Let us pack your e-readers with some great reads for those long summer days that are just around the corner. No matter what you prefer to read, you’re sure to find some below.
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Paranormal & Fantasy Romance
New Adult Romance
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Children’s Fantasy Chapter Book
March 9, 2017
Spenser hates to read until he meets a mysterious cowboy who gives him a wishing stone and tells him it can possess magical powers when he reads. Skeptical, but willing to try it out, Spenser holds the stone as he reads his book about dinosaurs and suddenly finds himself transported back in time. After convincing the people he is there to help, he must join Arco, the local cave boy, to try and save their village from a dinosaur intent on destroying it. Will Spenser be able to help save the village? Will he ever find his way back home?
Spenser looked to the left and right, clutching the straps of his backpack tighter. He had read about cowboys but never seen one in real life. There weren’t many in western Washington. His mother, who was from Texas, spoke of them occasionally, but even she said there weren’t as many as there used to be.
“Why you looking so glum little pardner?” the man drawled. His accent was heavy, and his words were slow.
Spenser wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, but his curiosity got the best of him. “I have to read a book and do a report on it by Friday, and I don’t like reading.”
“Well, that is a mighty big problem,” the man agreed, tipping his hat. “Maybe you just ain’t found the right book yet.”
“What do you mean?” Spenser asked, narrowing his eyes at the man.
“Books can be full of amazing stories. Once you find one you like, I’ll bet you’ll be hooked for life pardner. Here, I got something that might help.” He reached into the pocket of his black duster and pulled something out. It was small enough to fit in his hand.
Unable to help himself, Spenser took another step closer. His blue eyes widened as he waited for the man to open his hand.
The man’s fingers uncurled one at a time to showcase . . ..
“A rock?” Spenser’s nose wrinkled in disgust. He had been hoping for something cooler than a rock.
“Not just any rock, son. This is a wishing stone. You jest hold it while you read and see what happens, but I must warn you to be careful of your thoughts. For sometimes, when you hold this stone, magical things happen.”
Spenser looked again at the stone. Though nearly completely white, it still looked just like an ordinary rock to him. He took the rock, expecting nothing, but a cool sensation tickled up his arms. He glanced up quickly at the man, who merely smiled and nodded, as if they now shared a secret.
About the Author
Lorana Hoopes is an English teacher in the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her husband and three children. When not writing, she enjoys kickboxing, singing, and acting. The Wishing Stone series was born when her oldest son began reading The Magic Tree House books. While she loved that he was reading, she wished the book didn’t use all simple sentences. She decided to write a series just a step up from Magic Tree House and The Wishing Stone was born. Dangerous Dinosaur is the first book in what she hopes will be a long series.
Date Published: 22 April 2017
Publisher: Evolved publishing
All the Left Hand of Death wants is something to call her own, but is the price too high?
Ellaeva, the fated avatar of the death goddess, is desperate to track down her missing family but the trail is decades old. Instead, she discovers her battered and bloodied sister priestesses driven across the Jerreki border on pain of death. Ellaeva must turn aside from her personal quest to investigate the murders, only to find her parents have been taken into the heart of the conflict.
Lyram Aharris, favoured son of the royal line of Ahlleyn, is the only living person she trusts to help her infiltrate the enemy stronghold and uproot the horror they find there, but their chequered past threatens the mission. Accompanying him is his crown prince, the one man Lyram wants dead above all others.
Now Ellaeva must face down the darkness in her soul before a dark god is brought into the world.
At the boundary of life and death, all oaths will be tested.
Lyram leaned on the window casement, scouring the bustling courtyard of the royal palace of Ahlleyn below. Servants in the black and purple livery of the clan Gaylbrath strode confidently about their tasks, and his gaze skipped over them, looking for someone obviously out of place—looking for the crow amongst the sparrows. From this high, picking individual faces out of the crowd was impossible, but that didn’t stop him searching. He didn’t need a face to find the person he sought.
Despite his failure to note anyone out of place, he knew there was at least one person in the palace who shouldn’t be there. He could feel it in his bones.
“Lyram, you’re not listening to me.”
Sighing, he turned, leaning back against the wall with his arms folded over his plaid. He regarded the duchess. “No, Narrawen, I’m not. I do apologise. What were you saying?”
The Duchess of Kinrothen narrowed pale-blue eyes at him. She stood in the centre of his sitting room, an inner sanctum furnished by his late wife, and a place of solitude and reflection where he’d usually not permit the duchess. But, short of his bedchamber, this was the only room in his suite with a window. He needed to see the courtyard, and she’d insisted on speaking with him.
“Never mind. You clearly have something else on your mind.” Then her voice grew teasing. “Perhaps something I could help with?“
Lyram swallowed a long-suffering sigh. Narrawen, standing with her head cocked and one hand on a hip, was a fine figure of a woman, but she was also a schemer. Her kirtle, though made of expensive linen, was woven in the red, yellow and green tartan of her clan; she took every opportunity to wear it, as though reminding everyone she was their clan leader. Though women were accepted as equals in Ahlleyn, a woman heading a large warrior clan could experience certain… troublesome elements, and she carried a bow slung over her shoulder. A woman who would lead warriors must be a warrior, and she had the temperament to match the flaming red hair tumbling down her shoulders in unruly curls. Everything she did was calculated and planned, and there was no way he’d be sharing what was on his mind.
“It’s nothing to trouble yourself over,” he said.
“Oh, it would be no trouble to take a burden from your shoulders.” She stepped forward, closing the distance between them to place a hand on his arm.
The heady aroma of eastern tuberose assaulted his nostrils, rich and sensual. She was tall, the top of her head on a level with his nose, and her breath tickled his clean-shaven chin. Her gaze held the resolute intensity of a woman accustomed to getting her way, sooner or later. She was beautiful, and in a way that went beyond her face and figure: she was fierce, determined, and intelligent.
But when he looked at her, he saw only Ellaeva.
Her brow pinched, as if reading something in his face, and he smoothed his expression.
“You’ve been too long a widower,” she said.
He started. “Eighteen months! That’s hardly too long.”
She met his gaze with an intense expression, ignoring his protest. “And I’ve never married. We both need heirs.”
He shook his head and tried to draw away, but she had him pinned between her wide skirts and the window. “You would merge two of the kingdom’s most powerful and influential duchies into one? The aristocracy will never stand for it. You already know my answer, Narrawen. I’m not interested in marrying—you or anyone else. It’s not personal, you understand?”
She snorted in a most unladylike fashion and tossed her hair, like a wild horse tossing its mane. “You pay too little attention, Lyram. You’d be surprised what the aristocracy will allow now, after the fall of Traeburhn. Everyone’s been made nervous by his treason, especially the stripping of lands and titles. Besides, we need not merge the duchies. We could agree on a division of heirs.”
“The risk of civil war—”
She leaned closer, until only inches separated their faces. The heady smell of her perfume was almost intoxicating.
“There are any number of men in this kingdom, and without, who would marry me,” she said. “Most for the wrong reasons. Few of them have my respect and admiration, but you do. What I need is a husband. What I want is you.”
The door burst open, thumping against the wall.
Narrawen jumped back, her bow clattering against the side table. A faint blush stained her cheeks.
Lyram’s pulse quickened. This was it, the moment he’d been waiting for.
Everard stood framed by the sitting room’s doorway, his posture perfectly erect as he folded his hands neatly in front of his sporran. As always, he was clad in scrupulous court attire, his rank pinned to the shoulder of his white shirt and his kilt falling in perfect pleats. His thinning grey hair had been meticulously combed, and his wire-framed glasses perched precariously on his nose. He kept his face blank, but a small twitch beside his eye betrayed his displeasure at the duchess’s presence. “Sir.”
Though Everard’s tone was even, Lyram read the tension and urgency in him. “I know, Everard. I’ll come.”
“A prior engagement, Lyram?” Narrawen said. “Whatever it is, reschedule it. We’re not done.”
Lyram opened his mouth to countermand the order—though she outranked him, how dare she presume to order his aide-de-camp?
But Everard’s gaze flickered to her with that same inscrutability, and in his perfectly deadpan aide’s voice he said, “Is Your Grace still chasing a husband? Perchance I can suggest a better hunting ground.”
Narrawen grew rigid, and Lyram suppressed a grin.
“The duchess and I can finish our conversation later,” Lyram said. “I’ll come, Everard.”
“No, sir—” Everard blinked, jerking aside as though pinched, and Ellaeva stepped into the room.
The shock of seeing her thrilled through him, like the mixed pleasure of an unexpectedly warm spring day, tainted by fording a stream running with snowmelt. Though he’d felt her jump suddenly from the far east to well within Ahlleyn borders several days ago, though he’d felt her drawing nearer by the day, he hadn’t realised she was here, outside the room. And no amount of time could have prepared him for this moment.
Their gazes locked. Her black eyes were flat and cold. In his head, the sense of her abruptly clenched into the hard glass ball that said she was trying to control or hide her feelings. That connection was the unintended legacy of his resurrection at her hand, but she’d grown better at controlling it. Then her gaze flickered to Narrawen, standing so close alongside him, and the glass ball shattered into a thousand shards with an impact so visceral he gasped and sat down. The chill in the air deepened.
She switched her stare back to Lyram. Finally, she spoke, in a voice cold as iron. “I have come to see Alagondar.”
About the Author
Ciara Ballintyne grew up on a steady diet of adult epic fantasy from the age of nine, leaving her with a rather confused outlook on life – she believes the good guys should always win, but knows they often don’t. She is an oxymoron; an idealistic cynic. Her debut work is Confronting the Demon, and In the Company of the Dead is her first book to be published with Evolved Publishing. She holds degrees in law and accounting, and is a practising financial services lawyer. In her spare time, she speculates about taking over the world.
Date Published: January 2016
Thirty years before the Spanish Inquisition, the seeds of hatred have sprouted in Castile. Suspicions fester. Rage churns beneath the surface. Viçente Pérez—a man who wields enviable power but harbors a shameful past—is the only one who can keep the tension from exploding out of control.
As the Christian son of secret Jews, Viçente is in a hopeless position—charged with keeping the peace, but always suspected by the city’s Old Christians, unwilling but duty-bound to help the increasingly persecuted Jews, and to aid his king whose rule is threatened.
When Viçente crosses the ruthless, power-hungry lawyer Marcos García de Mora, he makes a formidable enemy. García’s plan: to rally the common men, attack Jews, and purify Toledo by purging suspected heretics—the Christian descendants of Jews, converts like Viçente.
As war breaks out between the king and his cousins, and García and his madmen rise to power in Toledo, Viçente falls in love with the mysterious Francesca and finds himself faced with impossible choices: love or duty, respect or intolerance, reverence or disdain for his ancestry.
From the courts of kings in Naples and Castile to the chambers of Pope Nicholas and the torture cellars of Toledo, this gripping novel brings to life an era of little-known history in fifteenth-century Spain, a time when a rogue inquisition threatened to destroy the very soul of Toledo.
About the Author
Edward D. Webster has had an eclectic mixture of careers, ranging from teaching Navajo students to managing transit operations. And he’s the author of a diverse collection of books. Webster admits to a fascination with unique, quirky and bizarre human behavior, and he doesn’t exempt himself from the mix. His acclaimed memoir, A Year of Sundays (Taking the Plunge and our Cat to Explore Europe) shares the eccentric tale of his yearlong adventure in Europe with his spirited blind wife and headstrong, deaf sixteen-year-old cat. His historical novel, Soul of Toledo recounts a diabolical moment in history, when madmen took over the City of Toledo and tortured suspected Jews, 30 years before the Spanish Inquisition. And his 2014 novel, The Gentle Bomber’s Melody, explores what might happen if a nutty woman, bearing a stolen baby, landed on the doorstep of a fugitive bomber hiding from the FBI. The result: irresistible insanity. From the happily unusual of A Year of Sundays to the cruelly perverse in Soul of Toledo, Edward D. Webster shines a light on offbeat aspects of human nature. Webster lives in Southern California with his divine wife and two amazing cats.
Date Published: 3/23/2017
“He’s not a friend, he’s my husband. And he’s gone.”
En route to Salt Lake City, intending to start over, their car breaks down near the struggling mining town of Helper, Utah—and then Tony leaves Kora behind.
Alone, broken and angry, especially that her family was right in their judgment against Tony, Kora decides to stay in Helper and aid in it’s art-centered transformation.
But in working to save her new home, Kora learns first love only happens once.
For a second chance at love, a much greater risk is required.
A cloud of smoke billowed over the hood of the old 1984 Buick causing Kora, after three hours of silence, to finally speak. “Tony! What’s going on?”
“Oh no!” With his long fingers, Tony gripped the steering wheel and leaned forward. The engine went quiet. Suddenly, the car was coasting. Tony steered it to a halt along the dirt shoulder. Smoke poured out above them.
“What is it, Tony?” Past the windshield, Kora stared at the stream of white caught between them and the green mile marker ahead. “Is the car on fire?”
“No,” he said. But there was fear in his tone. Quickly, he masked it with a calmer assurance. “It’s just overheated.”
The fear transferred to Kora’s voice. “You said you got that fixed!”
With two hours before they reached Salt Lake, and six hours of tension behind them, Tony finally faced her. “I did,” he said calmly. “I replaced the radiator hoses and cap, and it’s fixed.”
She kept her eyes on him, glaring as she pulled her dark blonde hair into a hasty bun. “Then what is it?”
He shrugged, but Kora caught the alarm surfacing in his eyes before he turned to the door.
As soon as he lifted the hood, the full force of steam released itself, tumbling out toward the blue sky.
She opened the passenger door. The hot desert air greeted her. She slipped on her old heavy sandals and approached the hood to find Tony clutching his forehead, his lips moving, hot words streaming out. But when she got close, his speech ceased.
“So what are we going to do?” she asked.
Like a poorly-choreographed dance, he slipped past her, making his way nearly the entire circumference of the car before sliding back into the driver’s seat.
Kora stepped toward the engine, steam hitting her face. She shifted away. Warmth from the sun hit her back. Another step and she watched Tony turning the key in the ignition.
Tony banged his fist against the steering wheel. “No!”
She approached the driver’s side to catch Tony’s cheek spasm. “I’ll walk to the nearest town,” he said. “I think the last sign we passed said it’s five miles ahead.”
He shifted from the driver’s seat, causing Kora to step back.
“I just got to see how far a garage is.” He marched over to the hood. “Get some help towing this in.” He released the hood prop, then slammed it shut.
“Does the car need to cool off more?” she asked.
“Doesn’t matter,” he said gruffly.
“Should I come with?” she tried to sound sweet, but an edge from hours before lingered there.
“Just wait in the car.”
“Its a hundred degrees out here,” the tension was back. “What if I fry?”
A sad smile twisted across Tony’s face. “What do you want me to say? If this town doesn’t have what we need, we might be walking for miles.”
“Then let’s walk.” Kora grabbed her purse and looked back to see Tony studying her thick wooden sandals.
When he looked up at her, his face remained tight. “You sure?”
He shrugged then turned back to the driver’s door, retrieved the keys, locked the Buick doors, and began their march toward help.
Gravel crunched under Kora’s sandals. With each step, she listened to the shifting of rocks under her small frame. Where most couples gain weight after marriage, often both she and Tony had lost pounds during their six years.
With the back of her hand, she swiped away sweat drops running down her face, only to feel more accumulating at her hairline. The sun’s rays seemed to beat in anger, lashing vengeance on Kora for her unkind words to Tony.
At the start of their journey, she hadn’t meant to be so harsh. But the words had just come, one after the other. Spite building on each beating word.
Now she watched him walk, his hot boots tromping down on the gravel in front of her. His crunch louder than hers.
“How much further?” she called out to him.
At first there was no response. Then he shrugged.
She shrugged back, sharing hers with no one except the wrath of the sun.
While her feet carried on their rhythmic crunch, Kora looked up in defiance at the sky. Then for a moment, she closed her eyes and let the flaming air greet her face. She sensed the sun challenging her, pushing her until she begged for relief, but she would carry on. Her father had blamed her for such intense commitment, such loyalty inside her. He had seen it as her weakness. She saw it as her strength.
And with that strength, she’d get through this, she’d find a breeze of hope, a sweetness in this life Tony had promised her. A fulfilment that was long overdue.
By the year 2000, which was only four months away, Kora would have the future she wanted, the earnest desires of her heart.
She opened her eyes to see a pillow of cloud, a bright, white cloud, shifting toward the sun, the promise of temporary relief. Once the sun was covered, she saw the radiant blueness, set against the red desert hills that surrounded them. She also saw the road, the long highway that stretched out into the hills in front of them.
Then she spotted it, a structure, a building of sorts, followed by another. She extended her stride, just as Tony did. The town was coming.
Soon the green highway sign welcomed them to Helper. And they followed the descending road until Kora spotted Speedy Lou’s, a fast food joint, which although run down, seemed able to offer some form of refreshment.
Tony arrived before her, pausing in front of the entrance, as if Kora’s slow steps had spoken to him. “Do you want to stop here?” he called out.
She hated to admit it, but tears were burning in her eyes. The promise of water, a spot to sit down, a break from a growing blister and the blazing sun, she bit her lip and nodded. Then she tried to walk the final steps calmly, keeping her face stoic. As soon as she was inside, she collapsed into a nearby booth. With a bit of effort, she dug into a pocket of her jean cutoffs while scanning the menu. “Do you want something?”
He stood near her. “No.”
She dropped a nickel followed by a dollar bill onto the table. It wouldn’t go far, but it was something. “You sure?” she said, looking at her offering with a slight laugh. Then she glanced up, catching his look, a softness in his eyes that hadn’t been there in weeks. He added a dollar to the humble pile.
“Yeah. I’ll keep going, see what kind of help’s here.” Then he slipped out the door. But before Kora could manage the strength to stand, the door’s entrance bell rang, and there he was again standing above her.
“Here.” He set down a small stack of folded bills.
“Tony!” Kora found herself laughing at the ten-dollar bill that looked up at her. “I don’t need that much.”
His hand slid over hers, and the touch surprised her, as did the tenderness in his voice. “No. It’s for you. Just don’t go overboard on your hamburger fixings.” Then he kissed her forehead, a gesture he hadn’t made in days, before slipping back out the door.
Kora unfolded the bills to find along with the ten, two fives, and a twenty-dollar bill. She stood up and looked out the window, but he was gone.
About the Author
TARA C. ALLRED is an award-winning author, instructional designer, and educator. She has been recognized as a California Scholar of the Arts for Creative Writing and is a recipient of the Howey awards for Best Adult Book and Best Adult Author. She lives in Utah with her husband.
Her other published works include Sanders’ Starfish, Unauthored Letters, and The Other Side of Quiet, a 2015 Kindle Book Award Finalist and Whitney Award Winner.
Date Published: 3/28/2017
Santino the Eternal has never craved the forbidden – until now. As a blood-thirsty serial killer hunts the glitzy streets of Las Vegas, Santino collides with a young college student – can she make it out alive?
Clara Denton’s life is flung into chaos when she discovers a drained corpse in a posh hotel room on the Strip. And as if her life wasn’t already spiraling out of control, her reclusive boss has taken a disconcerting interest in her. Unable to resist the dark pull, she is drawn further and further into the murky world of the undead – as well as just the dead, too. When the handsome Matthew Hunter arrives with his sights set on Clara, she is thrown into one final eternal struggle of good versus evil.
Can love truly be eternal?
“Be free, my darling,” he said to the languid corpse.
With the back of his hand, he wiped away the last drops of the precious nectar he’d drained from her fragile veins. “You have served me well.” He watched as the ghost of his young victim fled her empty body.
He felt crushing remorse that he’d killed her. Her death was kind, painless, and he needed her blood, he convinced himself as he glanced around the darkened hotel room. The warm fluid rushing through him caused the sensation of a post-orgasmic high—so similar was the feeling that he craved the cigarette he usually only smoked after sex.
“No, not here,” he said aloud to himself, his agile fingers placing the pack of cigarettes back into his designer suit coat.
The door to the hotel room opened—a swath of light from the hallway burned into his eyes and his hand instinctively reached up to shield himself from it.
A young housekeeper burst in, her eyes only glimpsing his form for seconds as he moved from the room with such preternatural swiftness that he was just a mere blur to her mortal eyes.
It was several more minutes before his perfected ears heard her scream in terror.
“C’mon, baby, don’t run out of gas on me now.”
Clara Denton reached over and turned off the air conditioning in her 1986 Ford Escort. The fuel needle, pointed at the letter E, seemed to mock her as she irrationally turned off the radio, as if those minor efforts would have any effect on the amount of gas her old car would burn on her way to work.
“One more mile,” she said aloud to the vehicle. “One more mile and I promise to feed you after work. I can’t be late again.”
In her worn Fossil hobo purse her last ten dollars sat crumpled. Clara hoped it would provide enough fuel to get her back and forth to school that week as well as to her job cleaning rooms at the newest and classiest hotel on the Las Vegas Strip—the Roman.
Her stomach growled as she flashed her employee badge and pulled into the dark parking structure at the rear of the sprawling resort hotel and casino. At the place she’d worked before the employee facilities, those parts the guests didn’t see, were austere. Here, however, even the employee parking garage was glamorous.
As she fled the car, terrified of punching in late again, she thought about how she’d never once seen the reclusive owner of the Roman—his name was Marchetti, she couldn’t recall if she knew his first name. She assumed he was Italian, and rumors floated around that he was handsome, in his thirties, but even though he lived in the sprawling penthouse suite, no one she knew had ever seen him.
Clara’s first three rooms were easy cleans, and in the second one she was able to nibble on an unopened bag of potato chips—she hadn’t eaten since the night before when her roommate, Landon Miller, brought home scavenged baked ziti from the pizzeria he waited tables at.
The fourth room of her shift, however, was the one that changed the course of her life forever. As she flipped on the lights and walked in with her cleaning basket—maids at the upscale Roman weren’t allowed to push carts into the rooms—she saw it. A foot poking out from the crisp white sheet of the king sized bed. “Oh, sorry ma’am, I thought the room was…” She felt a rush of cool air blast past her, maybe even the faint hint of smoke, and then she saw it.
The foot protruding from the Italian 800 thread count Frette linens was not an alive foot. It was ghastly white, the red painted toenails a grotesque contrast to the paleness of the skin. A prank, she thought as she approached it, waiting for something to jump out at her. The air in the room changed, became oddly stagnant, as she sheepishly tugged at the sheet. Clara heard herself scream, as if a bystander, as her body crumpled to the floor.
“The police,” she finally managed to mutter, as she reached for the phone on the mahogany desk. She stared at the phone, unable to remember how to get an outside line for several moments before deciding instead to press the button that was labeled Emergency.
Within minutes, several large men in dark suits blew into the room. One lifted her to her feet and asked if she was okay. As she nodded, he glanced at her nametag and said, “You may have the afternoon off, Clara. Thank you.” He turned to look at the body as the other men donned latex gloves.
“Uh, we should call the police. This is the serial killer. It’s got to be another of his victims—you know, the Blood Lust Killer.”
The dark suited man in charge flung his body toward hers, his hands braced on his hips. “I believe it’s time for you to go.”
“No. You can’t touch anything until Metro comes,” she argued, her voice fighting to sound strong. These men were tampering with a crime scene—her roommate, Landon, when not serving greasy pizza and pints of beer—was in the police academy. Clara had helped him study enough to know these men were breaking the law.
“Steven, please escort the former employee from the premises.” He turned to face her once more, and with a sneer said, “We’ll mail your final paycheck. Your services here at the Roman are no longer required.”
She stood in shock, unable to process the dramatic turn that afternoon had taken. “You’re firing me?” she finally choked out through her tears. The man never answered her, and she followed him to the central housekeeping department to return her uniform. The dark-suited stoic presence stood outside the changing room and walked her to her car, reminding her that security cameras would watch her exit the grounds of the casino.
In her hot car, with guards staring at her, she reached for her cell phone. Despite the glare of the suited Steven approaching her, she dialed 911 and switched it to speaker as she sped down the exit ramp. “Yes, at the Roman,” she clarified to the dispatcher. “Room 80231—she was bloodless! White as a ghost.” She paused as the dispatcher read back the information, then as Clara began to ask about the serial killer her phone went dead. Damnit! Out of minutes!
Moments later, she was fighting her way through traffic. “That jerk-off, how dare he fire me,” she hissed into her empty car as she battled the throng of cabs down the small section of Las Vegas Boulevard that was known as the Strip. In shock, fuming and terrified, she barely remembered to make her left on Flamingo when her car started to sputter. “Not the transmission again,” she groaned before her eyes set on the fuel gauge. “Shit!” She covered her mouth with her hand—Clara rarely swore, and when she did, she shocked even herself. “I forgot to get gas!”
Flamingo was his least favorite place to drive. Stop after stop, he could rarely pick up the kind of speed he craved. When finally he was able to swoop around yet another annoying billboard truck, his designer-shod foot mashed the accelerator down as hard as he could. The Maserati lurched, pressing him back into the buttery leather seats that had been custom made to fit his tall, lean body. And then he nearly ran over her.
She fell backward into her battered old car, smashing into the dented frame and falling face down onto the dirty black pavement of Flamingo Road. “Fuck,” he howled, the nimble car coming to a screeching stop as those behind him blew their horns and struggled to maneuver around him. He was able to stop his car at the side of the busy road, in front of the small frame of a young woman lying in the street.
“I didn’t hit you, Miss, did I?” He sprang from his car toward her. She’s moving, that’s good, he thought as she placed her palms on the pavement, pushing her lean frame up.
“Um, no, I just, I thought you were going to hit me, I jumped and tripped.”
“That is a relief,” he sighed. He reached for her hand and helped her to her feet.
“I-I’m fine now,” she said with a quick tug of her hand to remove it from his. But he couldn’t let go. He held onto her hand as a sensation so foreign, so odd, washed over him.
“Well, thank you for even stopping,” she said with a smile, tugging her hand from his once more. This time he let her soft hand fall from his, but he continued to look into her eyes. They were brown, chocolate brown, he thought. She was young, twenty-one was the number that popped into his head as he stared at her mutely.
She ran her hand through her hair as she turned to face her car. “Do you need me to call a car service for you?” he asked as she lifted the rear hatch and pulled out a red gas can. “No, thank you, I’m out of gas. It’s only a few blocks to the station.”
“I would never let you do that. Please, I’ll drive you.”
She stared at the car—clearly he was a rich businessman, a local, and, she had to admit, breathtakingly handsome. But still, she was no idiot. She wasn’t going to get into his car, or any stranger’s car, with a blood-sucking serial killer roaming Las Vegas murdering young women. “I’m fine, I’ll walk.” She took a few steps and heard him speak again.
“No, Miss, you will not. I cannot let you do that.”
“Let me?” She spun around and glared at him, empowered by the safety of the heavy traffic swirling around them like angry hornets.
He held up his hands in apology. “I didn’t mean it like that, I’m sorry. What I meant was it would be ungentlemanly of me. I can call road service, or perhaps go retrieve your gas for you while you wait in the air conditioning of my car?”
“I’m sorry to snap. I’ve had a terrible day. I was fired from my job and, well, it’s just been a rough one. I’d rather walk than wait, but thank you.” She set off again, with the man only steps behind her.
He caught up to her, his suit coat removed and tossed over one arm in the oppressive heat of summer in Las Vegas. “My name is Santino, by the way, and it is a pleasure to meet you, despite the circumstances of our introduction,” he said, positioning himself between the heavy street traffic and the young woman. “Miss…?”
“Clara Denton,” she answered with a smile. This drop-dead gorgeous rich guy is also a gentleman, she thought as he reached to carry the gas can.
At the gas station, his phone buzzed. With a quick glance at it, he looked to Clara. “I’m sorry, I have to take this. I apologize for my rudeness.” She nodded as he walked to the side of the gas station.
“Wait until I tell Landon about this guy,” she said under her breath as she walked into the building to prepay for the gas.
Walking out, can in hand, the man, Santino, had his back to her. He was talking into his phone. She could hear him as she walked by toward the pumps. “Yes, Don, you did the right thing to have it cleaned. A mess like that in my home I would never tolerate.”
Too bad he’s a neat freak, she thought as she pumped the gas into the can, not that it matters.
An hour later, Clara was back in her apartment digging through her empty refrigerator. “No one ever buys milk,” she said to the empty apartment. The foil pan of leftovers was the only palatable food she could find, so she finished it off while working on her paper for class the next morning. Her third year at UNLV was going well academically—she was a top student in the English Department, but financially she was in trouble. Student loans were piling up, and her passion was literature rather than a career field that would result in a lucrative job. Even if she taught, she knew her living conditions would be austere at best for the next decade.
As she looked at the research she’d done on a Word document on her MacBook, a spoonful of greasy baked ziti perched at her lips, there was a knocking at the thin door. “Landon, take your key once in a while,” she shouted toward the door.
But Landon was not at the door. As she opened it, four members of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, or Metro as it was referred to locally, stood there. “Oh come on in,” she said. The police are finally here about the dead body, she thought.
“We had a report of a crime from a resident at this address—a Clara Denton. Is that you?”
She nodded in relief. “Yeah, that’s me. Is she related to the serial murders?”
“She?” The suited detective looked at his notes before making eye contact with Clara again. They followed her inside.
“The woman—the dead body I found at work today.”
“Miss Denton, there was no body at the Roman. Not at the room number you reported, or any other room. Have you been following news coverage of the killings?”
“Well yes, but—wait a minute, there was a body, drained looking, white. The head of security and a few other men saw it, too.”
“Miss Denton, I understand the stress you’ve been under. However, calling 911 with a made up story is a serious crime. If we chased every baseless tip we’d be—”
“Baseless? I saw her!”
“You were fired today, were you not?”
“Well, yeah, because I insisted they call the police.”
“According to management at the casino, you were fired for being late too many times. As you were leaving the resort premises, you called 911 from your prepaid cellphone and made up a story about finding a body in order to inconvenience the hotel.”
Clara shook her head, the blood draining from her face. Was this really happening?
Santino paced on the priceless rug that graced the polished marble floors of his penthouse suite high atop the Roman. His trusted head of security, Donovan Salerno, sat on the cognac leather wingback chair and glanced over the notes in his small notebook. The afternoon had been stressful, but Don thought he’d done well.
“And the maid? She won’t talk? Let’s make her happy,” Santino said as he rubbed his stubbly chin.
“Well, sir, we fired her, it was necessary that—”
“What the fuck did you just say? You fired her?”
Donovan took a deep breath and willed himself to stay calm. The boss was mad—deadly mad. He stood up and explained. “She demanded we call the police. That one, she was too smart. That young chick wasn’t like the Mexican maids that most—”
“I swear to God that if you say one ignorant bigoted thing you will regret it for the rest of your short life.” Santino had no tolerance for small-mindedness.
“Um, no, it’s just this housekeeper was not going to be deterred from alerting Metro to the mess in your house, sir.”
“So now she’s out there, with no loyalty whatsoever to us, no incentive to stay silent. That is a problem, Don.”
“Yes, sir. We’ll take care of her. I apologize for letting her go.”
“I don’t want her harmed, I merely want her silent. What is her name?”
Santino’s pale eyes focused on the man as he stopped his pacing. The words his head of security spoke caused him to grow cold, colder than his usual soulless body.
About the Author
Sam JD Hunt resides in Las Vegas with her husband, the inspiration for the young Thomas Hunt character, as well as her two children. Her debut trilogy, The Thomas Hunt Series, put a fun and unique spin on the popular BDSM genre. She followed up with the highly successful DEEP: A Captive Tale–a dark BDSM erotic captor/captive story about a pirate and his lady that spans time and space. Her fourth novel, the full-length standalone The Hunt for Eros is an erotic art adventure that combines spicy romance with a cultural adventure based on true life events. It has been described as being like The Da Vinci Code, but with lots of heat added.
Hunt’s next release was co-written with her husband. Dagger: American Fighter Pilot is a steamy contemporary romance, which follows a squadron of fighter pilots as part of the American Fighter Pilot read-in-any-order series. Following the release of Dagger, Hunt released the much-anticipated MMF/Bi/Ménage erotic adventure, Taken by Two and then its sequel, Torn from Two. Next, Hunt plans to release DEEPER: Capture of the Virgin Bride as a follow-up to DEEP. When not writing, Hunt enjoys travel, community involvement, spending time with friends and family, and hiking. She spends her days writing and trying to answer the age-old question: is it too late for coffee or too early for wine?