Showing posts with label Thriller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thriller. Show all posts

March 30, 2016

Excerpt & Giveaway! Forever in Ocala by Connie Y. Harris

Can the healing power of love prevail over the high stakes demands of duty and personal sacrifice?

Determined to protect her life and heal her broken heart, Ariel Armstrong seeks a refuge from her violent ex-boyfriend. Her dream job working with prized race horses, as an equine vet, enables her to hide in plain sight and care for her brother, an injured Marine. After losing her father to war and witnessing her brother’s daily battle to overcome his injuries, she’s sworn off military men forever.

Gavin Cross, Navy SEAL, and the son of Ariel’s new boss has one mission in life -- to serve his country. But after showing signs of PTSD, he’s sent home where he struggles against the diagnosis and vows to get back to the action ASAP. The last problem he needs is an emotional entanglement with the beautiful, new farm vet. Denying the attraction between them only stirs the fire of their growing passion. Gavin must choose where his duty lies -- with his country or at home with the woman he loves and wants to protect. Leaving Ariel to rejoin his SEAL team means fulfilling his mission, but at what cost? The promise of her love tempts him in an undeniable way and has him questioning his need to serve. Gavin’s time to choose is up. A future without Ariel is no future at all, but is saving America from terrorism the greater good?

Her gaze flicked to an imposing male figure planted directly in her line of vision, his stance wide, wearing leather combat boots seemingly bolted to the earth. Whoever the man was, he surveyed every detail of his environment with the presence of someone whose self-confidence couldn’t easily be shaken. He carried himself like he belonged here. Hell, like he owned the place. The startling combination of blue eyes, the color of glacier water, against an olive complexion and full black beard created a commanding presence. Glued like a sentry next to the man, Wager, the farm’s Border collie exuded absolute devotion with his tongue lolling out and head tilted up to the hand stroking him.

Jesus, who IS that dude? He can’t be a new buyer interested in our foals the way Wager is fawning all over him but he’s someone important, no doubt. Focus Ariel, you’re here to work, not get infatuated with the first cowboy who comes along.

As if he sensed her curiosity, the enigmatic stranger turned his attention toward her. The intensity of his stare invaded her comfort zone as he coolly and completely assessed her with a visual review of her body that left her feeling undressed. The hair on her arms stood erect. She rubbed them as if removing a chill. The physical reaction was her own intuitive warning system and experience had taught her to listen to her body. She understood all too well about arrogant, possessive men. Her controlling ex-boyfriend was a moral zero and the most deceptive man she’d ever met. The image of him sent shivers skidding down her spine but she quickly thrust the memories aside. He’s out of my life and nowhere near here.

Ariel slid the dog tags back and forth on the chain she wore around her neck….

With close ties to the Navy SEAL community, Connie’s mission as a writer is to offer the reader a realistic portrayal of men who transfer their alpha tendencies and athletic prowess into serving a noble cause.

A former English teacher and corporate executive Connie holds a B.A from East Carolina University. Although she continues her role as Vice President in a busy ad agency, her first love has always been writing. She maintains a portfolio of songs, poems and stories she wrote as early as ten. When she isn’t working or writing, Connie enjoys Zumba fitness and claims her best story ideas come to her while dancing.

Connie lives with her family and two adorable Westies near the Gulf Coast of Florida.

March 28, 2016

Teasers & Giveaway! Ameerah: Paranormal Thriller by Rebekkah Ford

Sometimes even the dead seek salvation.

In 1925, eighteen-year-old Ameerah Arrowood is murdered in an insane asylum. She finds herself transported to a dreary realm that turns out to be a recruiting station for the dark spirits. With animosity in her heart toward humanity, she decides to join them.

For the next ninety years, Ameerah possesses soulless humans, living a hedonistic, mischievous and sometimes vengeful existence, but now she's seeking salvation so she can crossover and save her lost love who is stuck in the lower world. 

Ameerah enlists the help of her dark spirit friend Derek, who is straddling the line between Heaven and Hell. She tells him how it all began, weaving between historical timelines to now, hoping to gain understanding about why her parents betrayed her and wanting to get rid of the guilt weighing on her heart. In the end, the unexpected unfolds, throwing Ameerah a curve ball which changes her forever.

Rebekkah Ford grew up in a family that dealt with the paranormal world. Her parents Charlie and Geri Wilhelm were the directors of the UFO Investigator's League in Fairfield, Ohio. They also investigated ghost hauntings and Bigfoot sightings in addition to extraterrestrial cases. Growing up in this type of environment and having the passion for writing stories is what drove Rebekkah at an early age to write tales dealing with the paranormal world. Her fascination with the unknown is what led her to write the Beyond the Eyes trilogy, its companion Tangled Roots, and Ameerah.
Rebekkah resides in rural North Dakota, in a farming community of about 1,800 people and loves where she lives. She has an irreverent sense of humor, loves coffee, and yummy food makes her happy. She also loves books, history, antiques, animals, connecting with her fans and other authors, as well as watching her favorite TV shows.

February 24, 2016

Author Interview, Excerpt & Giveaway! Trainwreck, Trainwreck #1 by Michele Micheal Rakes

Detective Sergeant Vincent Sweetwater hates dead bodies. That’s why he’s an undercover narc and not a homicide dick. So why is he standing on a sandy beach in California staring at a lifeless body—oh yeah, the suicide attempt. Lieutenant Hanson is making a statement. Something about life worth living. Shows what he knows.

As Vince examines the tortured body, he feels an empathy and déjà vu for the victim, her wounds are similar to scars he has only a vague memory receiving. An intense desire to find her killer fills his queasy belly as a dark game of cat and mouse begins. 

The young woman’s death forces Vince back into a secret life dominated by sex, perversion, and sadomasochism. Estranged from his wife he still loves and longing for the man who possessed him once, Vince buries his torment deep inside meaningless sex.

*Warning: This book contains adult content and situations. NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH.

Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Michele Micheal “Mikey” Rakes, author of Trainwreck the series.

Hi Mikey, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

Like my character in Trainwreck, I ride a Harley, have a thing for big, tall, powerful men like my husband. And again like my character, Vincent Sweetwater, I have a thing for headstrong women, like my wife who recently lost her battle with cancer. The three of us rode all over the Pacific Northwest, but we never made it to our cross-country trip. This book is about a poly, a triad, and about the dark secrets that plague the main character, Vincent Sweetwater.

Vince is a narcotics cop with a sex addiction. A sex addiction that might kill him, but from disease. No, his sex addiction is violent. He’s so desperate to feel the things his dominant, Greg used to make him feel that he’ll go to a woman with no conscience and let her beat him without mercy. No safewords. Just pure mind fucks and pain.

Do you buy a book because of the cover, the blurb, or something else?

I’d be lying if I said covers don’t catch my eye, but ultimately what makes me buy the book is the blurb. If it has a premise that intrigues me, I’ll buy.

What does ‘romance’ mean to you?

I’m not a typical romance writer, so I’m not sure what it means to others, but for me it means struggle. Nothing comes easy for my characters, so as a reward for their trials and tribulations, I give them someone to love them along the way.

What are your current projects?

Right now, I’m working on polishing up the other four parts of Trainwreck for release, cover art, formatting, and the like. I’m also 80% done with the follow-up to Fourth and Long published by Loose Id. It’s called After Party and will be followed up by the last installment of the series, Maddox and Frank.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

Finding the time. I work twelve to fifteen hours a day at a tasking job. Sometimes I have a hard time pulling out the lap top at the end of the day.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise people.

I have gender issues. I’m addicted to sex. I’m ADHD. I have a dick in my pants. I’m not sure what would surprise people. I’m really not shocked by anything. I like whips and chains. My husband, on my request, got me a big chain for my birthday. He can chain me to the bed and its long enough to reach the bathroom and the refrigerator in the kitchen. I like to rattle my chains at him for fun. He just stands out of my reach and laughs. I love it!

The room fell silent and he turned back to the freezer. His hand hovered lovingly over the lid before he lifted it. “Hey, pretty. I know what to do with you now. You’re going to meet the son of an old friend.”

The girl had dead-fish eyes. Half-lidded, green once upon a time, they stared unseeing from a frost glittered corpse. Hair like sunburnt grass pricked her high cheekbones and full lips. He smoothed it back stiffly. The realization this would be the last time he felt her youthful body rushed through him like a phantom out of the dark. He was almost surprised at her lack of life.

On a shelf across the room was a black tarp, which he spread on the floor. With singular effort he struggled to get the partially frozen corpse from the freezer. She landed with a sick thud. The man apologized to her as though she were still living, stroking her stiff hair soothingly. He started to roll her in the black plastic, cocooning her in a final darkness, to be reborn from the chrysalis in the morning sunlight. Only then would Vincent Sweetwater come to know her and whom she represented.

Michele Micheal Rakes lives in a small town in the shadow of a big mountain and works as a surgical technologist assisting in the removal of tonsils and testicles. Three grown children, a one year old granddaughter named Thrasher, two psychotic Egyptian Mau’s, a husband with hair down to his knees, an Amazon for a wife, two Harley’s, and a ferret named Teeny Tiny Ferret Feet (husband insists her name Little Feet, we all know he’s wrong) life is gets pretty wild.
Note: Wife recently passed away from cancer and this book is dedicated in loving memory of Mary Louise Castleman. Love you babe!

December 21, 2015

Sale Blitz! Excerpt & Giveaway: Killer Instinct, Killer Instinct #1 by S.E. Green

She’s not evil, but she has certain... urges.

Lane is a typical teenager. Loving family. Good grades. Afterschool job at the local animal hospital. Martial arts enthusiast. But her secret obsession is studying serial killers. She understands them, knows what makes them tick.


Because she might be one herself.

Lane channels her dark impulses by hunting criminals—delivering justice when the law fails. The vigilantism stops shy of murder. But with each visceral rush the line of self-control blurs.
And then a young preschool teacher goes missing. Only to return... in parts.

When Lane excitedly gets involved in the hunt for “the Decapitator,” the vicious serial murderer that has come to her hometown, she gets dangerously caught up in a web of lies about her birth dad and her own dark past. And once the Decapitator contacts Lane directly, Lane knows she is no longer invisible or safe. Now she needs to use her unique talents to find the true killer’s identity before she—or someone she loves—becomes the next victim... 


I study serial killers. They’re loners. Obsessive compulsives. People who lack emotion and fantasize violence. Intelligent people who on the outside seem normal. 

Interesting thing is, I am those profiles. I have urges. I plot ways to violently make people pay for what they’ve done to others. 

Nature versus nurture. Of course I’ve studied that. I’ve got good parents with decent genetics so for me I’ve always suspected it’s something else. Except . . . I have no clue what. 

I don’t know why I am the way I am, why I think the way I think, why I do the things I do. All I know is that I’m different. Always have been. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know something was off in me. 

At ten, when other kids were coloring with crayons, I started tracking serial killers and keeping details of their murders in a journal—a journal no one has ever seen but me.

Now, seven years later, most teens hang out with friends. I, however, prefer spending my spare time at the court house—with Judge Penn to be exact. He tries all the hard cases. 

His staff expects to see me, believing my lie about wanting to go into law, and so I give my customary nod as I enter the back of Penn’s court and quietly take my usual spot in the left rear corner. I sit down and get out my summer reading just in case today’s log is boring.

It’s not.

A balding, short, pudgy, accountant type man sits beside a slick lawyer he’s obviously spent a lot of money on. The Weasel is what I decide to name him. 

In the viewing gallery sit a handful of women, three are crying and two stoically stare straight ahead. 

On the stand is another one of the expressionless ones and she’s speaking, “. . . classical music, a candle. He knew his way around, like he’d been in my house before. He handcuffed my ankles and wrists to the bed posts and stuffed gauze in my mouth so my screams couldn’t be heard. He cut my clothes away and left me naked. He wore a condom and was clean shaven, everywhere. He had a full face mask on.”

No evidence.

“He raped me,” she matter-of-factly reports and then describes in detail all the vicious ways he violated her.

“I’m going to be sick,” the woman in front of me whispers before getting up and leaving the room.

I continue listening to the details, mentally cataloging them. Details don’t bother me. They don’t make me sick. They don’t make me want to leave a room. If anything they draw me in because they are just that—details, facts.

A few of the women in the room sniffle and I glance to The Weasel. Although he’s doing a good job of keeping his emotions blank, I catch a slight smirk on his lips that kicks my pulse.

This is one of the things I consider a talent of mine. While some people show every emotion, I show none. And I can read others’ body language, others’ faces when they think they’re doing a stellar job of masking. The Weasel obviously thinks he’s getting away with something.

Thirty minutes later The Weasel is found not guilty due to lack of evidence. As he walks from the court room, his slight smirk becomes more visible when he glances at one of the sniffling women.

This is another thing people make the mistake of—confidence, cockiness, ego.

The Weasel will rape again. Of this I’m sure.

If it is my destiny to be a killer, I’m going to need a type. And today decides that my type will be criminals—specifically, those that have managed to avoid punishment.

I turn seventeen next week. The Weasel will be my birthday present to myself. I think I’ve just found my first victim.

S. E. Green (aka Shannon Greenland) is the award winning author of the teen thriller, Killer Instinct, a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers; the teen spy series, The Specialists, an ALA Popular Paperback and a National Reader’s Choice recipient; and the YA romance, The Summer My Life Began, winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award. Her books have been translated into several languages and are currently on numerous state reading lists. Vanquished is her debut novel for adults.

Shannon grew up in Tennessee where she dreaded all things reading and writing. She didn’t even read her first book for enjoyment until she was twenty-five. After that she was hooked! When she’s not writing, she works as an adjunct math professor and lives on the coast in Florida with her very grouchy dog. Find her online everywhere @segreenauthor.

December 6, 2015

In The Spotlight: The Other Woman: A Betrayed Wife takes on a Mistress with Scandalous Results by Eve Rabi

Meet Scarlett Smyth. She’s drop-dead gorgeous, has a rocking body and has an above average IQ. She brags that she can ensnare any husband or taken male, and …she often does. She also is ambitious and has a penchant for anything expensive. 
When the shrewd and ambitious temptress lays eyes on Bradley Murdoch, she believes she has found her dream man and a ticket to the high life she’s entitled to. There are just two problems: 
1) Bradley is married to Rival. Happily at that. 
2) They have children. Adorable little girls. 
Do those facts deter Scarlett in any way? No, not at all. She is determined to steal Bradley, smoothly replace Rival in his life and show him how to really live life. 
In a calculating move, the seductress (she is so good at seduction, she is even penning a book on it) befriends the quiet and unassuming Rival and seduces Bradley. 
There’s more: To expedite things, Scarlett engineers a way to wipe Rival out of the picture and sends her away on a “vacation”. 
But Scarlett may have underestimated her opponent. When Rival realizes the extent of the betrayal, she decides, even though she lacks Scarlett’s genius IQ, not to turn the other cheek. In fact, she is determined to win back her husband, believing that he is a good man who is simply mistaking lust for love. She believes that someone like Scarlett has to have skeletons in her cupboards and she begins to snoop around. 
What Rival doesn’t understand is: no one crosses Scarlett and gets away with it. As a result, the betrayed wife and the other woman collide and results in this romantic, suspense-filled thriller.

I stare at him, all my fingers threaded through my hair, my mind muddled and trying to make sense of everything.
“This is not happening,” I mutter. “Can’t be happening!” Then I notice Bradley holding her hand. My best friend’s hand. With both of his. It’s happening. 
At this point, I should be furious with him, with her, with the entire deception. I should yell at her, hurl abuse, even threaten to kill her. But I’m numb with shock and disbelief. I sink deep into my hospital chair, and fight the urge to rock. “Where…do…I go with the children?”
“Well, that’s been taken care of. They will stay with Scarlett and me. But you can see them –”
I leap to my feet. “No!” 
“—whenever you want to.”
“I will not let you take my children, Bradley.”
“Rival, it’s all done.” His voice – he’s using the same tone he uses on our little girls when they’re being unreasonable.
“Done?” I feel a stab of panic. “What do you mean by done?”
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Scarlett interrupts, “Rival, the courts –”
“Don’t speak,” I warn, my index finger raised in the air, my eyes fixed on Bradley’s face.
“—have appointed—”
“Don’t SPEAK!” I repeat.
Bradley quickly stands in front of Scarlett, his arms outstretched in a protective gesture. 
“Rival, listen: the court have appointed me sole custodian after you were charged with child negligence. All your visits have to be supervised.”
“What!” I blink rapidly. “Supervised visits? Me?”
“Well, Rival,” Scarlett says in an irritated voice, “you’ve a drug habit—”
“Shut UP, Scarlett!” I snarl.
“—and the last thing we want to do is to endanger—”
Everything happens so quickly. One minute I’m asking Scarlett to shut up, the next I have her on the floor, beating her head with the heavy-duty stapler from my doctor’s desk. There’s blood all over the floor and all over me. 
Both Bradley and the doctor are unable to pull me off Scarlett and it takes six men in white to pull me off the woman who stole my husband, my children, my life.
“Let me go!” I yell. “I need to speak to my husband!”
They won’t let me. I scream and kick at Scarlett’s rescuers. When they restrain my hands, I bite them – sink my teeth into their forearms, chest and legs. Where I get my strength from, I have no idea, but I am suddenly so strong, it takes nine men, including two security guards in the end, to physically restrain me.
“BRADLEY!” I scream. “Don’t do this to me!”
I get no response from my husband. Frustrated, I spit on the men.
That’s when they place a lace hood over my face, a strait jacket over my body and throw me into a padded cell where no one can hear me scream. That doesn’t stop me from screaming and hurling abuse. But when I start to bang my head against the door, they re-enter the room, surround me, and inject me. The last thing I see before my eyes shut is the image of my husband holding my best friend’s hands. With both of his. Don’t do this to me, Bradley. Please don’t do this to me. Please …


November 18, 2015

Excerpt & Giveaway! Vanquished by S.E. Green

(Warning: For mature audiences only)

For a price, the world’s most powerful people can explore their darkest desires. On a private island hidden in the ocean they may hunt humans for game, attend gladiator-style fights, participate in elaborate orgies, and freely indulge in all the deadly sins within the cosplay of ancient times.

Abducted from their life in Miami, Valoria and her younger sister wake up in this secret society, wherein Valoria is condemned to the fights and her sister is taken away to become a sex slave.

Now “property” of a sadistic tyrant, Valoria joins other men and women captives who are forced to fight and maim for others’ enjoyment, to run in their hunts, and participate in deviant fantasies. And she’s under the cold, watchful eye of Alexior, a hired trainer with his own agenda for being involved in the twisted decadence.

After surviving several near-death ordeals, a defiant Valoria focuses on her training and against all odds soon becomes a favorite. But she fights for one thing and one thing only—to be reunited with her sister and to be freed.

But promises of freedom are sometimes just manipulative lies . . .

The warriors and the recruits go to stand along the perimeter of the training ground, leaving me and Sera alone in the courtyard. Alexior hands a wooden practice sword to Sera first and then brings one to me.

“She’s a stronger opponent,” he quietly tells me. “Do not allow advantage to your back. You are small. Use that to your benefit. Draw her to you then use her strength against her.” With that, he backs off, leaving me to wonder how exactly I’m supposed to execute what he just said.

“I would like them to use real weapons,” someone calls out, and I snap my eyes up to the terrace.

Bareket is there now, standing off by herself, staring her beady eyes right at me.

Every single one of my tendons and muscles tense in fiery anger.

Dominus lets out a nervous laugh. “Bareket—”

“It’s what I want.” She flings her jeweled hand through the air. “If it’s their lives you’re worried about, I’ll reimburse you double should one perish.”

My mouth goes completely dry. I can’t help myself from looking over at Sera who seems as stunned as I am.

Dominus nods. “As you wish.” He looks down at Alexior. “Let them choose their weapon.”

My feet stay rooted to the dirt as frenzied blood throbs through me. I’m going to die. My world tilts, then everything mutes. I’m going to pass out.

Alexior appears again in front of me. He peels my fingers off of the wooden sword and hands me a smaller spear than the one I just practiced with. This one has a blade attached to the end.

“Look at me,” he commands.

I bring my dazed eyes up to his.

“Focus. Think of your sister. Neither you nor Sera have to die. When it comes time to surrender, do so with the show of an index finger.” He wraps my hand around the spear and goes to stand with the others around the perimeter of the training ground.

“Begin!” Dominus commands from the terrace.“Valoria!” Sera shouts. “You will die here in this dirt.”

S. E. Green (aka Shannon Greenland) is the award winning author of the teen thriller, Killer Instinct, a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers; the teen spy series, The Specialists, an ALA Popular Paperback and a National Reader’s Choice recipient; and the YA romance, The Summer My Life Began, winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award. Her books have been translated into several languages and are currently on numerous state reading lists. Vanquished is her debut novel for adults.
Shannon grew up in Tennessee where she dreaded all things reading and writing. She didn’t even read her first book for enjoyment until she was twenty-five. After that she was hooked! When she’s not writing, she works as an adjunct math professor and lives on the coast in Florida with her very grouchy dog. Find her online everywhere @segreenauthor.

October 22, 2015

In The Spotlight! Excerpt & Giveaway: Before The Storm by Leslie Tentler

Six years earlier, Trina Grissom disappeared, on the run for her life. Now living under an assumed identity—as Samantha Marsh—she still struggles with the dark secret she harbors and the fear she might one day be found. When she moves to the coastal town of Rarity Cove, South Carolina, to open a café, a handsome widower begins to chip away at the walls she’s bilt to protect herself.

Mark St. Clair lost his wife two years ago in a tragic accident. Head of the grand St. Clair resort, he distracts himself from his lingering grief by running the family business and caring for his troubled young daughter...until a beautiful restaurateur sets up shop in town. Before meeting Samantha, Mark was convinced he could never be drawn to another woman. But as his attraction to Samantha grows, the mystery surrounding her deepens.

As the two begin a hesitant courtship, double perils emerge. Someone from Samantha’s lurid past comes calling, threatening to expose her. And a powerful hurricane is forming in the Atlantic with the small beach town in its path. Trapped in the storm by the brutal man who wants vengeance on Samantha, she and Mark must fight for their lives.

“Emily?” Mark St. Clair looked around crowded Main Street. She had been right here, watching as a clown with a painted face and red wig twisted balloons into barnyard animals. 

He scanned the street vendors hawking pecan pralines and tourist souvenirs. But there was no sign of a blond, pigtailed almost-five-year-old. He had turned his back for what? Ten seconds? On the street in front of him, the parade continued. An open convertible rolled past, a smiling Miss Peach Blossom waving regally from its backseat. He tamped down a surge of panic. 

“Mark St. Clair, as I live and breathe!” A heavyset woman wearing too much perfume stepped into his path. He recognized her as head of the Junior League. “Happy Founder’s Day! I do believe your great-great-great-grandfather would be so proud of our little town.”

“Thanks. Nice to see you, Mrs. Botwin.” 

“I was just at the hotel last weekend. Tell your chef the pork tenderloin was out of this world—”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Mark smiled thinly, and with a polite excuse, he shouldered past, peering down the sidewalk for his daughter. As he searched, he tried not to think about the child-abduction stories that scared the bejeesus out of him, but he still couldn’t keep his heart from racing. It was early August, the humidity high, and his Ralph Lauren sports shirt stuck to his back. In the balmy afternoon breeze, the cloying aroma of cotton candy mingled with the briny sea air. 

Don’t panic, he told himself. But if Emily...if anything happened to her...

He wouldn’t survive another loss.

A break in the parade allowed him to catch a glimpse of the town square with its ancient live oaks and garlands of Spanish moss. A number of vendors had booths set up there, a banner overhead proclaiming The Perfect Summer in Rarity Cove.

Relief washed through him. Amid the throngs of people, he spotted a small red skirt and sandals, then flaxen pigtails reflecting sunlight. Emily stood at one of the cloth-covered tables. What had he told her about crossing the street? He waited until a squadron of Shriners from the Masonic Lodge marched past in their red fezzes, swords drawn, then went after her. 

“Emily,” he called, catching her attention. She turned, beaming as he approached, and Mark felt his anger evaporate. He knelt in front of her. “You scared me to death, sweetheart. You were supposed to be watching the clown make balloon animals. Didn’t you want one?” 

Instead, Emily pointed at the table, bouncing with excitement. An impressive assortment of pastries was enticingly arranged, and not of the Ladies Garden Club bake sale variety. Sophisticated tartlets held jewel-like curds, and an arrangement of buttery linzer cookies and shell-shaped madeleines filled a silver platter. Decadent lemon bars and rich cream puffs looked nearly too perfect to eat. But most notable were the cupcakes. Each was a work of art, with thick caps of buttercream frosting and edible flower decorations.

“I told her she could have one, but she needed to get her parents’ permission first.”

Mark looked up at the comment. A slender, dark-haired young woman in a sleeveless white blouse stood behind the table. Doe-like brown eyes complemented delicate features. She was attractive—beautiful, actually. As he stood, he caught a glimpse of her long, tanned legs in faded jean shorts.

“She doesn’t say much, does she?” She smiled at Emily. “I asked her name, but she wouldn’t tell me.”

“She doesn’t,” Mark explained, his chest tightening. “Her name’s Emily.” 

The woman nodded as a faint frown creased her forehead. “I see. Can she have a cupcake?”

“Sure. Which one do you want, baby?”

Emily pointed to a rich-looking confection, causing the young woman to laugh. “A girl after my own heart. That’s the devil’s food. It’s chocolate-filled. The little purple flowers are lavender.”

Mark noticed one with a deep red base and pristine white icing. A miniature rosebud sat on its top. Seeing that it had caught his attention, she said, “That’s red velvet, of course. A Southern favorite.”

“We’ll take that one, too.” Their eyes met briefly, until the woman lowered her thick lashes and busied herself with placing the two large cupcakes in a white cardboard box. She tied the package with a blue satin bow and presented it to Emily, who practically danced in delight. 

Mark reached for his wallet. “How much?”

“No charge. I promised one to Emily.”

“How about mine, then?”

“All right. That’ll be three ninety-five.”

He shook his head good-naturedly. “Four bucks? That must be one heck of a cupcake.”

She grinned as he handed her the bills, his fingers briefly brushing hers in the process. Mark experienced a small thrill of attraction, followed nearly as quickly by a sharp stab of guilt that made it hard to breathe. His eyes fell to the printed sign in front of the table. Café Bella. 

The place must be new; he’d never heard of it, and Mark could count the better restaurants in the small coastal town on one hand. He’d never seen the woman before, either. He realized that he should introduce himself, ask her name or at least the location of the eatery. But instead, he murmured a hoarse thank-you and took Emily’s hand. They made their way across the street after several more parade floats sailed past.

Leslie Tentler is also the author of FALLEN as well as the Chasing Evil Trilogy (MIDNIGHT CALLER, MIDNIGHT FEAR and EDGE OF MIDNIGHT). She was a finalist for Best First Novel at ThrillerFest 2012, and is a two-time finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense. She is also the recipient of the prestigious Maggie Award of Excellence.
Leslie is a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Novelists, Inc. A native of East Tennessee, she currently resides in Atlanta. 

October 18, 2015

In The Spotlight! The Cypress Trap: A Suspense Thriller by J.C. Gatlin

A good vacation delivers you home alive. 
This is not a good vacation. 

When Rayanne commandeers her husband’s weekend fishing trip, she knows it’ll take work to adjust Owen’s attitude. She has no choice. Since the tragedy, they lost so much. They need to reconnect. 

Without her knowledge, Owen texts his best buddy, Daryl, to join the getaway. The three of them aren’t alone in the backwoods of Georgia, though. 

Owen took something that didn’t belong to him. Something that changed their lives. And now the owner wants it back. By any means -- including a posse led by a killer dog. 

At first, Rayanne is clueless about the item and its value. One thing becomes crystal clear: If it’s not returned, they might not make it home alive.

Rayanne heard the kids’ voices, and she looked again at the old cars in the bottom of the ditch. The first thing that came to mind was rattlesnakes. But she knew she couldn’t think of that right now.

She got up and headed for the rusted jeep. The hood was gone and it looked like a corpse left to rot in the sun. She glanced at the other cars. There was a hatchback with no doors. A pickup was off to one side, on blocks. The wheels had been removed and the driver’s side door thrown open and left to hang. There was a yellow Volkswagen Beetle half buried in the dirt.

Brown and yellow weeds sprouted up between the wrecks, but the ground was hard and Rayanne knew she had no choice. She raced past the rusting jeep, watching where she stepped.

She moved to the shell of a Volkswagen Beetle. It had two doors. She forced the passenger side open and looked into the dank interior. The overhead lining draped down like a misty shroud. Weeds had grown through the undercarriage and overtaken the floorboards. But two front seats and a long backseat remained. It could be a hiding place, she thought, and squeezed herself into the backseat. She cowered as low as she could.

She held her breath and prayed there was nothing living inside.

She shut her eyes and listened. The teens’ voices grew louder. They sounded like they were coming down into the hollow and she could hear Scut—or was it Roddy—say something about the cars. He sounded excited.

Dru was farther away. Rayanne could hear her calling the dog. Perhaps she didn’t want to walk down into the dump. It didn’t matter. Rayanne knew Scut and Roddy already had.

Their voices echoed, slipping between the cars. One of them said something about the pile of tires and the other laughed. She could hear them moving about, throwing rocks on metal remains, until they stopped right in front of the Volkswagen.

Rayanne stopped breathing.

“She’s hide’n here somewhere,” Scut was saying. He threw another rock and it hit the bumper. The sound reverberated through the Volkswagen, and Rayanne shivered.

“Naaaah,” Roddy said. It sounded like he was walking away. “I don’t think so. She’s a woman. She ain’t gonna come down here.”

“We’re not leav’n till we search every car.” Scut sounded like he was stepping away too. She could hear him throwing rocks at other cars now.

Rude Roddy was saying something when one of them screamed. For a second Rayanne thought Dru had made her way down into the dump. She was surprised to learn it was Scut.

“There’s a rattler! There’s a rattler!” Scut’s high-pitched wail echoed through the hollow, and she heard what sounded like some kind of skirmish. Perhaps an avalanche of gravel rolled down the slopes of the hollow, like marbles beneath their feet.

“I hate snakes! I hate ’em!” Scut’s voice rapidly moved away, and it sounded as far as Dru’s now. The girl asked them what was wrong.

They had to have climbed out of the hollow, Rayanne thought. She opened her eyes. She wanted to poke her head up, but didn’t dare.

Coming from a large family with five brothers, JC Gatlin grew up in Grapevine, Texas, a small town outside of Dallas. In 1999 he moved to Tampa, Florida, where he now resides. JC’s fishing trips help him breathe authenticity into his stories, which feature the rich landscapes of Texas and Florida as backdrops.
He has written a monthly column in New Tampa Style magazine and penned several mystery-suspense stories. His first, The Designated Survivor, was published in 2013. JC invites you to visit his mystery writing blog at