fidget but his shoulders relaxed. “My name’s Monica.”
“I’m Quinn.” He leaned against the railing that hovered above as if to shake her hand. “Did you guys just drive across the country?”
“Yeah.” He squatted to pet them and she noticed his left arm didn’t have visible tattoos.
“This is Sadie and Max. Once they know you, they’ll stop barking.”
She moved closer, pretending to care about this new pet relationship despite growls with
each step. “They’re just protective of you.” “Lucky me.”
She tried not to stare at the unicorn but artists wore gangly and pale with pride, escaping food and sun for months. This man nurtured his body.
“Beautiful dogs.”
Alex stood behind her, wet from the shower in just basketball shorts, but the lack of a Q-tip or something equally inappropriate was boggling.
Quinn straightened. “I was just telling your wife they’re friendly.”
Alex climbed the fence to engage their slobbery faces up-close and flaunt an arm tattoo of a Rott named Bosco. Monica was new to living with dogs but presumed they couldn’t recognize the image of devotion in permanent ink. This king-of-the-castle act was for Quinn.
“Nice tat,” he said, squatting for a closer look.
An immediate tit-for-tat and subtle competition developed between them but Monica found herself comparing odd qualities while they bonded over dogs. The pitch of their voices aligned and laughter became punctuation. Their attributes mimicked one another but Alex’s head was larger while Quinn ate leaner and worked out. They could pass as brothers but something about Quinn upset her.
He was too close.
The two historical homes sat less than seven feet apart, thanks to the lack of building restrictions in the 1920s. That proximity, which had sparked numerous noise complaints, didn’t seem to bother Alex now, tickling those beefy dog faces.
“Rebecca said you’re only here part-time.” Alex stepped off the fence and crossed his arms.
“I’m just starting to show my work here.” He hesitated as if he wasn’t sure he wanted to share more. “My agent thought it was wise, so I’ll be back and forth a lot.”
She hated the two adorable little creases that formed next to his eyes when he smiled. They were marks of experience. Marks of a life lived.
“We should let you get settled,” Alex said, motioning towards the box still sitting on the landing.
Quinn nodded. “It was nice meeting you guys.”
“Absolutely.” She cringed at her valley-girl tone and bizarre wave given to dogs with inherently sad eyes. She beelined for their bedroom hoping to erase that weird encounter from memory.

Author Bio:
Author of the “most realistic, often hilarious, and wonderfully romantic” (Rosie Malezer, international best- selling author) Chasing Swells returns with another emotionally charged and complicated love story about a Hollywood editor struggling with depression who meets her soulmate while she's married to her high-school sweetheart. This unique trilogy takes you through one woman's mid-life crisis as she stumbles and falls apart before realizing she's the only one who can put her pieces back together.


Kate by Charyse Allan Blitz and #Giveaway

Charyse Allan
Publication date: June 20th 2020
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
This book will have you feeling ALL THE FEELS and then some! You will be mad, sad, happy and on the edge of your seat.” – Sassy Southern Book Blog
After escaping her past, Kate builds her life around a single purpose: staying hidden. But when the unexpected threatens to unravel her tightly kept secrets, her will to remain alone falters.
Kate ran, planning to leave behind a shell of a life, giving herself strict rules to live by in order to keep the past hidden. But these rules have her trading one prison for another.
Then Kai sneaks into her life, shoving through her shields, getting her to break every one of her rules. An unexpected surprise threatens to unravel her secrets and strip away the control she fought so hard for. But she embraces it, diving into the unknown with Kai.
When her past catches up with her, she battles to keep those she has come to love protected, refusing to relent the strength she found within. But when stuck in a place she never wants to return to and with no chance of escape, she fears losing everything she’s allowed herself to cherish.
Only 99¢ for a limited time!
I thumped to the ground on the other side of the fence, steadying myself just before I toppled over. The familiar damp, mucky scent of the creek hit me right before I got to it. My pace didn’t slow even after I ran over the worn log that was my bridge to get across the creek, which was still part of our property, only outside the fence. Then I was off for the highway, leaving the luxurious plantation behind me. No more would I follow their rules. No more would I dress up for Mother’s popularity contests. No more would I allow them to decide my fate.
My fate would be my own.
Delia was parked at the edge of our property in her station wagon Volvo, just as she had promised. The Rankin’s Movin’ On assaulted my eardrums when I opened the door. My heart squeezed in my chest, tears pricking at my eyes. But I shoved all fear away when I climbed in that front seat. Delia had a lit cigarette held out toward me the second I had the door shut.
“Ready, sha?” she asked as I took a long drag of that Joe, nerves and excitement thrumming through my veins.
“Damn right, I’m ready!”
We screamed in excitement when she squealed away from my life trap. “I got an entire album made up for this getaway.” She wagged her dark brows at me, her springy brown hair bouncing as she wiggled to the beat of the song.
We danced and sang, even while tension grew in my chest as the border of the state came closer and closer.

Author Bio:
Charyse published the first novel of the Valley of Death Series in 2014 and has published four books since. She is working toward her BA in Professional Writing through GCU. Now married to her best friend/high school sweetheart, they live in the sweltering heat of Arizona raising their four kiddos and two Goldens. She's a bookaholic and chocoholic; her vices keep her sane, but YAH keeps her patient.


Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond Tour & #Giveaway

Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond Banner



Dear Durwood

by Jeff Bond

on Tour August 1 - September 30, 2020


Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond
Book two in the epic Third Chance Enterprises series, Dear Durwood is a standalone mystery pitting uncompromising principle against big city greed.

Durwood Oak Jones is a man of few indulgences. One he does allow is a standing ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine soliciting “injustices in need of attention.”

This month’s bundle of letters includes one from Carol Bridges, mayor of the dusty, blue-collar town of Chickasaw, Texas. For nearly a century, Chickasaw has relied on the jobs and goodwill of Hogan Consolidated, a family-run manufacturer of industrial parts. Now East Coast lawyers and investment bankers have taken aim at the company. The citizens of Chickasaw fear it may be acquired or bankrupted, leading to massive layoffs — effectively destroying the town.

Durwood and his trusty bluetick coonhound, Sue-Ann, fly to Texas to see what can be done. They find a young CEO born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Factory workers with hammers. A good woman, Carol Bridges, who knows her town is being cheated but can’t get to the bottom of how. And lawyers.

Dirty, good-for-nothing lawyers.

Book Details:

Genre: Action-Adventure / Western Romance
Published by: Jeff Bond Books
Publication Date: June 15, 2020
Number of Pages: 215
ISBN: 1732255296 (ISBN13: 9781732255296)
Series: Third Chance Enterprises
Purchase Links: Amazon | Third Chance Stories | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Dear Mr. Oak Jones:
I am Carol Bridges, mayor of Chickasaw, Texas. We are located in the western part of the state, Big Bend Country if you know it. I thank you in advance for considering my injustice.
Chickasaw is the home of Hogan Consolidated, a family-run manufacturer of industrial parts. Hogan employs 70 percent of able-bodied adults in Chickasaw, and its philanthropy has sustained the town for ninety years. It’s due to the Hogan family we have an arts center and turf field for youth football.
Recently, East Coast lawyers and investment bankers have taken aim at the company. Multi-million dollar claims have been filed, accusing Hogan of putting out defective parts. It’s rumored the company will be acquired or liquidated outright. Massive layoffs are feared.
My constituents work hard, Mr. Jones. They have mortgages and children to feed. I have tried to find answers about the Hogan family’s intentions, to see whether I or the town can do anything to influence the course of events. Jay Hogan, the current CEO, does not return my phone calls—and is seen dining at sushi restaurants in El Paso (85 miles away) more often than in Chickasaw. I have gotten the runaround from our state and federal representatives. I believe it’s their fundraising season.
As mayor, I have a duty to explore every possible solution to the challenges we face. I do not read Soldier of Fortune regularly, but my deputy police chief showed me your ad soliciting “injustices in need of attention.” I feel certain injustice is being done to Chickasaw, though I can’t as yet name its perpetrator and exact nature.
Alonso (our deputy chief) knows you by reputation, and assures me these details won’t trouble you.
Thank you sincerely for your time,
Carol BridgesMayor of Chickasaw, TX
Chapter One
Durwood got to the Chickasaw letter halfway through the sorghum field. He was flipping through the stack from the mailbox, passing between sweet-smelling stalks. Leaves brushed his bluejeans. Dust coated his boots. He scanned for clumps of johnsongrass as he read, picking what he saw. The first five letters he’d tucked into his back pocket.
The Chickasaw letter he considered longer. Steel-colored eyes scanned left to right. He forgot about the johnsongrass. An ugliness started in his gut.
He put the letter in his front pocket, then read the rest. The magazine forwarded him a bundle every month. In September, he’d only gotten three. At Christmas time, it seemed like he got thirty or forty. Folks felt gypped around the holidays.
Today, he read about two brothers who didn’t steal a car. About a principal who got fired for being too aggressive fighting drugs in his school. About a bum call in the Oregon state Little League championship twenty years ago. About a furnace warranty that wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
Durwood chuckled at the Oregon letter. This one had been writing in for years. Maybe he figured Durwood didn’t read them, figured some screener only put a couple through each go-round and one of these days they’d sneak his through.
But Durwood did read them. Every last one.
He put the letter about the principal in his front pocket with the Chickasaw letter.
Off his right side, Sue-Ann whimpered. Durwood turned to find the bluetick coonhound pointing the south fenceline.
“I see,” Durwood said, of the white-tail doe nosing around the spruces. “Left my gun back at the house, though.”
Sue-Ann kept her point. Her bad hip quivered from the effort. Old as she was, she still got fired up about game.
Durwood released her with a gesture. “What do you say to some bluegill tonight instead? See what Crole’s up to.”
Durwood called Crole from the house. Crole, his fishing buddy who lived on the adjacent sixty acres, said he was good for a dozen casts. They agreed to meet at the river dividing their properties. Durwood had a shorter walk and used the extra time to clean his M9 semiautomatic.
Leaving, he noticed the red maple that shaded the house was leafing out slow. He examined the trunk and found a pattern of fine holes encircling the bark.
That yellow-bellied sapsucker.
Durwood wondered if the holes were related to the tree’s poor vigor.
Out by the river, Crole limped up with his jug of moonshine, vile stuff he made from Jolly Ranchers.
They fished.
Sue-Ann laid in the mud, snoring, her stiff coat bristling against Durwood’s boot. The afternoon stretched out, a dozen casts becoming two dozen. Then three. In the distance, the hazy West Virginia sky rolled through the Smokies. Mosquitoes weren’t too bad, just a nip here and there at the collar.
Durwood thought about Chickasaw, Texas. He thought about East Coast lawyers. About the hardworking men and women who’d elected Carol Bridges to be mayor and stick up for them.
He thought about that CEO picking up raw fish with chopsticks in El Paso.
He thought, too, about the principal who’d been fired for doing right.
Crole said, “Got some letters today?”
Durwood said he had.
Crole grinned, showing his top teeth—just two, both nearly black. “Still running that ad in Soldier of Fortune?”
Durwood lowered the brim of his hat against the sun. “Don’t cost much.”
“They give a military discount?”
Durwood raised a shoulder. He’d been discharged from the Marines a decade ago. He didn’t accept handouts for his service.
Crole nodded to the bulge in his pocket—the letters. “Anything interesting?”
“Sure,” Durwood said. “Plenty.”
They fished into twilight. Durwood caught just five bluegill. Crole, twenty years his senior and luckier with fish, reeled in a dozen, plus a decent-size channel cat despite using the wrong bait. The men strung their catches on a chain. The chain rippled in the cool, clear water.
The Chickasaw job appealed to Durwood. The opportunity to fight crooked lawyers, do something about these Wall Street outfits that made their buck slicing up American companies, putting craftsmen out of work until every last doodad was made in some knockoff plant in China.
Still, Durwood had trouble imagining the case. What would he do, flip through documents? Sit across a folding table from men in suits and ask questions?
Then he thought about the principal. About those gangs the letter had mentioned, how you could look out the windows of the dang school and see drug dealers on street corners. Intimidators. Armed thugs.
Durwood had an easy time imagining that case.
The sky had just gotten its first purple tinge when Durwood lost his bait a third time running.
“These fish.” He held his empty hook out of the water, shaking his head.
Crole said, “There’s catfish down there older than you.”
“Smarter, too,” Durwood said.
Still, the five bluegill would be enough for him and Sue-Ann. Durwood unclipped the fishes’ cheeks from the chain and dropped them in a bucket.
Back at the house, Durwood spotted the yellow-bellied sapsucker climbing the red maple. Not only was he pecking the tree, the ornery creature kept pulling twigs from the gray squirrels’ nest, the one they’d built with care and sheltered in the last four winters.
“Git down!” Durwood called.
The sapsucker zipped away to other antics.
Inside, Durwood scaled and beheaded the bluegill. Then he fried them in grease and cornmeal. Sue-Ann ate only half a fish.
Durwood moved the crispy tail under her nose. “Another bite?”
The dog sneezed, rattly in her chest.
Durwood rinsed his dishes and switched on a desktop computer. He looked up Chickasaw. There was plenty of information online. Population, land area. Nearly every mention of the town made reference to Hogan Consolidated. It looked like Hogan Consolidated was Chickasaw, Texas, and vice versa.
On the official municipal website, he found a picture of Carol Bridges. She wore a hardhat, smiling among construction workers.
Handsome woman. Warm, lively eyes.
Next, Durwood looked up the fired principal. The man lived and worked in upstate New York. For a few weeks, his case had been all over the local news there. A city councilman believed he’d been railroaded. Nineteen years he’d served the school district without prior incident. The only blemish Durwood found was a college DUI.
Durwood hadn’t started with computers until his thirties. His calloused fingers regularly struck the keys wrong, but he managed. This one he’d gotten from the Walmart in Barboursville, forty-nine bucks on Black Friday. It had its uses. A tool like any other.
“Well?” he said aloud, even though Sue was out on the porch. “Looks like a tossup.”
Durwood changed computer windows to look again at Carol Bridges. Then changed back to the principal.
At the bottom of the news story about the principal, he noticed a bubble with “47 comments” inside. He knew people who spouted off online were unreliable and often foolish. He clicked anyway.
“Good riddance, got what he deserved!”
“TOTAL RACIST WINDBAG, glad they fired him.”
Durwood read all forty-seven comments. Some defended the man, but most were negative.
It was impossible to know how much was legitimate. Durwood left judging to Him, and Him alone.
But Durwood did know that the petitioner, the one who’d written the letter to Soldier of Fortune, was the principal himself. Not some third party. Not an objective observer.
What had seemed like a case of obvious bureaucratic overreach suddenly looked less obvious.
Now Sue-Ann loped in from the porch. Appalachian air followed her inside, nice as perfume. Sue settled at Durwood’s feet, wheezing, rheumy eyes aimed up at her master.
He said, “What do you say, girl. Up for seeing the Lone Star State?”
The dog sat up straight, responding to the action in his voice. The effort made her mew. That hip.
Durwood laid his thumb down the ridge of the dog’s skull. He felt pained himself, thinking of documents, folding tables, and men in suits.
Chapter Two
It was a healthy drive, nearly two thousand miles, to see this Carol Bridges. Doubts remained in Durwood’s mind. Petitioners he met through the Soldier of Fortune ad fell through sometimes. It would turn out their letter was misleading or flat false. Other times the injustice had taken care of itself by the time Durwood arrived.
Once he’d driven clear to Nebraska to help a man whose pride and joy, a 1917 Ford Bucket T he’d restored from salvage by hand, had been denied roadworthiness by some city councilman with a grudge. When Durwood knocked on his door and asked about the hot rod, the man said, “The Ford? Guy made me an offer, I sold her a few weeks back.”
Durwood decided it was worth the trip to hear Carol Bridges out. If he didn’t like what she said, he’d tip his hat, get back in the Vanagon, and drive home.
Crole observed, “You could call.”
Durwood was humping supplies into the van. “Folks can say anything on the phone.”
The older man looked to the horizon, where the sun would rise soon. His pajamas dragged the dirt, and he held his jug by two fingers. “They can say anything to your face, too.”
Durwood whistled to Sue-Ann.
“It’s different,” he said as the dog climbed in. “Lay off that shine, hm?”
Crole looked down at his jug as though surprised by its presence.
He answered, “Don’t kill anyone you don’t have to.”
With a wave, Durwood took out. The van wheezed over mountain switchbacks and chugged steadily along interstates. By afternoon, Sue was wincing on the bare metal floor. Durwood bought her a mat next time he stopped for gas.
They reached Chickasaw the following morning. Crossing the city limit, they saw fields of wheat and corn, and grain elevators, and dry dusty homesteads. Factories burped smoke farther on. Billboards shilled for some dentist, somebody else who wanted to be sheriff.
Downtown Chickasaw was a grid, eight blocks square. Durwood saw the turf field mentioned in the letter and smiled. A boarded-up building with a sign reading, Lyles Community Outreach Center. A fancy hotel that looked out of place.
Next door to City Hall, Durwood’s destination, was a coffee shop called Peaceful Beans. The logo showed the name written along the stems of the peace sign. The light bulbs inside had those squiggly vintage filaments.
Durwood knew that these towns, rural or not, had all types. You got your vegan yoga instructors living next to redneck truckers—sometimes married to each other.
City Hall itself was a stone structure, two stories high. A sign indicated the municipal jail was located in the basement.
Durwood parked. His bones creaked as he stepped from the van and stretched.
The woman working reception cooed at Sue, who’d rolled over on her back. The big ham. Durwood stated their business, declared his M9, and passed through a metal detector before being shown to the mayor’s office.
Carol Bridges stood from her desk with a humble smile. “Mr. Oak Jones, thank you for traveling all this way for our town.”
“You’re welcome,” he said. “Call me Durwood, please.”
She said she would and handed him a business card with her personal number circled. Durwood placed the card in his bluejeans pocket. The mayor gestured to an armchair whose upholstery had worn thin. Durwood, removing his hat, sat.
“My dog goes where I go, generally,” he explained. “She can sit outside if need be.”
“Don’t be silly.” The mayor reached into a drawer of her desk for a biscuit. “If I’d known, I’d have brought in my German Shepherd.”
She didn’t just toss the biscuit at Sue, as some will. Carol Bridges commanded the dog to sit first.
Sue sat.
The mayor squatted and offered the treat, palm up, her knees pinching below a dark skirt. Sue wolfed it down.
Durwood said, “We saw the factories on the way in. How many employees?”
“Forty-four hundred on the floors themselves,” she said. “Plus another eight thousand in support roles.”
“And it’s all going away? Vamoose?”
Carol Bridges crossed one leg over the other. “That’s how the winds are blowing.”
She expanded upon what the letter had said. For the better part of a century, Hogan Consolidated had produced parts for various household products. Brackets. Pot handles. Stepladder hinges. Nothing sexy, Carol Bridges said, but quality components that filled a need higher up the supply chain.
Five or six years back, Wall Street began taking an interest in the company. They believed Hogan was underleveraged and growing too slowly.
Durwood stopped her. “What does underleveraged mean?”
“As I understand”—the mayor fluffed her dark red hair dubiously—“it means you aren’t taking enough risks. Your balance sheet is too conservative.”
“Too conservative?”
“Right. You’re not expanding into new markets. You’re not inventing new products.”
Durwood rolled her words around his head. “Suppose you’re good at what you do, and that’s it.”
Carol Bridges looked out her window toward a pair of smokestacks. “Not good enough for Wall Street.”
Thoughts of finance or economics usually gave Durwood a headache, but he made himself consider the particulars of the case now.
“But Hogan’s a family-owned company,” he said. “Can’t they tell Wall Street to go to hell? Pardon my French.”
“They were family-owned up until 1972, when they sold out.”
Durwood sat up in his chair, recalling her letter.
She seemed to read his thoughts. “They’re a family-run company. The CEO’s always been a Hogan, but the equity is publicly traded.”
“Hm.” Durwood’s head wasn’t aching, but it didn’t feel quite right either. “I read your letter different.”
“I apologize, I didn’t mean to be unclear.” The mayor took a step out from behind her desk. “I hope you don’t feel I brought you here on false pretenses.”
They looked at each other. The woman’s face tipped sympathetically and flushed, her eyes wide with concern. On the wall behind her hung the Iraq Campaign Medal and the striped ribbon indicating combat action.
“It’s fine,” Durwood said. “And they’re facing lawsuits, you said?”
“Correct,” the mayor said. “A class-action suit has been filed by customers claiming injury as a result of faulty Hogan parts.”
“What happened?”
“A woman in New Jersey’s toaster exploded. They’ve got two people in California saying a bad Hogan hinge caused them to fall. One broke her wrist.”
“Her wrist.”
Carol Bridges nodded.
“Falling off a stepladder?”
She nodded again.
“What’re the Hogans doing?” Durwood asked. “They have a strategy to stomp out this nonsense?”
“No idea. I hear, just scuttlebutt from the cafe, that the company’s going bankrupt.” The mayor flung out an arm. “Somebody else says they’re selling out to a private equity firm—one of these outfits that buys distressed companies for peanuts and parts ’em out, auctions off the assets and fires all the workers.”
Durwood leaned over the thighs of his bluejeans. “You mentioned the CEO in your letter. Eats sushi.”
The woman smiled. “Jay Hogan, yes. He’s only twenty-eight, and I don’t think he likes living in Chickasaw much. He went to college at Dartmouth.”
“Whereabouts is that?”
Durwood nodded. He’d once met an arms supplier in Dortmund, Germany, the time he and Quaid Rafferty had stopped a band of disgruntled sausage vendors from bombing ten soccer stadiums simultaneously. He’d never heard of Dartmouth.
Carol Bridges said, “New Hampshire.”
“If he doesn’t like the place,” Durwood said, “why didn’t he stay east? Work a city job?”
She crossed her legs again. “I doubt he could get one. Around here, he was a screw-up. They got him for drunk driving regularly. I was with the prosecutor’s office back then. The police winched him out of the same gully four different times in his dad’s Hummer.”
“Why’d they pick him for CEO?”
“He’s an only child. When the father had his stroke, Jay was next in line. Only pitcher left in the bullpen.”
Durwood drew in a long breath. “Now the fate of the whole town rests on his shoulders. Fella couldn’t keep a five-thousand-pound vehicle on the road.”
Carol Bridges nodded.
Durwood felt comfortable talking to this woman. As comfortable as he’d felt with a woman since Maybelle, his wife and soulmate, had passed in Tikrit. Carol Bridges didn’t embellish. She didn’t say one thing but mean another—leaving aside the misunderstanding over “family-run,” which might well have been Durwood’s fault.
Still, comfort didn’t make a case.
“I sympathize, Miss Bridges,” Durwood said. “I do. But I’m a simple man. The sort of business I’m trained for is combat. Apprehending suspects. Pursuing retribution that can’t be pursued within the confines of the law. This situation calls for expertise I don’t have.”
He’d delivered bad news, but Carol Bridges didn’t seem upset. She was smiling again.
“I have to disagree,” she said.
“You need somebody knows their way around corporate law. Knows how to—”
“You’re not a simple man. There’s a lot up there”—her warm eyes rose to his head—“that doesn’t translate into words.”
Durwood held her gaze a moment. Then he looked down to Sue-Ann.
The dog was sleeping.
He said, “America is changing. For better or worse. A town like Chickasaw doesn’t get the better end of it, I understand. There’s injustice in that. But it’s not the sort I can stop.”
“Of course. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting you can deliver us back to the 1970s.”
Carol Bridges laced her fingers over her dark red hair. A funny thing was happening with her mouth. Was she chewing gum? No, that wasn’t it. Using her tongue to work a piece of food out from between her teeth? Durwood didn’t think so either.
She was smirking.
“All I’m asking,” she said, “on behalf of my town, is this: talk to Jay Hogan. Get a straight answer out of him. I can’t, I’ve tried. The rest of the Hogans live in Vail or Tuscany. We need somebody who can cut through the bull and find out the truth.”
Durwood repeated, “The truth.”
“Yes. If the jobs are going away, if I need to retrain my citizenry to…” She searched around her desktop for some example—pencils, folders, a stapler. “Heck, answer customer-service calls? I will. But we want to know.”
Sue-Ann snored and resettled against Durwood’s boot.
He said, “Talk to Jay Hogan.”
The mayor clasped her hands hopefully over her chest. “That’s all I’m asking. Find out where we stand.”
Durwood thought about the crop fields he’d seen riding into town. The dusty homesteads. The billboards—the dentist, man who wanted to be sheriff. He thought of the factories still putting out smoke. For now.
The stakes were lower than what he fought for alongside Quaid and Molly McGill with Third Chance Enterprises. The planet itself was not imperiled. He wasn’t likely to face exotic technologies or need to jump from moving aircraft. So it went with these injustice cases—with injustice in general. Ordinary folks suffering ordinary hardship.
“We did drive a couple thousand miles,” he said. “I suppose it makes sense to stay and have a word with Mr. Hogan.”
Carol Bridges rushed forward and pressed his calloused hands in her smooth ones. She gave him the address of Hogan Consolidated from memory.
Chapter Three
Hogan’s main factory and corporate headquarters were in the same building. Durwood parked in a Visitors spot, and he and Sue walked up to the fifth floor where the executive offices were—over the factory. Stairs were murder on the dog’s hip, but she persevered. Durwood stopped every few steps for her.
Through the stairwell’s glass wall, he watched the assembly line. Men and women in hardhats leaned into machine handles. A foreman frowned at a clipboard. Belts and treads and rotors turned. Even behind glass, Durwood could smell grease.
Nothing amiss here.
On the fifth floor, Durwood consulted a directory to find Jay Hogan’s office.
His secretary wore nicer clothes than Carol Bridges. Looking at her neat painted fingernails, Durwood doubted she kept dog biscuits in her desk.
“You—you honestly thought bringing a dog to see the chief executive of Hogan Consolidated was acceptable?” the woman said, looking at Sue’s spots like they were open sores. “OSHA would have a field day if they showed up now.”
Sue-Ann laid her chin on her paws.
Durwood said, “She can stay here while I see Mr. Hogan.”
The woman’s nameplate read Priscilla Baird. Durwood suspected she’d be taller than him if she stood. Her lips were tight, trembling like she was about to eject Durwood and Sue—or flee herself.
“I don’t know that you will see Mr. Hogan today,” she said. “You’re not on his schedule. Jones, did you say?”
She checked her screen.
“Won’t find me in your computer,” Durwood said. “Is he here?”
Priscilla Baird glanced at her boss’s door, which was closed.
“He is…on site. But I’m not at liberty to say when he’d be available to speak with arbitrary members of the public.”
“I’m not arbitrary. I’m here on authority of the mayor.”
“The mayor?”
“Of Chickasaw, yes ma’am. Carol Bridges.”
Priscilla Baird rolled her eyes at this. Durwood thought he heard, “Getting desperate” under the woman’s breath.
Durwood waited. After thirty minutes, he tired of Priscilla Baird’s dirty looks and took Sue-Ann out to the van. She didn’t like dogs, fine. He wouldn’t be difficult just for the sake of it.
He returned to wait more. The lobby had an exposed beam running down its center—pimpled, showy. Folks built like that nowadays. Slate walls displayed oil paintings of the company’s executives. Sitting out on tables were US Weekly and Field and Stream. Durwood read neither. He spent the time thinking what questions to ask Jay Hogan.
All told, he waited an hour and a half. Others entered and were admitted to see Hogan. Men wearing pinstripes. A made-up woman in her late forties with a couple minions hustling after her. Some kid in a ballcap and shorts carrying two plastic bags.
The kid left Hogan’s office without his bags.
Durwood caught him at the door. “Pardon, youngster. What did you drop off?”
The kid ducked so Durwood could read his hat.
An involuntary growl escaped Durwood’s mouth. He crossed to Jay Hogan’s door.
“Excuse me,” Priscilla Baird said. “Mr. Hogan’s schedule today is terribly tight, you’ll need to be patient if—”
“It just opened up,” Durwood said.
He jerked the knob and blew inside. Jay Hogan was stuffing a crepe into his face with a plastic fork. Ham and some cheese that stank. The corner of his mouth had a red smear, either ketchup or raspberry jam.
Probably jam.
“The hell is this?” Hogan said. “You—what…Priscilla…” He placed a hand over his scrawny chest and finished swallowing. “Who is this person?”
Priscilla Baird rushed to the door. “I never admitted him, he went himself. He forced his way in!”
Durwood stood in the center of the office. He said to Hogan, “Let’s talk, the two of us.”
The young CEO considered the proposal. He was holding his crepe one-handed and didn’t seem to know where to set it down. He looked at his secretary. He looked at Durwood. His hair was slicked back with Pennzoil, skin alabaster white—a shade you’d have to stay inside to keep in southwest Texas.
Durwood extended his hand. “I can hold your pancake.”
Jay Hogan stiffened at the remark. “Who are you?”
“Name’s Durwood Oak Jones.”
Hogan tried saying it himself. “Duuurwood, is it?”
“Correct.” Durwood assumed Jay Hogan, like the mayor, wasn’t a Soldier of Fortune subscriber. “I’m a concerned party.”
“What does that mean?” Hogan said. “Concerned about what?”
“About this town. About the financial standing of your company.”
As Priscilla Baird excused herself, Durwood explained his contact to date with Carol Bridges and the capacity in which he’d come: to investigate and combat injustice. There was no reason he and Jay Hogan shouldn’t be on the same side. If the lawyers were fleecing Hogan Consolidated or Wall Street sharks were sabotaging it, Durwood’s help should be appreciated.
But Jay Hogan wasn’t rolling out the welcome wagon.
Injustice?” he sneered. “The company’s in a crap situation, a real hole. Not my fault. I didn’t build those hinges. I didn’t, you know, invent P/E ratios or whatever other metrics we aren’t hitting.”
Durwood glared across the desk. Every not and didn’t stuck in his craw.
He said, “What do you do, then?”
“I chart the course,” Hogan said. “I set the top-line strategy.”
“Yes. Top-line.”
Durwood resettled his hat on his head. “Thought the bottom line was the important one.”
Jay Hogan made a sound between flatulence and a pig’s snort. “Look—we’ve held the line on wages, kept the unions out. Done everything in our power to stay competitive.”
Durwood asked what his strategy was on those lawsuits.
“Chester handles legal matters,” Hogan said.
“Who’s that?”
“Chester is the COO.”
Durwood raised a finger, counting out letters. “Now what’s the difference between CEO and COO?”
Jay Hogan made impatient motions with his hands. “The COO is the operating officer. He’s more involved in day-to-day business.”
“Who deals with Wall Street? The money men?”
“Who handles communication? Getting word out to the citizens of Chickasaw about what’s going on?”
Hogan picked up his crepe again. “Chester.”
He said the name—which was prissy to begin with—in a nasal, superior tone.
Durwood’s fist balled at his side. “Fella must be sharp, you trust him with all that.”
“Chester’s extremely smart,” Hogan said. “I’ve known him forever—our families go back generations. We attended all the same boarding schools.”
“Boyhood chums?”
Hogan frowned at the question. “Something like that.”
“He’s about your age, then?”
Hogan nodded.
“Couple twenty-eight-year-olds running a company that dictates the fate of a whole town.” Durwood folded his arms. “Sound fair to you?”
The CEO’s pale cheeks colored. “They’re lucky to have us. Two Ivy League graduates blessed with business instincts. Chester Lyles was president of our fraternity, graduated magna cum laude. We could be founding startups in Seattle or San Francisco where you don’t have to drive a hundred miles for decent food.”
That name rung a bell somewhere for Durwood.
Recalling what Carol Bridges had said about the gully, he said, “You graduate magna cum laude?”
“I don’t need to defend my qualifications to you or anyone.”
Durwood nodded. “Must’ve just missed.”
Jay Hogan stood up a snit. He looked at his crepe again in its tissue-paper sleeve and couldn’t resist. He took a quick bite and thrust a finger at the door, mouth full.
“I’m done answering your questions,” he said. “As CEO, I’m accountable to a shareholder-elected board of directors, which includes presidents of other corporations, a former Treasury Secretary of the United States, and several other prominent executives. They’re satisfied with my performance.”
“How many of them live in Chickasaw?”
Hogan barked a laugh. “They understand the financial headwinds I’m up against.”
“How about those bad hinges? From what I hear, Hogan used to make quality parts.”
“Another Chester question. I don’t deal with quality control.”
That’s for sure.
Durwood saw he would get nowhere with Jay Hogan. This Chester was who he needed to find. Asking this one how the town of Chickasaw was going to shake out was like inspecting your John Deere’s hood ornament to judge if you needed a new tractor.
Hogan was still pointing at the door. Finally, Durwood obliged him.
On the way out, he said, “You got families counting on this company. Families with children, mortgages, sick grandmas. They’re counting on you. Hogans before you did their part. Now be a man, do yours. Rise to your duty.”
Hogan didn’t answer. He had more crepe in his mouth.
Walking down to the parking lot, Durwood passed the factory again. It was dark—the shift had ended while he’d been waiting for Hogan. His boots clacked around the stairwell in solitude.
He considered what ailed Hogan Consolidated and whether he could fix it. He wasn’t optimistic. Oh, he could poke around and get the scoop on Chester Lyles. He could do his best working around the lies and evasions he’d surely encounter. Maybe he would find Chester’s or Jay Hogan’s hand in the cookie jar.
The likeliest culprit, though, was plain old incompetence. Jay Hogan belonged in an insurance office someplace—preferably far from the scissors. Instead, he sat in a corner office of a multi-million dollar company.
Did that rise to the level of injustice? Maybe. Maybe, with so many lives and livelihoods at stake.
Durwood didn’t like cases he had to talk himself into.
He was just imagining how he’d break the news to Carol Bridges if nothing much came of Chester when four men burst from the shadows and tackled him.
Excerpt from Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond. Copyright 2020 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Jeff Bond
Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. His books have been featured in The New York Review of Books, and his 2020 release, The Pinebox Vendetta, received the gold medal (top prize) in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Trust by Aphra Wilson Blitz and #Giveaway

Aphra Wilson
Publication date: August 1st 2020
Genres: Crime, Young Adult
Anna spends her life longing to escape her home town.
After her latest plan goes wrong, she’s forced to navigate a world of danger, drugs and violence alone.
She must make enough money to pay a debt and get her ticket out of there.
She has a week to do it. No big deal, right?
Her simple plan becomes complicated as she quickly accumulates trouble. A violent drug dealer, a Police Detective with a hunch, and an unwelcome admirer with something to offer are among the many hurdles Anna encounters.
As she faces up to her own past and the growing danger she’s in, she learns what the people around her are capable of.
Everyone wants something, but how far will they go to get it?
A story of friendship and sacrifice in the face of adversity.
As the car slowed at the bottom of Clarie’s street, Anna reached for the door handle before it stopped. Shaun spotted her motion and popped the locks down from his side.
“Woah now. What’s the hurry?” The car stopped, and he turned to face her.
“Thanks for the lift, much appreciated. I better go though.” She flashed a fake smile to cover the fear taking over her face. He reached over to her knee and squeezed her with his huge hand.
“You could try and show me your appreciation.” His hand moved a little further up onto her thigh. Anna’s heart rate doubled, a bead of sweat collected on her top lip. How the hell did she end up in this position?
“Sorry, thanks a lot, I mean. I’m just in a hurry now, that’s all.”
He leaned further over. His mouth was closing in on her face, his hand sliding further up her inner thigh. She pulled back, her face turned away from his. His breath whistled through his nose. A scream was bubbling up inside her, but it couldn’t escape. Her breath was held, she closed her eyes tightly as if the darkness could save her. Her jaws clamped shut, and her lips sealed painfully tight. Her fists clenched around the seat belt as if it offered any safety. His hand moved, off her leg, it brushed over her breasts. Anna braced every muscle anticipating his next move.
Then click. He pulled the lock up from the door beside her shoulder. The heat and weight of his presence lifted as she opened her eyes, and he reclined into the driving position.
He was smiling, more than smiling, he was smoldering. He was drunk on her fear, his cheeks were burgundy, and he breathed through open lips. Still tense, she remained in the same position, her eyes wide now, taking in this horrible scene. He dragged his hand across his chest and down over his huge round gut.
“Any time you want a lift, you know where I am.”
Anna took a sharp breath to bring herself back into her body, she grabbed the door handle and scrambled out onto the pavement. She slammed the door, swung her bag onto her shoulder and walked away without looking back. The car started, engine revving, calling for attention, but she wouldn’t turn around. It was moving slowly, just behind her, then sped up to the corner, he turned at the end of the road, back towards her, she was almost at Clarie’s, he slowed to a funeral pace. His window open, his shapeless arm resting on the frame as he passed, shouting;
“Remember, I’ve enough money to solve all your problems, just waiting for you to say the word.”

Author Bio:
Aphra Wilson is a mother of three, a tattoo artist by day and a writer in the middle of the night.
She lives in Scotland with her husband and children, and enjoys reading and writing women's fiction. Her work is influenced by her passion for strong female characters, finding strength in adversity and finding comedy in hard situations.
You can get in touch with her here, www.aphrawilson.com