Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Pirates Paradox Book Blitz and Giveaway


Pirate's Paradox

Sentinels of Savannah Book 6

by Lisa Kessler

Genre: Paranormal Romance 

Pirate Caleb Graves may be an immortal, but he’s also a navigator and a man of science. And yet he can’t explain the erratic tides threatening Savannah. Nor the terrible dreams of sailing through a vicious, supernatural storm that he keeps having. But when fascinating, petite dynamo Diana Williams marches up to his ship and demands to speak to the captain, Caleb is caught up in a wave of unexpected fear…and an electric frisson of longing for this captivating woman.

Diana wouldn’t be a true psychic if she didn’t listen to her spirit guide. So when dream after dream compels her to visit specific coordinates in the Atlantic, she can’t ignore it. Now, she just needs a ship. Good thing she knows about a particular pirate ship that’s in tip-top shape. Complete with a surly, albeit hot, navigator who doesn't immediately believe in her visions. But no matter how much Caleb objects, she’ll risk sending the entire crew—including herself—to the uncharted ocean.

But both their dreams could be the key to saving Savannah and may even be a clue about the fabled lost city of Atlantis. Or it could damn them all to an unforgiving, watery grave.

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Lisa Kessler is a Best Selling author of dark paranormal fiction. She's a two-time San Diego Book Award winner for Best Published Fantasy-Sci-fi-Horror and Best Published Romance. Her books have also won the PRISM award, the Award of Excellence, the National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Award, the Award of Merit from the Holt Medallion, and an International Digital Award for Best Paranormal.

Her short stories have been published in print anthologies and magazines, and her vampire story, Immortal Beloved, was a finalist for a Bram Stoker award.

When she's not writing, Lisa is a professional vocalist, and has performed with San Diego Opera as well as other musical theater companies in San Diego.

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Merry Christmas, Writer!

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Merry Christmas, Writer!: My family claims I am hard to buy for, an observation obviously proves they don't know me very well. A writer is one of the easiest/chea...

Okay, sure, Christmas has come and gone, but Elizabeth's post is useful all year round. Valentine's day (February 14), and my birthday (February 15), henceforth known as Ornery Day, are coming up. You can buy one of these inexpensive gifts for a writer in your life to celebrate! 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Dark Goddess Chronicles Excerpts and Giveaway


Lethal Red Riding Hood

Dark Goddess Chronicles Book 1

by Leonard & Anne Marie Wilson

Genre: Dark Fantasy 

"First character crush ever! I just want to say that Keely is my girl! FAVORITE character out of this whole book...very cunning and intelligent. The perfect protagonist to Bloody Scarlet." ~ Jordan, book reviewer, editor, author,

Bloody Scarlet, the skull collector of the Crimson Forest, is just a cautionary tale to keep children from wandering in and getting lost — isn’t she? Well something’s out there.

In a world dominated by a cruel Inquisition that sees demons and witches everywhere it turns, Keely just wants to make a dishonest living convincing the obscenely wealthy to part with their excess riches through guile and trickery.

When the Inquisition shows up to destroy her life anyway, Keely goes on the offensive rather than scurry back into the shadows. To set it up for a fall she lures the Inquisition into an invented race to find a heretical book of prophecy that may never have existed.

When Keely builds her lies on existing rumors, though, and points the hunt in the direction of the Crimson forest, a new player introduces herself to the high stakes con game as a deadly wild card.

Whether or not the woman in red is the real Bloody Scarlet, the closer Keely gets to the dark, twisted heart of the forest the more quickly things spiral out of control.

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Sabina pulled another dusty book off the nearest shelf and dropped it with a satisfying thud onto the table next to the growing pile. She opened it reverently, and carefully turned the brittle pages, to find more of the ancient, indecipherable text. Or, to put a finer point on it, the text was indecipherable to her, given her personal ignorance of the old imperial tongue, but this was the stuff: tome after tome that reeked of age and authority, each one a musty exemplar of what a fifteen-hundred-year-old holy text should be.

Behind Sabina, a light flared as her hostess lit a candle, then placed it on the table, and it was only then that Sabina realized how dark the cottage had become. Was night falling already?

“Where did you get these?” Sabina asked the woman excitedly. It was the first words either of them had spoken since Sabina had been invited in. Instantly entranced by the collection, Sabina had never even spared her hostess a second glance, and the woman had seemed in no hurry to break the spell.

“Oh, the usual places.” The woman answered in the hushed tones of a librarian—though there was no one else about for her voice to disturb—before gliding off again into the gloom. “Salvaged from the deepest pits of despair, wrestled from out of the darkest nightmares. That sort of thing.”

“That’s…usual, is it?” Sabina asked. Finally taking an active interest in her hostess, Sabina peered into the darkness, but could see no more of her now than a shadowy silhouette as she moved about, pulling a book off a shelf here, sliding one onto a shelf there.

“Where else?” The woman still whispered, though her voice carried like a bell in the cold silence of the library. “Seriena trains up women to read and to write so that when they die and she drags their souls screaming down into the pit, she can chain them up in dank little cells to make books for her for all eternity. When they’re not being poked with red hot needles, of course. That would make them jump and smudge the words.”

“Oh,” Sabina said, not knowing what other answer she could give to that story.

“Books are evil, dear. Poison. They’re how Seriena spreads her hate and her venom to every corner of the land.”

“And yet you surround yourself with so many…” Sabina observed, trying against all her natural urges to not sound judgmental.

“Oh, these aren’t mine,” the woman whispered. “These are for you. That’s what you came looking for, isn’t it? Forbidden knowledge? Power at any cost?”

“Who are you?” Sabina asked, shivering suddenly. She found herself whispering in imitation of the woman.

“Oh, I know Seriena has this whole ‘sweetness and light’ thing going,” the woman continued. “But that’s just a mask for the rubes. Helloooo? Inquisition? You think she doesn’t condone their methods? She’s no better than the rest of us.”

“I think I’d better go,” Sabina whispered nervously. “My brother’s looking for me.”

“Of course,” the woman said. “Show yourself out. Sometimes the power’s not worth the price, is it?”

“Sometimes,” Sabina agreed, a note of uncertainty creeping into her note of uncertainty. But she stood up slowly and started edging toward the door. “You’re the witch, aren’t you?”

The woman laughed loudly, the suddenness of it startling in the quiet darkness.

 “I’ve been called a witch,” she murmured finally. “I’m not.”

“Then what are you?” Sabina asked earnestly.

“Famished,” the woman answered with a thoughtful nod. “And perhaps a bit melodramatic. It’s hard to be sure, though. Is this Tuesday?”

“I…no,” Sabina shook her head, now at least as perplexed as she was nervous.

“Pity.” The woman sighed wistfully. “I have a theory about days of the week, you know. Melodrama is so much easier to recognize on a Tuesday. But look, we’re not here to talk about me, are we? This is all about…you.” The woman finally stepped into the candlelight, and for a moment there was something unnervingly familiar about her manic grin. Then she leaned over and blew out the candle with one quick puff of breath and the room plunged into utter darkness.


Dark Goddess Chronicles Book 2

Beautiful atmosphere with a touch of macabre with an unreliable narrative done magnificently…if you have any love of horror and suspense, add this to your list.” ~ Catherine Bowser, ARC Reader

Hell is a Bakery

Jordan hadn’t wished his stepmother, Eva, dead. A little something involving spiders would have served vengeance quite nicely.

Still, he hadn’t exactly grieved when they said she’d died in the fire. A protective big brother will only forgive so many sins against his sister.

Even if Eva had been alive, though, what business would she have begging for his help now—a year later? And how insane was he to even consider offering help, much less seek out where her voice was coming from on such a miserable dark night?

As heir presumptive to the barony and a soon-to-be knight in training, Jordan refuses to let fear stop him from seeking answers to impossible questions.

But when the questions keep piling up, each darker and more dreadful than the last, only one thing becomes crystal clear: he’ll never look at an oven the same way again.

He peered cautiously in through the window there. Beyond lay a smallish room, half-intact but stripped of furnishings, marred by soot and smoke and by a year of partial exposure to the elements. In the dark it had seemed dreadfully sinister. In the morning it just felt abandoned and forlorn. No crying, pleas, or pounding came from within. He wanted to tell himself he’d dreamed the whole episode, but the charred timber lying freshly shattered on the floor said otherwise.

Rather than climb through the window—which looked structurally unsafe—Jordan retraced his steps around to the doorway and through the old house. Whatever the room had been before the fire, he didn’t recognize it. This would have been servants’ territory and nowhere he had ever ventured. With the scent of damp and decay filling his nostrils, he moved slowly, carefully, so as not to cause any further shifting of the ruin. He also moved as quietly as he was able so as not to disturb anything that might be lurking. Locating the wall, he circled it again, hoping sunlight would reveal something that candle light hadn’t. It didn’t.

Jordan had longed to find some way to quiet his conscience that didn’t involve drawing attention to himself again, but soon it would be breakfast, and lessons would come after that whether he’d eaten or not. Before he could return here again it would almost certainly be dark.

His mind raced down all the possible paths he might find himself on if he walked away not knowing. It didn’t like any of them one bit. He weighed them against what could go wrong if he didn’t just walk away. It didn’t make him feel any better.
How on earth had anyone decided that he was the brave one? But somehow now that everyone thought he was, he was terrified of letting on that he wasn’t.

He pressed his ear to the wall again, ready to flinch away and run. Nothing. He closed his eyes. He drew a deep breath. He realized he was stalling. He rapped quietly on the wall. He rapped again a little louder.

“Hello?” The voice came small, tentative.

“Eva?” he finally managed to squeak, emboldened by the morning light.

“Jordan? Jordan, please don’t go.”

He started to say he’d just run to get help, but could he? Maybe if he came up with the right lie. Maybe. “I…I’m not leaving,” he said finally. “How can I help?”

“It’s so dark. I can’t see. The door is stuck.”

“Eva, I don’t see any door,” he said, starting to feel a little better, bolder. A weight had lifted when he focused on her fear instead of his.

“What?! No! It’s here. Right here.” The distinct rattling of a doorknob could be heard through the wall.

“Rap on the door,” he said. “There, by the knob.” He heard it. “Keep rapping.” With his ear to the wall, he kept listening, moving around until he’d pinpointed the spot. He drove his knuckles into the plaster there, creating a noticeable dent, then he went looking for a makeshift tool.

He found it in the form of a jagged piece of stonework that had fractured from the wall. With it, he began to gouge at the plaster in earnest. It crumbled away quickly and easily but revealed only solid brick behind.

Jordan honestly couldn’t say whether he was disappointed or relieved, but it was too late to walk away—even for breakfast. It was too late to walk away even if he missed lessons and they sent a search party. If that happened and they didn’t hear Eva it would mean the willow switch. If they did hear her, though, then he could pass the whole thing off to the grown-ups. He’d have to risk it.


“It’s just a wall!” he called back. “I still can’t see…” His voice trailed off, and he hurried once more around the wall, inspecting it, his confusion giving way to suspicion. 

“Hold on,” he said when he got back to where he started, and he began hacking away at the plaster again until he found the vertical seam where red brick met gray stone. Then he tore at it the other direction until he found another seam.

Brickwork less than a yard wide lay between him and his stepmother. Someone had bricked up a doorway and plastered over it. Jordan’s stomach tied itself in all sorts of new knots as that fact sank in, then got dragged to new depths as he studied the soot on the remaining plaster. There was no possible way that the door hadn’t been sealed off before the fire. His knees gave way to fear and horror, and he started retching on the spot, trying to turn out the contents of an empty stomach.

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Ear Wyrm

Dark Goddess Chronicles Book 3

A Dragon Is Forever

Meilani always wanted to be a monster hunter for the Inquisition. She was good at it, too, until the first time she came face-to-face with real monsters. Now she’s alone with her nightmares on the road she paved with all those good intentions.

Then one tiny glimmer of redemption finally offers itself—a chance to safeguard a little girl with a very familiar ambition—only to lead her further down the rabbit hole. The journey leaves them stranded in a tangled web of time with a deadly rogue’s gallery of psychopaths and other monsters.

Hanging over it all, a once comfortingly familiar song exhorts them relentlessly, inescapably to push ever deeper into a night that never ends, even as something at the center of the web stirs restlessly on its gleaming hoard of possibilities. Here, now, and always, there be dragons.

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Catching up to the girl didn’t take long given her short strides. “Where are you even going?”

The girl looked up and gave a small, relieved smile at the sight of Meilani. “Do you hear that?” she asked, gesturing ahead as she paused again in the swirling snow.

Rather than peer into the darkness ahead, Meilani peered nervously into the darkness behind, watching for any sign of a lumbering shadow, but still she cocked her head and listened. With sounds muffled by the snow and away from the cluster of taverns they’d left behind, the night had fallen nearly silent. In truth Meilani could hear nothing more than her own breathing, the background whisper of falling snow, and the song carrying more distinctly now from the opera house. She tried listening to that, but could make out nothing beyond its innocuous and traditional solstice celebration of rebirth.

When will the night be done 
With the returning of the sun 
A new year to have begun 
Sing laetatio 

Finally, Meilani shook her head. “What am I supposed to hear?”

“You can’t hear the song?” the girl pressed.

“Just ‘Arise Again, Begin Anew’ coming from Icehall,” Meilani said. “Nothing sinister.”

“Look at Icehall,” the girl insisted.

Meilani glanced obligingly ahead but she already knew she couldn’t see it from her memory of the dark street. The opera house was an impressive, soaring thing full of glass and light—a beacon in the dark night. It couldn’t be missed. It just wasn’t there yet. “If I come close enough to see it with you and everything looks fine, will you come back to the tavern with me?”

“It’s right down there,” the girl insisted, ignoring the question. “Straight shot. Right in front of us.”

“Have you ever seen Icehall at night?” Meilani sighed. “There’s no missing it. It’s still behind…” She waved an arm in frustration off down the street. “Stuff.”

“You can’t miss it,” the girl agreed, though clearly growing impatient herself, “until everyone’s gone home for the night. It was two in the morning last clock I heard. The opera’s closed and empty.”

“Can’t be,” Meilani protested. “I can hear them singing.”

“So can I,” the girl assured her slowly and deliberately. “All that stuff you’re trying so hard to forget? It broke something in you. It broke something in me, too. I’ve seen a lot of the same nightmares. Once you see them, there’s no going back. Your head stops screening them out just because they’re unthinkable.”

“Worked that out yourself, did you?” Meilani arched an incredulous eyebrow.

“Sister Adalva did,” the girl said, unfazed. “You should start reading her.”

“Pretending for one moment that we’ve got an opera house singing while it’s empty, how is this worse than being stalked by a giant shadow?” By this point Meilani could feel the comfortable embrace of the alcohol completely unwinding. “You think an opera house is going to get up and start following us?”

“The opera house has been doing this every night for weeks,” the girl said crossly. “Also, it’s killing people.”

Leonard & Ann Marie Wilson met when she showed up on his doorstep where they quickly bonded over nearly everything, including their shared love of writing. Two years later they were married and collaborating on nearly everything, including writing as freelancers for role-playing games.

Leonard came to storytelling first through Dungeons & Dragons, then on to other role-playing games. Immediately after earning a degree in writing, he began freelancing, writing adventures for the RPG industry. While he was never a prolific author, the internet still seems to regard a couple of his works as classics of their type ("The Ghost of Mistmoor" in Dungeon magazine, and "The Heart Blade" in Pendragon's Blood and Lust adventure anthology). Coincidentally, those same two adventures are what paid for their wedding rings and honeymoon.

Ann was a gamer girl in her own right when they met, and she retains an "old school" pedigree longer than anyone who's ever accused her of being a poser. She wrote stories for fun, but thanks to the careless words of a particularly unfortunate English teacher, never got around to pursuing her ambitions of publishing before she met Leonard. That didn't stop her from finishing her first novel-length manuscript before he finished his.

They launched their own imprint, Lost in the Wood Press, just in time to have it as a steady project to ride out the COVID lockdown, and are loving the complete creative freedom that comes with self-publishing.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

52 Weeks of Writing Guest Post and Giveaway


52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner

by Mariëlle S. Smith


GENRE: Non-fiction / self-help creativity



A brilliant, supportive, challenging workbook, highly recommend.’ Jamie Sands

You, too, can become the writer you’ve always wanted to be!

The 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner:

makes you plan, track, reflect on, and improve your progress and goals for an entire year long;

invites you to dig deep through thought-provoking prompts and exercises; and

helps you unravel the truth about why you aren’t where you want to be.

Two years after publishing the first volume of 52 Weeks of Writing, writing coach and writer Mariëlle S. Smith brings you the updated third volume. Similar in style but reflecting the tweaks made to her coaching practice during the pandemic, 52 Weeks of Writing Vol. III is even better equipped to help you get out of your own way and on to the path towards success.  

Ready to start living your writing dream? Order your copy now.




Each writing prompt is optional. If, for whatever reason, it does not speak to you, let it be. Who knows? It might make more sense to do the prompt later in the process.

Most writers are introverts and dread the visibility that comes with success. This might not be you, but to some of us this fear is what stops us from finishing our work. Because what if people read it and want to talk to us about it? What if we're forced to leave the privacy of our desks and go out into the world, into the spotlight, with nowhere to hide?

If this resonates with you, know you're not alone. Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and set your timer to ten minutes. Now list all the good that could come with success.

If this is a fear you recognise all too well, keep this list close once you've finished it.


Whatever genre you write and wherever you are in the writing process, this book is well worth the cost. It's cheaper than a therapist and allows you to explore and break down the blocks to writing success. 

The first question I encountered in the book was "when you first started writing, why were you called to write?"

I had to think back close to 51 years and I'm still trying to think of an answer to this question other than "I don't know. It just felt right."

I learned to read when I was four years old and by the time I was six, I had graduated from Dr. Seuss to Edgar Allan Poe. The first character I created was a fish named Bruce. Fortunately for Bruce, his adventures were much more Seussian than Poe-esque.

This question threw me off balance because I believed that "I don't know, it just felt right" was a flip answer. It took me more than a week to realize that it wasn't a flip answer, it's the answer that six-year-old me would have given. I didn't need a reason to write other than it feeling right. 

As I got older, it became ingrained in me to analyze everything until there was nothing joyful or organic left. 

From the very first question, the book led me to confront a major block to joyful creation. No matter what kind of writer you are, it can lead you to similar experiences. I feel no hesitation in recommending this extensive and comprehensive workbook to everyone and giving it an enthusiastic five-star rating.

Guest Post

How can others support you on your writing journey?

Stephen King once said: ‘Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.’ 

Having grown up surrounded by those who didn’t believe in me and my writing dreams, I know first-hand that someone showing even the tiniest bit of faith can feel immensely supportive. Over the years, however, I found that there are many more ways people can and want to support the writers in their life.

Brilliant news, right? But before we go out looking for more support, there are a few things we need to be clear on first. 

What kind of support do you need?

Different people might have different ideas on how best to support you on your writing journey, but what is the kind of support you need right now? 

Do you need someone to take the kids to school? Would it be helpful if someone picked up a few things for you at the store? Are their any responsibilities you could share with others? Any care work you’re doing? Could you carpool to work with a colleague so you spend less time on public transport and more time behind your laptop? What if you had dinner at a friend’s place once a week so you can write instead of cook and clean up? 

This list could go on because no writer’s needs are exactly the same. Perhaps you get tons of writing done as you sit on the bus to your day job. If that’s the case, don’t carpool, but do think of other ways the people in your life might be able to support you and your writing dreams.

Who could you best ask for support? 

Once you’re clear on what kind of support you could use, you need to get clear on who would be best to ask for what. Your neighbour might be more than willing to do some groceries for you, but if they’re the talkative kind who just doesn’t know how to drop off your bags without keeping you away from your laptop for an hour… you might want to ask one of your siblings instead. 

Likewise, if one of your friends is thrilled you’ll be coming for dinner once a week but doesn’t appreciate that you leave right after to get your writing done, then this is not the right friend for that kind of support. That doesn’t mean they can’t support you in another way, but you might want to find someone else to do that weekly dinner with. 

To give one more example, your partner’s job might prevent them from taking the kids to school or picking them up, but they might be able to take them to their dance classes, piano lessons, or soccer practice. Or, if you’re usually the one doing stories at bedtime or making breakfast in the morning, perhaps they could do it instead so you can use that time to write. The possibilities are endless if you’re willing to look for them and ask. 

What does and doesn’t work?

Once your support systems are in place, it’s essential to keep checking in with yourself and those involved to make sure whatever you agreed on is (still) working for you both. What seemed a perfect fit at the very start might turn out not to work a few weeks or months in, for whatever reason. Perhaps one of you had different expectations, or maybe something has changed in your or their lives. 

Whatever’s the case, if agreements need to tweaked or ended altogether, do so, no matter how hard it might feel. It’s the only way to keep your support systems working and all people involved happy, which includes you. 

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Mariëlle S. Smith is a writer, writing coach, and editor. She lives in Cyprus, where she organises private writer's retreats, is inspired 24/7, and feeds more stray cats than she can count.

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Kayla Walsh Trilogy Excerpts and Giveaway


Nowhere To Hide

Kayla Walsh Trilogy Book 1

by Karen Randau

Genre: Mystery, Suspense 

A young woman embarks on a dangerous journey to bring a killer to justice.

Kayla is newly-engaged and excited to break the news to her parents during a visit for winter break before her final semester at Princeton. As she enters her family’s living room, a home invader shatters her life forever, ruthlessly killing her parents and putting her in a coma.

Two years later, she still remembers nothing of the attack, just that she kissed her fiancé goodbye before opening her family’s front door. Her fiancé thinks she’s dead and has moved on.

A suspicious house fire convinces Kayla it’s time to dump her witness protection program to embark on a dangerous quest to bring the murderer to justice. She and her best friend Martin follow clues that take them from the mountains of Arizona to Washington, D.C., straight into the killer’s lair. Will Kayla succeed in her quest, or will she and Martin fall victim to the ruthless assassin who stole everything Kayla loved?

Nowhere to Hide is the explosive first book in the Kayla Walsh Mystery Suspense trilogy. This fast-paced read is one you won’t want to put down from beginning to end. If you like the suspense of Willow Rose and the plot twists of Kendra Elliot, you will love Karen Randau’s clever, nail-biting Kayla Walsh series.

Get Nowhere to Hide now to meet Kayla and her gang of quirky characters.

**On Sale for only .99 cents Jan 11-18!!**

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Excerpt from Nowhere to Hide

Kendra McGee wouldn’t have entered her family’s home if she’d paid attention to the sound of a gate closing nearby, or if she hadn’t discounted the shadow that briefly appeared then ducked back into the darkness. She was too focused on her fiancé as he kissed her goodbye in the dim glow of the living room light shining out the window.

“See you tomorrow,” he whispered. 

Her heart was so full of love she thought it might burst. Sounds, shadows, and the possibility of danger were the furthest things from her mind. All she saw was Brandon and the romantic glow the inside lights threw onto the dusting of snow coating Dad’s prized flower beds.

She ignored her father’s muffled voice inside the two-story home where she’d grown up. 

When the living room light went out, Brandon pulled her into his arms and whispered, “Aww, wasn’t it nice of your parents to give us privacy before we separate for a whole day?” He gave her a passionate kiss that made her tingle all over. 

“I’ll miss you.” She skimmed her hand across his cheek.

He cupped her face with his cold hands, gazing into her eyes with his that went from hazel to green to brown, depending upon his mood. They darkened as he leaned down to kiss her again. When he pulled away, he let her shiny black hair cascade through his fingers. “I love you.” 

He backed down the steps to the sidewalk and blew her a kiss with both hands. He was so dramatic, part of what she loved about him. She hoped he’d keep that characteristic after they married and opened their medical practice together.

As she watched his taillights disappear around the corner, she touched her lips and closed her eyes to savor the memory of his tingle-producing kiss. With a sigh, she gazed at the Christmas lights up and down the street. They made coming home from Princeton for winter break feel magical. 

This was going to be a good visit. Mom and Dad would be so excited when she showed them the ring Brandon had given her.

Dad groaned inside the house. She wondered if he’d cut himself while serving the apple pie, a tasty ritual her parents had devised for the monthly return of their only child. With a smile and a carefree hum on her lips, she turned to the door.

Despite being twenty-two and about to become a med student, she loved everything about coming home. The violet walls of her childhood bedroom. Cooking fancy meals or shopping with Mom. Gardening or some other project with Dad. It was even better when Nana, Dad’s fun-loving Irish mother, joined them for church, camping, or a night on the town. She wished with a twinge of grief that Mom’s Cherokee mother wasn’t too sick to visit anymore.

She dug through her purse for the house key, grumbling to herself when she couldn’t find it. They must have known she was home since they turned out the light. She tried the knob. 

Given the paranoia that had plagued her parents through the last few years, it should have alarmed her that the handle turned easily. Instead, a spark of anticipation put another smile on her lips and made her mouth water at the thought of the dessert awaiting her. 

When she pushed the door open, the kitchen light threw two strange silhouettes against the wall in the dining…

It took a moment to realize the heap under the table was her father. She dropped her purse, suitcase, and coat and took three steps forward. He reached toward her.

 “Kendra, no.” His arm flopped down. His voice was so weak it scared her.

“Dad?” She looked around. “Mom?” She started to run to her father, but he rasped, “Kendra, no.”

The curtain on the kitchen door swayed, bringing her attention to a handprint near the knob. Blood? A stranger pushed the door open, and a beam from the kitchen cast an eerie glow on his dark goatee but not the rest of him. 

As he took a step forward, the stranger yelled Dad’s name. “Kevin!” He faltered when he looked to the kitchen. “Oh, my God, Inola.” Anguish filled his moan as he said her mother’s name.

“Kendra eef run!” Dad coughed, then a gunshot from the kitchen silenced her father forever.

She turned to run from the goatee man but hesitated when she heard a second gunshot. Glancing back, she saw the man stumble toward Dad while holding his shoulder. Blood oozed between his fingers. With the blast of a third gunshot, the man fell across Dad. She didn’t have time to wonder if he was dead or who he was.

She may have screamed. The only thing she was certain of was that she needed to get out of there and get her cell phone out of her back pocket to call the police.

A man in a ski mask rushed from the kitchen toward her. She tripped over Mom’s slipper, fell onto Dad’s ottoman, and scampered toward the door on her hands and feet. He picked her up by a belt loop and the back of her sweater. 

“Sorry, kid, you weren’t the target.” The voice was more of an angry, throaty hiss than an apology. He grunted as he heaved her out the front window pane. 

No One To Trust

Kayla Walsh Trilogy Book 2

She thought she could trust him. Until she became his prey.

Devastated when she learns why and how a brutal home invader murdered her parents, Kayla and her best friend Martin follow clues through Paris and into the French countryside — only to end up in the killer's lair.

After tracking a clue to a mysteriously familiar French rural town, Kayla and Martin fight an attacker who launches Martin from a speeding train. Kayla refuses to believe he's dead and in her grieving realizes that he's become much more than a friend to her. But she knows she'll be the next to die if she gets caught at the train station, so she runs. And she keeps running, at last finding refuge in a homeless community.

Her new friends help her escape, but when she follows yet another clue, she runs straight into the grips of men who have chased her down since she left her home in Arizona.

Can Kayla and Martin survive their misplaced trust, or will they become the next victims? And will their love survive with them?

No One to Trust is the bone-chilling Book 2 in the Kayla Walsh Mystery Suspense series. Buy it now to learn Kayla and Martin's fate.

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Excerpt from No One to Trust
Kayla Walsh had never expected to leave the safety of witness protection to end up in an abandoned Virginia missile silo. But here she was, following her grandmother’s silver-haired boyfriend, Vincent, through a cold and musty underground parking lot.

Her best friend and former physical therapist, Martin, touched her arm. Walking behind Vincent, he leaned down to whisper in Kayla’s ear. “Are you sure about this? I’m getting bad vibes.”

She raked her fingers through her short, black hair and whispered, “You could go back home to Arizona.” She looked up into the dark eyes above Martin’s wide nose. She hoped he wouldn’t abandon her to finish their mission alone.

He swallowed hard and shook his head. “We’re in this together.”

Vincent stopped at an elevator and turned toward his guests with a smile that deepened the dimples in his cheeks. His blue eyes sparkled with pride as he pressed the call button.

Martin stopped beside Vincent under a light that reflected off his shaved head and gave his ebony skin a green tone.

She stared at a logo on the doors that identified Vincent’s operation as a security business.

“I thought my grandmother said you were a rancher.”

“I have several businesses, dear.” Vincent entered the elevator. “My grandson runs the ranch. At my age, this business is easier on my tired muscles and bones.” He stepped into the elevator and waited for them to join him.

She tried to smile while clinging to a handrail during a high-speed descent farther underground. The sleep-deprived fog in her brain took her thoughts in a morbid direction. The tremble in her knees threatened to reveal her discomfort. Hoping to tamp down her growing unease, she bit the side of her mouth and supported herself against the wall.

“I’m looking forward to sleeping on the plane.” She hoped the words would coax her thoughts away from what brought her to this refurbished missile silo. After being chased down a dirt road by two guys who kept yelling things she couldn’t hear, a magnet attached to a helicopter had whisked her car to a metal platform. Her stomach stayed behind when the platform swished down to a parking lot where Vincent met them.

“I could use a nap, too.” A wobble in Martin’s unusually quiet voice worried her.

The elevator door opened to another hallway with concrete walls lit by more sconces. A man in tight jeans and black-framed glasses waited for them outside the elevator. Vincent introduced him as his assistant, Alex, who extended a hand as cold as Kayla’s insides.

She wondered if Alex’s administrative duties bored him as much as hers did when she worked for her grandmother at the Arizona home for abused women and children.

Vincent put a hand on Martin’s shoulder. “Kayla told me last night that your attacker at the Lincoln Memorial tried to slice your throat. Our nurse practitioner is waiting to treat the wound. Alex will take you.”

Alex led Martin down another hallway.

Vincent, all six-foot-two of him, turned to Kayla. “Your grandmother wants to talk to you before we leave for Paris. We have a guest room where you can freshen up and make the call.”

He led Kayla into a brighter hallway with windows and doors on both sides. Men and women in casual clothes tapped on computer keyboards or talked on phones. A group of six discussed a strange drawing on a white board—boxes, circles, and triangles connected by lines. 

No one looked up as Vincent and Kayla passed.

She stepped around the door he held open and surveyed the room. It contained a twin bed covered with a beige comforter, and a sink against a green wall, with a mirror over it that was flanked by a hand towel on one side, and a hair dryer dangling from a hook on the opposite side. To the left of the sink was a toilet, and a tiny square shower stall took up a corner on the right.

He gestured toward the black phone on the nightstand. “To call your grandmother, dial nine. You’ll hear a buzz, then dial her number. When you’re done, open the door. I’ll be right outside.”

He closed the door, but she imagined his presence behind it.

She sat on the bed, wondering if someone would listen to her call. Her grandmother had told her to trust Vincent, but given everything that had happened in the last two weeks, trust was in short supply.

Nothing To Lose

Kayla Walsh Trilogy Book 3

He stalks her wherever she goes, but can she afford not to continue the search?

On the final leg of her journey to deliver justice to the home invader to killed her parents and put her in a coma, Kayla arrives in Australia under duress. She knows who killed her parents and why, and now she fears he'll get to her, her grandmother, and Martin before she's able to find the priceless gem he claims her parents stole. But she knows better.

What she finds in Australia cringes her, but will it gives her the evidence she needs to take down her stalker? It provides yet another clue that takes her back to the U.S.

But will she get there in time to save herself, her grandmother, and the man she loves?

To find out, buy this bone-chilling final installment, book 3 in the Kayla Walsh Mystery Suspense trilogy.

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Excerpt from Nothing to Lose

Twenty-four-year-old Kayla Walsh stood on the yawning metal ramp of a cargo plane, awed by the clear blue Indian Ocean and cloudless sky in Broome, Australia. Ignoring the conversation between the pilot and her traveling companion Yves, she breathed in the hot, salty air that blasted her face.

During her previous visit here six years earlier, her late mother had described the first impression of Broome as opening the door of a convection oven and leaning in too far. That was accurate, plus, thinking of her mother put a brief smile on her face. 

Unlike her arrival with her parents in a passenger plane on the last leg of that summer vacation, she had just endured two days on two different cargo planes. She and Yves had boarded one in Austria, then got off to change planes in Bangkok, where they had been able to purchase a sandwich and water before boarding the next cargo plane, belonging to the owners of a diamond mine. That had been their only meal along the way, and her stomach was now rumbling. 

In contrast to that trip with her parents, this wasn’t a vacation. 

Yves and Vincent—the man Kayla was sure had murdered her parents and put her in a year-long coma—believed Mom and Dad had hidden a priceless diamond in Australia. A diamond Vincent claimed her parents stole from the Louvre in Paris, but that should have been his. Kayla refused to believe that her parents, Inola and Kevin McGee, would have done that, especially with their teenaged daughter present.

That vacation seemed like a ridiculously long time ago, when life was carefree. She had been engaged to a fellow med student, and her name was Kendra McGee—before the home invasion that changed her life forever and put her in witness protection. Turned out it wasn’t witness protection at all. It was Vincent deceiving her grandmother so he could control and keep track of them. 

Kayla heaved a sigh, ready to head to the diamond mine, retrieve the diamond, and catch the next commercial flight back to the States. Back to Martin, who had been her physical therapist before becoming the best friend who had undertaken this arduous journey across three continents, in search of a diamond Vincent insisted belonged to him. She hoped that finding the diamond would finally bring her back to the normal life she craved. 

Martin’s kind, gentle spirit had captured her heart during the past few weeks, and they had confessed their love for each other. Now he was convalescing in a Paris hospital. She’d hated to leave him behind as she completed her task, but his injuries had been too extensive to allow him to travel. 

The diamond mine they were headed to used to be owned by the family of Lucas, Yves’s business partner.  The two men claimed to have been friends with Kayla’s parents many years ago and had been entrusted with their safe word.

Despite Yves knowing her childhood safe word, she felt unable to trust him because of the way they had approached her.

They’d used a sedative to force her to leave Martin behind, but it had given her disturbing dreams. At the same time, it had caused her to finally remember the attack that had left her parents dead. Those memories prompted as many questions as they answered.

Then there were the stories Yves had told during the flights to Australia. They had pierced her heart and drained her hope of getting justice for her murdered parents. She had to find the Rose Diamond to save herself, her grandmother, and Martin. 

Despite the hot Australia day, she shuddered at the memory of the blast of cold that had ripped through the light fabric of her summer clothes back in Austria. A helicopter had taken her and Yves from a snow-covered mountain top to an Austrian airstrip. When she realized they were about to board the first plane, she had tried to reason with Yves. 

“We don’t need to go to Australia,” she had argued. “My family didn’t visit a diamond mine during our vacation there.” 

She now understood that last family vacation was what had triggered the destruction of the lives of everyone she loved.

Yves was undeterred by her protests. His voice had sounded as flat and tired as his dark brown eyes looked. “We must go if we ever want our lives back.” 

He had placed a hand on her back to nudge her into the cavernous fuselage lined with jump seats. While showing her how to buckle up, he explained that although Lucas’s family no longer owned the diamond mine, they had remained in contact with the new owners.

“It’s where the Rose Diamond originated,” he had said. “Lucas’s grandfather gave it to the Prime Minister of France when he toured the mine in the 1980s. When Lucas heard of Vincent’s plan to steal it, he talked us into helping him.” He shook his head. “What a mistake.”

Now, Yves placed his hand on her back again, this time to nudge her out of the plane and into yet another attempt at shaking loose memories of that fateful vacation. She didn’t believe they’d hidden it in Australia, and she shook off his hand to wrap her arms around herself.

“You’re still afraid of me?” He sounded hurt, and his crinkled-up face showed concern.

Karen Randau authors fast-paced stories with intricate plots, lots of action, and a dash of romance, all told from the point of view of a female amateur sleuth. The Kayla Walsh Mystery-Suspense Trilogy is her third series featuring strong, independent women. Previous series include the three-book Frankie Shep series featuring a modern-day female rancher in Wyoming, and the Rim Country Mystery series, featuring a woman who loses her husband in a movie theater shooting on their thirtieth wedding anniversary. She lives in the mountains of Arizona with her multi-generational family.

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