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Connections eMagazine

Volume 6 Issue 1

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. For me, the moment that calendar turns to February I start thinking about spring. The winter gloom is behind us and a new birth is just around the corner. The first magazine of the new year is always dedicated to spring, love, and new growth. I hope you’ll take the time to look around. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss 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.

FEATURE ARTICLE

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National ‘What’ Day? Need a reason to celebrate? Discover holidays that occur in February, March and April. Some you may already know about, others might provide a new adventure and a reason to rejoice. Read more...


Blogs | Articles My Happy Valentine By Sylva Fae

Vivid Imagination by Rudders’ Writing

I Love Amsterdam By Tom Benson

Top 10 Tips for Authors Regarding Book Reviews By Corinne Morier

Wow Words By Sylva Fae The Magic of Julia Donaldson & the Illustrators By Louise Cannon

In every issue... Free Books Paige Carter

By Renny deGroot’s Place •

Denali: the High One Nothing to Hide Review by Bookmarks and Stages

@ConnectionsEMagazine

Do you need a helping Hand? By Rebecca Bryn

by Cherime MacFarlane

Hot Deals — .99 Cents Author Tips and Tricks

Ripples On The Water

The importance of Ordinary Things by Mike Billington


MPSmith Publishing and Connections eMagazine does not endorse any information contained in the articles or advertisements throughout this magazine. All contents Copyright Š the individual authors and used with their permission. All rights reserved.


Melanie P. Smith

Fran Laniado

Hannah Howe

Sylva Fae

Cherry Christensen

Ronesa Aveela

Jennifer Reynolds

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Mom’s Favorite Reads

EDITOR… Melanie P. Smith

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Ever wonder where all those “National” days come from? Not a day will go by this year that hasn’t been designated as a day celebrating ‘something’ — mostly food. But, why? The answer is complicated. Some come from a presidential proclamation, others as a resolution from the House or the Senate. For instance, on July 9, 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation declaring National Ice Cream Day. Others may be proclaimed by state, city, or county officials. A fair amount are invented by organizations or companies looking to build awareness. The thing about many of these holidays is that people do celebrate them, especially if they are trending. The invent of online calendars made these random and sometimes silly holidays popular. Hashtags are created, followers jump on board, and a phenomenon begins. Welcome to the age of digital marketing.

February might be the shortest month of the year, but it’s packed full of holidays. From National Dark Chocolate Day to National Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, and Groundhog Day there’s something everyone can relate to. National Dark Chocolate Day — Who needs an excuse to eat chocolate? Nobody. But, if the powers that be decided to dedicate an entire day to the dark variety, why not give it try? Unlike other forms of this decadent treat, dark chocolate actually has some heath benefits. To begin, it is rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. The coca also contains antioxidants. Feeling stressed? Treat yourself to a bit of dark chocolate — it might help relieve that anxiety.


We normally associate milk with breakfast, so why not ice cream? Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast day was invented in New York — in the middle of winter — in the 1960’s. Yep, it’s been around for decades. Anyone else headed off to confront their mom and demand an explanation on why you never knew this little fact? The holiday is always the first Saturday in February. Go ahead, spoon up a few scoops — we won’t judge. Everyone has heard of America’s favorite rodent — Punxsutawney Phil. But, you may not know Groundhog Day was started by German settlers who came to Pennsylvania in the 1700’s (Man, Phil is antient). They brought this seasonal superstition along with them and the rest, as they say, is history. I have to say, the shadow of this resident of Gobbler’s Knob is usually as accurate as my local weatherman — so, why not? Millions of American’s have a deep love affair with the first Sunday in February. Why? Because it’s Superbowl Sunday, of course. After months and months of hard -fought matches, two NFL teams battle their way into the championships. For more than fifty years now, the Super Bowl has become a huge national event. This cultural phenomenon has now evolved into a grand excuse to have elaborate parties with chicken wings, hearty chili, cold bear, and rowdy friends. I think it might be time for a new big screen tv. Other holidays in February include National Tater Tot Day, National Carrot Cake Day (Let them eat cake), Give Kids a Smile Day, World Nutella Day, and World Cancer Day. For a listing of other holidays visit the National ToDay’s website

https://nationaltoday.com/february-holidays/


Feature Article If you lived in ancient Rome, March was the first month of the new year. The rest of us could have a do-over, but who really wants to relive the past two months? Instead, here are a few days you can celebrate. National Read Across America Day; Dr. Seuss’ Birthday. International Women’s Day, National Meatball Day and St. Patrick’s Day.

A favorite pastime of mine is reading. Apparently, I’m not alone. National Read Across America Day was established in 1998 to help get kids excited about reading. It actually occurs every year on Dr. Seuss’ birthday. So, grab a hat, polish up those rhymes, and join us in a new adventure. International Woman’s Day is a global celebration focused on honoring historical and cultural achievements of woman. Organizations large and small around the world come together on this day to show women they are appreciated and valued in today’s society. Promoting equality is a common theme during these events. Meatballs Day — recipes for this tasty gift from heaven can be found in ancient Chinese, Arabic and Roman texts. Every culture seems to have their own variation using pretty much any meat you can think of — beef, pork, chicken, fish and even vegan varieties. So, let’s rejoice in the meat and cook up a big vat of spaghetti to celebrate. St. Patrick’s Day has been around since the early 17th century. It is both a cultural and religious celebration. It falls on the date of death of St. Patrick, who was the patron saint who ministered Christianity in Ireland during the fifth century. In the early 17th century, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion made this an official Christian feast day, some even lifting Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol. Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national


National holidays festival. There are several theories on why green is associated with Ireland and this popular holiday. One refers to Moses, a snakebite and a permanent green mark on Glas, who would lead his people to a land free of snakes. There’s also a version that includes the Tower of Hercules, a cold winter day, and a beautiful green island. Nobody really knows the reason for the green, but that doesn’t impact tradition. What do orangutans, elephants, rhinos the grey wolf, tigers, and amur leopards have in common? World Wildlife Day, of course. As endangered species, these animals face a high risk for extinction. To raise awareness, and educate the world regarding the gravity of the situation, World Wildlife Day was created. What can you do? Get involved. Raise awareness among your friends, and know the facts. Other March holidays are World Water Day, National Puppy Day, Absolutely Incredible Kid Day, World Poetry Day and National Potato Chip Day. You can discover other March holidays here…

https://nationaltoday.com/march-holidays/

When we think of April, we think spring flowers, warmer days and of course — April Fool’s Day. Other holidays are National Walking Day, World Autism Awareness Day, Find a Rainbow Day, World Party Day, and two of my favorites – National Bulldogs are Beautiful Day and National Superhero Day. For some reason, there are also a lot of days dedicated to food; National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, National Deep-Dish Pizza Day, Soft Pretzel Month, National Raisin Day, National Prime Rib Day and many, many more.


Feature Article It’s April 1st, you climb out of bed, stumble into the kitchen and prepare that first pot of coffee. The strong aroma of mocha fills the air and you relax while you slowly pour yourself that first cup. As you reach for the sugar bowl, you quickly remember what day it is. Today, you tentatively dip a damp finger into the container and test the white granules to make sure they are in fact sugar — not salt. How did this day of pranks begin? The exact origins remain a mystery, but some historians speculate it began in 1582 when France switched from the Gregorian calendar to the Julian calendar. People were slow to transition and failed to recognize January 1st as the beginning of the new year. They continued to celebrate during the last week of March through April first. Those who did accept the change, began to make fun of the holdouts mocking them, playing pranks, and sending them on “fool’s errands”— trying to trick them into believing something was true that was actually false. Other’s reject that explanation and insist it started with Constantine who allowed a court Jester named Kugel to become king for a day. Kugel instantly passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day which happened to be April 1st. The people had so much fun, it became an annual event. Regardless of how it originated, one thing is certain, there is no end in sight. Maybe it has to do with the time of year, maybe it’s just a way for people to have fun. Whatever the reason, why not join in with the lighthearted shenanigans (yes, that is a real word — look it up) and embrace your foolish side one day out of the year. Find a Rainbow Day —Rainbows have always fascinated mankind so it’s not surprising we’d have a dedicated day to look for this mystical phenomenon during the month known for showers and spring weather. World Party Day: Everyone loves a good party, so why not April 3rd? Pass the food, turn up the music, call your friends and celebrate the joy of being alive.


By Melanie P. Smith World Autism Awareness Day is April 2nd. International communities recognize individuals with autism by lighting up buildings and landmarks in blue. Our insight into this disorder has drastically changed over the second half of the 20th century. Prior to this, there were a lot of misconceptions surrounding this neurological disorder. Today, understanding is growing with special events, awareness campaigns and self-advocacy groups geared toward helping the world understand and accept those diagnosed with this illness. Symptoms range from severe to mild with some needing significant support, while others live entirely independently. April is a great time to increase your education and knowledge, and foster acceptance and support to those inflicted. Apparently, April is the month to appreciate your pets. We have National Hug Your Dog Day, National Pet Day, National Siamese Cat Day and my favorite; National Bulldogs are Beautiful Day. I don’t know about beautiful, but they do have their own special charm. While people work hard to prevent wrinkles and never drool in public, those are the things that make bulldogs adorable. Here are a few other facts you may not know about bulldogs. They’re one of the most popular dogs in the US. They make drool cool — just try not to laugh when you see one of these charming creatures with drool hanging out of the corner of their mouth. They’re very adaptable and great for both city dwellers and country folk. They don’t require a ton of exercise and are content exploring a large back yard or taking a nap on your apartment floor. Bulldogs are sweet-natured, but can be intimidating. When provoked, they’re not afraid to make their presence known — making them great watchdogs. Discover more about April holidays here…

https://nationaltoday.com/april-holidays/

Hope you enjoyed learning about these unique days of celebration — I know I did. And, maybe, you found a new annual event to celebrate — so, happy holidays everyone!


Melanie P. Smith

Mount Haven: Book 1

Moondance Ridge: Book 2

When Evil Finds her, Will the hunters become the prey?

She escaped — Now he wants her back. Refusing could be deadly

Subterfuge: Book 3 When someone you love vanishes, How far would you go to get them back?

Entire Series now Available in Audio. See your favorite Retailer for details.


www.melaniepsmith.com


Paige Carter Series Police Procedural

SEASON 1 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

SEASON 2 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Bad Blood Ancient Thievery Lethal Remedy Pernicious Liaisons Shadow Rustler Desperate Love Kindred Discord Unexpected Threats Hostile Annihilation

Lakeside Lasting Consequences Perverted Theology Camp Reefer Youthful Plunder Newborn Harvest Unfortunate Trio Impetuous Flight Innocent Strategy


SEASON 3 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Insidious Conspiracy Bogus Prosperity Hijacked Innocence Swindling Nomads Cultivated Defacement Hasty Retreat Toxic Indulgence Active Discord Winter Crisis

4 Complete Seasons SEASON 4 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Explosive Appeal Wild Exursion Lucrative Deception Impartial Hindrance Tumultuous Bliss Inevitable Apprehension Treacherous Kinship Collateral Damage Dubious Loitering


By Sylva Fae Lying in my bubble bath, I dream of past romances, Of flower bouquets, And sunshine days, And cheek to cheek slow dances. Remembering all the little things, The flickering candlelight, And pillow talk, Till 1 'O clock, Words whispered in the night.

Now my carefree ways are tamed, Silver streaks run through my hair, With bulging tum, And wobbly bum, And wrinkles everywhere. No more the party queen. No wild nights on the town. Going out to dine And drinking wine Replaced with snuggling down.

Oh, to be so young again, To feel love's tingling shiver, The warming buzz, To think of us, The memories make me shiver. I once was wild and carefree, With glossy chestnut hair, A slender tum, And curvy bum, And dazzling sapphire stare.

Today the thoughts of romance, Fill my heart with dread, I'd swap a date, And staying up late, For early nights instead. To all you young romantics, I wish you best of luck, But as for me, I'd rather be, In bed with a good book.

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/


https://franlaniado.wordpress.com/

A TALE OF BEAUTIES AND BEASTS

Fran Laniado’s work, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in several publications such as Enchanted Conversation magazine, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, Synchronized Chaos Magazine, New Works Review, and more. Beautiful is her first published novel. She lives in New York and enjoys theater, yoga, sitcom reruns and lots and lots of books!

https://amzn.to/2F7JRDu

FACEBOOK @FranTheAuthor PINTEREST @franwrites11 INSTAGRAM @franlaniado

“A very enjoyable fantasy adventure” - Amazon Eimear is Faerie. She left the land of her birth to find a place where she felt like she could belong. She finds herself in the World, a strange place, where she is the only magical being, and she begins to build a life for herself. But when she encounters Finn, supernaturally beautiful but thoughtless and selfish, she gets angry. In a fit of rage, she casts a spell on Finn. It’s a spell that she can’t undo, even when she discovers that she’s ruined Finn’s life. Finn is wealthy, arrogant, and cruel. He didn’t think twice about insulting Eimear until it was too late. Now, exiled from the only home he’s ever known, he is forced to make his own way, for the first time ever. He does have support- if he wants it. Eimear wants to assuage her guilt by helping him. In an isolated place, thrown together initially out of desperation and need, Eimear and Finn find a way to live together. That alliance eventually blossoms into friendship, and even love. But before they can have their happily ever after, Eimear must go on a perilous journey that will force her to confront everything that she ran away from when she left Faerie.


Vivid Imagination It was reasonable to assume Melina Jackson was her name given that was the only female name on the list of doorbells. The flat-capped, raincoat wearing man liked to stalk his victims first. He deliberately cultivated an unassuming, almost invisible appearance for the initial stages of his work for obvious reasons, ensuring that any possible description of him would be as nondescript as that of the nearest lamppost. The knife-wielding sociopath was most meticulous in his planning, proud indeed of his attention to detail. But then, of course, he had to be otherwise his career would most likely have been a short one …

* The mere presence of Bartholomew Brown was enough to make the skin crawl – if he wanted. Mostly though, he was the most affable and charming man you could ever hope to meet. He preferred to be called Mr Brown rather than Bartholomew – Bartholomew sounded too Bohemian, too pretentious, he thought. Mr had more of a cold and enigmatic feel to it, for, beneath his superficial charm, Mr Brown possessed the most twisted imagination ever; perhaps that was what compelled him to do what he did?

If you were foolish enough to ask Mr Brown about his interests, just five minutes into the reply would be enough to have the strongest of stomachs heaving and ready to expel their contents in a fit of projectile vomiting. You see, Bartholomew Brown was no ordinary man.


Over the past twenty-five years, he’d been responsible for the bodies in the canal murders, the butchering of seventeen prostitutes, and the cold-blooded murder of six unfortunate serial killer hunting detectives. And those were just what he considered his most notable successes; there had been many others, but they had been when he first started out, so he forgave himself for those initial somewhat sloppy and amateurish efforts. He’d long since perfected his craft though and was again looking forward to satisfying his darkest fantasies. The next one was to be a woman by the name of Melina Jackson. Oh yes, she would make a fine victim, he thought, what with her sun-kissed red hair, those ‘come to bed and ravage me’ eyes, and the short, slutty skirt and high-heels that just screamed whore from head to toe. This one deserved a slow death, as painful and bloody as any to date. Mr Brown was determined to excel himself this time.

… Melina Jackson left the upmarket hotel by the back entrance, her business done with her latest trick, her third of the night. With a bra stuffed full of cash, she walked along the dark side-street, intending to call a cab from the nearby taxi rank. It was only a short distance but enough to provide her assailant with sufficient cover to hide in the shadows before stepping out to confront her. The serrated knife entered her breast at the same moment he looked into her eyes. A hand clasped her mouth before the merest hint of a scream could escape her ruby red lips. Her mutilated body would probably be found by an early morning street cleaner or perhaps even earlier, some late-night reveller turning into the dark street to take a piss …


Oh yes, Mr Brown was happy with his efforts with this one, of creating a scene of bloody carnage to rival that of the very best efforts of Jack the Ripper. Thank god it was just Mr Brown’s vivid imagination, that the details of Melina Jackson’s death were simply the ones staring back at him from a computer screen, and later, some anonymous reader’s Kindle or while scrolling a Dark Web fiction forum. Finally satisfied with the level of detail he’d achieved in his latest serial killer story, Mr Brown typed … The End. * Finishing a story always gave Mr Brown another craving too, an almost ritual one of making himself a sandwich. He was about to cut himself a couple of slices of bread when he stopped himself … Mr Brown frowned, silently annoyed at himself; there was still blood on the serrated edge of his carving knife … even after twenty-five years, Mr Brown could still be sloppy. *** If you enjoyed this story and would like to read many more like it, check out my latest collection of short stories — Available on Amazon

https://rudderswriting.com A variety of fiction and non-fiction — everything from the dark & thought provoking to light humour … Short Stories, Flash Fiction, Articles, Book Reviews and More ...


NEW RELEASE Sam Smith Mystery Series Book 16 by Hannah Howe “If you like psychological detective stories with a touch of humour and romance, you will love Sam Smith.” As a teenager, Ros McCarthy offered Mark, her baby son, up for adoption. Now, as an adult and a successful author, she wanted to reconnect. With Faye at my side, our task was to locate Mark. Along the way we learned about Ty Gwyn, a children’s home, and the people who lived and worked there. However, as we probed, some people became nervous and issued threats.

Then, unexpectedly, a murder. Was the murder and our investigation into Mark’s whereabouts connected, or merely coincidence? I suspected the former, then had my doubts as the maze became more complex. Snow in August, the story of a village and its secrets, a tale of longing and regret, and the realisation on my part that you should always cherish the people you love.

https://hannah-howe.com/

Pre-Order—Available March 1, 2020


I

Amsterdam By Tom Benson

For me, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, feels more like a massive shopping mall with connections by planes, buses and trains. Trains? Yes, because after collecting my bags and being rapidly processed through passport control, I stroll through to buy a ticket for the twenty-minute shuttle to Centraal

Station. Do I then take a taxi? No, I buy a multi-day travel ticket which allows me to use trams, buses, metros, and local ferries and trains. Most of the population speak English and are among the friendliest folk I’ve met in decades of tourism. Amsterdam is a city where the old adage works, ‘if you don’t know—ask.’ It’s not a place suited to visiting motorists, so on odd occasions having driven there, I use long-term parking.

The inexpensive hire of a bike allows me to reach every part of the picturesque and welcoming city. This particular mode of transport also means I can stop for a drink, a meal, or to practise my photography as opportunities arise. The rental companies are plentiful, and all the bikes come equipped with sturdy locks and chains. On pleasant days, I enjoy a leisurely cycle or walk around sections of the Grachtengurdel as the concentric canal system is known. If you’re keen to see the canal system up close, there is nothing better than a sightseeing tour on a barge. Amsterdam has myriad places of interest, and if like me, you enjoy a visit to an art gallery or museum, you are spoiled for choice.


Artist: https://www.tombensonartist.wordpress.com Among my favourite places is the Amsterdam Museum which displays a history of the magical city’s growth, from fishing village to international trading centre. Other worthwhile visits are the National Maritime Museum, the Dutch Resistance Museum and of course the world-renowned Rijksmuseum; a masterpiece before going inside. Even for a man, a tremendous insight is available with a wander around the Bag and Purse Museum, and I discovered it by accident. One trip through Anne Frank House was sufficient because it was both enlightening and heartbreaking. While in the city I invariably visit a couple of the art galleries, like the Van Gogh or Stedelijk, or I attend a classical concert in the Concertgebouw. The acoustics are incredible. Dining in Amsterdam allows for a wide choice. It matters not if you’re a snack-on-the-go person or a multi-course connoisseur, you’ll find cafes and restaurants to suit your palate and your wallet. Accommodation, like the eateries, is a matter of choice, and there are places to suit every budget. Mainly thanks to the travel card and superb transport network this is a city which doesn’t require the visitor to book a room in the centre. Occasionally, if the weather is fine during a visit, I’ll cycle through the dykes to visit the original Haarlem or take a short train ride to wander around the beautiful little town of Delft. All these things remind me, the city inspired my thriller, Amsterdam Calling. I’m also reminded that it’s about time I booked my next visit to Amsterdam.

Tom Benson

Tom Benson is a creative writer who has published novels, novellas, short story anthologies and a series of five poetry anthologies. He started his writing career in 2007, but in his words, “By then, I had learned enough about people and life to make my writing credible.” Find More from Tom Benson...

Website: http://www.tombensonauthor.com/ Blog: http://www.tombensoncreative.com


PERMANENTLY Witchnapped in Westerham Paranormal Investigation Bureau Cosy Mystery Book 1 by Dionne Lister

Sweet Masterpiece: Book 1

Samantha Sweet Magical Cozy Mystery Series

by Connie Shelton

When she's not baking her delectable pastries Samantha Sweet breaks into houses for a living, and sometimes the things she discovers lead to trouble. When she finds an unmarked grave on a property in a remote spot in Taos County, New Mexico, Sam calls in the authorities. A small mural painted inside a closet in the abandoned house provides clues and Sam is caught up in an investigation with the good-looking Deputy Beau Cardwell. A fortune in artwork, a bogus will, and a wooden box that seems to give Sam powers she never dreamed she possessed— it all adds up to a dynamic paranormal romantic mystery.

All it takes is one morning for Sydney Photographer Lily Bianchi's life to go off the rails and over a cliff. A well-dressed English woman turns up at her door, swearing she's a witch. If that’s not crazy enough, she explains Lily’s brother, James, has been kidnapped and the Paranormal Investigation Bureau needs Lily’s help finding him. And the craziest part? The Englishwoman tells Lily she's a witch too. Before she can say, “Where’s my coffee?” she’s on a plane bound for Westerham, England. Unfortunately, England’s not as welcoming as she hoped--she's barely arrived before she gets set up, arrested and almost shot. Things can only get better from here, right? Yeah, right…


Grain of Truth Innocence Unit Book 1 by VJ Chambers They have the power to overturn wrongful convictions... and a target on their backs. Elke Lawrence welcomes the long hours and relocation her “promotion” requires. She hopes leading the new Conviction Review Unit, an experimental investigation team, means leaving her wrecked marriage and troubled past behind.

Blood Ties Little Town Series Book 1 by JD Nixon Police officer Tess Fuller has her hands full trying to maintain order in a poorly-resourced small mountain town overrun by the beautiful, arrogant and lawless Bycraft family. And nobody in town has suffered at their hands as much as the Fuller family. But what will her new sergeant, Finn Maguire, a serious by-the-books city cop, think of her renegade policing style? And will they be able to work together to save Tess’ life when her feud with the Bycrafts escalates dangerously, while also trying to solve the intersecting mysteries of possible land fraud, an abandoned suitcase of money and a peeping tom with a preference for older women?

Their first case challenges that notion. Twenty-five years ago, someone sat Dr. Abeer Mukherjee and his wife Tempest on their couch and shot them in the head, execution style. Their eighteen-year-old daughter and her boyfriend were sentenced to life in prison. They insist they are innocent. The evidence suggests they’re telling the truth. But as Elke and her team delve deeper into the case, it becomes clear there are those determined to keep the truth buried... even if that means burying the team with it. Is this all somehow tied to her murky past? Will the CRU's first case be its last?

Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper Book 1 by JL Bryan Ellie Jordan's job is to identify and remove unwanted ghosts. Part detective, part paranormal exterminator, Ellie operates out of Savannah, Georgia, the most haunted city in the United States. When a family contacts her to deal with a disturbing presence in the crumbling old mansion they've purchased, Ellie first believes it to be a typical, by-the -book specter, a residual haunting by a restless spirit. Instead, she finds herself confronting an older and more powerful evil that dwells within the walls of the house, stalking the living. Ellie must quickly unravel the secret history behind the haunting in order to remove the ghost. She is aided by her new assistant Stacey, a recent film school graduate with a gift for capturing images and video of ghosts, and Jacob, a reluctant young psychic. Together, they will try to evict the dangerous spirits of the dead, whose threats to the family grow more terrifying every night.


Murder in Half Moon Bay Jillian Bradley Mystery Series Book 1 by Nancy Jill Thames All Jillian Bradley wants is to spend a quiet weekend by the ocean and enjoy her afternoon tea. But a startling discovery draws her and garden club friends into solving a mystery that threatens her life and changes her future.The unlikely team helps the chief of police uncover a series of mysterious events that lead to solving several murders, both past and present. Could the murderer be the mean spirited conference director? Perhaps it's the wealthy widow on the make for her next husband; or maybe the killer is the haughty businesswoman who shows no regard for her brow beatenhusband.

Awakened: Vampire Awakenings Book 1 by Brenda K. Davies

Falling For You Sapphire Bay Book 1 by Leeanna Morgan

Traumatized by her past, Sera spent the last three years at college hiding from the world. She’s content to stay locked away until a chance encounter with Liam changes her life. Though she’s frightened by the powerful emotions he awakens in her, Sera finds herself opening up to him more every day.

After six years of focusing on her career, Natalie Armstrong craves the peace and tranquility that only Sapphire Bay can give her. But returning to her grandparents’ cottage isn’t as easy as she imagined. No one told her about her houseguest or the unexpected changes in the small town she calls home.



Harboring a dark and deadly secret, Liam knows he should stay away from Sera. His world is dangerous for her, but he can’t deny the irresistible draw he feels. However, when Sera’s past comes crashing into the present, Liam is forced to expose his secret to save her. Is their growing love strong enough to survive the savagery of Liam’s world, or will they be torn apart forever?

Gabe Lanigan is a former NYPD detective. His new career as a bestselling crime writer has brought him everything he didn’t want—fame, fortune, and a deep distrust of strangers. When Natalie arrives in Sapphire Bay, their unlikely friendship sparks into something he never expected. But he needs to be careful. The real reason he left New York City is closing in fast and Natalie is standing in his way.


Yours to Give: Book 1 New Zealand Brides Series by Diana Fraser

Magic Means Box Set Books 1-3 by Damon Rain Enjoyed by thousands across the globe, the first three books in the Magic Means series tell the story of the modern founding of Van Veld Books, an occult bookstore run by Scott, a Seeker who can find you anything. Mack, an old friend, joins him and together they begin to discover the supernatural and sensual underbelly of Old Town, where succubae and witches live side-by-side, a war between Light and Dark magic is fought in the shadows, love and pleasure are prized above all. Isabel, a healer, and Lilith, an succubus and owner of an adult store, along with the rest of Old Town watch as the massive Van Veld building is brought back to life, a well of power resurging as the descendant of its original founder takes ownership. They find themselves drawn to the monument to the Light. They're not the only ones. Adventurers, Guardians who watch over Old Town like modern heroes, faeries, evil saboteurs and more start appearing even before opening day.

YouTube sensation Laura McKinney has one goal—to live life to its fullest by accepting challenges from all around the world and filming them. She believes long-term relationships are for idiots, and marriage is ridiculous. Max Connelly reckons that makes her exactly his kind of woman. But Max is pursuing his own dream, building his mountain resort into the place to be in the southern hemisphere. He knows what her publicity could do for his resort so he issues his own challenge—to get married. After all, it wouldn’t mean anything to either of them. Would it? --New Zealand Brides-Yours to Give Yours to Treasure Yours to Cherish

Making You Mine by Elizabeth Reyes Aldara is sixteen when she is sold Always in control, the meticulous and professional Salvador Moreno is thrown for a loop when the newly hired bartender Grace Zendejas suddenly invades his family’s restaurant, and infuriatingly, his every thought. For the first time in his life, Sal is fumbling. But after recovering from a few blunders he discovers his feelings for Grace run much deeper. Things begin to heat up between him and Grace, but then the ever -perfect Sal does something even his brothers never did—screws up royally. Now he’s scrambling to cover up a mistake he knows could cost him dearly. As his relationship with Grace grows even more serious, Sal's secret is a ticking bomb, threatening to destroy the one thing he now lives and breathes for—his relationship with the love of his life— Grace.


Reader’s Choice Award The Connections eMagazine Reader's Choice Award is open to all independently published authors and their work. This is an annual award. The winners will be featured in the August issues of the magazine. Authors can be nominated by anyone who has read the novel. If you have not read the book, please refrain from nominating it. Books will be rated in four areas and can be Fiction, Non-Fiction or Children's Books.

Nomination Form


Judging Criteria Fiction • Compelling Intro / Good flow • Character &/or World Development • Cover Design • Presentation (Formatting, Grammar, Typos, etc.) Children’s Books • • •

Each entry will be given a score based on the judging criteria (using Amazon's free preview). The top entrants in each category will be chosen and the finalists will be posted for public voting. At the end of the contest, the two scores will be combined to determine the final winners.

Compelling Topic /Moral or Societal value Age Appropriate / Illustrations Cover Design Presentation (Formatting, Grammar, Typos, etc.)

Non-Fiction • • • •

Compelling Topic /Moral or Societal value Informative Intro & Descriptive delivery Cover Design Presentation (Formatting, Grammar, Typos, etc.)

Categories • • • • • • •

Romance Horror / Thriller/ Mystery Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Paranormal / Supernatural Young Adult Other Fiction Non-Fiction Children’s


Top 10 Tips for Authors RE: Book Reviews

By Corinne Morier

So many books, so little time… Us book bloggers not only spend time reading, but we also spend time hyping books we love, writing book reviews, and fangirling over books we love (wait, did I already say that?). And we get paid approximately zero dollars for it. (some bloggers do make money off ad revenue, paid promotions, etc. but nothing to write home about) I’ve been book blogging and reviewing for a year and some change now and seen my fair share of mistakes by authors. This is not only things that I’ve seen authors do with respect to me and my platform, but to my fellow bloggers, other authors, and the bookish community in general. I even polled some fellow bloggers to see what they had to say, and they had plenty of input! If you are an author looking to get bloggers to review your books, follow these ten tips and you’ll surely find success!

1. Format your ebook properly And test it, too. Make sure your ebook ARC that you’re about to send out is readable, doesn’t have wonky spacing, and most importantly, accessible! Some bloggers only accept mobi files. Some bloggers accept multiple formats. Others only want PDFs. Some bloggers have vision issues and need to be able to adjust the text size accordingly. Imagine downloading a really cool book from NetGalley that you’re superexcited to read, or getting an e-ARC from an author who has reached out to your blog, only to find out that the text is way too small, and using Adobe Digital Editions’ zoom function to make the text bigger does nothing except make the text overlap upon itself so it can’t even be read anymore! (yes, that’s a true story; it happened to me) Us bloggers already spend enough of our own time and money hyping books and writing reviews, so be a kind person and make your e-ARCs accessible so we don’t have to contact tech support just to read your book.

2. Do your research! When preparing to send out ARCs (Advance Review Copies) of your book, you need to research potential reviewers to find those who are most likely to enjoy your book. The best way to do that is to figure out books, preferably published within two or three years, that would be comps for yours. Comps is basically an industry term that is short for “comparable (books).” Books with similar themes, preferably in the same genre as yours, or with similar characters, or with a similar author voice. These should also be books that have a large fanbase, but not so popular that EVERYONE is reading them (ex. not the best idea to use Harry Potter as a comp because everyone and their mother has read that and it’s too wide of a target audience to be useful), but also popular enough that it’s got a good amount of reviews. Visit those books’ Goodreads and Amazon pages, look at the four- and five-star reviews for the books, and check out the platforms of those reviewers. Take particular note of any that have a platform of some sort, and look at these reviewers’ platforms. Ask yourself: did they enjoy more books in this genre besides the one that was a comp, or was that just a one-time read? Do they still enjoy reading this genre as of today (keep in mind that some reviewers’ reading tastes change over time)? Are they still actively reviewing/posting? Are they open to accepting requests from authors and publishers?


If all the answers to these questions are “yes,” then read their review policy. For example, if an author wanted to send their book to me for consideration, I ask that they use the contact form on my website rather than emailing me directly, to ensure that the email doesn’t get caught in my spam filter and so they won’t forget to include all the information I ask for (eg. a writing sample). Mention that you saw they gave glowing reviews for whatever book you're using for a comp and that they might enjoy your book, and make sure to mention what exactly about that book is similar to yours, eg. the author voice or the themes or whatnot. Oh, and did I mention to make sure to read the review policy first? Because you should do that.

3. Be respectful, grateful, and helpful Book bloggers don’t really get paid for what we do. We do what we do (hype our favorite books) because we love it. Read their review policy before sending your book! If they say they don’t want to read sci-fi, don’t send them a sci-fi book, even if it’s really good! If they don’t want books featuring explicit sex scenes, don’t send them your erotica, no matter how interesting you think it is. And most importantly, if they state on their website that they are not open to book review requests, for goodness sake, DO NOT SEND THEM YOUR BOOK TO REVIEW. If you send your book to a blogger and they say “Okay, I’ll read it,” give them a little while, at least a month or two, before freaking out. Some of us read slowly. Some of us decide our TBRs a significant amount of time in advance. Others of us are just busy and can’t read something right after receiving it. It’s okay to follow-up a nonresponse or a “yes” email with a polite, quick reminder, “Hey, I was just wondering if you’d gotten around to reading my book yet. How are you liking it?” When they do read your book or review it, be grateful. Say thank you, even if they didn’t like it very much. Remember, they took time out of their day to do you a favor, so be polite! And don’t forget to boost the blogger’s platform on your own social media: “Hey, check out this awesome blogger who gave my book a great review! I love the use of memes to punctuate her opinions!”

4. In a similar vein: don’t engage with negative reviews!! If a blogger reads and reviews your book and gives it a negative review, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, try and engage. Say “thank you for your time” and move on. Don’t try and argue with them about why they didn’t like it. Don’t try and defend yourself, or attack the reviewer. This is unprofessional. Word gets around, too: if you go after a reviewer for not liking your book, they’ll tell their friends not to read your book because you’ll attack them for stating their opinions, too. You’ll only burn bridges that way. See if the review has any constructive feedback you can use (eg. the reviewer felt like the pacing was too rushed) and use that to improve your writing for your next book. If you feel like you can’t read the negative review without becoming upset, have a friend read the review for you and tell you the constructive parts of it. Do what you have to do to deal with a negative review, but for the love of all that is bookish and good in this world, do NOT engage with the reviewer directly!

5. Personalize your message! Make sure you’re not just getting a bunch of blogs and spamming them all with a copy-paste message asking them to read your book. (and may the bookish gods help you if you send one generic email and CC a bunch of bloggers on it rather than sending individual messages to each one!) Look at the blogger’s past reviews. Do they read your genre often? Have they given other books in your genre glowing reviews? Have their reading tastes changed and they’ve stopped reading your genre? Maybe they say on their blog that their


favorite author is Brandon Sanderson and they love epic political fantasy, and you just so happen to have written an epic political fantasy that has echoes of Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. Make sure to mention that in your message, “I noticed you really love Brandon Sanderson, and my book is perfect for fans of his Mistborn trilogy, so I think you’d really enjoy my book!” At the risk of sounding like I’m repeating tip #2 on this list (though all us book blogger folks know that it bears repeating), research your bloggers and don’t send your book to any who don’t want to read books in your genre!

6. FOR GOODNESS SAKES, DON’T MAKE A REVIEWER BUY YOUR BOOK IF YOU ARE THE ONE REACHING OUT TO THEM YES THIS REALLY HAPPENS Imagine this. You are a dedicated book blogger, and you’ve been at it for a good long time (let’s say you’ve been blogging for two years). You are OBSESSED with books featuring… oh, I don’t know, let’s say, hippogriffs. You love books about hippogriffs, your favorite book ever is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban specifically because there’s a hippogriff in it, and you never say no to a book if a hippogriff is central to the plot. Then you get an email from an indie author. They saw that you love books about hippogriffs, and they have a book featuring a hippogriff that looks right up your alley and would you like to review it on your blog? You eagerly reply “Yes, I would love to! Please send me your book now and I will read it!” and you wait eagerly with anticipation to receive your newest hippogriff read. But instead of getting the book itself, the author sends you a link to the book on Amazon and says “Great! Here’s a link to purchase the book, and make sure to leave a review!” Yes, it’s a fine line to walk in terms of “who is responsible for fronting the cost of the book,” but think about the old-fashioned way of figuring out who pays for a date: it’s the person who first extended the invitation, right? So if the author invites the reviewer to “go on a date,” aka, read their book, then the author should shoulder the financial responsibility for the copy of the book that the reviewer gets.

7. Don’t be demanding, it’s not your blog! Yes, this actually happened to a blogger friend of mine. It was for a promotional post (author interview) rather than an actual review, but it applies to reviews, too! Don’t try and dictate anything about the format of the post. Length of post, date of post (unless previously agreed upon, ex. for a blog tour) star rating, size and orientation of images or photos, whether or not to include the star rating for the book… all of that should be left up to the reviewer. Once you’ve sent the blogger your book, your press pack, and anything else they need for the post, it’s out of your hands. If they contact you and show you a draft of the post and allow you to give feedback or approve something, great! Make polite suggestions if you have to. But if you say “read my book,” they say “sure, I will,” and you say, “great, here’s the stuff,” and then the post goes up without an EXPLICIT invitation to make suggestions, don’t start demanding things like “The photo should be flipped horizontally!” or “Take out the star rating, it looks bad to have a three-star rating for the book” (which, by the way, a three-star rating is not a bad rating). It’s one thing to make corrections if the post has incorrect information regarding your platform or your book (for example, if the reviewer spelled your name wrong or has the incorrect book title), it’s another thing to micro-manage everything the reviewer posts. Don’t micro-manage us. We’re not getting paid enough for that. (refer to point number one, where we don’t get paid at all, if you’d like to know the exact salary we receive for what we do.)


8. Make sure to include a press pack! If a reviewer agrees to review your book, even if they don’t ask for it, make sure to give them a press pack (you do have a press pack, right?) This includes an author photo, social media links, book metadata (title, genre, age category), book blurb, cover image, author bio, etc. If you don’t know what a press pack is or how to make one, there are plenty of resources out there to help you. Put one together and be ready to send it out to reviewers.

9. Be wary of scams! Yes, you should reach out to all sorts of bloggers to review your book. Bloggers with large platforms, bloggers with smaller platforms, bloggers who’ve been at it for years, bloggers who just started a few months ago… Each kind of blogger has something new to bring to the table, even the ones with small platforms or the ones who haven’t been at the blogging game for a long time. But there is one kind of blogger you should never want to work with, and that is a scammer. There are some bloggers out there who, when they offer a review for a book, demand payment of some sort before they’ll even read the book at all. Note that this is different from a marketing package. For example, I belong to a review group that offers marketing packages for authors, and the benefits are that the higher the price, the more we promote the author and the book on social media (eg. a certain number of retweets, a certain number of shares, etc.) But even if an author just wants to access our basic services, which is free, they still get a review (two, actually, with how our group works) and the post shared on social media the day it goes live. The only benefit a reviewer should get from the exchange is a free book. Run far away if the blogger has a “reading fee” or a “review fee” or asks for money before reading the book. Real book bloggers will read and review for nothing more than a free book and the chance that your book could become their new favorite read.

10.And finally, last but not least, establish good relationships! An author is someone who publishes multiple books. You don’t want to be someone who just publishes one bestseller and never writes or publishes ever again. (or if this is you, then you do you, my friend). But I assume you’re going to want to publish a second book, and a third, and a fourth, down the line. Guess what? The bloggers you reach out to with your debut novel? Many of them might be able to review your


next book that you publish! And they’ll be more likely to do so if they remember you in a positive manner. If you are polite, and friendly, and say please and thank you, and boost their platform on your social media, guess what? They’ll want to work with you again! Then, when you publish your next book, you can just say, “Hey, thanks again for reviewing my book last time! I have a new book that I think you might also like to read. Do you think you’d be interested?” And of course, when you send them your new book, you’ll reread their review policy just in case they no longer want to accept review requests or their reading tastes or blogging schedule has changed, right? Right? Even assuming you never want to do business with that blogger again, eg. they gave your book a less-than -glowing review and you’re not exactly the happiest writer on the planet, FOR THE LOVE OFALL THAT IS BOOKISH AND GOOD, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES BE A RUDE, PETULANT CHILD! Don’t complain about them on social media, don’t send them hate mail, don’t complain about them to other bloggers… You know what, just go back and read tip four, don’t engage with negative reviews. Or, say that they did give your book a good review, but you aren’t interested in maintaining a business relationship with them for other reasons. You might not have liked how long they took to actually getting around to reading your book, or maybe they gave it a four-star rather than a five-star rating but you will accept nothing less than a glowing five-star review. Or whatever other reason. Us bloggers talk to each other, and if we run into a rude/unprofessional author, we might just tell other bloggers not to work with you. But on the flip side, if we work with an author who is a lovely human being, we will gush about that author to all our blogger friends, who might just go buy the book for themselves to support the author! Which translates into more sales for you! And that just about does it for my advice! If you are someone who has had the guts to put your book out there in the world for other people to see, ARCs are your new best friend. Advance word-of-mouth is the best way to generate preorder sales, and release day sales, and sales past the date of release. And the best way to get that word-of-mouth is to get in contact with influencers in the bookish space. Follow these ten tips when sending out review copies of your books, both pre- and postpublication, and you’ll be a book blogger’s new best friend!

Now go forth and write, my brethren!

Corinne Morier is a reader-turned-writer who has been a bookworm ever since she taught herself to read Clifford the Big Red Dog in preschool. At eight years old, she proudly DNFed her first book, The Diary of Anne Frank, with the astute observation of "Anne. Frank. Is. Dead!" She shares the book love on her blog, The Discerning Reader, while writing her own novels. Her current projects include a YA romance, tentatively titled Karen's Year, and a YA fantasy with the working title High Seas, Salty Shores. Her short story retelling of the classic fairy tale The Goose Girl, Mother's Gift, is available in the anthology From the Stories of Old, available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback.

Blog: http://corinnejet.wordpress.com Twitter: http://twitter.com/cmauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/corinnemorier/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmFnxeO654NXuFTZUasP3KA Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cmauthor/


By Sylva Fae Reading, Recounting and Wow Words How to help improve your child’s reading and writing I’ve always been an advocate of getting children reading from a young age. My earliest memories are of bedtime stories; first as an only child snuggled up with Mum, then later as big sister hanging over the top bunk to see the pictures. It was a magical time; those last special moments before I dozed off to sleep would feed my dreams with faraway lands and mystical beings, with fantastic adventures and a sense that anything was possible. I remember that feeling as I saw those black squiggles on paper. They were the magic, the secret door to enchanted worlds and I wanted nothing more than to learn how to read them. Needless to say, I have given my children a similar childhood filled with stories. I have watched their progress with the pride of a mother and the interest of a teacher. Every parent sees their own child as a genius, and I am no different, but my girls always surpassed their milestones with their speech and vocabulary, they were excited to learn their letters from a young age and have learnt to read and write quite effortlessly. All three have amazing imaginations, and like I did, they bring their story characters to life through their play. I know most of the credit lies with our fabulous primary teachers but I also know that giving them access to books and promoting a love of reading has played a huge part in their development. Recently I went to parents evening at my daughters’ school. I came away a proud mum, but most of all because all three of the teachers spoke about how my girls excelled at literacy. They commented on the breadth of their vocabulary and understanding of the texts. One of the new teachers smiled and said, “We can always tell the children who’ve read at home from a young age.”


We chatted about the best ways to support reading at home to help my little ones progress from decoding readers, who read the individual words but don’t necessarily understand the whole text, to fluent readers who gain meaning from whole sentences. Every child develops at slightly different rates but as a rough guide, these are the milestones:

Emerging pre-reader Novice reader Decoding reader Fluent, comprehending reader

6 months to 6 years old between 6 to 7 years old between 7 - 9 years old between 9 - 15 years old

The two main techniques that stood out were helping children to show their understanding by recounting the story in their own words, and promoting the use of Wow words.

Recounting the story Reading the title, looking at the cover and reading the blurb with your child is a great way to aid their understanding. Ask your child to predict what the story will be about. What type of story do they think it will be? Will it be adventure, fantasy, family, space, school‌?


At the end of each section / chapter, ask your child to recount the story so far. If like me you read a chapter book over several nights, you could start by asking them to tell you what has happened so far. These memory joggers not only aid understanding and enjoyment of the book, but show your child you are sharing the reading experience with them. If you are reading with younger children, you may want to give them hints: • • •

What was the giant called? Where was he? Who was the giant meeting?

The important thing is that they recount the story in their own words and you can fill in the gaps if they can’t remember. As you use this approach to reading, children will focus more until they can recount the story unaided.

My girls’ teachers stressed the importance of discussing the stories with children when they read at home. Pause occasionally and question them about what they think will happen next, why they think the character behaves in that way, or what would they do in that situation. Stories are often great platforms to prompt discussions about wider interests and issues children face. In addition to supporting the literacy lessons in our schools, all these activities help children to develop their listening and concentration skills. Most importantly, any time spent reading with your child is a precious bonding moment, where you can show you are interested in their ideas and opinions. Wow Words I hadn’t heard this term before so I queried it with the teacher: For example: Once upon a time there was a dragon that lived in a cave. He was a nice dragon. One day he went for a nice walk in the woods... Boring!

Wow words are advanced adjectives, verbs and nouns which are used to improve a piece of writing by making it vivid and interesting.


But with Wow words: Once upon a time there was a tiny red dragon that lived in a dark and dingy cave. He was a kindhearted and cheerful dragon. One glorious day, he went for a stroll in the cool shady woods... More interesting? The Wow words help you picture the character and the scene and give you the mood of the story. In school, children are taught to pick out the Wow words from the text, think about their meaning from the context, and use a dictionary to check the meaning of any unfamiliar words. They are also encouraged to use Wow words in their own writing, but this is only possible if they have the vocabulary to do so. As a parent and a writer, I never dumb down language for children. Children love to question. If they don’t know what something means, they’ll ask! Yes, they can drive us mad with the incessant questioning but for every word you explain you are increasing their vocabulary and supporting their literacy skills. When you read together, ask your child to pick out the Wow words. Prompt them, how did the character move / talk / look? For Example: Instead of walk, did they amble, stumble, stagger, sprint, shuffle, march, plod, wander, stroll…? Instead of talk, did they shout, whisper, exclaim, cry, remark, demand, ask, state…? Ask your children if they can think of other Wow words they know to describe the characters or the settings in the stories. Discuss the meanings of any unfamiliar words with your children. Gradually, your children will develop a diverse and interesting vocabulary that they can use to enhance their writing in school.


Quick Guide to Reading at Home Read to your children – share a love of reading and enjoy the experience together. Get them to tell you a story – with little ones, let them use their imagination and just make it up. With older ones, ask them to recount the story or continue it in their own words. Listen to your child read – show them you are interested and give them your full attention. Ask questions – who was it about? What happened? What were there favourite bits? Make reading a regular activity – encourage reading as something fun your child looks forward to. Set aside some quality time and build it into the family routine. In my experience as a parent and a teacher, I have witnessed the huge advantages early reading has on shaping a child’s mind. The benefits are too numerous to name but the best of all is seeing the delight on their faces when it is story time. So read to your children, expand their world to one of adventure and excitement and know that you are instilling a love of learning in the most wonderful way. In this magazine you will find many fabulous examples of children’s story books that are packed full of wondrous Wow words.

Happy reading!

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/


Professor Hannah Wagganer spends her days teaching history, and her nights dating Glen Arbor’s new mail carrier, Jasper Morgan. Not only does he spark Hannah’s heart, but he has become best friends with her cat, Jingles. As Hannah happily prepares for the church Valentine’s Day potluck and makes cards for local veterans, a snowstorm sends her plans, and her relationship with Jasper, on an unexpected detour. She seeks refuge from the storm at Jasper’s cottage, and finds him to be a warm and gracious host. But, at the same time, the spark is gone—when it comes to romance, he's turned as cold as the February wind. Doubt creeps in, leaving Hannah worried that she’ll end up spending another holiday alone. Then, once again, unexpected blessings abound in town, when an anonymous donor pays to have the church pipes repaired, and other locals suddenly find solutions to their problems. Is it coincidental, or the work of a secret valen-

by

Cherry Christensen

A Romantic Short Story just in time for Valentines


By Bookmarks and Stages Julia Donaldson, an author’s name who just trips off the tongue so easily when talking about children’s books. Who can’t help but love what she has done for children’s literature. From the Gruffalo to Stick Man and everything in-between. So many bookshops and libraries have them, even the community library I run here in Scotland has so many of her books.

What Perhaps Make her books so popular? Perhaps it is the fact she is a genius at writing in rhyme. Children love rhythm in stories. There is also repetition and this in turn helps make them interactive as children can latch onto key repetitive sentences and say them out loud, once they are known. Perhaps it is the brilliantly vivid illustrations. Perhaps it is the stories, there’s just enough fun and trepidation and pace within them and they are excellent to read aloud, as so many parents and librarians and teachers have discovered over the years.

The Illustrators The books all have been excellent illustrated. Possibly the best known illustrators linked with Julia Donaldson’s books are – Axel Scheffler who also has his own series of books – Pip and Posy and has also illustrated for other books too. Nick Sharratt who illustrates so much like the ever popular Tracy Beaker and Shark in the Park series amongst many others. There is also Lydia Monks and David Roberts. These people also all add to the enduring love of her books. Children are really captured by the big, bold illustrations, which always pair up so well with the text. Their books are always worth looking out for. I plan to write more about a couple of these illustrators in a future blog/essay post.


Learning to Read and Using Her Books in a Fun Educational Sense There are a great selection of books and have been for many years, which help children learn how to read. Julia Donaldson also has her own books to add to the plethora of stories which help children with phonics and beyond. Her series is Songbird Phonics and are again beautifully illustrated and are also well-conceived. They are an excellent addition. There are many books in this series to aid children’s development educationally in the 3Rs sense too (all her books have something that children can learn from as there are indeed from all books in one way or another, whether they are for children or for adults). There are many resources that can be downloaded for free from her website, which contain many activities that are useful for both schools and libraries, which in my view is thoughtful and they do seem to be wellthought out and are sectioned into each book that she has written, so they can be part of a focused activity. There is always something great that children can gain from her books and she even provides free resources, which are great as I have tried and tested them in the library. There are also soft toy merchandise so that her stories can be acted out or to just have them to accompany a story. I have seen them and they look and feel fabulous.

Chapter Books and Interactivity There are also books that aren’t termed as picture books, there are books for slightly older children such as Swallows about the migration of birds and a message having to travel many miles. Again there are wonderful illustrations and something to learn from the story. It too has excellent scope for interactivity, given just a little imagination from the deliverer. I once, and may repeat it as it was so successful, played Chinese Whispers with a class of school children to show how a message may change as it travels. There are many other things you can do for this. There are also books such as the Princess Mirror belle series, which is great for the more advanced readers and have less illustrations within them, but do have lovely front covers by Lydia Monks. They are about a princess with a purpose.


Longevity Julia Donaldson’s books are no doubt books that will be around forever, perhaps even have a longevity of someone like Enid Blyton for example. Some of them have already been in existence for over 10 years already, which is hard to believe, but time does fly. The Gruffalo and so many of her books are talked about as though they have just been written and are hot off the press. They still seem as fresh to new generations of children as they did when they first appeared on shelves. Julia’s books have now been adapted for both tv and stage as well, to the delight of many. She does go to book festivals, especially the Edinburgh Book Festival. Have I ever met her? Sadly no, but never say never. Would I like to? Absolutely, to say a huge thank you to what she has brought to libraries and children’s literature.

Children’s Laureate – 2011 – 2013 Julia Donaldson was appointed Children’s Laureate between 2011 and 2013, today as I write this it is Cressida Cowell, who I am sure will, like her predecessors, do something good within her role. In her laureate role Julia Donaldson has campaigned passionately against library cuts and closures. Sadly libraries are still closing and libraries (mine included and others and the job went too and now I am leading a community library to compliment the local authority) are not always taken seriously enough by governments, even when there are people within government who claim to be passionate about books and education and libraries. There are also other factors at play too. The main thing is that she tried to have all libraries saved and has shown she cares as many authors etc do.


Bookbug Sessions She is also instrumental to Bookbug sessions (rhymes, songs and stories that are provided for Free, often by libraries in Scotland). People are trained prior to leading a session and provided with the resources to deliver. There are also Bookbug Co-ordinators around Scotland. Bookbug sessions help reduce the negative effects of poverty and every session is always free and benefits babies and young children. Singing rhymes and sharing stories support children’s language, learning and social skills. They also support bonding between baby/child and the adult with them.

I lead Bookbug and they do involve some preparation work, but they are fun to do and knowing that it is something so worthwhile being to be involved in, makes it even better, but then I like to do things for communities and always have included books in some way or another and have done for over a decade in some form or another and still I am relatively young (under 40 at time of writing this). This time around it is for a community library and whenever the local authority libraries that I used to work in are in need too.

Conclusion I think that the magic of Julia Donaldson will be around for generations to come as will Bookbug (so long as there are no more cuts). She goes to book festivals, the Edinburgh Book Festival in-particular to meet her audience and to bring her stories to life and that too will no doubt add to her appeal and her ability to be relevant and current, even though she has been writing since at least 1993 with A Squash and a Squeeze. She has won many awards and deservedly so and is still writing today. I totally rate her and the illustrators associated with her for bringing so many great stories that can be worked with more than one way as they can be read straight or can prompt a conversation of discovery for children. There are some authors who write similarly to Julia Donaldson who are emerging. I of course rate Nick Sharratt, but the author who I am thinking about at this moment is William AE Ford who writes Timothy Mean and the Time Machine. I mention these people because it is important and good for children to be able to try out other authors too. So here’s to Julia Donaldson and the illustrators who have and indeed the people who publish her books, which is now over 70 and long may it all continue.

Real name is Louise. I reside in a small village near Stirling, but I am no stranger to the arts. Books and Theatres are passions of mine, as is supporting people in any way I can. I started this blog because I was already in a small way showing support for authors and actors through recommending books and helping out at a drama group. Find more on her website: https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/


Ronesa Aveela This adult coloring book contains 52 detailed illustrations of mermaids around the world, originally published in two volumes: "Mermaids Around the World" and "More Mermaids Around the World." It includes a tidbit of information about each mermaid at the bottom of the illustration. The images are printed on one side only so the colors don't bleed through.

https://ronesaaveela.wordpress.com/


Each person is a constant project: changing and adapting--sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. All our lives we wander to find a better place to live or a better job, to learn new skills, to make a discovery, or to invent something of value. Today, technology has removed boundaries. We can easily physically travel to different places in the world, but we can also "bounce" around the virtual space of the web, where we make acquaintances worldwide. In our travels, we build our homes, make new friends, raise our children, attend weddings, and say goodbye to friends and family, sending them to the world beyond. Even thousands of miles from where we were born and raised, we keep our customs and practice the traditions that we have been nourished with. We share them with friends who have a different cultural heritage, upbringing, and faith; and we in turn accept new ones. We must learn to respect other cultures as much as we support people in our own community. Traditions are a great way to teach children the cultural and religious history of mankind by giving them their own identity and roots. Culture is a temple for the human soul. This is what we carry with us as we wander, what we develop as we adapt to the place we choose to call our home.

The Wanderer A memoir of the life of Ronesa Aveela, relating stories of life in Bulgaria and abroad.


Ripples On The Water One of my favourite books is Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. In a nutshell, set in London after World War 1, the main character, Clarissa Dalloway sees her job as creating connections between people and to that end the story focuses on a party she is throwing. During her preparations for the party, Mrs. Dalloway’s mind continually travels back and forth across time and in this way the reader is in both the past and the present, raising the concept of endless possibilities that could/might happen through these human connections. When I wrote my second Historical Fiction, After Paris, I was inspired by an old photo album of my grandmother’s. She (Mary Thomson) was a Dutch nurse who went to Paris to work in WW1. Although the Netherlands was neutral during WW1, Dutch benevolent societies funded medical teams to support the Allies. Mirroring my grandmother’s experience, my main character goes to work in a hospital fully funded and staffed by the Dutch ‘Ambulance’ situated in a fine dining restaurant (still there today) called Le Pré Catelan in the Bois de Boulogne (Paris), which, for the duration of the war was transformed into a hospital.

The story continues after the war as my character struggles to fit back in to society, and with the loss of her career and confidence she makes a series of poor choices on her journey to reinvention and self-awareness.


The reason I am so bold as to mention both Mrs. Dalloway and After Paris in the same piece is because a reader of my book reached out to me to tell me that her grandmother had also been a Dutch nurse in Le Pré Catelan. Through a series of email notes and a scour through my photo album, I discovered a photo of her (Laurie’s) grandmother. There, in my grandmother’s writing was the name of her friend, Catherina Theadora Warnsinck (nicknamed ‘To’). How magical is it that more than one hundred years after the end of WW1 a woman in California (Laurie) forges a connection with a woman living in rural Ontario Canada (me!) because two Dutch nurses were friends, and because of a book? Being an author is a constant delight to me. It’s a thrill to tell stories that people read and enjoy. It’s an honour to follow in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf and all the other great writers as I try to reach out and make connections in a world that is increasingly alienated. The influence that each of us writers (authors, bloggers, reviewers, marketers, poets and journalists) have is often little understood. My new book Torn Asunder looks at this question of influence. Here’s a short summary of what the book is about: He is an inspiring journalist, but Emmet Ryan has no idea that his words have the power to destroy those he loves the most. Opening in 1916, this is a story about a conflicted man set during one of Ireland’s most turbulent eras. Torn Asunder is now available in all the usual places – amazon, smashwords, and kobo. Like the expanding waves that ripple out from a stone falling into still water, our words reach out and touch people in surprising ways. I’d love to hear from you! You can reach me at renny@rennydegroot.com

If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on Renny deGroot’s Place… http://rennydegroot.com/


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 www.melaniepsmith.com

Shadow Rustler “Uh, Paige?” Dax said in confusion. “Yeah,” she answered absently as she pulled onto the highway and made her way to the outskirts of town. “Where are we going?” Dax studied her closely. Something was wrong. “Our food is in the opposite direction.” “I just need to make a quick stop first,” she glanced at Dax. “It won’t take long. I just need to... I don’t know. I just need to stop.” “Okay,” Dax settled into his seat and waited for her to elaborate. She would... when she was ready.

Paige pulled off the side of the road and backed her vehicle into the cover of some large oaks. She had a clear shot of the Glenshaw home and property. Once she was situated, she pulled out a pair of binoculars and scanned the area. She grinned when she spotted Olivia riding her motorcycle. “Who lives there?” Dax finally asked. Paige handed him the binoculars. “See that girl? The one on the motorcycle?” Dax scanned the property and paused. “Yeah.” “That’s Olivia Glenshaw,” Paige took the binoculars when Dax held them out and slid them back into the case. “I met her awhile back. Her friend, boyfriend, I don’t know which... well, he was our first victim in that illegal fighting club.”

Continue Reading Pg. 78 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 Current Season always FREE on my website.

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Do You Need a Helping Hand? I always thought when I was a young mother that I should grow an extra arm and hand with each child born, so I could keep hold of the little b*ggers while still having two hands to deal with the essentials of life. How useful would it be to have three hands – how many times have I struggled holding something in my teeth, between my knees, jammed between my body and a kitchen cupboard, or under my arm? The trouble is, being an introvert and an independent and determined soul, I hate asking for help. I’d rather curse my lack of a useful number of appendages than ask someone to lend me one of theirs. My father once told me that when I was about two, he tried to do something for me, and I snatched the object from his hand and said ‘Me do it.’ It sounds about right. Being two-handed is surely a basic design flaw – I mean how much more could a person achieve if they had a hand to spare – one for a hammer, one for a nail, and one to scratch that annoying itch on their nose? Think what it would do for productivity. There are certain phrases that spring to mind concerning hands – Give me a hand. Lend a hand. To give one’s hand in marriage. And these sayings should be a clue. It was yesterday when I went to visit a neighbour who broke her leg badly a few days ago that got me thinking about hands and the ridiculously small number we possess. She’s on a walking frame and so has both her hands occupied, and she’s finding it very frustrating. She can’t carry anything, and she has to do everything one handed because she can’t put one foot to the ground and needs the other hand to hold on to her frame for balance. She was bemoaning the fact that she hadn’t been able to wash her hair since coming home from hospital. I volunteered to wash it for her for which she was very grateful. Now, she isn’t a really close friend, but it was after this shared experience of washing her hair that I began to see the value of only having two hands. It’s needing an extra helping hand that forms friendships, binds communities, and shows us we are co-dependent in so many ways. Independence is fine, but it can be isolating. My inability to ask for help has doubtless deprived me of social interactions and friendships, and more than that, it has probably deprived those who might have been glad to help of feeling useful and valued. If asked, a lot of people are only too pleased to be able to help. It’s what makes us decent human beings. So maybe having to struggle and be forced to ask for help is part of the great plan for humanity. Maybe it isn’t a design fault. The sooner we realise that we need one another, be prepared to ask for help, give help in return, and value one another the better the world will be.

If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on Rebecca Bryn’s website... https://rebeccabrynblog.wordpress.com


Connect @authorjenniferreynolds

http://www.jenniferlynnreynolds.com/ After waking in a field, naked, battered, bloody, and with no memory of who she was or what happened to her, Olivia “Liv” Stone, discovers that roughly four years have passed and a plague has swept her world, killing some and turning most into creatures only heard about in horror stories. Worse, she fears that during those missing years, she might have been one of the beings. How that was possible, and how she was human again, Liv doesn’t know but aims to find out. Along the way, she joins a war to eliminate the remaining creatures by waking as many of the undead as possible.

A Zombie-Ap ocalypse Novel


Jennifer Reynolds is a native of North Alabama. She is a multi-genre author who focuses mostly on postapocalyptic novels with plagues and zombies as their source of destruction. Check out her new series with the 1st in the series‌ Awake and her short story‌ Sweet 16.


Sweet Sixteen: An Awake Short Story

Chapter 1 I last saw my sister, Janie, a few days ago. She’d seemed excited about this day, as any teenager would be. However, she hadn’t been overly ecstatic the way I thought she would have if she’d known the details about the party. Still, she was turning sixteen. Surely, she was anxious about the event. Standing there, looking into the closet of my parent’s spare room, a room that had once been mine, at the boxes of party decorations, I wondered if my sister was as nervous as I was. Probably not. I was a neurotic adult. She was a kid, not only that, but she was the birthday girl. All she had to do was show up. Mom, Nate, and I were the ones in charge of making the day absolutely perfect. “She’ll love it,” Nate said, coming into the room to stand beside me. Nate wasn’t my father, but he was the closest thing I was ever going to have to one, and he knew me better than anyone on the planet did. Mom didn’t understand my “issues,” as she called them. My mom never worried about something as minor as a birthday party like I did. She never got embarrassed or scared that she’d say or do the wrong thing. Noth-ing made her nervous or anxious or gave her the slightest bit of panic. At least, I’d never seen her be anything less than calm and happy.

Okay, yeah, when I was a kid, I saw her cry over bills because we didn’t have any money. I’d listen to her call everyone she’d ever known to find someone to care for me for a few hours if the babysitter canceled last minute, and Mom couldn’t call into work. Sometimes, Grandmother Stone, my mom’s mother, would reluctantly watch me, but not often.

Liv's little sisters’ sweet sixteen party was supposed to be the party to end all parties that summer. An attack by the dead made it so.

Mom decided to have a baby at sixteen, so she’d have to figure out how to care for me on her own. That was my grandparents’ reasoning, anyway. How Mom turned out so well-adjusted with them as parents, I didn’t know. And, yes, I’m sure they are why I’m as neurotic as I am.


“I know she will,” I said, smiling at the man who’d happi-ly let me call him dad. “Then breathe. Your mom has already thrown on her happy, hostess face. If she sees you worrying, she’s just going to upset you.” I took in a deep breath and reached for a box. Just in time, too, as I heard my mom’s cheerful voice call from the hall, “The tables are ready.” “We’re coming out with the boxes now,” Nate said as I passed him. Mom sidestepped me when she entered the room. Nate was right. My mother wore the biggest, brightest smile. Her baby was turning sixteen, and she was elated. I know that sounded like I was jealous of my mom’s relationship with my little sister. I was not. Mom had had that same smile and gleam in her eye when I’d turned sixteen. She and Nate hadn’t been able to give me a sweet sixteen party as big as the one Janie was getting, but that didn’t matter to me either. That could be because I was an adult. Thirty (cough) year olds didn’t usually get jealous over a child’s birthday party. If Janie and I had only been a few years apart, I might have resented the lavish event. However, I was old enough to understand that Nate and Mom were just starting their life together when I’d turned sixteen, and they hadn’t had the money back then to throw me such a party. When I’d had my sweet sixteen in that same back yard, there had only been two tables and maybe a dozen people. Now ten tables filled the large area. Grandmother and Grandfather Stone’s church had let us rent the tables and chairs for the day. White lights ran from the house, over the tables, and into the trees that followed the riverbank. Lanterns lined the dock that led out over the water. Apparently, Mom planned for the party to last until well after dark. I carried my box to one of the tables, set it down, and looked around the yard, taking in the bright summer day. The weather promised to be beautiful—no rain, no clouds, no heavy winds, just calm and warm. Smiling, I turned my face to the sky to soak in the light and thought that the day couldn’t have been more perfect for Janie. Deeply inhaling the fresh air, I opened my box. Inside were brightly colored tablecloths. I draped each table with one of the different colored cloths. Next, from the box, I pulled out grass skirts that attached to the tablecloths and hung down the sides of the tables. They weren’t fun to connect, but once I'd finished, the tables looked awesome. As I’d worked, I hadn’t realized that my parents hadn’t followed me out to the yard. It wasn’t until I was double-checking my box to make sure it was empty that Mom and Nate came out the back door.

You can read the complete story for FREE at your favorite eBook store & Goodreads


Mom still wore her smile. That meant the two hadn’t been arguing. They don’t often do that, but when they do, it’s usually over how Mom handles my issues. She hadn’t seen my anxious look when I went to get the boxes, so she wouldn’t have anything to comment on unless Nate told her…and I knew he wouldn’t. The only other thing that I could think of that would have caused them to take so long, was something I didn’t want to imagine. No matter how old you are, you don’t want to think about your parents having sex. I was glad that after all these years they still got it on like that, but eww. The wink Nate gave me as he approached with his box told me my assumption was right. “Dude, man, that’s my mom and on my sister’s birthday,” I said and laughed. I opened his box to find multi-colored plastic plates, cups, utensils, and assorted serving dishes along with paper napkins. Janie’s sweet sixteen was going to be a nice party, but my mom wasn’t planning to do dishes afterward. I put the items at the end of one of the tables set aside for the caterers. The company would bring canopies to block those tables from direct sunlight and anything else they might need. “Well, I had to calm her down a bit,” Nate said, helping get the items out of the box. “I know you find it hard to believe, but she gets nervous over stuff too. She’s worried your sister won’t like the theme.” “Why? This is perfect for Janie,” I said, pointing to the decor. “Summer on the Beach was set in Hawaii, and it’s Janie’s favorite movie. Nothing could be more ideal.” “I know, and she knows. Your mom just wants the day to be wonderful. She’s also worried that all of this,” he swept his hand across the yard, “is upsetting you. We couldn’t give you this when you turned sixteen. She hates that we’re able to give Janie so much more than we were able to give you.” “I understand that it’s different. You were building your practice. Mom had just graduated with her masters. You guys did the best you could with what you had. I never wanted for anything, not really, and I turned out fine,” I said.

“Have you told your mother this?” “I have. On more than one occasion. And this can’t be the first time I’ve said it to you.” “Probably not. It’s good to hear, though. Your mom worries that she caused your anxiety issues.” “If they’re anyone’s fault, they are Grandmother and Grandfather Stone’s.” “Agreed, but because you and your mother had to live with them for so long, she takes the blame.” “No. My grandparents could have been better people. Mom’s situation wasn’t ideal, and I understand why they were disappointed. Having said that, they could’ve learned to accept it and be proud that Mom didn’t drop out of school. She worked, she went to college, and she made something of herself. It wasn’t until she married you that they started changing. Even then, they never warmed to me. “She became their child again once she married, but I was still the person they had to acknowledge was there because I was with the two of you.


“Yeah, they’re probably why I am the way I am, but there are a lot of other factors as well.” “You know we don’t care about that, right? You being gay doesn’t affect how we feel about you at all. It never has.” “Oh, I know that. I don’t think Mom was overjoyed when I told her, but that was years ago, and people weren’t as accepting here as they are now.” “Liv, you live in the south. They still aren’t accepting. I’ve seen and heard some of the things people have said about you. I know it’s why you haven’t had a serious relationship. We don’t want you so far away, but we think you should move somewhere more accepting. Somewhere where you’ll be happy…where you can meet someone and settle down. Your mom’s ready for grandchildren, and not from Janie.” “I know. This is just my home. But I won’t lie. I’ve thought about leaving.” “How long does it take to put out plates and utensils?” Mom said, coming over to our table. She was laughing until she saw our looks. “What? Are we missing something?” “No. Nothing like that,” Nate said, putting an arm around her. “We just made the mistake of talking about your parents. Everything’s fine. Let’s finish getting these decorations up. The caterer will be here soon, as will some of the guests.” Nate put his arm around my mom and walked her back to where she’d sat her box. She looked over her shoulder at me, and I gave her the happiest smile I could and mouthed that I loved her. She smiled and let Nate distract her. For the next half hour, we joked and argued over where a decoration or party game should go.

Continue reading on Goodreads…


AMAZING eBook

The following books are listed for $0.99 on Smashwords.com at the time the issue is published. Some are permanent, some are temporary sales subject to change.

Drake by KD Jones Drake, second-in-command to the dragon shifter king of the West, has been tasked to investigate rumors that their enemy is hiding in the Philippines. As always, he will serve his people. Though he expects danger, battles, and other surprises, he isn’t prepared for the toughest challenge of his life: a flame-haired female who makes his dragon roar with need. Emily Campbell loves teaching underprivileged children on a small island in the most beautiful place she had ever seen. Her three-year teaching contract is almost up. She wants one last adventure before she has to head back to the United States. Her wish comes true in the form of a tall, dark, and sexy stranger. One night in his arms leads to more than she expects: A world of danger, sexy dragon shifters and a love that will either set them free or be their doom.

SEAL Team Bravo: Black Ops— Raid on Afghanistan by Eric Meyer They are the best of the best, the Navy SEALs. The world’s most elite fighting force. A vital kill-mission inside Afghanistan uncovers an unexpected and deadly plot to use a nuclear weapon. A weapon that could cost thousands of American lives. Once more, the Navy SEALs are called into action. Bravo Platoon, SEAL Team 7, parachutes into action. Yet a question mark hangs over Chief Petty Officer Kyle Nolan. A question mark over his health, and his ability to hold the platoon together. Can he still cut it after the murder of his wife tore him apart? If he comes unstuck during the mission, the lives of them all are in danger. With no time to make changes, Nolan stays in place. The mission must continue, the stakes are too high, the enemy vicious and clever enemy. Bravo face a succession of daunting and overwhelming obstacles before they can uncover the truth. When they do find it, even their commanders refuse to believe the damning evidence that Bravo sends back. Alone and unaided, they press forward to pursue their enemy into the snowy wastes of the Afghan borderlands, the Hindu Kush, to try to prevent a catastrophic terrorist attack. This action packed novel explores the shadowy and violent world of the Navy SEALs in a story that is as exciting as the actions of the SEALs themselves.


Bed and Breakfast and Murder by Patti Larsen A Poo Poo Kind of Morning I tried not to look down the mouth of hell staring back at me from inside the glaringly pristine outer ceramic shell of the white throne, my throat catching, stomach doing half flips and a rather impressive rollover routine that would have gotten at least a 9.5 even from the Russian judges. Instead, I forced myself to smile and swallow and remind myself the elbow length yellow rubDark Grid ber gloves grasping the handle of the standby David Waldron ard issue plunger were all that stood beIn the wake of a solar event, the likes tween me and Pooageddon. of which hasn't been seen since 1859 Suck it up, Fee. Big girl panties and adultwhen the height of technology was ing and all that. the telegraph, the northern hemisphere is faced with a new reality...a “At what point,” I waved the dripping plunger, wincing as droplets of yuck flew, life without power. The electrical “did I think owning a bed and breakfast was grids of virtually the entire planet going to be glamorous and romantic?” have shorted out as a result of expected, but completely unplanned Fiona Fleming hasn’t lived in Reading, Verfor, sunspot activity during the peak mont in over a decade, her escape from of the current solar cycle. small town living leading her to New York City and a life of adventure. An adventure Joel Taylor and his family, along with a few close trusted friends, have that has left her with no career, an ex who to decide how--and even if--they can cheated on her and zero plans for the future. survive in their suburban Nashville Her grandmother’s death grants her a new chance—inheriting Petunia’s, Iris Fleming’s neighborhood as things deteriorate within a matter of days with no elec- bed and breakfast, seems like the ideal fresh start. But when Fee finds out ownership of tricity. Once they decide to strike out , the only question that remains the property Iris willed her might be in question, she’s drawn into the seedy underis where? Through the recent prior military service of Eric Tripp, one of belly of the cutest town in America after being singled out as the main suspect in a the small group to leave the neighborhood, they are allowed to attach murder. themselves to the local National Guard Unit until they decide where they are headed.

With the power out, and no communication with higher authority, the Guard is on its own and downtown Nashville is becoming a less safe place to be. The entire Armory, group and all, relocates to Natchez Trace State Park to set up operations for the duration of the crisis… however long that may be.

Hope(less) by Melissa Haag Freedom is so close Gabby can taste it. After years of meeting single werewolves and successfully dodging the mating bullet, she's on her way to her last Introduction to say "No, thanks" one final time. As a human, she has no plans to attach herself to a werewolf. But, she didn’t count on meeting Clay. With a single look, Gabby knows Clay is the one. And unfortunately, he knows it too. The silent, ruggedly-handsome werewolf is determined to win his mate by any means necessary. Gabby does what any sane girl would do and runs. Not only does Clay follow, but something truly dangerous does as well. Now, hunted for the secrets she’s spent her whole life protecting, Gabby must turn to the one man she didn't want for the help she needs. Time is running out to discover who or what wants her, and Gabby’s just starting to realize there’s more at stake than the heart and freedom of one human girl.


Drawing Me In: Stewart Island Book 7 By Tracey Alvarez A nine-year-old secret he never saw coming… Bree Findlow’s ordered life just got complicated. Harley, the man who once broke her heart has temporarily moved back to Stewart Island, and her mother intends to sell the art gallery Bree has worked so hard to establish. If that isn’t a streak of bad luck, Bree’s sister arrives on the scene with a secret in tow. One with Harley’s eyes and artistic talent. Renowned artist Harley Komeke returns to his home town to rediscover his missing muse and instead, finds a new one - the woman whose spell he fell under years ago at art school. He can’t resist the red-hot heat generated between them, even after discovering she kept their son hidden from him. He should be furious, but he isn’t. Not when with his dark past, he never, ever wanted to risk having a family. So what’s a guy to do when life throws another curve-ball and Bree won’t see reason? Fight hard, fight dirty. Fight to win.

Boys South of the Mason Dixon By Abbi Glines The only thing hotter than the weather South of the Mason Dixon line are the boys. Worn, faded blue jeans, slow Southern drawls, and those naughty moments in the back of pickup trucks a girl never forgets. Welcome to the world of the Sutton boys. Five brothers who fight, party, drink a little too much, but more importantly, they love their momma. Nothing can tear them apart… until the girl next door wins more than one of their hearts.

DRAWING ME IN is the seventh story in Tracey Alvarez’s best-selling Stewart Island books set against the stunning backdrop of Aotearoa, New Zealand. If you like heart-warming, sexy & seductive small-town romances with a touch of comedy, you’ll love sharing the journey with these authentic men and women struggling to find their special someone.


One by Mari Arden

The Lion Shifters by Ella Wilde

Jules Hendricks has had a string of bad "firsts".

Shifts happen. Hearts change. Africa awaits. Escape to a land where everything is possible in this three-book boxset.

Embarrassing first kiss. Traumatic first date. An obsessive first boyfriend she can't understand. It's taken her years but she's finally able to leave her small town life behind for a new start as a freshman at UW- Madison. For Jules, this chance to be independent and rebuild her life is an opportunity she won't ever let anyone take from her again. She's determined to make something of herself without a man by her side, in front, behind or anywhere near her. Reid "Pax" Paxton is the star quarterback for the UW Badgers. His brush with death makes him understand how precious life is, and how important it is to take life by the horns, unafraid. Jules knows he's dangerous for her. Dark hair. Smoldering eyes. Killer smile. That dimple. That body. Those arms. Pax is everything she's trying to run away from, but she can't help coming back for more. Slowly, he begins to show a life together can be more than just a dream. It can be their reality. The truth about reality is it's not always sunshine and butterflies. Sometimes it's a wasteland. Sometimes secrets can't stay buried. Sometimes your past will find a way to hunt you down.

Mountain Man (The Smith Brothers Book1) by Sherilee Gray Hank Smith saved my life, carrying me through a blizzard to his mountain cabin. He doesn’t like strangers, and he doesn’t like leaving his sanctuary. Now I’m trapped here with him until the snow melts. I see him looking at me. He tries to hide behind a gruff exterior, but I see the longing and the heat burning in his eyes. I know he wants me, and I can’t resist him. I want to feel those big, rough hands all over my body. But once he’s unleashed his raw, barely tried desire on me, will I be able to leave my mountain man behind, or will he make me his?

Warning: The Smith Brothers are not just identical twins, they’re big, burly, bearded, insanely hot mountain men. They’re also sweet, and very, very dirty. Did I mention dirty?

A Lion’s Cage: Lion Shifter Lazarus Kiprop lives with blood on his hands and guilt in his heart. With no end in sight, he’s given up on ever seeing another sunrise, until Willow arrives. A newly made Vampire, Willow is determined to find a way out of captivity. But while she may be able to escape her cage, will she be able to escape her heart? A King’s Pride: When Emma rescues a lion Shifter from a trap, she’s flung into danger and a dilemma: move on, or risk her secrets and her heart to save the lion’s Pride. King Kiprop isn't happy about the lifedebt he now owes to the female who saved him, even if Emma is attractive. Too bad the gods have other plans. A Demon’s Wing: When a family tragedy and a king’s command force lion shifter Jed Kiprop and demon Grace Elkhart to work together, sparks fly despite their mutual distrust. But will they be able to overcome their pride and prejudice in time to save the Pride and each other from an ancient enemy?


Crave: Fighting Fate #7 by Maree Green Dean Thomas is a rock and roll heart throb. As the lead singer for one of the country’s hottest rock bands, Fighting Fate, he is sex personified. It’s not something he ever wanted, but with the bitter disappointment of a failed relationship still lingering in his heart, it’s certainly had its benefits. That is until Eden Roberts walks into his life . . . With her honey blonde hair, and clear blue eyes that whisper sweet taunts of innocence, she’s a temptation that’s hard to resist—especially when he’d like nothing more than to break the rules put in place to keep her away from him. Eden Roberts is the most ordinary person you could possibly meet. At least, that's what she thinks anyway. She knows she's good at her job, but ambitious? No way. Not in the slightest. Working for Leighton Records is the last thing she ever wanted, but she knows better than anyone that it's not always about

what you want. She’s prepared for it as much as she can—the long days, the mega star attitudes, and the cut throat edge of the next person vying for her job. But what she’s not prepared for, is Dean Thomas . . . With his warm, chocolate eyes that seem to murmur promises of ecstasy for all eternity, he’s a challenge she’s not so sure she can handle—especially when the rules state she’s not allowed to touch. They both know the rules, but as tensions rise and cravings set in, they find themselves being drawn into a game of intimidation and manipulation that neither of them asked for—one where trust is challenged, innocence is broken, and the lines between jealousy and revenge don’t exist.

So, what happens when fate takes away the one thing you thought you really wanted? Do you take what you’re given, or do you fight for what you crave?

The Family Next Door: A Heartwarming Love Story by Jacqueline Diamond Can a young widow find love with the man who denied her justice? Josh was the holdout juror who let her husband’s killer go free. Now he moves next door to Diane... and he and his daughter need her help. A simmering attraction and an attempt to reconcile feuding daughters draws teacher Diane Bittner to Josh Lorenz. But when an old hurt surfaces between them, their girls have to turn the tables and find their own justice of the heart. Welcome to Book One in USA Today bestselling author Jacqueline Diamond’s Harmony Circle series, about a small-town neighborhood where love and friendship bloom. Reviewer Donna Zapf of Cataromance writes, “Thank you, Ms. Diamond, for this touching narrative.”

$0.99


All items on Sale at time of publication on Smashwords.com—However, prices are subject to change and may not be permanently reduced Buck’s Landing A New England Seacoast Romance by Cameron D. Garriepy Summer always ends. Love doesn’t have to.

Sofia Buck fled Hampton Beach a decade ago, never looking back until her father’s untimely death forces her to return for the summer to deal with the family business. Her one goal: sell Buck’s Landing, so she can move on with her life. Silas Wilde believes in serendipity, especially when it brings an irresistible woman into his life. He’s certain they belong together, and sets out to convince Sofia to give him—and Hampton—a chance at forever. Rediscovering the magic of her hometown with Silas tempts Sofia with a future she never imagined, if only she can let go of the past that waits around every corner. Buck’s Landing is the first in a collection of steamy, standalone New England seacoast romances.

Providence Providence Series Book 1 by Jamie McGuire In the old world shadows of Providence, Rhode Island, Nina Grey finds herself the center of a war between Hell and Earth. Struggling with her father’s recent death, Nina meets Jared Ryel by chance…or so she believes. Although his stunning good looks and mysterious talents are a welcome distraction, it soon becomes clear that Jared knows more about Nina than even her friends at Brown University. When questions outnumber answers, Jared risks everything to keep the woman he was born to save—by sharing the secret he was sworn to protect. When her father’s former associates begin following her in the dark, Nina learns that her father is not the man she thought he was, but a thief who stole from demons. Searching for the truth behind her father’s death, Nina stumbles upon something she never expected—something Hell wants—and only she holds the key.


Denali: the High One By Cherime MacFarlane

On a clear day, Denali dominates the skyline from Anchorage to Willow, Alaska. There is a reason for the name. The tallest mountain in North America, it is the third most prominent peak in the world and well worth the journey to get close. Close is a relative term, however. When applied to Denali, one needs to know it is the third most isolated peak in the world. Separated from the George Parks Highway by a major river, innumerable small lakes and tundra, flying around the mountain is the best option. If you can manage it, a stay at the Denali Lodge and a bus ride into the park is fun and you will get to see wildlife. It’s not guaranteed by any means, but when you can see moose in Anchorage walking across a major road, the chances are better than average. There are several places we locals know to go for a good view of the mountain. At 20,310 feet, above sea level, Denali rises straight up. There a few friends clustered around, Mount Hunter and Mount Foraker.


According the State of Alaska, “It towers three and one-half vertical miles above its base, making it a mile taller from base to summit than Mt. Everest.” It is something you can’t ignore in this country. However you look at it, that is one huge mountain. As for climbing it, anyone with a yen to do so should research the matter carefully. As big as the mountain is, it makes it own weather. The last time I checked, from 1903 when they began keeping records into the 21st century, 96 people have died in the attempt. From what I understand, because the cold is so extreme, weather plays a part in most of the deaths.

Never having felt the urge personally, I stick to the places I know for a good view. A couple are from the top of the J.C. Penny parking garage in Anchorage. In Eagle River on the Old Glenn Highway, there is one tight curve on a hill with a short passing lane. On a clear day, the view from there is amazing. On the George Parks Highway, at the apex of the hill as you enter the town of Willow, when the sun is low Denali basks in the alpenglow. If you go farther north to Talkeetna, there is a pullout. A sign marks it as a viewing area. If the moon is full and clouds aren’t hovering around the peaks, the shot you get should be awe-inspiring. When visiting Alaska, allow plenty of time to cruise around and be sure to bring lots of storage media for your camera. I’ve lived here since the 1970s and am always finding another great view, one more fantastic picture. Come visit and see what I mean.

Cherime MacFarlane is an award-winning, bestselling, prolific multi-genre author. She has a broad range of interests that reflect her been there-done that life. Although born in New Orleans, I am proud to call myself an Alaskan. I have lived here for 37 years, I have survived -40 degrees, hauled water, made bear bacon and live in a cabin. I used a fish wheel to catch salmon coming up the Copper River. I've been writing stories since junior high. Retired now, I can devote my time to what I love. BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/cherime-macfarlane Website: https://cherimemacfarlane.wordpress.com/ Facebook: @AuthorCherimeMacFarlane


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“There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, ‘Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.’ This is when you reach deep into your heart and remind yourself, ‘I am the wilderness.‘” - Braving the Wilderness

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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. Over 100 Top FREE and Paid Book Promotion sites: Get a list of the best book promotion websites, free and premium. Understand how these promotion sites work and discover a couple of options so you don’t have to do this all yourself. https://kindlepreneur.com/list-sites-promote-free-amazon-books How to Write a Book Blurb: Crafting and Attention Grabbing Summary of your book: It can be tough to figure out how to write a book blurb, especially for new authors. The key is to make it attention grabbing. What is a book blurb? Basically it’s a brief description of your book that provides a summary to readers. https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/newswire/for-authors/2019/12/13/how-to-write-abook-blurb-crafting-an-attention-grabbing-summary-of-your-book Top 10 Book Marketing Articles from BookBub in 2019 Real-life case studies and marketing ideas to inspire authors and help them achieve their own personal promotional goals. 1) How to run a book launch for maximum sales. 2) How to promote yoru book for free. 3) 5 Book marketing strategies all authors need to try. 4) 50 Stellar examples of author Facebook cover photo designs. 5) How I hit a bestseller list with a Traditionally published book. 6) A guide to getting more reader reviews. 7) 20 BookBub Ads you have to see for design inspiration. 8) Fantastic marketing tips for debut authors. 9) How to create eye-catching BookBub ads images. 10) How to promote your book before it’s published. https://insights.bookbub.com/top-book-marketing-articles-bookbub-2019 How to Edit Your Manuscript: Okay, you wrote a novel. Congratulations, well done, impressive. Now what? Now it’s time to edit, which usually takes longer and is typically more painful. The process includes two key elements: 1) Technical writing improvement and 2) Narrative and character development. https://prowritingaid.com/art/294/Life-After-NaNoWriMo%3a-Facing-the-Technical-EditLike-a-Pro.aspx


Captivating Book Reviews Nothing to Hide By James Oswald Review by Bookmarks and Stages I was so excited and delighted when I received an invitation by Random Things to review the latest Constance Fairchild book – Nothing to Hide by James Oswald as part of a blog tour. The book did not disappoint and kept me engaged. Today I present my review on the first day of Scottish Book Week. For those of you not in Scotland, it is a hugely important event for books to be promoted, reading to be encouraged. There are events happening online and in libraries and other places that have lovely books. Support authors and these events if you can, everyone appreciates it when you do. BLURB —Suspended from duty after her last case ended in the highprofile arrest of one of Britain’s wealthiest men, DC Constance Fairchild is trying to stay away from the limelight. Fate has other ideas . . . Coming home to her London flat, Constance stumbles across a young man, bloodied, mutilated and barely alive. She calls it in and is quickly thrown into the middle of a nationwide investigation . . . It seems that the victim is just the latest in a string of similar ritualistic attacks. No matter that she is off-duty, no matter that there are those in the Met who would gladly see the back of her, Con can’t shake her innate determination to bring the monsters responsible for this brutality to justice. Trouble always seems to find her, and even if she has nothing to hide, perhaps she has everything to lose . .

About the Author


REVIEW —Having the latest crime thriller by James Oswald in my hands to review was always, for me, going to be exciting. His writing lives up to all the hype that surrounds him. His writing is most definitely up there with Ian Rankin and Val McDermid. The detective in this book is not McLean, but Constance Fairchild, who is currently suspended from duty. It is as good as any McLean book. This is a new series from James Oswald. Perthshire, Edinburgh, London; the book covers some ground when there are nationwide, killings, brutal murders that bear all the hallmarks of them being ritualistic. So many lives are in danger and DI Constance Fairchild is not immune to this danger either. Lady DC Constance Fairchild (not that she really uses Lady), is an interesting, strong character, who isn’t afraid of breaking a rule or two. The workforce doesn’t always like her and rib her for being posh and the press seem to almost hound her after her previous case. She is, whilst being suspended, waiting to be able to testify at the trial of wealthy businessman Roger De Villiers and all seems like it’s going to be straightforward, but that doesn’t last as other events occur. Out and about, members of “The Church of the Coming Light”, part of the Danes Estate, is stumbled upon. It highlights some of the social deprivation here and that there are people trying to help. In this case it is people who are taking the drug most commonly known as Spice. I really like that it is highlighted that people can and do help to try to make things better, through charitable works. but it shouldn’t be necessary, indicating, quite rightly that lives ought to be better and ones with hope, not such despair. There does however seem something sinister about the group on first glance, plus the name indicates it isn’t going to be a mainstream church. Then there’s the odd Reverend, Doctor Edward Masters with his connections is high places. I then got very intrigued as to who Polly Cho is, who Stokes reckons Constance should talk to before he takes very unwell. Readers then really get to know what sort of people they are. This sort of cultish world interests me, intrigues me, disturbs me and is something that still exists today in some form or another. All the ingredients are there that make it a “want to read book”. The tension that is built up is excellent. It is interesting getting to know all the characters whom DC Fairchild is, one way or another, in contact with and it is interesting getting an insight into the workforce and their world. I could not put this book down. I found myself being pulled further and further into getting to know the characters and also into the uneasiness of the killings and the sinister “church”. The book has a great mix of intrigue and familiarity of the surroundings. Even if you have not been to the UK before, it still will all make sense. The book is the second of the Constance Fairchild series, but can also be read as a stand-alone book as there is enough back-story to grasp onto, to catch up, if you’ve not read the first one. If you haven’t ever thought of reading James Oswald’s books, I recommend you give them a try. You just may find that you become hooked and if you’ve read his McLean books, then also try out this new exciting series from him. You won’t be left disappointed. With thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to the blog tour. Thanks to Wild Fire Books and Headline for sending a copy of the book. Thanks to James Oswald (who is active on Twitter). Real name is Louise. I reside in a small village near Stirling, but I am no stranger to the arts. Books and Theatres are passions of mine, as is supporting people in any way I can. I started this blog because I was already in a small way showing support for authors and actors through recommending books and helping out at a drama group. Find more on her website: https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/


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The Importance of Ordinary Things By Mike Billington In the painting, a red bicycle leans against the worn brown wall of an old building. The wall has graffiti sprayed on it: Not street art, no, just undecipherable graffiti. There are no people in this hyper-realistic painting, no animals. Just a bicycle to suggest that, somewhere, the rider could be nearby. I saw this large painting at an exhibition in the Anquin's Gallery in Reus, Spain and it immedi-

ately struck me that artist Carlos Diaz was on to something. Later, when I had the opportunity to talk to him about his work, he said he felt strongly that it is important to capture the importance of ordinary scenes; of ordinary things. I wish more writers felt that way and included more ordinary things in their novels. I wish I did. The reason: It is upon those ordinary scenes, those ordinary things, that great stories are built. Take this painting - one of several Diaz had on exhibit that night - as an example. On the surface, this scene is dead ordinary. But let your mind wander, just a bit; let your imagination flow. Is, for example, the bicycle a signal? Was it parked against this wall for a reason? If you write spy novels, perhaps it's a signal that the person you are supposed to meet is waiting for you. Is the color of the bicycle significant? Does a red bicycle mean the meeting is called off?


If you write mysteries, you might wonder where the owner of the bicycle is and why he left it leaning against the wall of this old building. The building has graffiti on its walls indicating that this is not a high class neighborhood so why did he leave it leaning against a wall where it could easily be stolen? And if you write another kind of novel, just maybe the bicycle was ridden to this old building by someone who - born to wealth has had that money and power stripped away

so that now his only means of transportation to a low-paying job is his bike. Or perhaps he's a young man with a good brain and burning ambition who will one day make a vast fortune? Or... Well, you get the picture: This is an ordinary scene with ordinary things that allows us the opportunity to use our imaginations. And when we, as writers, do that we craft better stories; ones that ring true with readers who see these ordinary scenes and ordinary things every day. They do not live in the rarefied atmosphere of heroic fiction. No, our readers live at street level where the sidewalks have cracks, the streets have potholes, and bored people armed with spray cans vandalize other people's homes and businesses. As writers, we should pay attention to that fact and help readers relate to our characters and our narratives by recognizing the importance of ordinary scenes.

Of ordinary things.

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001KCABGK

Mike Billington, author of "Blood Debt"

I'm the son of a Protestant minister and an engineer who spent nearly 50 years as a journalist before retiring. Since retirement I've continued writing and currently have seven books on Kindle and am working on a couple more.

Find More from Mike Billington on Goodreads... https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7827793.Mike_Billington/blog


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Shadow Rustler

Continue Reading | Episode 5 “Right,” Dax glanced back at the girl. “She’s the brave, reckless kid that broke the case for you. The one that snuck in alone and got the video that helped you guys bring the group down.” “Right,” Paige frowned. “You know, I feel a little guilty now. She was so upset over Brian, she risked her life to help and I haven’t taken the time to check on him... or her since we closed the case. I should have stopped by, should have called Brian’s family to see if he’s improving.” “Why are we here?” Paige sighed. “Because the day she came into my office to present that video, I found out there was a connection to Jericho. She called him Uncle Jer. I didn’t think he had family in the area, so I asked about it. He said it was an honorary title. He and her dad, Ken – or Kenny – Glenshaw have been friends all their lives.” She sat, silently watching as a well-used SUV pulled down the drive and approached the home. The garage door slid open and the vehicle pulled slowly into place. When the door began to close, Paige turned back to Dax. “That was Ken. Since Olivia was a minor, Jericho called him that day. He headed straight to the office, to check on his kid. Anyway, I recognized him... from a photo. Remember when I first got here and you were driving me crazy with all the construction noise. I had to take the exam for POST and I couldn’t study.” “Yeah,” Dax frowned. “Sorry about that. I didn’t realize.” Paige swiped her hand in dismissal. “Doesn’t matter now. But, anyway, Jericho offered up his fishing cabin. It’s up Ephraim Canyon... amazing place. Anyway, he has this photo, it’s a blow up of him and Ken holding the two biggest fish I’ve ever seen. They’re happy, grinning in triumph I guess, but I was drawn to it immediately. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jericho that happy, not since I’ve been back at least. Maybe when I was a kid, but I didn’t really pay much attention to him. Anyway, Ken Glenshaw is important to Walters... closest thing he has to a brother if I had to guess.” That’s when Dax finally understood. “And, he’s on the list?” “He is,” Paige turned to look at him, conflict written all over her face. “I have to pursue it, you know cross it off, but my gut is already telling me it’s a dead end. I’m almost positive Ken was not involved.” 78


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 “But you have to know,” Dax said flatly. “So, you’ll do what you have to do and figure it out. Then, when you cross him off, Jericho will know as well.” “It feels wrong,” Paige admitted before she shifted into drive and pulled back onto the highway. “Because you know how much he means to Walters,” Dax agreed. The two of them rode in silence all the way to the restaurant. Once Paige had pulled into a parking stall and shut down the engine, Dax reached for her hand. “You’ve been searching for your mom’s killer for nearly a decade. You made some progress, Jericho made some as well. But neither one of you got anywhere... not really, until you joined forces. Don’t take a step back. You have a list and the two of you need to work through those names... together. So, you’ll go into work tomorrow and talk this through with your boss. If he’s willing to join you, the two of you will go back out to the Glenshaw place and sit down with this Ken guy. You’ll question him, in your way, and when you leave, he won’t even know he was a suspect in anything. Because we both know, most of your suspects have no idea you are even looking into them.” “True,” Paige considered. “But I don’t see how I can question him without him knowing. And if he knows that’s going to damage things... between him and Jericho. It’s unavoidable.” “If Jericho feels like he can go, he’ll go,” Dax said. “If not, you’ll take Gage. You’re looking for an athletic ring. Clayton’s the obvious choice, anyway. You said you haven’t gone out to check on the girl. Go check on the girl. Ask how she’s doing, is she back to normal, is she playing any high school sports? How are things with Brian? Have the two kids kept in touch? You remember high school,” Dax grinned. “I’d leave out the part about baseball though... Slider. Maybe let Gage take over and talk about football. Then, you just ask him if he played anything... you know, when he was a kid. Oh, he did? Did he get one of those rings... that is such a cool tradition, blah, blah, blah...?” Paige smiled at Dax. “Too bad you’re not a cop. You’d make a great partner.” “I am your partner,” Dax yanked her across the car and smiled when she collided with his chest. “I’m just a different kind of partner.” “Alright, Ace,” Paige pulled away. “I’m starving.” She climbed from the vehicle and waited a few feet away on the sidewalk for Dax to join her. “Thanks.” “Anytime,” Dax took her hand and led her inside. ***** 79


Shadow Rustler “Hey boss,” Paige stood in Jericho’s doorway. “You have a minute?” “Sure,” Jericho closed the file he was studying and motioned for her to take a seat. “It’s about Ken Glenshaw.”

Jericho frowned. “I know you have to look into him, because he’s on the list, but I’m afraid I can’t. I know Ken, he’s not our guy. Anything I do to prove that is going to damage our friendship, he won’t understand and I simply can’t...” Paige held up a hand. “I get it. And I’m not asking you to. My gut says you're right. But...” “But you can’t simply go with your gut,” Jericho nodded. “I understand.” “If it’s okay with you,” Paige straightened. “I thought I’d take Gage out with me. You know, just do a follow-up. Check in, see how Olivia is now that the fighting ring has been shut down. See if she’s still seeing Brian and how he’s doing. Then ease into high school activities... sports and other pursuits. Find out if Olivia has taken anything up to keep her mind off Brian’s trouble? Did Ken play when he was a kid? Gage can help out there... talk about the football stuff and the ring.” Jericho smiled, mostly in relief. He should have known Paige could handle this without making Ken feel like he’s a suspected killer. He should have trusted her, but the idea of questioning Kenny just had him tied up in knots. “I understand,” Paige finally said. “I saw the photo at your cabin. You guys are close and I promise we won’t do anything to put that in jeopardy.” “I appreciate it,” Jericho told her. “I’ve been trying to recall the last time I saw that ring, but it’s no use. He hasn’t worn it in years. We’ve always kept in touch but when his family moved from Nephi to Manti and we ended up at different high schools, we rarely saw one another. I came here to visit a couple times, he came up north but it wasn’t the same. I remember seeing the damn thing, but I can’t recall when it was. Could have been one of those visits or it might have been after we reconnected and headed off to college together. As far as I’m concerned, if it was college... that puts Ken in the clear. I mean, the ring was lost just before the girls graduated.” “Right,” Paige agreed. “I guess it doesn’t matter because I can’t remember,” Jericho said resigned. “So you have to look into it. I just hope he still has the thing. Ken’s an architect. He doesn’t wear rings, says they get in the way of his work. In fact, it was an area of contention between Ken and Darcy for years. 80


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 She finally realized it was about work and not because he wanted women to believe he was single and available.” “Darcy is his wife, I gather.” “Yeah,” Jericho smiled. “And she should have known Ken only has eyes for her. But I guess everyone needs to be reminded now and again.” “I guess,” she studied her boss for several seconds. “So, do we have your blessing?” “You have my permission,” Jericho corrected. “Like I said, I’m convinced but you need proof. Do what you have to do so he can be eliminated from that list. I won’t stand in your way.” Paige stood. “Thank you. I know this is difficult, but like I said before, I will eliminate him and then we can move on to the real suspects.” “Paige,” Jericho sighed. “The fact that he’s on that list, makes him a real suspect. I’ve had to accept that. I’ll admit, it hasn’t been easy but don’t take him off just because you know it’s what I want... what I need.” “Like I said,” Paige shrugged. “My gut says no and I always trust my gut but yeah, I have to know. Otherwise, he stays on until I do. Until we do. Agreed?” “Agreed.”

*****

Paige stepped from the vehicle and waited for Gage. The two deputies slowly made their way toward the front porch. “I forgot,” Gage whispered. “How close Ken was with Jericho. This feels wrong somehow.” “I know,” Paige paused before ringing the doorbell. “We go in, get what need and get out.” “What if he doesn’t have it?” Paige jerked her head around and glared at Gage. “You don’t think he kept it? Do you still have yours?” “Somewhere,” Gage told her, then focused on the door when he heard footsteps. “But if you asked me for it, I doubt I could find it. Might take me awhile to go through storage and find my old stash. I’m just saying if he doesn’t produce it immediately... don’t jump to conclusions.”

81


Shadow Rustler Paige was about to respond when the front door flew open. “Deputy Carter, is it?” Ken pushed open the screen door and held out a hand. He turned to Gage to shake his hand as well. “And Deputy Clayton, I’m not sure we’ve officially met.”

“Gage is fine,” he said as he gripped the man’s hand. Ken smiled. “I have to admit, whenever I see you I think football, not cop. I suspect a lot of people in this town do the same. It’s an honor to meet you... in person that is. Come in, both of you.” He moved from the doorway and made his way toward a spacious living room. “Can I get you anything to drink?” “No thank you,” Paige said taking a seat in a large, comfy looking chair. “We won’t take up much of your time.” “Well,” Ken settled in across from her. “I have to admit, I am curious. It’s not every day I receive a visit from the police... Jericho notwithstanding. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to count.” “I just wanted to stop in and check on Olivia,” Paige began immediately. “I mean she seems like a great kid and I was hoping, now that the guys responsible for her friend’s injury are behind bars... well, I thought I’d see if she’s doing alright.” “That’s kind of you,” Ken relaxed. “She’s coping, I guess you could say. Brian’s making progress, but it’s slow. He recognizes her now, can even say a few words, but he has a long road ahead of him. Olivia is a little lost, I think. I remember my high school years, they were filled with reckless stunts I’m amazed we survived and hanging with the team. I wish Olivia would join in, but she’s not interested in any of that.” “What team?” Gage asked, seizing on the opportunity. Ken smiled. “I was a baseball man myself. Loved the game, lived for it actually. But I threw out my arm my senior year. I may have played in college, otherwise... but I always knew I wouldn’t go pro. I guess some guys are born with it, the rest of us just play for the thrill.”

“What position did you play?” Paige asked. “Second base,” Ken got a faraway look, like he was remembering the good times. “I guess you got one of those rings, from Manti High?” Gage asked. “I remember the day I got mine. Coach made sure we all knew it was a tradition, one that went back to the beginning of time, I think.” 82


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 “Yeah,” Ken grinned. “Funny what’s important when you’re just a kid. I remember thinking that ring made it official somehow. Until you made it a year and got that simple but powerful symbol... you weren’t legit, I guess.” “I still have mine,” Gage told him. He did, he just had no idea where it was. At the time it was the most important thing in the world to him. But, as he moved onto college, got another ring, a few trophies and then went pro, the high school symbol lost its shine somehow. “Yeah,” Ken nodded. “Me too. I suspect every guy that ever got one cherishes it... in his own way.” “Could I see it?” Paige asked sheepishly. “I remember the rings, from the time I was in high school. But someone told me they change the design every year. It would be interesting to see how much different yours was... compared to the one Gage got, I mean.” Ken shrugged and stood. “Sure, give me just a minute.” Ken left the room and was gone longer than Paige had expected. Suddenly, he walked briskly through the room and entered what Paige assumed was the kitchen. “Darcy,” Ken said anxiously. “Do you know what happened to my ring? The high school athletic ring that used to be in this black case.” Paige glanced at Gage and saw he was looking at her. His face telegraphed the same question she had... What now? “I’m sure it’s around here somewhere,” a female voice answered, clearly unconcerned. “But I never take it out of this box. Do you think one of the kids found it... thought it would be cool to start wearing it?” “No,” Darcy said immediately. “The kids know not to touch our personal stuff. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. I’ll take a look later. Right now, I need to get this finished. I have to get it over to the church before noon. Scoot already. Put that box back where you found it. Well, go on.” Ken stepped back into the room, worry and sadness showing in his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he began and settled back into his seat. He set the ring box on the table in front of him. “I’m afraid I’ve misplaced that ring somehow.” “Don’t worry about it,” Paige tried to sound light and unconcerned. “I mean, it would have been fun to see how much they changed things and all but... well, you seem pretty upset about this. I’m sorry I asked, now.”

83


Shadow Rustler “No,” Ken sighed. “I’m glad you did. Now I know it’s lost, and I can start looking. I just have no idea how... well, that’s neither here nor there.” Paige stood. “We’ll get out of your hair, Mr. Glenshaw. I just wanted to stop by, see about Olivia and make sure your family didn’t need anything. I mean, you were extremely helpful during that case and all of us, especially Jericho I think, appreciated your help.” Ken smiled. “Tell the old man hello and he’s overdue for a beer.” “We’ll do,” Gage shook the man’s hand, then followed Paige out the front door. Once they were back on the highway, headed back to the office he spoke. “He may not have his ring, but that man did not lose the thing twenty years ago.” “No,” Paige agreed. “More like twenty minutes. Now I feel bad for asking.” “But it doesn’t get him off the list?” Gage observed. “Not yet, no.” “Gage,” Margie’s voice came over the radio. “Go ahead,” Paige said grabbing the mic before Gage could. “Can the two of you head up the canyon? We have a complainant that is pretty upset.” “Sure,” Paige said immediately. “What can you tell us?”

“He says someone stole some cattle,” Margie relayed. “His name is Martin Alder. He’s parked at the entrance to the Manti Community Campground and he’s not happy.” “Copy that,” Paige frowned at her partner. “You know him?” “Nope,” Gage shrugged. “Guess we will soon enough.” They pulled into the campground and exited the car. They’d only gone a few steps when an angry looking man approached them. “It’s about time!” “Martin Alder?” Paige asked. “Well, isn’t that obvious?” the man demanded. “Do you see anyone else standing here waiting for an officer to assist him?” Paige narrowed her eyes at the man, Gage inwardly sighed. This should be fun. “What can we do for you, Mr. Alder?” Gage said, taking control of the situation. 84


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 “As I told your dispatcher,” Alder fumed. “I need to report a theft. As long as it took you to get here, it’s no wonder my cows are disappearing. Are all of you small town cops incompetent?” Paige forced her face to appear neutral, inhaled a long, deep breath then addressed the man. “What makes you believe your cows were stolen? It’s rare, but we do have black bear up here... especially in the high country.” “I demand to speak with your superior,” Alder growled. “Or a detective. Someone who possesses the ability to investigate a crime would be nice.” “Sure,” Paige turned to leave. “Head on down to the police station and you can speak with the sheriff. He should be in the office today. I’m sure he’d be happy to listen to your complaint.” She returned to the vehicle to wait for Gage, knowing he’d try to smooth things over with the impossible man. “I don’t know you,” Gage began. “I take it you’re not from around here.” “Are you kidding me?” Alder answered. “If I have any say in it, I won’t be back. The Forest Service assured me this was the best place to graze my herd but this is the fourth animal I’ve lost this year. The area might be pristine grazing but the locals leave a lot to be desired.” “Does that normally work?” Gage asked. “What?” Alder demanded. “Insulting the very people who are trying to help you.”

“You call this helping?” he demanded. “That woman would be better suited as a cashier at Walmart. Black bear? Seriously?” “That woman,” Gage gritted his teeth in anger. “Is the best investigator you are going to find... in these parts sure, but probably in the entire country. So, I suggest you bank the attitude and start answering my questions.” “Right,” Alder shook his head. “I was lucky enough to run into a premier investigator in the middle of small town Utah. She has what? A year on the job.”

“Deputy Carter has been with us for over a year,” Gage corrected. “Before that, she was a top investigator for the FBI, stationed at Quantico. And, unfortunately for you... she’s now off your case. Instead, you’re stuck with me... a guy who doesn’t have a lot of investigative experience but will do the best he can to locate your livestock.”

85


Shadow Rustler Alder frowned, focused on the woman leaning casually against the police car and wondered if he’d just made a terrible mistake. “Why’d she leave? The Feds? If she was such a hotshot investigator, what’s she doing working out here?” “That’s personal and not something I’m at liberty to discuss,” Gage pulled out a notepad and a pen. “Can you give me your full name, address and contact number?” “She got fired then?” Alder accused. “I knew it. She’s doing penance because she got into some kind of trouble. Slept her way to the top, no doubt, and got in over her head so she bailed.” “I changed my mind,” Gage closed his notebook. “I agree with Paige. You asked for a supervisor. Drop by the office and speak with the sheriff. I’ll be sure to let him know you’re coming.”

Gage marched to his car, flung open the door and climbed behind the wheel. Within seconds, he had the engine roaring and the vehicle shifted into reverse. Paige glanced at their complainant — who looked stunned and unsure what to do next — glanced back at Gage and realized she’d better get in the car or he was going to leave her. What had the man said to push Gage over the edge? They were halfway down the canyon before she asked. Gage didn’t answer. The two officers rode in silence all the way back to town. The instant Gage stepped through the back entrance, he headed straight for Jericho’s office, slamming the door behind him. “I take it your detail didn’t go well,” Margie sighed. “Martin Alder has already called. He’ll be in later to speak with Sheriff Walters and make a complaint. “The man’s obnoxious and insulting but I have no idea what he said to Gage to set him off. I lost my temper and left my partner to handle things on his own... guess that was a mistake.” She moved to her desk and dropped into her chair. Nothing seemed to be going right this morning. “And that other thing?” Margie asked. “You get that cleared up?” “Nope,” Paige flipped on her computer and wondered what she was supposed to do now. “You will,” Margie said confidently. “Just give it a little time.”

***** 86


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 It was two hours later when Martin Alder finally strolled through the door. He stopped, talked to Margie for a few seconds, then took a seat outside Jericho’s office. Gage had long since left... Jericho’s office and the building. He appeared to have calmed down by the time he’d finished with their boss, but he didn’t say a word on his way out. Paige still wondered what the guy had said to set her friend off, but he’d tell her when he was ready. Jericho stepped into the open foyer area, motioned the man inside and closed the door behind them. Twenty minutes later, Jericho opened his door and motioned for Paige to join them. Paige moved to the office and cautiously sat in the chair next to the door. Martin Alder was seated at the opposite end of the room. “Mr. Alder has something he would like to say to you,” Jericho started the conversation. “As I told your boss,” Alder began. “I used to graze my herd up north... in the Uintah’s. Last year, I lost every calf but one. I believe the Yellowstone wolves have migrated south but the feds disagree. Between that and the increased number of black bear... well, cattle is an easy target.” “I’m sure that is difficult,” Paige observed. “It was,” Alder nodded. “It was the reason I decided to move south. It’s a long drive and I get down here as frequently as I can but I mistakenly assumed it would be safe.” Paige frowned, Manti and the LaSal’s were safe. “Anyway,” Alder continued. “I owe you an apology. When I discovered two additional calves missing, I was furious. I had already lost two others... calves again, last month. Then it took longer than I anticipated for the two of you to show. I was frustrated and pretty distraught about the cows... especially the bull. He was going to save my operation. Rather than convert him to a steer, I planned to use him to replenish my stock.” “And now he’s gone?” Paige asked. “Yes,” Alder agreed. “I understand why you immediately concluded he was taken by a bear or something, but I still disagree.” “Why?” Paige asked. “I mean, I asked you that before but you ignored the question.”

“Be honest,” Alder glanced at Jericho. “I didn’t just ignore the question, I insulted you and I’m sorry for that. I’m ashamed to say, I took my frustration with the previous cops — the ones up north — out on you. They were less than helpful and basically told me if I wasn’t willing to assume the risk of grazing in the area, I should find a new location. I get it... they can’t control the wildlife, but they could have at least been civil about it.”

87


Shadow Rustler “I agree,” Paige smiled. “And you’re thinking, based on our initial interaction, they were justified.” “I didn’t say that,” Paige said flatly. “But you thought it,” Alder pressed. “And if I’d treated them the way I treated you... I’m guessing you’d be right. But I didn’t. You can believe that or not, it’s up to you.” “What I think really doesn’t matter,” Paige decided. “What I’m trying to figure out is if we have a crime... or nature taking its course.” Alder pulled out a large tablet. “Let me show you why I believe my calves were stolen, not killed by wild animals.” “Yay,” Paige said then sobered at the look Jericho gave her. Alder tapped the screen a few times then placed the tablet on Jericho’s desk so all three of them could see it. The first image was a map of the area. There was an electronic pin placed near the campsite. “What is that?” Paige asked, pointing to it. “That is the place I offloaded the herd... initially.” He swiped the screen and brought up an animated map. The pins started moving. “I placed tracking devices on a few of the animals. I did it for a couple reasons. Mostly, because I’m not familiar with this area. I figured until I got my feel for the place, it would help me locate the cows when I made it down to check on them.” “Makes sense,” Paige studied the readout. The herd made their way higher into the mountain area, but mainly stayed in the lower meadows. Probably because they were also new to the area. “Now watch this pin,” Martin pointed to a black pin. Paige watched the animation again and frowned. The black pin appeared with the rest of the cows when Alder offloaded them from the truck. For several days, it followed the same path the other cows traveled. Then, suddenly, it disappeared. “Where is it?” Paige looked up and asked. “That’s my question,” Martin said soberly. “If it was killed, black bear, cougar, whatever... the pin would still show. The collar would show us the exact location of the carcass. The pin shouldn’t have disappeared completely. Unless someone stole my bull.” 88


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 Paige had to admit, the man had a point. “I’d like to return to the canyons,” she glanced up at Jericho. “I want to see the place...” she pointed to the tablet. “May I? “Sure,” Martin pushed the device closer to Paige. Paige studied the screen and slowly used the progress bar across the bottom until she located the bull’s last location. “That’s where I need to go.” “Will that program identify coordinates?” Jericho asked. “Yeah,” Martin took his tablet back and hit a menu off to the left side. With a couple clicks, details appeared in the sidebar. Paige grabbed a notepad and jotted down the numbers. She jumped to her feet and turned to Martin. “I know we got off to a rocky start and I guess I understand, but Gage and I... we aren’t the bad guys. If you had given us a chance, if you’d explained this up at the campsite when I asked... we would have saved a lot of time. I hope you’ll think about that. We’re used to dealing with difficult people, it just didn’t have to be that way.” “I understand that,” Martin accepted the scolding. “Do you need me to return to the area with you?” “No,” Jericho stood. “Paige and I will handle it. We’ll be in touch.” Martin understood he had just been dismissed. He stood and started for the door then stopped. “I really appreciate your help on this and again, I apologize for my behavior earlier today. Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.” Once their visitor was gone, Jericho turned to Paige. “We’ll head out but first, how did it go with Ken this morning?” “It went fine,” Paige said evasively. “So,” Jericho frowned. “He couldn’t produce his ring, then?” “Not yet,” Paige sighed. “But I think it went missing recently. He seemed truly surprised when he went to retrieve it and the ring was gone.”

“We can figure that out later,” Jericho moved around his desk. “Right now, we have a cow to find.” “I hate to say it,” Paige followed him out. “But I think he might be right. It appears as if someone took that cow and moved it completely outside the area. Are you driving, or am I?” “I am,” Jericho led her to the parking lot and climbed into his vehicle. 89


Shadow Rustler Jericho slowed as they neared the area where the calf was last recorded. ed.

“We have to get back in there, at least a couple hundred yards off the road,” Paige decid“Am I going to get yelled at if I follow that trail?” Jericho asked. “Why would I yell?”

“I’m just thinking if someone did steal his calves, they had to drive a truck or trailer back there. I thought you might want to check for tire tracks before I drove over any evidence.” Paige frowned. She should have thought of that. She needed to concentrate. Her mind was on Ken and where his ring could be but right now she needed to concentrate on cows. “Yeah, let me out.” She reached into the backseat and snatched up her bag before jumping from the vehicle. As she made her way up the small path she immediately spotted the tire tracks. It only took a few minutes to document what she needed. Jericho waited for Paige to jump back into the vehicle and yank the door closed before speaking. “What did you find?” “Tire tracks,” Paige continued to focus on the area. “Only one set. It was a truck, normal size and they weren’t pulling a trailer. I suppose, since they only took calves they didn’t need one right away. Easier that way. Get in, snatch the younger, smaller animals, get out. Then they could have a trailer down the road somewhere or the truck could have a shell. The cows would be hidden and a single truck wouldn’t stand out up here.”

Jericho made his way over the small trail that led further into the back, wilderness area. He glanced at his GPS unit and came to a stop. “This is as close as I want to get. I’m thinking they probably stopped here as well. I don’t see any tracks running across that long grass.” “Right,” Paige shoved out of the vehicle and began wandering the hidden meadow. The one thing a theft didn’t explain was the tracking device. Even if they loaded the cow into the back of a truck, the device should have continued to track down the main highway and right out of town. Paige made her way back to Jericho. “Hey, do you have cell service?” Jericho pulled out his phone and studied the display. “It’s spotty, but yeah.” “Can you call Martin Alder?” “For?” “I need to know if his cows are branded. I can see the older cows have that squiggly line thing with a bar across it. I assume that’s his brand but he never said if the younger calves were marked as well.” 90


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 “Right,” Jericho moved to his car, snatched up his notes then dialed the number. Paige left him to that while she continued to move around the area. She paused, glanced around the meadow then shifted her gaze to the wooded section behind her. She frowned, ran a frustrated hand through her hair and disappeared into the trees. Living in Quantico didn’t give her a lot of insight into the world of ranching. She knew next to nothing about cattle. One thing she was learning... they trampled everywhere and pooped where they lived. It wasn’t conducive to finding evidence. She loved a good burger but was quickly discovering... she wasn’t all that fond of the animal it came from. Paige made her way further into the shadows and found herself at the edge of a tiny stream. Again, the cows had destroyed the natural beauty. The bank of the spring was a muddy mess. In addition to the trampled bank and compressed foliage, the place was littered with cow pies. The water was dirty... well, filthy really. Paige instinctively pressed her hand over her nose and moved forward. Seriously, did the cows really drink from that gross murky water? The closer she got to the stream, the slimier the mud became. When her footing slipped and she barely held herself up with a nearby tree, she gave up. Paige turned and spotted Jericho watching her with an amused smile. She scowled as she made her way to his side. “I’m guessing you haven’t spent much time around cows,” the minute she reached him, he began to walk, making his way further into the thick trees. “Well,” Paige followed. “There’s not a lot of farms in the Quantico area. What are we doing?” “We’re making our way above the cattle’s rest area. They’ve been occupying this section for a while now. Which means, they’ve slept here, drank from the stream and grazed as much as they are going to. It’s the reason they are out there... in the open right now.” “So they’ve destroyed their water source and moved on to find the next stream to destroy?” Paige asked. “They will still drink from the stream,” Jericho disagreed, stepping over a fallen log.

Paige followed closely behind him. They made their way several feet above where the cows had settled in. Up here, the water was clear. The bank was damp but not such a muddy mess and where it was a little muddy, it wasn’t slimy. Paige stepped closer to the stream and frowned. About ten feet above them, there was something in the water. It was obscured by a large log, but the piece of wood didn’t look like it had fallen into the water on its own. “What is that?”

91


Shadow Rustler Jericho moved in next to her and studied the area she was pointing at. “Let’s go see.” “What?” Paige jerked around and glared at her boss. “You want me to wade through the water... or are you going to do it?” Jericho grinned. “And here I thought you were my meticulous investigator. You’re really afraid of a little water? What happened to gathering evidence at any price? I was sure that was you I saw jump off a cliff into a raging river not all that long ago.” “Right,” Paige smiled. “So now it’s your turn. You wade across the stream and check it out. If there’s something there, I’ll join you.” Jericho glanced at Paige, looked up the stream and realized the water narrowed a little up above. He made his way to the edge of the bank and easily stepped across. Then, he headed back down a few feet and crouched near the strange obstruction. Without saying a word, Jericho straightened, glanced around and spotted just what he needed. He disappeared behind the trees and returned with a sturdy branch. Seconds later he was crouched again and pulling something from the water. “What is it?” Paige asked. “If I had to guess, I’d say you're missing tracking device,” Jericho straightened. “Don’t touch it,” Paige ordered cautiously making her way to her boss. The instant she reached him, she pulled an evidence bag from her pack, held it open and waited for Jericho to drop it inside. Once the device was secured, she handed the bag to Jericho and began searching the area for clues. “The cows haven’t been up here, maybe I can find something that will help lead us to the thief or thieves.” “There had to be at least two,” Jericho decided. “Why?” “Because one guy may have been able to separate the young bull from the herd. It would have been difficult, but possible. And, depending on how he did it, maybe even loaded it into the back of the truck by himself. But I don’t see how one guy could cut that device off a rambunctious bull like that. Not even in the confined space of the truck. It’s sturdy and the clasp is complicated on purpose, so it won’t fall off. It would take two people to remove it.” “Okay,” Paige considered. “So, at least two guys. There should be footprints. We might get fingerprints off the metal on that device but it’s been submerged, most likely the reason it stopped working. The internal components would have shorted out the minute it got water inside.” 92


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 “I agree,” Jericho studied the ground around them. “What did Martin say about the brand?” “He said they have them,” Jericho said absently. “Alder said he never leaves an animal on public land unless he’s branded it first.” “Okay,” Paige glanced around, not seeing anything obvious. “That helps. If we find them, we can identify them. Finally, good news.” “I don’t think we’re going to find anything else out here,” Jericho decided. “Let’s head back to the office.” Paige frowned but ultimately agreed.

*****

Margie stopped Jericho on his way to his office. “Mrs. Glenshaw called,” she held out a small piece of paper. “What did Darcy have to say?” Jericho asked, accepting the note from Margie. “She said she needs to talk to you about something important,” Margie glanced at Paige. “I think it was her visit to Ken this morning. Anyway, she only had a short opening today. Since you were otherwise occupied, she scheduled a meeting for tomorrow morning... ten o’clock.” “I’ll be here,” Jericho said casually. “Thanks, Margie.” He disappeared into his office. “Why do you think it’s about my visit this morning?” Paige asked. “She said something about a complication,” Margie shrugged. “Something she needed Jer’s assistance with. And she complained about your visit. Said she wished she knew about it in advance because it upset Kenny.” “Oh,” Paige sighed. “I didn’t mean to upset him. Maybe she has information about the ring. Maybe she’s the one that took it. That would be nice, it would help me cross Ken off the list.” “You should cross him off, anyway,” Margie grumbled. “We all know he’s not responsible.” “We all believe he’s not responsible,” Paige corrected. “I’d like to say we know, which is why he’s still on the list.” She glanced at Gage’s work area and wondered what her friend was doing. “Jericho sent him home,” Margie provided. 93


Shadow Rustler “Is he okay?” “Apparently, his grandfather had a heart attack,” Margie said softly. “He found out this morning, which is probably why he wasn’t very patient with our obstinate Mr. Alder.” “Will he be okay? His grandfather, I mean,” Paige clarified. “I think so,” Margie said hopefully. “I’ll call him later,” Paige decided. “I need to run over to the high school and talk to Mark about that vehicle burg from yesterday. I don’t think I’ll be back.” “You solved it?” Margie asked. “Yeah,” Paige frowned. “A kid by the name of Luke Henderson.” “If you’re talking to Mark, he must be on the team,” Margie decided, referring to the high school football team. “He is,” Paige grabbed her file. “I’ve looked into him and he’s never been in trouble before. I think it might have something to do with the team... maybe some kind of initiation or something. I’ll talk to Mark first, enlist his help and get to the bottom of this before I head home tonight. You think you’ll be okay here?” “I’ll be fine,” Margie brushed that off. “I’m going to talk to Jericho, I think he needs to give Gage another day off.”

“Not necessary,” Jericho stepped from his office. “I told Gage to take at least two days. He’ll let me know if he needs more. Now, Paige,” he turned to address his deputy. “I’ve tracked down several auctions in the area. You’re with me tomorrow. We’re hitting the road first thing. Margie, you’re in charge. I’m calling in Havilland to cover any calls that come in while we’re gone.” “What time?” Paige asked. “Meet me here at nine,” he told her. “But...” Margie began. “I called Darcy,” he advised. “Changed my appointment to eight. She said that works better, anyway. I’ll take care of whatever she needs and we’ll hit the road as soon as she’s on her way.” “You think it will take a full hour?” Paige asked. “Yes,” Jericho answered before returning to his office. 94


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 Paige frowned, then shrugged. “Okay then, I’ll be at the high school if you need anything.” “Good luck,” Margie called just before Paige exited the building.

*****

Paige pulled into her drive and climbed from her car. She smiled when she saw Dax sitting on her front porch waiting patiently. How long had he been there? She wondered. “Hey babe,” Dax stood. “You look tired. Good thing I took care of dinner.” kiss.

“My hero,” Paige stumbled forward when he pulled her in and gave her a gentle welcoming “Long day,” he observed.

“Yeah,” she sighed. “Caught a new case, one I’m struggling with. My knowledge of cows... well, let’s just say what I understand about those animals could fit in my little pinky.” “Cows?” Dax asked. “Yeah,” she settled into one of the patio chairs. “A guy has his herd up the canyon, but it looks like someone stole a couple of the smaller cows. One was a young bull that he needs for breeding. If I can’t get it back, it’s going to be a real blow. Plus, Gage’s grandfather had a heart attack. I called him just before I got home, Gage says it was serious, but he should be fine. Just a long recovery, I guess. I did solve the vehicle burglary from yesterday though.” “Was it a kid, like you thought?” “Yeah,” Paige shook her head and settled further into her chair. “Luke’s the new kid and the guys conned him into pulling that stunt as an initiation to the team sort of thing. Once I realized he was on the team, I guessed as much. Mark is going to handle it and the team will be doing a fund raiser of some kind to pay for the damages. The victims agreed not to press charges, so it all ended well... I suppose.” “It did end well,” Dax stood. “Let’s head inside. I’ll get you dinner and you can tell me about the cows... and the ring.” “Oh, yeah,” Paige sighed. “Ken Glenshaw’s ring is missing. I haven’t resolved that, yet. I’m hoping his wife has it but we won’t know until the morning.” “Why morning?” 95


Shadow Rustler “Darcy, Ken’s wife, has a meeting with Jericho in the morning,” she stepped inside and dropped her gun belt onto the couch. Once dinner was on the table, Dax asked about the cows. Paige filled him in on the day’s events. “You should head up to Nephi,” he suggested. “Why?” “Because Jaimie told me she’s taking Ken and Donna to the rodeo this weekend,” Dax told her. He was still having a hard time picturing his army buddy, his wife and his mother at a rodeo but Jaimie had insisted. “Seems like a great place to find a few cows.” “But that bull is too small to ride,” Paige objected.

“True,” Dax conceded. “And, I doubt you will find the cows you are looking for up there.” “So why go?” “Because you can talk to the stock hands, see where they get their animals, find out if anyone is new to the circuit,” Dax said sitting back in his chair. “Sounds like you do know a bit about cows,” she observed. “Not much, but enough.” Dax agreed. “If you’re game we could head up, stay with Ken and Jaimie this weekend, and join them at the local rodeo. We might get answers, we might not, but we will certainly get leads.” “With Gage taking a few days off, I’m going to have to check with Jericho,” Paige decided. “I think Havi is scheduled to work and if so, between him and Dean they should be able to handle the call load. I do need to check though before I can make plans.” “You said you’re touring the area auction sites tomorrow. That’s another good idea. Go hang out with Jericho, get a feel for things,” Dax stood and began clearing the table. “He should know what to ask to get answers. You can take notes and we can use what you learn in Nephi. Get his blessing and I’ll call Ken tomorrow night.”

*****

96


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 Paige stepped into the office and glanced around. Margie wasn’t at her desk and Jericho’s door was closed. Maybe Darcy was still visiting, or he could be meeting with his secretary about something. She took several steps toward her desk but was stopped when Jericho flung open his door and called for her to join him.

“I don’t know if you’ve met Darcy Glenshaw,” Jericho began, motioning to the petite woman sitting in one of his visitor’s chairs. “No,” Paige stepped forward and held out her hand in greeting. “Darcy has a request.” Jericho prompted. “Okay,” Paige settled into one of the other chairs. “Well,” Darcy began. “I know you didn’t mean any harm but well... you upset Kenny yesterday.” “When he couldn’t find the ring?” Paige acknowledged. “I’m sorry about that. We were just there to follow-up... I mean, regarding Olivia. She was such a great help on that case and I know she’s been upset about Brian. I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything else I could do to help.” “I appreciate that,” Darcy said softly. “That truly was kind and thoughtful of you. But you see, I took Kenny’s ring. Now he’s upset. I came here today to see if maybe Jericho could meet him for lunch, take his mind off things, you know... get him thinking about fishing, planning a summer trip to the cabin, or something. But I was hoping, if he does come in... that you wouldn’t mention the ring again. He doesn’t know I took it, I want to surprise him for our anniversary.” “How many years?” Paige asked, relieved they could legitimately take Kenny off the list. “Twenty-nine this year,” Darcy said proudly. “I know it’s not a milestone or anything but Kenny’s always so good to me, I wanted to do something special for him. I found this place — up north — that could take his ring and clean it up real nice, then they put it in this kind of glass display thing. I know he’s going to love it. He was good when he was young, probably could have gone all the way if he hadn’t thrown out his arm. Anyway, it’s a good memory.” “I promise,” Paige glanced at Jericho. “I won’t say a word.” “Thank you,” Darcy stood. “I won’t keep you. Jericho said you had a busy day ahead of you. I’ll let you get to it. I really do appreciate your help on this.” 97


Shadow Rustler “I really am sorry I brought it up,” Paige said sincerely. She stood and watched the woman exit the building. “He’s off the list, but I feel even worse now. If it wasn’t for me, that man never would have realized the ring was gone. She could have arranged her surprise and he wouldn’t be upset and worried because something he cares about is gone.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Jericho stepped to his door. “We have an auction to attend and I’ll call Ken, meet him for lunch tomorrow and make something up. He’ll be fine.” “Dax wants me to go up north, to Nephi this weekend — to the rodeo,” she clarified. “He said his friends are attending and he thinks it would be a good place to look around, ask some of the regulars if they’ve noticed anyone new… stuff like that. It might give us some new leads. If we haven’t solved the case before then, I mean.” “I forgot that was this weekend,” Jericho considered. “Havilland and Dean can handle things. I’ll give you a few names, people to talk to. Tell them I sent you and what we have. They can be trusted and if they know we’re dealing with cattle rustlers, they’ll help keep an eye out for anything suspicious.” They visited four auction houses, one actual auction and drove up the canyon so Paige could take a picture of one of Alder’s branded cows. By the time she got home it was late, she was exhausted and they didn’t have anything even remotely interesting to follow up on. She made her way to the bedroom, changed out of her work clothes and walked next door. Zeus, Carmen and Dax were relaxing on the back porch. “We’re on for this weekend,” Paige said in greeting. “Jericho said we should head out tomorrow, early afternoon if possible. I know you said Ken and Jaimie could put us up but I guess the traffic is crazy. The rodeo apparently starts on Friday so if we head out a day early, we might miss the crowd.” Dax pulled out a beer and held it up in question. “I’d love one,” she snatched the beer from his hand and settled onto the lounge chair between his legs. “Better,” she moaned, settled back, and took her first sip. “We can watch the house,” Carmen offered. “I don’t have anything better to do,” she grumbled. “Nathan still keeping you on the sidelines, I guess?” Paige asked. “Yeah,” Carmen shrugged. “I guess I should be grateful. I mean, I’m still getting paid but it feels wrong, to get paid for doing nothing.” The group visited, complained and solved the world’s problems for several hours before they split up and headed for bed. 98


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5

*****

Paige walked with Dax toward the temporary cage, trying to appear casual and nonthreatening. Impossible for Dax, Paige smiled and moved to stand on the bottom rail of the pen. It was Saturday morning and they were meeting one of Jericho’s contacts. The instant she approached him, identified herself as one of Walter’s deputies and explained the situation, the man had become agitated. He was sure the thief, or an associate, was in the area. Paige had thought it too good to be true at first, but the more Tate Gamble talked, the more she believed him. So, here they were, standing in the middle of a dusty makeshift containment area, waiting for Tate to show and introduce them around. Dax put an arm on Paige’s shoulder. “He’s here.” Paige didn’t move, she was sure one of the young cows in the pen had Alder’s brand. “What is it?” Dax asked. Paige pulled out her phone and showed Dax the design. “That cow, the reddish one over there with three white feet... it has that mark.” Dax moved to the side, slowly studying each cow carefully. Anyone watching would think he was just picking out the stock he planned to bid on. Once he was sure Paige was correct, he returned to her side. They explained the situation to Tate, who rushed inside a building and returned with a man wearing an official looking nametag. “This is Kyle Broadhead,” Tate introduced. “He’s in charge here. It’s his job to verify ownership on all animals being auctioned off today. Can you please show him that picture and... Well, discretely of course...” he dropped his voice to a whisper. “Can you show him your badge?” Paige pulled her badge from her pocket then returned it when she got a subtle nod from Kyle. She pulled up the photo of Alder’s cow, with a clear picture of his brand and handed the phone over to the auction official. “Let me take a look myself,” Kyle requested. “I’d like to say I discovered an animal with a brand we were on the lookout for due to Jericho making the request.” “I understand,” Paige shrugged and waited for the man to find the cow she had spotted almost immediately. When he did, she relaxed a little. Now, they just needed to locate the person who had entered her in the auction for sale. 99


Shadow Rustler “Come with me, please,” Kyle turned and headed for a travel trailer they obviously used as a portable office. The small group stepped into a tiny section partitioned off for privacy and waited for Kyle to tell them what came next. “I need to inform the organizer of this event,” he sighed. “Dusty is not going to be happy about this.” “Who is Dusty?” Paige asked. “Dusty Hawkins,” Tate answered. “He’s the guy that organizes the entire rodeo. He’s a straight shooter. Knowing someone stole another man’s livelihood and tried to profit from it at his rodeo... well that’s just gonna piss Dusty off something fierce.” “Do we need to call the police?” Paige asked. “I don’t want to make waves out here and I don’t want Jericho to have to step in and smooth things over.” “Dusty’s one of our local cops,” Tate explained. “He’ll handle this. Don’t you worry.” Kyle hung up the phone and frowned. “Dusty said wait here, he’s on his way over.” They went through it all again when the local lawman arrived. He was younger than Paige had expected. He wore a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and a thin western style shirt that hugged his broad chest and large arms. If Paige didn’t have a thing for Dax... a man that was standing right beside her... she might try to get to know the guy a little better.

“Pull the heifer from the auction and I want to see the paperwork on the seller. Anything they listed will be pulled and scrutinized by me.” “And us,” Paige added. The corner of Dusty’s mouth twitched but that was his only reaction. “Before we go,” Paige said quickly because the man had already turned and was headed for the door. “Can you tell me what they list as their address... on those forms? My victim is still missing a bull... one that is important to him. A young calf born earlier this year.” “Let’s make sure he’s not here, then we can see about a warrant for their property,” Dusty barked before he disappeared out the door. While the group worked to gather up all the animals Ramon Farms had entered, Paige made a phone call. “Do you have news?” Marty said in answer. 100


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 “I’m not sure,” Paige said evasively. “I’m wondering if you have any photos of your animals. Especially the bull that’s missing. It seemed like he was the most important to you.” “Sure,” Marty said casually. “Should I drop them off at your office?” “That would be great,” Paige decided. This was going to take a while, anyway. “Are you still in town?” “Yeah,” he was shuffling something in the background. “I decided to hang out a couple days, you know, in case you needed anything else from me. I should have thought to bring this binder the day I stopped in to meet with the Sheriff. Anyway, I’ll bring my documents in... who should I ask for?” “Just get them to Margie,” Paige jumped out of the way when a cow escaped and headed toward her. Tate, Kyle and Dax all laughed. “I’ll give her a call, let her know you’re coming and give her instruction on what to do with the file. I appreciate it,” Paige started to hang up. “You know something,” Marty accused. “I can hear it in your voice.” “I think I may have found one of your cows,” she admitted. “It’s not confirmed yet, but I have the officials here looking into it. That paperwork will really help speed things along here. I’ll let you know one way or the other... as soon as we know. I promise,” Paige added.

“Okay,” Marty headed for the door of his hotel. “I can live with that. Margie will have these in five minutes. I’m headed out now.” “One of us will call as soon as we know,” Paige repeated before hanging up. She immediately dialed Margie. “Hey,” Paige called out. “Uh, Tate. Is there somewhere my secretary can send something out here? I had the owner, my victim, bring in his file on the missing cows. She says he has photos, DNA from the local vet and a vaccination chart with detailed descriptions of each of his cows. It sounds like the man kept excellent records, details that might help if we need a warrant.” “I doubt you’ll need one, but Dusty is going to want to see the docs. Follow me,” Tate walked briskly to the trailer. “Have her fax everything to this number.” He pointed to a label on the front of the machine that contained a phone number. Within minutes, they had more information than they could possibly need to make a positive ID.

101


Shadow Rustler “Now we just need to find Mr. Ramon Fletcher,” Paige said handed the documents to Dusty. He glanced through them, smiled and made his way to a large set of bleachers. “Mr. Fletcher,” he said coolly. “I’m wondering if you could explain these to me.”

Fletcher glanced at Dusty, shifted his gaze to Paige in annoyance then focused again on Dusty. “What is it?” “Ownership papers,” Dusty advised. “Pictures, vet records, all the things you don’t have but said there’s a reason. I agree, there is a reason. The reason is... you’re a thief.” Fletcher jumped to his feet and moved forward to crowd Dusty’s space. “You might be in charge here, but nobody accuses me of stealing.” “Oh, I’ll do one better,” Dusty shifted, pulled a set of handcuffs from the waist of his jeans and snapped them on their suspect before he registered movement. “If that victim of yours has a way to come up and retrieve his property, you might want to call him. Otherwise, I’ll have to take them in and it’s going to cost him. I’d prefer to just turn them over to their rightful owner tonight.” “I agree,” Paige smiled. “Any chance I can sit in? I have a few questions for that man and the theft is my case.” “Make the call,” Dusty shoved Fletcher into the backseat of a patrol car. “Take him to the office, set him up in the back room. I need to interview him before I decide what to do with him.” “Yes, sir,” the patrolman said before pulling away. “Not just a deputy then,” Paige observed. “No,” Dusty wiped his hands on his jeans. “I guess I didn’t properly introduce myself. Paige Carter, I’m Dusty Hawkins, Juab County Sheriff.” Paige studied the man for several seconds. “I’m curious.”

“Women always are,” Dusty grinned. Paige ignored the response. “Why didn’t Jericho tell me to look you up when I got here? I mean, you’re the sheriff and you organize the rodeo. I’d think you would be the first man he’d suggest I see while I’m here.” Dusty frowned. “Walters isn’t a fan, I guess you could say.” 102


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 Paige shrugged and walked away. “I can see why.” Dusty’s frown deepened. The cop was hot and if it wasn’t for the hard-looking man standing guard over the woman, he might make a move. But, there was a guy standing guard and he had work to do. Anyway, Jericho would not be happy if he had a little fun with one of his cops. No, it was better this way. But he couldn’t help the disappointment that filled him when Paige Carter walked away and disappeared around the corner. “Marty,” Paige said the instant Alder answered the phone. “How soon can you get to Nephi and do you have a way to transport your cows?” “You found them?” he asked, afraid to believe it was possible. “We did,” Paige affirmed. “I’m not sure about the bull but when I left, they had found the three heifers. They’re still looking for the bull. The Sheriff would like to turn them over to you rather than impound them. If he does that, you’re going to have to pay the fee.” “No,” Marty said immediately. “I’ll head out now. It shouldn’t take more than an hour.” “Okay,” Paige said, relieved. “Head to the sheriff’s office once you hit town. I’ll meet you there.”

*****

Paige pulled into the parking lot and glanced around. The building wasn’t exactly inviting and it sat out in the middle of what looked like a large field. They had planted a couple trees next to the front of the building but they were young and didn’t provide much by way of curb appeal. And she thought her office was bad. She smiled and made her way to the front door. Once inside, she showed her badge and ID to the guard and was escorted to an office area in the back. The instant she stepped inside, she spotted the good sheriff. Once again, she wondered why Jericho didn’t like this man. She’d gotten that loud and clear when she called him to give him an update. Oh, well. It was obvious neither man was going to reveal the details and it was probably none of her business anyway. “Deputy,” Dusty watched her approach. “Sheriff,” Paige frowned. “My victim is on his way out. It will take around an hour to get here from Manti. Tate has the cattle secured in a small corral that’s separated from the other livestock. He said the time delay wouldn’t be a problem.” “And he has a trailer?” Dusty pressed. 103


Shadow Rustler “He said yes,” Paige leaned against a desk wondering when they’d get to the interview. “Have you heard anything from the rodeo grounds? I’m just wondering if they found the bull. He’s the most valuable animal of the four.” “Tate called a few minutes ago. They found him. They didn’t enter him in the auction, probably thought he was too hot this time around. They were housing him with the other stock but didn’t have any plans to sell him... at least not here.” “They?” Paige asked. “Yeah,” Dusty moved toward a door. “He had two men helping him and one woman. My people have taken all of them into custody. They say this guy’s the leader... makes sense, I guess. His name’s the one on the business license.” Paige followed the cowboy into a small room and closed the door behind her. There was a small table, one chair next to the wall that was currently occupied by Ramon Fletcher, and two chairs positioned on the opposite side of the table nearest the door. “So,” Dusty pulled out a chair and settled in. “Ramon Fletcher.” Fletcher grunted but didn’t look up. “My name is Deputy Carter,” Paige began. “Have you been given your rights?” Dusty scowled. “My people did that already.” He shifted his chair, a sign he was taking control of the interview. “You said you understand those rights, Ramon. Is that correct? You understand you can remain silent, have a lawyer and all the rest?” Paige frowned. That was not the proper way to give Miranda. “I’ve been read my stupid rights twice now,” Ramon barked. “You gonna read them again like I’m some idiot that doesn’t understand English. I don’t want no stinking lawyer. I didn’t do nothing and you can’t prove I did.” “That’s good enough for me,” Dusty decided. “Tell me where you got those cows.” “I already told that other guy,” Ramon objected. “The one at the rodeo. Ask him. He has the paperwork.” “You mean this paperwork?” Dusty pulled a sheet of paper from a file and slid it across the desk. “Yeah,” Ramon said confidently. “So you see, I’m the rightful owner. Now let me go.” “Oh, Ramon,” Dusty said sympathetically. “If it were only that easy. I’m sure that’s what 104


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 you would like; but I’m afraid that piece of paper right there, while incriminating... doesn’t prove anything.” “I told you,” Ramon said a little louder. “I own those cows. Now, let me go man or I’ll sue you for false arrest.”

“Sorry, man,” Dusty mocked. “No can do. First, because you are not under arrest... yet. And also because I haven’t gotten the answers I need from you.” Ramon’s eyes narrowed in anger. Paige sat silently. She’d realized, almost immediately, she’d stepped on the Sheriff’s toes. And if she did it again, he might just kick her out of the interview. She wanted to be here, so she’d bite her tongue and let him do things his way... no matter how much she disagreed with his tactics. “Deputy Carter here,” Dusty pointed to Paige. “She has a man that claims those cows are his. He even provided her with the documents to prove the brand on those cows you are trying to sell... well, that’s his registered brand. I’m wondering if you can explain that to me.” Ramon studied the table for several seconds. “Sure,” he finally said. “That’s who I bought the cows from.” “Oh,” Dusty brightened. “That’s great. All I need is a copy of the bill of sale and we can be finished here.” “I didn’t bring it with me,” Ramon objected. “Who carries the entire office on the road when they are selling cattle?” “Oh,” Dusty sat back. “A bill of sale, pretty much anyone that wants to auction off a cow these days. But I’ll bite, where is the paperwork located?” Ramon didn’t answer. The room remained completely silent for over a minute. Finally, Paige couldn’t take it any longer. She reached into her own file and pulled out the photos of all four cows, slapping them down on the table in front of Ramon. “You took these,” Paige pointed to each one. “All four of them from the mountains in my home town. I’m a deputy, but I work in Manti. You remember Manti, right? It’s where you found these calves. It’s where you drove into the secluded area of a meadow, near a small stream and grabbed each of these animals. It’s where you and a friend loaded them into the back of a truck and transported them up here to wait for the rodeo where you could offload them for a few bucks. You took this one,” Paige shoved one of the photos forward. “And this one,” she pushed another one toward him. “I’m guessing you only took two because that’s all you could fit in the back of your truck. Then a couple weeks later, you returned and loaded up these other two,” Paige shoved the last two photos toward him.

105


Shadow Rustler “You can’t prove that,” Ramon said. “I mean, you can’t because it’s not true. I bought those cows. I own them and I have a right to sell them.” “But that’s the problem Ramon,” Paige sat back and lied. “You see when the two of you removed that tracker, the one that was placed on the bull, well... you left a clear set of prints. Once Sheriff Hawkins here books you, all I have to do is request a copy of the prints and... Bam,” she slammed the palm of her hand on the table. “I’ll have everything I need to lock you away for good.” “I want a deal,” Ramon demanded. “I want to talk to the prosecutor. He’ll cut me a break for information. I’m done here, get me the prosecutor.” “Are you saying you did steal those cows but you have a bigger fish?” Dusty asked. “One that you think the prosecutor might be interested in? I don’t get the DA until I know exactly what you’re saying here.” “Yeah,” Ramon shifted. “Take off these cuffs and get the DA. I want a deal.” “Yeah, what?” Paige asked. “Lady, are you stupid or something?” Ramon said sarcastically. “Yeah, I stole all three of those cows and the bull, brought them here to Nephi, and tried to sell them at the auction.” “Where did you take them from?” Paige pressed. “Like you said,” Ramon said impatiently. “I drove up Manti Canyon, found the herd in a meadow near the bottom. Then I watched. The first two were easy. We just pulled off the side of the road and threw them in. The bull was harder. He took off, ran into the thick trees, toward that small stream. I cornered him and Pete helped rope him up. We noticed the tracker on his neck and I had to get rid of it so I got the thing off... took nearly twenty minutes. Then I got rid of it.” “How?” Paige asked. “I was going to throw it in the stream but I realized the water was still running, from the snow melting after winter. So, I grabbed a large branch that had fallen from a tree and wedged it into the bank. Once I was sure it wouldn’t go anywhere, I shoved the tracker under the water and took off.” Paige glanced at Dusty and realized he was watching her... waiting for her to finish. She needed to do one last thing. “Okay, so I just want to be clear on what you requested. You are not asking for your attorney, you just want to talk to the local District Attorney so you can offer up something you know in hopes he will offer you a plea?” 106


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 “That’s right,” Ramon turned to Dusty. “Is this lady stupid? I mean, can’t she understand English?” “I really don’t think she’s the stupid one,” he stood and headed for the door. “We’ll be back when I have an answer from the prosecutor. You just hang tight for now.” Paige followed him out. “Now, I just need to know if you are filing charges or if I am.” “Well done in there, deputy,” Dusty said, ignoring her. “I’ll call Steve and he can work things out with Tolman.” He made a left to head to his office but pivoted when he spotted his detective. “Miles,” he reached out a hand to shake the detectives in greeting. “I got this, I thought you were taking the night off.” “I was,” he glanced at Paige then back to his boss. “But Doug said you brought someone in, so I thought I better head over.

“I would have called, but I knew you were busy,” Dusty said to explain to his man why the Sheriff was interrogating a suspect, not his detective. “You get the next one. Now go home, pamper Sheila a little and I don’t want to see you until Monday morning.” Paige watched as Miles visibly relaxed, then smiled. “Thanks, boss. You have no idea how much this means to me.” “You can pay me back later,” Dusty joked. “With hard work and many, many arrests. Tell Sheila I said hello.” The detective made his way down a long hallway and disappeared out a back door. Dusty placed a hand on Paige’s back and escorted her to the front of the building. “Now, in answer to your question, I don’t know. He attempted to sell stolen property in my city and stole the property in yours. The lawyers can hash it out. Any chance you might stick around, grab a bite and see where it leads?” Paige glanced up and spotted Dax’s truck headed their way. “Not a snowflakes chance in hell, I’m afraid.” She started to turn but was surprised when Dusty grabbed her arm, turned her around and planted a kiss right on her mouth.

Dax jumped from his truck and was across the sidewalk before either cop realized he was there. He wrapped an arm around Paige’s waist when she pushed away from the local sheriff, stumbled backward, and nearly fell to the ground. Paige was pissed. How dare the man make that kind of move... especially in front of Dax? He knew she was here with someone, knew she was involved...but that was the point, she immediately realized. The guy was cocky and arrogant and needed to be put in his place. Paige was 107


Shadow Rustler pissed. How dare the man make that kind of move... especially in front of Dax? He knew she was here with someone, knew she was involved...but that was the point, she immediately realized. The guy was cocky and arrogant and needed to be put in his place. She extricated herself from Dax’s hold and took a step forward intending to do just that. But, she wasn’t quick enough. Dax had balled his right hand into a fist and landed a punch to the Sheriff’s face. He followed it up with a left hook to the gut. Paige jumped between the two men and forcefully shoved Dax toward the car. She knew she couldn’t control him unless he let her, lucky for her... he was letting her. “Get in the car and let me handle this.” Dax scowled but turned and climbed behind the wheel. He didn’t take his eyes off the two lawmen, instead he waited to see what Paige’s next move would be. “I could arrest him for assault on a police officer,” Dusty said, holding a handkerchief to his bloodied nose.

“I suppose you could,” Paige agreed. “But then I could press charges for sexual assault and that is something a sheriff doesn’t need on his record... especially in a couple years when election time comes around.” “If you ever decide to dump the temperamental monkey over there, give me a call.” Dusty turned and made his way back into the building. Paige sighed, turned and slowly made her way to the truck. The minute they were back on the road, Paige called Marty and told him she needed him to meet her at the rodeo grounds instead of the police station. He agreed and said he was about five minutes out. Dax changed course without saying a word. He waited in the truck while Paige dealt with her victim. Waited while two experienced cow hands stepped in to help Marty Alder trailer his missing cows. Waited while Paige pulled out several business cards and handed them to Tate, one of the cow hands, and Marty. It took less than thirty minutes to get the cows into the trailer, the paperwork completed and the man back on the highway. Paige said goodbye to the men, thanked them for their help then climbed into the passenger seat and closed the door. Dax moved to start the truck but she reached out and covered his hand. “I understand why you did what you did back there, but why are you angry with me?”

Dax didn’t know how to answer that question. He considered shrugging it off but decided to be honest instead. “I guess because I think you wanted it. Deep down inside you’ve been curious about the guy, intrigued by that man since the moment you laid eyes on him. If that’s what you want, I’m not going to stand in your way. I mean he’s a cop, you’re a cop. I suppose you’d have a lot in common. He’s a prick and a player but I don’t own you so if that’s what you’re looking for... I can get Ken to drive me home and you can bring the truck back when you’re ready.” 108


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 5 “You would do that?” Paige said in disbelief. “You would head home and let me hop into bed with a stranger... then drive on home in your truck?” “I already told you...” “Not what I’m asking,” Paige turned to face him. “I mean that little to you? So little you would just back off... give up and go home, just like that?” “No,”

Dax sighed. “You mean that much to me.”

Paige stared at him in shock, not really understanding what this all meant. “I’m not going to fight for you,” Dax shrugged. “Not if he’s the one you want.” Paige smiled. “I beg to differ,” she moved across the seat, reached across Dax and slid the lever back as far as it would go. Then she climbed into his lap and took his face between the palms of her hands. “I was there and I’m pretty sure you broke his nose.” Dax didn’t respond. “I don’t want him, you idiot,” she added when he still didn’t respond. “I want you.” “I was there, too,” Dax told her. “I saw the way you looked at him.” “I’m not saying you’re wrong,” Paige began, tightening her grip when Dax moved to look away. “Not completely. Dusty Hawkins is hot, until he opens his mouth... that is. If you truly believe I would throw you over for him... well, I guess I have a lot of work to do. We could get started tonight... if you’re willing to book a hotel rather than head back to the Woolsten’s. Call Ken and tell him we made other plans.” She leaned in and pressed her lips to his. Dax hesitated and told himself to resist the pull of her. Memories tried to push in, a little voice in the back of his mind told him not to trust so easily, reminded him how many times Piper had cheated when he wasn’t around to stop her, warned him how much he cared about Paige and how much her betrayal would destroy him. Then he pushed it all aside and deepened the kiss. Paige relaxed and moved off his lap. “Am I booking a hotel?” Dax just nodded.

“Good,” Paige smiled. “Then tomorrow, maybe we can stop on the way home and find you a cowboy hat. If you had a hat... a sexy white cowboy hat with a turquoise band like the real cowboys rather than the baseball cap you always wear... well, I might not be tempted to look at another man for the rest of my life.” Dax tried not to smile as he pulled onto the roadway, but failed. 109


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Connections eMagazine February 2020  

Vol 6 Issue 1 - Our first quarter issue ... Connections eMagazine is a FREE publication for those who love to read and the authors who make...

Connections eMagazine February 2020  

Vol 6 Issue 1 - Our first quarter issue ... Connections eMagazine is a FREE publication for those who love to read and the authors who make...

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