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Connections eMagazine

Volume 6 Issue 2

Message from the Editor The Purpose of this eMagazine is to connect readers and bloggers with authors. This is a FREE eMagazine that is produced quarterly. April showers bring May flowers but for me, May signals warm weather, lazy days on the beach with a good book, and exploring the back country. The second magazine of the year is always dedicated to summer fun, easy reading, and adventure. I hope you’ll take the time to look around. "Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you ." – Louis L’Amour While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe. You’ll receive an automatic email with a link to each new edition. Just click the box below and fill out the form. Be sure to include all required information. Don’t worry, your information will never be shared or sold.

Subscribe Dealing with a crisis, DIY essentials and how to get better sleep when you’re stressed.

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Admit it… prior to 2020 when you thought pandemic your mind conjured images of zombies and people running around in full hazmat suits. In this imaginary world of turmoil, everything happened too quickly to plan for the sudden onslaught of hysteria. Hospitals were chaotic and when it was finally safe to venture outside—the hometown you always loved suddenly looked like a ghost town with looted gas stations, abandoned vehicles, and bad guys waving guns around threatening your life for a pint of water. Basically, for most, the thought of a pandemic meant the apocalypse. Then came 2020. The pandemic did hit quickly. The stores were flooded, all the shelves were emptied overnight and — for reasons I still cannot explain — it was easier to find a wild orangutan than a roll of toilet paper. But, unlike an action film on the big screen, the world outside remained relatively normal — albeit stressful. I can’t deliver rainbows and butterflies, but I can offer a few tips to help you get through this difficult time.

Cloth masks can’t provide the same level of protection as medical-grade masks, but they can offer an added level of protection to the general public. In order for them to be effective, you need to continue to practice the same preventative measures you would without them; social distancing, staying 6 feet away from others, washing hands frequently, and not touching your face. But, wearing face masks with glasses can be tricky and cause your eyewear to fog up when your breath reaches the surface of your lenses. There are ways to prevent this fogging. •

Wash glasses in soapy water before using a mask. Some reports say any soapy water will work. I have found that dishwasher liquid works best. There are two methods, depending on what soap you use. If you are using regular soapy water, wash the lenses thoroughly, shake off the excess and then allow the lenses to air dry. If using dishwashing soap, put a drop of liquid on the lens and smear it over the surface completely. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes, then wipe clean. I also use this method if I want to take a swim in my jetted tub with a good book. Another method is to use a mask with a wire so it has a fitted feel to it. This will prevent your exhaled breath from reaching your glasses. If possible, use a mask that has an opening where you can place a filter. Don’t worry, you don’t need to go out and buy anything. Just stuff a folded tissue or paper towel inside the opening. If your cloth mask doesn’t have an opening, place a folder paper towel or tissue between the mask and your mouth, then secure it tightly so the tissue won’t fall out. It will absorb the warm, moist air and prevent it from reaching your lenses.


•

If you are using a surgical mask, tie the mask crisscross so the top ties come below your ears and the bottom ties go above. This will make a tighter fit and prevent the warm air from escaping.

The Quick (gel) Recipe Isopropyl Alcohol Aloe Vera gel Tea Tree Oil Mix 3 parts alcohol to 1 part Aloe Vera gel. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to give it a pleasant scent.

The Spray Recipe Isopropyl Alcohol Glycerol or Glycerin Hydrogen peroxide Distilled Water Spray Bottle Mix 12 fluid ounces of alcohol with 2 teaspoons of glycerol. The glycerol is important because it keeps the alcohol from drying out your skin. If you can’t obtain glycerol you can still use the recipe, just remember to use moisturizer immediately after applying sanitizer.

Mix 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide, then 3 fluid ounces of distilled water. Load solution into spray bottles. You can add a splash of essential oil to make it smell better. (Your sanitizer needs to be at least 60% alcohol)


Feature Article

With all the uncertainty many of us are feeling more stress in our lives than usual. Times are uncertain, we’re locked inside and in addition to working form home, we’re also struggling with the kids and homework. If stress is keeping you awake, try these methods to help you fall asleep faster. • Be Mindful – Shortly before bedtime, try a relaxation strategy. Do what works for you, yoga, deep breathing exercises, mediation. If you’ve never used these techniques before just pick one and give it a try. • Skip Screens – The blue light of a computer monitor, phones, tablets, and other digital devices can throw off your body’s internal clock. Try to avoid all of them before bedtime. Going tech-free will help you wind down and soothe stress. • Tea – Chamomile Tea can help lower anxiety. Plus, drinking a hot drink before bed might make it easier to fall asleep. • Hot bath or shower – speaking of hot, a pre-bedtime soak is relaxing. Plus, transitioning from the warm water to a cooler bedroom will cause your body temperature to drop and naturally make you feel sleepy. • Do some leg work – This doesn’t mean exercise. You should always work out early. Exercise is a proven stress reliever but if you do it too close to bedtime, the stimulant might keep you energized and awake. However, gentle leg exercise like leg lifts and squats help bring blood flow down to your legs and can have a soothing effect, making it easier to drift off. • High Altitude – Did you know that less oxygen means lower sleep quality because it’s harder for your body to breath. This is especially true if you are visiting a location with a higher altitude than you are used to. Some ways to help your body compensate is to stay hydrated, avoid tobacco and alcohol, and try a low dose melatonin supplement. •


By Melanie P. Smith

Eat the right snacks - What we eat impacts our sleep, especially if you consume them late a night. You probably know the obvious – avoid caffeine but you should also avoid processed foods and snacks high in sugar. So, what can you eat? First, be sure not to snack immediately before bed. If you do get hungry, aim for something small and light an hour before you turn in. Here are a few suggestions; Peanut Butter on whole wheat toast with sliced banana. The carbs in the toast will take longer to break down keeping you full longer. The potassium in the bananas can prevent muscle cramping during sleep. Celery (you can also add a little hummus). The celery may help alleviate acid reflux and it too is a source of potassium. Popcorn with parmesan. Popcorn is a satisfying snack but skip the butter and add parmesan cheese. It contains tryptphan, which can help you sleep when paired with a carb like popcorn. Greek yogurt contains potassium, calcium and magnesium. It helps the body’s muscles and organs function smoothly, it’s easy on the stomach, and the probiotics help with stomach and digestive health.

We here at Connections eMagazine wish you all the best as you struggle to survive this unexpected crisis. We hope some of our tips may help you deal with the unexpected stress associated with these uncertain times as well as the product shortages that none of us saw coming. Stay healthy and safe, and don’t give up… we can get through this together.


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The Shifter The Master of Water The Siren The Healer The Reader of Minds


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The Hill of Uisneach by Barbara Doran-Rogel

On my recent holiday to Ireland, which was action packed, my sister suggested going to visit The Hill of Uisneach, a local place steeped in mythology and history. I’d been feeling tired, trying to fight off a cold so the thoughts of climbing hills didn’t appeal to me in the least. Still, it was a nice gesture so I said I’d love to go. It was a muggy day, not too cold but, as is often the case, the sky was laden with swift-moving clouds in tones of dirty white to grey to slate. Ah, but when the sun peeked through the moody sky, it cast a beautiful light over the landscape. The drive itself took about fifteen minutes. My brother was wise enough to take a map and I sat back and enjoyed the rolling hills and forty shades of green.

The landscape became hillier as we approached the site. Gorse and mayflower were blooming in abundance and we passed a hedge of wild Hortensia nestled amongst the verdant vegetation. There was no sign of this historic site, but my brother looked up from his map. “It must be around here somewhere,” he said. We pulled up to a little lay-by near a small bungalow directly on the main road. “Why don’t we just knock on the door and ask,” I said. “Fire ahead then,” both answered in unison. I, being the older one, reluctantly got out of the car. I noticed on the other side of the road there was an impressive wrought-iron gateway with stone pillars and a brass sign which gave the name of some stately-sounding house like Lugnaghsea House or something to that effect. Feeling like an intruder, I had to walk around to the side of this smaller lodge house to find the entrance. My brother and sister looked on.


The open vegetable patch at the back and the compost heap, along with a few colourful bits and bobs indicated that this was the house of a person immersed into alternative, grow-your-own vegetables and ‘let’s get back to nature’ trip. The back garden was separated by a fence and a gate which opened up to more hilly fields and low stone walls. Before I had a chance to find the buzzer, the patio door was opened with gusto and a youngish fellow came out. “Hi,” I said. Sorry for intruding, but we’re looking for the Hill of Uisneach.” “Yep, it’s right behind this house,” he said. “Just climb over the stile, take the path along the gorse bushes and head straight up towards… .” I heard the word palace, cat stone, centre of Ireland and became mesmerised as my imagination took me off to far-away mythical lands. I assumed my siblings were taking it all in too as they were out of the car at this stage. Pity I hadn’t done a bit of research before coming, I thought, but I could always do it later. “Just hold on a second and I’ll give John, the landlord, a call,” he said. “Oh, doesn’t the land belong to the State?” I asked. “No, he bought the land about ten years ago. He has lots of cattle in the field.” He clicked the numbers onto his mobile and I heard him tell the landlord about us and our quest. “No, I don’t think they have a dog,” he answered. He finished his call and told us it was fine, we could go ahead and check it out. We thanked him profusely and climbed over the stile. My sister went marching off, followed by my brother, while I wandered behind them. My sister turned around. “Where do we go to now?” “Why, weren’t you listening too?” I asked, slightly ashamed of my lack of concentration. I pointed in the general direction and we laughed as we looked ahead.


A herd of cattle stood on the hill and even as we proceeded those few meters, they lined up in unison. It was like something out of the Showdown at the O.K. Corral. The head cow looked like it meant business, and I wondered if it was a bull ready to stampede, or whatever bulls do. I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance if he decided to attack but decided to take a photo anyway. Sadly that photo is buried somewhere in the archives. In the distance, a man on a motorised buggy came speeding toward us. My sister and brother were already chatting to the fellow in the buggy as I made my way towards them, doing my best to avoid cow pies and squelchy bog land. Although I had five pairs of shoes in my luggage, I’d not taken my walking shoes and was wearing my favourite leather boots. The man was friendly, and informative, if slightly bemused. He pointed behind him, saying ‘The palace is up above.’ He then turned to me, saying, ‘Now, don’t get your hopes up’ Ah, that Irish humour. What a strange image that conjured up – palace – in the middle of a landscape of fields. Wise man, I thought. Buying this land. It’ll be a place of pilgrimage in a few years. It’s already started. He told us a group of locals had come to celebrate the Bealtaine Fest a couple of weeks previously and that a group of foreign pilgrims came there a couple of months ago. How right he was when he said most of the locals have never been there. I had grown up in the vicinity and had never been there either. None of us had. And yet, he told us that a group of Germans had walked from Fore (another local historic site) all the way to this place. They knew more about it than the locals.

“This is a serious spiritual place, if you’re into that sort of thing,” he said. “It’s even older than The Hill of Tara. When you reach the summit, you’ll be able to see all the bordering counties. You’ve got Lough Ennell over to the left, the Slieve Blooms in front of you, and … .” I was already there in my mind, wandering through the mystical navel of Ireland, as someone eloquently named it. He pointed out the lake, the palace, and the cat’s stone which we did finally find. It was a pretty large boulder, a marking stone, a place of worship, a secret meeting place? Take your pick. According to various sources, the original stones at Stonehenge were transported from this place to the U.K. I wouldn’t even begin to imagine how that feat was achieved, but then again there was magic in the air in those days when giants and Lilliputians roamed the forests, the glens and the rocky coastal paths. There were portholes to other dimensions, gods of strength and courage, potions that enabled you to


perform otherworldly feats. Before the Age of Reason set in. The imagination was the doorway to miraculous lands. They say the stone is so named because it resembles a cat holding onto a mouse. Now, I have a pretty good imagination but there’s no way I could see any resemblance. We never did find the palace, not that I expected to. Of course it referred to the remains of an old castle so it was probably one of the small groups of stones we came across. When we entered the sacred enclave, like a fairy fort, in the centre of which was a circular formation of small stones, my brother said. “Here, can you feel the energy.” Well, I had to be honest. I didn’t feel anything particular, no tingling, no sense of long-dead ghosts, but I did feel as if I was in an altered state of reality. It was similar to the feeling I had when I recently went to another sacred place in Germany. It was as if this place was suspended in a protected honeycomb of serenity. “Feel that rush of warm air.” My brother said. Well, I never could be sure whether he was having me on but I sensed he was serious. So we all stepped back out and in again through the portal to fairyland. “Yes, now that you mention it … .” The power of suggestion never ceases to amaze me, but I tried to feel it, not to get talked into it. We continued on, as a soft mist enveloped us, finally reaching the summit where we had a fantastic view of the surrounding lakes and hills. The purple hills appeared to touch the low-lying rain-filled clouds. Then the soft mist transformed into soft rain and finally into continual rain and we squelched our way back to the car, each of us locked in this special moment and drenched in long-lost memories of ancient druids and another time on this island.

Barbara Doran-Rogel

Write what you know and keep it real

Liz Doran is an Irish writer living in Germany. She loves color, art, great writing, fil, design and travel. Her lifelong interest in metaphysical and spiritual matters has taken her on many interesting journeys

Find More from Author Liz Doran... Website: https://barbaradoranwriter.com/


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She found herself in a room that seemed familiar. It was her room, but it wasn't quite right, something was off. "It's time to choose," a voice whispered through her mind. "Choose?" she thought. "Which door do you want?" the whisperer replied.

She spun around, that was what was off, there were three doors where there should have been one. Why hadn't she noticed that before? "This white door will keep you safe from harm. You may open it but you may not cross the threshold except in emergencies," the whisperer continued. "But I wouldn't be able to go visit my friends. What about the other doors?" "One of the blue doors, you can go through whenever you want. You can meet up with your friends, have fun, hug, chat..." "I like the sound of that but I fear there is a catch...." "If you choose the first blue door, you may get sick and die in a few weeks."


"May get sick? How will I know? Wait, what about the other blue door?" "Ah yes, that's very like the first blue door except you won't get sick...." "That sounds better. Is there a catch?" "Well, you won't get sick but your friends may, and they may then die." "May again - how will I know?" "You won't. It's a gamble you'll have to take."

"Which door is which?" "There's no way to tell," said the whisperer sadly. "Time to choose - white or blue?" "So basically, pick white and I'm alone but safe. Pick blue and I gamble with my life and my friends' lives? There's no choice - it has to be the white door." "A wise choice, but choice it was."

"Who in their right mind would choose a blue door? That's crazy!" "You'd be surprised...." The whispery voice drifted away as the blue doors faded back into the familiar walls of her room. She cracked the white door open and peeped outside, the world beyond looked the same, but more peaceful. She firmly closed the door and turned the key in the lock, content with her choice.

Sylva Fae owns a wood where she and her husband run survival courses and woodland craft days. She escapes to the woods at every possible opportunity to enjoy the peace and fresh air. She takes the girls off on adventures in their own enchanted woodland, hunting for fairies and stomping in muddy puddles. You can find additional stories and anecdotes on her website https://sylvafae.co.uk/blog/


Looking for that next great read? Check out these new releases. And, be sure to add them to your TBR list. All books have been published since the last edition of Connections eMagazine.

Love Can Wait Short Story

Sometimes sacrifice is the only solution. A mother desperate to keep her child. A father trying to protect his son. A storm, a tragedy, and a destiny nobody saw coming.


Montreal 1947, Central Station, in the middle of the crowd, a tall burly 19-year-old man has suddenly stopped walking. He is standing still. People are bumping into him giving a mean look, what a jerk, stopping in full swing. But the boy stands still, unaware of the commotion behind him. He's stunned by what he is sees. Having left his little village in New Brunswick 12 hours earlier, fresh out of his forest, he is scared. "There are more people here than in all of Kent County. This hall could contain the church of St. Ignatius and its entire cemetery. What am I doing here?" He looks up at the ceiling, at the newsstands, at the crowd, he's never seen anything like it. A few dollars in his pocket and an address are his only asset. He's in deep trouble. If he could afford it, he would turn around, get back on the train and go back home. He could surely find a job in his own world. But the trip has emptied his wallet, he's afraid. Is it too much? Was it a mistake to leave? How is he going to succeed in the jungle that is post-war Montreal? All these unanswered questions. And as he steps outside, the cathedral with its statues on the roof, he couldn't believe his eyes. He bumped so hard into a lady in front that her hat flew off her head.-Excuse me," he said, and she looked at him as if he were a bum. Instinctively and unconsciously he had spoken English. Already he felt uncomfortable. He wanted to be somewhere else, far away, in the forest with Buck, his horse. This town is going to choke him, he was sure of it.

The Acadian by Claude Thibault


5 Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier

From beginners to experts, there are certain skin care mistakes almost everyone is guilty of doing. I would be lying if I say I did not made any of those ever. I learnt some of them to my skin’s cost. But good news is you don’t have to. Cause today I am going to share 5 of those common skin care mistakes which I did and I don’t want you to do. Skin care mistake 1: Washing face with hot water One of the common skin care mistakes is washing face with super hot water. I know, I know hot water feels so good on skin. But trust me everything that feels good is not good in real (like that melting cotton candy on your tongue!). But in real the skin care fact is : hot water makes your skin more dehydrated. I have a super dehydrated skin and I was following everything to get rid of that. But I was not having any luck. I realized due to my sinus problem, taking hot baths or splashing hot water on face are my favourites. And both of those (bad?) habits were damaging my skin. Maybe it’s my gut or or my strong grasp in skin care facts, I stopped doing that. And I noticed a change. I started using lukewarm water instead of hot water and my skin was better.

To avoid this skin care mistake: Do not use hot water, instead use lukewarm water to wash your face.


Using lukewarm water to wash your face makes is a good practice in skin care routines. Photo by Burst from Pexels

Gently rubbing any face wash for 60 sec will ensure better results. Photo by Shiny Diamond from Pexels

Skin care mistake 2: Not following 60 sec rule while cleansing You would be surprised to know most people wash their face for 15 seconds max. And I was one of them! Everytime after cleansing, I use toner with cotton ball on my face. Surprisingly I used to notice a huge amount of product residues on the cotton ball. That made me wonder maybe all those products I am putting on my face are not blending enough, as a result half of those were on my cotton balls as residues. Then I started cleansing my face for 60 seconds. Believe it or not, in the beginning I used a timer just to have an idea (skin care is not easy!). Now I don’t need it anymore.

From where did I get this idea? Well, it’s not my idea actually. This rule was first tweeted by a LA skin care professional named Nayamka Roberta- Smith which became viral. This face washing rule came of as a result of trial and error and has no scientific study to back it up. But for some weird reasons, it works! I came across to it through one blog and gave it a try. As soon as I started following this, I noticed less and less product residues on my toner soaked cotton balls. A skin care rule which I followed just out of curiosity, worked! Now why 60 second is the best way? You can go 60, 90 or even 120 seconds. No harm in that. But make sure you rub the cleanser or face wash at least for 60 seconds. You have to do that to make sure the ingredients are on your face so that they can do what they are supposed to do.

To avoid this skin care mistake: Don’t rush, take at least 60 seconds to gently rub the cleanser on your face so that the ingredients can work properly.


Skin care mistake 3: Skipping face cleaning in the morning We all know washing our face before we go to bed is MANDATORY. But only few actually bother to clean their face in the morning as well (if you are one of them, the skin care community is proud of you!!!). I must admit I am not a morning person. It takes at least 2/3 hours for me to come back to reality after I wake up! If you ask my name in early morning, chances are I will tell you a different one. So doing skin care right after I wake up was out of question till last December. But this year something changed. I was having pimples on my oily zones and I kept asking me what was I doing wrong. Then one day I don’t know why, while brushing I looked into the mirror with my eyes wide open (yes yes I was awake!). I noticed my face looked like I just had an oil bath. Long story short, I started washing my face in the morning after that. Luckily the pimples bid me goodbye as I started this ritual. Also my skin feels much better whole day.

To avoid this skin care mistake: Wash your face in the morning, no matter what type of skin you have. You might ask me what difference it makes? The reason behind this skin care fact is simple. While sleeping bacteria from your saliva and oil from your hair gets on your face. Also, if you follow a proper nighttime routine, you are using serums and heavyweight night creams. And these needs to be washed off so that your skin gets ready for the day.

Washing your face in morning is as useful as washing at night. Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush from Pexels

If you have a super dry skin, I would recommend to use either only a hydrating toner or micellar water to wash your face in the morning. And if your skin is oily, it’s even more important for you to wash in the morning. However, always go for a gentle cleanser because you don’t want to strip off the natural oils by too much washing.


Skin care mistake 4: Not Applying serum right after 1 min of washing face We all love serums. don’t we? They work best in any skin type (If you are new to skin care and wondering what serum is : serums are the concentrated solutions of active ingredients aimed to solve specific skin issues). Serums are easy to use and are applied before moisturizers. Although serums sound too easy to use, most of the people fail in applying them properly. It’s better if you use serums right after washing while your face is still damp. Why? Because moist skin absorbs products more quickly than a dry skin. As serums are super concentrated with active ingredients, you have to make sure all the actives penetrate on the skin to have the best result. The more you delay, the drier your skin gets resulting in a bad absorption. Thus always use serums right after washing the face. And don’t delay more than 1 min. But it is always not possible to have the damp effect. Worry not! In that case, you can use a facial mist. Spray the mist on your face and use serum afterwards. Facial mists are superb to provide the moisty feel anywhere (even when you are travelling) and this nifty skin care fact saved my skin.

To avoid this skin care mistake: Apply serums within 1 minute after washing as your skin is damp that time. Skin care mistake 5: Not using toners after cleansing A lot of skin care enthusiasts think toners are just waste of money. But talking from personal experience, NO THEY ARE NOT! As you all know by now, I love doing skin care. But once in a while I get lazy (guilty!). Last month my lazy soul got so powerful that I actually skipped toner for a whole week. I was like meh it’s just some solution, what harm will it do if I skip! But trust me I was so wrong. That one lazy decision did cost me two big pimples on my t-zone! Toners are your rescue if you have oily skin, combination skin with oily t-zone. They are also good for dry skin as there are several toners on market which can provide hydration while removing product residues. I love toners cause they help my skin to get rid of excess oil along with product residues so my facial skin has no clogged pores leading to pimples.

It’s better to apply serum right after washing your face, preferably within 1 minute. Photo by Chill Jane from Pexels

So don’t fall prey to this common skin care mistake and use toner right after cleansing. You can choose toners depending on your skin type and concerns.

To avoid this skin care mistake: Use a toner, depending on your skin type after cleansing each time.


A toner is not a waste of money, instead it can help your skin with so many issues. Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

To wrap up… It’s quite common to make mistakes while doing skin care. But with the right knowledge of basic skin care facts and constant trial and error, everyone finds what works best for their skin.

Want to learn more? Follow me on Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

Salmeen Choudhury—You can call me a skin care addict who loves to wear her skin bare. In addition to that, I am a chemistry graduate which helps me to understand the skincare chemistry better. My passion towards skin care inspired me to write about it and share it hoping that it might help someone. I mostly write about skincare routines to simple tips, along with skin care product reviews

https://www.niftyswiftyskincare.com/


An amazing story you just cant put down!!!!

I really enjoyed reading this book! Great Read! Waiting for more. -Amazon Customers

Tim Macnamara sent Addison Gracen packing three years ago with words of accusation ringing in her ears. She left behind their shattered dreams and the life they had hoped to build together but she hasn’t forgotten the plans they made. When Tim’s mother finds a way to make their plans of a sanctuary for troubled youth come to fruition it’s time for Addie to come home. The welcome isn’t warm but she’s determined to make things right, both with Tim and with the dreams they once had.


R.F. Kristi Kristi is based in Paris, France and spends her time between Colombo, Sri Lanka and San Francisco. She started writing in 2016 and has since published 8 books in the Inca Cat Detective Series. The series is based on her beloved pet cats, Inca and Cara. There is a sense of nostalgia and security about these cat characters, with a few other doggy characters and humans adding to the mix. In the end, the mystery is solved and peace and order are restored providing the reader with a happy ending. Kristi has won Readers Favorite (USA) and Wishing Shelf (UK) awards, where the winning books are selected by school children.

Inca and Company is a highly acclaimed detective agency, headed by none other than Inca the Siberian cat. There are also a couple of dogs in this detective agency and the team works diligently together to solve the mysteries…but this time they’re off to Russia, a trip to help promote Missy’s (a.k.a. Mom) new cheese. Little do they know there’s another mystery awaiting them, this one involving a rather valuable Fabergé egg. They have teamed up with a new recruit to the agency, Jibo, a robot with some interesting abilities to transform into different shapes and even fly to the rescue when needed. They even meet the royal Siberian cats of the Peterhof Palace and assist in saving the royal bunnies from a flock of pesky birds of prey ...… In this novel, an exciting adventure of amateur sleuthing takes place with a company of cats and dogs, and an ingeniously versatile robot.… R.F. Kristi has created a delightful cast of characters, from the rambunctious and sometimes humorous cat and dog detectives (and robot) to the malicious and dangerous criminals and their recruited birds of prey. This is definitely a fun and exciting read for young readers. Review by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite.


Inca Cat Series (9 Book Series) 1. The Cats Who Crossed Over from Paris 2. Christmas Cats 3. Cats in Provence 4. Ninja Spy Cats

5. Diary of Snoopy Cat 6. Vampires at Easter: Diary of a Snoopy Cat 7. Serendipity Mystery: Diary of Snoopy Cat 8. Cat Detective in the Korean Peninsula 9. The Cat Detectives in Russia

https://www.incabookseries.com/


PERMANENTLY

Princess of Ice by Nadia Scrieva

The daughter of a murdered king must flee to Alaska to survive. Doing all she can to keep her younger sisters safe, Aazuria tries to assimilate and work among the Americans. She tries to hold her head up high even in the lowest of places, until she meets a somber man in a dark corner with eyes that remind her of home.

Trevain Murphy is a successful crab fisherman who has spent his life building an empire on the sea. When a graceful dancer captures his attention, he becomes fascinated with her old-fashioned speech and unique mannerisms. Learning that her father has recently died, he cannot resist extending his kindness in offering to guide and protect her.

As it becomes clear that the dark-haired woman is much more than she seems, Trevain is unprepared to uncover the staggering secrets behind her innocent facade. Neither the captain nor the princess can imagine that their lives will become forcibly entwined as a common enemy threatens both of their worlds… This is the first book of the Sacred Breath Series.

The Vampires of Vegas Books I-III With Extras by Alexia Purdy

Included in this omnibus package are books 1-3 with 2 extra bonus short novellas. A highly imaginative post-apocalyptic series that is not your usual dystopian read. All packaged together to keep the action and adventure nonstop! "Never tease anything that wants to eat you. My name is April Tate and my blood is the new gold. Vampires and hybrids have overrun my world, once vibrant with life, but now a graveyard of death shrouded in shadows. I fight to survive; I fight for my mother and brother. The journey is full of turns that I am quite unprepared for. And I'm just hoping to make it to the next Vegas sunrise..." In a post-apocalyptic world, a viral epidemic has wiped out most of the earth’s population, leaving behind few humans but untold numbers of mutated vampires. April is a seventeen-year-old girl who lives in the remains of Las Vegas one year after the outbreak. Unsure of whom she can trust, she discovers that her view of the world is not as black and white as she once thought. Surviving is worse than death…


Word of Jolie’s incredible ability to bring back the dead spreads like wildfire, putting her at the top of the Underworld’s most wanted list. Consequently, she finds herself at the center of a custody battle between a villainous witch, a dangerous but oh-so-sexy vampire, and her warlock boss, Rand.

Dare To Be Loved (Patronus Series) by Stacy Lee **Mature content** Lost in Yellowstone. Alone and wandering. Marnie saves a man she hopes can save her. She never expected him to keep her! Captured and staring death in the face. Dare was surprised when his savior came in a four foot eight barefoot woman! Even more surprising was she was the woman he has been looking for for more than five hundred years! His mate.

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by HP Mallory A self-deprecating witch with the unique ability to reanimate the dead. A dangerously handsome warlock torn between being her boss and her would-be lover. A six hundred year old English vampire with his own agenda; one that includes an appetite for witches. The Underworld in a state of chaos. Let the games begin. Life isn’t bad for psychic Jolie Wilkins. True, she doesn’t have a love life to speak of, but she has a cute house in the suburbs of Los Angeles, a cat and a quirky best friend. Enter Rand Balfour, a sinfully attractive warlock who insists she’s a witch and who just might turn her life upside down. Rand hires her to help him solve a mystery regarding the death of his client who also happens to be a ghost. Jolie not only uncovers the cause of the ghost’s demise but, in the process, she brings him back to life!

Never Say Spy ( Book 1) by Diane Henders Despite her penchant for weapons and ripe language, Aydan Kelly’s resumé reads ‘bookkeeper’, not ‘badass’. She’s leaving the city to fulfill her dream of rural tranquillity when she gets carjacked by a man who shouldn’t exist. Pity her enemies. Because nobody’s tougher than a middleaged woman who wants her dream back.


Hometown Hope

A collection of 17 small town romances from best-selling and award-winning authors, meant to inspire, entertain, and make you fall in love.

Slow Burn (Book 1 of the Fitzgerald Family) by E.B. Wlaters Ashley Fitzgerald lost her parents in a freak fire, blocked the memory of the incident and has done her best to move on.

With love from Zoe York, Delancey Stewart, Erin Nicholas, Elena Aitken, Kait Nolan, Sidney Bristol, Brighton Walsh, Margaret Ethridge, J. H. Croix, Tess Thompson, Tessa Layne, Stefanie London, Jean Oram, Dylann Crush, Erin Wright, Suzie O’Connell, Bethany Lopez

Hostile Witness, A Josie Bates Thriller by Rebecca Forster When sixteen-year-old Hannah Sheraton is arrested for the murder of her stepgrandfather, a California Supreme Court justice, her distraught mother turns to once infamous defense attorney, Josie Bates. Now a small town lawyer in Hermosa Beach, Josie wants nothing to do with the case since the gruesome evidence points to Hannah's guilt. When the girl is charged as an adult, Josie can't turn her back

Ron Noble's father is believed to have started that fire. Now there is evidence that can clear his name, and Ron needs Ashley's help. The two must deal with the attraction between them as they race against time to find answers and stop an arsonist from killing again.

A Hidden Fire: Elemental Mysteries #1 by Elizabeth Hunter A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mysterious manuscript he's hunted for over five hundred years. He never expected a young student librarian could be the key to unlock its secrets, nor could he have predicted the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, though the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation hundreds of years in the making.


Death Comes in the Morning by Don Bissett hen Nathan Parker was discarded from his job in Cincinnati in the economic collapse of 2008, he took his shattered confidence west for a new start. Near the small town of Willow Run, Montana, he finds a man’s body. Then it vanishes. Dismissed as a lunatic drifter by a hulking inept Deputy and an aging Sheriff, Nathan Parker vows to prove there was a body and to discover why he died. He finds support in a local woman, a fierytempered red head, who has a passion for books. And a passion for trouble. She helps him in his quest and becomes his romantic interest. As Parker digs deeper into this sleepy little town’s history, he unearths a web of deception and greed that is anything but wholesome. Then like the dead man’s body, local citizens begin to vanish. But no one seems to notice. Parker doesn’t know who can be trusted. When the last pieces of the mystery fall into place, he also vanishes, accused as a cop killer on the run. Now he must use his wits to escape. Taking the law into his own hands, he must save himself and his fellow prisoners, reveal the conspiracy, and win back the affection of the red-haired woman.

The Decrypter: Secret of the Lost Manuscript by Rose Sandy The secret of the manuscript is only the beginning . . . The truth could cost her life. Calla Cress is the Decrypter but doesn't know it yet. Heck, she just wants to find who dumped her twenty-eight years ago at a London orphanage, where infants are abandoned to conceal government secrets. Just a few miles away, fear grips a dangerous government agency, the ISTF. An unbreakable code, written on an ancient manuscript and missing for decades, surfaces. When the highly guarded document vanishes in Berlin with a long-hidden secret concerning Calla's family, she finds herself up against an adversary with superior firepower. Calla must use her wits to decode the manuscript's riddle before it's too late. Could its decryption lead to an astounding technological breakthrough and a dangerous new world?

The Mating: The Original Law of the Lycans Story by Nicky Charles Elise had no idea when she came home that day that she'd end up mated to a complete stranger. A new Alpha and the need for an alliance between packs have made her a pawn Excerpt: She lay beside him, staring blankly at the ceiling. The deed was done. They were mated. It didn't matter that she had no love for him nor he for her. Political alliances were more important than feelings...


“Wow!, brilliantly written book by this amazingly talented woman. The thoughts that go into this story are endless. Thought provoking realistic story. “ -Amazon

Prodigal Love? by Preeti Narang An emotional tale based on real-life events , that will leave you startled and perplexed. Straddling across different countries, the UK, India and the USA, a story of an Indian girl, Samaira and the love of her life. The challenges and turbulence they face from society and life itself. A depiction of the complexities of contemporary Indian society and its culture. A story of love, fate and destiny. Will they be together? Will there be a crime? A mystery? A story that will make you think and dig deep. A story that will leave you speechless.


“Very well written. Shows how prevalent evil is amongst the innocent. Rehabilitation of a psychopath is futile. They have no moral compass. “ - Amazon Stephanie Scott had never been happier. She was about to marry the man of her dreams and celebrate with all her family and friends. She had worked for hours to add personal touches to the special day. When her fiancé asked her to head out of town for a party she told him she had a few more things to tick off her to-do list. One was to head into Leeton High School, where she was a teacher, to finalise plans for her replacement while she was on her honeymoon. No one thought twice when Stephanie told them of her plans. No one could predict what would happen that fateful day. No one ever thought that evil could break the heart of a town and a nation. But a psychopath had been hiding in plain sight all along, waiting to make his move.


We’ve all been cooped up for way too long. The kids are tired of all that homeschooling and so are you. Why not take a break and do something fun. We all have a creative side — during this time of isolation, why not let it out. Rock painting is cheap — we all have rocks around our homes — fun and can brighten up the day and the yard. Why not take something ordinary and make it extraordinary. Be creative. The only restriction is your imagination.

Step-By-Step Instructions •

Rocks Choose smooth flat rocks when possible. Decide what you want to paint before you start the search so you know what size and shape you will need.

Wash Paint won’t stick to dirty rocks. Make sure you clean your rocks thoroughly. All you need is soap and warm water. To get into those tough crevasses, use an old toothbrush hard brush. If you have any small bumps you want removed, try 150 grit sandpaper. Once the rock is good and clean, set them out on a clean, dry towel to dry.

Paint Acrylic paint works best — especially if you plan to display them outdoors. You can also use paint pens, markers (for intricate details and text) and even chalk markers. If you want a rough and natural looking finish like the garden frog below, just start paining. If you want it bright and smooth with colors that pop like the Lillie pad on the bottom right, give it a base layer of white first (you can also use black). Always let the first layer of paint dry completely before you start on the next layer.


Paint Brushes A selection of different sizes and shape brushes can help you paint that perfect masterpiece, but if you don’t have a large selection, just use what you have. Small brushes are easier to use and makers are great for beginners. You can also dip a toothbrush into paint for small detail work.

Seal Once you have finished painting your masterpiece, you’ll want to protect it from the elements. Sealer comes in three finishes: gloss, satin, and flat. Be sure to pick the sealer you want to get a shiny or flat finish. Make sure you let your rocks dry completely before applying your sealer. You will also want to apply the sealant in a well-ventilated area. Do not do this inside the fumes can be dangerous.

Finally, clean your brushes so you can use them again and again. That’s all you need to know. Now, it’s time to get creative!

Melanie P. Smith is an American, multi-genre author of Criminal Suspense, Police Procedural, Paranormal Fantasy, and Romance novels. Embark on a rollercoaster journey of discovery. Learn more about Melanie and her books on her website: https://melaniepsmith.com/


John Coon Trapped in an unfamiliar place far from home, Kate must confront a once-buried nightmare anew.

Kate's plans for a weekend getaway take a frightening turn when she suffers a car accident during a blinding rainstorm on a canyon road. Hitching a ride with a stranger is the first step in a journey that will bring her into a cat-and-mouse game with a mysterious figure connected to demons from her past.

In Hell’s Shadow


How far would you go to protect the ones you love? Cam has been watching over Grace for many years but he knows he can't approach her until one night when events take a tragic turn and he steps in. When Grace wakes with no memory of the events Cam and Grace get closer but it comes with a price for Cam. Will his secrecy cause more disruption and disaster? As things begin to get serious Grace regains her memories and the darkness that has been kept from her. When she learns of Cams true identity and the sacrifices he made for her, can she forgive him?

Roma Simone Fanny's past relationship has left her favouring the monogamous lifestyle with a secret business as a dominatrix. She doesn't believe in love and she puts on a tough front as a way of masking her true feelings. Can Tyler bring the real Fanny back?


Yes, it’s that time of year again folks. It’s allergy season! However, just because there are “monsters” in the air, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer from them. Read below to learn about these natural remedies that help fight the different allergies you may encounter. Identify Your Allergy Triggers Before you can work on helping with allergy symptoms, you need to know exactly what is causing your symptoms. That is because many allergens can be avoided, so right away you have an easy way to help with seasonal allergies. Here are some helpful tips for identifying your allergy triggers. Types of Allergens In order to identify your different allergy triggers, you first need to understand what the possible allergens are. You may be someone that is relatively new to experiencing allergy attacks so you know you don’t feel well, but aren’t sure what is causing it. The following list includes some of the more common allergens that might be affecting you. Look closely at the list and think about when you might be coming across these allergens, either inside or outside your home. • • • • •

Mold and mildew Ragweed, grass, and pollen Dust Pet dander Chemicals and formaldehyde


Knowing the Symptoms of Allergy Attacks The next thing you should be aware of when you want to figure out where your allergy attacks are coming from is exactly what the symptoms are for allergy attacks. This helps you identify an allergy symptom as opposed to having a cold, flu, or another similar illness. Some signs and symptoms of allergies include: Coughing Sneezing Watery nose or eyes Itching eyes The thing to remember is that these symptoms tend to occur shortly after you have come across your allergens.

• • • •

Keeping an Allergy Journal One of the top ways to figure out what your main allergy triggers are is to keep a journal. This journal should record all signs of having an allergy attack, including what you were doing or where you were shortly before you experienced them. Look back on it every time you have a day with any type of allergy symptoms to see if you can figure it out. Record the date, as well as the weather conditions, pollen count, wind, and anything else you think is relevant. Through this journal, you might discover that when you work in your garden on high-wind days, you experience allergy attacks. This probably means it has to do with outdoor allergens like pollen or grass.


Getting Allergy Tests To confirm your allergy triggers, you may then want to visit a doctor and get allergy tests. The two main types of tests are skin prick and a blood test. The skin prick will use small amounts of allergens and look to see if your skin reacts to them. If it reacts to something, then that is probably the allergen you are dealing with. You can also do testing yourself with an allergy test kit.

Turn to Superfoods to Fight Seasonal Allergies The food you eat or don’t eat can make a drastic difference in your physical health, but not just with weight loss. It also affects your allergy symptoms and how badly different allergens will affect you. Superfoods, which are foods that

contain higher nutritional value, are an excellent way to fight seasonal allergies. Here are some superfoods to consider adding to your regular diet.

Citrus Fruits The first type of superfood you should have more of in your daily diet includes fruits with a lot of vitamin C. This includes just about any citrus fruit, such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruits. These fruits are loaded with vitamin C, which is a water-soluble vitamin that also happens to be a natural antihistamine. When you eat a lot of fruits with vitamin C, it can help provide natural antihistamine qualities, which keeps the seasonal allergy symptoms at bay. There may also be some vegetables with vitamin C, as well as supplements that can help.


Vegetables A wide range of vegetables can also be beneficial to help fight your allergy symptoms, including any with vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are also very good for people who suffer from allergies since they contain beta-carotene and potassium, both of which can help with inflammation in the body. Vegetables with flavonoids also help as a natural antihistamine, which includes onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and broccoli. Try to add more of these vegetable superfoods to your diet to find natural relief from your allergy symptoms. Lean Protein For lunch and dinner, turn to lean proteins that are considered superfoods, as many of them contain nutrients that can fight off those allergy symptoms. For example, proteinlike cold-water fish, such as tuna and salmon is filled with omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce your allergic reactions even when confronted with your worst allergens. Walnuts, canola oil, and flaxseed oil also contain a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids and are recommended. Herbs and Seasonings Don’t forget about various herbs and seasonings that can help you fight seasonal allergy symptoms and reactions. These can be added to your juice or smoothie, or go into the various meals you eat. They will add nutrients you need to help fight off allergens. One is turmeric, which is one of the top superfoods. It contains an antioxidant called curcumin, which is also an excellent anti-inflammatory. Garlic is another good superfood herb, which is known as an anti-allergen ingredient due to how well it works against allergens. Use an Essential Oil Diffuser While many people turn to taking medications to help with allergy symptoms, it helps to first look at natural remedies. Using essential oil is a popular natural remedy for seasonal allergies, which you use in combination with a diffuser. This allows the oils to get into the air and help with your allergy symptoms.


How Essential Oils Can Help Before you learn how to use a diffuser, it helps to know exactly why you should use essential oils. Essential oils come from flowers, plants, and herbs, which are extracted for their many health benefits. Certain essential oils can work with allergies and the symptoms you experience during an allergy attack. One of the most common reasons certain allergens affect your body and trigger symptoms like coughing, itchy eyes, and sneezing is due to the inflammatory reaction it has on your body. Many essential oils are natural anti-

inflammatories, which means they can actually help to reduce the overall effect these have on your body. Top Essential Oils For Allergies Now that you understand how essential oils work, it is important to also understand which essential oils work best for allergies. Here is a shortlist of some different oils to use with your oil diffuser: Peppermint oil – Peppermint is one of the top anti-inflammatory oils to help with allergies and allergy symptoms. Peppermint is excellent for getting rid of excess inflammation in your body, which can help reduce your allergy signs and symptoms. You will experience relief from all the coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, and congestion. Basil oil – While not a common essential oil, basil is actually one of the best to use for allergies. Basil supports your adrenal glands, helps your body have proper responses, and can detox your body. It helps to reduce inflammation in the same way that other essentials work. Some others to try include lemon essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil. Rosemary, Sage, Bergamot, and Thyme essential oils are great for getting rid of mold in your environment. There are many benefits to using essential oils if you know how to utilize them to the fullest.


Tips For Using a Diffuser A diffuser is a type of pump and base can help release the essential oil fumes into the air, working as an aromatherapy device. You will need to set up the diffuser, then drop the desired amount of oil into the diffuser and turn it on. The type of oil may determine how much is needed to be effective, though 1520 drops are typical. Make sure nothing else is added to the oil diffuser, even water. Keep the diffuser turned on as needed and replace the oils when you stop smelling their fumes in the air. How to Use a Himalayan Salt Lamp Himalayan salt lamps are lamps that contain large chunks of Himalayan salt, made into a lamp with a light bulb and cord. Not only are they pretty to look at, but they provide a lot of health benefits. One of the benefits you get from them is helping with your seasonal allergies when you are indoors. Here is more information about these lamps and how they can help you. Benefits of Himalayan Salt Lamps First of all, you should know about all the benefits that a Himalayan salt lamp can provide

you. Not only do they help with allergies, but a wide range of other ailments as well. In fact, one of the main reasons people get these lamps is because they are known to clean and deodorize the air. They have the ability to get rid of all those contaminants and allergens in the air, which is not only good for anyone with seasonal allergies but also helps if you have a lung condition or weak immune system sensitive to such contaminants. Here are some other benefits provided to you by a Himalayan salt lamp:

They help with asthma – In addition to helping with allergies, the fact that the Himalayan salt lamp cleanses the air of dangerous contaminants also helps anyone that suffers from asthma. When you have asthma, you have a very sensitive system and therefore need to have the cleanest air possible.


You can reduce coughing – You are also able to reduce your coughing when you have this type of lamp in your home. Airborne particles in the air are removed through the ions in the Himalayan salt, so you won’t experience as much coughing as a result of the air quality. It increases your energy levels – Believe it or not, it can also help you improve your energy level. This is due to using negative ions. While it helps with energy levels, you can also have better sleep and focus on the lamp. Why it Helps With Allergies When you plug in a Himalayan salt lamp, the heating from plugging it in can help to release negative ions that are located in the salt. When these ions heat up, they can then help clean the air in your home. Not only that, but they also have an effect on your own physical state, helping to reduce your asthma and allergy symptoms. It may not completely cure your seasonal allergies, but you won’t feel those symptoms quite as severely. Tips For Using the Lamp Effectively All you need to do when using a Himalayan salt lamp for your allergies is plug it in. Choose a room where you spend the most time, whether that is your bedroom, living room, kitchen, or home office. Getting multiple lamps is also highly recommended. Keep it turned on whenever you are in that room. Bring in House Plants For Your Allergies

Cleaning the air inside your home is one of the best things you can do when you suffer from seasonal allergies. The following list includes house plants that clean the air and are allergy-friendly so you can start experiencing some relief. Boston Fern An excellent plant to bring into your home is the Boston fern. This is one of the most popular house plants when you want to cleanse the air and improve the indoor oxygen levels.


Boston ferns can actually remove formaldehyde from your home, not to mention pollutants like xylene and benzene. If you have allergy attacks from various chemicals in your home, then this is the plant for you. If you have a humid home, you may need to water it daily, otherwise watering about once a week should be fine. The Boston fern is a lowmaintenance plant, so it is easy for even people with black thumbs.

English Ivy Another good indoor house plant for allergies is the English ivy. It tends to be a burden when people keep the plant outdoors since it has the potential to do damage to gutters when it gets tall enough. However, when you have the plant inside, it becomes dormant. It no longer becomes a burden but can remove formaldehyde and other allergens that might be inside your home. It doesn’t need much sunlight or watering, though occasional misting in the winter is recommended to keep it healthy.

Rubber Plants Rubber plants are another good option, which is why they are frequently seen in commercial offices. These have a neutral look and medium size, so they can fit just about anywhere in your home. They only need partial sun, so you aren’t forced to place them near windows or in front of sliding glass doors. Rubber trees can handle a lot of abuse and only need to be watered every once in a while. Like the other plants listed, it cleans the air and

makes it easier to breathe in your home without major allergy attacks.


Other House Plants There are also some other house plants you should consider bringing indoors if you want

help with your allergies. For example, gerbera daisies are beautiful and lovely to have in your home, but they are also able to control chemicals like benzene. If you can bring in a larger plant, the areca palm and lady palm are both great for cleaning the air. Some others to consider include the golden pothos, philodendron, and dracaena. Identifying your allergy triggers is half the battle. Once you know what allergies you are dealing with you can use the remedies above to bring relief. Natural remedies are much better than relying on over-the-counter or prescribed medicines that may not be the best option and can take a long time to start working. When you have allergies you want fast relief! Even better if you can ward off allergies altogether by using natural remedies.

BeOrganicallYou (BOY) offers inspiration, motivation, empowerment, and information. Our focus is on healthy lifestyles, bodies, and minds through natural, holistic, and organic avenues–physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

https://www.beorganicallyou.com/


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6

Desperate Love

Paige hit save and watched the tiny blue bar slowly make its way across her screen. The instant it disappeared, she sat back and let out a huge sigh of relief. She was finally... FINALLY, finished with paperwork. Boring, tedious paperwork... the bane of her existence. Yes, she was detail oriented. Yes, she preferred structure to clutter and she knew — more than once — she’d driven her colleagues crazy on a scene with her slow-paced, methodical searches. But that was entirely different. That was about evidence — about the challenge of the hunt — that was the job. The paperwork? One could argue that was also the job, but Paige still hated it and knew she always would. She stood, snatched up the stack of closed and inactive case files and headed to the backroom. “Yippee, filing,” another tedious task she despised, but one that had to be done. She knew she could pawn the files off on Margie. The admin wouldn’t argue... probably wouldn’t even mind. But, she couldn’t do it. She’d been the one to procrastinate, the one that had ignored the unpleasant until the stack on the edge of her desk was so large it looked like a bad game of Jenga. So, she had to be the one to pay the price. “Consequences,” she muttered and started down the long row of filing cabinets. As she robotically shoved files into their proper slots, her mind wandered to the nightmare she’d had the night before. She hated the memories, hated waking up in a cold sweat not knowing where she was for several terrifying seconds, hated the way it made her feel the day after an episode. The cases she’d worked for the FBI were always difficult. It didn’t really surprise her they sometimes haunted her when she least expected it. The memories had a way of tormenting her, mostly when she was stressed about something else.

Continue Reading Pg. 97 This is a continuing storyline. A new episode is published in each issue of the eMagazine - Box sets can be purchased at any eBook store

96


Vagrants & Vessels

Self-discovery begins by waking in the dark.I die with an aliveness in the middle of a message to the ocean. I float and stare at my Self’s natural glow. Unshaken rattles are left behind chipped maple bars of an empty crib. It will crack a heart one day. The Awake in the Dark series continues…The Phantoms’ grasp is strong over many living in the Space Dominated by the Illusion of Time, including the traveling empath, Elliott. The Verses are experiencing a violently dark storm. The Adumbration Crew of Light, led by Captain Salty-Pants, is lost at sea and headed straight for it. It is meant for them. Piercing through the dark will not be easy. It never is. Yet a Truth in Elliott lays deep within the storm that keeps the hope of a resilient crew alive. As the Captain and crew move forward, they will wrestle to trust whether this hope they move towards is true or dangerous.


What can I say about Storybook Pub? The place is magic. It truly does have something for every romance reader. 21 authors. 21 unique stories. Contemporary romance, romantic comedy, paranormal romance, romance with a twist, second chance romance, and even shifters. - Amazon

Join us at the Storybook Pub for love, romance, and fantasy! A contemporary romance collection featuring 21 Fabulous Stories by 21 Talented Authors Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy, Paranormal Romance, Romantic Suspense, Second Chance Romance, Shifters--Sweet to Heat.. it's all included in this anthology based on an Irish Pub that seems to make wishes come true.


M O M ’ S FAVO R I T E R EA D S I S A N I N T E R N AT I O N A L CO M M U N I T Y ESTA B L I S H E D TO E N CO U R AG E R EA D I N G A M O N G ST A D U LT S A N D C H I L D R E N . W E B E L I E V E T H AT R EA D I N G O F F E RS G R EAT J OY TO P EO P L E . F U R T H E R M O R E , I T I S A CO R N E RS TO N E O F E D U C AT I O N A N D E D U C AT I O N I S A CO R N E RSTO N E O F A C I V I L I Z E D S O C I E T Y.

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Undead prowl the streets of Glasgow at night hunting for blood. They, in turn, are hunted by the formidable Lady Delaney and her apprentice Kerry Knox, whose fight against the secret society ruling Glasgow will lead them into the city’s industrial heart where the poor toil in miserable conditions. Children have been exploited in mills and factories for decades, but the Sooty Feather Society has refined its cruel disregard in service to the undead.

“Mr. Craig again manages to spin an interesting tale of the supernatural, with twists and turns aplenty. “


Daughters (Saltbury Chronicles Book 3)

Everything seems rosy in the garden for impish Goth, Hazel Fauld and her beloved girlfriend Annie. Their love grows ever deeper and families who were once sceptical about what they saw as puppy love come increasingly to believe that the two are made for each other. They dream of a future life together and in the meantime they dote on more than just each other, as Annie in particular falls for the Fauld's adorable, if willful new baby, Sofie. Schoolgirl drummer Hazel even gets to make a record with her Rock star mother, Debbie Stewart. But then fate drives the lovers apart. St. Ann's School for Girls suffers a serious crime wave. Hazel herself is faced with temptation and events in the Fauld family's own past return to haunt them.

Can our two heroines survive a forced separation and bring about their very own happy ever after? What is the mischief god Loki's role in all this? And will Mr. Tootlins' gearbox ever recover from Hazel's attempts to learn to drive. As ever, life in Saltbury is bittersweet, funny, loving, but complicated.


Joanna White Joanna White is a Christian Author and fangirl. Hunter and Shifter are the first two books in her debut series, called the Valiant Series, published by Christian publisher Ambassador International and there are more to come. In December 2019, one of her short stories was featured in Once Upon A Yuletide, a Christmas fairy tale anthology by Divination Publishing. Her newest release, Dark Magi, just came out in November 2019.

Forgotten - Valiant Book 0

She graduated from Full Sail University with a BFA in Creative Writing For Entertainment. Ever since she was ten years old, she's been writing stories and has a deep passion for writing and creating stories, worlds, characters, and plots that readers can immerse themselves in. In 2019, she reached her personal goal of writing a million words in a year. Most of all, Joanna loves God, her family, staying at home, and being a total nerd. To stay updated and find out more about her novels, where her inspiration comes from, and more, visit her website at: joannawhite316.wordpress.com.

Only the Chosen can stop The Dark Master from spreading Corruption throughout the Galaxy . . . and The Dark Master will do anything to destroy the Chosen.


Hunter—Valiant Book 1

Shifter—Valiant Book 2

A reckless young woman named Averella does what no woman has ever done.

She disguises herself as a man and purposefully gets herself arrested and thrown into Zagerah. Her brother Gabriel was taken, and with his disease, he will not survive on his own. She has no idea what to expect inside the prison; all she knows is that once men get taken, they never come back. The Hunters will find her. Genetically altered to be faster and stronger than humans, the Hunters use their powers to find and kill every prisoner who enters Zagerah. The only ones who can defeat them, are in fact, themselves. Jared is a Hunter. It’s all he’s known, all he remembers. He kills ruthlessly and without regret, one prisoner after another. When a new prisoner Dalex shows up, everything begins to change. Jared goes undercover to make Dalex and the other prisoners believe he is one of them, a prisoner himself.

Beroan is a shapeshifter,part of the dragon clan. His clan’s Alpha, Sirath, wants to watch the world burn. For ten long years Sirath has attacked villages, killing thousands of humans and burning towns to the ground. Beroan has had enough, but his resistance will only end in suffering. Nsi is a human living in a small village with her grandmother and cousin. Her ignorance about the existence of shifters won’t protect her for long. Her family was killed in a dragon attack when she was younger, and now dragons have come again. Now she will stop at nothing until the dragon shifters are stopped, to save humans from suffering the same fate as her family. Together, Nsi and Beroan will risk everything to save humanity from Sirath. Darkness is spreading through the galaxy, Corrupting one world after another, and now it has come for theirs. Sirath already belongs to the Corruption of darkness. He will not stop until he burns down the world and leaves it covered in fire and ash.

Sightless - Valiant Book 3 The Aretul labs that created the Hunters, genetically altered killing machines, have finally been destroyed, but it came at a price for Jared, whose superhuman ability relied on his sight.

Sightless is an exciting, heartwrenching short story showing the events that take place before book two of the Valiant series, Shifter.

Now, he must face the consequences of his actions while Averella can do nothing for him other than watch and wait. They may be free of Zagerah, but there are prisoners inside who aren’t, and now the Hunters are on a spree. With Jared’s issue and a powerful new evil that will destroy everything they love, can Jared and Averella save the prisoners before they’re all massacred?

https://joannawhite316.wordpress.com/


Days of the Cross Series


2019 Reader’s Choice Award The Connections eMagazine Reader's Choice Award is open to all independently published authors and their work. Nominations close June 1st and the Finalists will be selected and posted prior to June 15th. Visit our Finalist page for this year’s options and be sure to come back and vote after June 15th.


Categories... • • • • • •

Romance Horror / Thriller/ Mystery Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Paranormal / Supernatural Children's (Picture & Chapter) Young Adult Other Fiction Nominations open until May 31st

Help Choose your Favorite Novel Winners featured in August Issue of the eMagazine

Public Voting begins June 15th Voting ends July 15th

https://melaniepsmith.com/readers-choice


Dead and Breakfast Inn by Anne Francis Scott Most of us believe there is some existence after we leave this life. Over the years, my otherworldly encounters have shown me a place which exists parallel to our own reality, a realm where our souls continue on until we are spiritually ready to go home. My main goal for starting this blog is to share some of those personal paranormal experiences, and I’d like to start with my trip to the Thomas House in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee, where the night brought muffled whisperings, and things went bump in broad daylight. I’ll post my impressions here, along with pictures and a recording of the disembodied voice I captured, so you can get a sense of what prompted my insights. There’s no denying the whispers you’ll hear on the recording. As for the images, maybe those will trigger certain feelings for you, or maybe not. I suppose whatever you glean from the pictures will depend on your ability to clear your mind and look past the physical. Then again, I know a powerful psychic who could never get much from just looking at a photograph.


Interpretation is always a crap shoot… The moment I pulled my car up to the Thomas house, an eerie feeling crawled through me. I sat there for several minutes, scanning the veranda that spanned the length of the top floor, while a multitude of windows looked back at me in a blank stare. My skin started to prickle, and the little voice in my head whispered, “Yeah, this place is definitely haunted.” I’ll admit I had second thoughts about going inside, but turning back wasn’t an option – I was part of a threesome of psychics scheduled to do a walkthrough of the house. So, I took a breath to steel myself, grabbed my luggage, and headed up the walkway, aware of unseen eyes tracking me. The sense of being watched vanished when I stepped up to the check-in counter and chatted with the owner. I felt a bit lighter then, as though a weight had drifted off my shoulders, and figured the spirits who hovered there probably got bored and went off to play elsewhere. Most of us know the universe doesn’t work that way. They, whoever “they” were, had faded back to wait for me. I felt their presence again as soon as I started up the stairs. The instant I stepped into the hall, the sensation of walking among those who were no longer breathing intensified.


Room 40 – Last room on the right at the end of the hall

When I passed this room’s open doorway, a strong sense of anger and bitterness weighted the air. I poked my head inside and felt someone glaring at me, willing me to leave. I was the intruder here, definitely not welcomed. This kind of atmosphere isn’t always as hostile as it first appears. There are reasons why the poor souls attached to these emotions linger. I wanted to help, or at least try to communicate. I think the spirit there realized my intentions. When I returned to the room with my camera, the impression of resentment directed at me seemed tempered with a quiet resignation. Of the two psychics who joined me shortly after, one is an extremely powerful medium. Brian (last name omitted to preserve his family’s privacy) communicates with those who have passed on, but at times, he also experiences physical symptoms suffered by the deceased before their death. In the case of room 40, we learned through Brian that an elderly woman had passed away in the bed. She suffered with some sort of lung/ breathing problem. Those symptoms manifested themselves through Brian to the point where he began having trouble breathing and had to walk away from the room. Watching him struggle to catch his breath was, in a word, disturbing. In the picture below, you’ll see the intense focus required for Brian to communicate with the dead. He has to shut out the world around him to let his mind become a magnet.


Yes, we’re back to the spooky hallway again. See the shelf with decorative wroughtiron sides? Below the shelf is a mirror mounted to the wall. Some have reported seeing shadowed figures running down the hall, and capturing faces in pictures of the mirror. Late in the afternoon of my first day at the Thomas House, I had gone to my room (#39, last room on the left) to unpack while Brian and his companion ran out for some supplies. The three of us were the only guests registered at the time, so I was alone on the second floor, with my door shut. After a few minutes, a horde of kids ran, stomping, down the hall, laughing and hollering, having a great time. I thought, Oh, well. Guess we had a group check in at the last minute. There goes the peace and quiet… Then I realized the laughter sounded strange – distant, and airy. I opened my door to have a look. An empty hallway stared back at me, the last echoes of phantom laughter fading away. I don’t know why the ghostly kiddies waited for Brian and company to leave before having their fun, but I imagine the show was intended just for me. I’m lucky like that. You’re probably wondering why no video recording, why just pictures? I’ll tell you – I barely managed to transfer a few photos to my laptop before my digital camera/video recorder died. The camera never worked again, and, yes, it was a new device. I had to use my cell phone to take the majority of pictures, but the recorder on the phone refused to work. Each time I tried to use that function, diagonal bands of color shot across a black, blank screen, without recording the light show I was seeing. I have no idea how many ghosts roam the Thomas House, but I can tell you there are too many to even begin to guess their numbers. Most of you who follow paranormal news and investigations are aware that activity of the otherworldly sort tends to zap batteries and electronics. Well, they zapped me, too. By the end of the first day, I’d already begun to suffer a severe energy drain.


Curious about what I’d capture sound wise, I settled into my room (39) once dark fell and setup my digital audio recorder. The recorder had gone dead as a doornail. I’ll add here that I had just put in fresh batteries. I didn’t trust the digital equipment at this point, so I pulled out the mini cassette recorder I’d brought as back up. Listen to the audio clip below. You’ll hear a low, breathy whisper, and then later a more distinct voice – deep, and male. There is some atmospheric interference; the source I suspect belonged to the entity who visited me. I’m usually conscious of an unseen presence, but not this time. The idea that I hadn’t realized I had company of the non-breathing sort gave me a serious case of the creeps. Sneaky ghost… (Visit Website for Audio) After getting home, I opened both recorders and found the batteries obliterated, almost as if they’d taken a direct hit from an extreme blast of heat. I was surprised the recording on the cassette tape hadn’t been destroyed. Notice the severely warped shape of the batteries: I learned from the owner of the inn about a cleaning woman who had previously worked there but was frightened off. At the time, the woman had gone into the utility closet for supplies. She turned to leave and found herself looking at an apparition of a tall man dressed in black. G.E.I.S.T. paranormal investigators reported seeing the dark, shadowy figure of a man during a Thomas House investigation. Some disturbing corroboration in their initial write up was the mention of hearing a disembodied male voice. In a 2011 follow up, their report noted photographic evidence of a creepy face appearing to the left of the door in the entryway. The investigators were inside the hotel at the time. I captured the image of what may be the same eerie face, this time on the right, since I was standing outside the hotel, facing the front. The photos below were shot after night fell. I caught a flicker of movement inside and quickly took the picture from my cell phone, using the flash.


Blurry, due to my haste, but you can still make out the image looking out at us from the window. I snapped the second shot with the flash off. The image is much more pronounced. We did verify with the owner and resident staff that they were in their suites at the time. Before traveling to the Thomas House, I avoided researching any related investigations, so as not to be swayed. Our undeniable experiences there later prompted me to search online for similar accounts, and led me to the G.E.I.S.T. reports – initial and 2011 follow up. In the summary of the initial investigation, G.E.I.S.T. states “there may be ghosts at the Thomas House.” The report also adds there was “much contamination” due to ambient noises.

Other than the ghosts, there were no distractions during my stay. The three of us were the only living guests on those days. Our time at the Thomas House was like taking a journey back through another era. Yes, the inn is spooky, but it is also quite beautiful. Another plus is the chef does an awesome job of whipping up the most fantastic Southern cuisine! If you’re curious about more evidence found at the Thomas House, and other haunted locations, you’ll find some interesting video and audio links at

Tennessee Ghost Hunters. http://www.tnghosthunters.com/ Thanks so much for reading,

Anne Francis Scott

I’ve always been drawn to haunted houses, ancient cemeteries, and situations that occur outside the realm of what we accept as logic. This might seem weird to some, but for me, those paths are a part of everyday life.

Find More from Author Anne Francis Scott Website: https://annefrancisscott.com/


Swenson Castle is under assault from old enemies. Freya fights to keep her devoted Immortals and family safe. Even on a beautiful spring day as the sun is shinning, there is evil in the world looking for revenge. Some of the enemies are unseen and can go undetected until they raise their ugly heads to kill. Freya reigns over her domain and stays vigilant, but sometimes the stones are cast at her, when she least expects them. However she is, Immortal Freya, the Viking Warrior of God.


A Chicago reporter investigating the suspicious deaths of lottery winners finds himself the target. As the body count mounts, an elite team of federal investigators takes over the case. It's a race to the finish to expose the conspiracy and apprehend the guilty.

“Fun read. The X-Files meets The Untouchables. “ -Amazon


WRITERS’ LIVES Author Tom Benson

Profile and Background

I’m a Scotsman in his late sixties who has had full careers in the British Army and as a Retail Manager.

In my military career, during the 1970s I patrolled the streets of Belfast and later worked in uniform and ‘civvies’ in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Apart from units in West Germany, I served in West Berlin when there was still a dividing wall. In the mid-1980s I trained recruits and in 1991, late in my career, I served throughout the first Gulf War. As a retailer, I managed stores, trained staff, closed failing stores, opened new ones and worked all over the UK. My greatest failing was always the tendency to deal with shoplifters rather than call for security or the police.

Why? – As an avid reader for most of my life, I held a secret desire to write stories. Yes, it’s that simple. I loved visiting other worlds in books and one day I thought, I’d love to write a novel. It did, of course, take longer than a day. When? – I tried my hand at writing in 1996 a couple of years after leaving the military, but I didn’t need an expert to tell me I had a lot to learn. I abandoned writing and increased my reading. About ten years later I got the urge to try writing again and began with poetry. Things moved on steadily as I acquired new disciplines, tried different types of creative writing and increased my time on the keyboard. Since retiring two years ago I write at least eight hours every day. Where? – I’m in the envious position of being retired and because our grown son lives abroad it gave me the opportunity to convert a bedroom into a study. Since my early writing days, my haven has seen several upgrades. A couple of years ago I treated the room to an overhaul to create what I have now. It’s bright, airy and allows me to relax and be creative. What? – I wrote poetry and Readers’ Letters to magazines before moving on to short stories and then novels. Due to my personal interests and choice of reading material, I began with thrillers and as my confidence grew I tried military, sci-fi, romance and erotica. I’ve more recently dabbled in horror. As many authors do, I allow aspects of my own personality to pervade my hero’s character which I find easy to do. When this is blended with my military experience, my keen sense of justice and a lifelong interest in covert organisations and operations my enthusiasm increases rapidly. My penchant for writing short tales is the result of a fertile imagination and the desire to tell stories. Erotica … ah, now there’s a topic best discussed in intimate surroundings.


How? – Fortunately, in my radio operator training in 1970 I learned to touch-type which didn’t take long to get back into. I treat my writing like a job so my first ‘shift’ is normally from 8 am until 1 pm. I have an hourlong lunch break and then write until 6 pm. At least every two hours I stop for fifteen minutes and get up to walk around. Occasionally, I sit my Mac on top of a large ‘Really Useful’ plastic container on my desk and stand up to write. I have different tactics when it comes to method. In the case of a novel I am most likely to think of a scenario and then work backwards to see how the characters arrived there. By the time I’ve got the story underway, I’m already listing directions for it to go. I make notes of possible titles and endings while I’m in the process of writing the story. I name my chapters too. I get the first draft written rapidly, then it’s left aside for at least a week but usually longer between the following drafts. From the third draft onwards, each time I print the manuscript, read it aloud, make edits with a red pen, update the manuscript, save and leave aside again. In the case of short stories, key areas for me are a good ‘hook’ in the introduction, tight dialogue, good pace and a twist at the end. The first draft of a short story might be 5,000 words before edits which will reduce it to 3,500 words by the final draft. Again, I will leave a short story for a couple of weeks in between drafts. This brings me back with a fresh outlook on what I’m seeing in the story. If the writing is to be published I get it to a decent standard and then ask for beta readers. We always get too familiar with our work and don’t see issues. One thing I’ve discovered that helps with spotting issues is to beta read for other authors.

Writer’s Block? – This is an ailment I’ve never suffered from because I always have at least two or more writing projects on the go. I’ve found that by having more than one ‘Work in Progress’ I can easily go from one to another. My multi-project system has worked for me for about eight years. Other Interests? – Apart from reading widely, I draw and paint. I also enjoy watching natural history documentaries and have a collection of DVDs and books on the subject. To maintain my fitness I walk and cycle.

CONNECT WITH AUTHOR Author Website: http://www.tombensonauthor.com Amazon: https://amzn.to/3d1lshT Blog: https://tombensoncreative.com Artist: https://tombensonartist.wordpress.com Erotica: https://tombensonerotica.wordpress.com Katya Cumming: https://bit.ly/3aRlTKn

Discover additional IASD authors: https://indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com/


What could you discover 100 years into the future? New technologies? New world? New cultures?

“Patricia� is the story of a man who wins a lottery, meets the woman of his dreams, studies computers for something to do, and accidentally creates a computer that can send him to the future and back. In the future, Gregory Allen Gray embarks on an unexpected adventure. He is greeted and escorted everywhere he goes. After all, he could disrupt the entire world order, or even their past. Over the next week Greg faces several challenges. Will he make it back to his own time? The adventure begins . . .


Paty Jager Book 14 in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series Hawaiian adventure, Deceit, Murder Shandra Higheagle is asked to juror an art exhibition on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. After an altercation at the exhibition, the chairwoman of the event, Shandra’s friend, arrives home with torn clothes, scratches, and stating she tried to save an angry artist who fell over a cliff. Shandra and Ryan begin piecing together information to figure out if the friend did try to save the artist or helped him over the edge. During the investigation, Shandra comes across a person who reminds her of an unhealthy time in her past. Knowing this man and the one from her past, she is determined to find his connection to the dead artist. When her grandmother doesn’t come to her in dreams, Shandra wonders if her past is blinding her from the truth.


By day, Ava is a dedicated, hard-working nurse. By night, she's hiding a terrible secret. The only one who knows the truth is Joe, Ava's surrogate father, who she's sworn to protect, no matter the cost. But no secret can stay hidden forever.

When Joe’s sexy son, Devin, returns home from the military, their mutual attraction threatens to derail the tentative existence Ava has built for herself. In this exciting romantic suspense, Ava is torn between obsession and temptation, friendship and romance, self-reliance and trust. Can she save herself, or will giving in to her heart have deadly consequences?

“I love this book. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second one! If you like romantic novels, this one is for you!” -Amazon


Abused. Betrayed. Imprisoned. Yet despite her suffering, she clings to the hope someday she'll find her happily ever after. No, she’s not Cinderella. Her name’s Sam, and this is no fairy tale. Logan, her self-proclaimed “boyfriend,” has made her life a living hell. But Sam’s had enough. Gathering her courage, she speeds off into the night, desperate to break free. Without even a pair of shoes to call her own, she’ll have to rely on her wits and the kindness of strangers to finally leave her dark past behind. Can she find peace and healing in a quiet mountain town? Will her newfound friendships lead to a chance at real love and the independence she’s always wanted, or will her past destroy the future she so desperately wants?


So ‌ I'll try not to use the C-word, but in the past week I've started to see posts and videos with recommendations of people's favourite books to make you smile, laugh and escape while we wait for things to stop being so crazy. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight a few authors, books and publishers that I've been loving across various genres (including this one above, though I'm currently halfway through so thought I'd give it an honourable mention) I've put together a list of ten books, so I hope you find something that interests you and you can find a new story to escape into for a few days. I know that some sites like amazon are restricting their non-essential products and sadly the publishing world is in need of some support, so where I can I've added links to either the publisher or author website. Some links are through hive.co.uk which helps deliver online from independent bookshops. In no particular order ‌

'Half Wild' by Robin MacArthur (published by Ecco / Harper Collins) is a short story collection which focuses on various characters in Vermont, '...adolescent girls, ageing hippies, hardscrabble farmers, disconnected women, and solitary men ‌' who all live between civilisation and the wild. It's a wonderfully quirky look at humanity, loveliness and nature. I adored this collection and would recommend for anyone who has limited time to read or struggling with focus at the moment, as the stories are fairly short. https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062444394/half-wild/


If you're anything like me, stressful times will lead you towards a light hearted, heart-warming choice of book. Veronica Henry is an author that I often turn to when that mood takes me - 'A Family Recipe' (published by Corgi) is based around Laura Griffin, a mum and wife whose marriage takes a turn that she doesn't expect. From that, she finds herself and her happiness through cooking. If, like me, you love a culinary themed novel then you'll love this. Available on hive https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Veronica-Henry/A-Family-Recipe--Thefeel-good-read-of-2018/21865623

'Violet' by SJI Holliday is an incredible novel that I was lucky enough to be invited to review for Orenda (a publisher that I love) a while ago. It's a thriller based around two young women who are traveling the world by train. There's suspense, there's mystery, there's toxic friendship and there's also a wonderful sense of anticipation and adventure as the author paints each place the women visit so that you can imagine yourself there with them. There are dark elements within the story, but it's a great book to escape into. Available through Waterstones https://www.waterstones.com/book/violet/sji-holliday/9781912374854

Staying on a darker theme, I read 'Verity' (self published from Colleen Hoover) recently and it completely shook me. One of those thrillers that creeps into your mind and plays with it, this has a literary theme as the main character is invited to stay a the home of a family whose mum is severely injured and unable to finish a book in a successful series. The premise pulled me in from the outset, but what happens after that is best left for the reader to discover ‌ if you like dark and twisted tales sometimes, then give this a go. Find the book on Colleen Hoover's website‌ https://www.colleenhoover.com/portfolio/verity/


On a lighter note, I offer you a young adult novella told with graphic novel elements - 'Night of Cake and Puppets' is based on arguably two of my favourite characters from Laini Taylor's 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' trilogy. I loved that series, and it was only last year that I realised this novella existed; it tells the story of Zuzana and Mik and an evening that the trilogy suggested but was never recounted. This little book is delightfully written, beautifully illustrated and will not fail to put a smile on your face. If you haven't read the trilogy and enjoy young adult urban fantasy ‌ your welcome. You'll find the novella at Waterstones https://www.waterstones.com/book/night-of-cake-and-puppets/lainitaylor/9781473675537

Having been a fan of Mel and Sue since the days of Light and Late Lunch, I couldn't resist the audiobook of this last year. It's exactly what I'd hoped it would be - endearing, self-deprecating and of course hilarious. In it, Sue Perkins recaptures and describes various anecdotes from her childhood and early days working with Mel, and I would highly recommend it for some comedic light relief at the moment. Buying options through Penguin. https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/272/272930/spectacles/9781405918558.html

Now, if you've followed my blog for a while, you won't be surprised to find this one here. I count myself lucky to know the author (online of course, as we're from different corners of the world) as a fellow indie, and am in awe of her use of emotion and subtlety in this series. 'Behind Our Lives' is the first book in a trilogy that follows Lincoln and Kali and how their story develops. The writing is delicious, the characters real and the emotion deep. I adored this book and the ones that followed and I urge you to pick it up if you want to lose yourself in fiction. Check out Charlene's website https://www.charlenecarr.com/getbehindourlives/

'The 24-Hour Cafe' by Libby Page is another that I was lucky enough to be able to promote on a blog tour earlier this year. Published by Orion, this book is set in a cafe in London and follows Hannah and Mona as they navigate life sharing a flat and alternating shifts. The chapters take you through a full day and spend time on various customers as well our two waitresses. The novel is light, engrossing and touches on the wonders of humanity, which I think we could all use just now. The book is available through the publisher's website https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/titles/libby-page/the-24-hour-caf%C3% A9/9781409175278/


Another author who leaves me in awe with their words - Jen Campbell is an author and poet that I discovered on her YouTube channel a few years ago. She is an incredibly intelligent and inspiring lady and she writes fantastic books; I've loved her short stories (I'm the proud owner of a signed copy of 'The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night' and my nieces have made friends with Franklyn, the wonderful dragon from the children's series she has created with illustrator Katie Harnett. 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' is what I've chosen for this list - mainly because it made me laugh out loud, and I think we could all use that at the moment - which is a short book published by Constable, which gives anecdotes from her time working as a bookseller, and I think it's great. Plus she rocks some very cool dungarees and headscarves which is awesome. Check out Jen's website http://www.jen-campbell.co.uk/

For my last choice, I'm going to mention another indie author whom I find extremely inspiring. Sarra Cannon became known to me through her YouTube channel Heart Breathings, where she offers advice to other authors about what she's learnt over the years. I watched her channel for a while before deciding to give her first series a try - I don't read a lot of young adult fantasy, but I do admit to enjoying paranormal TV series like Vampire Diaries and Buffy the Vampire Diaries. I was intrigued by the idea of Harper, the main character who had been in care and who we find out from the blurb has 'extraordinary powers'. I love a witchy theme in a novel, so I was in and it's such an enjoyable read - I've read the first two books now and I know Sarra is planning to finish the Shadow Demons series on, I believe, it's twelfth book this year so I'm excited to have so much of the plot to discover. Perfect for a fun reading binge while we're all spending time at home ‌ the first three eBooks are available free so check her out https://sarracannon.com/books-2/ Okay, so there are my recommendations for books to read when we all need a bit of a mood lift. A lot of us turn to books to provide solace, laughter and escape. I hope you have found something here of interest. If you have any recommendations of similar books to the ones I've mentioned, please get in touch on social media. If you're an author or publisher who would like to get in touch about a book that you would like to be reviewed, please use the email form on the 'contact' tab of my website. Let's be kind, compassionate and help each other through this tough time. Happy reading :)

Got a minute to look around? Read about me and my books, and why not check out my book review blog? I love working with publishers and authors to promote new titles.

Learn More on her website... https://www.gemmaromanbooks.co.uk/


Sergey Ilyn As if by a miracle, Eli gets a spaceship named Night Stalker and wants to explore the galaxy. It seems like fun, but there’s one slight problem—miracles don’t happen. Advanced Gaian technology dominates the universe, and it is known as the GAME. Using it without authorization to materialize Night Stalker is prohibited and makes Eli an intergalactic fugitive. As if that were not enough, at the whims and vagaries of Gaian politics, he becomes entangled in an intergalactic conspiracy to steal the leading-edge machinery. Game on! What's a little exploration without all-powerful alien authorities, space battles, and a suicide mission to save the girl? Plunge into the epic Book I of the Midas Touch trilogy—if you're a fan of Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy, you'll love this space opera adventure. Warning: this book contains some strong language and graphical depictions of violence.

“It is not just another one regular space opera – it has very interesting storyline: excellent and refreshingly original. Its premise is rather unique…” -Amazon


Julian Markus had a prestigious job in New York corporation and wife he loved immensely. One winter night, without seeing it coming, he will face evil of the world. The attack during which his wife Gillien gets brutally murdered will tear apart his consciousness and make him exile from his life. The road he takes from there becomes his personal journey while fighting with his own demons. Following Markus will lead us to coloring streets, suspicious night bars, as well as a whole catalog of characters who illustrate modern world of violence and danger. A novel that permeates a Fight Club atmosphere, leads a reader on questioning personal attitude on subject of (in) humanity, possibilities of mental and physical answer to category of evil. Extreme circumstances will cause transformation within Julian Markus from a model citizen to a man who, in Fincher’s sense, goes with deadly sin of anger a center of this Relic’s novel.


AMAZING eBook

Two Face the World: Marry in Haste... (Richard & Maria Book 2) by Sarah Stuart

Richard and Maria marry, but both are haunted by past rejections. Sinister letters and unwanted gifts arrive, and the more each tries to protect the other by keeping them secret, the worse the anxiety. When vicious attacks on lives and property begin, Richard and Maria reveal the truth to one another and decide they must discover the identity of their enemy and defeat him or her. Will their love hold fast or the old saying “marry in haste, repent at leisure� prove true?

On Common Ground (For Their Country's Good Book 3) by Rebecca Bryn Concluding the tale of Jem and Ella's ill-fated love: both have been transported as convicts to Van Diemen's Land. Ella and Jem's baby son, William, is dying from malnutrition in the nursery of the female factory at Launceston, where she is imprisoned. In order to save his life, she has put herself forward for marriage, despite already having a legal husband, Harry, and a son, Matthew, in England. Her new 'husband' has gold fever and is taking her and William over Australia's Bue Mountains in search of his fortune. Harry, in England, doubts Matthew is his son, and, desperate for a legal, blood heir, determines to hear the truth of the matter from Ella's own lips and sets out to find her. Jem, meanwhile, still a prisoner in Impression Bay, on Van Diemen's Land's convict peninsula, believes Ella and William are in England. Letters from home suggest she's with Harry, and is happy, but can Jem believe that after what Harry has put her through in the past? Unable to rest until he knows she's safe and happy, Jem determines on a further escape attempt to reach England and Ella. Will their paths ever cross again, or is their love not meant to be?

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Kindred and Affinity: by Christy Barritt When the man you love marries the sister you hate. A family saga of love and betrayal. In Victorian England, estranged sisters, Annie and Mary Ellen Underwood, fight for the love of one man, Edwin West. Their rivalry ignites passions, jealousies, family feuds, and deep hatreds already sparked by religious intolerance. Edwin loves them both, but both are forbidden fruit. Who will be the winners in this three-sided game, and what will be the price of a second chance at love for the losers? For lovers of Catherine Cookson.

The English Sombrero: Nothing to do but run by Anthony Randall It’s 1999, twenty-six stone alcoholic, chain smoking, fast food junkie, millionaire businessman Don Simmons has a drunken £250'000 bet that he can complete a half marathon in under an hour and a half. Once sober and realizing the seriousness of his wager, he decides to take a year out, move to Spain, shed half his body weight and commence a gruelling training regime in order to preserve his esteem, win the money and save his life. This humorous novel set for the most part against the back drop of beautiful Catalonia, is book one in a series of four following the outrageous exploits of a modern day Avenger, a righter of wrongs, champion of Adversity and lover of malt whiskey.

EXITS AND ENTRANCES by Lesley Hayes The swinging sixties – a time of peace, love, violence and revolution. In 1962, as the Cold War erupts in sudden crisis over Cuba, Cordelia, Beatrice and Rosalind are fourteen. Dubbed by their English teacher the three witches from Macbeth, they have already recognised one another as outsiders, with no idea that their alliance will turn out to be a lifelong friendship. Their personalities and choices lead them along very different paths, but they never lose the strong thread of their connection. Through the passions, disappointments, losses and triumphs of their lives the trilogy of novels follows them through the years, reflecting the many changes that have taken place for women over six decades. Exits and Entrances chronicles the eventful era between 1962 and 1972 as they grow from girls into women.


Coping Mechanisms Coping with flashbacks of childhood sexual abuse By Tracy Black Coping Mechanisms demonstrates how adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse can cope with stresses that occur in their everyday lives. Adult survivors can find life to be a bit more difficult, and feelings of isolation, fear, loneliness or being frozen in time are not uncommon.

Amie African Adventure by Lucinda E. Clarke Would you leave your family and friends and follow your husband to start a new life in Africa? Amie did and lived to regret it. Just an ordinary girl, living in an ordinary town, with nothing but ordinary ambitions, Amie is plunged into danger when her husband is posted to a country she’s never heard of.

As she adapts to a different environment, events overtake her and land her in more trouble than she could ever have imagined. At the outbreak of the civil war, as the last plane evacuating the expats takes off, Amie is left behind. Now she’s alone with no one to help her. She’d worked for the government so by chance she was allied to the losing side and the new regime is out to find her. Her husband has a secret he’s not told her which further puts her life at risk. Now she only has her wits to protect her against the men who would kill her and the predatory wild animals in the African bush.

The casual or innocent things which trigger flashbacks bring back painful and unwanted memories. A simple sound or a smell can trigger the brain and transport you to ‘that’ time or ‘that’ place. A number of survivors have contributed by writing about their personal experiences and how they cope. They bravely share their stories and explain how motivational exercises and self-help have made their lives manageable. Coping Mechanisms examines the practical ways of coping and explains how you can implement them. Don’t allow the demons from your past to haunt your future.


Betrayal: Book 1 by Sharon Brownlie

Deadly Secrets: The truth will out‌

What makes a woman kill? An upbringing marred by rejection and hurt when you are let down by the ones you love and a society that is supposed to protect you? As a teenager that rejection lures Helen King into the world of drugs and prostitution. Now, as an adult, Helen is spiraling out of control. Old wounds are surfacing; can she face her demons without the drugs? Will revenge help release her from her past? Beating her addiction is her only chance at a new life. But, an encounter with a former school teacher opens up old wounds that had been festering deep within her. While quitting drugs, another craving takes its place. A desire for revenge: payback for those who'd betrayed her. Plagued with bitterness, Helen heads to Edinburgh to begin her killing spree. Police are mystified when her first victim is found. A second death convinces them it’s the same killer. Can they connect Helen to the crimes? How many more will die before she is stopped?

by Gordon Bickerstaff Crime. Conspiracy. Serial Killers. Thriller The truth will out‌ Gavin's life will be turned upside down. He joins a company to work on a product that will revolutionise the food industry. His initial gut instinct is to walk away until he discovers one of the company directors is the former love of his teenage life.

Then They Were Six by Cherime MacFarlane NUMBER 2, Listopia's Best Sweet Romance Books Devastated, she is standing on the side of the road with a dead car, no cell phone, and no money. Running from an abusive exhusband, she and her daughter must have a paycheck. The mechanic stops to help, but what will he ask of her? Are there strings attached to his offer of assistance? Divorced, the father of three is in a last ditch stand to save his business. But the woman stranded on the side of the road is a distraction he cannot ignore. She needs help.

The financial implications are global and incredible. Powerful individuals and countries are prepared to kill as they compete to seize control of the company. Corruption at high levels, a deadly flaw in the product, and the stakes jump higher and higher. Against overwhelming odds, Gavin must rescue his former love from the hands of an evil cult as they prepare her for a living nightmare.


Storm Lake: A Short Horror Story (Storm Lake Stories Book 0) by Val Tobin Rachel and Jeff are just children. But Storm Lake’s monsters want to eat them anyway … Thirteen-year-old Rachel and her little brother are looking forward to a weekend of canoeing and spending time with their friends up at the family cottage on Storm Lake. But something terrifying has birthed from the trees, and the kids find themselves trapped in an isolated marina fighting for their lives.

Beyond The Law: Formation by Tom Benson In January 1996, Phil McKenzie leads his Special Air Service team, on a secret mission into Kentobi, Africa. An assassin codenamed Chameleon, kills the Kentobi president, but Phil is framed for the murder. He negotiates liberty at a high price; an end to his military career. Following a brief secondment to the Metropolitan Police and discharge from the Army, Phil returns to his hometown as Hawk, a vigilante. The term, ‘deniable ops’, finds new meaning as Phil tackles Glasgow’s underworld with his small, unique team. Using stealth, intelligence, and bloody violence, Phil hunts down the city’s Godfather.

Dangerous Liaisons: The Backstreet Boy and the Royal Heiress Royal Command Family Saga Book 1) by Sarah Stuart Love sizzles with passion when two worlds collide, but can it survive? Michael's road from poverty to riches is rough: charisma and talent versus pride. Elspeth, daughter of a wealthy Scottish laird, inherits Margaret Tudor's diary. It contains the command to "find love where ye may", and that she must pass the book to a daughter conceived in love. Elspeth is determined to see Michael succeed, but is the promise she makes to him too high a price to pay? Eighteen years later, the relationship is challenged by their adult daughter. Lisette adores the" Diamond Superstar" and sees the royal command as permission to set a trap for Michael and indulge her forbidden love. One night of passion results in pregnancy, and the paparazzi are already suspicious of the father and daughter who play lovers onstage. Margaret Tudor succeeded in hiding the birth of an illegitimate baby from a king in the sixteenth century, but can Elspeth hide the next royal heiress from modern bureaucracy? Does she love Michael and Lisette enough to forgive them and try?


Devil in the Dock: A Short Satire by P.A. Rudders Set in the modern-day, this is a 7,500-word short story satire that imagines a grand court case in which the Devil, Satan, is called to account for all his mischief and evil wrong-doings throughout history. Knowing that the best form of defence is a good offence, the Devil goes on the attack from the start, first questioning the history and background of Jesus, the gospels, and the supposed miracles and supernatural mythology of the time. In Satan's defence, a number of witnesses are called, namely many of the great free-thinkers throughout history, who systematically discredit much of the mythology and fantastical claims of the Bible and the Christian religion. Amid the judicial proceedings, there are a number of exchanges between the Devil, God's court representative St. Augustine, and several notable characters from history. Warning: This story/satire is written from the viewpoint of an atheist. The writing is intended to be darkly humorous, and to some extent, quite mocking/scathing in the tone and approach it takes with the subject matter. There is no deliberate intention to shock or offend those of the Christian faith or belief, so with that in mind, please be aware this satire contains material that some people so minded may find disagreeable or offensive.

The Miracle Stork (A Baba Treasure Chest story Book 2) by Ronesa Aveela Illustrated short story. Rada knows little about her Bulgarian heritage because her family doesn't practice their customs. That changes when her grandmother comes to visit. On a trip to the zoo, Rada discovers more than animals. She learns that diversity is not something to be ashamed of. Her grandmother tells her about the traditions of their ancestors and the meaning of the martenitsi that she makes every spring.

The Miracle Stork is a story about creating and maintaining traditions and customs to embrace who you are.

Paige Carter: Deputy Sheriff (Crime Blog Book 1) by Melanie P. Smith Was moving back home the worst mistake she ever made? Paige Carter has moved back to town, but not everyone is happy about her return. Her past is complicated and filled with tragedy. Her father was killed on a top-secret Ranger mission in Afghanistan. Her mother was murdered when she was a senior in high school. After seven years as a forensic science expert with the FBI, a failed relationship, and too many unanswered questions — Agent Carter needs a change. Follow Paige in her new career as a deputy sheriff in a rural Utah town where local crimes are solved, and secrets are revealed.


Discover a Fantastic World of Princesses, Powerful Wizards, Singing Forests, and Fairy towns! "The Shiny Princess" has the classical fairy tale feel to it with a lot of modern messages to children. A perfect bonding time book that can prepare children for big life lessons they will enthusiastically learn, absorbed by an adventurous story. Princess Shiny will teach children the importance of intelligence and creativity in problem solving. She will help them cultivate empathy and go beyond judging people when we don't understand where their actions come from. At the same time children can understand at a young age how to create their own destiny and take chances even when it seems like everything is impossible. These ideas will help them grow into responsible, independent and leading adults. The Shiny Princess is also perfect to help children who will soon welcome a little brother or sister making them realize their role as a big sibling. Fathers can especially enjoy reading this book with their children. It all started when The Smiling King announced to his daughter the Shiny Princess, the Fairies had granted them their wish to bring home a little baby sister from the Fairy Town. On his way to go bring the baby home, the King gets caught by Tantalus. Now it's Shiny's duty to save her father and baby sister and she will do it in the most unexpected way. Her father always stimulated her intelligence and creativity but little did he know this would one day turn her into a hero.


Faith is Tangible

What is faith? In this book the author reveals the truth about what faith , in the in the Christian sense , actually is. The author reveals that faith is more than merely the act of believing in one thing or another, but rather a spiritual tool that enacts the spiritual power inherit in every born again Christian. The author does not contend that faith is some form of magic that can manifest anything imaginable, whether perverse, detrimental or not , but rather faith will manifest only those things that are good and compatible with God's will and perfect plan for your individual destiny. The author breaks the biblical process of utilizing faith down to 7 easy to understand keys. These 7 keys are not based on opinion but are based solely on biblical principals. The author makes a conscious effort to edit out all needless intellectual jargon and gives the reader practical benefits from a lifetime of studies.


ABC: What Kind of Nurse Can You Be

ABC What Kind of Nurse Can You Be? Is devoted to educating young readers the several career paths in the field of nursing from A -Z. Whether there is an interest in nursing or another area in the medical profession, young readers will discover the various opportunities available & may even be able to pair their area of interest (such as travel) with the exciting world of nursing.


Harry Stays Home This is a free downloadable short story from the writers of the Harry The Happy Mouse series. It is FREE to reproduce and use as needed. This story was written by NGK and Sylva Fae to reassure children during these strange times. It is Illustrated by Janelle Dimmett who also illustrated the other books in the Harry the Happy Mouse series. Get it for free at— http://harrystayshome.harrythehappymouse.com/ and while you’re there be sure to check out the other Harry the Happy Mouse stories. Once the story was finished, a request was sent out for people to create video readings of the story. The response was amazing. Author Susie Violet was the first to respond. Over 300 singers, actors, models, front line doctors, and ordinary people , quickly followed. There are nearly a 100 readings currently on the site, with more being added all the time. See the videos on the NGK Media YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/ playlist? list=PLThJ8X7Il4DJnpdPa2oZO J5Yzr7LmjW7u The Harry the Happy Mouse series is about spreading a wave of kindness, and this little story has grown with the kindness of others.

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Ingredients 85g Dandelion flowers (without the greens) 500g Sugar (amount can be reduced without loss of quality but don’t cut more than 25%) 500ml Water Lemon slices or 2 Tbsp lemon acid Pick your dandelions away from where dogs are walked, and from fields free of chemical sprays. Pick just the heads of fully open flowers - the bigger the better. I rinsed my dandelions to remove any bugs but I've since read that that washes away a lot of pollen. Instead, leave your dandelion heads spread out on a towel for 5 minutes to give bugs a chance to buzz off. I used the whole flower heads, but using just using the petals will give a more subtle flavour. Boil the flowers with a few slices of lemon, for 20 minutes, then leave to steep over night. Strain the liquid, add sugar and boil until it reduces. Test the consistency of the honey by pouring a little on a plate and letting it cool. The mixture does thicken considerably when cooled.


Hannah Foley’s Marmalade Recipe Use approximately a 1 lb of dandelion flower heads to a 1 lb of sugar 3/4 of a pint of water, a glug of cider and 6 large juiced oranges with sliced rind, I add wild oregano just a pinch to give it an interesting lift. Boil until setting point and decant into sterilised jars .

Roasted Dandelion Root Tea 4 1/2 tsp dried dandelion root 2 Cups Water 1 to 2 Tbsp butter or cream (optional to taste) Cinnamon stick, dried ginger or Vanilla extract (optional) Place pot over medium heat and place the dried dandelion root in the bottom. Toast the root until it becomes fragrant and golden brown. Add water and additional flavoring (Cinnamon, ginger or vanilla) and bring to a boil. Once water boils reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Strain. Place butter or cream and dandelion root tea mixture in a blender and mix on high for 10 seconds (Liquid will be hot so be sure to partially remove the stopper to let the steam escape) (TIP: make sure you select roots from an area that has not been sprayed with pesticides. You will need to scrub, chop and lay them out to dry until brittle before use)

Sylva Fae owns a wood where she and her husband run survival courses and woodland craft days. She escapes to the woods at every possible opportunity to enjoy the peace and fresh air. She takes the girls off on adventures in their own enchanted woodland, hunting for fairies and You can find additional stories and anecdotes on her website https://sylvafae.co.uk/blog/


“Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity.” —Elvis Presley


The web is a wonderful tool. There’s instant access to a wealth of knowledge on any topic - including Self-Publishing. Here are a few examples to help authors along the way. Starting a Sentence with “And” or “But” — Should you Do It? You can forget what you were taught in school — it is okay to start a sentence with “and” or “but” after all. Here’s why... https://prowritingaid.com/art/1228/starting-a-sentence-with-and-or-but-should-you-do-it.aspx

Empathy vs Sympathy: Which One Are You Feeling? Empathy vs Sympathy: Are you confused? Here’s a simple guide to help you tell the difference. https://prowritingaid.com/art/1088/empathy-vs-sympathy%3a-why-are-they-confused.aspx

Villian vs Antagonist: How to Use Each in Your Book Your villain is an antagonist, but your antagonist may not be a villain. Writers use these terms interchangeably, but if we take a closer look antagonists and villains are separate and serve different functions in a story. https://prowritingaid.com/art/843/are-you-writing-a-villain-or-an-antagonist.aspx

Beta Readers 101: How to Find and Work with Beta Readers Ready to submit your work for publication or querying but unsure what your target audience might think? You need beta readers! Here’s a complete guide to beta reading, from finding readers to final feedback... https://prowritingaid.com/art/1182/beta-readers%3a-how-to-find-and-work-with-them.aspx

7 Tips for Finding a Job as a Freelance Blogger With 500 million blogs available, there must be at least a few dozen that will become your clients. This article will show you how... https://prowritingaid.com/art/1165/7-tips-for-finding-a-job-as-a-freelance-blogger-.aspx


How far would you go to feel alive? ‌ A young backpacker with PTSD follows her summer fling to the wilds of rural America in a leap of faith to change her stars. But will the road less travelled lead to a fairy-tale ending, or rather the beginning of self-discovery? A road-trip romance full of twists and turns, magic and mystery. Come away on an adventure, be swept up in a romance, remember what it’s like to feel the wonder in life again!

By Kate Sundara


Desperate Love

Continue Reading | Episode 6 At the moment, she was worried about Nathan Porter. Her longtime friend and mentor wasn’t himself, hadn’t been the last few times they’d spoken, and it worried her. For some reason, that worry had surfaced in a disturbing and twisted nightmare the night before. In her dream, Nathan had been captured by a killer she helped put behind bars several years ago. One that had lured his victims into an elaborate maze that was conveniently missing an exit, then he stood by and watched as they wandered around, desperate and frustrated for days. In real life, the victims ultimately died from dehydration. They had been trapped, wandering around a maze without food or water day after day, not understanding there was no hope, while a cruel and sadistic scientist monitored their problem-solving abilities. Five young men and women had succumbed before her team located his lab and stopped the madness. Seeing Nathan wander around that same maze, even in a dream, left Paige feeling uneasy and a little distraught. She’d call him tonight she decided as soon as she got home. She’d call him and insist he talk to her. If she pushed hard enough, he might cave. It was nearly forty minutes later when Paige headed back to the office area — what she fondly referred to as the Bullpen. Her steps were a little lighter, her mood a little brighter. The filing was done, her cases were caught up and she had a plan. By the time her head hit her pillow tonight, she’d know what was going on with the General. Then she’d decide how to help. She was only a few feet away from the inner door that separated the public office space from the private secure storage section when she heard voices, raised voices... and Margie was alone in the office. Paige quickened her pace, pushed through the doorway and stopped. Raised voices — yes — but the woman was sobbing uncontrollably and clearly on the verge of panic. Not a threat. Margie had everything under control as usual. Well, as much as possible when dealing with a frantic, hysterical citizen. Paige made her way across the large expanse and settled casually against Margie’s desk. Appearance is everything. If she came across as relaxed but in charge, she might be able to defuse the situation before it got too out of control. “Hi,” Paige held out a hand. “I’m Deputy Carter, can I help you with something?”

“I need to see the Sheriff,” the woman straightened her shoulders and stared defiantly into Paige’s eyes, ignoring the outstretched hand. “I’m afraid he’s not available right now,” Paige stood and studied the woman for several quiet seconds — clearly relaxed and casual wasn’t working. “I’m here, I’m available. If you’ll follow me into the Conference Room, you can tell me what has you so upset and I’ll see what I can do to help you out.” 97


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 “I already spoke to a deputy,” the woman said in anger. “I don’t have time for this. He’s going to kill her,” she practically screamed. “I don’t have twenty-four hours. I don’t care about protocol or probabilities. I don’t care about any of it. My sister did not just decide, in the middle of the night, she wanted a new start. He has her!”

“Okay,” Paige placed one hand on the woman’s shoulder and gave her a supportive pat while accepting the paper Margie held out with the other. She glanced at the document briefly and realized it was the call information from the dispatch screen. Missing Persons incident reported at 0600. Okay, this might take a while. She needed to get them into the conference room before someone else wandered in looking for help. Paige considered her options, she could try to coax the woman into the other room again but it hadn’t worked the first time. Maybe she’d just head off in that direction and see if the woman followed. “You said you spoke with a deputy already. Do you know who you talked to?” She raised the document Margie had provided, thinking she’d find it herself, when the woman pulled out a business card and shoved it in Paige’s face. Paige took the card, glanced at the name and sincerely hoped the woman hadn’t seen her eyes roll. It took effort, but she won the battle and prevented the sigh, now stuck in her throat, from escaping... barely. Mike Lovato was a good cop — when he wanted to be. That was the problem. If he didn’t think the call was important or worthy of his time, his response was lackluster at best. On the flip side, if you were on a hot call, if you found yourself in some kind of danger... you couldn’t have a better back. Paige entered the conference room and motioned toward one of the chairs, surprised when the tired, clearly worried and exhausted lady settled into one of the high-backed business chairs. She passed back the business card and handed the woman a legal pad and a pen. The lady looked up in confusion but remained silent. “I don’t want to waste time going over the same ground as the previous deputy,” Paige forced her voice to be soft and soothing, but direct. “So, I’m going to go back out there and contact Deputy Lovato. I’m going to get the basics from him while you take some time to write out the details for me. You said your sister is missing, I’m going to assume the initial deputy took down her information and the info on the man you think is responsible. However, I need more. Anything you can think of that will help us find the suspect. If you have an address, phone number, type of vehicle he drives, anything... jot it down. I’ll be right back.” She was light on the details but once she talked to Lo, she’d know the rest.

98


Desperate Love Paige made her way across the Bullpen and dropped into her comfortable desk chair, sighing heavily as she studied her phone. If Deputy Just-the-Facts had taken an extra five minutes to listen to a grieving family member, this situation could have been avoided completely. But, nooo, that was apparently too much to ask. Mike Lovato, AKA Lo to his colleagues, had made the entire situation worse by parroting the company line. The Idiot. Now she had to call him at home, probably wake him up, and drag the details out bit by bit. Because, Mike was not going to be happy about the call. He was going to be furious if she woke him up and asked about a missing person case he thought he’d already handled. Well, too bad. If he’d taken more time with the woman, been a little sympathetic, or at the very least spent ten minutes punching out his report before he checked off duty — she wouldn’t have to call him at home. Paige dialed the number and waited, after several rings, it switched over to voicemail. She disconnected and hit redial, waited impatiently and again ended the call when she heard the recording. One more time—with feeling. She wasn’t a bit surprised at the angry voice on the other end of the line. “What?” Lo demanded. “Hello,” Paige said brightly. “I’m great, thank you so much for asking.” “What do you want, Carter?” “Information,” Paige sighed again. “On?” “You handled a missing person call,” she began. “Abbi Copeland reported her sister and a nephew’s disappearance just before you went off shift.” “And?” he barked. “Cut the crap, Mike,” Paige said annoyed. “Copeland is here looking for the Sheriff. I need to know the basics so I can smooth this over and see what, exactly, we have here.” “Look,” Lo grumbled. “What you have is an adult woman that decided maybe she wanted a change of scenery. That’s the way it reads, anyway. The woman came home from work to discover her sister and the kid gone. Poofed. The sister...Talia I think, she has a long history of getting knocked around by the ex. She leaves the SOB, forgives him, moves back in and a few weeks later he’s beating on her again. Go figure. I checked up north, confirmed the pattern and figured she hooked back up with the shithead. My guess? The two of them secretly rabbited because she knew Copeland would try to stop her. Give it a few days, he’s a frequent flyer, I’m sure he’ll land in a cage... yet again. Maybe she’ll get lucky and he won’t make bail this time. Anyway, it’s been a 99


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 pleasure and all that happy shit... but I need to catch at least a couple hours down before I’m back on to cover for Bridges. I’ll finish the report first thing and fill Walters in when I can. It can wait a few hours, Paige. We’re not going to do anything before the standard twenty-four, anyway. Now, if that’s all... it’s been real but don’t tag me again unless Armageddon has hit and zombies have gathered in the streets to feast on the locals’ brains.” “Gross, I seriously did not need that image in my head. But, I’m not sure,” Paige said hesitantly. She hated second-guessing a fellow officer, but her gut was telling her there was more to this and time was essential. “You can’t be sure they’re zombies, or if the locals have brains?” Mike asked. “In that case, just assume they’re all human piss ants wreaking havoc in the streets and proceed with business as usual. I’ll stop by the office in a few hours.” “She’s not going to accept the twenty-four,” Paige countered, ignoring his sarcasm. “You already explained it and she’s here demanding an audience with Walters. I’ve settled her down a bit but she’s got that look. She’s stubborn and if I try to placate her, I think it’s going to come back on both of us. Just tell me the basics and I’ll take it from here.” Lovato sighed heavily, climbed from his bed and moved to his computer. “I’ll fire up the comp and shoot you an email. The report is rough but it should do for the basics.” “Thanks,” Paige said sincerely. “I’ll do what I can and let you know. Check in when you’re back on.” Lovato clicked off without saying goodbye. Paige looked up and saw Margie was watching her. She pressed a hand to her chest and sighed. “He’s such a charmer.” “Sounds like another one of Mike’s clusters,” Margie grumbled. “I wonder if that boy will ever learn.” “Yeah, it’s so hard to guide the wayward youth, but maybe he’ll grow out of it,” Paige grinned at Margie’s snort. The man had more than a decade on Paige, an entire career behind him, but he still insisted on making things more difficult than they needed to be. She started to stand but stopped when she heard the distinct chime of her computer telling her she had a new email. That was quick. Paige hit print and programmed two copies, turning to the machine to snatch up the first one the instant the printer spit it out. Not bad, she decided, giving it a quick scan. “Can you do me a favor? That’s Lovato’s rough draft. Can you run it for me? The missing girl, the kid, the suspect... get me anything you can find and bring it in when you have it. I’ll see what I can do to appease the sister... for now.” 100


Desperate Love “I’ll take care of it,” Margie promised. She stood and moved to the printer. She spotted Jericho’s vehicle out of the corner of her eye and considered, best to get him tucked away in his office before the hysterical and unsatisfied customer noticed his arrival. She could fill him in once he got settled. “Thanks,” Paige said sincerely. “I’m going to close this, but come on in when you’re done.” She disappeared into the large room and silently closed the door behind her. Abbi Copeland studied the female deputy intently, wondering if the woman could be trusted. “I’ve listed everything I know.” “Good, Great,” Paige settled into the chair across from her. “But before we go any further, I need to know if you are actually going to help me.” Paige frowned, what did she mean by that? “What I should say, what I should have asked, is if you are going to help me now? Are you taking my report seriously? Do you believe me when I say my sister was abducted? Or do you, like that other officer, believe she ran off in the middle of the night with her son?” “I don’t know what happened to Talia or Deklan,” Paige said honestly. “I’ve spoken to Deputy Lovato, I’ve read his report.” “And now you think she went back to him,” Abbi said soberly. “She didn’t. She wouldn’t.” Copeland turned to look out the window. “I guess I do need to speak to the sheriff, immediately.”

“Again,” Paige said calmly. “He’s not available. I’m willing to listen to you. I haven’t made up my mind, yet. Not completely. Tell me why you don’t think she went back to him. I mean, there’s a pattern there. One Deputy Lovato took the time to investigate. She’s done it before. Why didn’t she do it again?” “Deklan,” Abbi said. “She’s determined... to protect her son.” “I’m going to need more, explain it to me,” Paige pressed. “Deklan is eight years old. Why now?” “Because he’s eight,” Abbi shuddered. “And he decided he was old enough, strong enough, brave enough to stop his father from hurting his mother. Flint went nuts. The men were supposed to stick together. When Deklan stepped between them, Flint followed through anyway. He could have pulled the punch, but he had to teach Deklan a lesson. Men stick together or they get hurt. He broke Dek’s nose, but that kid stood strong. Blood spurted over his little t-shirt, then continued to run down his face but Dek... well, he stood strong. He wouldn’t budge, it broke Talia’s heart and terrified her at the same time. Flint simply shoved his son aside and nearly beat Talia to death that 101


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 night.” Abbie wiped away tears that had begun to flow down her face. “She didn’t go back to him, didn’t get some wild idea to take off either. She had the protective order, a stupid piece of paper that he’s already broken, but she had it. She was determined to stand her ground, give Dek a new life. A loving, carefree life where he could play with friends and just be a kid.”

“I found the protective order,” Paige affirmed. “But I didn’t see any charges for violating it. Do you know the details about that?” “It was yesterday,” Abbie began. “Here?” Paige asked for clarification. “Yes,” Abbi covered her face with her hands and rubbed. “She started to call 911, started to report it but he left. There was no point, he’d just say he was never there.” “That’s not how protective orders work,” Paige shook her head. “Did you see him? Were you there when he showed up?” “Yes,” Abbi admitted. “She rushed into my room and told me he was out there, parked on the curb watching. She panicked, of course. She didn’t know what to do. I told her to call the police, have him arrested. We knew he’d find her, I mean... well, after all of her previous attempts to hide from him failed, she agreed to come stay with me. We knew he’d know. Knew we’d have to deal with him, but she was ready and so was I. We thought we were ready but now...” “I’m going to file a report on the violation,” Paige pulled out her notepad. “What time did this happen? Give me a description of Flint, how you knew it was him, if he was driving a vehicle, and the plate if you got it. What was he wearing? How long did he stay? I need all the details.” Once Abbi covered everything, Paige set her pad on the table. “Okay, now we are going to go through what happened last night... or this morning. When did you talk to Talia last? When did you see her? What was her mood? Did she seem upset or afraid?” She glanced up in surprise when Mike Lovato stepped into the room. He looked tired and maybe a little annoyed. “Hello, Abbi,” he said cordially. “Do you mind if I speak with Deputy Carter for just a minute?” Abbi swallowed hard but shook her head. The two deputies stepped out of the room and closed the door. “What are you doing here?” Paige asked. “I told you I’d take care of it and fill you in later. You needed some down time before you start Dean’s shift.”

102


Desperate Love “I was awake,” he shrugged. “And it started to needle me, a little. I mean I checked everything out but Copeland, well I admit she was starting to get to me this morning. The more she talked, the more she insisted it wasn’t a typical missing person and it wasn’t possible her sister just left, she got to me. But, I pushed it aside, gave her the standard twenty-four hours BS and tried to convince myself I had done the job. I was already wondering, you know? Like I said, she has a way and when I heard she came in...once I woke up and stopped being pissed at you... well, I was up.” “I understand,” Paige admitted. “I mean, with the history and all... it just seems cut and dry, he showed up, she went back. We see it all the time. But my gut is telling me there’s more to this. He violated the PO yesterday. They almost called it in but he fled, so they dropped it.” “But we’re not dropping it now,” Lo stated. It wasn’t a question. “No,” Paige agreed. “We’re not. I’ve got that one. I’ll do the report and get it into the system.”

Lovato studied Paige for several seconds. “You’re still pissed. You think I messed this up and we lost time.” “I think you’re doing a pretty good job of kicking yourself with that one on your own,” Paige shrugged. “I don’t need to do the same. Plus, I’m not sure you screwed up. You got her statement, called up north and talked to your buddies — guys that had dealt with the family in the past — you verified the info, and made a judgement call. Just because Abbi is adamant her sister was abducted, doesn’t mean she’s right. I’m not convinced yet. I’ll leave the possibility open that Abbie is right and Flint has them, but Talia could have fled on her own. I mean, she tried to go into hiding before. Sure, she said she wanted a normal life for her kid but if Flint scared her enough yesterday...” “She could have made her plans and bolted,” Lovato nodded. “There are underground organizations. Could be she found someone that was willing to help and she wanted to keep her sister out of it... keep Abbi safe. It’s possible.” “Let’s go grill the emotionally devastated and unstable sister,” Paige shoved open the door. Lovato grinned and leaned in close so only Paige could hear when he whispered. “I left my thumbscrews at home. Maybe you have some I could borrow.” Paige dropped back into her chair and waited for Lovato to join them. “I know this is necessary,” Abbi said the instant they returned. “I know you still don’t believe me but every minute we sit here... well, that could be one minute too long. Talia is in trouble and I’m afraid this time he will kill her and disappear with Dek never to be seen again.”

103


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 “The questions are necessary,” Paige began. “I don’t know how to make you understand,” Abbi interrupted. “You want to know about Talia’s state of mind last night because you think she waited until I went to work and then she fled. She didn’t. I know she didn’t.”

“How do you know?” Lovato asked. “We’re not asking because we don’t believe you. We’re asking because if you want us to investigate this incident, we need to know everything. We need to understand the situation completely. We need to have all the facts. You can’t hold anything back not if you want us to find your sister. Can you help us do that?” “Okay,” Abbi gave in. “Okay.” “Talia has a history of leaving Flint for a little while then returning,” Lovato began. “I’m not judging but I need to know why you are so sure she didn’t fall back into that habit. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes it’s easier to just fall back and go along.” “I know a lot of battered women return on their own, for one reason or another, but Talia... well, she returned because she knew with every fiber of her being that if she didn’t go back with him, he would kill her. He told her he would. He taunted her with it, threatened their son, mocked her attempts to get away and punished her every time she tried.” “Okay,” Paige soothed. “Sounds like your sister was living in fear and did what she believed she had to in order to survive.” “Exactly,” Abbi agreed.

“So,” Lovato pressed. “What changed? I mean, if Flint showed up at your house and scared her, what would stop her from fleeing? It would be easy to disappear in the middle of the night, especially to protect Deklan and get a good head start before anyone knew she was even missing.” “Uhggg,” Abbi dropped her head into her arms and tugged at her hair. “I don’t know what I have to do... what I have to say to make you understand she didn’t leave on her own.” “Because,” Paige pressed. “Because of so many reasons,” Abbi barked. “Because of what happened with Dek. My nephew was not willing to sit back and see his mother abused any longer. She knew that, I knew that, he made sure we both knew it. Before, well before she thought she could take whatever he did as long as Dek was safe. Flint never... never hurt his son until that night when he stood up to him. Talia believed she was protecting them both by surrendering each time he found her. Sure, he’d punish her but he left Dek alone. She tried. I wish you could understand that. She tried to get away, but he has contacts. I think he knows a cop or a PI that always finds her, no matter what she did, he found her. 104


Desperate Love She does have a pattern, a history of leaving and returning but the returning wasn’t her idea. He forced her back, threatened her, terrified and terrorized her. It took a lot for her to agree to stay with me. We both worried Flint would come after me, to punish her. It would work. She’d never forgive herself if anything happened to me over this but she agreed. She finally agreed. The judge up north gave her a protective order and I think she actually started to believe the system could help her. Flint spent years chipping away at her confidence... in herself, her family, the system.” She turned angry eyes on the two deputies. “I’m starting to understand why.” “Let’s say we believe you,” Paige said ignoring the insult. Abbi hadn’t answered the question, not to her satisfaction, but she’d get back to that. “Do you have any idea where he would take her?” “Before we get to that,” Lovato said, considering. “There was no sign of forced entry into your home. How did he get to her? If we go with your version of events and assume Flint Kesten has your sister and their son, how did he get in?” “I don’t know,” Abbi admitted. “I could try to make something up and hope it sounded plausible but I simply don’t know. He’s resourceful and he’s a criminal. He might know how to pick a lock. He might have a master of some kind. I honestly don’t know.” “An honest answer is always better than a made-up response,” Paige told her. They all looked up when Margie stepped into the room. “I have the data you requested.” “Thanks,” Paige stood and took the file Margie offered. Once she skimmed through it, she handed the file to Lovato. “What is that?” Abbi asked. “Information,” Paige sat back. “Criminal history, registered vehicles, property records, that sort of thing.” “On Flint?” Abbi asked. “Yes,” Paige affirmed. “Now, let’s talk about yesterday. Walk us through your day from the instant Talia woke you to tell you Flint was parked outside.” Abbi walked them through it. Paige and Mike stopped her, asked more questions and made her go through it three full times before they were confident they had what they needed. “Okay,” Paige said with a friendly smile. “I think we’re clear. Now, we need you to head back home and stay there if you can.” 105


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 “But...” Abbi began. “We need you to be home in case Talia is able to get away and call,” Lovato said softly. “We need you to be home, but do not open the door if he shows up. Call the police immediately.” “You think he might,” Abbi’s eyes grew wide in obvious terror. “You think he’s going to come after me?” “I don’t,” Lovato said. “Because that would be stupid.” “Really stupid,” Paige agreed. “We just want you to take precautions. Like you said, Talia would be devastated if anything happened to you. We just want to make sure nothing does.” “Oh,” Abbi said relieved. “Okay, that makes sense I guess. Um, well do I have to stay there alone?” “Do you have someone that could stay with you?” Paige asked. “Yeah,” Abbi considered. “There’s this guy I’ve been dating for a few months now. Ben... Ben Garrison. I was thinking maybe I could have him come over and stay with me. So I don’t have to be alone.” “I think that’s a wonderful idea,” Lovato said. “Go ahead and give him a call, see if he can meet you at home.” Abbi stood and moved to the other side of the room, had a hushed conversation for several minutes, then returned. “He’s going to meet me there. He’s closer, so he’ll probably be there when I arrive. I’m going to trust you but just know if this was all some elaborate ruse, a way to make me think you’re working the case, to stall so you can wait twenty-four hours before doing anything, I won’t go away quietly. I’ll scream from the rooftops, to anyone that will listen, how you failed my sister.” “Understood,” Paige said before Lovato could erupt on their witness. “Go home, we’ll call you as soon as we know anything.” “You said your sister had a car,” Lovato remembered. “Oh, yeah,” Abbi nodded. “It’s still in the garage.” “Are you willing to let us take it? Go over it? See if we can find any evidence inside?” Lovato continued. “We’ll get a warrant, but if you’re willing to sign a release and let us tow it in right now, that could save time.”

106


Desperate Love “I guess that’s okay,” Abbi said slowly. “Yes. It’s for Talia, so yes. Come and get it as soon as you want. I’ll sign the paperwork. You might not need a warrant, I don’t know. The car is actually in my name and I’ll sign off on anything you want. He wouldn’t let her have transportation of any kind so I bought the car for Talia. Technically... I guess it’s mine.” “We’ll be in touch,” Paige said again and watched as the woman slowly made her way out the front door. She glanced up in surprise when she realized Jericho had exited his office and was now standing in front of her and Mike. “I thought you were off,” he addressed Lovato. “Was,” Lo said casually. “Now I’m on.” “Margie said there was a situation,” Jericho turned to Paige. “Something about a case Mike handled before he checked off. Was it necessary to call him back in? I should have been notified.” He turned back to Lovato. “I need you to cover for Dean. We’re short, down two men and I don’t have the resources to fill the shift if you need to adjust.” “I’m good,” Mike assured him. “I’ve got Dean’s hours covered. And, Paige didn’t call me back. I realized the situation needed more attention. My case, my attention.” “Alright then,” Jericho motioned them back into the conference room. “Let’s sit down and you can fill me in.” Once they had, Jericho considered. “So, you believe her? The sister. You think the ex-husband found a way to abduct his wife and kid in the middle of the night?”

“We don’t know,” Paige shrugged. “She’s a compelling complainant. We all know the pattern isn’t unique. You never know what you’ll encounter when you respond on a DV and your best efforts to help might just get you cold-cocked by a frying pan. Women return to their abusers all the time. It’s not an easy cycle to break.” Jericho nodded, remembering his own days pushing a patrol car and getting into trouble. “So, why aren’t we going with Mike’s initial reaction? Why not list her as a missing person, wait until morning and then start looking if she hasn’t surfaced?” “We could,” Paige told him. “But I don’t think we should.” “I agree with Paige,” Mike told him. “It didn’t sit right, not with me. Not from the start. I looked, there’s no evidence of a break-in. There are a few things thrown around that makes it look like Talia and Deklan packed in a hurry. Maybe they did... under duress.”

107


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 “Maybe,” Jericho studied his two deputies. He wasn’t going to interfere if they thought this was something they should follow up on. “I’ll clear it for the two of you to focus on this today. Margie and I can handle anything that comes in. If I need you, I’ll let you know.” “What about Gage?” Paige asked. “He’s off,” Jericho reminded her. “Football banquet, extravaganza... whatever.” “Oh,” Paige tried to remember the details. “Down in Moab wasn’t it?” “It was,” Jericho stood. “One day. I’m giving you one day, then we go with the obvious, classify the case as a missing person and handle things the way we normally would. Margie will get the BOLO out and I’ll have her input mother and son on NCIC. You two go find something, anything, so I don’t have to deal with the compelling sister later on.” “Yes, sir,” both deputies said at once. *****

Paige stood in the driveway, watching the tow truck driver load Talia’s vehicle onto the truck, secure it, and ensure it was ready for transport back to the office. She waited at the edge of the curb, wondering what Flint Kesten saw when he parked here and watched the tiny house for hours. It had been hours, they knew that now. Reanna Akeman from two doors down and across the street confirmed it. She noticed the vehicle when she ushered her kids into the car the previous morning, around 0700, on their way to swimming lessons. When she returned at nearly ten, it was still there. She thought it was suspicious, got the plate and was about to call the police when he sped away and disappeared. She was happy to provide the plate number to the Sheriff’s Office and hoped they found the suspicious character soon. Paige had run the plate, it was stolen out of Provo off a 2010 Honda Civic, white in color. Another dead-end. But the Wit helped add weight to the Protective Order Violation. Plus, the stolen plate would add one more charge if they ever caught the elusive prick. She frowned and took two steps toward the house when she was stopped by a soft, hesitant voice behind her. “Ma’am,” Charlene Swann tentatively made her way up the drive. “Can I help you?” Paige asked hesitantly. “I...” Charlene swallowed hard and cleared her throat.

108


Desperate Love She was an intriguing woman, Paige thought. She had a well-toned, athletic build but her features were... well, a bit homey. She wore very little makeup and her long butterscotch hair was tied back in a tight tail. It had vibrant streaks of bronze running through it, Paige wondered if that was natural or came from a bottle. Either way, it added character. Her clothes were once again... homey. Nondescript t-shirt, baggy cargo’s, white high-top running shoes. Paige would guess she was in her mid to late thirties and was extremely shy. “I was talking to Reanna a minute ago and she told me about the man,” Charlene began. “The one she saw yesterday. I think I saw him here last night. Well, early this morning would be more accurate.” “What’s your name?” Paige asked. “Oh, sorry. I’m Charlene Swann and I live one street over,” she pointed. “I, well I work late. I’m the assistant manager so I normally close at about eleven but last night we had a few snags. I didn’t shut down until nearly one. Beaker was beside himself — that’s my dog. Anyway, Beaker is pretty good at the house-training thing but if I wait too long, he has accidents. I was worried, but he held it together until I finally showed. I’d guess it was maybe one twenty or one thirty by the time I changed, got his leash attached and headed out. Beak was frantic, wanted his play time, you know? So, at first, my attention was focused on him. When we rounded the corner up there,” she pointed up the road. “I saw the vehicle parked in front of Abbi’s place. I didn’t think anything of it, you know. I mean, yeah it was a strange car and it spooked me a little, but I had Beaker and he’s a big dog — an English Mastiff. I knew my baby would protect me but it was strange. Strange enough I paid attention and got a good look at the man sitting behind the wheel, even took a picture of the back of the vehicle. It was dark, so the image isn’t great but here...” she shoved her phone at Paige. Naughty, naughty boy, Paige thought studying the photo. The image wasn’t great, but it was clear enough to make out the vehicle, and the surroundings... specifically Abbi’s residence. Charlene had also snapped a shot of Flint hanging out the window, glancing behind him to make sure the street was clear before he sped away. It was indisputable evidence to prove the protective order violation. “Could I get your name and contact information?” “I guess,” Charlene agreed. “Is he dangerous?”

“He’s dangerous to the people that live here,” Paige clarified. “And he’s not supposed to be here. Those pictures would go a long way in proving he violated a judge’s order not to be here.” “Oh,” Charlene brightened. “Maybe I helped catch a criminal then?” “You absolutely did,” Paige forwarded the pictures to her e-mail account. 109


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 “He came back,” Charlene told her. “I took Beaker up to the park. It’s a long walk, but he gets so cooped up in the house all day while I’m working. I took him up, let him run a bit then headed home. I saw the car again, not parked this time. He was just, maybe casing the house or something. He drove by at least three times... down this street. At least three, maybe more... I didn’t wait to see. When I saw him, I just wanted to get home, but I know he passed me three times before I rounded the corner. I admit I was walking a little faster than usual, you know? I guess he scared me a little. Then I told myself I was being stupid and he probably had a perfectly logical reason for being there. Now... well, with you guys here I’m not so sure.” “Do you know what time that was?” Paige asked. “When you headed back home?” “Oh, it was a while,” Charlene admitted. “I was at the park for at least an hour, maybe more. Nobody was there and Beaker was having so much fun I just couldn’t disappoint him.” “How about the time you got back home?” Paige pressed. “Do you know when that was?” “I’d say around three,” Charlene said cautiously. “I know I shouldn’t be walking around in the middle of the night like that but I work afternoons. By the time I get up, have breakfast and take care of a few things, it’s time to head into work. Like I said, I work late, I’m normally out by eleven... midnight at the latest, normally. It’s important to me that I take a couple hours with Beaker. Plus, he’s so big, I can’t imagine anyone would bother me. This is Manti, you know. I’ve never worried about it before.” “But you worried about it last night?” Paige asked.

“A little, yeah,” Charlene admitted. “I mean I had Beaker, but the guy was a little scary. Maybe it was the time, you know a stranger in the middle of the night and all, but he scared me. Then, I got home, locked the doors and settled in. I told myself I’d been watching too many scary movies and my imagination was getting the better of me. When I finally turned in, I made sure Beaker settled in next to me. When I got up this morning, I shrugged it off. Until now. Until Reanna said you were looking for the guy. Now I’m a little scared again.” “I don’t think he’s a threat to you,” Paige tried to assure her. “But if you see him again, call us immediately. I’d lecture you about the late-night jaunts but I can see I’d be wasting my breath. Keep the dog close, always carry your phone and pay attention to everyone around you. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend a self-defense course. They have a regular schedule at the county gym.” “Okay,” Charlene glanced up when Lovato stepped through the front door. “I’m done here,” he called to Paige. “Can I go?” Charlene asked. “I need to head to work soon.” 110


Desperate Love “Sure,” Paige dismissed her and moved to join her colleague. “Anything?” “Let’s head to the Farmhouse,” Lo suggested. “I need coffee, desperately.” Paige smiled. “I’ll meet you there.” She watched him drop a couple evidence bags in his trunk before he climbed behind the wheel and sped away. She took another quick glance around before she jumped into her own car and followed.

*****

Paige stepped into Dirk’s Farmhouse and surveyed the area. She spotted Lovato in the back, away from the rest of the customers. Must have asked for privacy. She slid into the chair across from him and waited for him to take a long sip of his coffee. “Did you find anything?”

Lovato started to answer but paused when the waitress slid a steaming breakfast plate in front of him and refilled his coffee mug. “Coffee?” Gail asked pleasantly. “Love some,” Paige answered. She eyed Mike’s breakfast. “How’d you get that? It’s after eleven.” “We made it up special,” Gail answered. “Don’t tell anyone but if you want... I can get you one. We take care of our warriors in blue.” Paige smiled. “Thanks, but no. I think I’d like an order of your Fish and Chips.” “Be right back,” Gail assured her. Paige turned back to face Lovato. Before she could ask again, Mike spoke. “Maybe,” he told her, frustration evident in his voice. “There is no sign of forced entry. I guess the guy might have some B&E skills but his sheet doesn’t show that particular vice.” “Maybe he’s good,” Paige considered. “Maybe he just hasn’t been caught for that particular vice.” “Maybe,” Lo cut off a huge chunk of pancake and shoveled it into his mouth. The stack was swimming in syrup, so much it made Paige’s teeth hurt just looking at it. “I checked the doors, windows, garage, nothing. If she didn’t answer the door for him, he’s got skills.” “Okay,” Paige said slowly. “It’s possible the guy was making so much noise Talia opened the door to shut him up.” 111


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 “Possible,” Lo agreed. “But I don’t think so. She had that PO and it’s a nice neighborhood. She had to know that. If her douchebag-ex was causing a scene, she had to know one of the neighbors would call it in. She’d be saved. Why open the door? Why risk another violent attack?” “I agree,” Paige took a sip of her coffee. “So he broke in... somehow. For now, it doesn’t matter how. We go with it and assume he gained entry somehow. Did it look like he forced them or like they packed up and went willingly?” ly.”

“That’s the thing,” Lo shrugged. “I mean, they packed and it could be argued they left willing“But?”

“But there are small things,” Lo sighed. “Might be nothing, might be something. The thing is, we could justify it either way.”

Paige frowned. “What does that mean?” “It means,” Lo sat back and stretched out his legs. “On the surface, it looks like she packed and fled. Jumped up in the middle of the night, packed a few clothes and bolted. But then there’s the car, how’d she get away? Why would she leave it? Maybe, she grabbed a bus out of town, but why? Why take a bus or a train when she had that car sitting right there?” “Good point,” Paige pondered. “Then there’s the kid’s room,” Lovato continued. “The kid is eight. On the surface, again... looks like he packed in a hurry and took off with his mom. But he left his GameBoy. Right there on the bed, practically screaming at you when you walked in. Look at me! Here I am. It felt like a message, like the kid was trying to tell his aunt something. What kid that age, with dozens of games, all packed away in a handy compact case, takes off without his favorite entertainment... why leave it behind?” “Okay,” Paige agreed. “Deklan could be sending a message. Look everyone, I left my favorite things behind. Does that mean he thinks they’re coming back, or he wants her to know he didn’t leave willingly?” “I think the latter,” Mike said softly. “Then there’s the mother’s room. She snags up some clothes and a couple pairs of shoes but nothing else. She leaves a framed picture of her family... mother, father, Abbi... sitting there on the nightstand. Then there’s the jewelry box. I asked Abbi about it. It’s this fragile wooden box, hand-carved with all these decorative things all over it. Abbi said their grandmother gave it to Talia just before she passed away. It’s Talia’s most valued heirloom and she just walks out and leaves it behind? Wouldn’t she take the picture and the box if she was fleeing? If she found some underground organization that could make her disappear for good, 112


Desperate Love wouldn’t she want at least a picture of the family she left behind? The jewelry box or something else that was tangible? Something she could hold and cherish to help her get through the lonely nights on her own?”

“Yes,” Paige agreed. “She would.” She leaned back to give Gail room to set a plate in front of her before the waitress walked silently away. Paige smiled at the large side dish of ranch dressing, one she hadn’t asked for, but one that Gail knew Paige would need. She drowned a fry in the creamy sauce and popped it into her mouth. Once she swallowed, she continued. “I think both of them were trying to leave Abbi... and us... clues. Just subtle messages to let us know they didn’t leave on their own. They left the things that were the most important to them behind so Abbi wouldn’t stop pushing; and if we looked closer than the surface, we’d understand.” Lo smiled. “That’s so cute. I mean, after all this time it’s good to see you still believe in unicorns and fairies.” Paige scowled. “What is that supposed to mean?” “It means,” Lovato said soberly. “The woman lost faith in the system a long time ago. The message was for Abbi. I’d guess Talia knew her sister wouldn’t stop pushing. We never entered her mind. Talia obviously didn’t have faith in the system — she gave up a long time ago. She didn’t leave those clues for us... she left them for her sister.” “You’re probably right,” Paige nodded. “It worked. Abbi hasn’t let us take the easy route. She wouldn’t accept the company line or let us settle for the surface appearance. She’s pushed, yelled and screamed, and threatened to do more if we didn’t take her seriously.” “I should have seen it earlier,” he admitted. “Should have listened to my gut. I had this niggling in the back of my mind but then I looked into the history, saw the surface and figured what’s twentyfour hours? I issued the ATL, but we all know someone that doesn’t want to be found can slip under the radar even with a thousand cops attempting to locate her. I can say I did the job, but I didn’t... do the job. Not really.” “You did do the job,” Paige disagreed. “You followed up, tagged a friend and had him fill in the details. The history fit, clouded things a little. The more we’ve been able to gather, it mostly came from the knock on doors. You couldn’t canvass the area at six in the morning. Wouldn’t have caught the Akemann woman if you had. We also would have missed another wit I need to tell you about.” Paige proceeded to tell him about Charlene and her big dog, Beaker. “I have the photos to add to my case. He can’t squeeze out of the violation and it puts him in the area during the time Talia and Deklan disappeared.”

113


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 “You done with that?” Mike motioned to Paige’s lunch. “I want to head back to the office and run a few things.” Paige stood and dropped some bills onto the table, enough to cover the meal and a generous tip. “Let’s go.”

*****

When Lovato stepped into the Bullpen, he spotted Paige at her desk. She was kicked back, feet propped on the desk, eyes closed. He moved to his own desk to finish his call; quickly made another; then, moved to settle into her visitor’s chair and wait. “I can hear you staring?” she advised without opening her eyes.

“I didn’t want to wake you,” Lovato said sarcastically. “I mean, we just have a small pesky matter of a missing woman and her son to deal with.” Paige opened her eyes, dropped her feet to the ground and focused on the deputy. “I wasn’t sleeping,” she said flatly. “I was thinking. Going through the situation in my mind, considering angles, you know... investigating.” Before Mike could answer, Margie approached them. “I found something the two of you might be interested in.” “Darling,” Lovato grinned. “I’m always interested in anything you have to offer.” Margie grinned, Paige nearly groaned. Margie focused on Paige. “He can be a charmer when he wants to be.” “What did you find?” Paige wondered. Margie set a stack of papers in front of the two deputies. “I found the vehicle.” “You?” Paige straightened in amazement. “How? Are you sure?”

“Ninety-nine point nine percent sure,” Margie said confidently. “It seems Flint Kesten borrowed the car from his good friend Bobby Masters.” “Who is Bobby Masters?” Lovato asked, moving so he could see the documentation Margie had provided.

114


Desperate Love “Bobby Masters is a fellow criminal. That big section there, that’s his rap sheet. Masters and Kesten got arrested a couple years back... together.” “For what?” Paige asked, flipping pages to find the details.

“Assault,” Margie provided. “I requested the report and it just arrived before the two of you. Flint got off with sixty days and a few hours community service. Masters wasn’t so lucky. When the cops arrived, he tried to flee. Got the added bonus of a DUI and when they impounded the car, the same one Flint is driving now, they found stolen property in the trunk along with burglary tools under the driver’s seat. He spent nearly two years in prison at the point of the mountain and got out on probation five months ago.” “We need to contact his Parole Officer,” Paige said absently. “I already did,” Margie advised. “Officer Bannock decided it was past time he conducted a little spot check and search on his parolee’s residence. He’ll make contact with you, Mike, once he’s finished.” “That means Kesten has a connection to a B&E man,” Lovato realized. “Does Bannock know if Masters was out of town early this morning?” Margie frowned. “I didn’t ask.” “I’ll call him,” Mike stood, snatching up the page that contained the officer’s contact info. “Give me a minute.”

Paige looked at Margie. “Good work, but then you always do good work. I take it Lo’s flirting doesn’t bother you? It could be considered sexual harassment in the workplace in some circles.” Before Margie answered, Lovato dropped back into Paige’s comfortable visitor’s chair. “It’s not harassment if it’s welcome. Plus, I attended that mandatory class when I came on. The instructor said you could apply a little test. You know, to see if it’s harassment or not. I just had to ask myself if I only call Margie Darling or if I also use that same term of endearment on my male counterparts. Since I told Dean he’s a darling man just the other day... I’m good.” “And I’m flattered,” Margie turned to leave. “Not insulted so let’s just leave things the way they are for now.” Paige turned to face Lovato. “You didn’t really call Dean a darling man, did you?” “I absolutely did,” Lo grinned. “He may have wanted to come through the phone and choke the life out of me, but since we were miles apart and he’s taking a few days off... I figure I’m safe. For now, anyway.” 115


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 Paige shook her head in disbelief. “Bannock said Masters still has an ankle monitor,” Lovato got back to business. “Said he never left the valley. He’s in the clear, on the abduction angle anyway. He may have stolen the plate, or known it was stolen. Bannock said he’ll use it if he needs to and let us know when he’s done.”

“It’s good information,” Paige said, staring out the front window. “But it doesn’t get us any closer to finding Talia and Deklan.” Lovato sighed and glanced down at the packet Margie compiled. “I think the first step is sifting through all this. We have to read it, see if there’s something we can use in there. You want half?” Paige nodded and accepted the stack of papers Mike handed her. Mike stood, then hesitated. “Hey, Margie?” “Yes, Mike,” she said absently. “Is the conference room clear for the next couple days?” Margie pulled up the calendar. “Yes.” “Sign it out to me. I want to use it on this case,” he glanced at Paige. “Okay with you? We can spread this all out and discuss anything that pops out as we read.” “Good idea,” she stood and gathered up her files before she followed him into the large room. “I have the locals, up in West Valley, keeping an eye on Kesten’s place. If he shows, we’ll know. And we’ll know if he’s alone or if he has company.” “I don’t think he left town,” Paige insisted. “Not yet.” “I think he did,” Mike argued. “There’s nothing to keep him here. He has to know Abbi reported her sister missing right away.” “And he’s familiar with the system,” Paige told him. “He’d know there’s a twenty-four-hour delay. As far as he knows, we’re not even looking at this right now. We won’t be looking at it until tomorrow sometime.” “Okay,” Mike considered. “I’ll give you that. It gives us an advantage but I don’t think it follows that he’d stay close to town.” “He has to,” Paige disagreed. “He kidnapped two people. He abducted his wife, a woman that has a protective order issued against him. If he’s found with her, he’s screwed. He knows that. Plus, he took his son, the son that stood up to him, the son that took a punch from him and still stood 116


Desperate Love his ground. He knows he can’t control them, not yet. One word and he’s toast. Add to it, he’s driving around in a vehicle that has stolen plates. Good chance he’s going to get stopped by Highway. If he tried for a road trip... a long road trip, there’s a good chance he’d be stopped along the way – speeding, failing to signal, not making a complete stop at an intersection, then the cop runs the plate and...” she snapped her fingers. “He’s spending the night in a cell and the car’s impounded because he’s driving around with stolen plates.” “Or, he just changed them back after he snatched them up,” Lovato countered. “No reason not to at this point.” “Maybe,” Paige considered. “Maybe, but I still think he needs time. If he can get the two of them on his side. If he can get them back under his control, it improves his chance of getting away with it. He just needs to get them back home where they belong. Stupid bimbo thinks she can run... and with his kid? Well, he’s going to show her a thing or two. But he’s got that order. If he gets stopped, for one thing, the smallest infraction and she cries foul, he’s off to a cell. He can’t risk that. He has to hunker down, teach her a lesson, teach the kid who’s boss. Then he can take his little family back up north and settle back into his cozy life with him in charge... the way it’s supposed to be.” “Okay,” Lovato relented. “So where are they?” “That’s a question,” Paige told him. “It’s the one we need to answer before it’s too late. Because if Abbi’s right, Flint Kesten’s careful little plan is not going to work. Which means Talia and the kid may be in serious trouble.”

*****

It was a quarter after five when Jericho stepped into the room. “You two headed out soon?” “Huh?” Paige glanced up, looked at the clock then focused on her boss. “We need more time.” Jericho moved in and settled into one of the chairs. “Convince me. This one,” he pointed a thumb at Lovato, “has been on nearly eighteen hours.” “Actually,” Mike objected. “I went home and grabbed a couple hours sleep before Paige tagged me and my shift was only eight... last night as well as today, so I’m good. Eight on, two off and another eight on. I can handle a couple more.” “Again,” Jericho said soberly. “Convince me.”

117


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 Paige ran through all the reasons she believed they were still in the area. Then, she explained what they were doing to locate the hole, the place Flint had taken his family to hide out until he felt the coast was clear to bolt. “I agree,” Jericho said after several silent seconds. “It’s too risky to just bolt back up north. In fact, I’d be surprised if he plans to return there at all. The judge that issued the order is too close. All Talia has to do is get word to the authorities and Flint’s locked up again. Talia and the kid would be out of his reach and they’d have plenty of time to disappear for good. He won’t risk that, not yet. Maybe, not ever.” “You think he’s on the run,” Lovato studied his boss. “I think he might be,” Walters corrected. “Paige could be right. He may have found a place to hole up until he thinks things have cooled down and he has his family under control. Then, he buys a new identity, sets up house in a new area with his fancy new name, a new job and a new life. He could control the mother by threatening the kid, control the kid by threatening mom.” “I agree,” Paige sat back. “Partially. I think that’s exactly how he will control them. I think that’s probably the plan... just poof. Start a new life and let Talia know if she doesn’t go along, she’ll lose everything. He also might have threaten Abbi. Our complainant is close to her sister and might do anything to protect Tailia and her son. But first, he has to scare them enough, torment them enough, to go along. One word and the plan goes out the window. Flint knows Deklan is getting older, he has to make sure the kid won’t blow his cover if they are stopped by the police. Deklan could whisper something to a waitress while they wait for breakfast if he wanted to. He needs time. He’s still here, we just have to find him,” Paige finished in frustration. “He might already have the new identity,” Jericho warned. “He may be relaxing in a luxury suite at the Yardley. Rather than convincing by force, he could just book a spa session, woo her into submission rather than reverting back to force.” Paige slid a folder across the desk. “Does that look like a man that would pamper his wife? The guy hasn’t had a real job for years where did he get the money to book that spa session? How is he paying for the suite? I’m tracking his cards, there’s no activity... at all. He’s not at the Yardley or any other classy hotel or Inn for that matter. He’s somewhere isolated, somewhere he can pound on his wife and the neighbors won’t call the cops. Somewhere he can keep the kid under control and in fear. I just need to figure out where.” “We need to figure out where,” Lovato corrected. “My case, my responsibility.” “Alright,” Jericho stood. “I’m headed home; but if you get a hit, call me. I want to know immediately if you find him. I want to know if you find that mother and her son.” 118


Desperate Love Mike Lovato watched his boss leave the room then ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “He could be right.” “About which part?” Paige asked. “We’ve been asking about rentals, rooms, even purchases by Flint Kesten,” he supplied. “What if he already has his new fake identity and he’s living under that name? What if he rented a place under some made up, fictitious moniker? We’ll never find him.” “I’ve thought of that,” Paige admitted. “But I don’t think he’d do it.” “Why not?” “Because if he uses his new identity here, it’s blown. If we start asking questions, passing around photos of him, of Talia or Deklan... his new fancy life is over. This is a small town, someone is going to remember him.” Paige was pretty sure she was right about that. “Plus, I don’t think he could resist showing Talia just how powerful and in control he is. If he uses another name, it’s like saying she won. ‘This is my name, my wife, my son. I’m in control and nobody’s going to tell me I can’t go near them.’ That order hadn’t been in place all that long before he violated it. If some stupid, meddling judge thinks he can tell Flint Kesten what to do, he’s wrong. Nobody is going to stand in the way of him and his woman. Nobody is going to keep him away from his own son.” “Okay,” Lovato sighed. “I think I agree with you. It’s all speculation and we could both be dead wrong; but it’s what we have; so, let’s work this through to the end. I’ve gotten through all the hotels and motels in the area. I’m about to start on that new list of cabin rentals. If he’s looking for privacy and seclusion, we have that in spades. All he has to do is find a place up in the LaSal’s and he’s set.” “I’m working through trailer rentals,” Paige advised. “Easy to rent a motorhome or a small trailer, snatch those two up and head for the hills.” “It would have to be a motorhome,” Lovato said absently. “Or he ditched the vehicle and I don’t think he’d do that. He needs it for later.” “Good point,” Paige agreed. She snatched up her phone and made another call. *****

Two hours later, they were both still hunkered down in the conference room, working the case. Lovato disconnected his latest call and moved into the bullpen to snatch his newest list off the fax machine. He wandered back, grumbling about antiquated equipment. “I seriously can’t believe anyone still uses a fax. I mean seriously, it’s so much faster to just send an email with a simple attachment. 119


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 “Uh-huh,” Paige said into her phone as she gave Lovato an understanding nod. “I can get a warrant. No. Listen, I’m not asking for private information. I just need to know if a man by the name of Flint Kesten rented any of your vehicles in the past week.” “Yes!” Lovato exclaimed. “I’ve got the prick, stop hassling with the uncooperative flunky. I found him.” “Are you sure?” Paige asked, excited. “One Flint Kesten of Salt Lake City, Utah, rented a rustic cabin a few miles up Six-mile, near the creek, for the entire month with the option to renew if needed. He declared three occupants; himself, his lovely wife and one child. No additional amenities necessary.” Paige focused on the woman on the other end of the line. “Ma’am, we were able to obtain the information by another means. The Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office will not forget the manner in which you conducted yourself during this call and will act appropriately in the future. Do have a nice evening.” She disconnected and stood. “Where are you going?” “We need a map of the area,” Paige said over her shoulder. “Oh, and if Jericho asks, you have no idea what that woman is talking about. I have a feeling the obnoxious snob just might file a complaint.” “What call?” Lovato said with a grin. Paige returned with a large map and the two of them began to study it closely. “I guess I better call the boss.” “Yeah,” Paige agreed. “I guess.” She walked back to her laptop and used the mouse to zoom into the area even closer. The image wasn’t perfect, but she was pretty sure she had just located the cabin in question. She took a screenshot, saved it and returned to the overhead map. It was less than ten minutes later when Jericho Walters stepped into the room. He quietly studied the map, orienting himself to the exact location. He remembered there was an old logging road that ran almost directly behind the small structure. The man might park right next to the cabin, thinking he’d gotten away with his scheme. But if Flint Kesten had half a brain, he’d parked on the logging road to ensure escape if cornered. Jericho planned to corner him and as a special bonus, he’d disable the vehicle just for fun. “I assume you know that area well,” Lovato surmised. “I don’t think I’ve ever been up there myself.” “Me either,” Paige admitted.

120


Desperate Love “I know it,” Jericho said, still studying the map. “We’ll wait for Havilland then I’ll tell you what I know.” “You called in Havi?” Lovato asked. “We could use him, I just thought... well, I didn’t think you were convinced... when I talked to you on the phone.” Jericho smiled. “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t convinced.” “True,” Lovato relaxed. “Havilland’s the best marksman I know. We could use him on the door, just in case.” “I agree,” Jericho said absently. “I want Havilland to set up here.” Havilland stepped into the room dressed in black. Black jeans, black long-sleeved t-shirt, black boots. “Just in time, I see.”

Jericho slid a quick glance to his deputy then returned his attention to the map. “I want you here.” He repeated. “The front door is here,” he pointed to the cabin. “There’s a logging road back here. You can’t see it on this map, the trees are obscuring it but it’s there. A little rough, more so in the vehicle he’s driving but passable.” “Right,” Havilland concentrated on the area for several seconds before it hit him. He knew that cabin. “There’s also a small cave over here. If they make it out of the house, they could head through here...” he pointed to another area obscured with trees. “The cave is about here.” He pointed to a spot just before the trees connected with a steep slope.

“Right,” Jericho nodded. “I forgot about that. Haven’t been out there since I was a boy. To be honest, I wondered if they’d boarded it up. But I don’t think he’ll know about that. He’s from up north. If he knows the locals, sure, but there’s no indication he has any contacts down here.” “We could call in Forest just in case,” Havilland said referring to the Forest Service Rep that worked the area. “It’s nearly time for him to check on, anyway.” “Call him,” Jericho decided. They’d be better off including the fed, especially if anything went wrong out there. “I got it,” Lovato pulled out his phone and made the call. Moments later, he returned to the group. “He’ll meet us at the mouth of the canyon in twenty minutes.” “Okay,” Jericho leaned against the large table. “This is how we’re going to handle this.” He proceeded to lay out the plan, pointing out positions and giving assignments. Once he was done, he studied each of his deputies, one after the other. “Any questions?”

121


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 “I don’t have a question, just a concern,” Paige told him. “If Deklan is determined to protect his mother, I’m not sure we’ll be able to get him away from the cabin without her. I know it would be ideal to get him out and away but unless forcefully removed, I’m not sure he’ll cooperate.” “I agree,” Lovato said immediately. “Abbi said he stood up to his dad, refused to let him hurt Talia and his father broke his nose for the effort. He’s getting old enough he wants to help, not run. If you encounter the kid, I’d say just snatch him up and carry him to safety. Don’t waste time trying to negotiate with him.” “That’s fine,” Jericho said after considering for several seconds. “As long as you don’t jeopardize your own safety to do it. Flint could use his son as bait to get a clear shot. From what we’ve learned, it’s not out of the realm so watch your back and consider all the hazards before you do anything. Let’s head to the canyon and hook up with Forest. We need to read him into the plan.”

*****

Paige slowly made her way into the cover of trees. Her heart was beating fast, there were so many things that could go wrong. She found a safe location, settled into place, clicked on her mic, and whispered into the radio. “I’m in position. I have a clear view of the back door. There are two windows, both unopened and appear to be secure. No sign of movement inside or outside.” Havilland came over the air next. “Car 21, in position.” “Car 23, same traffic,” Lovato relayed. Paige knew Havilland was stationed at the front of the cabin with a sniper rifle aimed at the front door. She had the back on the east, Lovato was in back on the west. The Sheriff was stationed up front with a bullhorn and would be shouting out orders for the occupants to exit with their hands in the air. They were just waiting for Forest to signal he was in place further away, hidden among the trees, blocking the entrance to the old mining cave. “FS one,” Forest’s voice came over the radio. “I’m in place and good to go.” “Copy,” Jericho acknowledged. “I want to get a good look, see if there’s any movement inside before I start giving the commands. Just hold tight and wait for my signal.” The back door slid open and a small boy carefully made his way down the stairs. Flint Kesten stood in the doorway, watching... judging was more like it if you asked Paige. She pressed her mic, carefully, and whispered into the mouthpiece. “Deklan just exited the back door. Target is standing just inside the open doorway, watching the boy’s every move. I can’t see his hands, they’re blocked 122


Desperate Love by the screen door. Standby and I’ll advise.” Paige held her breath and waited. She could hear Jericho cursing in her head and smiled for an instant before pushing the humor away to focus on the child. Deklan continued across the large expanse of the backyard area, headed straight for the trees.

“Be advised, I’ve relocated to the east of my original location,” Lovato’s voice came over the radio. “I’m making my way to what looks like a washing area. There’s a water faucet surrounded by a round section that’s been filled with gravel. The boy may be headed to get water or wash up. I’ll intercept once I know he’s in the clear.” The group waited silently for word the kid was secure. Several agonizing seconds ticked by, then several more. Finally, Lovato’s voice broke through the silence. “Child secure but I need to get him out of here.”

in.”

“I can cover the back,” Paige offered. “I have a clear visual of the entire back section of the cab-

“Lovato,” Jericho’s voice boomed over the radio. “Get the kid to the car, Margie’s waiting. I’m not going to issue commands until you’re back in position.” “Copy,” Lovato held the child close to his chest. The kid was not cooperating and he was going to be a handful for Margie. “Kid,” Lovato hissed through his teeth. “I told you to calm down. If you fight me, this is going to take longer. The longer it takes, the longer it will take us to get your mother free.” “He’s going to hurt her,” Deklan said through his silent tears. “You have to save her. He’s going to kill her.” “I told you,” Lovato hissed just before he reached the car. “I need you to stay in the car with this nice lady. I’m going back to get your mom. Margie will explain everything. I need you to climb into the car, kid. Trust me, we’re here to help you.” He set the kid on the ground but kept a firm grip on the boy’s hand while he opened the door. Margie was already in the backseat and gave Deklan a welcoming smile. “Climb on in here,” she said softly. “Let us help you. Go on now,” she said to Lovato. “You get back out there and save this boy’s mom. A young boy needs his mother. You go save her for him, okay?” “Suspect has closed the back door and is no longer visible from my position,” Paige advised. Lovato closed the car door the instant the kid climbed inside. Hopefully, Margie could handle the little tyke until this was over. He made his way cautiously back to his original location and notified his boss he was ready to proceed. 123


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 Jericho raised the bullhorn to his mouth, took a deep breath and began negotiations. “Flint Kesten, this is the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office. The cabin is surrounded. I need you to come out immediately. Exit through the front door, hands in the air and don’t make any sudden movements. We need to talk to you about a situation.”

“Suspect is in the living room,” Havilland called out. “It looks like he has the mother tied to a chair and he is becoming violent. I don’t have a clear shot at this time.” “Flint Kesten,” Jericho’s voice echoed ominously throughout the entire area. “I know you have Tiana in there with you. We have the boy and are prepared to do what’s necessary to ensure the woman is safe. Step away from Tiana Kesten immediately or I cannot ensure your safety.” Flint stopped, glanced around and focused on the window. He could shut the curtains but that wouldn’t stop a bullet. He was surrounded, how had they found him? “What did you do?” he demanded of his wife. “What did you do?” he screamed in frustration. “Nothing,” she sobbed. “Nothing. Please Flint, just let me go. Let me walk out the front door. I’ll see if it’s a trap. I’ll test it for you.” “Shut up!” he yelled and backhanded her across the face. “Suspect is still in the living room,” Havilland advised. “I’m going to try to move, see if I can get a clear shot. He just struck the woman in the face with his hand.” “Hold positions,” Jericho demanded. “Flint Kesten, there’s nowhere for you to go. If you strike your wife one more time, I can’t ensure your safety. I need you to move away from the chair. Do it now.” He shifted the bullhorn so he could speak into his microphone. “Paige, make the call.” Paige dialed the cellphone number she’d retrieved from the court records and hoped it was still functioning. She let out a relieved breath when she heard ringing inside the house. “Flint,” Jericho called when he too heard the phone ringing. “We need to talk to you. Step away from Tiana and answer the phone. I need you to answer the phone.” Flint pulled out his knife and bent over his wife. “You answer it,” he cut the rope binding one of her hands to the chair. “Be careful, be very careful what you say, Tiana.” “Hello?” Tiana choked out. “Tiana?” Paige asked. “Yes,” she said meekly, not sure what she was supposed to say or do. “Tell them I rented this place and they’re trespassing. Tell them to get off my land. Tell them!” 124


Desperate Love “Flint says you are trespassing and he wants you to leave,” Tiana choked out. “That’s not going to happen,” Paige assured her. “We are here to save you. Don’t worry about Deklan, he’s safe. We intercepted him on his way to the water.” “Okay,” Tiana said. “What did they say? What?” Flint demanded. “She said they have Deklan,” Tiana told him. “Tell Flint I need to talk to him,” Paige suggested. If she could get him on the phone, maybe she could keep him occupied enough he wouldn’t injure Tiana again. “Tell him I ordered you to hand him the phone.”

“She said I have to give you the phone,” Tiana said to Flint. “What do I do?” “Give me that,” he snatched the phone out of her hand. “I want my kid back in this house, now. You have one minute... that’s sixty seconds starting now, to get me my son.” “I’m sorry but we can’t do that,” Paige told him, shifting to get a better look at the back of the house. “We aren’t allowed to send a child into danger and I think we can all agree this situation is dangerous. We just need to talk to you, that’s all. Just step onto the front porch and this can be over. I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding. My boss, he just needs to talk to you... that’s all. Just talk. Can you step onto the front porch and talk to Sheriff Walters?” “Don’t use that tone with me,” Flint yelled into the phone. “I’m not an idiot. The instant I step onto the porch you’re going to shoot me in the head. I know how you work, shoot me in the head then plant a gun and say it was my fault. Why don’t you come in here and talk? I’ll be sure to give you a big welcome. Just you, I don’t want your boss in here.” “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Flint,” Paige said flatly. “I’m wondering if you can tell me if Tiana is injured.” “Not as bad as she’s going to be if you don’t get my son,” Flint warned.

“The suspect is armed,” Margie said through the radio. “Loaded handgun, no further.” Margie looked at Deklan. The boy was trying to be brave, but he was obviously upset and worried about his mother. “Thank you for telling me that. It’s going to help us get your mom back, okay?” “Okay,” Deklan swallowed and stared out the window.

125


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 Tiana shifted her body to block Flint’s view and slowly began to work at the rope securing her right hand. He’d cut her left hand free so she could talk on the phone. If the cops kept him busy, maybe she could get her other hand free and have a fighting chance when he came at her again. She was going to get away from him for good. For Deklan, she would survive this somehow, she had to. She’d testify against him, tell the world how he’d snuck into the house and kidnapped her. How he’d beat her, tied her to the chair and threatened her. She’d do whatever she had to do to make sure he spent the rest of his worthless life in prison. If she couldn’t do that, she’d find a way to hide. She’d go somewhere he’d never find her or Deklan and she’d hide. Flint dropped the phone back into his wife’s lap. “I’m done talking to the woman. Tell her I’m done.” Tiana picked up the phone and placed it to her ear. “He said he’s not going to talk to you anymore.”

“That’s not what I said,” he kicked the chair with so much force it nearly toppled over. “Paige,” Havilland said softly. “He’s moved the chair slightly which brought the victim nearly into range. See if you can get her to slide the chair another two, maybe three feet in the same direction. If you do, the next time he approaches her, I’ll have a clear view of the target.” “Tiana,” Paige said wondering how she was supposed to do that. No matter what she said, the woman would know they were arranging a shot if Flint ended up getting dead. “We can’t see you very well. My guys up front, they want to know you’re okay. If you get a chance, can you move the chair just a little in the same direction it went when Flint just kicked it?” “What?” Tiana asked. She was supposed to move the stupid chair? How? “If you get a chance, just move the chair a couple inches,” Paige repeated hoping with every fiber of her being they didn’t shoot the idiot the instant she did what Paige asked. “What is she saying?” Flint demanded. “She wanted to know if I’m okay,” Tiana lied. “She said they saw you kick the chair and they wanted to know if I’m injured.”

Flint glared at his wife for several seconds before he grabbed the chair she was sitting in and moved it several feet away. She was now sitting directly in front of the window. “They want to see what’s going on in here, let them look.” “Havi,” Paige said softly. “How’s the view now?”

126


Desperate Love “Five by five,” he said with humor in his voice. “He just repositioned her directly in front of the large window. Whatever you said pissed him off. His tantrum is our advantage.” Paige relaxed. If he moved the chair that far, Tiana couldn’t blame her... or herself if Havi ended up taking a shot. “Flint Kesten,” Jericho called through the bullhorn. “There’s no way out of this. Put down your weapon, exit the front door hands in the air, and surrender. We don’t want anyone to get hurt. Come out with your hands up and we can talk.” “Get up,” Flint told Tiana. “What about,” she held up the phone. “Forget that,” he grabbed the phone in frustration and threw it to the ground. “Stand up.” “You have to untie me,” Tiana said hesitantly. “I can’t stand up with my legs tied to a chair.” Flint moved forward and crouched on the floor, cutting the rope that tied her legs to the sturdy chair. He grabbed her free hand and yanked her toward the door. The chair tumbled to the side nearly pulling them both over with it. Flint slapped her across the face. “You idiot,” he grumbled before he reached over and cut the rope. The chair fell to the floor with a clatter. He shoved her toward the door. “If this is a trap, I want you in front of me. If they shoot, they’ll shoot you.” He laughed, a high-pitched, sadistic laugh.

Tiana swallowed hard, moved to the door and gently began to open it. “Wait,” Flint ordered, raising his hand to stop the door. “We wait and see what happens for a minute.” “I think they are coming out the front,” Paige said into the radio. “The voices sound weak but I think he’s making her exit first, to see what we do.” “Subject is at the door,” Havilland relayed. “I’ve got eyes on.” “Okay,” Flint gave Tiana a shove. “Open it all the way then step onto the porch.” Tiana pulled open the door then immediately raised her hands into the air. She took a small, tentative step forward and stopped. She could feel Flint’s warm body pressed against her back. “Move it,” he said softly. “Not too fast.” He was positioned behind his wife, his hand hidden behind her back, resting on the butt of the gun he had tucked underneath his waistband in the front of his jeans. If they thought they could ambush him, they were in for a surprise. 127


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 Tiana took another tentative step forward then stopped abruptly when Flint wrapped his hand around her hair and yanked. “That’s far enough,” he kept his left hand wrapped around her hair as he ran his right palm over the gun in anticipation. “Hands where we can see them,” Jericho called out. “Now! Flint, get your hands in the air.” Havilland focused on the subject and waited. This could go about a million different ways and he needed to be prepared for anything. He studied the man’s expression and knew the instant he made his decision. Everything happened in the blink of an eye. Flint spun his wife around to face him and pulled a pistol from underneath his shirt. Havilland could hear yelling, could see the fear on the woman’s face, the determination and anger on the man’s. Flint started to raise the weapon, to aim it at his wife, and Havilland fired. The loud boom of the rifle broke through the silence and shattered the illusion of peace and serenity. The bullet sliced through the air and found its mark. Flint went down, hard. He dropped his handgun the instant he hit the old, stained, wooden porch. Tiana screamed, realized she was free and ran. “Hold your positions,” Jericho ordered before he reached out and wrapped his big arm around the terrified, fleeing woman. She gasped, then fell to the ground in a heap and began to shake. He needed help and he needed it now. “Paige, Lovato I need you up front. Make your way around the house and secure the prisoner. He’s down but his condition is unknown. Proceed with caution.” Jericho shifted forward to shield Tiana from the scene still playing out on the front porch of the cabin. He watched his two deputies approach the front of the building from the right and cautiously move forward. Once they reached the body, it was obvious the man was dead. “You got this?” Paige asked, looking down at the lifeless body of Flint Kesten. “I got it,” Lovato assured her. “Go help the boss. Looks like he could use a little assistance.” Paige approached Walters and saw Havilland moving toward them from the rear. “I got this,” she pointed to Tiana. “I’ll take her to the car.” “Good idea,” Havi said when he reached the group. He held out his rifle to Jericho. “I assume you need this.” Jericho ran a hand through his hair and sighed before accepting the weapon his deputy offered. “I guess I do. Let me secure it in the car. I’ll call Tolman so we can get this over with. We’ll need the ME out here as well.” He watched Paige guide the frightened, but lucky, woman out of the immediate area and knew between his deputy and his admin, she couldn’t be in better hands. “Good 128


Desperate Love job, kid.” He said turning back to Havilland. “I hoped we could avoid that, but good job. You saved that woman’s life. Remember that... you were forced to take a life to save a life.” He walked away, prepared to get down to business and process the scene. It was definitely going to be a very long night.

*****

Paige stepped into the office and spotted Gage. “I thought you were out of town.” “I was,” Gage stood. “Heard you had a little excitement while I was away.” “A bit,” Paige dropped into her chair, exhausted. “And I guess I’m glad you weren’t there. I mean, the last thing we needed was one of your signature tackles. He had a gun, Gage. If you had gone in, the way you do, he might have turned it on you. I thought of that when it was all over. I thought how much I missed you and I thought... well, at least he wasn’t here to get dead. That’s something.” “I missed you, too,” Gage dropped into her visitor’s chair. “It’s been awhile since we worked together. And, I guess I’ll forgive you... this time. But only because you look like the rug granny beat with a rolling pin.” “I don’t even know what that means,” Paige sighed. “Why are you here? In the office I mean. You should be home sleeping off a good party buzz.” “I needed to see you,” Gage told her. “You and Jericho.” “Aren’t you on in the morning?” “I am,” Gage agreed. “But you never know what kind of calls we’re going to get and when we’ll both have a break long enough to stop by the office. Anyway, I’ve been listening to the call and knew you and the sheriff were on the way in.” “Havi had to shoot him,” Paige warned him. “Jer might be busy with the DA for a while.” Gage shrugged and stood when Jericho stepped through the door. “What are you doing here?” he demanded. Paige smiled. “I know you’re busy but I could use a few minutes of your time,” Gage said quickly. “In my office,” Jericho motioned for Gage to join him. 129


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 “You too,” Gage insisted turning to Paige. Once they were settled, Gage placed a disk on Jericho’s desk. “What’s that?” Walter’s asked.

“You know I went to the annual Knights Templar extravaganza,” Gage began. “I do,” Jericho nodded. “Which is why I was surprised when I walked through the door and spotted you at the office.” “I left early,” Gage told them. “Not really my thing. Anyway, once I got there, I realized it was the perfect opportunity to gather intel... on your project.” “On the investigation into Chaya’s murder?” Jericho frowned. “Yes,” Gage nodded. “It hit me almost immediately. I’d barely stepped through the door when Millie Keeton cornered me and demanded to know why I wasn’t wearing my ring.” “Oh,” Paige said in understanding. “Yeah,” Gage smiled at her. “I haven’t attended many of the events because well, I was busy. And, to be honest it’s just not my thing.” “You said that already,” Jericho pressed. “Did you find something?” “I took pictures,” Gage told him. “They aren’t great, I was using my cell phone but I think they are good enough.” “I don’t understand,” Jericho pressed. “Everyone was taking pictures,” Gage told them. “All night long, I don’t think I’ve had my picture taken that many times in my life... not even as a pro. Anyway, it gave me an idea. I was thinking about the ring and the list I compiled and decided I’d start taking pictures, subtly. I got snapshots of everyone that was wearing their ring. Most did. There were a few like me that didn’t bother, but it was a big deal... apparently.”

“We have names we can check off that list you narrowed down for us... before,” Paige realized. “How many?” “A lot,” Gage motioned to the disk. “I took a shot of each member, then a close-up of the ring. They didn’t know. I just played like I wanted the two just in case one didn’t turn out. I also learned something I didn’t know. It’s going to help if the person who lost theirs had it replaced.” 130


Desperate Love “What?” Paige asked, excited now. “What did you learn?” Stan Donaldson stepped into Jericho’s doorway and rapped on the wood molding. “James said you needed me here.” He glanced at Paige, then instantly looked away. It always made him so uncomfortable being around her. “Right,” Jericho stood. “Let me get you started. I’ll join you in a few minutes, this shouldn’t take long.” He escorted the prosecutor across the bullpen and into the conference room. Havilland was already there, waiting in one of the chairs. The union attorney, Eric Graham, sat next to him taking notes. “Stan needs some basic information from you while I finish something up. Don’t get into the details until I get back.” He returned to his office and leaned against his desk. “Gage, continue the explanation and try to hurry. I’m sure Graham is doing his best to limit Havilland’s responses, but I don’t want to leave them alone with Stan for too long.”

“I found out the rings are numbered,” Gage informed them. “I didn’t even know that myself. Each ring has a number etched into the design. If you enhance those pictures, you should be able to identify the number on each one.” “How does that help us?” Paige asked. “Does the school have a record of who received what?” “No,” Gage shook his head. “It’s up to the coach. I learned of the numbers the day I left for Moab. Otherwise, I would have passed the information on sooner. Mark and I had just finished up with practice when Principal Swanson stopped us on our way out... he was mainly looking for Mark. Swanson was frantic to get the final numbers — the final count on rings for this school year so he could place an order before the deadline. When he left, Mark casually asked me to pencil him in. Said we needed to get together soon and decide who gets what number. That was the first I’d heard of it. I honestly didn’t even notice the rings had numbers. I don’t even know what number I got. Anyway, I decided to test it out at the event over the past couple days. Sure enough, they all have a number on them. I called the manufacturer yesterday and asked about a replacement, you know played like I lost mine and I wanted to order a new one. I can order a ring, but not an exact replica. I spoke to the manager. She explained the policy and the reason for it. I have to say it actually makes sense. They can reproduce the ring but not the number. If I order a new ring, I have to get at the back of the line you could say.” “Meaning?” Jericho asked impatiently, he needed to get back in and deal with Havilland and the prosecutor.

131


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 6 “Meaning if thirty rings were issued the year I received mine and I lost my ring,” Gage explained. “I could order a new ring, one that had the same design as the year I got it, but the number on the ring would have to be thirty-one or higher. They can’t reproduce a number... ever. She used me as an example. If I lost my ring, because I went pro, it would be worth more than say... your friend Ken Glenshaw who didn’t play after high school. If they reproduced it, the ring would lose some of the value. To avoid any issues, they have a strict policy not to reproduce any numbers. That way, the original stays original... it remains one of a kind.” “Makes sense,” Jericho decided. “So, we just need to get the ring out and see what number is on it. Then we figure out how many rings were issued that year and go through your photos to see if anyone ordered a replacement.” “That’s what I was thinking,” Gage told them. “We won’t catch everyone on the list. Some didn’t attend and others, like me, didn’t wear a ring. But... it’s a new lead and I wanted to let you know right away. I realize we aren’t going to work on this tonight but it’s a new lead.” “It’s a good one,” Paige grinned. “I can start working on it in the morning. Jericho is going to be busy saving Havi from fire, brimstone, and bankruptcy; but I’ll get started right away. Even if we don’t find our man, we should be able to eliminate a few more on the list.” “I’ll be sure to let Havilland know how sorry you are that he’s in this mess,” Jericho stood and moved to the door. “Go home. Get some sleep. You look like the walking dead.” Paige stood, turned, then whipped back around and pulled Gage into a huge hug. “Thank you!”

“I know the two of you wanted to work on this... well, together, I guess. But I was there and the idea came to me, so I just ran with it,” Gage said. “It was easy enough and if it helps, I’m glad I played a part.” “You have,” she smiled at him. “You heading out?” “Yeah,” Gage motioned for her to lead the way. “I’ll walk you to your car, make sure you don’t fall flat on your face before you climb behind the wheel. You sure you’re okay to drive?” “I’m fine,” Paige assured him. “It’s just been a long day and I didn’t sleep much last night. Tonight is going to be better, I’m sure of it.”

*****

Paige climbed from her vehicle and spotted Dax heading her way. He must have been waiting for her. “Hey,” she called, watching him approach. 132


Desperate Love “Hey, yourself,” he stopped, brushed back a strand of hair and frowned. “Long day?” “Long and stressful, but ultimately the good guys won,” she turned and unlocked her front door. “Is something up?” “Carmen’s at my place,” he pushed open her door and followed her inside. “Said something spooked her and she needed company.” “What spooked her?” Paige asked, worried. “Not really sure but I’m working on it,” he assured her. He watched her slip out of her boots and drop her gun belt onto the sofa. “Probably nothing but I thought maybe you and I could have a sleepover. I could bunk here with you...” he said backing her against the wall before he leaned in for a kiss. “Zee and Carmen can have my place,” he gave her a cocky, wicked grin as he leaned in for a second, deeper kiss. “I might be able to manage that,” she agreed. “Do I need to go over, say hi and all that...or can it wait until morning? I’m so beat, I’m not sure I can make it up the stairs and into bed as it is.” “I can help with that,” Dax scooped her into his arms and carried her up the stairs. “My hero,” she whispered, resting her head against his shoulder. She was already half asleep when Dax stepped into her room. She settled onto the edge of the bed and realized with everything that happened, she didn’t have a chance to call Nathan. Now, it was too late. Just another thing that would have to wait until morning. She dropped onto the pillow and was out cold in seconds.

Current Season Available on my Website www.melaniepsmith.com 133


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