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We are an Author Lifestyle Magazine plus a Marketing & Promoting Firm for authors, books, and other professionals in the writing industry. We market and advertise author's from around the world; although IGNITIVEIFY Magazine is brand new, we are not new in the magazine business, we've been designing, building, and publishing magazines since 2017 and have grown a large number of subscribers for our magazines along the way reaching nearly 40,000 in 2021. We are dedicated to building our subscriber base by continuing to bring our readers beautiful informative magazines that contain unforgettable stories and features that our readers crave. Once our company suffered due to Covid 19 lockdowns, we knew to keep our magazines going we had to turn our magazine into primarily an online magazine with a print on demand option through a third party company; which has worked out fantastically! Unfortunately, we had to discontinue printing our five other magazines entirely; only printing 1,000 copies of IGNITIVEIFY Magazine for local distribution.

We keep our magazine advertising prices affordable and we offer a premium printed version on 85# paper giving the magazine a book-like feel in vibrant eye-catching colors throughout; the printed versions are available for purchase in our print-on-demand store! In 2021 we have decided to assign a theme to each bi-monthly magazine release, this idea was brought to life for bringing authors who write and publish a variety of genres can be featured with their books, short stories, and in author interviews, so readers can get to know each author encouraging them to purchase copies of their books and supporting the new author or new to the reader author they have found inside IGNITIVEIFY Magazine. IGNITIVEIFY Magazine was created and brought to life by author Savannah McCann; she envisioned a magazine that featured Indie Authors as well as Best Selling Authors keeping the playing field in our magazine fair. Her goal is to help authors to reach as many readers as possible regardless of whether they are published by a well-known publisher, self-published, or just write short stories and poetry; it gives those writers a place to share their writing with a large audience.








K.B. Barrett lives in western Michigan with her wonderful husband and three kids. Her love of books started early, thanks to her grandmother, an avid reader who encouraged her to love all books. Eventually she had too many ideas and decided to start writing her own books. What started out as a small hobby led to her first book, Everything I Need, being published in March. She likes writing romantic books that are full of suspense and complicated, but they always come with a happily ever after. Originally from Oregon, she and her husband have had the pleasure of living all over the United States. While she enjoys traveling to new destinations, it is the feeling that you get from living in a new place that she loves the best. For her there is nothing quite like having a life full of adventure. She feels blessed that she has had the opportunity to go wherever the wind decides to take her, whether that is traveling and exploring new places, following her kids around, or simply sitting out on the deck enjoying coffee in one of her colorful mugs. 10


Two people not looking for anything more. Two people whose past is tied together in more ways than they could ever imagine. Dominic has lived his whole life looking for a time when he could just be himself. Not having to live up to his family’s expectations. But when your family has ties to the Mafia, you don’t always get what you want. Till he meets a lone girl who sparks an obsession. It would start him down a path of danger that even he couldn’t see coming. She would be everything he needed. Alice is just trying to get through life. A life that hasn’t always been easy. Her past leads her to the cautious friendships that she has built around her, and she’s not interested in anything more. Till she meets a man who makes her think that true love, the kind she dreams of, is actually real. He would become everything she would need. When the twisted webs of deceit from their pasts come storming into their lives, will they be strong enough to hold on? Or will the past destroy everything they have found? Reviews: "KB Barrett has an amazing ability to suck you in from the beginning and before you know it, it's way past your bedtime and you finished already! I cannot wait to read more by KB Barrett!" -Goodreads Reviewer "HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMEND TO ALL!" -BookBub Reviewer





As the wind blew across the amber-colored ground, the scent of horses and Ponderosa pines fill the air. This warm wind is much needed after a long hard Montana winter that's just barely over and springtime desperately trying to make itself known. Snow-covered mountain tops still hold the evidence of the winter that had lasted so long. The horses are restless to run free over the ranch. Molly's dogs are thankful for a short swim, although the water was still pretty cold, and you can see the heat rise off their coats as they lay on the bank, just enjoying the mid-afternoon breeze. Suddenly, the ranch dog Chase caught a glimpse of something and takes off running toward the horse barn. Thinking it to be a deer, Molly didn't think much of it until she heard a loud panicked voice and Chase growling and barking viciously. Molly ran into the tack room where she kept her husband Evan's rifle. He placed it there just in case Molly ever needed it. Molly grabs the gun out of the tack room and runs to where she hears the commotion along the side of the foaling barn.


As Molly ran around the side of the barn, she sees Chase holding a tall man with dark hair at bay up against the side of the barn wall. Pointing the Henry 44 at him, she tells Chase to heel." Who are you, and what are you doing on my land?" Molly demands an answer. "Lady put the gun down!" he shouts. "I am not putting the gun down until I know who you are and why you are all the way out here," she tells him. "I was hiking and got lost," he answers quickly. "Where are you from, mister?" "I am from California," he confirms. "Where about in California?" "Outside of L.A." "Hmm, that explains it! Many city people have no business in the woods in Montana or anywhere in the woods else for that matter!" Molly spits. "What is your name, mister?" Molly demands, still pointing the rifle at him. "Joe," he shakenly answers as he stares at the barrel of the gun, unsure if he will get himself out of this mess. "Joe what?" "Joe Reynolds." "My name is Molly, and my husband is Evan. We own this ranch, and you are trespassing!" She tells him in a stern tone. Molly lowers the rifle and tells Chase to watch him! "Are you thirsty, Joe?" she asks. "Yes, I am. I have been walking for quite a while," Joe informs her, relieved she lowered the rifle. As the two walk towards the house, she tells Joe to take a seat at the picnic table; she would get

them some sweet tea. As he sat down, Chase laid down close to him, watching his every move! Molly went into the house to call Sheriff Connor. She wants information on this guy because his story did not add up. Molly finds it hard to believe that he is hiking in Montana with no supplies or a gun or bear spray for protection. "Hi, Meg. This is Molly Jamison.' "Well. Hi, Molly. How are you doing?" "Good, hun. How are the horses? Any foals yet?" Meg asks curiously. "No, not yet, but real soon. I was wondering if Jarrod is in the office today? I need to chat with him a minute," Molly asks. "Yeah, Molly, please hold on a second, and I will get him for you." After a few seconds, a friendly, handsome voice came on the line. "Howdy, how are you, Mol? Haven't heard from you in a while. Is everything alright out at your place?" "Not exactly, Jarrod, that is why I am calling," she tells him. "This man shows up on my ranch a little bit ago. He claims he is lost from hiking, but that is just not sitting right with me." "Why is that Mol?" Jarrod asks curiously. "He has no hiking gear, food, water, or anything else on him." "Mol, where is he right now?" "He is outside sitting at the picnic table, and my Rottweiler Chase is guarding him like a hawk." "Good, keep him there. Don't let him inside your house. I am on my way, and I will handle this situation," Jarrod confirms. "Mol, where is the gun Evan left for you? I have his Henry 44 in my hand right now," she answers. "Good, keep it with you. These days you cannot be too careful!" "No, you can't, and I will, Jarrod." After Molly hangs up the phone, she watches Joe out the kitchen window for a moment before going to the refrigerator for ice tea. He has not moved; he was still in the same place as when she had come inside her house. Setting the tea on the counter, Molly checks to make sure the safety is off and that the gun is, in fact, loaded. Evan always made sure that she could load a gun, shoot it and clean it. Grasping the gun tightly, she says with a tear falling down her cheek, "Damn it, Evan!" "You need to be here protecting me! Damn this war and damn the Army and damn your selfish pride!" Wiping the hot tears from her cheeks, she composes herself and walks out the kitchen door towards the picnic table. "Molly, you and your husband sure have a beautiful place here." "Thank you, Joe. This has been a dream of ours for many years, although I think that raising horses is more my dream on this ranch and hunting is more Evan's," as she let out a small laugh. "When we were looking to buy a place, I wanted beauty and room that the horses could run; Evan wanted good hunting ground." "Molly, he sounds like a good man. I like to hunt as well." He thought to himself with a devilish smile on his face, "I am hunting you right now, Molly, and you have no clue." Taking a seat at the table sipping on her tea, she asks, "What brought you to Montana to hike when California has many beautiful places to hike?" "Honestly, I'm looking to find a job in Montana, either wrangling cattle or working on a horse ranch," Joe confirms. "I have been looking, but these ranchers won't take a second look at me with no experience, but how can you get experience when no one gives you a chance at working and learning," Joe says with a tinge of disappointment in his voice. "I can agree with you there, Joe," Molly supports his statement. "So you want to relocate to Montana instead of wrangling on some big ranch in California? Why?" "Oh well, I have always wanted to live in Montana. That has been a lifelong dream of mine," Joe answers happily. Molly kind of chuckles and says, "I can assure you that when you have to face a long Montana winter and all the work that comes with it, you will wish that you were….,what do you do for a living now, Joe?" "I am a stockbroker." "Joe, you will definitely wish that in the middle of a hard winter here, you were tucked away safe and warm in your office." "Molly, do you ever wish you didn't have to face a winter here?" "Huh, all of the time, but it is part of Montana life. I wouldn't change it, although every year, Arizona sounds more and more appealing!" Molly continues, "I threaten to move there at least a dozen times during the winter, but when it comes right down to it, I love Montana. It is my home; Evan and I have built a life here on this ranch." "Where is Evan?" Joe asks curiously. Molly thought to herself, "should I say he is gone?" "Should I say he is in town?" "What should I say? I don't know this guy or where he is really from, but Joe seems so friendly and down to earth; I guess it would not hurt to tell him that Evan is off to war." Molly sighs for a moment. "Evan is overseas in the ARMY; he's been repeatedly deployed for the past four years. Molly tells him with cracking in her voice. "He is coming home soon and will be home for good this time." "Oh, my Molly!" Joe replied. "I was in the ARMY too. I finished my contract a year ago. I was in for six years and spent most of those over in Iraq." "Really?" Molly is intrigued. "What was your MOS? "Oh, it was 11 Bravo," Joe answers confidently. "That is the same as Evan. He too is 11 Bravo." "Really, so how does he like driving trucks?" Joe asks. Molly hesitates for a moment, realizing that Joe is clearly lying to her and not letting him know she knows he's lying. She replies, "Oh, he likes it just fine but is ready for ranch life again." Chase starts to bark and stands up, looking down the driveway carefully, making sure that he still kept his eyes on Joe. Suddenly a newer black Ford F250 4x4 came pulling up the driveway and parks next to Molly's truck. Jarrod jumps out. "Hey, Mol! How are you? Didn't know you had company. I was out this way and thought I'd look in on my best friend's girl." "Hey, Jarrod. Nice to see you. Would you like some ice tea?" 17

"Sure if you don't mind." "Not at all," Molly replies. She raises herself from the picnic table and goes into the house, still carrying her rifle. Jarrod takes a seat on the picnic bench across from Joe. "Hi, I am Jarrod. I'm a friend of Molly and Evan's. Who are you?" "Oh, I am Joe. I am a friend of Evan's from the ARMY. We served together in Iraq until I got out last month." "Joe, thank you for serving. It is greatly appreciated. So how did you find your way out to their ranch? It is not the easiest to find," Jarrod asks curiously, waiting adamantly for his answer. "Well, Evan told me that if I was going to be looking for work, to head up here to see if Molly needs any help with her horses," Joe tries to be convincing. "Well, Joe, that she does," Jarrod agrees. Jarrod looks around the driveway, noticing that there isn't a car that this Joe character drove into the ranch. The only vehicles are Molly and Evan's. This made Jarrod catch himself before he gets in too deep with this line of nonsense this Joe fellow is feeding him. "Say, Joe… where is your car?" "Oh..." Joe hesitates for a moment, "I parked around here somewhere from this direction. I'm not sure when I got out of my car. I wanted to go for a hike to clear my head, then I stumbled upon Molly here at the ranch Joe," tries to convince Jarrod of his actions. Jarrod stares at Joe and says, "so you're telling me, you lost your car?" "Yeah, I think I did!" Joe quickly answers. Jarrod found it odd; he doesn't feel his new friend is truthful with him since about 15000 acres of BLM land surrounds the Jamison ranch on three sides. I just can't see how he hiked in here, Jarrod thought to himself; he had to have cut across the front pasture and onto the ranch where Molly had found him. Molly returned from inside the house, bringing Jarrod's tea. "So you boys have a nice chat?" Molly asks with a smile. "Yes! Very nice," they both reply. Molly suddenly noticed that Jarrod showed up in plain clothes and no sheriff's truck; she thought that was brilliant on his part because Molly didn't want Joe to know she called him to come out. "Mol, you want to show me your horses. My daughter has been bugging me for one for the rodeo to use on barrels, so it is about time for me to give in," Jarrod laughs. "Sure, follow me. I will show you what I have for sale that is trained and ready to ride." "Joe, would you like to come with us?" "Of course, Molly, I would love to!" Joe stands up from the picnic bench and walks with Jarrod and Molly to the barn. Molly hollers, "come, Chase!" Chase immediately starts following Joe to the barn. "That is one loyal dog you have, Molly," Joe tells her as he looks down at the big Rottweiler. "Yes, he is very loyal and very protective of me; he is also very intimidating to strangers when they see a 150lb Rottweiler come running towards them." "Yeah, he scared the hell out of me!" Joe confirms as he narrows his eyes towards the protective dog. Molly laughs loudly. Molly is a small woman, only about 5', weighing approximately 110lbs. She has long dark auburn hair green eyes and looks very young for her age of 34; don't let the small stature fool you; she is a firecracker! Jarrod picks out a black and white overo paint 4-year-old mare for his daughter Levi. "Molly, I will have funds transferred, then get a check out for her by the end of the week." "Sounds good, Jarrod. I will separate her from the others and put her in the front corral; you can come and get her anytime," Molly replied. "So hey, Molly, I best be getting back." "Joe, how about if I give you a ride to see if we can find your car?" Joe stumbles over his words, finally telling Jarrod that will be great. "It was nice meeting you, Molly. I hope to see you again soon, maybe help out with the horses." Molly avoids the job reference and says, "bye, Joe. Take care," as the two men are leaving. As the men are driving, Jarrod's gears are spinning out of control! "This guy's story is just not adding up." "He would not be released three months earlier than Evan due to stop-loss in effect." During stop loss, you have to complete your deployment. "Joe claims he is Evan's friend and in his unit, then why is he home?" Jarrod's thoughts spinning out of control. "If he's not Evan's friend, how would he know Evan is in the ARMY?" "Is he is, in fact, just a hiker lost in the woods or someone more sinister?" "Indeed, Molly would not have told a complete stranger that her husband is deployed with ARMY; would she be that trusting of a stranger?" Jarrod's thoughts continue to race a mile a minute! "Looks like I'll see what I find about this guy, Joe, when I run his car license plate. Once they reach the highway stop sign, Jarrod asks, "Joe, left or right?" Joe looks around confused before saying, "take a left." Jarrod decides to make small talk with this unpredictable stranger. "Joe, how long are you planning on staying here in Montana?" "I would like to relocate here; seems like a lot of opportunity in my line of work." "What do you do now that you are out of the ARMY?" Jarrod asks as she shoots him a curious look. "I'm a police officer," Joe grins with his lie. "Really?" Jarrod asks in a stunned voice. "Is that what you were in the ARMY?" "No," "I was a cop before enlisting." "If you're looking for a job, Joe, I know the sheriff personally. Maybe I can get you hooked up with a job." "Wow, that would be great; do you know the sheriff?" Jarrod glances at Joe as a grin encroaches his face before he extends his hand from the steering wheel to shake. "Joe, I'm the sheriff around here!" Jarrod smiles real big with an 'I caught you in a lie' look. Joe stares at Jarrod, his heart thundering as he shook his hand, shooting a smile back. "That bitch called this son of a bitch, and he has been playing me all along!" Anger erupts inside Joe's chest towards Molly. After they drove a few miles up the road, Joe sees a fishing sign and instructs Jarrod to turn right. Jarrod followed his instruction, and he went down about a ¼ mile where a newer blue Eagle Talon car is sitting in the parking area. Jarrod thinks to himself, "why is a guy that is over 6'2 driving a car that is too small for him?" Jarrod's mind engages cop mode. 18

"Alright, Joe, here you are." "Thanks, Jarrod, for the ride. It was nice meeting you." "Now, Joe, you are sure welcome to come into our local office, and I will see what I can do about getting you a job with our department." "Thank you, Jarrod; I will try to do that!" Jarrod smiles before Joe closes the truck door walking to the blue car. Jarrod memorized the license plate number, and once he drove down the dirt road to where Joe could not see him, he stopped and wrote it down; Jarrod will run the plate as soon as he makes it back to town. Molly is feeding her horses, cattle, chickens, dogs, and cats at the ranch. While standing in the barn, she hears a commotion. Molly thought to herself, "what now?" Molly walks to the barn door and sees her dogs Skeeter and Ruby are playing tug of war with a mangled rattlesnake. "Skeeter!" Molly hollers, "Drop that damn thing before you get bit, and I have to race you to the vet!" Skeeter drops the snake when Ruby instantly grabs it and runs across the yard and up over the hill. "Ruby, you dang dog, "you never listen to me!" Molly yells towards the direction the ornery dog ran. Molly finishes her chores quickly; Evan promised to call around 9 pm. Molly, Chase, and Skeeter go into the house for the night. The house is very rustic; that is what both she and Evan wanted - a rustic house they could live in and raise a family. The house has many windows for the fantastic views of the mountains and abundant wildlife that stroll through the ranch daily. There was a herd of sixty or more elk visiting feeding yesterday from the grain bins that Molly built after Evan went away. Evan told her before he left not to feed the wildlife they won't come around because of the dogs anyway. Molly just laughs as she thought about that conversation while watching her yard filled with such beautiful creatures. They don't seem to mind the dogs at all. Molly runs herself a hot bath and stokes the fire in the fireplace; after placing a few logs on it. Molly always thought the fireplace was beautiful Molly loves to sit in Evan's oversized lazy-boy recliner, watching the flames flicker and dance, remembering all of the good times that she and Evan have had in their years together. How she couldn't wait to feel his touch and taste his sweet kiss again. The smell of hazelnut candles floats throughout the house from the master bath, where Molly lit at least a dozen candles. Molly is soaking in a hot bubble bath, listening to sweet Randy Travis songs with a shot glass of tequila in one hand and the bottle of Jose in the other with the cordless house phone nearby. "Jose Cuervo, you definitely are a friend of mine!" Molly laughs before downing another shot of the harsh liquor. Listening to the words of the songs playing brings tears to her eyes; the loneliness of Evan being gone and so far away is overwhelming for her. Molly thinks of him, and warm tears start to flow down her cheeks while she fills another shot glass then drinks it down. As Molly is filling her third shot, the phone rings; she wipes away the tears downs her last shot and answers the phone with a sad "hello?" "Hi, Babe!" "Hi," Molly says, sadness filling her voice. "What's wrong," Evan asks? "Nothing," Molly replied. "Bullshit Molly! What is it?" "I'm just missing you." "I miss you too, babe!" "I will be home soon, I promise, and I will never leave you again!" His words are convincing. "Honestly?" Molly inquires. "Honestly," Evan says with a loving voice. "So tell me what has been going on lately? Any new foals yet?" "Yes, a stud colt this evening," Molly happily informs him. "Whose Colt?" Evan asks curiously. "It is one of Diamond's babies." Diamond is a prize-winning appaloosa out of Molly's grandfather's stock. "Wow," Evan says, "what coloring? Any spots?" "Black with snow-white blanket and big black spots. Evan, he is a stunning colt!" "So anything else interesting happens lately?" Evan is playing detective a little; he knows he can trust her but the miles and hours away make him a bit cautious. "Skeet and Ruby showed up with a dead rattler, and when I hollered at them to drop it, Ruby grabbed it then ran as fast as her little legs would take her!" Evan laughs out loud; Ruby is his dog. "Anything else?" "Yeah, Jarrod was out today and bought one of Vixens 4-year-old fillies for Levi to run barrels." "How much you get for her?" Evan is curious. "$3,500.00." "Wow, Mol, that is great!" Evan tells her enthusiastically! "Is she one that I broke before I left?" "No, I broke her. You weren't here." Molly says in a quiet, saddened tone. Evan hushed for a moment realizing all of the things he is missing because he chose to be stubborn a few years ago. "I had another visitor today." "Who?" Evan asks. "A lost hiker named Joe." "What do you mean a lost hiker, Mol?" Evan asks with a tinge of concern. "Around our place, he must have been lost for days before he reached the ranch, Mol." "No, Evan. He said he was just lost today." "Mol, we have too many acres around our place. He would have shown up at your gramps's place before he would reach ours." "Where is this guy now?" "Jarrod took him to his car." "So Jarrod talked to him?" Evan confirms. 19

"Yes, and they seem to get along pretty good," Molly stresses to Evan so he would not worry about her. "I have a question for you, Evan," Molly says. "OK, what is it?" "Joe has relocated to Montana; he wants to work as a wrangler on a horse ranch. I thought since I am the only one here and I need so much help with foaling, and it's really going to pick up here soon, not to mention that I have been calving for three months already alone, I am exhausted! Molly continues, I really need the help; I could hire him and put him up in the bunkhouse." Evan's very quiet for a moment. "Why doesn't he get a job with another rancher? Why does he want to work for you, Molly?" "I asked him the same thing, and he said the other ranchers will not hire him to work because he does not have any experience." "Then why do you want to hire him with no experience, Molly?" Evan asks in a semi-elevated tone. "I'm willing to train him." "I don't know, Molly. What does Jarrod think of this?" "I haven't mentioned it to him." "Have you mentioned maybe hiring to this Joe character?" "No," Molly replies. "Good, don't. I don't know if I like the idea of some strange man hanging out with my beautiful sexy wife all day when I am so far away." "Oh, Evan, you have nothing to worry about," Molly says. "All my heart belongs to you, Evan. You know that." "Molly, that is not what I am getting at. I trust you. It is this guy that I don't trust." Evan stresses his feelings about the situation he can't control. "Evan, if you trust me, then know I will make the right decisions that I would never do anything to hurt you. The only man that I want to feel a touch from or taste a kiss from is you, Evan, and that is not about to change anytime soon, stranger or no stranger helping me with foaling." Molly tries to convince him. Evan sits quietly again for a moment, then says, "Molly, I just do not have a good feeling about this situation. It does not have anything to do with me not trusting you. I just don't want to see you get hurt and not knowing who this guy really is; my gut is telling me to steer clear of this situation!" Molly herself quiet for a moment, then replies, "I respect what you're saying. If he comes back asking for a job, I will tell him that I just cannot afford to pay him with all the bills piling up so that it does not upset or anger him." "Molly, you have all the guns that I have placed around the house and the barn for your protection?" "Yes, but I do not know why I have to have them in so many places, Evan?" "Molly, it is for your protection. You never know when you will need to protect yourself or who or what you may have to protect yourself from." Evan pleads. "Well, not to worry. I had not moved any of the guns except for today when that hiker showed up. I grabbed the Henry's 44 out of the tack room." "You did?" Evan asks. "Yeah, why?" "Because I never thought you would really handle the guns without me there." "Evan, one thing I did pay attention to when you were home with me is how to survive in the woods and how to protect myself with a gun." Evan laughs a little bit. "Why are you laughing, Evan?" Molly asks. "Because you are a dead shot; I would not want to be on the receiving end of a bullet that you just turned loose." Molly and Evan laugh together for a minute. "Hun, I am going to have to say good night. My shift is going to start soon, and I need to get ready," Evan tells Molly. "OK, I will be glad when you are finally home, and I don't have to kiss you good night over the phone or snuggle with your pillow that I refuse to wash since you had left for the war." "Girl, you're crazy, but that is what I love about you!" "I love you too. Talk to you again soon, Evan." "Mol; I will be home before you know it," Evan says lovingly. "I know. I am patient, not patiently waiting," Molly replies. They both laugh again, telling each other good night one more time. Molly hangs up the phone and takes another shot of tequila; she sits there for a moment before realizing that the water has gone a bit cold. She pulls the drain, stands up, reaching the bathrobe, and steps out of the tub to see that Chase was sleeping on the floor next to the tub. Molly quietly steps over him to walk to her bedroom, trying not to wake him. When she reached her room, she opens her dresser drawers to find her flannel pj's. Molly hears footsteps. She looks up, and Chase has followed her to her bedroom. "Chase, you're a good dog and a great friend," Molly tells him as she pats his head. "Molly dresses, then pats Chase on the head again and walks out of the room. She is sure to lock all the doors, then makes a cup of hot tea and goes to the living room only to find that Skeeter is asleep in Evans recliner, and Ruby has drug that damn snake through the dog door and has it on the couch with her while she is sleeping. "Ruby Sue!" Molly hollers, "you dang dog! What the hell did you bring that snake in the house for!?" Molly goes to the kitchen drawer for tongs, walks back to the living room, grabs the snake with the tongs, takes it to the door, and throws it outside. "I will deal with that in the morning," Molly snarls. "Ruby, you're a bad dog!" "No more snakes in the house! Dang, it! I just got the stench from the skunk out of here last 20

week after 2 months of everything stinking!" "No more dog door!" Molly spouts. Molly walked over and closed the dog door, then locked it. Ruby crawled off the couch and went to lie in front of the fire. "Skeeter, get up," Molly said after a few seconds. Skeeter got up out of the chair only to head to the bedroom to sleep on the bed. Molly curls up with Evan's Pendleton blanket in his recliner and looks at Chase, and says, "Some guard dog Skeeter is." she laughs. Chase lies down in front of the fireplace close to Molly. "I swear, Chase, you must have promised Evan you would protect me with your life because I don't get far out of your sight, ole boy." As Molly sat there trying to sleep but thinking about her conversation with Evan, it was hard to fall asleep. The yearning in her soul for him to be close and be home with her in times like this is powerful tonight. She thought to herself - "I wonder if he realizes how much I long for him, need him, want him, and love him?" She laid back and closed her eyes. She could feel the warmth of the fire on her face, and she was soon asleep. The morning seemed to come quickly, or maybe it was just the slight tequila hangover that made it feel that chore time came quickly. As the sun shines in through the windows, it brightened everything in the house. The hardwood floors are just golden when the morning sun hits them. The log's accents in the home have a rich, beautiful honey color to them as well. Molly sat there in Evan's chair soaking in the quiet new morning sun when suddenly Skeeter and Ruby came tearing through the house right past the chair she was sitting in. All of a sudden, there was a big thud! Molly starts to laugh hysterically when she realized what had happened. The dogs did not know that Molly had closed and locked the dog door. Ruby hit the door, and Skeeter hit Ruby. Chase sits up, looks at Molly, then stands up and heads for the door to be let outside. Molly, still laughing while she gets up, heads for the door to let the dogs out, starts to cry as she is laughing, then she starts to sob uncontrollably. The loneliness, missing Evan, and too much tequila have finally caught up with her. She has held those tears in for four years while trying to be strong. Well, today, she finally broke a much-needed break. Finally, she collects herself enough to let the dogs out; she then heads for the bedroom to get dressed so she can start her chores in the barn. After getting dressed, she goes to the freezer to pull out an elk roast for dinner the next afternoon when her grandparents are coming for dinner. She had promised elk roast, homemade gravy, and taters. Molly strolls out to the barn, noticing how the snake once again is at Ruby's mercy. Molly just shakes her head and walks to the barn to her foaling stalls. She looks in the first stall. "No new baby this morning, Mercy?" she asks. "Maybe later this afternoon?" Molly encourages the mare. She walks to the next stall… no new baby. Molly then crosses the walkway to another foaling stall, and there was a beautiful black and white overo paint foal staring at her. "Oh my goodness. You are gorgeous!" Molly exclaims. "Starlight, you sure make beautiful babies," Molly tells her. Molly opens the stall door to go inside, and the foal, although very wobbly, ran behind her momma. "Come here, sugar. I just want to make sure that you're OK, and momma too." "Come on, sweetie." Molly always keeps newborn halters in each stall when the babies are born; she can get a halter on them at least in the first few hours of life. Molly believes in lots of human contact with her horses. She thinks that it makes better horses and makes the horse a companion. Molly slowly grasps the halter so as not to spook the new baby, then walks to Starlight, gave her a hug, and tells her, "Good work. Momma." Molly then walked around to the baby, got a hold of her, put on the halter, and buckled it. She looks at the baby all over then stands back. "So sweetie, what are we going to name you; it will come to me, and I will know when it does." Molly reaches for Starlight again to show her thanks; she gave her affection then left the stall to check on the others. Molly walks to the next horse stall, and once again, there was a baby. "Wow, Grandpa's stud did it again; that is one beautiful baby colt!" Once again, she goes into the stall, halters the baby, and praises the mother. After going to all twelve stalls and checking for babies, she finds five new foals and one possibly two on their way later that day. Finding one more Appy colt outside, she thought she better calls her grandpa to inform him of the new foals since he is part owner of the Appy babies born. Molly walks to the house, with Chase close by, following her. He lays on the front porch in the sun while Molly goes in to eat and to call her grandfather. She sits at the table then dials the number. Three rings go by before she hears a hello on the line. It is her grandma. "Hi, Gram. Is Gramps around?" Molly asks. "Yes, just a second." "Hello," her grandpa says. "Hi, Gramps, just calling to let you know that Meko did a good job. We have some very nice looking foals, definitely breeding and showing stock." Molly informs him. "Fillies or colts or both?" "We have both," Molly answers. "There is one that is just gorgeous - a black with a white blanket with big black spots," Molly gushes. Who is the mare?" Vixen," Molly confirms. "Vixen," he says, "really?" "Vixen didn't throw any color last year or the year before." "I know Gramps, but she is making it up to us now!" "Your grandma wants to go get her hair done, so we are going to town." Are we still on for lunch tomorrow?" "Yes, an elk roast thawing." "We will see you tomorrow," he tells her. They hang up, and Molly walks back to the barn to check mares that may 21

deliver today. Joe is lounging inside his motel room, trying to conjure up his next move with Molly; he must be careful with this one. The police got too close to him with his last three victims in Oregon; Joe despises strong women, he wants to bring judgment on the women that he sets in his path of destruction. Joe hates that Molly is so arrogant around him like she has the upper hand in the situation! For that, she needs to be punished! Molly making him look like a fool in front of that sheriff and by holding him at gunpoint. Now he plans to teach her a lesson she will never forget; Joe fantasizes about torturing her! His most recent victim was a horse trainer out of Sisters, Oregon. Joe met her by pretending he needed a place to board his horse. The young woman's name was Larin; she was in her early twenties. Larin did not protect herself like Molly does when caught alone. Molly will be more of a challenge that he is looking forward to taking on. Larin was an easy target. Joe catches her at her car, leaving her workplace. Joe approaches her and asks if Larin would be interested in a drink with him. Larin happily agrees with a big smile. She invited him into her car since she knows her way around, she can drive. What Larin didn't know is Joe was born and raised in Oregon. He knows where places are that no one ever really ventures to, perfect places to hide a body! As they approach the exit of the parking lot, Larin smiles sweetly at him and asks, "Where are we off to?" "Let's stop by Black Butte Restaurant." "OK," she agrees. Before she pulls her car out onto the highway, she says, "By the way, my name is Larin." "Nice to meet you, Larin; I'm Pete." Nice to meet you, Pete, ready for that drink?" Larin thinks this guy is very handsome with his cobalt blue eyes, dirty blonde hair, cowboy goatee, and tall, medium muscular stature. Larin loves cowboys; they are definitely a weakness for her! If a cowboy asks her out for a drink, she usually can't say no, and a lot of the time, she is waking up to a stranger, but unfortunately, it never goes any farther than that. Pete ponders to himself, Larin is such a beautiful girl; it will be somewhat sad to destroy her, but I have to rid the world of women that chase men out of lust. I have to kill women who whore around! Lustful women are against everything that his God stands for, everything that I stands for! Pete watches Larin as she is driving. Larin has her window down; her shoulder-length brown hair is blowing in the wind across her pretty young-looking face; she is a medium height girl with a seductive curvy, thin body; he could tell Larin is active in her daily life. They pulled into the parking lot at Blackbutte. Pete suggests, "Hey, let's just grab a half rack of bottled beer; I know a place down by a creek where we can sit, drink, and lay under the stars to chat." Larin is hesitant for a moment, then thought, what could it hurt? "OK," she agrees. Pete ran into the store, purchased the beer, ran back to her car, and climbed inside. Larin starts driving again, and before long, they came to where Pete wants her to turn; he tells her to turn right and keep going. It seems like a long way from anywhere or anyone, but Larin tells herself she has met lots of men and no one has ever tried to hurt her before, and Pete seems like a lovely guy; he is handsome, and she is wondering how he looks under those cowboy clothes. "OK, turn here, Larin; this is the place. Larin turns onto a dirt road that seems to go on forever with bumps and a creek running alongside; the trees are kind of thick, and the smell of the pine trees is intoxicating to her. Finally, Pete confirms, "we are here; go ahead and park." Larin parks, turned off her car and leaves the radio playing. She exits her car, walks around, opened the hatch on her vehicle, and grabbed a full-size horse blanket. Larin looks at Pete and says, "it's not much, but this is all I have," she laughs a small flirty laugh. Pete smiles at her and helps with the blanket, and he grabs the beer too. They laid the blanket close to the creek and sat down; each opened a beer bottle taking a swig of the cold brew. They talk for a little while, and after a few beers, Pete excuses himself, Larin, I have to find a tree; nature is calling!" Larin nods before removing her jacket, revealing her tight t-shirt and small perky breasts; she laid down on the blanket, waiting for who she thought was Pete to return. After a few minutes which seemed like ten, Pete shows up and lays next to her, staring into her pretty eyes. Larin smiles before she steals a sweet wet kiss from him. Pete's heart thunders inside his chest; he wants her, but he knows after he has her, she must die; that is just the way it has to be! Pete lays on his back. Larin climbs on top of him, taking off her shirt leaning down; she kisses him again. Pete kisses back more passionately with that kiss. Larin loved that! She runs her hands under his shirt, then bent down, kissing his six-pack stomach, and trailed her lips back up to his muscled chest; finally, after wrestling with his shirt, they got it off. Pete is kissing Larin all over. He reaches, grabbing hold of her bra; he tears it off of her! Larin found this exciting and enjoyed the roughness of this handsome cowboy! Pete threw her back onto the horse blanket from on top of him; he starts tugging at the button on her tight jeans. Finally, they come undone. Pete pulled her jeans off and began kissing her thighs before he starts softly biting her through her panties. Larin moans and begs for him to remove her panties anticipating the swirling motion of his tongue. As Pete is kissing and biting, Larin runs her fingers through his hair, grasping handfuls; she's begging him to make love to her! Pete is excited; he wants her so much that he rips her panties to shreds trying to remove them... Larin finds this erotic; she enjoys all the pleasure Pete gives her body and mind, not knowing the cost will be a high price. Pete could not believe how good this girl felt and how good she was making him feel; for a moment, he thought he might let her go, suddenly evil came over him when he becomes outraged as if some type of darkness engulfed him! Larin is moaning in delight; she begs him, "treat me like the slut I am!" Pete plunges into an 22

even deeper rage! Larin is intoxicated; she doesn't realize Pete is out of his mind! Pete no longer pleases her; he is now inflicting pain on her! Pete jumped off Larin throwing her down on her back! Larin, still oblivious to what is really happening to her. Larin thinks Pete is kinky too, so when he asks her if she likes being a slut and wants him to treat her like one, she screams, "Yes! Oh yes, that is the way I like it!" Pete thrusts deep, grabbing Larin's legs pushing them as far over her head as they will go; Pete pushes and thrusts erratically. He is turned on so much, he is lost in his own world he no longer hears anything Larin is trying to say or the fact that his body weight on her legs pressing down on her and is cutting her airway off, but Pete just keeps thrusting over and over not aware that Larin has passed out. Pete starts to climax. It is so intense; it feels incredible! He moans loudly as he pushes even deeper inside of Larin. Once he's finished, he sees Larin isn't moving; he slaps her face getting no response. Pete checks her pulse, finding one; he hits her again, still nothing. Pete begins biting on her body softly, then more demanding and more aggressive with every bite, when suddenly she wakes up and feels him biting her! This is not pleasurable or funny! Larin screams. She tries to push him off of her, but he is too powerful! Pete continues biting all over her arms and her stomach. He moves down to the inside of her thighs, scraping his sharp teeth across her soft skin; Pete is sinking his teeth into her flesh so hard he is drawing blood. Larin begs him to stop and let her up, but he would just laugh at her and keep biting her. Larin is in excruciating pain. Pete moves to her mouth, forcing a kiss; she can taste her blood. This made Larin panic; what the hell is this guy doing to me! Larin's kicking and screaming, but he just kept biting and hitting her before choking her! Larin is struggling and scratching him to catch a breath; her efforts did not phase him at all; Pete is overpowering her tiny body. Finally, Pete had enough of her scratching and squirming. "You want to be a slut? I will treat you like a slut!" his eyes narrowed towards hers, his voice wickedly evil, like nothing Larin has ever heard before now; she is now in fear of losing her life and begins to cry out to him. Not wanting to listen to her beg, he quickly grasped her neck twists it in a mean violent motion until he hears a loud crack; then, there is no more movement or sound from the pretty girl. After confirming she is, in fact, dead, Pete sits back against a pine tree next to them, lit himself a cigarette takes a couple of long deep drags, filling his lungs to the brim with smoke and nicotine. Pete decides while he stared at her lifeless body to put the cigarette out in various places on her battered body. Once Pete was satisfied with the burning & torturing of her, Pete wades his naked body into the creek; Pete washes thoroughly, including rinsing the blood from his mouth, he exits the water to dress. Pete rolled her body inside the full-size horse blanket and grabbed a flashlight he found while rummaging through her car. Pete drags her body to a ravine throwing her lifeless, bloody, and burned body over; he stares as she rolls off the edge; Larin is tumbling over the rocks and brush until her body finally came to a resting spot at the bottom in a bunch of sagebrush. Pete stood there, lit another cigarette, smoked it, then flicked the butt down toward where her body is lying. Pete climbs into Larin's car, turns on a music CD, and drove away as if nothing happened! Pete does not rape his victims; he entices them to have sex with him with his gorgeous looks and sexy smile. When he is finished using them, Pete tortures and murders the women as if they meant nothing to anyone! As Pete is driving into Sisters, Oregon, he stops at a gas station. Pete digs around in Larin's car until finding her wallet with all her cash and credit cards. Pete pulls up to a gas pump; he fills the car's tank. Stealing her money, Pete ran into the store and bought an armful of snacks, jerky, and beer for the road. As he was leaving the store, he notices an atlas on a rack by the door. Pete buys one, so he can find a new state and a new victim. Once sitting inside Larin's car, he looks through the atlas contemplating the direction he wants to drive to get out of Oregon before someone who knows his victim sees him driving her car without her in it. While Pete is scanning over all the different states, he thought it's too hard choosing just one. "I guess I will just have to find victims in all fifty states!" Laughs to himself while thinking about all the pretty girls nationwide that would be at his mercy. Pete scans over the map for a little while, finally choosing Montana. "Hmmm... God's country, and it's not too far away. There are a lot of small towns, and girls in small towns are very trusting. He convinces himself. Pete started the car and pulled out of the gas station driving for Montana. Unbeknownst to Molly and Chase, Joe was out in the woods watching her. He is trying to find the perfect time to catch her off guard. "Enjoy tonight, Mol, because tomorrow is your last day!" Joe turns to cut back through the woods to his car; he is clumsy by stepping on a branch that breaks when Chase hears him. Chase began barking and growling viciously! He takes off running full speed towards where Joe is standing within the trees. Molly hollers, "Chase come! Come, Chase!" She calls again. Within feet of Chase reaching Joe, he turns back to obey Molly. Chase follows her back inside the barn. "Damn dog!" "How in the hell will I get rid of him to get my hands on her?" Joe mumbles in anger. That evening when Molly walks out of the barn after her chores, she leans her head back to look at the sky. To her surprise, the sky is absolutely stunning, filled with more stars than she has seen in a very long time. The night is chilly; springtime in Montana has chilly evenings and can still bring a snowstorm or two. Molly strolls to the house; she feels like someone is watching her. Molly looks around, not seeing much of anything in the dark. Chase is next to her, letting out subtle growls; the hair on the back of Molly's neck stood up, she has this scared feeling come over her. Molly knows something was out there but isn't sure what. She steps up on the deck, opens her door, walks in, and waits for Chase to follow before locking the door behind them. Molly immediately checked all window and door locks; Molly enters each and every room checking locks. Opening Evan's gun cabinet, she pulls out a rifle, checks to make sure it was loaded, and she has more bullets for 23

the gun. Grabbing the box of ammo, Molly takes the weapon with her to run her nightly bath. Reaching inside the cabinet, she grabs her bottle of Jose and her shot glass. After checking the house again and not seeing anything, Molly decides it must just be her imagination overreacting to the fear card. She meanders towards the bathroom, undressed, lit her candles, grabs her bottle of Jose off the sink climbs into the tub of hot water. Molly can feel the warmth of the hot water soothing her aching bones. Lying back, thinking about her life and wondering what Evan was doing at that exact moment, she takes a swig of the bottle, and the tears well up in her eyes. Molly gulps another swig wiping her warm tears away. Staring at the candle's shadows dancing on the wall, she is lost in thought of the good days, the laughter, and the love she and Ethan shared. The tears just ran down her cheeks uncontrollably, dripping off of her chin hitting the water. She tips the bottle for another swig and another; her eyes filled with tears she can hardly see. Suddenly, Chase jumps up! Growling, he runs out of the bathroom, growling and barking ferociously. Molly jumps up out of the tub, grabs her rifle, and takes off running through the house where Chase is barking. As she ran down the hall, her wet feet slipped on the hardwood floor, causing her to fall onto the living room floor. Chase is pouncing and hitting the large window at the right of the house next to the fireplace. Molly bolts up off the floor, grabs the rifle, runs to the wall flips on the porch light; as the light comes on, she is startled by a man standing directly in front of her outside the window. Molly is trembling! She quickly raises the rifle, points it at the stranger, and pulls the hammer back as if to fire. The man raises his fists over his head, hits the window lets out a furious yell in anger. The bang caused a thunderous sound as he runs off into the darkness towards the woods. Molly runs to the back door to check if she can see him from there. She saw nothing. Molly grabbed her cordless phone off the kitchen counter, nervously dialed Jarrod's number. Molly is trembling and shaking so bad that she could hardly talk or hold the phone. A sleepy voice picks up the other end of the line with a quiet "Hello?" Molly screams into the phone, "Jarrod!" "Oh my God, Molly, what's wrong?" "There is a man out here!" "He just ran into the woods across from my house; he was on my porch!" "Molly, are all your doors locked?" "Yes!" "I will be there in fifteen minutes! "Molly, go get your gun," Jarrod demands. "I got it! That is why he ran off." The phone goes quiet, and all she hears is silence. Jarrod had hung up. Molly ran to get dressed. Returning, she pulls out a kitchen chair to sit down. Molly is very dizzy from all the tequila Molly drank in the hot bath. Molly sat there for a moment, trembling; she knows it is the hiker Joe because in all the years she's lived on the ranch and been there all alone while Evan has been away, she has never had any problems with anyone, ever, until now. "I should have shot that son of a bitch when I found him here!" I can't believe that I was so stupid to tell him that Evan is gone!" Chase came to her and nudges her hand; Molly reaches out to him, petting him and praising him for protecting her. The thoughts of what could have happened to her if she did not have Chase made her cringe with fright and fear. Molly stands up, turns off all of her house lights so that if he is still watching her, he will not know where in the house she is located. Molly Chose not to sleep in Evan's chair tonight; grabbing a flashlight, she sneaks down the hall. Molly rechecks every room and window with her rifle raised. Chase follows her into every room. Chase senses someone is there somewhere, but Molly could not see, and he is determined to protect her from the stranger lurking outside. Molly retrieved two of Evan's handguns out of the cabinet - a 44 magnum Ruger and a 357 Magnum - both revolvers and the boxes of ammo too. Molly is sure he will not be leaving without some lead poisoning if he comes inside her house! She walks down the hall to the bathroom. The candles are burned down quite a bit. The aroma of the hazelnut filled the bathroom and her nostrils. Molly sits down on the floor just inside the door, closing it with her foot. The stranger will have no chance if he opens the door because she will shoot him dead! It felt like a million years until she finally hears Jarrod's truck coming up the driveway. His vehicle came to a skid; as he parks, Molly stands up to look out the bathroom window making sure that, in fact, it is Jarrod. Once she sees Jarrod walking towards the kitchen door, Molly unlocks the bathroom door, goes down the hall to the living room and into the kitchen. Molly checks everywhere before entering each area, in case he was inside her house without her knowing or Chase's hearing. Molly walked through the kitchen to the door and turns on the light. Jarrod is waiting for her to let him in. Molly reaches over to unlock the deadbolt. She then opens the door. "Are you OK, Molly?" "Yes, he scared the hell out of me!" "I think the guy cracked my window." "Do you have a flashlight?" Jarrod asks. "Yes," Molly hands him hers. Jarrod tells her he will go check her window and for her to lock the door behind him. "If you hear gunshots call 911 and get someone out here for help!" Jarrod orders. "No matter what, Molly, do not go outside, do you understand?" "Yes, I understand," she told him. Jarrod exits out the door, and Molly locked it behind him. She watches him as he walks around the house to check things and check her window, it is not cracked, but he could see the fist marks where the window was hit on the outside. Jarrod grabs his gun from his holster, turns on his headlamp, and makes a B-line for the woods. Molly worried when she watched him walk into the woods; if he needed her help, she would have no idea that he was in trouble. Molly paces the floors waiting for Jarrod to return. It feels like hours have passed by, and the sun would be 24

rising soon, finally seeing him emerge from the darkness of the trees; she is somewhat relieved. Jarrod sauntered to the house. He came and tapped on the kitchen door. Molly opens the door to let him in, asking him, "What did you see?" "Molly, I did not see anyone, but it had not been long since someone had been there because I found some fresh cigarette butts on the ground that is still hot." "That son of a bitch is throwing his lit butts on my ranch in the trees; he's going to start a fire, then I am really going to shoot him!" Molly spouts in an angry voice. "Molly, you are not going to shoot anyone," Jarrod tries to calm her. "Jarrod, if that guy comes back here again and tries to get into my house or hurt me or any of my animals, I am going to shoot him! I do not mean to nick him in the arm; shoot him. I mean, shoot him dead, Jarrod!" Molly confirms in a harsh voice. "Molly, if he comes into your house or tries to cause you bodily harm by law, you have every right to shoot him," Jarrod informs her. "Molly, I will stay with you the rest of tonight to make sure that he is not hiding in the woods waiting for me to leave." "Jarrod, I think this guy is the Joe that told me he was lost hiking a couple days ago." "I thought he was a friend of Evan's from the ARMY?" "No! Jarrod, why would you think that?" "That is what he told me," Jarrod answers. "Molly, how did he know that Evan was away to Iraq?" Molly sighed," because I told him." "You did what?" Jarrod roared. "Why would you do that, Molly?" "I was just making conversation; I thought Joe was a hiker that was lost and someone really needing a job, not someone that wants to come back because my husband is gone and try to hurt me or worse." Molly lowers her head. "I ran the plates on the car he was driving when I took him back to his car. I am still waiting for the information due to our system being down because of upgrades." Jarrod continues, once I get that info back, I am sure it will shed some light on who this character is and what he is doing here in Montana." "Molly, we better hit the sack so we can get at least a couple hours of sleep before the sun comes up." "You can sleep in Evan's recliner, and I will sleep on the couch," Molly tells him. "Let me go get some blankets." Jarrod takes a seat in the chair while Molly walks down the hall for the pillows and blankets. Jarrod laid his revolver on the table sitting next to him so that if he needed it, he could get to it fast. Molly came back with the pillows and blankets, handing Jarrod a pillow and a soft fleece blanket that she had handmade. "Do you need to call home before you stay the night? "Nope, I don't need to," Jarrod confirms. "Why? Won't your wife be worried if you do not come home?" "Molly, I thought I told you that I have been separated from her for about four months." "Really?" Molly says curiously. "Yes, it is better this way. We needed to realize it was not working with us anymore; we were only staying together for Levi; it was too much for both of us and too hard on Levi, knowing that we were only together for her sake." Jarrod confides in her. "I understand that it has to still be hard on all of you." "No, really, everyone seems much happier now," Jarrod says. "So Molly, tell me, how do you get along out here without Evan? You must be lonely." He lifts a brow while waiting for her to answer. Hitting a deep nerve in her loneliness, she confides in him, "Yes, I am lonely and angry all at the same time. Evan did not even ask me what I wanted; he just did what he wanted, and to hell with what my needs are." Molly vents with definite anger covered in sadness. "We don't have to talk about it, Molly, if you do not want to." "No, Jarrod, it is OK. I don't mind talking about things because I have not talked to anyone about this in four years since Evan re-enlisted. He has been deployed over and over again." Molly walks over to the fireplace, stokes it adds a couple of logs to the fire. Jarrod stares at her while the fire silhouettes her curved trim body. He never realized how beautiful Molly really is, especially in this vulnerable state she is in right now. Molly is intense about what is going on tonight with this guy lurking about, and she did not break even if she wanted to; she is holding it in very well. Jarrod finds that sexy. Molly turns to look at Jarrod. "Would you like something to drink?" "Yeah, that would be great, Mol." "Molly walks to the kitchen to get them each a bottle of beer. As Molly is walking back to Jarrod with beer bottles, he noticed how nice her breasts are and how they filled out the tank top she is wearing. As Molly sat her beer down, her hair fell over her shoulder. Jarrod thought she looks stunning. Molly walks over to Jarrod, handing him a beer. Jarrod grasped the beer bottle with one hand and her arm with the other; he pulls her into him, stealing a sweet kiss from her. Molly stood back up, staring down at him, sitting there in his tight blue wranglers, tan long sleeve wrangler shirt, and black felt cowboy hat. He smiles that sexy smile that Molly had always found irresistible about him since they first met, years before she had met Evan. Jarrod has the most gorgeous piercing gray eyes that she has ever seen on a man, and his coal-black hair with his 5 o'clock shadow made him look so damn deliciously sexy. Molly bent down, kissing him back more passionately than he had kissed her in the first. Molly stood back up. "Jarrod, that was amazing, but I am not sure if I should do this? Jarrod stands up, pulls her into him; he bends down and kisses her again. Molly did not pull away; she, too, wanted him. Molly kissed him back several times then said, "I will be right back." She walks over to turn on the stereo and play some country music. Spinning back around, she sees Jarrod's tall stature standing there waiting for her to come back into his arms. Molly gazes at him. She smiles while walking back to him. Jarrod wrapped his arms back around her, slipped his hands under her shirt. Her skin was so warm, soft, and enticing. Molly reaches up and starts unsnapping his shirt, then undid his belt buckle. Jarrod looked at her and smiled so lovingly. Molly raised her arms as if to tell him it is OK to take off her shirt. Jarrod lifts her shirt up over her head, exposing her naked plump round breasts. Her long auburn hair fell down over them. "Oh, my God, you are so beautiful! It has been a long time since Molly had a man tell her that she was beautiful." She enjoyed the compliment is Molly doing the right thing by being with another man because she is lonely and needs companionship or angry that Evan re-enlisted without considering her feelings. She looks at Jarrod, kisses him softly on the lips. "Jarrod, I am sorry, but I just cannot do this. I'm lonely, yes, but I am not lonely enough to destroy my marriage." Molly bent down to grab her shirt off the floor so that she could put it back on. "Molly, I am sorry." 25

Jarrod stares in disappointment. "It's OK, Jarrod. It is not your fault; we are both very vulnerable right now; this probably is not the best way for us to heal hurts if you know what I mean." Molly pleads. "Molly being with you is not my therapy for healing an old hurt," Jarrod starts to explain. "I want to be with you because I have felt something for you for many years now, but I have never acted on those feelings before tonight." Molly sat on the couch listening to Jarrod's words. "What should she do?" Molly thought to herself because she, too, has been drawn to Jarrod for quite a long time. "What if being with Evan wasn't the road she really was meant to take?" Her mind is racing in circles. Evan did leave me without any kind of discussion and told me that it was his decision to be a soldier and fight the war in Iraq, and if she didn't like it, maybe they should not be together. Molly forgot about that argument the day Evan left for this last deployment. Evan never kissed her goodbye; he just walked out on her and left her standing in the barn crying. Even though Molly and Evan speak on the phone, she still holds the hurt from what he said that day very close to her heart. Molly stood up walks over to Jarrod; she grabs his hand, pulling him to stand up. "Molly, it is OK. I don't want you to do anything that you do not want to do," Jarrod tells her sweetly. Molly stares at him and says, "What I don't want to do, Jarrod, is not do anything tonight and wonder for the rest of my life if I made the right decision or if I'm missing out on the greatest man I have; ever known, maybe even the greatest love I've ever known." Jarrod bends down kisses her more passionately than he has ever kissed anyone. Molly slips her hand inside of his leading him down the hall to her room, then closed the door. The sun came into the window, waking Molly from her sleep. She stares at the person lying next to her then realized what she thought was a dream was reality. She crawls out of bed for the bathroom, consumed of guilt for betraying Evan. Molly looks at herself in the mirror, sick over what she had done, cursing herself for being weak by being with another man! She was fighting with her emotions; did she do the right thing by making love to Jarrod. Molly hears Jarrod saying her name. Then light knocks on the bathroom door. Molly wipes the tears from her face then opened the door. Jarrod was standing there in his unbuttoned jeans, no shirt, and muscled tanned chest. Jarrod smiles at her with his sexy bright, toothy smile, and she then felt a calm come over her, so she smiled back at him. Jarrod puts his hand on the door to push the door open so he can wrap his arms around her waist; he pulls her into him. Molly did not resist. The guilt she was feeling slowly started to fade away as Jarrod leaned down to kiss her gently. Molly gazes at Jarrod, asking him in a quiet crackling voice, "So now what; where do we go from here?" Jarrod staring at Molly sweetly, "Molly, that is up to you; when you know what you want to lose or gain, you can let me know, OK?" Molly looks at the floor, shaking her head in agreement. "Can I take a shower?" "Then I'm planning to go looking for the man who was at your ranch last night," Molly suggests he take one of her horses. Jarrod nodded his head and agrees. Molly went to leave the bathroom, then slowly turned around and said, "Jarrod, if I choose you, I need to let Evan know that I want a divorce when he calls me again; I will have to let him know where we stand." Jarrod smiles at Molly before he climbed into the shower. Molly went out to the living room to look out the window to see if she could see anything from the night before, but she saw nothing. She opens the kitchen door to let the dogs out. Molly locks the deadbolt on the door again. She stood there staring out the window, thinking of the decision she needs to make and must make soon. Tears roll down her cheeks, but the emptiness she has felt since Evan left for the war has finally started to lift. Thinking about the tenderness and the passion that Jarrod showed her last night put a smile on Molly's face. She can hear the water running in the shower as she strolls down the hallway to the bathroom door. Taking a deep breath, she opens the door; as she walks through the thick steam from the hot shower, she takes off her clothes. Once reaching the warm water, she softly pulls back the curtain in a quiet voice; she says to Jarrod, "so handsome, is there any room in here for me?" Jarrod grins, reaching his hand out to her. Jarrod wraps his arms around her once she was in the warm shower with him. He pushes her hair away and starts kissing her neck passionately. The warmth of desire just ran through Molly's body, feeling his touch, his kisses all over her. Jarrod kissing her mouth while putting his hands on her head to bring her closer deeper into him; his kisses take her breath away; the more he kissed her, the more she wanted him! Molly starts kissing his chest and farther down his stomach to where he anticipated her mouth, her lips the most. Once Molly began, Jarrod let out a sexy moan confirming he is consumed by pleasure. Jarrod reaches his arms, scooping her up, and steps out of the shower; carrying her wet body against his, he walks to the bedroom. Pushing the bedroom door open with his foot, Jarrod walked to the bed, laying her down on her back. Jarrod bent down to kiss her breasts. He kissed down her naked wet body, Molly anticipating the warmth of his mouth when suddenly he was indulging her, and she gasped in delight. Jarrod knows just how to please her. Molly let the sensation consume her from head to toe; she moans loudly as she climaxed. Jarrod starts kissing her thighs before returning to her sweet spot again; the intense rush was overwhelming, Molly climaxed again. Feeling the fierce warmth run ramped through her body, she reaches out for him to come to her; Molly wants him to make love to her; she is filled with desire anticipating satisfying him as he had her. When they are finished, they laid on the sheets holding each other in the quiet of the morning. The dogs start barking and take off running around the house. Jarrod jumps up and throws his pants on, quickly grabbing his gun. By that time, Molly was racing down the hall with a 357 in her hand. Before she reaches the end of the hallway, she hears knocking on the kitchen door. Molly turned and ran back down the hall, put her bathrobe on, grabbed the gun again, racing down the hallway to answer the door. "Molly, who is it?" "I'm not sure, but if I need you, I will holler." She goes around the kitchen corner and sees two military men through the window standing with a chaplain. Her heart fell into her stomach. Molly knows the news she was getting ready to receive. Molly laid the gun on the counter as tears well up her eyes. She unlocked the door and opened it. A tall, thin man asked her, "are you, Mrs. Evan Jamison?" "Yes," Molly answers with a tear-soaked voice. "We are sorry to inform you, Mrs. Jamison, your husband, Evan, was killed yesterday by a suicide bomber." The other soldier standing with him handed Molly a folded flag, telling her, "We 26

are sorry, Ma'am, for your loss." Molly fell to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably. The chaplain was a short older gentleman; he got down on his knees and started to pray for her. Jarrod standing at the end of the hallway, out of sight. He listened to the news that Molly was told; Jarrod leaned up against the wall when tears filled his eyes. Jarrod has known Evan all of his life. Jarrod is angry at himself because when Evan left, Evan asked Jarrod to keep an eye on Molly, and what he did, Jarrod seduced her the day her husband had died; he became furious with himself. Jarrod hears the door close, and instantaneously glass breaking. He ran into the kitchen to find Molly sobbing uncontrollably, grabbing anything she could find to smash against the wall. There is glass shattered everywhere. Molly starts screaming, "He is dead, and I was making love to you while he was dying!" "While he was killed, oh my God! What did I do?" Jarrod goes to her, trying to hold her and console her. He is sorry for the hurt she is feeling; Molly pushed him away from her. She went to walk away; she turned around with her eyes narrowed towards him. "Jarrod, get dressed; you need to leave!" "I need to be alone right now!" "I have a family to call, and I can't deal with seeing you and regretting what I have done!" Molly is yelling loudly towards him. Jarrod stood there listening to her. He knew not to take what she is saying personally because she was just given horrible news. This is her way of dealing with that news. "I never cheated on Evan, Ever!" Molly screams at the top of her lungs. "I loved him!" "Why did I do what I did?" "Why!?!" "Molly, don't blame yourself; Evan chose to go to war, not you!" "He chose his destiny. Evan knew when he enlisted that there was a chance Evan may never come home, and unfortunately, he isn't!" Jarrod continues, "you cannot stop living or blame yourself for what happened with us; Evan made his choice, and he didn't even talk to you about it!" Jarrod watches her reaction before continuing, "Evan never once considered your feelings or what you would go through if he was killed over there. Do you get that?" "Jarrod," Molly said in a quiet yet stern voice, "please leave; I want to be alone right now." Jarrod went to walk past Molly as she stood against the wall; he bent over, kissed her cheek then returned to the bedroom to get dressed. Molly stood quietly, waiting for Jarrod to leave. She did not want to show too much weakness in front of him while in her house. Jarrod walked out of the bedroom past Molly, turned to her, and said, "I am going to take one of your horses to go see what I can find. I will be back in a few hours." Molly shook her head in agreement. She listened as he walked out the kitchen door. Molly waits for the door to close, and she slid down the wall to the floor, crying uncontrollably, clenching the American flag to her chest. Jarrod walks out to the barn, thinking about what had happened between him and Molly; he has no regrets. The only regret he felt is that Evan had died before Molly could make it right with him, and Jarrod knows it will eat away at Molly. Jarrod went out to the back corral and caught Molly's appaloosa gelding named Apache. This gelding is beautiful! He is jet black with a snow-white blanket and prominent black peacock spots. The horse is very muscular and has been used in the harsh terrain that Jarrod will ride through; he must have a horse he could depend on. Jarrod walked up to him with a rope halter; he haltered him and then led him into the barn to saddle. Jarrod found a water canister hanging in the tack room. He went to the water faucet. Jarrod rinsed the canister then filled it with fresh water. Draping the water canister over the saddle horn and putting his rifle into the scabbard, he grabs the reins, turns to lead the horse out of the barn. Once outside, Jarrod threw the reins around Apache's neck and climbed into the saddle; he gave him a little nudge, and they start riding towards the trees. Skeeter starts to follow, but Jarrod hollered at him to stay home. Molly is standing in the window quietly watching Jarrod ride away, tears rolling down her face. Visit Ashby Frost's website for information on the release of this upcoming novel in 2022.




The first thing you must know is that she was young. The second thing is that she was naïve. But the two usually go hand in hand, don’t they? He invited me out for a cappuccino. Per did, my professor for developmental psychology. Strange name—it’s pronounced “pear”—but not strange-sounding to Norwegians, which is what he was. A big, blonde, handsome Norwegian with a slow hand as he looked into your eyes. My eyes. Per wasn’t a full professor, just an assistant professor. But I was a mere undergraduate and naturally was flattered. Naturally. Who wouldn’t be? So there we were, in the outdoor patio, sipping our cappuccinos. Oh, and blintzes. God, I love blintzes. They’re so, I don’t know, creamy and sweet and sexy. Per told me that he and his friends in Oslo spent a lot of time in coffee houses during Norwegian winters because the weather was awful and the days were dark. Well, Berkeley certainly wasn’t like Oslo. Berkeleyites enjoyed all kinds of outdoor activities in the wintertime—like going up in the hills and lying in the grass and…like Per and I did. Per told me he disliked Scandinavian women because they were “cold.” Said he preferred women from warmer climates because they were “warm.” I took that as a green light that he liked me. After all, not only was I from California, I was from Southern California and thought that should earn me extra points. The summer after I graduated, I waitressed at that café, the one with the outdoor patio. I waitressed there so I could eat for free and watch how the blintzes and espresso drinks were made. Yeah, that was why. Also that summer I wondered what had become of Per. I kept waiting for him to call or text me. I couldn’t bring myself to contact him, he being the big assistant professor. Let him reach out to me. We had gotten along fine, hadn’t we? I know we did! So why didn’t he call? Well, one Sunday morning during my shift, Per showed up at the café. Yep, he showed up all right—with a darkhaired Spanish beauty! The real deal. From Spain. For a split second I wanted to run away, but there was Per already introducing me to The Spaniard. In a flash of jealousy that made my heart pound, I nearly asked The Spaniard if she was “warm.” Then I quickly realized…she was! Warm, a real nice person. Something else, too. She had this gracefulness and maturity about her. Yep, she was a bona fide grown-up and, standing beside her, I felt childish. Per chattered on, congratulating me for having obtained my bachelor’s degree. He smiled at me as if I were his daughter, as if he were proud of me. Between his paternal attitude and her regal one, something in me relaxed, as I admitted defeat. I could plainly see they were adults and, compared to them, I was still a kid. Even if I was warm! Then I did what any red-blooded, just-jilted Berkleyite would do: I summoned up my dancer’s attitude (which I had learned in modern dance class) and flaunted an attitude! I just sashayed away in my leotards and short skirt—with their blintz order, of course—thinking about Robbie, who was my age and a whole lot more fun. Copyright © 2021 by Janice Lynn Ross



I have been writing most of my life. Though I didn't actually get serious about it until the last ten years after I moved back to Tennessee. I joined several writing groups, and I have always enjoyed encouraging young writers to follow their dreams, I did. I have one poem published in 2010 in the Millington Star. Looking to start up a new writers group in Millington, TN.

New Release!

I have always loved mysteries. I have written several short stories for the anthologies put out by Malice in Memphis and Dark Oak Press. My current stories: Mutiny on Mud Island in Bluff City Mysteries. A Dance with the Devil in Ghost Stories. An Elmwood Misadventure: A Dean and Gwen Colton Adventure; Fort Pillow Escape: A Dean and Gwen Colton Adventure in Elmwood: Stories to Die For. Mayhem in Memphis: Cheater, Cheater: A Dean and Gwen Colton Adventure; and The River Run Gamble. My first novel will be published in 2020, along with the first in a trilogy set in the fictional town of Whiskey Bend, TX. I live in West Tennessee with my hubby, a local car salesman/retired Sr. Chief. I also enjoy geocaching, painting and researching for the next book or series.



Liza McAllister is newly divorced when she's talked into going on a cruise with her friend Chrissie. Determined to put her crazy ex behind her, Liza throws caution into the wind and indulges on some new clothes and a spacious cabin on the cruise ship. But someone else has other plans. Ledge McAllister is hell-bent on reclaiming what is rightfully his. His life was turned upside down the day his wife walked out of his home. He will not lose her again. She belongs to him. "Let me just say my mind is BLOWN! 100% blown! There was not one moment while reading Liza and Ledge’s story that I could even remotely anticipate what was coming next. This book is heart pounding, stomach dropping, clutch your pearls and say about a million prayers kind of crazy." GoodReads Reviewer Cassie Ashford "OH MY HOLY HELL! Fallon Raynes completely blew my mind with Dangerous Ledges! In fact, I'm so shocked that this is her first full length book (I read that she had been previously been writing poems & short stories), and that shock turned into awe & wonder because she should have been releasing books long before this, so color me a 100% fan girl now!" GoodRead Reviewer Jennifer P ierson 33


Behind Frenemy Lines By Chele Pedersen Smith

Twists, trysts, mistrust…are they more than spy partners or enemies with benefits?

“How did he sneak around without Secret Service noticing?” Anita, the communications director, demanded. “They haven’t been on top of their game lately, so it’s possible. He seems to know his way around the place.” “Well, I don’t want that idiot F.B. coming around here anymore. He’s not to get what he wants, understand? We don’t need an old scandal awakened.” “But what if it’s his due? He’s been unfairly shut out from his family.” “Are you on his side, Tom?” she asked sharply. The Media Specialist must’ve shaken his head because he didn’t respond. Anita continued, “His parents are dead. There’s nothing to give him. He should try his luck in Massachusetts, if he is who he claims to be. There isn’t any proof he ever existed.” “Right… wouldn’t you be angry too if that was how you felt all your life?”

In the darkness, agent Lee Clancy awoke to the shrill, metallic vibrations rattling his surroundings. Machine guns! No, he was enveloped in a quiet, heavy mustiness. How long had he been knocked out? He remembered a jarring jolt, slowly regaining memory of the night’s events. The intercepted fragments emitting from his cellphone just moments earlier tickled his brain before he fully recognized their significance. Patting around, he brought up his phone. No…a high heel? Recalling he wasn't alone, he smiled as sensual details filled his head. He nudged his colleague. “Gal, we got a bite on the bug. Are you alright?” When agent Galaxy O’Jordan didn’t respond, he gently shook her then thought better of it. Worry gnawed his conscience. It was his fault they were in this mess. If he hadn’t insisted on tagging along or better yet, if he hadn’t been bent on finding secret passages… Retrieving his cell tucked in a corner, he clicked on the flashlight and checked Gal for a concussion. He was dazzled by the green specks in her hazel eyes and wondered what it was about his feisty partner he found so irresistible. Of course brunettes were his type and he found her burgundy-streaked tresses alluring, but he admired her strength, spunk, and confidence too. Still, there was something about this 35

beautiful spy he couldn't quite place. Stirred by the brightness, she blinked. “Thank God,” Lee breathed. “Galaxy, are you okay?” Gal tried to focus but everything was fuzzy. “Where—where are we…Viktor?” She attempted to stand, then noticed she was caged in, only heightening her fear. Clancy patted her arm for reassurance. But who the hell was Viktor? “No, it’s Lee. We’re in the White House underground, stuck in the walls, remember?” The frightening news alarmed her more until he illuminated the metal box. “Ooh…yeah, right. My head….” She reached up and touched a stiff tendril of hair meshed against her skin. “Is it bleeding?” Guiding the light in her direction, he inspected the wound. “Maybe a skosh. Still got that napkin?” Fumbling with her jacket, she reached in and tweezed it with two fingers, waving it. “Man, this sure has gotten around,” Lee said. “Not so barbaric now, huh, taking notes on paper,” she chuckled as he blotted her cut. “Yeah, kind of bulky administering first aid with a Blackberry, unless we're on the Star Trek Enterprise. Are you fine everywhere else?” Dabbing her head, he thought how he teased her for being old school. He wouldn’t have known about their meeting otherwise, and he certainly wouldn’t have had the chance to plant the wire under Anita’s desk. “I think I’m okay. Just a headache, but hard to tell when we're so wrapped up. All my limbs are asleep. What about you, any damage?” “Cricked neck is all, I think. Hey, I always wanted to play dirty Twister,” he cracked as they separated body parts, making sure they survived in one piece. She looked down and noticed her blouse unbuttoned. “Oh no, did we—” “Pick up any evidence? Yes, in fact, my cell was tracing something when I woke up.” Crestfallen their intimate encounter wasn’t memorable, he decided it was best to change the subject. “Something about a fizzy bakery kept fading in and out. Have you heard of it? Do you think it has to do with effervescent bomb-making or something?” “I was just going to ask if we were the ones who broke this thing but hmm, no, I don’t know what it means. A soda factory, maybe?” “Ah, that's it. They're making threats with Mentos geysers.” He smiled at the idea, but Gal didn't get it. “Hey, no worries, okay? I don’t think it was entirely our fault the dumbwaiter fell. The pulley was ancient.” “Then adding the weight of two people wasn’t insane at all,” she mused. The situation was so absurd, she began to laugh but the levity rattled like rivets in her brain. “Seriously, though, what if we missed some crucial information while we were knocked out?”


“Got it covered. I only spring for high quality.” He gestured with the device. “It saves to my voicemail, so we’ll never miss a word. Oh, and I disabled GPS, so we can’t be traced.” “Truly impressive, Cowboy. So you do think with something besides your Goodfella!” She gave him a playful jab. “Ow, I see the fall hasn’t weakened your elbow any.” Rubbing his ribs, he smiled, relieved. “Let's see what we missed.” He pushed ‘play’ but couldn't get a signal. “That’s weird, how did it transmit in the first place?” “We are way down here. I'm shocked you had cell service at all. So, is there a way out of this death trap? I can't stand being cooped up any longer.” She could feel the claustrophobia closing in, the jitters making her chatty. She touched the mortared wall in front of them. Lee lit up the perimeter. “We’re off the cable. At the bottom of a cellar, it appears. Wait…I think if we can squeeze by this tapered space, we’ll be running loose in the basement.” “How tapered?” She peered around to follow the light. “Maybe we’ll fit.” They unjammed themselves from the dented cubicle and stretched, waiting for the pins and needles to subside. Galaxy stood first, cradling her temples until the dizziness passed. “I’ll give it a go.” “Are you sure you’re up to it?” She waved him off. “I’ve been in worse scrapes.” With Viktor? Lee winced. Staggering barefoot and stepping painfully on pebbled bits, Gal shimmied past the crashed vault, sucking in her breath. If she could just get beyond the area, there was sure to be a way out, maybe a staircase or door hatch. Willing herself to constrict like a cat, she managed to get halfway through the crevice. She pushed, but something was holding her back. She looked down and noticed what. “Damn!” “What’s the matter, dead end?” Lee called. ”Something blocking us?” She sighed, embarrassed, then hollered back, “Yeah….just my…female anatomy. I wonder if Angelina Jolie has this problem when she’s raiding tombs in movies.” Lee wrangled free, catching up, handing her heels. “Well, I’m pretty partial to them,” he whispered. “Thanks….but they’re not helping now.” Gal felt the familiar chills of his technique and closed her eyes. Reflecting on their tight tryst hours earlier and the previous night's close call, she wondered why he was so intoxicating. Maybe it was his upbringing of Texas cotillions and Swiss boarding school. Chivalry attracted her. It didn’t hurt that he was a tall glass of Clark Kent, but she had to keep her wits sharp if she was to accomplish what she was really meant to do. She frowned, back to reality. “Maybe you can think of something, Hombre. That is if you can stop


sporting wood long enough to pass through the other side.” She was kidding, but her free hand reached back and discovered the truth. “What the hell, Cowboy? Seriously? Are you on meds or something?” “Sorry, I can’t help it. It’s you…” “Well, how is that going to help us get out of here? We'll be here forever, and no one will find us and—” His lips clamped hers, muffling the rant traveling down the path. Her anxiety was closing in, and despite the stench of the damp sublevel, Lee's slight sweat and faint aftershave were a welcomed diversion. He surveyed the area, taking charge of the situation. “Okay, it looks like we have to smash a few bricks.” Choosing the largest stone from the rubble, he chipped away to make a bigger gap in their escape plan. As they maneuvered the underground maze, the silence hung thick, and partnered with the darkness, the space became narrowly suffocating. For sanity’s sake, Lee kept the conversation going. “How are you doing?” “Wrecked, but not bad considering. A little dizzy too. Not sure if it’s the bump on my head or being in the dark so long.” “And hunger. I could eat a steer,” Lee confessed. “We missed dinner. Now I wish I grabbed a bun off the coffee service.” “I’d kill for a big burger,” Galaxy salivated. “You know those gluttonous monsters you Americans prize yourselves on finishing?” “Really? A burger…I thought you only ate veggies.” Her segregated reference to their country raised a flag, but he brushed it aside, trading it for more urgent matters. “Just because I have salads at lunch, doesn’t mean I only eat bunny food. I love the guy stuff. But it doesn’t mean I want a guy gut.” “Hey, now.” He patted his mid-section. “I do an extensive workout.” Gal smiled, remembering his six-pack. They made their way through the rough basement. “There's supposed to be a bowling alley down here. Nixon moved Truman’s lanes underground in ‘69. By the way, did you know ‘Tricky Dicky’ allegedly threw back a few drinkies and spoke with the presidential portraits? I wonder what they said back,” Lee chuckled. Gal gasped. “See, my haunting and inside job theories pan out!” “Maybe we should hold a séance and find out who’s behind the strange happenings around here!” Lee kidded. 38

“Not a bad idea! Better than any leads we got so far.” “Except we couldn’t put them on the witness stand to prove anything so we’d both get axed.” Imagining the trial, they snickered silly, trudging on. Concentrating in silence for a while, the only sounds were the rumblings of their stomachs. “I just remembered there’s a chocolatier and a florist around here so you'd think we'd run into something somewhere.” Lee threw his light beam ahead as far as he could, making an arc. “Valentine’s Day was months ago,” she teased. “But, hey, I wouldn't turn down a box of chocolates!” “Is that how Viktor woos you?” The question popped out of nowhere, but it had been burning a hole in his brain ever since he woke her. Gal stumbled over a few crumbled remnants, nearly twisting her ankle. “What? You know Viktor?” Lee steadied her by the elbow, bracing himself. “Are you married or seeing someone?” Amused by his worried jealousy, she shook her head, choking down a lump of humility. “No, I was engaged to him but…” She slid down the wall and sat on a pile of broken bricks. “Oh crap, he died, didn't he? I'm sorry. I'm a clod for bringing it up.” He thumped his head, taking a seat on a nearby heap. “No, you're not. He's fine, unfortunately. Alive and kicking as far as I know.” Galaxy sighed. “He left. I loved him, and he left. He double-crossed me, actually.” She was barely audible, feeling foolish for admitting it aloud, for falling for Vik’s games. “Double-crossed? You mean—” “I don’t get out much?” she offered, forcing a cheesy grin. “We worked together on anti-government missions, and if you must know, not only was he a backstabber, it turned out he was married. I wasted so much time on him and invested my heart—for what, for him to leave in the middle of Christmas and hop a flight back to Russia to his little family?” She tossed a chunk of terra cotta. “Whoa—you hooked up with a Soviet spy?” “Yeah, silly me. That's what I get, right?” “No, Viktor sounds like a scumbag. If you want my opinion, you're better off without him.” “Thanks.” Their lengthy gaze said more than they were ready to admit. Gal hobbled to her feet. “Well, the way out won't find itself, will it?” They journeyed on until the flashlight dimmed. Lee flicked the screen. “Now what? I don't want to kill the battery. How's yours?” She dug into her suit pocket and switched on a bright light to their relief. “Airplane mode. See, I can be techno, but at least I'm not a nomophobe,” she teased. They continued on for several minutes before Gal spoke. “So exactly how do you know Vik, again? I destroyed everything about him so it's not like there's a paper trail. Are you spying on me when you 39

aren’t screwing me?” “No, it's nothing like that!” “Yeah, that's it, isn't it?” she nipped, suddenly irritable. “You managed to fish your I.D. out of my fake compartment behind the center drawer! No one knows about it, so how do you?” “Ah-ha!” he pointed. “You did steal my badge. I knew it! And then you have the nerve to blame me of false motives when you're the one who's a petty thief!” Nicked by betrayal, he stomped off a few feet ahead then called back, “Just so you know, I didn’t have to stoop so low to find out about Viktor. You were mumbling his name when I woke you.” “Oh…wow, I must have been really out of it. I haven't seen him in so long.” She followed her words into obscurity, catching up to Lee, reaching out to touch his hand. “I'm sorry for snapping.” “Yeah, well…same here,” he muttered. Lee kicked a brick aside, scraping a swath of broken bits ahead with his shoe. “I think we're letting the circumstances get the best of us.” Edgy but relieved, he wasn't ready to extinguish their fling just as it was beginning to smolder. They took a break on a stack. “Gal, you had me worried for a second. I thought I had a dueling challenge on my hands, making our actions the last two days really bad.” He stroked her hair. “Not to mention messy. And dangerous. That's something I'm against.” “You're against danger?” she chuckled. “Then boy are you in the wrong line of work! I'm sorry, truly— for everything. I told you I hadn't been myself lately.” “Well, I hope not everything!” he nudged. “But sounds like it’s still fresh. Are you sure we should be doing, ya know… this? Maybe it’s not the best idea.” “Absolutely! I’m tired of dwelling on him. It’s a relief to move on and you’re so much better for me.” She rested her head on his shoulder, then scooted away. “Unless you're attached?” “Nope. No one has roped this bronco,” he declared, pulling her close. “We sure wouldn't be here if I was. I don't hang my wash on someone else's line.” “Good!” Their eyes locked. “I mean, that we're both available. Okay, so we need to get out of here! We need food, showers, sleep.” Gal stood, brushing off crumbled bits of mortar, ready to plod on. The trek continued through the old basement. “Oh, FYI, Lee, I did take lasso lessons during an undercover rodeo mission once.” “Cool, I was hoping you had some skills. And just for the record, I didn’t snoop through your desk. I got a duplicate badge made. Different serial number and updated retinal scan.” “Well, that’s a relief. Thank you.” “But now that I know about your secret compartment, I will.” Noting the mischievous dance in his eyes, Gal gave him a playful shove, hiding her fear and secret plea that he never truly open it. “I’m sorry. I guess I just panicked. Vik’s really messed me up. It's hard to 40

trust anyone, you know?” Lee put his arm around her. “I get it. Relationships are complicated, especially in this business.” But just in case, I'm going to watch you like a hawk…

After a while, the path ran out in front of a door. “Go ahead, see if it opens,” Gal whispered. “It can't be that easy, right?” Lee turned the antique glass knob, probably breakable if need be. The handle jimmied but didn’t turn completely. “Just as I thought. Do you have a credit card or something?” “Why, because girls love to shop?” she scoffed, handing him her badge. He wrapped the lanyard around his hand for a firm grasp, sliding it between the doorjamb. After a satisfying click, Lee opened the creaky door, blowing off cobwebs from inside the frame. His light revealed coarse cement steps. “Well, here goes,” he said, taking Gal’s hand as they entered the threshold. “Where do you think it goes?” she whispered. “The GW bedroom?” “Very funny.” The narrow staircase spiraled steep, reeking of mildew. Allowing only single file, the spies climbed, the air more stale and suffocating the higher they went. Lee suspected Galaxy was on the verge of losing it, so he reached behind, offering his hand. “How ya doing back there?” “I’m holding up, thanks!” Just then the crunchy slip of her shoe flaked off concrete crumbs. “Whoa! I'm okay.” She stopped to take a deep breath, kicking off her heels and nursing her ankle. “I keep convincing myself that we're almost there. So, are we? I can’t stand much more of this.” “We must be, right? I can't imagine this going on much longer. I just want to get out of here. Can you believe we've been in the White House twelve hours?” Trudging up what seemed like one hundred flights, they finally faced another door. “Oh please don’t be locked,” Gal whispered. Lee tried the handle, moving it freely but the door didn’t budge. They leaned against it, exhausted and frustrated, thinking of plan B. “I bet it hasn’t been open in so long that it’s warped,” Lee concluded. “If we just push on it with all our might, we could pop it open.”


“What might? I haven’t an ounce of strength left,” Gal sighed, feeling defeated. “Well, let’s muster what we can. Sometimes people get superhuman power in dire circumstances.” “Oh, right—that’s easy for you, Superman!” Taking a deep breath and on the count of three, they rammed into the door as hard as they could. Gal winced with pain, but it worked—the door swung in. “Yay!” their weak cheers triumphed, forcing it further and peeking in. “It is a bedroom!” Gal laughed. “As long as it’s not POTUS' quarters, any other room is fine with me!” “Wouldn’t that be a rude awakening?” They shivered, imagining the imploding chaos of explaining themselves to Secret Service. Venturing inside, they vaulted across the wide bed. Galaxy sunk into the pillows, partially swathed by lacy curtains flowing out from under a crushed velvet valance. “I feel like royalty!” “My spine is very grateful right now. You know, I have new found sympathy for shoving Talon Smythe into that locker in ninth grade,” he chuckled, stretching out. “That doesn't sound very nice,” Gal scolded in surprise. “Where's my All-American hero?” “I don't know about hero,” he hooted. “But before I joined the agency, I raised some hell on the ranch. That's how boarding school and I got acquainted. Ha, it was pretty embarrassing being expelled by your own mother, but in my defense, Tal deserved it. He wrapped up 'farm fresh' gifts and played Santa with the neighborhood mailboxes.” “That's terrible,” Gal gasped, not sure whether to laugh or be horrified. “He had a mean spirit. I'm pretty sure he did time in juvie.” “Wait, your mother had you expelled? That seems extreme. Don't parents usually stick up for their kids?” “She didn’t have a choice, being high school principal and all.” Gal winced. “Ouch, that would be mortifying. And what about Talon? I wonder how he turned out.” “He's an FBI agent now.” They laughed at the irony. “We cross path sometimes, on much better terms, which is more than I can say for my stomach. We have to find some food or a way out.” Gal propped herself up, looking around the room. “Try your light. See if there are any signs to tell us where we are.” The roaming beam detected a Victorian décor in goldenrod and deep plum with a painting of Honest Abe anchored between tasseled curtains. “I'll take the Lincoln Bedroom for one hundred, Alex,” she guessed when a spotlight fell on a museum marker below the portrait. “I should have known. The bed seems extra-long.” An authority on height himself, he spread out like a 42

snow angel. “Did you know Lincoln never slept in this room?” “Your history is messed up,” she snorted. “Well, he still used the sitting area as an office, but sadly his son died of typhoid fever in this bed.” Gal scrambled off, creeped out. “I'm sure there's been a revolving door of mattresses since. Plenty of other presidents and guests have camped here.” Patting the covers, he coaxed her back in, then whispered, “So, wanna do the Abe and Mary?” “I thought you were hungry?” she scoffed, amused. “I am,” he muffled, nibbling her earlobes. “Well, how can we do that if they never slept here?” she quipped. Settling comfortably against the pillows, she clutched her rumbling stomach. “Too bad the dumbwaiter's broken. We could call up for room service.” “Hey, we’re not at the Plaza, but I know what you mean.” He swept her into the spooning position, plucking a stray cobweb from her hair. “If that thing hadn't hurled we probably wouldn’t be here, which is all my fault so let me make it up to you. C’mon, the Lincoln bedroom… when will we ever have this chance again?” “Ha, too late, I already used that reasoning earlier.” She traced the defining veins in his rugged hands. “The ticket's transferable for this ride too, you know.” He prickled whispers down her neck. The stimulating chills were arousing, the daring location alluring. Wrapped in his strong arms, she felt. She knew his logic made sense. After all they’ve been through that night, they might as well go all in. Maybe it was the delirium talking but wouldn’t it make a great story to tell someday? “Well, since it is a Presidential Suite,” she smiled, straddling his lap. “I’d say it’s our patriotic duty to call this congress to order.” They lounged contently, smoothing the bedspread between them. “I think we just made history,” Lee sighed, caressing her arm. “Oh, is that what you'd call it?” she smiled, snuggling close. “Well, I'm afraid we'll be history if we don't feed our souls with something more substantial.” Spotting a plastic map on the parlor table, she stumbled off the bed, famished. “Fire escape routes. Maybe we can find the exit.” They studied the color-coded maze. “Okay, it’s almost six. Breakfast should be in the works. The Prez must be up or close to it if he's in town.” Lee creaked the door a smidge to survey the hall. All appeared still, so they crept out, getting a step in before distant voices forced them to duck inside just in time. Sighing relief, they shared a giggle and a tender glance. Their forbidden adventure twinkled excitement in Lee's eyes, and suddenly, Gal felt bad for trying to


derail him. He really was a nice guy. Wait, what was she thinking? Girl, stick to the plan! But that was easier said than done. Whenever she vowed to resist his charms, she was never quite resilient enough to ward him off. But time was ticking and her alliance would soon have to change. Or would it…. Behind Frenemy Lines © 2017 Chele Pedersen Smith Find out where Lee and Gal rendezvous next, where they’ve been, what else Galaxy’s hiding, Lee’s sly moves and skeletons of his own, and their most surprising culprit yet in Behind Frenemy Lines, on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Chele, short for Michele, lives in Massachusetts and writes an array of genres sprinkled with humor. She is the author of five novels: “Behind Frenemy Lines,” “The Pearly Gates Phone Company” {real minimiracles}, “The Epochracy Files” {time-twisting tales}, “Chronicle of the Century” {a futuristic time capsule/diary mystery}, and her newest, “The Mysterious Gifts of Tinsel Town” {A Christmas fantasy/ mystery}.








A Shattered Marriage is the first book in the His Deadly Betrayal series by Author C.M. Santoro; indulge yourself inside this novella and feel all of the emotions that Julie is feeling towards the husband she loves but desperately despises; will she walk away peacefully or seal someone's fate inside of a body bag first? Julie desperately fights for her marriage—a marriage her husband Bill treats as a hobby. The less time he spends with his wife, the more time he spends with his assistant, Steffy, who wants him all for herself. She will stop at nothing to make that happen. While Bill finds an excuse to leave, Julie begins to find herself. An old friend resurfaces after the death of his mother. Julie and James reconnect as they mourn their losses, and memories of the heart draw them closer. But is James’ reinsertion into her life as simple as it seems? Will the rising suspicion of her husband’s affair give Julie the strength to move on? Can she accept the love she deserves—more importantly, who will have to die if she does?




By Michael Danese Copyright 2021 by Michael Danese ### The doorbell rang and John rushed to open it. “You must be Aurora, please come in! Wow, I was afraid that you wouldn’t look anything like your picture, but you look even better!” Aurora entered with a little giggle. He wasn’t kidding. She was dazzling. She was tall and slender, with long red hair, a few freckles and blazing red lipstick. She slowly dropped her coat along her short skirt, bare legs, then down around her high heels, to reveal a barely-there black dress and all the French perfume you would care to smell. “It’s nice to meet you, John. What a lovely room! I assume we have it all night?” John was in his late forties with thinning gray hair. He was a paunchy guy wearing a blue sports jacket, white shirt, and a blue tie. “Yes, we do. Can I take your coat?” he said. She leaned way down to pick up her coat as John enjoyed the view. She handed it to him and walked towards the small table. “Champagne, my favorite!” she said. John rushed over and nervously poured two glasses. He handed one to Aurora and they clinked. “To fun!” she said. She sensed his anxiety and said, “Relax, big fella! Tonight is all about you!” She took his glass and put it on the table. She hugged him and kissed his cheek. “Thanks, yes, I’m a little nervous, I’ve never…” “Shh,” she said as she placed a well-manicured finger over his lips. “Why don’t you loosen that tie and make yourself more comfortable? I’m going to go into the bathroom and freshen up a bit.” She emerged a few minutes later wearing a hint of a negligee and still wearing her heels. He was sitting on the bed wearing his boxers, a white tee shirt and socks.“That’s a bit more comfortable than I expected,” she said with a laugh. “I…I’m sorry,” he said trying to cover himself up with a pillow. “You’re fine. Relax, remember, this is all about you,” she said with a big smile that revealed dimples deep enough to park a Buick. He took a deep breath. “Are you ready for some fun?” she asked. • “Um, yes!” he said. “Do you trust me?” she asked while she wrinkled her nose. “I…I guess so, sure,” he said. “Great, I want you to follow my instructions. You’re gonna love this. Lay back on the bed and reach for the corners with you hands and feet,” she said. He reluctantly complied. She then took out four pairs of handcuffs. “Wait, I’m not comfortable with that!” he exclaimed. She unbuttoned the top button of her negligee, “Come on, don’t ruin the fun!” She slowly cuffed his hands and feet to the bed. Then she took out her phone and made a quick text. A few seconds later, there was a knock at the door. “Who’s that? Please send them away!” pleaded John. Aurora opened the door and a man with a ski mask entered. He immediately began taking pictures as John went wild on the bed. Aurora climbed on top of him and hugged him as she posed for the photos. After several seconds, the man stopped. “I’m so sorry John,” she said as she removed his wallet from his pants that were in a heap on the floor. The man handed her a sharpie. “This is how this will work best for you,” she said while thumbing through the wallet. She removed his ATM card, an American Express card, a Visa, and a Mastercard. “You’re going to give me the PIN numbers for these cards, and we will destroy the photos and have someone unlock you soon. Look, I’m putting the key to the handcuffs on this table. Or, if you refuse, the photos will be sent to your wife, your office and Instagram.” “Please, don’t do this, you will ruin me, please!” John begged. “Nah, you’ll survive, you’ll just lose some money. The cards will cover your loss, if you report it,” she said. “Now, if you refuse, yeah, you’ll be ruined,” she said, wrinkling her nose again and smiling. “Okay, okay, the cards all have the same number, it’s 1978,” he said with a whisper. “Your birthday year! Not very secure, my friend,” she said. “And, if you’re lying, and this number doesn’t work, you’ll be ruined, and no one will come to unlock you until the maid turns up tomorrow.” “The number will work,” he muttered. She gathered her belongings and slipped into her coat. “Thanks for a lovely evening John. I told you it would be memorable!” • The couple hugged in the hallway and walked towards the elevator. He removed his ski mask. 53

She began to remove her wig. “No, leave it on. ATMs have cameras. You need to maintain the look for a few hours yet. We will hit a few different ones, then after midnight we will do it again because these cards have daily limits. And don’t forget to wear those big dark sunglasses at the ATMs” he said. “Right, I forgot. Then after we hit the last ATM I’ll call the hotel and say I heard something strange coming from the hotel room and they will rescue that loser,” she said. “How was it for you? You seem pretty proud of yourself,” he asked. “Honestly, it was exhilarating! I felt like a quarterback in the Super Bowl! For a first effort I don’t think I could have asked for more,” she said. “I figured as much. I will admit, it was a rush!” said Riggy. Now, gentle reader, before this continues, let’s rewind a few months to see how this plan came together. The nectar of spring flowers filled the air as Riggy walked through the manicured grass on the quad. He is a tall, muscular guy, a former high school running back, but not quite good enough to make the jump to college. He is a bit Brad Pitt-ish, at least that is what the girls said. He’s wearing a State tee shirt and blue shorts. He entered the union building and sank into one of the huge leather sofas. As he was reading a textbook, he was distracted by a whiff of French fries coming from the snack bar. He glanced in that direction and saw a girl buying some. He recognized her from a class. She was a natural beauty, tall and thin with shoulder length blond hair. She reminded him of Grace Kelly, with bigger dimples and a better body. She was wearing a tank top, shorts and sneakers. He decided to try his luck. He walked over and stood behind her so when she turned around she would be facing him. When she did, they were face to face. “Oh, hi, hey, aren’t you in my philosophy class?” “Are you sure, that’s a huge class,” she said. “Believe me, in all of your classes, every guy in the class knows you’re in it, and lotsa girls too,” he said, flashing that smile. “Get out of here!” she replied. “No, really, I remember seeing you in class thinking that when God was creating Eve, he envisioned a face so beautiful that Adam could never resist. And the face he saw was yours,” he said. “Ha! Does that line actually work for you?” she said with a laugh. “Well, it’s a work in progress,” he said. • “It needs more work,” she said, returning his smile, “a lot more!” “Yeah, I know, pretty lame. Riggy,” he said, extending his hand. “Hi, I’m Alisha. Riggy?” “Yeah, actually it’s Rocco, but when I was little the kids called me Riggy and it sorta stuck.” “I kinda like it,” she said tilting her head and giving a sly smile. “Let me guess, finance major?” “No, poli-sci, then law school, a least that’s the plan,” said Riggy. “You?” “Pre-med.” “Our parents would be so proud we met,” said Riggy. “Well, yours would,” said Alisha with a laugh. “Wanna share my fries?” “Finally! That’s why I came over, ya know.” They made their way back to a couch and slowly ate fries and talked for a while. Eventually they turned their attention to some of the others in the area. “What about her?” he asked. “She definitely has at least seven cats, and she can discuss the personality traits of each for hours,” she said. “Him?” “Oh, that guy will struggle to use his history degree, and within a year he’ll be selling used cars,” he said. “Them?” “Next month she’ll tell him she’s pregnant, crushing his dreams of a minor league baseball contract,” she said. Their sarcastic wit was just the tip of their compatibility. They became close friends over the next few months and were inseparable. They even spoke of being soulmates. Over breakfast one morning they began to think about the end of the semester. “What are you thinking for the summer? Summer session? Travel?” asked Riggy. “All of those things cost money, which I don’t have. I’ll need to get a job someplace. Maybe at that Prime Cut place that spins at the top of the Marriott. I know a bartender there. My loans are killing me. I’m going to need some cash. I may need to take a year off,” she said. “Yeah, I hear ya, I’m in the same boat. I was thinking of a construction job. That’s what I did last summer” he said. “Ha, check out this story, I read about it online,” he said as he turned up the TV. 54

Unfortunately, the story just ended so Riggy summarized, “Apparently a prominent businessman hired an escort. When they were in a hotel room, she tied him up and robbed him. A maid called the police and from there the story went viral. It ruined the guy.” • “Serves him right!” said Alisha. “Hmmm …” “What?” he said. “No, I was thinking … hypothetically, if it was done right, and you carefully planned it out, you could make some serious money with that scheme,” said Alisha. “Yeah, except for the crime factor,” said Riggy. “Well, no one needs to get hurt. It’s all in the planning,” she said. “So, you’ll work as an escort? Your mom would be so proud!” “No, of course not,” she said, then continued, almost thinking out loud, “We’ll use Tinder. We’ll create a profile for me where it states I’m looking for fun only. I’ll say I’m looking for mature guys, older than forty. I’ll require meeting in an expensive hotel room with a bottle of champagne on ice. I’ll get a long red wig, green contacts, add some freckles and red lipstick, stilettos and some vampy clothes. You can take a few sexy photos and we’ll be in business! We’ll be able to pick and choose who we respond to,” she said. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” he said. “You always said you were up for an adventure this summer, and an adventure means risk,” she said. “I didn’t include jail in that risk,” he said. “Consider the risk/reward ratio, and we could pay down some serious debt,” she said. “I can see you’re already leaning into this. Let’s work on the plan, try to think of every variable and see where it takes us,” he said. So that’s how we got to where we are now. After their successful adventure in the hotel room with John they made a few thousand dollars. As you might expect, Aurora’s Tinder was blown up with guys looking to have fun. They waded through the swipers to identify their next targets. For the three months they played out their fantasy suite scenario a few nights a week and amassed quite a pile of cash. In the last few weeks, Riggy grew weary of this. He was tired of these guys pawing his girlfriend, and to him, the risk was outweighing the reward. They argued about it, and soon Alisha gave in. They decided that tonight would be Aurora’s swan song. And why not? They had a good run and made more money than they ever imagined. Robert was the victim de jour. Aurora entered the hotel room and Robert behaved according to the script. After she had Robert spread-eagle on the bed, she texted Riggy and he entered wearing the ski mask. “Listen, you seem like nice kids. Please let me assure you that you’re making a huge mistake. I promise this won’t end well for you,” said Robert. • “We’ll see about that,” said Aurora. “Now, give us the PINs for these cards and we’ll be on our way. You’ll be free soon enough.” “You’ll regret this!” said Robert. Then he started coughing violently. “Drink, drink!” he managed to say as he pointed to his glass near Riggy. Riggy took the glass and held it to Robert’s lips so he could take a few sips. He quickly returned the glass to the table. “Come on, let’s get outta here.” As soon as they were clear, Riggy said, “I don’t have a good feeling about tonight. That’s the last time for sure.” “Yes, you’re right, it really isn’t much fun anymore,” said Alisha. After they made the call to the hotel, Robert gained his freedom. He thanked the staff, then begged for their discretion. The night manager assured him that discretion was part of their brand. As soon as they left, Robert grabbed the glasses and put them into small bags. He then went around the room and removed three cameras that he had hidden. The next day he reviewed his footage at home. He noted a small butterfly tattoo on Aurora’s ankle, and a hint of a part of a scar on Riggy’s forearm. He then dusted the glasses for their fingerprints. Robert wasn’t kidding when he warned them. As a private detective, he can easily track people down. He printed some still frames from the video and uploaded the fingerprints. Why the cameras, you may be wondering? It seems that Robert also had a seedy sidehustle going. When the PI business got slow, he occasionally lured beautiful women to hotel rooms and had sex in view of his hidden cameras. He would then edit the footage and blur out the faces. Then he would sell the finished videos to porn sites for a hefty fee. This time, he was able to edit the footage into an indictment of guilt for the young couple. When he got the fingerprint results back, he found that he got a hit on Riggy’s from a juvenile record. “Hello Mr. Rocco Foglia,” he said. He was quickly able to track down Riggy’s address. Robert staked out Riggy’s apartment for 55

several days. He eventually deduced that the tall blond was Aurora. Then he saw Riggy drive up and park and unload groceries from his car. He knew Aurora was already at home. He walked up behind Riggy and when he got close, he said, “Hey Rocco!” Riggy quickly turned around and all he saw was the gun. “Keep walking inside. We’ll talk there,” Robert said in a whisper. As soon as they were inside, Alisha said from the other room, “You can just put those things on the table. I’ll be right out to help to put them away.” Robert gestured with the gun. “I … I need you to come out right now,” said Riggy. “What’s up?” Alisha said as she entered the room. Then she saw the gun, then Robert. “Who are you?” • “I’m the guy you soaked for three grand,” Robert replied. “First, you go and get my cash, now! And you, sit on that couch.” Alisha shot a glance at Riggy. “Please get him his money,” Riggy whimpered. A few seconds later Alisha emerged from the bedroom with a wad of cash. “It’s all there, you can count it. Please mister, we don’t want any trouble,” pleaded Alisha. “Oh, it’s much too late for that. Where are my credit cards?” said Robert. “Shredded,” said Riggy. “Figgered that. Okay. Sit next to Rocco, Aurora, or whatever your name is. Do you remember my warnings? I told you not to do it, that you would be sorry, and now I’m going to prove myself right,” said Robert. He took his phone from his pocket, and started a video, then he handed the phone to Alisha. They watched in horror as the entire incident in the hotel played out. He also handed them a few stills showing the tattoo and the scar. “I also have your fingerprints from the glasses. I’ve got you, dead to rights.” “So … now what?” asked Alisha. “I guess I could call the police and you can come clean, then you can rot in jail,” said Robert. “Yeah, I don’t think that’s gonna happen. You wouldn’t be here with a gun and all this cloak and dagger stuff,” said Riggy. “Righto, college boy! You’re going to do your little dog and pony show one last time, for me. And in return I’ll destroy the video. Or, I’ll upload it to social media along with your names and also send it to the police. I still have some contacts there. They love when a case comes in all wrapped with a bow,” said Robert. “Oh, so you’re an ex-cop,” said Riggy. “That explains a lot.” “Ex-detective, to be exact, but enough about me. Let me explain how this next chapter will play out. There’s this police commissioner, August West, that always had it in for me. He blackmailed me into resigning. You’re gonna put on your little whore costume and get him to take you to a hotel. After you have him handcuffed, you’ll text me and I’ll come in. We’ll take a few of those photos that you love, Then you can get outta my sight forever. I’ll destroy the video file,” said Robert. “What are you going to do then?” asked Alisha. “Not that it matters to you, but I’m going to negotiate my job back! If he doesn’t agree, you’ll be famous when I post the photos and ruin him. So, pray it doesn’t come to that,” said Robert. “I … I won’t do it! Can’t do it!” said Alisha. “Okay, your choice,” said Robert as he took the phone back and started to push a few buttons. “I’ll just post this video to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I’ll tag you both, along with the university. And, for good measure, I’ll also post the photos. What a shame, and so close to fulfilling your dreams!” “Wait!” said Riggy. “Give us a second.” “Us? You’re not the one blackmailing the police commissioner!” said Alisha. “True, but I’ll also be ruined if this doesn’t happen,” said Riggy. After a few minutes of heated discussion, Alisha agreed. “Excellent! It will happen tonight. He spends most nights at McSorley’s Pub. I know he has a thing for tall redheads, so you’re a cinch. I’ll be keeping a close eye. When you have him all locked down, text me at this number and I’ll be at the door,” said Robert with a wicked tone. He handed her a piece of paper with the number and a photo. “Here’s a recent picture of him, just so there’s no mistake.” “What should I say to him?” she asked. “Easy,” said Robert, “ask him if he’s famous, say you saw him on TV or in the papers, he’ll eat that up. Okay, I’m done here. Remember, if it doesn’t go down as I said, or if you don’t show up, a posting I will go.” That night, at about 9:30, Aurora strolled into McSorley’s. Every head turned to watch. Riggy was in the far corner. Robert was in another corner. She spotted Commissioner West at the bar and sat a few stools away. West was a grizzly looking man in his mid-fifties, almost bald and overweight. He had on an unbuttoned white dress shirt and a gray sports jacket. He turned towards her and looked her over. When his eyes finally reached her face, she smiled.


A man in a natty three-piece suit descended on Alisha. “Hey, how about a drink?” “I’d love one! I’m just waiting for my father to come out of the bathroom. You, know, prostate problems. He would love a drink too!” said Alisha. The guy got the message and withdrew. West watched the scene play out and let out an audible chuckle. Alisha saw her opening. “Hey, I’m sorry, but I’m sure I know you! Aren’t you famous, like on TV or in movies?” she said while batting her big green eyes. “Well, I don’t know about famous, but I’ve been on TV a few times when we had big cases,” said West, all proud of himself. “Wow, I’ll bet you have great stories!” she said as she moved over one stool to be next to him. “I have stories that will curl your toes,” said West. “I’m Aurora,” she said, extending her hand. “August,” he said as he shook her tiny hand. “Now, about that drink…?” She tilted her head and gave her trademarked wrinkled smile. Game. Set. Match. • Before long they were in a hotel room. He was feeling great with himself. Alisha, not so much. “Listen, I’m sorry, I just can’t do this,” she said. “I won’t hurt you, I promise,” he said as he took off his jacket. “No, it isn’t that. I mean, I really can’t do this. I have a confession to make. I’m here because someone is forcing me to. To blackmail you,” she said in a low voice. “What? Who? Why?” West said angrily. “He’s a former detective. Robert. He said you blackmailed him into resigning, and he wants his job back,” she said. “Ha! Porno Bob? He’s behind this? Let me guess, he lured you into bed and took some dirty pictures, right?” asked West. “Yes, well, something like that. I’m scared, August. He said he’ll ruin my life if I don’t do what he says,” she said. “This will do it for him. He was accused of this before, with ties to the porno industry. We couldn’t prove anything, so I gave him the opportunity to keep his dignity and resign. I actually did him a favor! So, what does he want you to do? What’s the plan?” “I’m to get you into bed and handcuff your hands and feet, then call him. He’ll come in and make me pose with you in photos. Then I guess he will use the photos to get his job back. I’m so sorry…” “My dear! This isn’t your fault! You did the right thing coming clean. I’ll make sure nothing happens to you,” said West. “Now, go ahead and make that call.” He then took his Glock from his holster and put it under the pillow on his lap. She texted, and within seconds there was a knock at the door. She opened the door and Robert burst in with a camera and his pistol drawn. When he saw that West wasn’t handcuffed, he turned angrily towards Alisha. “You lying bitch!” He then pointed the gun at West. West shot through the pillow two times and Robert fell to the floor. “You better get out of here, my dear. I’ll take it from here,” said West. Alisha was so scared and horrified that she could hardly talk. “I … I’m so sorry, so sorry …” she said. Then she had a brief moment of clarity, “his phone, it has a video of me …” “Take it,” said West. Alisha fished the phone from his pocket and tried not to get any of the gushing blood on her hands, but it was unavoidable. She ran out and down the stairs. She ran around the corner to Riggy. He hugged her hard. Soon sirens blared and several police cars arrived at the front of the hotel. He tried to wipe her tears, but it was no use. • She was in shock all the way home. She wasn’t able to tell him how it went down for almost an hour, and even then, it was a sketchy description. Riggy helped her to get a shower and get into bed. He took all of her Aurora costume, including the wig and the heels and stuffed it into a large black trash bag. He then threw some trash on top of the clothes and tied up the bag. He then threw the bag into the smelliest dumpster he could find, which was behind a Chinese restaurant. Then he stopped at a bridge over the river and threw the phone as far as he could. The next morning the media was abuzz with the story. It even appeared on CNN. The headline in the city newspaper read, “Police Commissioner kills disgruntled ex-detective in self-defense.” There was not a hint of Aurora in any of the accounts. Riggy and Alisha were different people now. The experience brought them closer together, whether it was the shared guilt, or the good fortune of not going to jail. They knew they were responsible for the death of someone, even if he brought it on himself. By now they had spent most of the money, which they now thought of as dirty. They decided to donate what they had left, which was still considerable, anonymously to charities dealing with sex trafficking. They never spoke of this summer again.















Love After Life by Julianna Rowe

Jack and I were everything to one another, though we never realized just how connected we truly were. We shared a love that would live on even after the death of it - and us - to begin anew and lead us on a journey that will last for all of time and eternity.

Reviews: 5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible is all I can say The author has a perfect way of weaving a story. Highly recommend. 5.0 out of 5 stars Love for all time This story is by an author new to me. I was drawn in by a stunning cover that didn't have all the color and glitz, but told a story. I really liked that.The blurb completed the feeling of drawing me in.The characters were strong and the interactions seemed realistic. It gives hope that love springs eternally. I'd recommend this book to any detail oriented readers. 5.0 out of 5 stars SPIRITUAL PLUS EARTHLY BLENDING Ms. Rowe has a real talent in her ability to describe her characters that make them live, giving them an existence which captivates the reader. Another talent, as displayed in this book, is her insight into always adding spiritual occurrences along with the earthly scenes which add dimensions that most authors do not attempt to describe, yet they do exist. That addition also captivates the reader.


A.E. Michaels is an avid reader and an up-and-coming author. She loves sticking her nose in multiple genres and is always looking for the next best read! She is raising three future authors and artists and when she isn't doing that, she can be found hiking Northern California, building her confectionary business, and refinishing antique furniture. She has to be a busy bee always! 72


Savannah McCann


Texas Morning Sun Series

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM Book one of Texas Morning Sun series Savannah McCann

"Taste of the story." CALM BEFORE THE STORM

A couple of months have passed since the night they kissed in the rain. Ethan and Macy are now inseparable. Ethan has asked Macy to move in with him shortly after they start seeing each other because she was there with him every day anyway, so there’s no sense in her going home. They have grown very close over the past months; Macy is completely in love with Ethan, and he knows it. She’s good to him and Hailee. In fact, Hailee calls Macy mommy quite a lot. Macy doesn’t mind and the mommy role fits her to a tee. You would never know that Hailee isn't her biological daughter if you didn't know them, because of the love they show each other and how much Macy mothers her. Macy loves Ethan and therefore she loves his daughter without question like she is her own little girl. He’s never felt about Amber, Hailee's mother, like he feels for Macy. He guesses that's the reason he doesn't say he loves Macy out loud. It’s because he’s afraid that things will change, once his heart is exposed. When he’d let Hailee’s mother know that he cared for her, she purposely used those feelings against him to get what she wants from him. Amber likes to play games and over the past months that Macy and Ethan have been together, Amber has tried to start trouble. She called one afternoon and told Ethan that she didn't want Hailee around Macy because she didn't like Hailee calling Macy mommy. Amber demanded Macy out of Ethan's house and his and Hailee's life. Ethan told her that he isn’t breaking up with Macy to satisfy Amber's wants and that it’s been over between him and Amber for years and he has no intention of going back...ever. Ethan hung up the phone as Amber was still screaming at him. Furious, Amber calls Ethan back and starts a fight with him, telling him that until Macy is gone, he can’t have Hailee on his weekend visits. Macy overhears the argument and when Ethan hangs up on Amber again, she volunteers to go back to her house until things settle down with Amber. This way, Ethan can still see his daughter. So, Macy grabs some of her things, gives him a sweet kiss, and tells Ethan that she loves him and to come over anytime, but he must put his daughter first. Although he lets her, Ethan isn’t happy about Macy going back to her house as it’s disrupting their life together. Angered, he calls Amber and tells her, “Stay out of my life. It’s none of your business who I spend my time with or who I plan to marry.” “Marry?” Amber yells. “Yes, marry. I'm in love with Macy, Amber,” He tells her firmly. Amber slams down her phone and starts screaming in her living room at the top of her lungs; she is throwing things around her house. By the time her tantrum is done, she hatches a plan to make Ethan leave Macy for good. A couple of nights pass by before Ethan finally shows up to bring Macy back home. It is about three o'clock in the morning. He hasn't slept a wink since Macy moved back to her house. Ethan decides that he’s going to get her and doesn’t care how late it is. When he gets to her house, he checks the back door they always use, but it’s locked. He tries the front door that they never use and that’s locked too. Finally, he goes to Macy's bedroom window and wakes her up to let him into the house. Ethan scares Macy as he is tapping on the window while she is sleeping. Macy opens the back door and lets Ethan inside. He immediately wraps her up in his arms and kisses her. “Oh! Ethan, you scared the hell out of me!” She tells him, half-joking and half sleepily. He laughs and pulls her in closer to him again. “I miss you. I want you to come home.” Macy looks at him with her pretty green eyes and says, “I want that more than anything, to come back and be a family with Hailee like we have been. I’m worried about Amber though.” “Don’t you worry about Amber. It’s really late, let’s pack some of your clothes.” His words reassure her. “In the morning, I'll move back home,” she tells him as she grabs his hand, turns off the kitchen light, and leads Ethan back to her bedroom. Once inside, she stands in front of him and takes off her clothes before walking up to him. They kiss and she helps him out of his clothes. Picking her up and delighting in her little squeal, Ethan carries her to the bed while the couple kisses passionately. He gently puts her down, gets in bed himself, and they make love. Macy looks Ethan in the eyes and says, “I love you E, and I want to wake up to you, and only you, for the rest of my life.” Ethan looks at her and still doesn’t say that he loves her; he just kisses her deeply even though he feels the love he has for 75

her in his body and soul. Macy feels a tinge of hurt because she thought for sure he'd tell her now, now that he has come for her, but he didn’t say the words. She can feel his love in every touch and see it in his eyes every time he looks at her; she just needs to be satisfied with the fact that he will tell her in his own time. The next morning, before Ethan leaves for work, he tells Macy he hopes that she will be moved back into his house by the time he gets home from work. Macy kisses him goodbye and tells him that if he’s lucky, she'd be there. Ethan tells her that it feels like his lucky day. He gets in his pick-up truck and drives away. Macy knows that she loves him enough to endure anything that Amber throws at them, but Macy has no idea the pain and heartbreak that Amber is planning for her and how Amber will force Ethan back into Amber’s arms. Amber knows she has something that Macy doesn't have...Ethan's daughter, Hailee, who she can use to get her own way. About four months have passed since Macy moved back to Ethan’s home. Amber has been leaving Macy and Ethan alone, although Macy is sure it’s just the calm before the storm. One Saturday afternoon, Ethan invites over their friends, Cari and Chance, for a BBQ. Macy prepares the homemade BBQ sauce, potato salad, and baked beans while Ethan cooks the chicken and burgers. Cari and Chance brought a dessert and a side dish of coleslaw. Chance and Ethan are outside drinking beer, enjoying the hot Texas day, and shooting the breeze about their workweek and the upcoming hunting season. Leaving the boys to it, Cari enters the house while Macy is cooking up her BBQ sauce. “I come bearing gifts,” Cari says, as she shows Macy the fifth of Tequila. “Nice!” Macy exclaims. Cari unscrews the cap, takes a swig, then hands the bottle to Macy. The two girls pass the bottle back and forth and chit-chatted while they wait for the BBQ sauce and beans to finish cooking. “So, have you had any more problems with Amber?” Cari asks. “No, not really,” Macy says. “Just her usual ranting to Ethan about how she doesn’t want Hailee calling me mommy because I'm not her mommy. I think it's just the calm before the storm and when her storm hits, it’s going to obliterate everything in its path. She’s like a tornado of devastation; we don’t know when she’s going to hit, but when she does, there will be casualties and destruction left behind.” “Just be careful Mace, Amber is pure evil and she is overly obsessed with Ethan. I was really surprised that she took off with Hailee for that year and never told Ethan where they were, but I think it was some kind of strategy for the future. She can use Hailee to get what she wants from him. So Mace, don’t put your guard down with her, ever,” Cari tells her seriously. “I know,” Macy says in a small, concerned voice. She takes another swig from the bottle of tequila. The BBQ sauce is finally done, so Macy takes it out to Ethan so he can put sauce on the chicken and burgers. Macy and Cari hop up on Ethan's truck tailgate, close to the BBQ fire pit, and continue to talk about everything and anything as they pass the tequila bottle back and forth between them. Ethan asks the girls to keep an eye on the BBQ because he and Chance are taking a ride up the dirt road really quickly on the four-wheelers. “Alright.” She gives him a sweet smile before he leaves. After about 15 minutes, the guys race back up the dirt driveway on the four-wheelers and park them. “Did you check the BBQ?” Ethan asks as he walks toward Macy. “Yes,” Macy answers. He gets closer to her, grins, and says, “Did you get drunk and burn the burgers?” Macy laughs. “Can't you ever say anything nice to me?” She’s sitting next to Cari as he approaches and pulls her close to him. “Here's something nice for you; I love you.” He kisses her. Macy just looks at him; he smiles and walks over to the fire pit to check on the chicken and burgers, then turns and smiles at her again. Still in shock, Macy sits there, trying to process what he’s just said. Even though she had known that he loves her, he hasn’t said it until today. Now, she feels complete. One warm afternoon, about two weeks after the BBQ with Chance and Cari, Ethan and Macy are traveling to the river to do some skeet shooting. Ethan stops his truck in the middle of the dirt road and turns down the radio. He looks at Macy with a blank, serious expression on his face. Macy’s stomach feels uneasy. “Macy, I've been thinking, and I want us to get married.” Macy just stares at him, shocked. She says nothing, so he nervously carries on. “Macy, I want to marry you. I love you, and I'm happy with you. I don't want anyone else, only you for the rest of my life.” Macy's heart races; her butterflies are really stirring this time. “I want to marry you too, Ethan.” He kisses her, pulls out a ring with a small diamond, and puts it on her finger. She slides as close to him as she can and kisses him, telling him that he makes her happy. She has never been this happy in her life before him. He kisses her again and then continues driving to the river. Macy keeps sneaking glimpses of his face while he’s driving; she could see him smiling, and when he looks at her, it’s in such a loving way. She prays that this life with him will never end, but lingering in the back of her mind is Amber’s name. It has been a few months since Ethan proposed; Macy and Cari make wedding plans and try on dresses, not that Macy has liked any yet. The girls make plans for the next weekend that they have Hailee, so they can take her to a bridal shop 76

in Denton to find a flower girl dress and hopefully a wedding and bridesmaid dresses too. Macy’s been feeling sick to her stomach for a little while now; she is vomiting in the mornings and midafternoon over the past few weeks while Ethan is at work. So, she calls the doctor’s office and makes an appointment for the following Tuesday — the earliest they could get her in to see the doctor. Cari suggests that she take a home test but Macy refuses, telling her that she wants a real test and didn't trust the home tests to give a real positive result. During the past week since making her appointment with her doctor, Ethan isn’t acting like his usual self. He's been distant and not saying much to Macy at all and they haven’t made love in at least four days, which is unlike them because they usually make love a couple of times a day. Macy isn't sure what’s going on, so she plans to ask him when he gets home from work. Macy makes a nice dinner, does all the laundry, and cleans the house for when he returns home. When they sit down to eat dinner, Macy asks the loaded question. “What is bothering you, Ethan? Are you having second thoughts about marrying me?” Ethan remains silent, in fear of his dilemma. He doesn't want to tell her that it’s about Amber because he knows she will worry. Macy carries on pleading. “Please, Ethan talk to me, baby.” Eventually, he tells her the truth. “Amber has been hired at the chemical plant I work at. She won’t leave me alone at work and is causing me a lot of trouble.” Macy's heart sinks to her stomach. She knows that this is the start of the storm she knew was coming and has been dreading for over a year. “Why is she at your work?” Macy asks. “I don't know, I think she’s just trying to keep an eye on me,” he answers. “She's been bugging me and following me around. I told her that you and I are getting married soon and that I’m not interested in her whatsoever, but it's like she doesn't hear the words I'm saying. Mace, I don't know what to do. She's making my job stressful and she's putting me in a terrible mood when I come home. I want to come home and be happy with you, but I'm worried that you will be upset with me, knowing I have to work with her all day. Then you might ask questions as to whether anything is going on between us,” he sighs and pushes his right hand through his hair. “Ethan, I trust you.” Macy comforts him. “It's Amber, that I don't trust.” She reaches for his hand from across the table and holds it. Ethan nods, thinking to himself that she has every right not to trust Amber. He thinks back to the heated conversation he and Amber had at work earlier that day. Amber storms up to Ethan at his work station. “We need to talk, now!” She demands. “I'm working, you're going to have to wait,” he tells her sharply. “No, now!” She raises her voice so that their colleagues could hear. Ethan looks around and sure enough, a couple of the other workers are watching what’s going on. Putting his tools down, Ethan tells her, “I'll be right back.” He goes to his boss and tells him he needs to take his 15 early to handle a situation concerning his daughter. Ethan's boss agrees and lets him leave. He walks back towards Amber, saying angrily, “Come on, then. Let's talk.” Amber follows him outside to his truck and gets in. He doesn't want anyone hearing their argument. Once the doors are closed, Ethan asks, “What the hell do you want, Amber?” She smirks at him and with a sinister laugh, she says, “You.”


He stares at her, speechless for a moment, and says, “I've told you that there is no way in hell that I'm going back to you. You are a sick demented, bitch.” “Oh yes, you are!” She half-yells. “No, I'm not, Amber. I love Macy!” he matches her yelling. Amber looks him dead in his eyes and says, “You will come back to me and you will marry me because if you don't, I'm going to take Hailee to another state and change our names. You will never see her again.” She pauses for effect, then continues. “She's only three Ethan, she'll forget all about you.” Her words are venomous. “When she starts asking about you, I'll tell her that you died in a car accident after she was born so she doesn't try to find you when she is older.” Ethan can’t keep his voice down. He blows up, “You're psychotic. I'm not leaving Macy!” “Oh, yes you are. And, if I don't have your answer to my little marriage proposal by tomorrow morning then Hailee and I will be gone by noon! Don't push me, Ethan! You don't know where Hailee is right now do you?” She says, sarcastically. Ethan just stares at her, afraid that if he responds, then he will reach over and choke her to death right there in the front seat of his truck. Amber stares right back with a smirk on her face. “Don't test me, Ethan. You have no idea what I'm capable of doing to you, but you do know I will take your daughter because I did it before...remember?” Every word feels like a knife stabbing into him. She carries on, enjoying hurting him. “And, since you are not listed on her birth certificate then you have no rights other than the ones I give you.” “Yes, I remember!” he says through clenched teeth. Suddenly, Amber pounces on him, trying to force him to kiss her. Ethan pushes her away so hard that she hits the truck door; he heard her gasp when she collides with the handle. “Heed my warning, Ethan. Leave the bitch, and marry me in front of your entire family or you're as good as dead to your daughter!” Amber orders him, then jumps out of his truck, slamming 77

the door behind her. While Amber is walking away, she turns and blows a kiss in his direction, then starts laughing. Ethan’s fury unleashes; he starts pounding at the steering wheel, venting about how much hate he has for Amber and wishing he’d never met her. He contemplates running her down in the parking lot with his truck, but he knows that would have dire consequences. I really love Macy, but my daughter is my life too, he thinks to himself. Sitting at the dinner table with a heavy heart, he stares at Macy, lost in his thoughts. Amber wants an answer to what Ethan is planning to do by the next morning and if he doesn't tell her what she wants to hear, then she will be gone with Hailee by noon. Ethan knows he's going to be hurting a woman that truly loves him and loves his daughter. The thought of breaking up with Macy tears him up inside. After dinner, they curl up together to watch a movie, then make love; Ethan knows it’s the last time. He watches her fall asleep in his arms afterward, knowing he will never hold her like this again. He knows full well that he’ll never experience the kind of love that he has with Macy again. He knows he’ll never stop loving her, but he has to choose his daughter. The next morning, Macy wakes up and gets ready for her doctor's appointment. She already knows she’s pregnant, she has a strong feeling but wants a professional confirmation regardless. The doctor did some urine and blood tests alongside the ultrasound so they could determine a due date. Macy's doctor confirms she is, in fact, pregnant, and that from the ultrasound, she is about five or six weeks. Her due date is approximately July 2nd. Macy thanks her, takes the information and the samples of prenatal vitamins, and leaves the office. She’s so excited to tell Ethan but doesn’t want to do it over the phone. She drives to his work at lunchtime, but the security guard tells her that he can't come out at that time. So, Macy goes home and waits to tell Ethan the wonderful news. Little did she know at the time, she wouldn’t get to share her news. Lane James Caldwell is born on July 4th at 12:30 pm; he is 7lbs and 2oz and 21 inches long. He’s the spitting image of Ethan. Macy couldn’t stop staring at him; her tears roll down her face as she holds a piece of Ethan in her arms. All she could think about is Ethan; how much she still loves him and longs for his touch. After coming home from the hospital, Macy decides to send a picture of Lane and his birth information to Ethan, to see what response she gets from him. Macy adds a note on the back of the birth information that reads, Ethan, if you choose to be a part of Lane's life, I’m willing to relocate back to Texas. To read the entire novel visit to purchase your copy today!




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IGNITIVEIFY Magazine features authors and other professionals in the writing industry. Enjoy our Romantic Suspense theme issue and indulge y...


IGNITIVEIFY Magazine features authors and other professionals in the writing industry. Enjoy our Romantic Suspense theme issue and indulge y...


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