Book Showcase: THE MAN WHO SCREAMS AT NIGHTFALL… by Rush Leaming

The Man Who Screams At Nightfall…
and other stories

by Rush Leaming

January 16 – February 10, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Man Who Screams At Nightfall… and other stories by Rush Leaming

Thailand. The Congo. Greece. Spain. America…

Four continents and 40+ years in the making.

The Man Who Screams At Nightfall is a landmark collection of short stories depicting a young man on a classic voyage of self-discovery, scouring the earth in search of some purpose in life.

From childhood to parenthood and everything in between—these tales are at times raw and unflinching, at other times poignant and moving.

Get ready for a literary journey unlike any you’ve experienced before.

WARNING: Some of these stories contain strong language, depictions of graphic violence, and sexual situations.

Book Details:

Genre: Literary Fiction
Published by: Bridgewood Publishing
Publication Date: November 2022
Number of Pages: 150
ISBN-10: 0999745670 (Paperback)
ISBN-13: 9780999745670
ISBN: 9798215340615 (eBook)
ASIN B0BCZ9NW3S (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | B&N NOOK Book | BookDepository.com | BookShop.org | Kobo eBook | Goodreads

Praise for The Man Who Screams At Nightfall…and other stories:

“A powerful, gritty, and exquisitely written anthology —not to be missed.”

J. Miller, Reader’s Favorite

“A short story collection that excels in its sense of literary psychological growth and discovery. Libraries looking for interconnected short stories that represent life journeys and revelations will find The Man Who Screams At Nightfall…and other stories an appealing acquisition that promises much fodder for discussion to book club readers interested in fictional blends of psychological and social revelation.”

Midwest Book Review, D. Donovan

“Sharply observed, nuanced, precise, and morally challenging…”

“Leaming’s light hand with dialogue and keen sense of human psychology create a book that highlights weighty issues by putting a compassionate human face on human struggles. Sharp, inventive, and deeply moving: a fine literary collection.”

Book View

“Without a lengthy description of the characters, just enough to provide the imagery necessary to identify them, he catches and holds the reader’s attention like no other I’ve experienced in the hundreds of books and stories I’ve read over the years.”

Reader’s Favorite, L. Allen

Read an excerpt:

…I could see the glow of a fire up ahead of us, and as we reached the mango tree, Pumbu motioned for me to stay low and follow him along a small wall of honeysuckle bushes. We crouched down, and from our hiding place, I saw Kachamba furiously pacing back and forth in his yard in front of a small bonfire. He swung his arms wildly in the air as if he was fighting off something that was falling on him. He dropped to his knees and then suddenly sprang three feet off the ground. Then he began to dance, swaying and spinning his body so close to the fire that I was certain he was going to fall in. All the while he screamed and shouted deep into the empty black night.

He spoke in a dialect that I couldn’t understand, so I had to ask Pumbu to tell me what he was saying. I asked him many questions: Why was he doing this? Who was he speaking to? Was he drunk? What was going on? Pumbu patiently explained to me that no, he was not drunk, and that he really didn’t know who he was speaking to, but that Kachamba’s wife had left him a few years ago, run off with another man and taken their children, and that ever since, he had not been right in the head. He was not from this village and had been kicked out of all the other places he had lived. He came here only because Kachamba’s father, the chief of Kitengo’s uncle, had once saved the life of the chief’s father (Kachamba’s uncle) and so the chief had to let him stay to repay that old favor. It was all very complicated, Pumbu said, and he didn’t fully understand it himself.

I was hardly listening, instead transfixed and horrified by what I saw. Spinning, swirling, shouting, and screaming—Kachamba’s face, so calm and happy as I had seen it earlier that day, was now knotted and twisted like a grotesque carnival mask, like some gargoyle sprung from the lowest depths of hell. The glow of the fire cut fierce shadows and gorges in his face, adding to the haunting vision that I saw.

For a long while, Pumbu and I hid behind the honeysuckle bushes and watched Kachamba shriek and wail and try to push back the night, until suddenly, all at once, he just stopped. Suddenly, he just stood still and quiet and stared at the sky. I followed his gaze and saw another shooting star. When I looked back, Kachamba had disappeared.

“Is that it?” I asked.

“That’s it,” said Pumbu. “He usually only does this for an hour or so.”

“And he does this every night?”

“Almost,” said Pumbu and yawned. “Mmm. I’m tired. I think I am going to go home.”

We left the bushes, went past the mango tree, and said good night. I walked home alone, both exhilarated and troubled by what I had seen.

I entered my room and prepared for bed, but long after I had extinguished my petrol lantern, I lay there staring into the darkness. I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. It wasn’t that unusual—I noticed that it had been happening a lot lately, that I couldn’t sleep. I got up and found the bottle of Johnnie Walker and knocked back a tall glass until at last I was floating, and at last, my eyes did shut…

***

Excerpt from The Man Who Screams At Nightfall… and other stories by Rush Leaming.
Copyright 2022 by Rush Leaming.
Reproduced with permission from Rush Leaming.
All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Rush Leaming

RUSH LEAMING has done many things including spending 15+ years in film/video production working on such projects as The Lord of the Rings films. His first novel, Don’t Go, Ramanya, a political thriller set in Thailand, was published in the fall of 2016. His second novel followed suit in the summer of 2018, entitled The Whole of the Moon, set in the Congo at the end of the Cold War. 2021 saw the 5-star reception of his crime thriller Dead Tree Tales. His short stories have appeared in Notations, 67 Press, Lightwave, 5k Fiction, and The Electric Eclectic.

He has lived in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Zaire, Thailand, Spain, Greece, South Carolina, England, and Kenya.

Catch Up With Rush:
LeamingRush.wixsite.com/Nightfall
Goodreads
BookBub – @RushLeaming
Instagram – @RushLeaming
Twitter – @LeamingRush
Facebook – @RushLeamingStories

Tour Participants:

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Book Showcase: VAMPIRE WEEKEND by Mike Chen

VAMPIRE WEEKEND by Mike Chen book cover, gray and reddish-black background with an illustrated image of a woman with short hair in blackVampire Weekend by Mike Chen
ISBN: 9780778386964 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780369722485 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488218217 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B0B4BPKPZW (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09VLBFGPX (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 352
Release Date: January 31, 2023
Publisher: Graydon House/HarperCollins
Genre: Fiction | Coming-of-Age | Family Life | Urban Fantasy

Being a vampire is far from glamorous…but it can be pretty punk rock.

Everything you’ve heard about vampires is a lie. They can’t fly. No murders allowed (the community hates that). And turning into a bat? Completely ridiculous. In fact, vampire life is really just a lot of blood bags and night jobs. For Louise Chao, it’s also lonely, since she swore off family ages ago.

At least she’s gone to decades of punk rock shows. And if she can join a band of her own (while keeping her…situation under wraps), maybe she’ll finally feel like she belongs, too.

Then a long-lost teenage relative shows up at her door. Whether it’s Ian’s love of music or his bad attitude, for the first time in ages, Louise feels a connection.

But as Ian uncovers Louise’s true identity, things get dangerous–especially when he asks her for the ultimate favor. One that goes beyond just family…one that might just change everything vampires know about life and death forever.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | B&N Audiobook | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Read an Excerpt:

CHAPTER 2

VAMPIRE POWER MYTH #2: We can bite into anything.

In movies, veins pop like a balloon hitting a nail. But in reality? Kids constantly bonk into sharp objects and get light scrapes. Construction workers work around nails and metal, but somehow buildings go up without anyone bleeding out. I worked in a hospital, so I saw this firsthand.

In practical terms, biting someone for blood was not easy. Newly turned vampires don’t exactly have functional teeth. A gradual sharpening takes place over the course of a week, but we’re not the instant kill machine from movies.

The so-called “vampire attacks” in the news? Sounded like algorithm-driven clickbait to me. And that was exactly how I thought about it—or didn’t think about it—when I got to work.

Because today was a blood day. And blood days were literally life and death for me.

Not that I gave off that vibe. Instead, I went about my business, pushing my janitorial cart into the blood bank of San Francisco General Hospital. The automatic door shut behind me, my cart’s squeaking wheels announcing my arrival to Sam, the department’s night manager, and some staffer who looked more on break than actually working. They leaned over a monitor, attention pulled away by whatever was on the screen. Which worked to my benefit.

Some vampires worked with blood volunteers—usually fetishists who gladly let someone feed off them, likely thinking it was a kink or a new obscure fad diet rather than real vampire sustenance. That still involved the wholly unhygienic and socially awkward process of drinking from a live human. Underground dealers also existed, pumping blood from their arms into a bottle for an in-person transaction.

Me? I went with blood bag theft.

Which, to be fair, I held zero guilt over. Did you know that hospitals waste about 25 percent of blood bags every year? Thus, my weekly pickup during my janitorial rounds hardly made a dent. It all fell within the normal range of lost, misplaced, or expired. In fact, the managers viewed me as helpful for bringing the soon-to-expire bags to disposal. If some happened to make it into my backpack along the way, no one was the wiser.

This, of course, assumed that there were actually blood bags to take.

Today, the usual inventory of expiring blood bags was empty.

As in, nothing on the shelves. Nothing to deliver. Nothing to steal.

Nothing to feed from.

In fact, even the main storage units for in-date blood bags appeared low.
Any stress from the Copper Beach audition evaporated, as things do when food sources suddenly disappear.

I paused the music on my phone and pulled the earbuds out. Some things required a little more professional behavior. I began scouring the other storage possibilities when I overheard the words the vampire community feared the most.

“I swear, it’s a vampire.”

Eric constantly preached that if humans did discover us, racists would find new reasons to fearmonger, while scientists would capture us for all sorts of poking and prodding. Given that we’d all managed to abide by this for centuries, it seemed like a pretty good suggestion to follow.

My hands squeezed the cart’s handle tighter as I listened.

“That’s ridiculous,” Sam said, shaking his head.

“No, think about it.” The man turned, the tag on his scrubs revealing the name Turner. “After everything we know about viruses these days, who would actually drink blood? Only vampires.”

“Okay, look,” Sam said, rubbing his cleft chin. “You’re assuming someone drank this guy’s blood—”

“Police said he’s missing about ten ounces of blood. Same as the other two attacks.”

“Alright. Let’s assume someone—or something—drank ten ounces from that poor guy. They said his neck looked chewed, dozens of stitches needed. If you’re gonna believe something ridiculous, go with a werewolf.”

Suddenly, that headline didn’t seem like simple clickbait. Ten ounces. Roughly the same amount my body needed daily, though half that offered cranky survival. So that was the typical amount a vampire needed to sustain until the next feeding. And the chewed neck like a werewolf bite? That was a real concern, not because werewolves were real (they’re not), but because biting into a human was not easy.

In theory, you first had to properly locate the carotid artery, then make sure it was easily accessible by positioning the head and neck the right way. Then you needed a well-placed bite—millimeters of accuracy here, from an angle where things are hard to see. I challenge any human to try and bite precisely into a piece of Red Vines stuck on a loaf of sourdough to gauge its difficulty. This was in addition to the fangs’ fairly mediocre ability to puncture.
Biting humans was messy. Factor in an especially scared nondonor human and tools to make the process smoother and, well, the result could easily be mistaken for werewolves.

With the hospital’s blood shortage, their conversation ratcheted my anxiety enough for me to mutter, “Oh shit.”

That little phrase pulled Sam and Turner away from the screen. Their desk chairs creaked as they turned my way, the headline—San Francisco’s Latest “Vampire Attack” Victim Stable In Hospital—now clearly visible on their monitor.

If there was a fixer working in the community, they weren’t doing a great job.

“Oh, hi, Louise,” Sam said. “Need anything?”

Blood bags. A safe community, one without rogue vampires possibly revealing ourselves to humans. While I was at it, someone to play in a band with—human or vampire—though right now neither seemed to be working out.

“No pickups today,” I managed as I pushed the cart through. “What pickups?” Sam asked, his thick eyebrows furrowing. “Expiring blood to pick up on second Fridays. You know,” I said, switching to a very bad generic European accent, “because I’m a vampire and I need to drink it instead of biting people on the neck.” That joke always worked, but doubly so today. Both men laughed, and I almost held up claw hands for emphasis. But no, that joke belonged only to me and Marshall. “I knew it,” Sam said, “you’re the vampire attacker.” “I thought you suspected a werewolf,” Turner said, an Irish lilt to his gravelly voice. “Sorry, boys. It’s a little more boring than that. Management tallies these and I don’t want to piss them off.” That was a lie; I knew they didn’t because otherwise I’d never get away with my theft.

“Right, right. Let me go check in on that.” Sam stood and went to the computer on the far desk, his leg catching his chair enough to kick it over a foot. “You’re right, our last delivery was low. Must not be as many donors. There’s a note saying this might be a thing for a few weeks but it doesn’t say why.”

Just like that, my food supply went from “comfortably fed” to “empty.”

“Cool, cool, no worries,” I said despite the onslaught of emerging worries. I built my whole life around a job that provided blood—and that dried up? Maybe in a parallel universe, I might have my own recording studio with session time paid in blood bags. But here?

I loaded my email as soon as I stepped into the hallway. My fingers mashed over the virtual keys, autocorrect pulling all the wrong words and constantly changing blood to brood, which I supposed was fitting for a vampire. The message went to the local Red Cross chapter’s volunteer manager, a request for shifts as a Volunteer Transportation Specialist.

Basically, someone who drove donated blood around.

I’d actually trained for the role when I was in between hospital gigs, but never took any actual shifts since most of them were during the day—which wasn’t impossible with proper precautions, but still uncomfortable, and required a lot of extra effort, in addition to messing up my sleep cycle. Circadian rhythm still applied to vampire life.

But this was different. If the supply saw shortages, I’d need alternatives just like the early days when I first started and had no clue what I was doing.
Which really wasn’t my fault. Because no guidebook existed for this life, and the woman who made me only came around a few times to check on me before disappearing forever. Despite the physical transformation to vampiredom creating several months of fuzzy memories, I still clearly pictured her during that last visit: a tall, pale woman with long brown hair in peak late-70s punk styling.

She’d brought weekly bottles, introduced me to a few Southern California sources for no-questions-asked back-alley blood, gave a very uncomfortable primer on feeding off farm animals in emergencies and offered a very dramatic lecture on the importance of not revealing ourselves to humans in any way. Yet, all of those came during surprise drop-ins and sudden departures, and even her final visit was nothing more than a quick hello before “You’ll figure the rest out. You’ll be fine.”

In fact, she never bothered to tell me her name. Or maybe she did and I just forgot it in my fugue state. Whatever the case, I’d have to rely on those lessons now, to ride out any shortages. I spent the rest of my shift trying to recall how many bags remained in my fridge, and how best to ration them. Hours came and went, a low-level panic setting my night to fast-forward all the way until I stepped into an empty parking garage.

Then my phone buzzed. Multiple buzzes, actually. Though I hoped it was something about the Red Cross volunteer gig, that seemed impossible, given the late hour. No, a quick look showed another text from Eric. And this time, I bothered to read it.

I’ve received a few notes tonight about tomorrow evening’s agenda. I share your concerns, but there is a plan to address this. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our community.

Something was definitely up. A blood shortage, someone attacking humans in the wild, texts about “health and safety.” A second message loaded up, words pushing the first message off the screen.

If you want to learn more, please come to the event. In the meantime, I encourage you all to download our new community app to stream the discussion. Do NOT discuss the media’s ‘vampire attack’ headlines with anyone, not even jokingly. Blood will be served. Reply to RSVP for in person attendance.

Did I want to learn more? Of course. Did I want an app that both invaded my privacy and knew I was a vampire? No. Did I want to get involved with the vampire community?

Not really. Especially given my history with Eric. But I needed blood, and this was a source, however fleeting.

Besides, maybe Eric had forgotten about our last encounter. Still, I refused to download his stupid app. On principle.

Count me in, I typed in a reply text, complete with a little white lie. By the way, I had trouble downloading the app. Maybe later.

On most work nights, I came home just before dawn, changed from scrubs to sweats, let my dog out, and drank blood. Today, that last part remained a sticking point. Lola greeted me as usual, a pitter-patter that told me she needed a potty break. I left the back door ajar for her to go into the small backyard, then checked my blood bag supply in the fridge.

If I’d been more responsible, thorough, careful, and whatever other descriptions my parents threw at me decades ago, I’d have a managed stockpile. Instead, three bags remained, a supply for about four or five days. I could stretch it to a week, though I’d be a grouchy, tired mess. After that? Movie vampires went on killing rampages when they needed blood, but in reality, it meant fatigue and delirium.

And if that went on long enough? Death by starvation.

No wonder someone got desperate enough to bite humans.

I grabbed a mug from the cabinet, white ceramic with a faded photo of a white schnauzer printed on it; Aunt Laura’s old teacup, now used for blood. Mostly empty shelves stared back at me from the fridge, daring me to make a choice.

Did I take one now? Did I really need to drink or could I wait?

Lola returned from the backyard, hopping over the threshold with her short corgi legs, and her nails clacked on the floor as she ignored my mood and waddled past. The jingling of her collar faded as she went down the hall, and I told myself to do the smart thing. I shut the fridge door and left Aunt Laura’s mug on the counter, then followed my dog.

Light flooded the space in my music room as I flipped the wall switch, illuminating everything from the guitars hanging on the walls to the drum kit and keyboard rig sitting in opposite corners. But no dog waited for me. Instead, her collar jingled from across the hall.

The bedroom.

The hour or so before bed normally saw me noodling on a guitar, playing with different pedal effects combinations or trying to work out a lingering melody while Lola stayed at my feet. But as I stood between the two rooms, a crushing fatigue washed over me, something that I knew had nothing to do with appetite.

I peeked in on Lola, the hallway light showing enough that I could see she’d skipped the circular dog bed on the floor to leap straight onto my spot. Usually she’d wait till I fell asleep to pull that off, and perhaps she took advantage of my vulnerable state today. She stretched her little legs into the air, then craned her neck to look at me with ears up, yawning before settling back down.

Maybe she just knew what I needed today.

Instead of going back into my music room, I stepped inside and shut the door, leaving the bedroom in a complete UV protected blackout state as I crawled under soft sheets. I stayed still, the quiet silence of a moment without vampires, without humans, without blood shortages, just a happy corgi resting against my stomach and worries in my head.

Excerpt from Vampire Weekend by Mike Chen.
Copyright © 2023 by Mike Chen.
Published with permission from MIRA Books.
All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Photo of Mike Chen, an Asian man wearing a black sweater standing in front of a gray wall with block windows
Mike Chen photo by Amanda Chen

Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. He has contributed to major geek websites (The Mary Sue, The Portalist, Tor) and covered the NHL for mainstream media outlets. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, Mike lives in the Bay Area, where he can be found playing video games and watching Doctor Who with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @mikechenwriter

Connect with the author via: Instagram | Twitter | Website

 

This book showcase and excerpt brought to you by MIRA Books

 

Book Showcase: THE ACCIDENTAL SPY by David Gardner

The Accidental Spy

by David Gardner

January 9 – February 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Accidental Spy by David Gardner

Harvey Hudson is an emotionally scarred, fifty-six-year-old history professor who has lost his job, his wife, and his self-respect. In desperation, Harvey takes a high-tech job for which he is totally unqualified.

So he outsources it to India.

Then Harvey discovers that a Russian intelligence agency owns the outsourcing company and are using him to launch a cyberattack on the U.S. petroleum industry.

Harvey now finds himself in a world of trouble with the Russians and the FBI, and he has fallen in love with the woman from New Delhi who’s doing the job he’s outsourced—who might be a Russian agent.

The Accidental Spy Trailer:

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Thriller with Literary Pretensions
Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC
Publication Date: November 2, 2022
Number of Pages: 274
ISBN: 9781645994206 (Paperback)
ASIN: B0BDS7QNDG (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository.com | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Encircle Publications

Read an excerpt:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both.”
Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

Spy: “A person employed by a governmental agency to obtain secret information on a hostile country.”
The Philips Dictionary of Espionage

Accidental Spy: “Some poor jerk dragged into a world of trouble.”
Harvey Hudson

Chapter 1: Bunny Ears

Summer, 2019

Harvey Hudson released the steering wheel and swatted at the blue balloon (“Congrats! You Did It!”) that was banging against the back of his head.

What was the ‘It’ for? Someone earned a law degree? Pulled off a bank heist? Successfully underwent potty training? All three?

One day before turning fifty-six, and here he was, delivering balloons. How had he let this happen to him?

He chewed on the last of the Skittles he’d swiped from a bulky candy basket attached to a red balloon shaped like a birthday cake. Too many sweets for some spoiled kid. He was doing the pudgy brat a favor. The Snickers bar was tempting. Maybe later.

Harvey reached across the front seat, grabbed a handful of candy bars from the Skittle-less basket ($149), and dropped them into its modest neighbor ($39). He often shifted candy from larger baskets to lesser ones. He thought of himself as the Robin Hood of balloon-delivery individuals.

He’d had just $87 in the bank a few weeks ago when he’d shambled past a help-wanted sign in the front window of the Rapid Rabbit Balloon Service. He paused and reread the sign. “Part-time Delivery Person Needed. Become a Rapid Rabbit!” Yeah, what the hell. He hurried inside before he came to his senses. He would have taken any gig—balloon-delivery specialist, male stripper, or get-away driver for a grizzled bank robber.

With his part-time job delivering balloons and his full-time work as a beginning technical writer, Harvey could just stay afloat. His ex-wife had cleaned him out.

He double-parked on a smart street of brick-front homes on Boston’s Beacon Hill. Hesitating, he clamped the hated bunny ears over his head and attached the spongy red nose. Sighing, he grabbed the $149 basket and, head down, ambled up the walkway and rang the bell. The balloon bobbed overhead, taunting him.

The woman who opened the door was a slim and pretty brunette in her fifties. She had a narrow face and large, dark eyes.

She was his boss at his day job.

Also his high school sweetheart.

Harvey wanted to disappear into the ground.

Margo took a step back. “Oh.”

Harvey pulled off the bulbous red nose and stuffed it into his shirt pocket. “Uh…this is where you live?”

Margo shook her head. “I’m here with my daughter for a birthday party.”

Harvey shifted from one foot to the other. “I’m…um…delivering balloons just for tonight to help out a buddy who had two wisdom teeth pulled this morning, a professor who lost his job the same time I did.”

Margo blinked twice.

“A sociologist,” Harvey added.

Margo gripped the edge of the door.

“Named Fred,” Harvey said.

Margo nodded.

“The guy took the job in desperation because he’s broke, recently divorced, and down on his luck,” Harvey said and realized he was describing himself.

He handed the basket to Margo.

Did she believe him? Probably not. Did the company have a rule against moonlighting? He’d soon find out.

Margo poked around inside the basket. “There’s too much candy in here.”

“At least there aren’t any Skittles.”

Margo selected a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. “I’ve moved tomorrow’s team meeting up to 10:00 A.M. Did you get my email?”

Harvey nodded.

Was that her way of telling him that moonlighters don’t get fired? He hoped so. He was pathetically unqualified as a technical writer, and his job was in jeopardy.

Harvey hated meetings. Sometimes he thought the software engineers asked him questions he couldn’t answer just to see him squirm. Many were kids in their twenties, making double his salary.

And he hated lying to Margo. At least he could be honest about one small thing. “Actually, this is my night gig. I’ve had it for a few weeks.”

Margo unwrapped the Reese’s, nipped off a corner, chewed and said, “Is that why I caught you asleep at your desk yesterday?”

No, it’s because the job is so goddamn boring. He shook his head. “I wasn’t sleeping. I have the habit of relaxing and closing my eyes whenever I’m searching for the perfect way to convey a particularly difficult concept to our worthy customers.”

“And snoring?”

Margo was smiling now. That same cute smile from high school. He remembered it from the time they’d sneaked a first kiss in the back row of calculus class. The girl he’d loved and lost.

She set the basket down and pulled a twenty from the side pocket of her slacks. “Um…would you…uh…accept a tip?”

“No.”

She shoved the bill into his shirt pocket. “Yes, you will.”

Harvey shifted his weight to his left foot. A liar doesn’t deserve a $20 tip. At most, a few dimes and nickels, couch-cushion change.

Margo finished the peanut butter cup in silence.

He didn’t quite know what to say now.

Yes, he did know. He should tell her the truth.

He’d outsourced his job to India.

Was that illegal? Probably not. But highly unethical. Would she protect him after he’d confessed? Unlikely, which meant he would lose his job. But living a lie was exhausting and just plain wrong. She’d hired him and trusted him. She deserved better. He cleared his throat, once, twice, a third time. “Margo, there’s something I have to tell you. It seems I—”

“Is that the balloon guy?” a young woman called from inside the house.

“That’s my daughter,” Margo said and picked up the basket. A blue balloon bobbed on a string attached to the handle. “I’ll be right back.”

Harvey stood at the open door, trying to think of some way to soften his upcoming confession. Or maybe just blurt it out and get it over with?

“Happy birthday, Dad!”

The daughter’s voice again from inside.

“Candy and a kid’s balloon again this year! Are you trying to tell me something?”

The daughter laughed.

Harvey recognized the man’s voice.

Tucker Aldrich was the CEO of the company where Harvey worked. He was also Margo’s ex-husband and a first-class dickhead.

So, it meant the balloon and candy basket were for Tucker and not some child. Harvey was sorry he’d passed on the Snickers bar.

The hell with telling the truth.

Margo came back out, holding a glass of white wine. She leaned against the door frame. “What were you going to say earlier?”

“Uh…that you’re an over-tipper.”

“Only when the delivery person is a cute, curly-haired guy with a spongy red nose,” she said and sipped her wine. “Did I mention that the meeting’s moved to 10:00?”

“Yes.”

Silence, then Margo said, “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She closed the door behind her.

Harvey stared at the bronze horsehead knocker. He wanted to rip it off. The door too. He in fact wanted to tear the whole damn building down on Tucker’s head.

Margo hadn’t forgotten that she’d told him about the meeting. Margo was incapable of forgetting. She was warning him to show up.

Team meetings were a nightmare. The scruffy programmers spoke computerese, argued over stuff Harvey didn’t understand, and gleefully pointed out errors in his documentation.

But way off in New Delhi, lovely Amaya understood, and with luck she might save his job.

Tomorrow’s meeting would make or break him.

Harvey shuffled down the walkway, his head lowered, his bunny ears slipping down his forehead. He’d been so shocked to see Margo that he’d forgotten to take them off. One of life’s bad moments.

Still, she had called him cute.

Yeah, sure. He was just hours from turning fifty-six, had found addional gray hairs while shaving that morning, and was thickening around the waist from too many Skittles and Snickers.

Harvey climbed into his car and slumped in the driver’s seat. He was angry with Tucker for stealing Margo and angry at Margo for not offering him a glass of wine. But most of all, Harvey was angry with himself for letting her see him in bunny ears.

When he’d first started making deliveries a few weeks earlier, he’d refused to wear them, then thought, what the hell? Doesn’t everyone at some time want to play the fool? There was no pressure to succeed, to show off, to one-up a colleague.

What if everyone from a prisoner sitting out a life term to the President of the United States had to set aside one day a year and play the fool, to go out in public wearing a spongy red nose and bunny ears?

What-Ifs and Whys had obsessed Harvey as a child, who from morning to night had trailed behind his father and mother and pestered them with questions. (What if there was a ladder to the Moon? What if everyone had four arms? Why is cousin Alice getting those bumps on her chest?)

Later, he would turn his pestering curiosity into a profession. He thought of himself as a ‘speculative historian.’ (What if the Allies had lost the Second World War? What if Caesar hadn’t crossed the Rubicon? What if no one had invented the computer?)

Harvey started the engine, reached over to tap the next address into the GPS, then leaned back.

Why humiliate himself like this? His ex-wife had always insisted he was punishing himself in guilt over his younger brother. Harvey denied this, but he knew she was right.

Enough. He had reached his lifetime quota of humiliation.

Here’s another What-If: What if he quit this goddamn job?

Harvey shut off the engine, climbed out of the car, went around back, and popped the trunk.

A dozen balloons bobbed on basket handles, aching to go free.

Harvey tied the spongy red nose to a balloon that read “Get Well Soon!” He cut it loose. Next, he liberated a black balloon picturing a racecar (“Turning Ten!”). Finally, he tied his rabbit ears to a cluster of white orbs trailing a banner that read, “Congrats, New Parents!” and set the bunch free.

He watched until the last of the balloons caught the breeze and disappeared into the night sky.

He slammed the trunk closed, climbed into his car, and right away started to fret. What if a balloon floated to the harbor for some sea creature to swallow (Headline: “Reckless Ex-Professor Kills Orca!”).

Just one more reason to be angry with himself.

***

Excerpt from The Accidental Spy by David Gardner.
Copyright 2022 by David Gardner.
Reproduced with permission from David Gardner.
All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

David Gardner

David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces, and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry.

He co-authored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: “The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller,” “The Last Speaker of Skalwegian,” and “The Accidental Spy” (all with Encircle Publications, LLC).

He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography, and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.

Catch Up With David Gardner:
DavidGardnerAuthor.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @davidagardner07
Instagram – @davidagardner07
Facebook

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Book Showcase: LIFEFORCE by Annie Rodriguez

Lifeforce by Annie Rodriguez
ISBN: 9780999499535 (Paperback)
Publisher: Green Writers Press
Release Date: February 2019
Genre: Fiction | Young Adult | Romantic Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Gillian Cassidy couldn’t save her mother. That was the day immortality lost its appeal. Eight years later, and now a powerful witch in her own right, Gillian has an unwanted visitor haunting her dreams: Sean, her first love. He’s immortal, thanks mainly to her, and seems determined to be with her for eternity. Has she created a monster?

Scared and desperate to escape her nightmares, Gillian must rely on her friends for help. Should she turn to Addie, her mom’s best friend, and a short-tempered vampire? Or should she consult Forrest Wolfe, a lycan who’s looking more handsome every day? Gillian is in trouble, and this time, magic can’t fix it.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org

Read an Excerpt:

Gillian gasped as the sound of the office door opening jarred her awake. To her horror, she saw a pencil float up from her desk and speed towards her visitor, moving at a faster pace than she could control right now. Her focus was currently nowhere to be found. It was a surgeon, judging by his scrub cap, and he moved his head slightly to avoid it. She would’ve sighed in relief if she hadn’t set sight on the surgeon’s misty blue eyes.

“Josh, don’t you knock?” It wasn’t as if they were friends.

“Jeez, Gillian, I know you don’t like me very much, but throwing potentially lethal things at me is a little drastic, don’t you think?”

“I’m a witch, Josh. A pencil through the heart would be awfully messy on a white tile floor, wouldn’t you agree?”

“And here I thought your office had an open-door policy.” He didn’t seem offended in the slightest.

“For the one who broke Addie’s heart? Try again.” Gillian crossed her arms and stood up. Josh gave her an uneasy feeling whenever he was around.

“I’m not the one who ended it. That was her doing.”

“And I suppose you had nothing whatsoever to do with that?” Gillian hated when he did this, trying to sound ever so blameless. Someone else might buy it, but she was too well acquainted with Josh’s habits.

“Well, I’m not the one biting lycans, am I?” His smirk told her he couldn’t wait to bring that one up. No wonder Addie had looked more than mildly upset last night.

“To tell the truth, Josh, I’d rather not get into those details.”

“Tell me the werewolf has a thing for you and not Addie.”

Now that she wasn’t expecting.

She let out a deep breath she didn’t know she was holding. Why was he asking? Had Forrest told him something?

“Why would I tell you that?” She tried to sound as calm and nonchalant as possible.

“Because I asked politely, and I want to know.”

She sighed as she took her seat. “Well, I’m sorry to disappoint.”

“Look, next to Addie, you’re the one he spends the most time with and maybe you haven’t noticed, but he does look pretty darn nervous around you.”

“Maybe he trusts Addie more that he trusts me. Did that ever occur to you?”

“With that look he gives you, it’s not a trust issue, I can tell you that.”

“I thought you immortals never looked beyond your own species. Good gracious, are you telling me I’ve been wrong all these years?” Gillian was seldom sarcastic, but she knew the best way to end a conversation with Josh was by annoying him.

“Maybe we don’t, but whoever made lycans immortal was retarded if you ask me. Oh, did I strike a nerve?”

Gillian cleared her throat. Josh’s last remark about immortality had brought her nightmare back to her mind. But that was not a topic she was going to discuss with Addie’s ex.

“Well, seems like you have your mind made up. Why bother to consult with me then?”

“You haven’t confirmed it. Why don’t we make it snappy? I’ve got surgery soon and I’d like to spend it figuring out how to get Addie back. That stupid lycan. She always did have a soft spot for him, and they were friends when I first asked her out, I know. I get it, he saved her life and all, but enough already, I mean—”

“Gillian, do you have a minute?” Gillian looked beyond Josh to find Forrest by her door. He was carrying a bunch of roses wrapped in brown paper.

Excerpt from Lifeforce by Annie Rodriguez.
Copyright © 2019 by Annie Rodriguez.
All rights reserved.
Published by Green Writers Press.

 

Meet The Author

Author photograph, headshot of a Latinx woman with dark brown shoulder-length hair, wearing a brown sweatshirt
Author Annie Rodriguez

Annette “Annie” Rodriguez was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and started to write consistently when she was in tenth grade. As her writing and creative imagination progressed over the years, Annie became confident enough to share her work and create her own characters to go with these magical plots, and alas, the first draft of Lifeforce was born.  

Fast forward to what felt like endless revisions and consultations, Annie’s beloved writing project was picked up for publication by Green Writers Press, and her first novel was published in February 2019! Lifeforce‘s sequel, Immortality’s Peril, is already in the works! 

Annie’s writing is accompanied by her impressive background as a practicing attorney, holding 2 Bachelor’s degrees and 2 Masters! Lifeforce was actually published during her first year of law school! A minority woman who has worked with students, Annie’s passion for writing keeps her sane in the sometimes harsh reality of training to practice law and her many other endeavors.

Connect with the Author: Amazon | Facebook | Goodreads | LinkedIn | Website

This excerpt and showcase brought to you by Farrow Communications

 

Book Showcase: ASSUMED by MHR Geer

ASSUMED by MHR Geer book cover; blue-washed photo with palm tree leaves in the foreground and a yacht on stormy seas in the backgroundAssumed by MHR Geer
ISBN: 9798987115923 (Paperback)
ASIN: B0BLXK18LR (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 296
Release Date: December 2, 2022
Publisher: MG3 Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Thriller

When her friend Sandy asks for help, Anne Wilson leaves her small, lonely life in Miami for the picturesque island of Saint Martin. But as soon as she arrives, Sandy is murdered, and her death exposes lies: an alias, a secret past, stolen money. Suspected of murder and trapped on the island, Anne is shocked when a cryptic message arrives:

Find the money. Take it and run.

She follows Sandy’s trail of obscure clues, desperate for proof of her innocence and must decide if she can trust the two men who offer help-the dark, mysterious Brit or the American with a wide grin and a pickup truck. When memories resurface-dark truths she’d rather leave buried and forgotten, her past becomes intertwined with her present.

Her only way forward is to face her own secrets.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org

Read an Excerpt:

A constant stream of jubilant holiday-goers jostled my suitcase as I paced the arrivals gate, but Sandy’s mobile went to voicemail a fourth time. I hung up without leaving another message and strolled past the baggage carousel. Again.

“Where are you, Sandy?” I muttered under my breath.

A man in a white Panama hat vacated a bench, and I collapsed onto the cold metal and hugged the handle of my suitcase. The other passengers exchanged greetings and gathered their baggage, and the automatic door slid open with a swoosh to receive them. Every time the door opened, humid air blasted my face.

The man in the white hat reappeared but saw me and turned away, presumably to find a bench without a slouching, scowling American. I raised my shoulders from a slump and crossed my legs.

“What now, Anne?” I asked myself, tapping the screen of my phone and resisting the urge to check the time.

A young boy, about five years old, wandered over and climbed onto the bench next to me. We exchanged nervous smiles. Couples and families regrouped near the door, and I watched their faces, expecting someone to claim the boy, but the door opened and closed, over and over, and he remained.

I was just about to ask where the boy’s parents were when a tall woman entered and rushed toward us, shouting in French. Her profile was dark against the bright sunlight outside, and her long hair swirled in the vortex of the doorway. The boy pressed against me, and I almost wrapped my arm around him, but the door closed, and she smoothed her hair back into place.

She pulled the boy from the bench, gripping his arms with long, slender fingers. I couldn’t understand her words, but her reprimand was clear. Her green eyes flashed with fear and anger. She blamed me for his disappearance. I shrugged, trying to remember how to apologize in French. Je suis desole? But I was unsure of the words, so I didn’t say anything, and she didn’t wait for my explanation.

He left with her, his little hand firmly inside hers, and when the door opened and whipped her hair back into the air, the boy turned back to me with a smile. I waved.

And then I was alone again.

I jumped when my phone buzzed.

Sorry, Sandy texted. Can’t make it. Take a taxi to 16 Rue de l’Aile Perdue.

I stared at the text and considered purchasing a ticket for a return flight, but my phone buzzed again with a second text.

Please, Anne.

I squared my shoulders and pulled on my sunglasses. Then I walked through the whoosh of the doorway and into the sunlight.

The taxi line had already thinned; it took only a few minutes before a lively man ushered me into the back of a bright green sedan. The driver offered a brusque “Welcome to Saint Martin,” and turned up her radio. Taxi code for no talking. Fine with me.

We sped through narrow streets, dangerously close to sunburned tourists wandering street markets. Stalls spilled out from under a rainbow of awnings, hawking loud shirts and oversized beach towels. The air was thick with cardamom and curry, mixed with the yeasty smell of a patisserie. My stomach rumbled. In my rush to make the early morning flight, I’d skipped breakfast.

We left town and traveled up and down winding roads that cut into the hillsides. The villas grew larger and farther apart and then disappeared into thick foliage behind security gates. I caught occasional glimpses of dirt lanes and even fewer paved driveways. When the driver pulled off the road, I leaned out the window to watch the tops of towering palm trees lining a long gravel driveway. We stopped on a cobbled motor court in front of a massive house.

I stared up at the imposing facade from within the safety of the taxi before I bravely stepped into the blazing sun. I thought there must be some mistake, but before I could say anything, the taxi drove away. Why had Sandy sent me to a dismal mansion and not to one of the dazzling resorts I’d passed?

Beyond the house, the sea stretched to the horizon. Sunlight reflected off the water, awakening childhood fantasies of pirate ships and mermaid tails. But the hot sun quickly melted the daydream, and I retreated into the shadow of the mansion.

Up close, the house was shabby and weather-beaten. Peeling gray paint revealed a history of more colorful choices. The porch railing leaned at a precarious angle, and as I cautiously climbed the rotting steps, the wood complained but held, and I reached the front door and knocked. The sound echoed within the house, but only silence followed. I knocked again, louder, and waited. Nothing.

“Now what?” I asked the house.

The house ignored me, but a piece of paper stuck between two floorboards fluttered in the ocean breeze. I stepped over and picked it up. She’d left a note—an inconsiderate welcome, even for Sandy. I exhaled loudly and unfolded the scrap of paper.

Excerpt from Assumed by MHR Geer.
Copyright © 2022 by MHR Geer.
Published with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

MHR Geer photo: black and white headshot photograph of a white woman with wavy dark-colored hair
Author – MHR Geer

MHR Geer was born in California but grew up in the Midwest. She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara to study Physics. After school, she moved to Ventura, CA, and started a small bookkeeping business. She lives with her two sons and her unicorn husband (because he’s a magical creature).

Connect with the author via: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Website

Giveaway

This is a giveaway for one (1) signed ARC copy of Assumed, one (1) branded tote, one (1) branded koozie, one (1) bookmark, AND a $20 bookstore gift card to a winner in the US or Canada courtesy of MHR Geer. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States and Canada only. All entries by non-US/Canadian residents will be voided. To enter use the Rafflecopter link below or click here.

This giveaway begins at 12:01 AM ET on 01/16/2023 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on 01/22/2023. The winner will be announced by 10:00 AM ET on 01/23/2023. Void where prohibited.

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Book Showcase: THE BLUE BAR by Damyanti Biswas

The Blue Bar by Damyanti Biswas
ISBN: 9781662503917 (Paperback)
ASIN: B09S6TF52M (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09NKMQ9RK (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 385
Release Date: January 1, 2023
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Fiction | Literary Thriller

On the dark streets of Mumbai, the paths of a missing dancer, a serial killer, and an inspector with a haunted past converge in an evocative thriller about lost love and murderous obsession.

After years of dancing in Mumbai’s bars, Tara Mondal was desperate for a new start. So when a client offered her a life-changing payout to indulge a harmless, if odd, fantasy, she accepted. The setup was simple: wear a blue-sequined saree, enter a crowded railway station, and escape from view in less than three minutes. It was the last time anyone saw Tara.

Thirteen years later, Tara’s lover, Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput, is still grappling with her disappearance as he faces a horrifying new crisis: on the city’s outskirts, women’s dismembered bodies are being unearthed from shallow graves. Very little links the murders, except a scattering of blue sequins and a decade’s worth of missing persons reports that correspond with major festivals.

Past and present blur as Arnav realizes he’s on the trail of a serial killer and that someone wants his investigation buried at any cost. Could the key to finding Tara and solving these murders be hidden in one of his cold cases? Or will the next body they recover be hers?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org

Advanced Praise for The Blue Bar:

“An intense, visceral thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Biswas brings India to life in this tale of a determined detective fighting against his own department’s bureaucracy to catch a twisted serial killer who has spent years mastering his craft. Will leave you breathless!” —Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling suspense novelist

“Immersive, propulsive, and beautifully written. In this gaspingly authentic police procedural about a missing dancer and the police officer who cannot forget her, Biswas transports us to India—not only to investigate a string of murders, but to explore the dark and disturbing life of Mumbai’s bar girls. With its heart-breaking love story and Biswas’ revealing social commentary, THE BLUE BAR will change you, haunt you, and have you understanding the world in a different way.” —Hank Phillippi Ryan, USA Today Bestselling Author of HER PERFECT LIFE

Read an Excerpt:

Use the scroll bar on right to read full excerpt

Chapter One

Tara

2002, Borivali Station

Endings are overrated. There’s only one true, certain end—everything else a load of bullshit, or how you call it, bakwaas. Beginnings, though. Beginnings are everywhere. It all began with that midnight-colored saree, thick with dark-blue sequins, its endless sea of shimmering dots stitched by hands that must have cracked and bled over the months of needle in and out of taut cloth in some dingy, godforsaken hole in one of Mumbai’s stinking alleyways.

The saree, draped well below Tara’s navel, scratched against her skin. The low-necked silver blouse scraped her shoulders, but she tried not to think about any of this, or the sweat trickling down her back while she maneuvered through the crush of bodies.

It had rained that afternoon, cooling the air, but not enough for the wide, dark shawl Tara had worn as per instructions. It was never cold enough in Mumbai for shawls. Especially not on a platform at Borivali Station during rush hour, which swarmed thicker than ants on a dead beetle. The voices of hundreds of men and women rose around her, red-uniformed porters yelling at everyone to stand back, squalling children, announcements of all the trains departing from or arriving in India’s city of dreams.

To reach the end of the platform, Tara elbowed her way through the milling passengers. Many regional languages. Body odor. Perfumes. She pushed back against the women, stepping aside for the children and the men who hustled toward her in their rush to leave the platform. If she didn’t give way to the men, they’d shove her at the shoulder if she was lucky; lower, if she wasn’t.

She reached the finish line, where she could step no farther without falling off the platform. A little stretch of emptiness in a cramped city. In the distance stood slums with their tin-and-tarpaulin roofs. Towering above them, shiny billboards advertising refrigerators and televisions, with posters featuring building-sized faces of film stars, the drunken-eyed Shah Rukh Khan, dewy Aishwarya Rai, and the tall, lean figure of the heartthrob all girls swooned over, the sweet, baby-faced Karan Virani.

At seventeen, Tara had learned enough not to swoon over a man, not even Arnav, the police constable who made her heart beat faster these days. She dismissed the posters and did as asked. Stood facing the tracks as if poised to jump down and sprint after departing trains through scattered debris.

When she’d been brought to Mumbai on one of those trains four years ago, the stench of the city had overwhelmed her: a mix of rotting vegetation, frankincense, urine, perfume, frying fish, and the hopes and despair of more people than she’d ever seen gathered in one place. She didn’t notice it anymore. Just like she took for granted her own changed smell—talcum powder and flowery perfume borrowed from the other bar girls. She could never leave, nor did she want to.

She dug in her heels instead, the expensive, pointy-toed silver shoes paired with her blue outfit, and ignored the passengers stepping off the train and navigating their way out of the mob of others waiting to board. A black-coated ticket checker gave her a quick once-over but continued his frenzied rush, sticking charts beside each of the compartment doors.

Tara shifted her weight from one heel to another. She usually got lost in crowds. Most men and even a few women towered over her. Not anymore. She felt tall, and these were absolutely the most glamorous clothes she’d worn, despite the whiff of dry cleaning each time she received them. She’d never looked better. Pity she wasn’t allowed to wear these when gyrating at the bar, where they’d have fetched her a shower of hundred-rupee notes.

Her boss never explained why he paid nearly as much for each of these weird trips to the railway station as she made in a month dancing to lewd Bollywood numbers. Sometimes she wished for more of these trips in a week. Don’t be greedy, Tara, she scolded herself, the way her mother used to, in another life.

The vibrating phone felt like a live thing in her hand. Shetty, the hefty, dark-skinned owner of the bar, had given it to her a month ago, saying she must take care not to lose this toy with its cracked screen and tiny beetle buttons, or else. She pressed the green button he’d showed her, raised the phone to her ear, and said a shaky hayylo into it. Now, said a voice at the other end. She didn’t recognize the speaker but knew what to do.

Dropping her shawl, she posed as per Shetty’s instructions, and counted off the seconds for the phone to buzz again. She donned her I-don’t-give-a-damn look, while all the male passengers, vendors, and policemen noted the drape of her blue saree, the way it left most of her slim midriff exposed, called attention to her breasts. She paid no mind to the breeze at her back, bare but for the two silver strings that held her blouse together. Her breath steady, the same as before going onstage, she longed for the swig of alcohol that helped her through the first part of each evening’s catcalls and groping.

Several low-throated lewd comments and snatches of Bollywood songs followed, but she bit back her litany of swear words. She focused on the rail tracks as if another train were on its way, one she alone knew about.

When the phone shivered in her sweaty palm, she didn’t let her relief show, nor pick up the call. Instead, as instructed, she snatched up the shawl without wearing it, and headed for the stairs leading up to the bridge. An ebb in the crowd after a mass exit of passengers allowed her to make good time. She’d practiced running in these heels.

Breathing hard, she stumbled once at a crack in the platform pavement before she took the stairs as fast as the crowd and her saree would allow her. The slanting afternoon sun caught the sequins, lighting her up. Blind to all but the gaps she slipped through, and the bodies she must kick or elbow past while not losing her balance, she kept up her pace. She must exit the station in precisely three minutes. Her boss had never told her what might happen if she didn’t. Forgetting her resolve to give up on prayers, she sent one up to Ma Kaali and raced on.

From the sixth-floor window of a nearby high-rise, a pair of binoculars stalked her progress as she ran.

Excerpt from The Blue Bar by Damyanti Biswas.
Copyright © 2023 by Damyanti Biswas.
Published with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Headshot photo of Damyanti Biswas, female from India with short brown hair, wearing a black top, in front of a blurred framed print

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine.

Apart from being a novelist, she is an avid reader of true crime, a blogger, and an animal lover. Her ambition has always been to live in a home with more books than any other item, and she continues to work toward that.

Connect with the author via: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

Book Showcase: WHAT MEETS THE EYE by Alex Kenna

What Meets the Eye

by Alex Kenna

January 9 – February 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

What Meets the Eye by Alex Kenna

From debut author Alex Kenna comes a pulse-pounding tapestry of secrets, retribution, and greed for fans of Jeffrey Archer.

Kate Myles was a promising Los Angeles police detective, until an accident and opioid addiction blew up her family and destroyed her career. Struggling to rebuild her life, Kate decides to try her hand at private detective work—but she gets much more than she bargained for when she takes on the case of a celebrated painter found dead in a downtown loft.

When Margot Starling’s body was found, the cause of death was assumed to be suicide. Despite her beauty, talent, and fame, she struggled with a host of demons. But as Kate digs deeper, she learns that Margot had a growing list of powerful enemies—among them a shady art dealer who had been selling forged works by Margot. Kate soon uncovers a dirty trail that leads straight into the heart of the city’s deadly underworld.

Margot died for her art—and if Kate doesn’t tread lightly, she could be the next to get brushed out.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: December 2022
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN10: 1639101845
ISBN: 9781639101849 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 9781639101856 (eBook)
ASIN: B09TZP1DCF (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B0BBPHT776 (Audible Audiobook)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes & Noble | B&N NOOK Book | BookDepository.com | BookShop.org | eBooks.com | Kobo eBook | Goodreads | Penguin Random House

Praise for What Meets the Eye:

“[An] impressive debut . . . Sara Paretsky fans will be pleased.”

Publishers Weekly

 

“Alex Kenna is the real deal, a true talent. Her prose is stunningly eloquent and characterization masterful.”

Crime Fiction Critic

 

“A righteous, painful debut. More, please.”

Kirkus Reviews

 

“Dragging the world of high art down into the muck of Los Angeles’ criminal underbelly, Alex Kenna has created an engaging mystery buoyed by the heart of its heroine, Kate Myles. Trying to win against stacked decks in her professional and personal lives, Myles’ resilience and hustle makes her an easy hero to stand up and cheer for.”

James Queally, author of the Russel Avery novels and Los Angeles Times crime reporter

 

“With the sure hand of an old master, Alex Kenna’s debut blurs the line between catharsis and crime in this gritty and nimble noir mystery. When a routine investigation into the apparent suicide of art superstar Margot Starling becomes anything but, down-on-her-luck PI Kate Myles must square herself up for the fight of her life or lose it all. Entertaining and provocative, What Meets the Eye reminds us that truth often comes with a price tag much higher—and deadlier—than anything Sotheby’s could ever hope to fetch at auction.”

Katie Lattari, author of Dark Things I Adore

 

“Kenna gives us the LA crime story we want—a fronded, sun-beaten carousel of depravity and murder, all laced up with tight plotting, sharply hewn characters, and a gripping, original story.”

Joseph Schneider, author of the Tully Jarsdel Mysteries

 

“A suspicious death dismissed as suicide leads PI Kate Myles deep into a web of blackmail and deceit, set against an intriguing backdrop of shady dealings in the art world. An all too human character, Kate is determined to piece together the wreckage of her life and career, and salvage her fractured relationship with her daughter. With clever twists & turns, and a host of convincing suspects along the way, the plot delivers a satisfying ending, but leaves us with tantalizing hints of more to come from Kate…”

Julie Cameron, author of Nameless Acts of Cruelty

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Six Months Ago – Margot

All week long, I’d felt a fire in my belly. The spirit passed through me like lightning, brushes flying from wet canvas to wet canvas. Cooking was a waste of time, so I ordered takeout and drank whiskey. Sleep was out of the question. I cranked up the music and worked to the beat. Sometimes I sang along, dripping globs of color onto the floor. The paint went on smooth, like buttery icing. After a while, my brushes stayed in their jar and my fingers danced across the canvas. No bristles between skin and cloth.

Soon the images came alive. I’d been studying the Spanish greats: Velasquez, Goya, Zurbaran, Ribera. For them, it was all about bottomless darks with hints of warm, mellow light. I took a break from bold colors, indulging in white and yellow ochre on burnt sienna. The effect was sinister but mesmerizing. One after another, my hands pulled ghostly figures out of a dark void.

I finally passed out around dawn on Thursday, just as the birds were starting to chatter. When I woke, it was midafternoon, and the magic was gone. My mouth tasted of bile and I felt like someone had scooped out my eyeballs and punched me in the sockets.

I wandered into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. One of Goya’s haggard witches stared back at me. My skin was the color of rice pudding. There were purple half-moons under my eyes and a cadmium streak in my hair. I picked at my nail beds, filled with Prussian blue. The thought of cleaning them was exhausting so I didn’t bother.

My stomach let out a growl and I stumbled over to the fridge. Nothing inside was fresh enough to tempt me. I turned to a soggy takeout container on the kitchen table. The waxed cardboard had partially melted, and a puddle of sauce oozed onto the table. A dead fruit fly was trapped inside the congealed orange liquid like a mosquito in amber. I pulled a half-eaten egg roll off last night’s dinner plate and popped it in my mouth. At least it was still crispy.

After lunch-breakfast-dinner, I had an edible and downed a pot of coffee. I tried to get back to work, but the electricity was gone. The images that were so alive last night now looked dull and mannered. A self-portrait smirked at me. I’d given myself a pouty red mouth like an Instagram twat and artificial jolly-rancher-green eyes. It was pathetic. The last desperate cry of a lonely train wreck nearing forty. I felt worthless. I should go jump off a bridge or wander onto the freeway.

I lay on the couch for what must have been hours, binge watching some show about British aristocrats and their servants. Thank God I wasn’t born in nineteenth century England. You can’t be a British lady if you’re a mouthy alcoholic who screws half the landed gentry. I would’ve done worse as a servant. I can barely fry an egg and half the time I’m too paralyzed by my own shit to get out of bed. I’d end up as a consumptive whore blowing sailors for my supper in a London tenement.

The curtains were drawn, and eventually light stopped leaking in from the window edges. I usually do better when the sun goes down. But nightfall didn’t bring me a second wind. It made me feel worse. I poured myself another drink and lit a cigarette.

My cell kept blowing up with a number I didn’t recognize. I’d had this phone for six months and never transferred my contacts over from the last one. Now my caller ID served as a kind of litmus test. If someone hadn’t reached out in half a year, they weren’t worth my time. I let it go to voicemail and turned back to the aristocrats. The only decent one was dead now. This show was making me tired.

There was a knock on the door. Probably the neighbor coming to tell me her baby couldn’t sleep because I make use of my electronics. I ignored it, took a swig of whiskey, and lit another cigarette.

Then whoever it was started pounding. “Margot, open up,” said a loud baritone. The voice was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. His tone had an edge of desperation. Could it be that cop from last week? A wave of dread flowed through me. My hands started shaking and a clump of ash fell on the couch. If I kept very still, maybe he’d think I wasn’t home and go away. No, the TV was too loud. He knew I was in here.

I tiptoed over to the keyhole and gasped. My drink flew from my hand and shattered, coating the floor in alcohol and shards of glass.

***

Excerpt from What Meets the Eye by Alex Kenna.
Copyright © 2022 by Alex Kenna.
Reproduced with permission from Alex Kenna.
All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Alex Kenna

Alex Kenna is a lawyer, writer, and amateur painter based in Los Angeles. Before law school, Alex studied painting and art history. She also worked as a freelance culture writer and sold art in a gallery. Originally from Washington DC, Alex lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and a giant schnauzer, Zelda. When she’s not writing Alex can be found exploring Southern California, toddler-wrangling, and playing string instruments badly.

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Book Showcase: MISFIRE by Tammy Euliano

Misfire, Book 2 in the Kate Downey Medical Mystery Series, by Tammy Euliano
ISBN: 9781608095223 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781608095230 (ebook)
ASIN: B09X5ZPQCL (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 368
Release Date: January 23, 2023
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Medical Mystery | Thriller

MISFIRE by Tammy Euliano cover featuring a bluish-gray x-ray of a human chest with a defibrillator highlighted

A device that can save a life is also one that can end it

Kadence, a new type of implanted defibrillator, misfires in a patient visiting University Hospital for a routine medical procedure—causing the heart rhythm problem it’s meant to correct. Dr. Kate Downey, an experienced anesthesiologist, resuscitates the patient, but she grows concerned for a loved one who recently received the same device—her beloved Great-Aunt Irm.

When a second device misfires, Kate turns to Nikki Yarborough, her friend and Aunt Irm’s cardiologist. Though Nikki helps protect Kate’s aunt, she is prevented from alerting other patients by the corporate greed of her department chairman. As the inventor of the device and part owner of MDI, the company he formed to commercialize it, he claims that the device misfires are due to a soon-to-be-corrected software bug. Kate learns his claim is false.

The misfires continue as Christian O’Donnell, a friend and lawyer, comes to town to facilitate the sale of MDI. Kate and Nikki are drawn into a race to find the source of the malfunctions, but threats to Nikki and a mysterious murder complicate their progress. Are the seemingly random shocks misfires, or are they attacks?

A jaw-dropping twist causes her to rethink everything she once thought she knew, but Kate will stop at nothing to protect her aunt and the other patients whose life-saving devices could turn on them at any moment.

Perfect for fans of Robin Cook and Tess Gerritsen

While the novels in the Kate Downey Medical Mystery Series stand on their own and can be read in any order, the publication sequence is:

Fatal Intent
Misfire

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Praise for Misfire:

“From surgery to suspense, Tammy Euliano knows the worlds she writes of. Misfire is a first-rate medical thriller—the kind that leaves you thinking that was too close!” —Michael Connelly, New York Times best-selling author

“A medical thriller meets domestic suspense meets serial killer terror all rolled into one page-turning extravaganza. You will read Misfire for the plot, but absolutely stay for the characters. I miss them already.” —Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times best-selling author

“Medical suspense as sharp as it gets. Euliano is off to a good, no, a brilliant start.” —Kathy Reichs, New York Times best-selling author

Read an Excerpt:

“You aren’t gonna let me die this time, are ya, Doc?”

Oh boy.

So started my Wednesday, with about the worst line any anesthesiologist can hear from a patient in preoperative holding.

“This time?” the nurse said.

“Last time my heart decided to dance a little jig instead of pumpin’ my blood.”

Sitting close beside Mr. Abrams, his wife squeezed her eyes closed. “Abe, tell Dr. Downey the whole story.”

“I read about it in your chart last night,” I said. “Last time they tried to fix your hernia, your heart needed a jump start.” To the nurse I added, “V fib,” a chaotic heart rhythm that usually requires electrical shock to convert back to a normal rhythm. “It happened when they were putting you to sleep and they canceled the case.” Instead of a hernia operation, Mr. Abrams ended up with a very different procedure that day—placement of an automated internal cardioverter defibrillator, or AICD. A device implanted in his chest to detect and treat the problem should it recur.

“Your AICD hasn’t fired, right?” The device had been checked by cardiology the day before.

“Right. Rosie watches it like a hawk huntin’ a rodent.” He nodded to his wife, who slipped her phone under the book in her lap.

“I completely understand,” I said to her, nodding at the hidden phone. “My aunt has the same AICD, and I can’t stop checking the app either.” Maybe a downside of the novel AICD, the Kadence communicated through the patient’s phone to the cloud, where I could view status reports on my beloved Aunt Irm’s heart. “I don’t expect any problems this time, but we’re ready if your heart decides on another jig.”

“Dr. Downey, I need to ask a favor.” Mrs. Abrams didn’t look at me, or at anyone. She gripped her paperback as if it would fly open.

“Call me Kate.”

“Come on, Rosie, let the doc do her job,” Mr. Abrams said.

She ignored him. “Dr. Yarborough is his cardiologist. She said if he could keep his phone during the operation, she would be able to watch his AICD.”

I generally like to honor requests. This one required a caveat. “I’ll make a deal with you. We’ll keep the phone close for Dr. Yarborough as long as you promise not to watch the app.”

Her sparse gray eyebrows drew together.

“During surgery, there’s electrical noise that can confuse the AICD. I don’t know what it might report and I don’t want you frightened.” Sometimes we turn off AICDs during surgery, but this operation was far enough away from the device implanted near his left shoulder that the noise shouldn’t cause a problem. What she might see on the app, though, I couldn’t predict.

She nodded uncertainly.

Eric, the anesthesia resident assigned to work with me on the case, arrived with a small syringe of a sedative. “What do you think about some happy juice?”

“I think my wife needs it more than me,” Mr. Abrams said.

Her lipstick appeared to redden as her face paled.

“Unfortunately, it goes in the IV,” Eric said with a kind smile for her. “We’ll take good care of him.”

“You’ll watch his blood sugar,” she said.

“Yes, ma’am.” Eric unlocked the bed.

“And be careful with his AICD.”

“We will.” He unhooked the IV bag from the ceiling-mounted pole and attached it to one on the stretcher.

Tears dampened her eyes as Mrs. Abrams stood and leaned down to kiss her husband’s cheek.

“I’m gonna be fine, Rosie. Don’t you worry. I’ll be huntin’ by the weekend, and we can try out that new squirrel recipe before our anniversary.”

“We are not serving squirrel stew for our fiftieth anniversary,” she said.

Eric and I exchanged a smile.

“Oh now, you wait and see.” Mr. Abrams patted his wife’s hand.

“What’s squirrel taste like?” Eric pushed the bed from the wall.

“Tastes like chicken.” Mr. Abrams laughed loudly. “No, just kiddin’ with ya . . .” As they turned the corner, the voices faded. I stayed behind to reassure Mrs. Abrams.

“I can’t lose him.” Eyes squeezed shut, a sob escaped.

I wrapped an arm around her ample shoulders and waited. I knew that feeling; had lived that feeling; had lost.

“I’m sorry.” She dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

“No need to apologize. Last time scared you. Tell you what, once he’s asleep, I’ll give you a call and let you know it went fine.”

That calmed her. We walked together to the main doors, where I directed her to the waiting room. I turned the opposite direction to not let her husband of fifty years die during a hernia operation. No pressure there.

In the OR, we helped Mr. Abrams move to the operating table. After applying monitors and going through our safety checks, Eric held the clear plastic mask over his face and said, “Pick out a good dream.”

“Oh, I got one.” He winked at me. “I’ll try to behave this time, Doc.”

“I’d appreciate that.” I maintained eye contact and held his hand as I injected the drugs to put him off to sleep. Despite having induced anesthesia thousands of times, I always experience a tense few moments between the time the patient stops breathing and when the breathing tube is confirmed in the windpipe. During those couple of minutes, if we couldn’t breathe for him, there’s a real, if remote, chance the patient could die. Not a failure to save, but, in essence, a kill. Anesthesia is unique in that. We take people who are breathing fine, mess it up, then fix it, so the surgeon can correct the real problem.

When Mr. Abrams’ induction proceeded without incident, I felt an extra sense of relief and was happy to share that with his wife. The operation, too, went well, and an hour later, he awoke from anesthesia, gave a sleepy smile, and said, “How’d it go, Doc?”

“Fine. No more hernia. Are you in any pain?”

He shook his head. “Nope, you done good.”

As Eric gave his transfer-of-care report to the recovery nurse, I helped re-connect the monitors. Mr. Abrams looked great. Whether he’d be hunting squirrel in a few days, I couldn’t say. I headed toward the pre-op area to see our next patient.

“Dr. Downey!”

I spun back to see Mr. Abrams’ head loll to the side, his eyes closed, his hands on his chest. In two steps I was back at his side. “Mr. Abrams?” I placed two fingers to his neck where his pulse should be while the ECG monitor above showed ventricular fibrillation—a randomly bumpy line—and his pulse oximeter, the sticker on his finger that recorded pulse and oxygen, became a flat line. Cardiac arrest.

What the hell?

I forced the image of his wife saying, “I can’t lose him,” from my mind as I lowered the head of the bed and started chest compressions. “Eric, manage the airway.”

He placed a mask over Mr. Abrams’ nose and mouth and started squeezing the breathing bag. “Why isn’t his AICD firing?”

Good question.

The overhead monitor flashed and shrieked an alarm.

The fire-engine red crash cart arrived and a nurse snapped off its plastic lock. As she tore open the foil pack of defibrillation pads from the top of the crash cart, the charge nurse assembled medications. A smoothly running team, each member with his or her own tasks.

The overhead alert began, “Anesthesia and Charge Nurse stat to the PACU.” I tuned it out as a crowd in scrubs assembled around us. The anesthesiologist in charge of the recovery room said, “How can I help?”

“Call Nikki Yarborough in cardiology.” As I continued chest compressions, the nurse reached around my arms to place the large defibrillator pads on Mr. Abrams’ chest. I noticed the small scar where his AICD was implanted and silently ordered the damn thing to fire. The charging defibrillator whined with an increasing and eventually teeth-itching pitch.

Seconds before I yelled, “Clear!” the ECG monitor traced a “square wave”—three sides of a bottomless square, up-across-down. I held my breath, though it was only seconds. Normal sinus rhythm followed. His AICD had finally fired, kick-starting his heart back to normal electrical activity.

I stopped chest compressions and placed my fingers on his neck. Strong pulse. “Mr. Abrams?” I grasped his hand and leaned forward. His head turned toward me. “How do you feel?”

He rubbed his sternum with his other hand. “Chest hurts.”

“Like a heart attack, or like someone pounded on it?”

“Pounded.” He opened one eye.

“Sorry about that.”

“No. Thank you.” The corners of his mouth turned up weakly. “You did good.”

“I’ll have cardiology come check out your AICD and figure out why it took so long to fire.”

He nodded. “Can you tell my wife I’m okay?” It struck me his first thought was for his wife, and that I’d told her everything would be fine. Crap. It also struck me she might have peeked at his app.

The recovery room attending waited for me as I stepped away. “Dr. Yarborough’s in a procedure but will come by as soon as she’s done.”

I thanked him and hurried to the waiting room to check on Mrs. Abrams.

She must have followed directions, because I found her in the back corner of the crowded space, the book unopened in her lap. At my approach, she looked up.

“He’s fine.” Always the best lead, but she didn’t smile. I sat beside her and lowered my voice in an attempt at privacy. “After the surgery, he had a rhythm problem like before.”

She gasped and I placed a hand on her arm.

“We did CPR until his Kadence fired and everything is fine now. He’s awake and he asked me to tell you that.”

Tears filled her eyes.

Though I wasn’t supposed to invite her to the recovery room until the nurse was ready, Mrs. Abrams needed to see for herself. I knew what that felt like. “Would you like to see him?”

She nodded and walked with me in silence.

The very understanding nurse lowered one of the stretcher’s side rails, and Mr. Abrams extended an arm to embrace his wife. “Now, Rosie, I told you I’d be fine.” He looked past her shoulder and winked at me, but his eyes shone as well. Such a beautiful couple. I returned to work before we were all bleary eyed.

Excerpt from Misfire by Tammy Euliano.
Copyright © 2023 by Tammy Euliano.
Published with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Tammy Euliano author photo showing a smiling white female with brown, shoulder-length hair, wearing a blue-print top and a necklace with a blue stone

Tammy Euliano writes medical thrillers. She’s inspired by her day job as a physician, researcher, and medical educator. She is a tenured professor at the University of Florida, where she’s been honored with numerous teaching awards, nearly 100,000 views of her YouTube teaching videos, and was featured in a calendar of women inventors (copies available wherever you buy your out-of-date calendars).

When she’s not writing or at the hospital, she enjoys traveling with her family, playing sports, cheering on the Gators, and entertaining her two wonderful dogs.

Connect with the author via: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website 

Giveaway

This is a giveaway for one (1) print copy of Misfire by Tammy Euliano and a bookmark. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States only. All entries by non-US residents will be voided. To enter use the Rafflecopter link.

This giveaway begins at 12:01 AM ET on 01/10/2023 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on 01/16/2023. The winner will be announced by 10:00 AM ET on 01/17/2023. Void where prohibited.

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Book Showcase: TOKEN by Beverley Kendall

Illustrated cover for TOKEN by Beverley Kendall showing a close-up headshot of a young Black woman, with curly shoulder-length dark brown hair, wearing purple drop earrings, a yellow-beaded necklace, and a yellow topToken by Beverley Kendall
ISBN: 9781525899973 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780369720528 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488218248 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9798212222815 (MP3 audiobook CD)
ASIN: B0B8QM22WT (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B0B1JM2HDF (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 352
Release Date: January 3, 2023
Publisher: Graydon House/HarperCollins
Genre: Fiction | Multicultural & Interracial Romance | Romance

She’s brilliant, beautiful…and tired of being the only Black woman in the room.

Two years ago, Kennedy Mitchell was plucked from the reception desk and placed in the corporate boardroom in the name of diversity. Rather than play along, she and her best friend founded Token, a boutique PR agency that helps “diversity-challenged” companies and celebrities. With corporate America diversifying workplaces and famous people getting into reputation-damaging controversies, Token is in high demand.

Kennedy quickly discovers there’s a lot of on-the-job learning and some messes are not so easily fixed. When Kennedy’s ex shows up needing help repairing his company’s reputation, things get even more complicated. She knows his character is being wrongly maligned, but she’s reluctant to get involved—professionally and emotionally. But soon, she finds herself drawn into a PR scandal of her own.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Apple Books | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | B&N Audiobook | BookDepository.com \ Books-A-Million | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | Google Play Audiobook | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook | Target

Praise for Token:

“A smart, sexy rom-com that had me chuckling from the first page. I loved it.”—BRENDA JACKSON, New York Times bestselling author

 

Token is a rom-com perfect for our times. I can’t wait to see it on the big screen!”—KAIA ALDERSON, author of Sisters in Arms

Read an Excerpt:

Looking for a job sucked.

Getting laid off sucked even more.

Three weeks ago, Kennedy Mitchell found herself in both unenviable positions.

While searching for a new job in her field of expertise—marketing and five solid years of it—she’d accepted a four-week receptionist position to tide her over. Hey, student loans didn’t pay off themselves and they couldn’t care less about your employment status. But, as grateful as she was to have money coming in, she hated the part of the job that had her slapping herself awake every five minutes.

That also sucked.

It would be one thing if the place were a bevy of human activity (she generally liked people and they tended to like her back). Nope, that wasn’t even close to what she was dealing with. Per the visitor log, a grand total of six had passed through the first-floor lobby of ECO Apparel in the two weeks she’d been there. Three on one day alone. And during the hours when the employees were upstairs ensconced at their desks, the place resembled a ghost town. Seriously, she wouldn’t be surprised to see tumbleweed roll past the reception desk one fine windy day. Although, for a ghost town, the lobby was sleekly modern, all sharp angles, and glass and chrome.

Glancing down at her cell phone, Kennedy released a long-suffering sigh. How was it possible that only three minutes and not an hour had passed since her last five-minute check-in? This was usually when she prayed for one of two things: the power to control time, or another job.

Since the chances of either happening within the next seventy-two hours were zero to none, she grudgingly resigned herself to her fate and tapped the keyboard, bringing the sleeping monitor back to life, and the email from an interested recruiter back into view. Seven hours to go, and the jury was still out on whether she would make it until noon—much less to the end of the day. The ding of the elevator broke the lonely silence and was soon followed by the click of heels on the faux marble floors. Twisting in her seat, Kennedy spotted Nadine from Administrative Services striding purposely toward her, folder and purse in hand. She hastily closed out of her email and treated the brunette to a bright smile.

“Hey, Nadine, is it break time already?” The pretty admin assistant usually came to relieve her for a midmorning break at ten. Currently, it was an hour shy of that, and taking a break right now would upset the monotony of her day. How would she cope with the upheaval?

“Mr. Mullins wants to see you in his office, and I’ll be filling in for you for the rest of the day,” her coworker announced abruptly.

Kennedy stiffened and her eyebrows rose at the hint of annoyance and resentment threading Nadine’s tone.

Well, good morning to you too.

What the hell happened to the pleasant, chatty girl of not even twenty-four hours ago? And why on earth did the director of Human Resources want to see her in his office? Especially as she, like Nadine, reported to the manager of Administrative Services.

Then Nadine’s folder landed with a splat on the desk near the monitor. Kennedy’s gaze flew to hers and she found herself on the receiving end of a very pointed come on—get a move on, girlie. There’s only one chair and you’re sitting in it look.

That was enough to galvanize Kennedy into action even as her jaw ticked and she prayed for calm. She hurriedly collected her purse from the bottom drawer before surrendering her seat to her visibly impatient coworker.

As if it’s my fault she’s getting stuck down here answering the phone.

Despite Kennedy’s own growing annoyance, she paused and turned before leaving, her shoulders squared, and chin lifted. “Any idea why Mr. Mullins wants to see me?” Her voice was stiff but scrupulously polite.

Since her interaction with him was limited to a brief walk-by wave on her first day during a tour of the offices, she was at a loss. Nadine gave a bored shrug. “I hear no evil and speak no evil. They tell me nothing. I just go where I’m told to go, and do the work they pay me to do, if you know what I mean.”

Kennedy’s heart instantly softened, and she excused Nadine’s uncustomary churlishness for what appeared to be the frustration that came with being the Jane-of-all-menial-work of the company.

“Believe me, I know exactly what you mean.” They shared a commiserative what we women have to put up with look before Kennedy took the elevator up to the eighth floor.

Honestly, the drawbacks of possessing a vagina were sometimes too much. Giving birth was only one of them. Or so she’d been told. Her turn in the stirrups hadn’t come yet, but she assumed one day it would, and it wouldn’t be pretty.

The company directory alone pointed to an obvious gender bias. Not one woman held an executive, director, or senior-level management position.

Not. One.

And it had been eight years since the previously all-male clothier had ventured into female clothing. One would think that one woman would have made it to the ranks of at least a senior manager position by now. What were they waiting for, a march on Washington?

But wait. If she didn’t think it could get worse, it did. Kennedy had yet to see one Black face of any hue in the parade of employees who walked by her every day—that was, unless she looked in a mirror, and her hue skewed to the lighter shade of that spectrum. She wouldn’t be surprised if that was one of the reasons she’d been picked to grace the reception desk. In the twenty-first century, one would think that impossible. Especially in the city that didn’t sleep, and could be touted as America’s United Nations, every race, ethnicity, language, and sexual orientation duly represented on the postage-stamp island.

Be that as it may, Kennedy knew better than most that the city tended more toward separate individual dishes—separate being the operative word—rather than one big old melting pot. Once off the elevator, she detoured to the bathroom, where she freshened her lipstick, powdered the shine off her forehead, and gave her long, thick brown curls a few twists.

With her hair and face in order, she ran a critical eye over her outfit, a purchase of pure indulgence. Although had she even the vaguest idea that she’d be unemployed a week after she bought it, she most assuredly would not have indulged.

But the cream pencil skirt and the baby blue fitted shirt ensemble had called out to her. Buy me. I come in your size. Your body will thank you in the end. And Kennedy, self-proclaimed clotheshorse that she was, hadn’t been able to resist the Siren’s call.

Okay, so maybe due to financial constraints she was more a clothes pony.

After ensuring no visible panty lines ruined the overall effect of polished professionalism and stylishness, she proceeded to Mr. Mullins’s office.<

She found him at his desk, the door to his office wide-open. Upon seeing her, a smile broke out across his face. “Ah, Miss Mitchell, come in.”

Kennedy met him halfway, where they shook hands, and she offered a pleasant greeting. He then gestured toward the table and chairs at the other end of the room. “Please sit down. Make yourself comfortable.”

Average in height and build, hair graying and thinning at the crown, the man himself was as nondescript as middle-aged white men came. If his smile—wide and genuine—was any indication, she could relax, which she did one vertebra at a time. It didn’t look as if she was about to be let go early. Typically, people didn’t smile like that when they were about to deliver bad news. Unless, of course, they were psychopaths. No, they tended to furrow their brow, feigning concern and sympathy.

Kennedy took a seat where instructed as Mr. Mullins swiped a sheaf of papers off his desk before joining her. She looked around for somewhere to put her purse that was not on the table or the floor and found nothing suitable. In the end, she simply plopped it on her lap.

Sliding on a pair of reading glasses, Mr. Mullins glanced down at the papers in front of him before directing his attention back to her. “So how are you settling in? Everyone treating you all right? No one bothering you, I hope.”

Yeah, nope! Absolutely not. No way was she falling into that trap. This was the kind of throwaway question people asked when they didn’t want or expect an honest answer.

“No, everyone has been great.” She certainly wasn’t going to tell him that two of the managers had asked for her number and the head of IT asked her out for dinner. As someone personally opposed to mixing business with pleasure, and that included dating coworkers—been there, regretted that—invitations like that were shot down faster than a clay pigeon at a skeet shooting competition.

“Good, good, good. Now, I’ve just been looking over your résumé—” he paused, glanced at it and then back at her over the rim of his glasses “—and by the looks of things—your previous experience and education—it’s apparent that you’re overqualified for the receptionist position. Any receptionist position, for that matter.”

For the measly sum of two hundred and fifty grand—the majority of which had been covered by scholarships or else she wouldn’t have been able to afford a school like Columbia—for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees, she sure hoped she was overqualified for the task of greeting visitors and forwarding calls.

“Yes, but this wasn’t supposed to be permanent. The agency said it was a four-week assignment.”

Mr. Mullins nodded. “That’s right. I’ve been told Nancy should be back in a few weeks.” He lowered her résumé, but still held it loosely between his fingers. “Does that mean you aren’t interested in a permanent, full-time position? I might have thought you’d prefer something in Marketing.”

Kennedy watched as he turned the situation over in his mind. He seemed determined to solve the mystery of the overqualified temporary receptionist. But this wasn’t Agatha Christie-level stuff. No amateur sleuthing required.

“I was laid off and this just sort of fell into my lap. The right job at the moment,” she stated simply.

There were layoffs and then there were layoffs. Hers had been the latter, as she’d been assured she’d keep her job after the merger. The following week, she’d walked into the offices of Kenners in the morning and was carting a box with every personal item she’d accumulated over the course of five years—including a dazzling pink slip—out the front door by the time the clock struck noon.

Just like that, five years of job—no, financial security—ripped out from under her. And to add insult to injury, two weeks of severance was all she had to show for years spent busting her ass putting in fifty- and sixty-hour weeks.

God, how she hated them, pink slips, which shouldn’t be pink at all. They should be black like the hearts of the people who played favorites with other people’s livelihoods.

“Completely understandable,” he replied, nodding. “Now, getting to the reason I wanted to speak with you. I assume you’ve heard of Sahara, right? She’s a singer. Won several Grammys. I believe she’s recently gotten into acting. Really a lovely young woman.”

Have I ever heard of her?

Almost everyone on planet Earth had heard of Sahara, and she wasn’t just some wannabe actress. Her first role garnered her an Oscar nod. Not too shabby for a small-town girl from New Jersey, who bore such a striking resemblance to Aaliyah, some people in the music industry called her Baby Girl. Rumor had it she hated the name with the fires of a thousand suns. If true, Kennedy didn’t blame her.

She’s a woman. Call her by her stage name, dammit!

Ironically, her real name was Whitney Richardson, a name she decided not to use professionally, fearing it would invite certain comparisons. One Black superstar singer named Whitney was enough.

“That’s a pretty sound assumption.” Especially since her songs were on heavy rotation on every major radio station in almost every major city in the country. “She’s very popular.”

Popular was an understatement. Sahara was huge. As big as Beyoncé but with first-rate acting chops. And her social media game was, bar none, the best Kennedy had ever seen. Her fans called themselves the Desert Stormers and congregated at OASIS, an online community, to discuss everything Sahara. And God forbid anyone say one bad word about their Desert Queen, they went after them guns blazing.

“I had a feeling you would,” he said with a smugness Kennedy found hard to fathom. It wasn’t as if he’d discovered Jimmy Hoffa’s remains or the identity of Jack the Ripper. “Well, this afternoon we are going to have the pleasure of her company. She and her representatives will be meeting with our executive team.”

“That’s…wonderful.” She didn’t know what he expected her to say. Was he looking for tips on how to interact with young Black women and assumed she was an expert on the subject? Should she tell him she hadn’t yet read this month’s issue of The Secret Guide to the Black Female Mind?

His expression became earnest as he leaned forward, bringing his face closer to hers. “The CEO of the company would like you to attend.”

Her jaw dropped. A sound escaped from her suddenly dry throat.

Okay, that she hadn’t seen coming.

She reflexively convinced herself he couldn’t have meant what she thought he did, since she was certain she’d heard him correctly.

“Do you mean attend the meeting? With Sahara?” She needed to make sure they were reading from the same hymnal.

His mouth twitched. “Yes.”

Her fingers curled around her purse strap. “Why would Mr. Edwards want me there?” She was a temp. How did the CEO of the company know who she was? Or that she even existed? She only knew his name because it was at the top of the company directory. She couldn’t say for sure she’d actually seen him in the flesh, and if she had, he certainly hadn’t introduced himself.

“Well, you see, Kennedy, I believe the collective thought was that you represent exactly the type of young woman Sahara will be targeting with her clothing line, and having you in the meeting would make her…more comfortable. Put her at ease.”

Ah, yes. She got it, all right. As clear as glass.

“I’m afraid I’m not sure what you mean. What type of woman is that?” she asked, all wide-eyed and guileless.

Surely, he meant intelligent, professional, ambitious, and highly educated?

Yeah, right.

The crests of his cheeks reddened, but he was stalwart in his determination to hold her gaze. “Well, you’re a beautiful young woman with an obvious eye for fashion, and her line hopes to encompass all aspects of work, life, and play.”

Nice save, bub. But not good enough.

“And the fact that I’m Black didn’t have anything to do with the decision? Not even a little?” she coaxed, doubting anyone had ever taken him to task on the subject of race this directly, if at all.

His Adam’s apple bobbed. “Well, yes, there is that too.” No, there was no too—that was the whole of it.

Suddenly, his expression turned apprehensive. “I hope that didn’t offend you. With this whole #MeToo movement, I’m not sure if I just crossed the line. Am I still allowed to compliment you on your looks?”

Oh dear lord, shoot me now.

Did this man not interact with any women in a professional capacity? A sensitivity class or four wouldn’t go awry at this company.

“No, I’m not offended.” At work, she generally took such compliments in stride. As long as they weren’t accompanied by a suggestive leer and a hotel room key card pressed into her palm during a handshake. True story. That had actually happened.

“Things have changed so much lately, sometimes it’s best to ask, or the next thing you know… Well, who knows what will happen,” he finished, flashing her an awkward smile.

“Anyway,” Kennedy said, eager to get back to the subject at hand, “about the meeting. As much as it would be a thrill to meet her, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with that. I don’t know very much about the inner workings of the company. I’m probably not the right person—”

But Mr. Mullins was having none of that, bulldozing her objections with, “For your additional responsibilities, you’ll receive five thousand dollars.”

Kennedy had to steel herself from physically reacting. On the inside, however, it was nothing but fits of jubilation. Cartwheels and back handsprings that would make the women’s Olympic gymnastics team proud.

Five thousand dollars! Found money, all of it. And to think of how happy she’d been last month when she found a twenty between the cushions of her sofa and last year when she’d discovered a ten spot in the pocket of an old pair of jeans.

Careful to calibrate her response, she began slowly, “That is—”

“No, no, my mistake,” Mr. Mullins interjected again, his eyes darting from her face to the paper in front of him, which he proceeded to tap repeatedly with his finger. “I meant seventy-five hundred. An additional seventy-five hundred.”

Kennedy sat there utterly gobsmacked. “Mr. Mullins—” “Ten thousand.”

Another minute and Kennedy was certain the strain in his voice would give way to full-blown panic.

Ten thousand dollars for one meeting? Oh my god, that’s wild.

But the best kind.

With dollar signs flashing like a bright neon sign in her mind, she smiled. “What time should I be there?”

Excerpt from Token by Beverley Kendall.
Copyright © 2023 by Beverly Kendall.
Published with permission from Graydon House/HarperCollins
All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Beverley Kendall author photo: headshot photograph of a Black female with straightened shoulder-length dark brown hair, wearing a pink button-down blouse.
Author Beverley Kendall

BEVERLEY KENDALL published her first novel in 2010, a historical romance with Kensington. She has since published over ten contemporary and historical romances. She also manages the romance review blog, Smitten by Books (smittenbybooks.com). Bev now writes full-time while raising her son as a single mother. Both dual citizens of the U.S. and Canada, they currently call Atlanta home.

Connect with the author via: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Website
This book showcase and excerpt brought to you by Graydon House/HarperCollins

 

Book Showcase: SOMEONE HAD TO DO IT by Amber and Danielle Brown

SOMEONE HAD TO DO IT by Amber and Danielle Brown cover featuring a head shot of a Black female model-type

Someone Had to Do It by Amber and Danielle Brown
ISBN: 9781525899966 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780369720511 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488215254 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9798212016902 (MP3 audiobook CD)
ASIN: B09VYGRQ7H (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09P1MW165 (Kindle edition)
Page Count: 352
Release Date: December 27, 2022
Publisher: Graydon House
Genre: Fiction | Mystery | Thriller

SOMEONE HAD TO MAKE HIM PAY. SOMEONE HAD TO TAKE HER DOWN.

Brandi Maxwell is living the dream as an intern at prestigious New York fashion house Simon Van Doren. Except “living the dream” looks more like scrubbing puke from couture dresses worn by hard-partying models and putting up with microaggressions from her white colleagues. Still, she can’t help but fangirl over Simon’s it-girl daughter, Taylor. Until one night, at a glamorous Van Doren party, when Brandi overhears something she shouldn’t have, and her fate becomes dangerously intertwined with Taylor’s.

Model and influencer Taylor Van Doren has everything…and is this close to losing it all. Her fashion mogul father will donate her inheritance to charity if she fails her next drug test, and he’s about to marry someone nearly as young as Taylor, further threatening her stake in the family fortune. But Taylor deserves the money that’s rightfully hers. And she’ll go to any lengths to get it, even if that means sacrificing her famous father in the process.

All she needs is the perfect person to take the fall…

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Praise for Someone Had to Do It:

“A disturbing peek into the world of privilege. Someone Had to Do It is a tense page-turner that had me yelling out loud at the characters.” —Lucinda Berry, bestselling author of The Best of Friends and The Perfect Child

“Amber and Danielle Brown’s debut is a juicy, brilliant treat of a thriller that combines sexy fashion-world glamour with salient points about privilege, racism, and the corrosive effects of extreme wealth. Somehow, Someone Had to Do It manages to be both a scathing critique of our late-stage capitalist hellscape, and the perfect mental escape from it. I couldn’t put it down!” —Layne Fargo, author of They Never Learn

Someone Had to Do It has everything. A dark and riveting page turner that has the allure of pulling off the perfect crime with an intelligent twist.” —Nadine Matheson, author of The Jigsaw Man and The Binding Room

Read an Excerpt:

BRANDI

I had a ton of illusions, vivid fantasies of what it would be like to score a coveted internship at Van Doren. Deluded old me thought I would be strutting around the stunning tri-story headquarters in single-soled heels, flitting from design concept meetings to on-location photo shoots, living my best fashion-girl life. Instead, I’m in the back corner of the two-thousand-square-foot ready-to-wear samples closet scrubbing fresh vomit from a slinky gown worth double my rent during my lunch hour.

Italian Vogue‘s current cover girl borrowed the hand-sewn dress for a red-carpet event last night, and apparently getting it back on a rack without ruining it was too much for one of the other interns to handle. She was so hungover when she came to the office this morning that she vomited all over the dress before making it out of the elevator. But of course this dress needs to be ready for another model to wear to some big extravaganza tonight, and since I’m the designated fuckover intern, I have to clean it by hand because the satin-blend fabric is too delicate to be dry-cleaned.

This is what it takes.

I chant this to remind myself why I’m here as the lactic acid builds up in my biceps. Working for Van Doren has been on my proverbial vision board ever since I reluctantly gave up the idea, in middle school, that I could be Beyoncé. It’s a storm of hauling hundreds of pounds of runway samples around the city and sitting in on meetings with the sketch artists. A glorious, next-to-holy experience when I’m on duty at photo shoots and one of the stylists sends me to fetch another blazer, not a specific blazer, which means I get to use my own vestiary inclinations to make the selection. Which has only happened once, but still.

Just as I get the stain faded by at least seventy percent, I hear the sharp staccato of someone in stilettos approaching. I turn around and see Lexi. Lexi with her bimonthly touched-up white-blond hair and generous lip filler that she’ll never admit to having injected. When she steps closer in her head-to-toe Reformation, I am grateful that I remembered to put on a few sprays of my Gypsy Water perfume. The one that smells like rich people. But the way she’s staring at me right now, it’s clear that no matter how much I try, I am still not on her level. I do not fit in here. She does not see me as her equal, despite the fact that we are both unpaid, unknown, disposable interns. It’s become glaringly obvious that at Van Doren, it’s not actually about what you contribute, but more about how blue your blood is. Lexi doesn’t even know my name, though I’ve been here a solid nine weeks and I’m pretty sure I’ve told her at least a dozen times.

I’m already on edge because of my assignment, so I jump in before she can ask in her monotone voice. “Brandi.”

“Right,” she says, like she does every time yet still forgets. “Chloé wants the Instagram analytics report for last week. She said she asked you to put it together an hour ago.”

Which is true, but completely unfair since Jenna from marketing also asked me to run to Starbucks to buy thirty-one-ounce cups of liquid crack for her and her entire department for a 9:00 a.m. meeting, an effort that took three trips total, and technically I’m still working on the data sheets I promised Eric from product development. Not to mention the obvious: getting rid of the puke from the dress.

“I’m still working on it,” I tell her.

Lexi stares at me, her overly filled brows lifted, as if she’s waiting for the rest of my excuse. I understand her, but also I’m wondering how she still hasn’t realized this is not a case of Resting Bitch Face I have going on, that I am actually intolerant of her nagging.

Normally, I am not this terse. But nothing about today has been normal. Since this week is my period week, I’m retaining water in the most unflattering of places and the pencil dress I’m wearing has been cutting off the circulation in my thighs for the past couple of hours, and being that I’ve spent most of my break destroying the evidence of someone else’s bad decisions, it is not my fault that I’m not handling this particularly well.

“I’ll send it over as soon as I’m done,” I say to Lexi so she can leave. But she doesn’t.

“HR wants to see you,” she says with what looks like a smirk.

My mouth opens. I have no idea what HR could want, and although I’m still new to this employee thing, I know this can’t be good.

“Like, now,” Lexi barks and pivots away in her strappy, open-toe stilts.

I hang the sample next to the door, and before I leave the room I pause to briefly take in the rest of the dresses stuffed on the racks, each one in that chic, elevated aesthetic that is the cornerstone of Van Doren. This is my favorite part of the day, the chaotic nature of this room a little overwhelming but also inspiring, and I can’t wait for the day that this is my world, not just one I’m peeking my head into. A world in which I command respect.

I cross through the merchandising department, where everyone has their own private office with aerial views of Hell’s Kitchen, Soho and the Garment District, and then move through the maze of the sprawling suite in a mild sort of panic until I remind myself that I have done nothing wrong. Ever since spring semester ended, I’ve been putting in more hours than the sun. I slip in at six-thirty when the building is dark and vaguely ominous, my eyes still puffy with sleep, and when I finally drag myself into the elevator at the end of the day, it’s just as black and quiet outside. I religiously show up in current-season heels despite the blisters, albeit mass-produced renditions of the Fendi, Balenciaga and Bottega Venetas the other summer interns casually strut around in, and mostly stick to myself. I am careful about raising my voice, even if I vehemently disagree with my neurotic supervisor. I keep my tongue as puritanical as a nun’s, even when fucking incel or coddled narcissistic bitch are on the tip of it. I’m not rude or combative. I stay away from gossip. I complete all my tasks with time to spare, which is usually when I check Twitter and help out some of the other interns, even though I’d rather FaceTime Nate in the upstairs bathroom with the magical lighting. I even entertain the gang of sartorially inclined Amy Coopers in the making who insist on obnoxiously complaining to me about all of their first-world, one-percenter problems. I’ve done nothing but consistently given them reasons to think I am a capable, qualified, talented intern who would make an exceptional employee.

I have nothing to worry about.

When I knock on the door to Lauren’s office, she looks up from her desk and waves me in through the glass. I have a feeling this will not go my way when I see that my supervisor, Chloé, one of the more amiable assistants, is also here, fiddling with her six-carat engagement ring in the corner and avoiding eye contact.

“Have a seat, Brandi,” Lauren says, and I tell myself to ignore that her bright pink lipstick extends above her lip on one side.

There is no small talk. No hello or how’s it going? Under alternate circumstances, I would feel slighted, but because I’m growing more anxious by the second, I’m grateful for her smugness.

As I sit down, Chloé shifts in her chair, and I speak before she can. “I’m sorry. The Instagram report is at the top of my task list. I’ll definitely have it to you before I leave today. I just—”

“That’s not why you’re here, Brandi,” Lauren interjects.

“Oh.” I pause, and as she glances down at her notes, I try to make meaningful eye contact with my supervisor, but she is still actively dodging my eyes.

Lauren begins by throwing out a few compliments. My work ethic is admirable and I have great attention to detail, she says, and the whole time my heart is pounding so loud, I can barely make out most of her words. Chloé jumps in to effusively agree, then Lauren finally stops beating around the bush and looks me directly in the eyes.

“We just don’t feel like you’re fitting into the culture here at Van Doren.”

Every word feels like a backhanded slap across the face, the kind that twists your neck and makes the world go still and white for a few disconcerting moments, like an orgasm but not like an orgasm. It’s obvious what they mean, yet can’t quite bring themselves to say.

They just don’t like that I’m black.

They don’t like the way I wear my braids—long and unapologetic, grazing my hips like a Nubian mermaid.

They don’t like that I’m not the smile-and-nod type, willing to assimilate to their idea of what I should be, how I should act.

Culture.

That’s their code for we-can’t-handle-your-individuality-but-since-we-don’t-want-to-seem-racist-we’ll-invent-this-little-loophole.

Black plus exceptional equals threat.

“If we don’t see any improvement in the coming weeks, we’re going to have to let you go,” Lauren says with no irony, her mouth easing into a synthetic smile.

I blink. I cannot believe this is happening right now. It wasn’t supposed to go like this, my internship at Van Doren, the one fashion company whose ethics align with mine. I wasn’t just blowing smoke up Lauren’s ass when I interviewed for this job, though I was looking at her sideways, wondering why she had not a stitch of Van Doren on. I’d splurged on a single-shouldered jumpsuit from this year’s spring collection that I couldn’t really afford just to impress her, while she hadn’t even felt the need to represent the brand at all as she shot out all those futile questions interviewers love propelling at candidates, I’m convinced, just to see them squirm. Even minuscule amounts of power can be dangerous.

This is bullshit, being put on probation, and I’d give anything to have the balls to call them on it. As I sit here paralyzed, Lauren’s words reverberate in my head and I rebuke them, want to suffocate and bury them.

Excerpt from Someone Had to Do It by Amber and Danielle Brown.
Copyright © 2022 by Amber and Danielle Brown.
Published by arrangement with Graydon House/HarperCollins
All rights reserved.

Meet the Authors

Authors Amber and Danielle Brown; two Black women wearing long box braids and black tops

 

AMBER and DANIELLE BROWN both graduated from Rider University where they studied Communications/Journalism and sat on the editorial staff for the On Fire!! literary journal. They then pursued a career in fashion and spent five years in NYC working their way up, eventually managing their own popular fashion and lifestyle blog. Amber is also a screenwriter, so they live in LA, which works out perfectly so Danielle can spoil her plant babies with copious amounts of sunshine.

Connect with the authors via: Instagram | Amber’s Twitter | Danielle’s Twitter | Website
This book showcase and excerpt brought to you by Graydon House