Author Q&A: Colleen Coble – THREE MISSING DAYS

Good day, book people. I hope everyone has had a great week and been able to get in some reading time. I hope you’ll take a few minutes out of your day and help me welcome Colleen Coble, author of Three Missing Days, book three in the Pelican Harbor series to the blog for a little Q&A. Thank you, Ms. Coble for taking time out of your busy writing and reading schedule to join us today. (By the way, I wish you a speedy recovery from your recent knee replacement surgery.)

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1. Why do you write the kind of books you do?

People ask that all the time. They say, “You’re so friendly and outgoing. Why do you write about murder and mayhem?” ☺ It’s the way I’m wired. I grew up on Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. I think it’s my way of dealing with injustice. I can’t do anything about the bad things in the world, but I can make sure justice prevails in my imaginary world.

2. Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?

On Valentine’s Day 2008 my son and daughter-in-law brought me a newspaper article they thought I might be interested in. It read: Bestselling author Colleen Coble realizes lifelong dream of being a grandmother! It was their way of letting me know we had a little one on the way. I’d waited YEARS to be a grandma! That baby was my darling granddaughter Alexa who is now 12, and we have 2 adorable grandsons, Elijah (4) and Silas (2) who all make life perfect. The hardest part is splitting our time because Alexa is in Indiana where we live and the boys are in Arizona. So we have been spending the winter there and making trips to see the little guys.

3. How has being published changed your life?

Oh I love writing! It’s such a fulfilling career. I love all aspects of it—writing, the promotion, the editing (especially the editing!), and everything else. It’s given me more confidence and more purpose in my life. It’s brought wonderful friends into my life.

4. What are you reading right now?

Last Day by Luanne Rice

5. What is your current work in progress?

A Stranger’s Game is set on Jekyll Island, GA. The place is steeped in history and I fell in love with it after a visit. Torie’s family owns the big, historic hotel on the island, though she hasn’t been there in years. When her best friend supposedly drowns there, Torie knows it’s murder because Lisbeth was terrified of the water. Torie goes to Jekyll Island incognito to find out what really happened. But a stranger knows about her quest and is determined to stop her.

6. What would be your dream vacation?

I’ve been lucky enough to actually live some dream vacations. The best ones are with the whole family together. We have gone to Hawaii several times to research the Aloha Reef books (I research while the kids play) and it landed us a new son which led to two little grandsons! Our daughter fell for her divemaster/boat captain, and they were married in 2008.

7. How do you choose your settings for each book?

I pick a place that interests me and that has the atmosphere I’m looking to get in the book. A Stranger’s Game on Jekyll Island had that atmosphere I love, and I was able to weave in some great history.

8. If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?

Stephen King. No one can write characters like the King. I’d love to pick his brain. It might be scary but oh so fun!

9. What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?

Hobbies? What are those? Who has time for hobbies? ☺ I used to crochet and quilt. Now whatever free time I have is spent on promotion, research, or just thinking about the next book. I do love to read though and I always make time for that!

10. What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?

The hardest thing for me is actually relaxing and not thinking about a book or the next book. Or the next. ☺ I love it so much that it can become an obsession. This time when I turned in my book, I had no choice but to rest because I was having knee replacement surgery. We are about four weeks out now, and the pain is abating which means I’m starting to think about the next book!

11. What advice would you give to a beginning author?

Read extensively in the genre you want to write. Attend at least one good conference a year. And never, never give up.

12. What’s your new book about?

Three Missing Days is the 3rd novel in the Pelican Harbor series. Jane’s teenage son is arrested for murder, and she has to find the real killer. As she plunges into the investigation, she finds a crucial piece of the plot to frame Will can only be found if she remembers three missing days from when she was a teenager.

Three Missing Days

by Colleen Coble

April 5 – 30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

THREE MISSING DAYS - CCoble

Book Three in the gripping romantic suspense series from USA TODAY bestselling author Colleen Coble.

A chilling murder.

Chief of Police Jane Hardy plunges into the investigation of a house fire that claimed the life of a local woman as well as one of the firefighters. It’s clear the woman was murdered. But why? The unraveling of Jane’s personal life only makes the answers in the case more difficult to find.

Her son’s arrest.

Then Jane’s fifteen-year-old son is accused of a horrific crime, and she has to decide whether or not she can trust her ex, Reid, in the attempt to prove Will’s innocence—and whether she can trust Reid with her heart.

Her stolen memories.

Three days of Jane’s past are missing from her memory, and that’s not all that has been stolen from her. As she works to find the woman’s murderer and clear her son’s name, finding out what happened in those three days could change everything. It all started with one little lie. But the gripping truth is finally coming out.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: April 6th 2021
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 0785228543 (ISBN13: 9780785228547)
Series: Pelican Harbor #3 || These books are Stand Alone Mysteries but are better if read as a series!
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook.com | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble is a USA TODAY bestselling author and RITA finalist best known for her coastal romantic suspense novels, including The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens, and the Lavender Tides, Sunset Cove, Hope Beach, and Rock Harbor series.

Connect with Colleen online at:
colleencoble.com
Goodreads
BookBub: @ColleenCoble
Instagram: @colleencoble
Twitter: @colleencoble
Facebook: @colleencoblebooks

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

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Giveaway!:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Colleen Coble and Thomas Nelson. ONE (1) winner will receive ONE (1) physical set of the first three books in the Pelican Harbor series. (U.S. addresses only). The giveaway begins on April 5, 2021 and runs through May 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Recommendations: April 2021

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

My apologies, my bookish peeps, I’ve fallen behind on writing reviews due to these incessant daily migraine headaches and another bout of bronchitis. Having a migraine every day is bad enough, add in hacking up a lung (at least that’s what it feels like at times), and it just adds to the joy. Of course, it could be so much worse and I’m incredibly grateful it isn’t. To make a long-story shorter, in lieu of reviews, I’ll simply be posting the synopsis of a few of the books I’ve read that I’m recommending you add to your TBR list, if these titles aren’t already there.

Okay, I have two recommendations for you romance lovers. First up is the final book in the Brown Sisters trilogy by Talia Hibbert, Act Your Age, Eve Brown. If you haven’t read the previous two books in this series, Get A Life, Chloe Brown and Take A Hint, Dani Brown, then you’ll want to add those to your list as well. These stories feature flawed, but realistic characters that are trying their best to cope in a world that doesn’t often make room for differently-sized, neurodiverse/neurodivergent, or differently-abled people. What more can I say other than these are great diverse romance reads.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown, The Brown Sisters #3, by Talia Hibbert
ISBN: 9780062941275 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780062941282 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062941299 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781799971085 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B089WJ184B (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B089SYX5F5 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Avon Romance
Release Date: March 9, 2021

In USA Today bestselling author Talia Hibbert’s newest rom-com, the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how.

Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.

Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help . Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | Audiobooks.com | AudiobooksNow.com | BookDepository.com | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Read an excerpt here.


My next romance recommendation is the first book in a new series by award-winning romance author Sandra Kitt. Winner Takes All kicks off the Millionaires Club series. This is nice, tender, and sometimes emotional diverse romance from an author that has written quite a number of tender, emotional romances.

Winner Takes All, The Millionaires Club #1, by Sandra Kitt
ISBN: 9781728214887 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781728214894 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781662081477 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781662081828 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08SR9CXWF (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08DHGVN2L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: April 6, 2021

“Great story-telling of the most romantic kind.”—Brenda Jackson, New York Times bestselling author

“A warm-hearted story and a clever plot reflecting current issues with sensitivity, warmth, and wisdom.”—Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jean Travis has the job of announcing the latest lottery winner on TV and is stunned to find that Patrick Bennett, her teenage crush, is the top mega winner. They haven’t seen each other in years, and Patrick is thrilled to renew their acquaintance. Jean, not so much. After all, a lot has changed since they used to study together and Jean worked so hard to hide her feelings. Now that he’s won so much money, Patrick faces a whole new world of demands from family, friends, coworkers, strangers. The only person he knows for sure he can trust, is Jean…

“Romantic, tender, emotional, and compelling.”—RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | BookDepository.com | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook


The previous books have already been released and are available for purchase in multiple print and digital formats. The next book won’t be available for some months, but I highly recommend adding it to your TBR list and pre-ordering it especially if you’ve ever read anything by this author in the past. The book is The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi and this could be categorized as women’s fiction and/or family fiction. I simply classify it as a darn good read. It is a story about secrets, forgiveness (of others and of self), tragedy, survival, second chances, love, and family being more than DNA. Although this book won’t release until November, it will be worth the wait.

The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi
ISBN: 9781542029124 (paperback)
ASIN: B08SXRK8M1 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08MZPFY3J (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: November 1, 2021

A gripping, openhearted novel about family, reconciliation, and bringing closure to the secrets of the past.

Early into the tempestuous decade of her thirties, Rae Langdon struggles to work through a grief she never anticipated. With her father, Connor, she tends to their Ohio farm, a forty-acre spread that itself has enjoyed better days. As memories sweep through her, some too precious to bear, Rae gives shelter from a brutal winter to a teenager named Quinn Galecki.

Quinn has been thrown out by his parents, a couple too troubled to help steer the misunderstood boy through his own losses. Now Quinn has found a temporary home with the Langdons—and an unexpected kinship, because Rae, Quinn, and Connor share a past and understand one another’s pain. But its depths—and all its revelations and secrets—have yet to come to light. To finally move forward, Rae must confront them and also fight for Quinn, whose parents have other plans in mind for their son.

With forgiveness, love, and the spring thaw, there might be hope for a new season—a second chance Rae believed in her heart was gone forever.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | BookDepository.com | !ndigo


Needless to say, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading and could recommend many more titles, but felt this would be a good start until I get back to normal-for-me. I hope you’ll enjoy reading these books as much as I did. (Psst, if you enjoy reading nonfiction then you might want to grab a copy of The Black Church by Henry Louis Gates Jr. This book is an excellent companion to the recent PBS special and has some fascinating historical tidbits.) Have you read anything lately that you can recommend?

Happy Reading, y’all!

Guest Author: Barbara Howard – FINAL HARVEST

Good day, my bookish peeps. I’m attempting to recover from another bout of bronchitis along with my daily migraine episodes. Adding insult to injury, I’ve also been experiencing a myriad of tech device issues over the past week due to operating software upgrades. Thankfully, I was able to escape into books while dealing with the tech issues at least. The medical issues are routine, so no biggie. If you’re like me, you TBR list has probably grown exponentially over the past year. Each time I find a new-to-me author (don’t you love when that happens), I end up adding all of that author’s books to my TBR list. Today, I’m pleased to welcome one such author to the blog. Barbara Howard, author of Final Harvest, will be discussing the evolution of the main character in this book. So sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and let’s hear what she has to say. (I hope you’ll add Final Harvest to your ever-growing TBR list.) Thank you, Ms. Howard for joining us today, the blog is now yours.

I love answering questions about the characters, the origin of the plot in my stories, and how everything was created. One thing that I’ve mentioned often is that I start out with a character in mind but of course they evolve as you put them in different areas of conflict throughout the story. And, as the plot moves along sometimes the character turns out to be someone quite different than I originally planned. That’s the case with my main character, Traci Simmons.

I am not Traci and she is not based upon anyone that I know. But there are a few things in her life that I can relate to and, as I mentioned in an episode of my podcast, I find that more and more people are contacting me to say that’s the case for them as well. They can either relate to something that she’s going through or something that she’s feeling. I’ve had several people tell me there were points in the story where they actually cried – not that it’s a sad story, but it just touched them in a special way. And every time they tell me that, it makes me cry, too. I love when people meet Traci and embrace her and can find themselves somewhere in the story.

I’ll add this, there are bits and pieces of me in the story. I am a quilter. In Final Harvest, there’s a mention of a quilt in the attic. Also, all of the different vegetables at the farm are my favorites that I like to grow in my garden. They’re all listed in detail for the market day. Many of the street names and some of the business names came from my genealogy research. I found records of my ancestors in different rural communities and counties in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio, and all around the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. I mapped out where they lived back in the 1800 – early 1900s. I jotted down the different names of streets or roads or highways or things like that and I incorporated some of them in the story. So, I guess you could say that I’m in there, bits and pieces of my life.

There’s no one that I took out of my life and put into the pages. Having said that, there are moments when I was writing this series that it did touch me emotionally as if I was standing in Keeferton and I could feel the setting around me. So when I hear back from a reader that they got to a certain point and either the foreshadowing or the climactic moment or the action leading up to it grabbed them or made them cry or made them get totally absorbed into the mood of the story … It makes a big difference to any author to know that what you’re trying to convey actually jumps off the pages and into the hearts and minds of the readers. Saying all this to say this: I really am grateful and thankful for your comments and appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read, share and reach out to me about my books. Thank you so much.

Barbara Howard

Final Harvest (Finding Home)
by Barbara Howard

About Final Harvest

Final Harvest (Finding Home)

Cozy Mystery

1st in Series

Publisher: Independently Published (August 1, 2020)

Paperback: 164 pages

ISBN-13: 979-8655968134

Digital ASIN: B08BKZ58YF

Traci Simmons has been fired from another job and must decide if it’s time to give up her home and start fresh in another town. But, when her elderly neighbor dies mysteriously, she is pulled into leading a crusade to save the neighbor’s urban farm and find the killer. Through her new and unexpected relationship with these invisible people, Traci faces her own insecurities to learn what home really means.

Purchase Link – Amazon

About Barbara Howard

Barbara Howard is a “not-so-cozy” mystery and YA author of a dozen books, including her most recent trilogy, Finding Home Mystery Series; Final Harvest, Charlotte’s Revenge, and Milo’s Journey. She is a first-generation tech geek turned master gardener with a passion for fresh air, vegan cuisine, and tracing her roots. A big city girl with a small town heart, she returned to her family home in the Midwest after an extensive career as a Department of Defense Project Manager at the Pentagon and spends most of her time treasure hunting, spoiling her fur-babies, growing veggies, and raising chickens.


Author Links

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS
March 24 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
March 24 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
March 25 – Novels Alive – SPOTLIGHT
March 26 – Here’s How It Happened – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
March 27 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author Blog – SPOTLIGHT
March 28 – Christa Reads and Writes – SPOTLIGHT
March 29 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST
March 29 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
March 30 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
March 31 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT
April 1 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
April 1 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT
April 2 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT
April 3 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW
April 3 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT
April 4 – The Book Diva’s Reads – GUEST POST
April 5 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW
April 6 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

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Book Showcase: THE DEADENING by Kerry Peresta

 

The Deadening

by Kerry Peresta

April 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:the-deadening-by-kerry-l-peresta--cover-1.jpg

 

OLIVIA CALLAHAN’S quiet, orderly life is shattered when she regains consciousness in a hospital and discovers she is paralyzed and cannot remember a thing. The fragmented voices she hears around her help her piece together that an apparent assault landed her in the hospital, but nobody knows who attacked her, or why.

Now, in spite of a brain injury that has rewired her personality, Olivia is on a mission to reclaim her life. As clarity surfaces, and she starts to understand who she was, she is shocked.

Could she really have been that person?

And if so, does she want her old life back?

Praise:

“A gripping read populated by likable characters. Peresta draws us into a colorful detailed world and makes us care what happens to the people living in it. We root for Olivia as she struggles to regain her memory, her bearings, and the identity she lost long before her injury. Excellent!”
– Susan Crawford, Internationally bestselling author of The Pocket Wife and The Other Widow.

The Deadening is a captivating psychological suspense novel that will have you holding your breath with each turn of the page. Peresta has created a world chock-full of characters who are dynamic and unforgettable, for better or worse. Hold onto your seat.”
– Clay Stafford, bestselling author and founder of Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Suspense
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 21, 2021
Number of Pages: 353
ISBN: 1953789358 (ISBN13:9781953789358) (ASIN:B08SVKLMZ8)
Series: Olivia Callahan Suspense, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from The Deadening:

Prologue

The stiff bristles of the brush grew coppery as he scrubbed back and forth, back and forth. Wrinkling his nose at the smell, he groped for the mask he’d bought, looped it over his head, and snugged it into place.

He dipped the brush in the red-tinged solution in a blue, plastic bowl beside him on the floor, and continued scrubbing. Fifteen minutes later, he emptied the bowl down the toilet and shoved everything he’d used into a trash bag. He fought to staunch the bile creeping up his windpipe, but his throat constricted and he gagged. After retching into the sink, he turned on the faucet and splashed water on his face. Paused to take deep breaths. He could do this. He had to do this. He gripped the edge of the counter and stared out the bathroom window.

She’d not told anyone. Thank God for that. No one could know. No one would ever know. He’d make sure.

He walked to his garage, opened his car trunk, tossed in the latest trash bag. His hands felt icy. He rubbed them together, wiggled his fingers, and slammed the trunk shut.

Admittedly, her terror had excited him. Confusion. Dawning realization in her expression. His lips curved upward into a smile, then disintegrated. Reliving it didn’t change anything. He needed to move forward.

He returned and studied the carpet. In spite of his efforts, the stain still needed work. He cursed, dropped to his knees, and pounded the dampness with a fist.

Through a veil of fatigue, he watched in horror as the kidney-shaped stain stood and pointed an accusatory finger at him. He blinked, hard. Was he hallucinating? How long had he been without sleep? He crabbed backwards, leaned against the wall, pulled his knees to his chest and squeezed his eyes shut. When he opened them some moments later, the blood-apparition had disappeared.

He groaned.

He stared at the ceiling until his brain spit out a solution.

The problem lay in the other room. That’s how he looked at her now.

A problem to solve.

He rose from the floor and walked out.

His eyes slid from her pale face, down her form, to her feet. He no longer thought of her as warm, soft, desirable. She had been so scared…eyes wide and unblinking as she fell. He shook his head and pushed the image away.

Nesting her in towels so her blood wouldn’t pool on the couch, her bronze-sandaled feet with their shiny, pink toenails hung over the edge. He looked away. “Get a grip, man. Just do it.”

The towels fell away when he picked her up. He wound them back around her, careful to tuck in the edges. His heartbeat slammed his ribs.

She was fragile, a little bit of a thing, like a bird. He drew his index finger across her lips. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “If you had just…if you had only…” His voice trailed away. Jaw clenched, he carried her to his car.

Chapter One

Nathan ambled along sidewalks that wound through the manicured hospital grounds, fishing in his pocket for a lighter. He lit the cigarette dangling from his lips and inhaled deeply, his smile saturated with nicotine’s unholy bliss.

“Thank God,” he mumbled around the cigarette, and withdrew it from his lips, stretching. He glanced over his shoulder at the brightly lit ER entrance to Mercy Hospital, rubbing his neck. He rolled his shoulders, inhaled several deep drags from the cigarette, dropped it, and ground it beneath his shoe. “These night shifts are killing me.” He groaned and gazed at the sky. Clouds hid a full moon. He’d been grateful to get the med tech job, but after two months of bodily fluid testing and storage, he was bored. He needed a challenge.

Nathan followed his typical route through the hedged lawn, almost on auto-pilot, so when he stumbled and sprawled onto the grass face-first, he was stunned. What had tripped him? Cursing softly, he explored his cheeks, nose, forehead. No damage done that he could tell. “Klutz,” he berated himself, pushing up to hands and knees.

Something soft and warm lay beneath his palms. His breathing sped up. He looked down, but it was too dark to see. Trembling, his fingers inched their way to lips, nose, eyes, stiff knots of hair. His mouth dropped in horror. The clouds obligingly slid off the moon and revealed a woman’s body, her hair blood-matted, her face ghostly white. The grass around her head was rusty with blood. He edged his head toward her lips to check her breathing. Shallow, but at least she was alive.

He scrambled to his feet, fighting nausea and staring at his palms, sticky with the woman’s blood. Shrieking for help, he raced into the hospital and skidded to a stop in front of the desk. The ER nurses behind the reception desk squinted at him like he was deranged.

“Possible head injury!” He flailed an arm at the entrance. “Someone, anyone, come quick!”

A male nurse and two aides followed him outside, shoes pounding the sidewalk at full gallop. The tech stopped, turned, and signaled them to tread carefully as they parted ways with the sidewalk and navigated the shrubbery in the dark. Single file, panting, they tiptoed through the shadows until the tech raised a palm for them to stop.

“Here,” he hissed at the nurse, and held a point like a bird dog.

The nurse dropped to the ground and clicked a flashlight on. “Ohmigosh,” he whispered. He lifted the woman’s thin, pale wrist and glanced at his watch. Satisfied that she had a pulse, he slapped the flashlight into Nathan’s bloodied palm. “Stay with her!” He rushed inside.

Within minutes, looky-loos poured from the ER and clustered around the limp form.

“Move back!” Nathan stretched out his arms like a cop directing traffic. “She’s barely breathing!” His glanced nervously at the ER entrance.

The crowd didn’t yield an inch. The ER doors whooshed open. A stretcher clattered down the sidewalk and onto the dew-damp grass. Chills shivered up the tech’s spine as the ashen pallor of death climbed from the woman’s neck to her face. He dropped to the ground and picked up her hand. The paramedic team drew closer, their flashlights piercing the darkness with slivers of light. The crowd eased apart to let them through.

Nathan bent closer to the woman, and whispered, “Hang in there. Help is on the way.”

The stretcher slid to a stop beside him. The paramedics dropped to their knees, stabilized the woman’s head with a brace, staunched the bleeding, and wrapped the wound. They eased her onto the stretcher and rumbled away. The aides shared nervous smiles of relief. They looked at Nathan, then followed the paramedic team back inside.

Nathan, his heartbeat finally slowing, called, “Thanks for the assist, guys!” as they walked away.

The crowd dispersed with curious glances at Nathan, who watched until the group disappeared behind the ER’s double glass doors. He heaved a sigh of relief and swiped perspiration off his forehead. He patted his scrubs pocket for a cigarette, reconsidered, and trotted toward the ER entrance.

After the automatic doors parted, he jogged past two closed-door exam rooms and paused at a third, wide open. He looked inside.

The paramedics shared their observations with the ER doctor on call as he deftly explored the woman’s wounds. When he finished, he nodded, barked instructions, and pointed at the bed. In seconds, the woman’s transfer from stretcher to bed was complete. One of the nurses whisked a blood pressure cuff around her arm. Another hooked an IV bag to a chrome stand, pierced the skin on the back of the woman’s hand, slid in a needle, and taped it down.

The tech stepped back from the door to allow the paramedics to exit. Holding his breath, he stole into the room and crept past a floor-to-ceiling supply cabinet. He planted both palms onto the smooth, white walls behind him and inched sideways, melting into the corner next to a shelf holding tongue depressors, a box of plastic gloves, and a sanitizer dispenser.

“Pulse one-fifteen.” The nurse studied the blood pressure cuff. “Blood pressure eight-five over fifty.”

“Need a trach,” the doctor barked. “She’s bleeding out. Get some O neg in here.”

A blur of motion, two nurses and the ER doctor huddled around the woman’s body. When they stepped back, a laryngoscope, an endotracheal tube, and four sticky electric nodes leading to a cardiac monitor had been secured.

The medical team stilled, their eyes riveted to the monitors. The nurses wore sage green scrubs. Both had pink stethoscopes around their necks. The ER doctor had on a crisp, white jacket with his name scripted in black on the pocket. Nathan fidgeted and stuck his head out from the corner a little to focus on the screens.

The readings sputtered, stalled, plummeted.

“Code Blue!” The doctor spun around. A nurse jumped to the wall and slapped a flat, white square on the wall.

“Code Blue!” echoed through the ER’s intercom system. Frantic footsteps in the hall. Shouted instructions. Clanging metal. Squealing wheels. Nathan squeezed farther into the corner as the cart bearing life-saving electronic shock equipment exploded through the door.

“Brain must be swelling,” the doctor mumbled. He grabbed two paddles and swiped them together. “Clear!”

The woman’s body jolted. The doctor’s head jerked to the cardiac monitor. Flat.

“Clear!” He placed the paddles on the woman’s chest.

Her frail torso arced. The machine blipped an erratic cadence, then droned a steady hum.

The doctor cursed. “Clear!”

Another jolt. The monitor surged, sagged, then settled into a reassuring metronome blip. Tense faces relaxed. Applause spattered around the room.

The doctor blew out a long breath. “Okay, people, good job.” He smiled.

Within minutes, more lines snaked from the woman’s form. An orogastric tube drooped from the corner of her mouth, behind the intubation tube. A lead to measure brain waves clung to her forehead. The doctor studied each monitor in turn. Nathan let out the breath he’d been holding, slid down the wall into a crouch, and balanced on the balls of his feet.

“Any additional instructions, Doctor Bradford?” Brows raised, the nurse waited.

He rubbed his head thoughtfully. “Think she’s stable for now. CAT scan already ordered?”

She nodded. “Of course.”

“Tell them to expedite.” He cocked his head at the woman. “May be a long night. Watch her closely.” The doctor strode to the door, paused, and turned. He glanced at the tech huddled in the corner. “Good job, son.”

Nathan grinned and rose from his crouch, his chest puffed out a little. He’d never saved a life before. After a sympathetic glance at Mercy Hospital’s latest Jane Doe, he returned to the lab.

***

Excerpt from The Deadening by Kerry Peresta. Copyright 2021 by Kerry Peresta. Reproduced with permission from Kerry Peresta. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Author - Kerry Peresta

Kerry’s publishing credits include a popular newspaper column, “The Lighter Side,” 2009-2011; and magazine articles in Local Life Magazine, The Bluffton Breeze, Lady Lowcountry, and Island Events Magazine. She is the author of two novels, The Hunting, women’s fiction, released by Pen-L Publishing in 2013, and The Deadening, released in February, 2021 by Level Best Books, the first in the Olivia Callahan Suspense series, She spent twenty-five years in advertising as an account manager, creative director, and copywriter. She is past chapter president of the Maryland Writers’ Association and a current member and presenter of Hilton Head Island Writers’ Network, and the Sisters in Crime organization. Recently, she worked as editor and contributor for Island Communications, a local publishing house. Kerry and her husband moved to Hilton Head six years ago. She is the mother of four adult children, and has a bunch of wonderful grandkids who keep life interesting and remind her what life is all about.

Catch Up With Kerry L Peresta:
KerryPeresta.net
Goodreads
Instagram – @kerryperesta
Twitter – @kerryperesta
Facebook – @klperesta

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!


https://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=301131

Giveaway!:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kerry Peresta. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card.

The giveaway begins on April 1, 2021 and runs through May 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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10th Blogiversary – Thanks

The final blogiversary giveaway has ended and there were over 275 entries. WOW! Thank you to everyone that stopped by the blog this month and made this anniversary celebration a blowout. None of this could happen without you.

Now for the final blogiversary giveaway winner. Congratulations to Beth E. for winning the Fire 7 tablet with cover. Again, I thank each and everyone of you that entered.

Now that my month-long anniversary celebration has ended, I think I’ll spend this final day with some red velvet cake cookies, a nice chai latte, and a good book.

Take care, book people. Stay safe and Happy Reading!

10th Blogiversary – Final Giveaway

I want to take a few minutes and thank everyone that has made the journey with me over the course of the past 10 years and few weeks. This blog would be nothing without you, dear readers. I deeply regret that I wasn’t able to make any of these giveaways open to all of my international readers, but I’m hoping to have a special international giveaway in just a few weeks, so I hope you’ll keep reading with me.

The fourth giveaway has ended and the winner was Sarah G. Congratulations Sarah on winning the Word Cloud edition of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and the Jane Eyre tote bag by Out-of-Print.

Congratulations to all of the giveaway winners: Nadine S., Amanda K., Darris M., and Sarah G.

Now, it’s time for the final blogiversary giveaway. This is a for a gently used Plum Fire 7 Tablet (32 GB – 2019 release) with a matching plum case. This is a fully functional tablet and includes the OEM charger cable and adapter. There’s even a screen protector and webcam cover. This giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada. Any person entering that does not reside in the USA or Canada will be disqualified.

Plum Fire 7 Tablet (32 GB – 2019 release) with case, USB cable, and adapter

To enter, please use the Rafflecopter link below. This giveaway begins on 12:01 AM ET 03/25/2021 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on 03/30/2021. The winner will be selected and announced by 10:00 AM ET on 03/31/2021. Void where prohibited by law.

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Guest Post: Eleanor Kuhns – DEATH IN THE GREAT DISMAL

As most of you have probably discerned by now, I’m somewhat of a fanatic when it comes to reading. Seriously, if a day goes by and I don’t read I feel as if there’s something seriously wrong. (Okay, there’s probably something wrong with the fact that I’m addicted to reading, but that’s a problem I’m not even thinking about seeking treatment for anytime soon!) My reading style can only be classified as eclectic as I enjoy reading mysteries, suspense, thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, romance, romantic-suspense, ChickLit, YA, and nonfiction. I read contemporary fiction and historical fiction without a preference for any time period. One of the many things I enjoy about reading historical fiction is that many authors will include interesting historical tidbits that pique my interest in learning more. Eleanor Kuhns writes the Will Rees Mystery series, historical fiction, and Death In the Dismal is the latest addition to this series. I’m incredibly honored to host Ms. Kuhns today. Ms. Kuhns will be providing us with some background on the history and current use of the Great Dismal Swamp. I hope you’ll enjoy learning something new about this swampland, follow the blog tour to read some great reviews, and add Death in the Great Dismal to your TBR list. Dear book people, I give you Eleanor Kuhns. Thank you, Ms. Kuhns, for taking the time to stop by and visit with us today. I look forward to learning more about the setting of your latest book.

The History of the Great Dismal

by Eleanor Kuhns

In Death in the Great Dismal, Rees and Lydia take an unusually long journey. They go south, to the Great Dismal Swamp, at the request of their friend Tobias. He and his wife Ruth are free blacks, born in Maine, but they are taken off the street and sold down south (in Death of a Dyer.) Tobias and Ruth both flee servitude but while Tobias escapes back to Maine, Ruth runs to the Great Dismal Swamp and a community of other fugitives like herself.

Now Tobias wants to rescue her. He believes he will have a better chance returning north if accompanied by White friends.

At first Rees refuses. But Lydia persuades him to agree. After the conflict between them (in A Circle of Dead Girls), the previous spring when their marriage was sorely tested, she feels they need a time away from home to mend their relationship.

But the swamp is much more challenging than either Rees or Lydia expects.

Although native peoples knew of the swamp, it was discovered by Europeans only in 1665, by William Drummond. He was the first governor of North Carolina and the large shallow lake in the swamp is named for him. George Washington visited the swamp when he was a young British Officer. He saw potential for development in this wilderness and later founded the Great Dismal Swamp Canal company, with others, with the intention of draining the swamp.

The original size of the swamp is estimated at between one million and three million acres. It is a peat bog and the water-saturated peat is very thick. Despite the difficulty of draining the water, some of the swamp has been developed. The area that is left, which spans a section of southern Virginia and reaches into North Carolina, is 112 acres. It is now a Wildlife Refuge, a habitat for over 200 species of birds, a large black bear population, deer, bobcats, snakes and turtles, and many insects. (All biting, I think. Insect repellant is a must.) There are no rocks or stones of any kind in the swamp.

This is the environment that fugitives from the surrounding plantations fled to. The runaways were called maroons. (The origin of the name is not known although one theory posits it is from the French marronage – to flee.) They found refuge on the islands of higher ground that dot the swamp. Small villages and farms were established, although most of the fields were little more than an acre in size. Sweet potatoes, corn and squash were the most common crops. Feral cattle and pigs that had escaped from their pens, as well as deer, turtles, and other animals provided meat.

Some of the villages were located on the outskirts of the swamp. As I describe in the novel, the Maroons made regular forays to the plantations to take supplies, especially those items they could not find or make within the swamp. Bands of slave takers and their dogs regularly pursued the fugitives into the swamp, both to recapture what they saw as property, as well as to stop the raids on the plantations.

Other runaways lived deep within the swamp, far away from the reach of the white world. Both men and women escaped bondage, although more men than women. Family groups were established, and children were born. Many of these Maroons did not leave the swamp until after the end of the Civil War; at that point the children and grandchildren born in the swamp had never seen a white person.

Trapped within the small village by the inhospitable ecosystem outside, Rees and Lydia are the outsiders, already distrusted because of their white skins. Within days of their arrival, there is one murder and then another. Who among these few people is a murderer and why?

Death In The Great Dismal

by Eleanor Kuhns

March 22 – April 16, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

DEATH IN THE GREAT DISMAL - EKuhns

Finding themselves in a slave community hidden within the Great Dismal Swamp, Will Rees and his wife Lydia get caught up in a dangerous murder case where no one trusts them.

September 1800, Maine. Will Rees is beseeched by Tobias, an old friend abducted by slave catchers years before, to travel south to Virginia to help transport his pregnant wife, Ruth, back north. Though he’s reluctant, Will’s wife Lydia convinces him to go . . . on the condition she accompanies them.

Upon arriving in a small community of absconded slaves hiding within the Great Dismal Swamp, Will and Lydia are met with distrust. Tensions are high and a fight breaks out between Tobias and Scipio, a philanderer with a bounty on his head known for conning men out of money. The following day Scipio is found dead – shot in the back.

Stuck within the hostile Great Dismal and with slave catchers on the prowl, Will and Lydia find themselves caught up in their most dangerous case yet.

Kuhns’ vivid portrayal of the community that developed inside the swamp captures a group of naturally cunning and vigilant people who provided a family for one another when most had none. . . the story shines for its historical backbone and atmospheric details.

Booklist

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Published by: Severn House Publishers
Publication Date: January 5th 2021
Number of Pages: 224
ISBN: 0727890239 (ISBN13: 9780727890238)
Series: Will Rees Mysteries #8
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

 

Author - Eleanor Kuhns

Eleanor is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime novel winner. After working as a librarian, she transitioned to a full time writer. This is number eight in the Will Rees Mystery series.

Catch Up With Eleanor Kuhns:
Website
Goodreads
BookBub
Twitter
Facebook

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

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Giveaway!:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Eleanor Kuhns. There will be 5 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on March 22, 2021 and runs through April 18, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Spotlight: MURDER BY PAGE ONE by Olivia Matthews

Murder by Page One: A Peach Coast Library Mystery by Olivia Matthews

About Murder Page One

Murder by Page One: A Peach Coast Library Mystery

Cozy Mystery

1st in Series

Publisher: Hallmark Publishing (March 23, 2021)

Print length: 328 pages

Digital ASIN: B08KHPBDBS

If you love Hallmark mystery movies, you’ll love this cozy mystery with humor, intrigue, and a librarian amateur sleuth.

Marvey, a librarian, has moved from Brooklyn to a quirky small town in Georgia. When she’s not at the library organizing events for readers, she’s handcrafting book-themed jewelry and looking after her cranky cat. At times, her new life in the South still feels strange…and that’s before the discovery of the dead body in the bookstore.

After one of her friends becomes a suspect, Marvey sets out to solve the murder mystery. She even convinces Spence, the wealthy and charming newspaper owner, to help. With his ties to the community, her talents for research, and her fellow librarians’ knowledge, Marvey pursues the truth. But as she gets closer to it, could she be facing a deadly plot twist?

This first in series cozy mystery includes a free Hallmark original recipe for Classic Peach Cobbler.

Purchase Links – AmazonHallmark PublishingAppleBarnes and NobleBookshopFantastic FictionKobo

About Olivia Matthews

Olivia Matthews is the cozy mystery pseudonym for Patricia Sargeant, a national best-selling, award-winning author. Her work has been featured in national publications such as Publishers Weekly, USA Today, Kirkus Reviews, Suspense Magazine, Mystery Scene Magazine, Library Journal and RT Book Reviews. For more information about Patricia and her work, visit PatriciaSargeant.com.

Author Links
Website: https://PatriciaSargeant.com.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorPatriciaSargeant.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BooksbyPatricia
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/olivia-matthews

TOUR PARTICIPANTS
March 18 – Christa Reads and Writes – REVIEW
March 18 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
March 18 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
March 18 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT
March 18 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
March 18 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
March 19 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW
March 19 – Book Club Librarian – REVIEW
March 19 – Books to the Ceiling – SPOTLIGHT
March 19 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT
March 19 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT
March 19 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW
March 20 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST
March 20 – MJB Reviewers – REVIEW
March 20 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW
March 20 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
March 20 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
March 20 – Author Elena Taylor’s Blog – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
March 21 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
March 21 – The Book Diva’s Reads – SPOTLIGHT
March 21 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
March 21 – The Book’s the Thing – REVIEW
March 22 – Novels Alive – GUEST POST
March 22 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW
March 22 – Reading Reality – REVIEW
March 22 – Novels Alive – REVIEW
March 22 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW
March 22 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW
 
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10th Blogiversary Giveaway #4

Good day, book people and welcome Spring! The third blogiversary giveaway has ended and the winner is Darris M. Congratulations, Darris! Thank you to everyone that entered.

I’m continuing my blogiversary celebrations with giveaway #4. This prize package includes a Word Cloud Classic edition of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and a Jane Eyre tote bag by Out-Of-Print. This giveaway will run until 11:59 PM ET on 03/23/2021. The winner will be selected and announced by 10:00 AM ET on 03/24/2021. This giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada ONLY. To enter use the Rafflecopter link below. Void where prohibited by law.

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Book Showcase: HER DARK LIES by J.T. Ellison

 

HER DARK LIES cover - FINALHer Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison
ISBN: 9780778388302 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780778331988 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781488076541 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488210600 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08GQGS6Z2 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B082P4FZRK (Kindle edition)
Publisher: MIRA Books
Release Date: March 9, 2021

 

Fast-paced and brilliantly unpredictable, J.T. Ellison’s breathtaking new novel invites you to a wedding none will forget—and some won’t survive.

At the wedding of the year, a killer needs no invitation

Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends…and a host of dark secrets.

From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire’s otherwise blissful relationship—the strange mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife.

Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out—and the real terror begins.

 

Read an excerpt:

1

Beginnings and Endings

She is going to die tonight.

The white dress, long and filmy, hampers her effort to run. The hem catches on a branch; a large rend in the fabric slashes open, exposing her leg. A deep cut blooms red along her thigh, and the blood runs down her calf. Her hair has come loose from its braid, flies unbound behind her like gossamer wings.

In her panic, she barely notices the pain.

The path ahead is marked by towering cypress and laurel, verdant and lush. A gray stone waist-high wall is all that stands between her and the cliffside. It is cool inside this miniature forest; the sky is blotted out by the purple-throated wisteria that drapes across and between the trees. Someone, years ago, built an archway along the arbor. The arch’s skeleton has long since rotted away and the flowers droop into the path, clinging trails and vines that brush against her head and shoulders. It should be beautiful; instead it feels oppressive, as if the vines might animate, twist and curl around her neck and strangle her to death.

She tries not to look down to the frothing water roiling against the rocks at the cliff’s base. She thinks the ruins are to her right. From what she remembers, they are between the church and the artists’ colony, the four cottages cowering on the hillside, empty and waiting.

A horn shrieks, and she realizes the ferry is pulling away. A crack of lightning, and she sees the silhouette of the captain in the pilothouse, looking out to the turbulent seas ahead. A gamble that he makes it before the storm is upon them.

Don’t panic. Don’t panic.

Where is the church?

There it is, a flash of white through the trees. The stuccoed walls loom, the bell tower hidden behind the overgrown foliage. Now the path is moving upward, the grade increasing. She feels it in her calves and hopes again she is going the right way. The Villa is on the hill, on the northwest promontory of the island. If she can reach its doors, she will be safe.

It is too quiet. There are no birds, no creatures, no buzzing or cries, just her ragged, heavy breath and the scree shuffling underfoot as she climbs. The furious roar of the water smashing its frustration against the rocks rises from her left, echoing against the cliffside.

The dogs begin to howl.

Climb. Climb. Keep going.

She must get to the Villa. There she can call for help. Lock herself inside. Maybe find a weapon.

A branch snaps and she halts, breathless.

Someone is coming.

She startles like a deer, now heedless of the noise she’s making. Fighting back a whimper of fear, she breaks free of the cloistered path to see an old decrepit staircase cut into the stone. Careful, she must be cautious, there are gaps where some steps are missing, and the rest are mossy with disuse, but hurry, hurry. Get away.

She winds up the steps, clinging to the rock face, until she bursts free into a sea of scrubby pines. Two sculptures, Janus twins, flank a slate-dark path into a labyrinth of rhododendron and azalea.

This isn’t right. Where is she?

A hard breeze disrupts the trees around her, and a rumble of thunder like a thousand drums rolls across her body. Lightning flashes and she sees the Villa in the distance. So far away. On the other side of the labyrinth. The other side of the hill.

She’s gone the wrong way.

A droplet of water hits her arm, then her forehead. Dread bubbles through her.

She is too late. The storm is upon her.

The howls of the dogs draw closer. The wind whistles hard and sharp, buffeting her against the stone wall. She can’t move, deep fear cementing her feet. Rain makes the gauzy dress cling to the curves of her body, and the blood on her thigh washes to the ground. None of it matters. She cannot escape.

When he comes, at last, sauntering through the storm, the barking beasts leaping and growling beside him, she is crying, clinging to the wall, the lightning illuminating the ruins; the ancient stones and stark, headless statues the only witness to her death.

She goes over the wall with a thunder-drowned scream, the jagged rocks below her final companions.

MONDAY

Insecurity is the worst sense that lovers feel; sometimes the most humdrum desireless marriage seems better. Insecurity twists meanings and poisons trust.
—Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

2

The Party

Nashville, Tennessee

The last few days before a wedding are the most stressful of a bride’s life.

I repeat this mantra to justify accepting a fourth glass of champagne from the slim, silent, white-gloved server. The champagne is delightful, cool and fizzy against my throat.

I am well past tipsy, and thankfully, it seems the evening is winding down. The quartet is looking decidedly tired, and the servers have been circling with the macarons for over half an hour. All I want to do at this point is sneak off to a corner to discreetly rub the bottoms of my feet; I’m wearing my five-hour heels but I’m pushing hour six and feeling it. I am smiled, chatted, and air-kissed out.

I take a second sip, then cast a glance across the crowded ballroom to my bridegroom. Jack doesn’t seem stressed at all. Quite the opposite; he is as relaxed and calm as I’ve seen him in weeks. He is in his element, surrounded by benefactors and businessmen, people of standing and stature. His dark blond hair is mussed, his eyes a bit glassy from all the toasting. The quintessential quarterback—impossibly handsome, easy smile, thick hair, oozing sex appeal. The kind of guy who doesn’t flame out after college, but goes the whole way, becomes a brand, gets endorsement deals, marries a supermodel and has two perfect kids and an architecturally interesting home.

Though Jack is not a quarterback, and I am hardly a supermodel. I am tall, and I do have an awful lot of blond hair, but that’s where the resemblance ends. I’m an artist, a painter. My talent is large canvas abstracts, modern oils. And even that has been enhanced by Jack’s influence.

These assets don’t seem enough, and yet, William Jackson Compton has chosen to spend his life with me.

Yes, that Jackson Compton, eldest son of the illustrious computer magnate William Brice Compton III, and his brilliant wife, Ana Catalano Compton.

This party is our last obligation before hopping a flight to Italy. To have our wedding on Isle Isola, in the Comptons’ private centuries-old villa, packed with modern art and old secrets. It’s belonged to the family for generations.

Personally, I would have been fine with the courthouse, but there will be nothing but the best for Jack.

At my request, the ceremony itself will be for our closest family and friends only, but because so many people wanted to celebrate with us, the powers that be—Ana, and our wedding planner, Henna Shaikh—decided a precursor event would be fitting. A reception before the wedding, complete with a tanker truck of champagne, heavy hors d’oeuvres, five hundred well-heeled strangers, enough staff to circulate food and wine for the masses, one gregarious groom, and one extremely shy bride.

And twinkle lights. One must never forget the twinkle lights.

This prewedding extravaganza is why I’m now standing in an outrageously expensive Elie Saab column of the palest ivory satin and sky-high Jimmy Choo heels in the ballroom of Cheekwood mansion quaffing champagne as if my life depends on it. One wall of the ballroom has been lit up all evening with tasteful black-and-white photographs from our courtship, interspersed with photos of Jack on-site in foreign countries, holding babies during their inoculations and drilling water wells, part of his duties with the Compton Foundation, a hugely successful and popular philanthropic endeavor. There are even a few shots of me in my studio and my paintings. They look so fascinating in monochrome, it has me itching to sneak away to my studio tonight, though this isn’t going to happen. A—I don’t often like the results when I paint drunk. B—We leave tomorrow for Isola, ergo, there is no more painting time for me until after the wedding.

Jack senses me watching him. His smile grows wider, into a grin that is pure, sheer delight. You are mine, and I am yours, and we are so very lucky, it says. He tips his glass my direction, and I tip mine in return, then take a sip, promptly spilling a teensy bit onto the front of my dress. Shit. I have definitely been overserved.

I set the glass down on the nearest table and discreetly dab at my collarbones with my cocktail napkin, feeling the scratchy embossing of our conjoined initials in golden scroll against my bare skin.

Jack must have seen my faux pas because he crosses the room like a torpedo. He’s not upset, he’s highly amused, judging by the rumbles of laughter coming from his broad chest. His arms encircle my waist and he sweeps me up into a hug that takes my feet off the ground. He whirls me in a circle.

“Darling, darling, my beautiful, lovely, wet darling.”

“Oh good, you’re tipsy, too. Set me down, you silly man.”

But there is a tinkling noise, metal chiming against the champagne flutes, which is how I’ve gotten so merry to start with. So. Many. Toasts.

Jack kisses me, still twirling. The crowd cheers uproariously, and my head spins in all the right ways. Nothing matters but this—this man, me in his arms, our lips touching. Forever. He’s mine forever.

“Want to get out of here?” he whispers, stopping finally. I slide down his body like a ballerina until my toes touch the hardwood.

“God, yes. Now?”

“Now.”

“Excellent. Can we just sneak out? Irish goodbye in three, two, one…”

“Darling, we can do whatever we want. It’s our party. But let’s say goodbye, just to be polite.” He turns to the crowd and puts up a hand, and silence descends on the room.

His power over people is magnetic. If he ever wanted to take over his father’s company, the world would bend over backward to pave his way. Lucky for me, Jack is content with the Foundation.

“Thank you, all, for a lovely evening. So glad you’ve been able to celebrate with us. We’ll see you on the other side.”

Quick as a magician, Jack has us out of the room and on the slate path to the black Suburban waiting outside before the applause and calls of best wishes and congratulations fully dies down. His personal security guards, Gideon and Malcolm, materialize like well-armed ghosts and fall in silently behind us. I call them the Crows because they are practically identical, with their buzz cuts and beefy arms, dressed in unrelenting black from head to toe, and hover, continuously, over their prize. How his people know when and where to be ready for him is still anyone’s guess. I suppose I’ll learn. Though Jack moved into my house in 12th South several months ago, he still travels constantly, and I’ve rarely accompanied him on business.

So far, I’ve managed to escape the Crows’ scrutiny. It is only at my insistence that they don’t flank Jack and me twenty-four/seven. Once we’re married, that will change. The Crows will be at my side, too, and I don’t have a choice in the matter. There have already been too many security briefings for my taste.

I collapse into the back of the Suburban and kick off my heels, sighing in relief.

Jack leans over and nuzzles my neck. “You smell like Möet & Chandon.”

“I suppose there are worse things. The party was fun. I’m sorry your mom had to miss it.”

“No, you’re not. But that’s fine. She and Henna are going wild at the Villa, running the servants ragged getting everything prepared. All we have to do is show up and smile.”

“I love your mom. She’s just a bit…intimidating.”

“She will love hearing that. Speaking of, did you speak to yours tonight?”

“For a moment. She called when they arrived in Rome. Said Brian and Harper are making noises about never coming home. She said they’ll meet us on Isola Thursday. At least we’ll have a day to decompress before my family descends.”

An inadvertent sigh slips from my lips. I love my family, but we aren’t terribly close. Everyone is pursuing their own agendas, their own lives. My sister has been acting especially weird lately, and that’s saying something.

Truth be told… I think there’s a little jealousy going on. Things have been more strained than usual since Jack and I announced our engagement.

“Good. The majority of the guests should be arriving Thursday morning as well. The rehearsal is Friday, and Saturday, you, my darling, will officially be Mrs. Compton.”

“I like the sound of that.”

He kisses me lightly. “I do, too.”

Jack’s hand is wandering up my thigh, but I bat it away. “If you’re looking for postprandial treats, you’ll have to wait until later, cowboy.”

“They don’t care,” he murmurs into my ear, but I shake my head.

“I care. Wait until we’re alone, and then you can have your dessert. I noticed you passed on the macarons.”

He flops back into the seat. “They were stale. Mom will be livid.”

“They were? I thought they were yummy.”

“You’ll learn. Once you’ve had one fresh out of the ovens on the Champs-Élysées, you’ll see what I mean.”

“You, my darling, are a snob.”

“And you love me.”

He kisses me sweetly, and the Suburban pulls to the curb in front of our house. We spill out, both loose and uncoordinated, under the watchful eyes of the Crows. Gideon stays with us while Malcolm sweeps the house. He gives us the all clear. Once we’re inside, they disappear into whatever crevice they live in overnight.

I carry my heels in one hand, grateful for the lack of stress on my arches. Jack tosses his jacket over the bar stool at the eat-in counter, tugs at his tie and unbuttons his collar, rolls up his sleeves, the motions so quick, so practiced and fluid, it’s hypnotizing. He sees me watching and makes it into a tease, stepping closer with each turn of the fabric.

“You should try that with the buttons,” I say, running my tongue over my lips.

He grins, lazy and confident. “Naw. I’ll let you have the honor.”

A step closer, another. My hand lands on his chest. My mouth tips up to his.

I smell something odd, something acrid and primordial, and step back.

“What the hell is that?” he says, pulling away.

“I don’t know. It smells terrible. Like burning hair. Is something on fire?”

“Shh,” he says, straining, listening. All I hear is the air-conditioner. But no, there it is. A thump. A creak. The unmistakable sound of footsteps.

Someone is in the house. Someone is upstairs in our house.

Jack bolts from my side, takes the stairs two at a time. I follow, just in time to see the door to the attic is open.

“Get Gideon and Malcolm,” Jack shouts over his shoulder, throwing himself headlong into the darkness. But I am frozen. My mind can’t process what’s happening. I am cold with terror, the adrenaline rush forcing away my reason. I can’t think. I can’t move.

A masked man bursts from the darkness above and launches himself down the stairs. I am in his way, and he knocks me to the ground in his haste. I smash backward into the wall, banging my head hard against the chair rail. Jack is there a heartbeat later, calling for the Crows as he throws himself at the intruder, arms out, a perfect flying tackle. They go down hard on the landing, scuffling, locked in a deadly battle. Jack is the bigger man, he has the leverage he needs to get an arm on the man’s windpipe, but the intruder is quick, kicking out at Jack’s stomach until he connects and Jack is knocked off.

This gives the intruder the upper hand. He flips Jack onto his back, punching wildly while reaching behind to his waistband. My mind registers the gun, and the peril Jack is in, and without another thought, I kick the man’s arm just as his fingers close around the gun’s grip. It spins away, clattering against the baseboards. We lunge for it at the same time. I am closer. I get there first.

The shot is deafening.

The intruder falls to the floor at my feet, moaning, squirming. Blood pours from his side. So much blood. The man bleeds and bleeds and bleeds until he is still. I watch, fascinated, as a small trickle of crimson runs toward my bare foot.

Then Malcolm and Gideon are hoisting me to my feet, and the roaring in my head overwhelms me.

Excerpted from Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison.
Copyright © 2021 by J.T. Ellison. Published by MIRA Books.

 

Meet The Author

JT Headshot Suzanne DuBose Photography

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 25 novels, and the EMMY® award winning co-host of the literary TV show A WORD ON WORDS. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, and has been published in 28 countries. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

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This excerpt brought to you courtesy of MIRA Books