Connections eMagazine November 2018 edition

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Connections eMagazine

November 2018

Message from the Editor The Purpose of this eMagazine is to connect readers and bloggers with authors. This is a FREE seasonal magazine that is produced quarterly. I hope you’ll take the time to look around. There are some amazing authors, New Releases, and tons of free stuff included in this edition. “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” (George R.R. Martin). 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.



Mom’s Favorite Reads Mom’s Favorite Reads is an international community of readers, writers, teachers, librarians and book lovers established to encourage reading amongst adults and children.


Contributing Authors •

Melanie P. Smith

Jennifer Reynolds

Sarah Stuart

Sofia jarlo

Millie Slavidou

Rhonda Hopkins

Free Books

Rachael Wright

Hot Deals—99 Cents

Rebecca Bryn

Author Tips & Tricks

Penny Luker

Paige Carter

Val Tobin

Lacey Lane

Kim McDougall

Michelle Bryan

Cherime MacFarlane

RL Andrew

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Promoting Literacy

Activities for Children

Encouraging Children to Read

Exploring New Worlds

Parenting Tips

Wellness & Well-Being


Discovering New Authors

Short Stories

And so Much More...


Inside our eMagazines you will


Monthly eMagazine

• Parenting Tips • Short Stories • Recipes • Activities for Children

• Exploring New Worlds • Wellness and Well-being • New Authors • A link to our video

Welcome to the Mom’s Favorite Reads October 2018 eMagazine, our Halloween edition!

As you would expect, inside the magazine you will discover a number of articles related to Halloween and its traditions. These articles cover the full range of Halloween, from its history to its place in various cultures throughout the world.

Our magazine also includes a number of non-Halloween articles along with regular features – Bestsellers and Hot New Releases, and our author spotlight. Established by bestselling authors Ronesa Aveela, Hannah Howe and Denise McCabe, Mom’s Favorite Reads is about more than a magazine. Through our network of writers, readers, teachers, librarians and book lovers, we are a community that fosters reading amongst adults and children. More details, including a link to our video, inside the magazine.




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Be sure to visit Mom’s Favorite blog. There’s something for everyone. Get new recipes, read short stories, find a wide range of articles based on seasonal and common interest pieces, discover parenting tips and so much more...

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Mom’s Authors Find a list of authors affiliated to the Mom’s Favorite Reads Community. You never know, you just might find your next favorite read.

Find Your Community Support for New Writers

It takes a village to raise a child. As a writer your story is your baby, you take great pride in watching it grow from a few small ideas into paragraphs, pages and chapters. If you have already taken the step to write down the story ideas that buzz around your head and drift through your dreams, then you are a writer. That’s the fun part and a task you alone can do. Making the transition from being a writer to being a published author is a much bigger step and for this you need a community to help raise your book baby. The many hats of the published author To be a writer you need a good grasp of spelling, grammar and punctuation, a vivid imagination and a drive to write your story. To be a published author you need to wear many additional hats: Reader Beta reader Cover Designer

Writer Editor Graphic artist

Typist Proof-reader Publisher

Researcher Book formatter Marketer

These are but a few roles that a published author must take on. It’s a huge learning process but technology today makes it possible for writers to publish their own books, rather than going through years of trying to secure an agent or publisher. You can go it alone but it’s a difficult and lengthy task. It’s much more fun to have the support of a writing community around you. Inner circle A family member or trusted friend is the first part of your community. It takes courage to share your first pieces of writing with someone, you need to build the confidence to share it with the world. Family and friends can be relied on to support and praise you but aren’t necessarily going to give constructive feedback, and you need this to improve your craft. Joining a local writer group, or forming one, can give you support, inspiration and constructive advice. A quick Google search or asking at the library should give you a list of local groups.

Checking your story None of us can accurately check our own work. We become too close to the writing and too involved with the characters that we often miss errors and don’t make things clear enough for the reader. Don’t worry about this, it’s a normal part of being a writer. You need to find yourself a trusted group of beta readers – they comment on the experience as a reader, how easy it was to follow, are the characters believable, are there any holes in the plot and so on. Social media is a great source of beta readers. Personally, I find Facebook the most useful platform to use but whichever social media site you are comfortable with should work in the same way.

Join a writing group online. I admin a group called the Indie Author Support and Discussion Group (IASD), along with a fabulous bunch of authors, but there are many general writing groups and genre specific groups available.

Join a few and see where you feel most at ease to share your work. You may have to volunteer to beta read for other authors in order to gain your own beta readers. The more you put in, the more you receive. Proof reading and editing your story is one of the most crucial stages. Your book has to be polished if you want to send it out into the world. Even if you are a brilliant editor, it’s important to have someone else proof read your story as well. Editors are expensive! They tend to charge based on word count and often have varying rates depending on the amount of work that needs to be done. If you are paying for an editor, do plenty of research first. Alternately, you can barter your skills in exchange for proof reading and editing. This is something that you will develop over time, and you need to be an active part of your writer community to build up relationships where you can barter skills. As an example, I have just illustrated a children’s book by Millie Slavidou in exchange of editing of three of my stories. You get back what you put in! Formatting and design The tutorials on how to format your book and create a cover for eBook and paperback publications are available online. For the tech savvy they are relatively easy to follow and you can use templates to format your own book to the requirements of Amazon and KDP. For the rest of us it seems like it’s written in another language! Good formatting and an eye-catching cover are essential to sell your book. Like editors, there are a range of services available for a variety of prices. You get what you pay for obviously but there are small companies setting up to support the indie author with this. Writers like myself band together with other writers to provide these services to other indie authors at affordable prices. We know what it’s like trying to get your first book published so we provide a service that guides you through the process. Being part of a social media group is a great source of these cover design and formatting companies. It is also possible to barter some skills or try it yourself with the advice of more experienced group members. Publishing Amazon’s KDP is relatively simple to follow with lots of help files and forums to navigate you through the jargon. That said, it’s a confidence booster to have someone with you so grab a member of your inner circle to share the experience with. And finally, Marketing… This is the part that most writers dread. If like me you are secretly proud of your writing, but shy about selling yourself to others, marketing is a chore! Social media again is a great way to market yourself but it’s more about developing relationships with your readers than just adding an advert to the constant stream of posts scrolling by. Create your author persona and play the role. It certainly helps to sell your books. Writing groups are a great start to get the first buzz going around your new book release. If you’ve previously supported other authors in the group, they will be happy to promote your posts too. Other indie authors are usually your first source of reviews on Amazon, and

reviews make your book more visible in the real world. But writers marketing to other writers is a closed audience. In addition to this, you need to get involved in groups where your target readers lurk. For example, in addition to running the IASD, I also admin several bushcraft groups – as a children’s author, engaging with parents in any group is useful promotion. Nothing beats meeting your readers face to face. In Writers Ink, we actively participate in literacy festivals, school fairs and assemblies and do lectures. Personally I love doing readings with groups of children and their parents are going to buy the book if they see their child is engaged. Take time out to write articles for blogs and magazines like this one. Promoting yourself as an author is just as productive as plugging your books. Readers nowadays want to get to know the writer behind the story and articles give you an opportunity to engage with readers in a more personal way. Try to think of innovative ways to market your books, something that will make you stand out from the crowd and draw in readers. Help It is possible to do everything yourself but if this list of tasks has made you realise that you require help, drop me an email at or find us on Facebook. One Stop Author Services can help with most aspects of the publishing process, and at reasonable rates. I will happily review your manuscript and give you a no commitment quote for the services you require help with. I can also put you in touch with other trusted professionals if it’s something I am unable to support you with. My One Stop colleagues, Ian D Moore and Sharon Brownlie are both experienced authors and skilled in all aspects of indie publishing. If you are not at that stage yet and want to join a writer group, come find the Indie Author Support and Discussion group on Facebook. We’re a friendly bunch and there is always someone who can answer your queries. Get involved, have fun and soak up the knowledge and expertise of those further along the author journey. Three years ago, I was a secret writer, only writing stories for my children, now I’m helping to run a writer group and I’m an award-winning published author. I got here by having a great writer community around me and I couldn’t have done it without my Writers Ink and IASD buddies. I look forward to seeing your published book.

Sylva Fae You can find more from Sylva on her website


Bea loves tending the flowers in her little back yard but what she’d really like is a pet to care for. The yard is too small for a pet, or is it? When Bea finds Little Bee, she finds the perfect pet for her tiny garden. Can Bea convince Mummy to let her keep a pet bee?

Melanie is a Multi-Genre author of Paranormal, Criminal Suspense, Police Procedural and Romance novels, photographer and biker If you are looking for a story that you can't put down, one that will keep you guessing as you embark on a rollercoaster journey of discovery, then Melanie P. Smith is the author for you. She works hard to make her stories exciting, action packed and gripping. All of her characters are classy, memorable and strong-willed. Take a look, you might find something you like.

AUTHOR LINKS Email me anytime at‌

New Release

Paige Carter

Season 1 | Episode 1 Lakeside

Season 1 How it all began... Meet Paige Carter, Manti's Newest Deputy. This is a police procedural series. Each new episode introduces a new crime that needs to be solved. In Season 1, Paige Carter resigned from the FBI and moved to Manti, Utah. She secures a job with the local Sheriff's Office and immediately learns someone is not happy she moved back to town.

Subscribe to My Blog And get the entire 1st Season FREE

Crime Blog

Season 2 Season 2 continues to bring a unique blend of criminal investigation, police procedure and human interaction. Paige Carter is still working to rebuild her personal and professional life' one step at a time. Follow her progress as she fights crime, searches for a killer, and tries to deal with the undeniable chemistry she shares with her mysterious neighbor.

Season 2 | Episode 1 Bad Blood


Season 3 Season 3 brings new threats to the Sanpete Sheriff's Office, General Nathan Porter and his entire team.

Season 3 | Episode 1 Insidious Conspiracy

1918-2018 Memorial Centenary - Lest we forget. A conversation with R. Grey Hoover

On this Remembrance Memorial Centenary, I have the pleasure of talking to R Grey Hoover, author of Kicker the Forgotten Front. Through a similar process, we have both commemorated the men and women of two wars in our writing for very personal reasons. Grey wrote about the US Forces' WW2 experiences while my interest lay mainly with the British Forces of WW1.

Grey, I can remember when I was a child, born a couple of years after the end of World War II, being bored to tears by my friend's father's war stories. It seemed every man in the street had his own version, his own personal story. Blah, blah, blah - They fell on deaf ears, 'killed in the war' was just another way to die, and I was grateful my own father hadn't fought being not fit due to a tangle between a wooden trolley and a two-ton truck when he was eight. The war seemed to me then so long ago and of so little importance to my life, and I failed totally to grasp how close and everpresent it was to those men and how brutal and overpowering an experience it was for most of them. For me, the war meant sugar was rationed, and there was barbed-wire and concrete on the East-Coast beaches.

I did listen to my grandfather's stories of his time in Egypt in World War One mainly because he talked about his horse and the desert, and I loved horses, but he told me nothing of the horror.

It was only recently, with the onset of old age I suppose, that I felt the need to research Grandad's war and wrote The Dandelion Clock, as Grey Hoover, author of Kicker, has researched his father's.

Grey, was it childhood memories that prompted you to write your book? I was born 4 days after Pearl Harbor, Rebecca, and my father enlisted in the Army when I was a year and a half old, so I have memories of the war years. When dad returned from the war he didn’t talk much about his experiences, but when he did, my brothers and I were very interested. Dad died suddenly at age 56 and I didn’t think about documenting his wartime service until after I retired. My original intention was to produce a historical document just for my family, but as I researched dad’s service records and interviewed and befriended other veterans from the China-Burma-India (CBI) theatre, I felt that I had to write something to honor all of them and thus began my journey to become an author.

Grey, I know of men who died young because of being gassed, and one of my great uncles was gassed in France.

Do you think your father's war experiences had anything to do with his early death?

It is hard to say for certain, Rebecca. The veterans of the CBI were at the end of the supply chain and had to subsist on meager Army rations and whatever they could get from the local natives. Dad seemed healthy after the war but over the years he gained a little weight and died suddenly of a heart attack on his way home from work. He had no indication of health problems before his death.

That’s so sad, Grey. 56 is no age at all. I can imagine that a long period of malnutrition would weaken the body’s defences and possibly affect vital organs. The father of a friend of mine was a POW, I think in a Japanese camp, but I can’t be certain of that now. He was a big man, and they say he weighed 6 stones when he came home from the war. Starvation severely affected his health, and he wore a colostomy bag for the rest of his life, though he made a reasonable age. He never spoke of his experiences.

I am strongly of the opinion that ‘the sin of war’ spreads out to engulf us all. It’s something I explore in The Dandelion Clock – the effect it has on families of victims and survivors, on relationships. One reader told me her grandfather was changed by the war to the extent that he became violent towards his children, for which they never forgave him. She said that reading The Dandelion Clock helped her see what physical and mental deprivations he might have suffered, and she understood his ‘rage’ better. - a family torn apart by the Great War

My other ‘war’ novel, Touching the Wire, is about Auschwitz, and again, I’ve had readers, survivors and their families, tell me that reading it has helped them. I feel a responsibility towards my readers and those I write

Do you feel the same responsibility? Do you think there’s a message in Kicker? I agree that war engulfs us all and we should learn the lessons that war teaches so that we never repeat the mistakes that cause such misery and loss. I feel that no aspect of a war should be ignored or forgotten, and that is why I wrote Kicker and why I included the history of my family on the home front in the book. I think one message in my book is that wars can’t be won and liberties protected without the sacrifices and labours of the folks at home. The other message is that every soldier, no matter where he served, contributed to the successful outcome of WWII. As I was writing Kicker, I wanted to be sure that it was as historically accurate as it could be. I spent 7 years researching for the book and my efforts were hampered by the two things. One was that many military records were destroyed in a fire at the St. Louis Military Records Center and the other was the declining population of WWII veterans. Did you encounter any problems in researching for The Dandelion Clock and Touching the Wire?

Seven years? Wow. That’s commitment, Grey. I too strive for historical accuracy in my fiction, but seven years? I haven’t read Kicker yet but intend to remedy that. I know nothing of that theatre of war.

I was incredibly lucky when researching for The Dandelion Clock, because I knew very little about WW1 either before I began my research. Although a lot of records were destroyed for security reasons at the end of the war, I managed to find my grandfather’s military service records, demob account, medal record, and photographs of him with the Royal Buckingham Hussars and in uniform on his horse. I also managed to source excellent histories of the two brigades he served with: Fighting for the Bucks is a history of the Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars and The Diary of a Yeomanry Medical Officer was an invaluable firstperson account of the war as encountered by the Queen’s Own Worcestershire Yeomanry, which Grandad served with from 1916-1919. I doubt my novel could have been written without these.

Touching the Wire was a whole different ball game. There’s a wealth of information out there, and I also read several first-hand accounts – If This is a Man by Primo Levy; Five Chimneys by Olga Lengyel among others. My problem was the horror and heartbreak I encountered at every turn. Did this really happen? How could a man do this to another, or to a woman, or worse still, to a child? How did this mass ‘hysteria’, for want of a better word, against the Jews and Roma come about and how was it sustained and taken to such terrible extremes? I would discover some new evil, a fresh horror, and have to step away, take the dog for a long walk, take deep breaths to stop feeling nauseous, and reconnect with the present day. It literally had me in tears. But the women of Auschwitz couldn’t walk away. They lived every hour of every day not knowing if they’d be alive that evening and knowing their families had been gassed – everyone they loved: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, and children. Clever, intelligent, gifted people – gone at the whim of a madman. How do you live like that? What incredible courage must it take? The more I researched, the more I knew their story had to be retold to a new generation. “Lest we forget” took on a whole new meaning. – the women of Auschwitz and a man who tried to save them. I think what struck me most was the matter-of-fact way in which the first-hand accounts were written; there was no anger, no bitterness, no recrimination, just the burning desire for the world to know what had happened and to be believed. Primo Levy, for one, survived the camp only to commit suicide after the war because he couldn’t live with his past and that people didn’t believe it. I believe it. I see this kind of fear rising again and begin to see how easily public opinion can be swayed against a people, but it mustn’t happen again. I’ve written two historical novels inspired by family history, For Their Country’s Good series is based on my grandmother’s family and their enforced emigration to Van Diemen’s Land in 1841 in the convict ship Tortoise, and I’m presently researching a third, Kindred and Affinity, so called because of the UK 1907 Marriage Act that legalised a man marrying his dead wife’s sister, previously banned because of the forbidden relationships listed in the Book of Common Prayer. (I have a lot of black sheep in my family who are a wealth of inspiration.)

What inspired the title of Kicker? Do you have plans to write another book, and if so, would it be fact or fiction and what would be your inspiration?

It sounds like you had quite a bit of reference material available to you, but then the British were always good at keeping records. The CBI theatre wasn’t quite so organized which is probably why the soldiers there said CBI meant Confusion Beyond Imagination. The title of Kicker came from my father’s job during the war. Here is an excerpt from the preface of the book that explains it: 'My father was part of the effort to supply allied troops on the ground in China, Burma and India. His official military title was “Flight Traffic Clerk”, but he and others like him were better known as “Kickers”. They were aircrew members whose job was to properly load bundles of supplies onto aircraft and then unload those supplies by dropping them from the planes to soldiers on the ground. Sometimes the supplies were specially bundled with parachutes, and at other times, they were not. The job was neither easy nor safe and usually required unloading 6 to 7 thousand pounds of supplies while their plane flew over frontline positions at very low altitudes and speeds. It would typically take 7 to 15 passes over their target to completely unload the supplies. During these passes, they were often subjected to deadly fire from enemy aircraft and ground forces. The term “kicker” came from one of the methods the crew often used to unload the supplies. As they approached their target area, supply bundles would be stacked in the open doorway of the plane’s cargo bay. One of the crewmen would then lie on his back behind the stacked bundles, with his knees flexed and his feet firmly planted in the center of the bundles. At a signal from the pilot, the “kicker” would literally kick the supplies out of the door to the waiting troops on the ground below. The process would be repeated until all supplies had been dropped.'

I do not have plans to write another book, but have you ever considered writing about the WWII battles at Imphal and Kohima India where the British stopped the Japanese invasion of India? They were bloody and gruelling battles that are a testament to the courage and fighting ability of the British troops in the CBI theatre. My father’s unit dropped supplies to British troops during those battles and I have a chapter in my book dedicated to those battles.

I love “Confused Beyond Imagination” – that sums me up most of the time! I think it sums up much of what I know of WW1 as well. It certainly seems as if the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing most of the time. I’d wondered about the title, Kicker. The book sounds fascinating. I’ve just downloaded it, by the way, and I’m really looking forward to reading it. There are striking similarities between the inspiration behind Kicker and The Dandelion Clock, and it will be interesting to see another author’s treatment of a similar basic scenario; the hard choices to be made between duty to country and duty to family and the effects these choices have. It must have been incredibly difficult for these young men and the families they left behind. I hadn’t thought of writing another war story and wouldn’t have written The Dandelion Clock but for my family -history research, but I love writing historical fiction and the way historical fact moulds and constrains the plot. Oddly, my favourite genre to read is science fiction/fantasy, but I’ve read some great Indie authors of all

What do you most enjoy reading, Grey? Do you have any book recommendations? Any favourite authors? I enjoy reading science fiction and alternate history books. My favourite science fiction authors are Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. My favourite alternate history author is Harry Turtledove. Turtledove wrote a series of alternate history books around the American civil war and they are really fascinating. He also wrote alternate history about WWI and WWII that will make you think of what might have been. I have also downloaded your book The Dandelion Clock and am anxious to read it. My grandfather served in the trenches in France during WWI and his service there probably saved his life since his father and two brothers died within a week of each other during the U.S. flu epidemic of 1918. Who would think that being at war had a plus side.

It must be one of very few plus sides, Grey. A lot of the dead of World War One were victims of disease and the terrible conditions in which they lived. On a lighter note, I’ve enjoyed Asimov and Clarke. I haven’t read any Turtledove – what a lovely name – I shall have to see what I can find of his; they sound fascinating. I still remember reading a novel called Pavanne, can’t remember the author now, that was an alternative history of England had the Spanish Armada overpowered the British. It was thought provoking. I’ve begun Kicker, I've learnt something already about the US involvement, and I’m finding it fascinating. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. I hope you enjoy The Dandelion Clock. R Grey Hoover is an Air Force veteran with a family tradition of military service that dates back to the American revolution. He wrote his book, Kicker the Forgotten Front, to honour his father and the other veterans of World War II who fought in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theatre. During the war, the European and Pacific theatres got most of the supplies and media attention leaving the CBI theatre with the leftovers. Even in today's media coverage of World War II, the CBI theatre is never mentioned. The author's book is an attempt to correct this gross oversight.

KICKER World War II is raging. A young father must choose between his family and duty to his country - a decision that could cost him everything.

If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on Rebecca Bryn’s website...

Jennifer Lynn Powell Reynolds is a native of North Alabama. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree from National University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Alabama. She is a multi-genre author who focuses mostly on post-apocalyptic novels and paranormal romances. She’s released several novels ... ◊

Alone, a post-apocalyptic novel

Shifter, a paranormal romance

Outcast, a paranormal romance

HIM, a suspense thriller

Resistant, a zombie-apocalypse romance

Captive, A paranormal romance

Shore Haven, Post-Apocalypse (Coming Soon)

Two novellas ◊

Saying Goodbye (A paranormal love story)

Marked (a paranormal romance)

And two short stories ... ◊

Charles Wallace’s Favorite Toy, ( General fiction)

In the Dark, a horror piece

Hey, all. Talia Davenport here. I’m a recent divorce who’s fallen on hard times. Not only did I lose my husband to another woman, but also the bookstore I’d worked at since high school closed, leaving me unemployed as well as homeless. The husband I didn’t mind so much losing, but the job I loved. Luckily, for me, my best friend and well-known romance author, Dakota Landry—you know her as Destiny LeShae—needed an assistant. I jumped on the job, not knowing that it was going to lead me into the world of the supernatural where I would meet two amazing men, Casen and Bane, and a beast bent on using me to start a war.

She’s a divorcee, looking to escape her life. Casen and Bane are the men who want to love her. Max sees her death as a way to start a war. The Fates have plans of their own.

CAPTIVE Book 3 The loss of a job, her husband, her home, and her quiet life has Talia dreaming of a life she’s only read about in paranormal romance novels. An inherent need to find his mate and settle down has werecoyote Bane hoping that the human who’s just entered his life is the one for him. Peace is all, Casen, the king of the werewolves wants, but with half his pack yearning to be the warring pack they once were, he’s sure it won’t come in his lifetime. Max is determined that the war between his people and the coyotes continues even if it means kidnapping and torturing a group of coyotes and the human with them to make it happen. The Fates, on the other hand, have their own agenda for these four, and their desires are all that matter.

Coming Soon... Release Date Winter 2018 | 2019

Life in a world rebuilding after a post-apocalyptic event consisting of a series of earthquakes and tsunamis that devastated the planet, broke apart continents, and left most of Earth covered in water, wasn’t easy and left little in which to rejoice. All Samantha wanted to do was celebrate her sister’s college graduation. A trip to Liberty Island sounded like the perfect way to do so, but she was wrong. Jason believed in his uncle’s vision for Shore Haven, a self-containing compound in the center of Liberty Island. He didn’t believe another devastating event could occur so soon after the last, even as it was happening, but he knew the compound’s purpose and it’s potential to ease the minds of those living in their new world. Thanks to Shore Haven, Samantha, Jason, and a handful of others survive of the second, more deadly apocalyptic event, but escaping the dead isn’t the only threat they’ll have to face when radio transmissions reveal that the rest of the world is determined to keep the plague sweeping what was left of the North American continent from reaching their shores.



Marked Book 1

Valeterra is a plague-ridden world full of magical creatures. Jackson is an alpha shapeshifter not looking a mate but is willing to do anything to save his world. Valerie is a human who just might be Valeterra’s first step toward recovery.





Exits and Entrances… Book One of the Written in Water trilogy HOW IT ALL BEGAN…

One day they suddenly manifested in front of me three schoolgirls, clamouring to have their stories told… one shy, one feisty, and one decidedly cynical. Was it a waking dream, or one of those strange events that occur when the muse is tapping at my door, demanding entry? I could see them so clearly in my mind’s eye, and felt I somehow already knew them – Cordelia, Rosalind, and Beatrice… aged fourteen, dressed in their Blackheath High School uniform, so brashly innocent of all that was yet to come that it touched my heart... Their school motto ‘Knowledge is now no more a fountain sealed’ was bound to prove prophetic, had the Public Day School Trust but known it, having been taken originally from the highly erotic Song of Songs and referring to carnal knowledge.

I won’t describe the girls because if you’ve begun to read Exits and Entrances you’ll already have formed your own idea of what they look like. They kept visiting me, sometimes speaking to me at inconvenient moments (often in the shower) insisting that I recorded accurately whatever it was they were telling me. They each had a different voice, and a different story. They wanted me to be their scribe, but I still hadn’t decided whether I would take them on. And then a peculiar twist occurred. I saw them all not at fourteen but at seventy – the same girls, but women now, facing all the things that women face in later life. They were talking together, quite ignoring me. They had already solidified from their original ghostly forms and taken on flesh and bones. They had grown. They had aged. They had evolved enough to discount me. They had a lifetime of history. I finally submitted. They knew their life stories, but I didn’t yet. There was only one thing to do – write it. As always happens when I come to the end of writing a novel, I am already grieving for the loss of the characters I have come to understand so deeply. They are real to me. I have felt their pain (which as any writer will confess is also my pain, indelibly entwined in theirs.) I have watched them struggle and learn what it means to pay the price of being human, just as we all do. I have resisted rescuing them from their inevitable disasters and transgressions. My task is merely to record how consequences transpire from the choices they make. They are as much at the mercy of fate and karma as any of us. There is a natural trajectory in their paths and all I need to do is follow it. And that is as much of the process of writing as I’m able to describe. To go further would be like pulling the wings off a butterfly. I know when stories begin and I discover how they end, and the journey that takes me there as a writer goes far deeper than I can explain. This book, and the two that will follow to complete the trilogy, feels important to me. It is written for women of every age, and the men who love and strive to understand them. Each woman’s personality is complex and unique, and yet aspects of her experience will resonate whatever her individual story happens to be. It is also written for men, whose societal roles and identity have changed a great deal over the last six decades, and who struggle in other ways to survive life in this turbulent society. The old adage asserts that if you remember the sixties you weren’t really there, so whether you were around then or not, Exits and Entrances will give you an idea of what it was like – not for everyone, of course, but for these three girls in particular who so insistently stepped forward into the limelight of my imagination to reveal how it was for them. As always with my books, I welcome feedback, whether in the form of a review or a simple message to let me know what it meant for you. And if you have reached the end of it and have enjoyed it so much you are eager to know when the next one will be published – be patient. Cordelia, Rosalind and Beatrice are still telling me their stories, one revealing chapter at a time. You can find Exits and Entrances on Amazon in both kindle and paperback format at

If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on The Pulp Hermit website...

Sarah Stuart is an award-winning author whose books are based on her show business experience, her concern for animals, the challenges of her Christian faith, and her passions for history and travel. Sarah's hope is that readers will enjoy her novels as an escape from reality, but be left understanding that fame and fortune often comes at a high personal cost. Also, an increased perception of the threat to animals: those shot in the name of sport for trophy heads, endangered species, many poached for their fur and ivory, and tragically discarded pets.

Lesley Hayes – Making Her Entrance Again With Her Usual Flair I confess to being addicted to Ms Hayes’ writing, and I’m delighted to say her new release has done the impossible – exceeded all the brilliant novels that came before. The sixties and seventies come to vivid life, and three teenage girls are drawn together by – wait for it – their differences. They grow up in a period of swift change in attitudes to sexuality, politics, and violence – everything from still-legal marital rape to the shooting of JFK.

Cordelia is the dreamer who goes to India to “find herself”, but what does she find? Surely a First from Cambridge University will please Beatrice’s family, but does she get one? Rosalind is one of twins, and her charismatic twin is trouble! I recommend Exits and Entrances to readers who enjoy literary fiction, family sagas, romance – anybody willing to lose themselves in a good story that leaves them satisfied whilst looking forward to the sequel.

Now, a fascinating insight from the author on how this book came to be written and the planned development of the trilogy. One day they suddenly manifested in front of me – three schoolgirls, clamouring to have their stories told… one shy, one feisty, and one decidedly cynical. Was it a waking dream, or one of those strange events that occur when the muse is tapping at my door, demanding entry? I could see them so clearly in my mind’s eye, and felt I somehow already knew them – Cordelia, Rosalind, and Beatrice… aged fourteen, dressed in their Blackheath High School uniform, so brashly innocent of all that was yet to come that it touched my heart… Their school motto ‘Knowledge is now no more a fountain sealed’ was bound to prove prophetic, had the Public Day School Trust but known it, having been taken originally from the highly erotic Song of Songs and referring to carnal knowledge.

I won’t describe the girls because if you’ve begun to read Exits and Entrances you’ll already have formed your own idea of what they look like. They kept visiting me, sometimes speaking to me at inconvenient moments (often in the shower) insisting that I recorded accurately whatever it was they were telling me. They each had a different voice, and a different story. They wanted me to be their scribe, but I still hadn’t decided whether I would take them on. And then a peculiar twist occurred. I saw them all not at fourteen but at seventy – the same girls, but women now, facing all the things that women face in later life. They were talking together, quite ignoring me. They had already solidified from their original ghostly forms and taken on flesh and bones. They had grown. They had aged. They had evolved enough to discount me. They had a lifetime of history. I finally submitted. They knew their life stories, but I didn’t yet. There was only one thing to do – write it. As always happens when I come to the end of writing a novel, I am already grieving for the loss of the characters I have come to understand so deeply. They are real to me. I have felt their pain (which as any writer will confess is also my pain, indelibly entwined in theirs.) I have watched them struggle and learn what it means to pay the price of being human, just as we all do. I have resisted rescuing them from their inevitable disasters and transgressions. My task is merely to record how consequences transpire from the choices they make. They are as much at the mercy of fate and karma as any of us. There is a natural trajectory in their paths and all I need to do is follow it. And that is as much of the process of writing as I’m able to describe. To go further would be like pulling the wings off a butterfly. I know when stories begin and I discover how they end, and the journey that takes me there as a writer goes far deeper than I can explain. This book, and the two that will follow to complete the trilogy, feels important to me. It is written for women of every age, and the men who love and strive to understand them. Each woman’s personality is complex and unique, and yet aspects of her experience will resonate whatever her individual story happens to be. It is also written for men, whose social roles and identity have changed a great deal over the last six decades, and who struggle in other ways to survive life in this turbulent society. The old adage asserts that if you remember the sixties you weren’t really there, so whether you were around then or not, Exits and Entrances will give you an idea of what it was like – not for everyone, of course, but for these three girls in particular who so insistently stepped forward into the limelight of my imagination to reveal how it was for them. As always with my books, I welcome feedback, whether in the form of a review or a simple message to let me know what it meant for you. And if you have reached the end of it and have enjoyed it so much you are eager to know when the next one will be published – be patient. Cordelia, Rosalind, and Beatrice are still telling me their stories, one revealing chapter at a time.

If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on Sarah Stuart’s website...

Sarah Stuart is an awardwinning author whose books are based on her show business experience, her concern for animals, the challenges of her Christian faith, and her passions for history and travel.

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“Excellent romance story with a huge twist I wasn't expecting. “ - Amazon Customer

Book 3

Book 2

Book 4

Royal Command Series

Book 1

The Black Bat Novel That Disappeared At the end of 1951, there was probably a decision at the THRILLING GROUP to drop some of their titles. With the Winter 1952 issues of BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE and G-MEN DETECTIVE, chances are both titles were included in the shake up. The next story in the Dan Fowler series was advertised as Each Night I Die by C.K.M. Scanlon, while the next Black Bat story was advertised as The Eyes of Murder. Following is the announcement in BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE:

"Next issue's Novel: The Eyes of Murder by G. Wayman Jones. Plus - An allstar array of other crime and mystery stories!"

But the Spring 1952 issue did not appear. Instead, the next issue was Stewart Sterling’s Hot, Willing – And Deadly, Winter 1953, one year later. The same thing happened over at G-MEN DETECTIVE, there was no Spring 1952 Dan Fowler story. Instead, Richard Foster’s The White Death appeared one year later, Winter 1953. Something happened the previous year. My guess is, both titles were canceled. Curiously, Stewart Sterling was brought in for the Phantom Detective in 1952, which makes me wonder if The Eyes Of Murder wasn’t his. Strangely, there is a 1941 Dan Fowler titled The Eyes of Death, and I had a suspicion that he might have planned on rewriting that into a Black Bat yarn. It gets stranger. The Spring 1953 issue of 5 Detective Novels contains Sterling’s Model For Murder, a similar title to The Eyes of Murder. But let’s go back to 1952, and look at Sterling’s Phantom Detective entries. We have three stories, Candidate For Death, Fall 1952; The Staring Killer, Winter 1953; and Odds On Death, Spring 1953. However, it’s the Winter 1953 story we are concerned with. Here is the Blurb for The Staring Killer.

“It is Muriel Havens alone who has seen The Staring Killer committing a heinous crime. She knows he has pushed a man off a subway platform to death under the train wheels – and what’s more, The Staring Killer knows that she has witnessed the murder. For an instant, as he races past her, the killer gives her one glaring stare – a look she can never forget. It’s a peculiar, frightening stare that seems to bore straight through her hypnotically. A stare that spells death! The killer’s staring eyes are a challenge that Muriel can’t disregard. At great personal danger, she drifts into the waterfront district, posing as one of the water front babes – determined to find The Staring Killer and help unearth his sinister machinations.”

Sounds like “The Eyes of Murder” to me. At the time he was writing The Phantom Detective, Sterling was also writing Myro Catin stories. When the Black Bat was suddenly resurrected, and they asked him for a quick story, he must have made a few changes to Hot, Willing – And Deadly, and it was accepted in place of The Eyes of Murder. They must have asked for more stories, so he turned the second Myro Catin story, The Lady of Death into a Black Bat. At the same time, Norman Daniels, who had moved to California, sent an outline for The Celebrity Murders, and those were the line up for Winter, Spring, and Summer, 1953. But only the Winter 1953 story was published. The Black Bat was canceled again. Sterling reverted The Lady of Death back to Myro Catin, and published it as The Lady’s Out For Blood, TRIPLE DETECTIVE 1953. That’s what I think happened. There is a footnote to all this, as well. Back at The Phantom Detective, Norman Daniels’ Murder’s Agent was published in the Summer 1953 issue. The announcements listed the next story as The Merry Widow Murders by Robert Wallace, and the plot reads curiously similar to Sterling’s 1943 Spider novel, When Satan Came To Town. The Spider was about to become The Phantom Detective. There was also some similarity to that novel and Odds On Death, PHANTOM DETECTIVE, Spring 1953. Want to bet Sterling wasn’t rewriting some old novels? Nothing wrong with it, authors did it all the time in the pulps. I hope someone proves me wrong, and manuscripts are discovered for The Eyes of Murder and The Merry Widow Murders, but remember in Candidate of Death when the Phantom Detective became The Shadow? Think about it, if I’m right, the Black Bat became the Phantom Detective in The Staring Killer, and The Spider became the Phantom Detective in The Merry Widow Murders. Only in the pulps!

If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on The Pulp Hermit website...

Sofia Jarlo is a teacher turned children’s book author. She writes empowering fantasy books, inspired by magic and myths of Europe. Through her writing Sofia works for children’s inner self-worth and for a good social climate between people all over the world. For news and purchase links, connect with Sofia through her social media pages.


November 20, 2018

Ellie comes down to the Underworld, where the kings’ enemy number one, the Evil One, has escaped from prison and all of the Underworld is in danger. She is asked to figure out a plan. But how will she do that when she is in a whole new world? Follow her struggles in the Underworld where a child's ability to make an important contribution is taken seriously!

Genre: Fantasy Age: 6-12 yrs

Why Write? Why Write? An interesting question you might agree, but one with a multitude of answers. The same question could well be asked of those who follow other creative pursuits. What compelled Van Gogh or Gaugin to paint, despite their sufferings, or Beethoven to compose even though he was profoundly deaf? Or, returning to my original question, the Bronte sisters to write when publication seemed an impossible dream? This passionate need for self-expression is in every writer who yearns to achieve authorship as their career. Many of course believe writing to be an easy job with huge financial rewards at the end of it; if money is your sole motivation then you are probably not a born writer. This isn’t to say money should not be a consideration, but its value to many writers is the freedom it allows them to work at what they most enjoy, in their own time and at their own pace. Then, a writer’s intention may merely be to entertain, which is I believe to be an excellent reason for writing; any occupation that brings light relief and enjoyment to so many people is an admirable one. To bring enjoyment to even one person can be a source of profound satisfaction:

“One of my greatest rewards came a year or two ago, mailed to me care of my publishers – an envelope with a Glasgow postmark containing a scrap of paper on which was written very simply, ‘thank you for all the enjoyment your books have given me’. It bore no address and no signature, and accompanying it was a Scottish pound note. I have never parted with either. That kindly gesture has been kept as a talisman ever since. My only regret is that I have never been able to thank that unknown reader.” Rona Randell, (authoress)

If, in your own writing, you are fortunate enough to experience such a moment you may well be well on your way to answering the above question. For many though the urge to write is born out of circumstance. One important thing to appreciate is that writing is a solitary and often lonely occupation. This works both ways: writing leads to solitude, but solitude can also lead to writing. It is this last consideration that brings me to my own reasons for writing. It would be untrue to say that I had never wanted to write before a serious accident rendered me housebound for several months, but it was little more than an unconscious desire, submerged for the most part by the many competing attractions and obligations of everyday life, emerging only rarely during moments of quiet solitude, or after having read something particularly enjoyable or inspiring. It was only then I sometimes thought, yes, I’d like to write something like that and to write as well as that! But such occasions are few and far between. For myself it had always been impossible not to allow the pressures of family and everyday life combine to make any serious attempt at writing an impractical, if not impossible dream; perhaps I used this as an excuse, for indeed there are many who overcame such obstacles to realise their dreams, but for me, the constant rationalisation that there was always tomorrow, the day after, or the weekend, to start putting pen to paper, held me back. My own fault I admit. What made me do so was, again, among other things, having read a book that I found particularly enjoyable, Nineteen Eighty-Four if I remember correctly. Upon finishing it I decided I too would like to write something similar (or at least try). Being housebound as I was I felt as trapped and imprisoned as is possible to be short of being a guest of Her Majesty. Ironically though it was those very circumstances that provided the very time and freedom I needed to write – or at least freedom from all the excuses that had fed my past procrastination. Thus finally inspired, my main obstacle was to put down that first word, a daunting prospect for any fledgeling writer. But once you have taken that first step the writing becomes easier. Word follows word, sentence follows sentence, and paragraphs take shape to form chapters until such time as that elusive first poem, article, short story, or even a novel may one day emerge. It may seem ironic, even absurd that such an incapacity might provide one with any kind of freedom, but given the right attitude and self-discipline it can be equally surprising just how conductive a temporary restriction of one’s physical freedoms and mobility can actually be to any new, or even I should imagine an experienced writer. Cut off from many of the distractions of the outside world and pursuits of ordinary life, being housebound encouraged me to call upon the resources of my imagination and experience. One only has to think of those have found themselves truly cut off from the outside world, I speak of course those writers and authors who have for whatever reason begun or continued their writing whilst in prison: Dostoevsky, Oscar Wilde, Daniel Defoe, and, more recently, the likes of John McVicar, and Jimmy Boyle. Evidently, solitude can be developed into a valuable resource. It can enable one to get in touch with one’s deepest feelings, to form ideas, and encourage the growth of one’s creative imagination, culminating in the elusive ‘written’ word. But what of the benefits of writing? Not the obvious ones of possible fame and fortune, but the more personal, more intimate? During those months of recovery, it would be absurd to suggest that writing in any way changed the physical reality of my situation but it did provide an enjoyable and often fascinating pastime, a marvellous form of escape if you like. It was only when I was alone, with a pen, paper, and a desire to write that I finally produced my first literary efforts. The circumstances were far from ideal but with pen in hand (or fingers on a keypad these days), a few ideas, and a fair degree of imagination, I could be anywhere in the world, create any scenario – an entire world and its characters were there for me to create and immerse myself in. Often I would find myself totally absorbed in what I was trying to say and the struggle involved in trying to transform my thoughts into some form of readable prose. This was not always and indeed still isn’t an easy task. My recovery was slow but nonetheless eventually complete, and my enforced solitude came to an end. It was by no means the ideal milieu for my writing but it was the catalyst for it for which I shall always be grateful. To conclude then, there is no magic formula as to how or why people write. Only you, the writer, can answer that question. And for each of us, I suspect the answer will be different. But whatever the reason, only you can make it happen: imagination, a love of words, creativity, enthusiasm, and the desire to write – those are your tools. All you need is to take the opportunity to use them. If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on Rudders’ Writing website…

Writers Ink, a self-supporting and diverse group of people brought together by their passion for writing. Writers Ink members have experience of a range of writing styles – from short stories to novel length works which include murder mysteries both historical and contemporary, police procedurals, illustrated books for children and books for teenagers. Writers Ink proves that with a bit of dedication and ongoing support, anyone can get published and everyone has a story to tell. Suzanne Downes Suzanne Downes was born in Manchester but raised in Stockport, the youngest of ten children. She is married to David and besides writing she enjoys being outdoors. Her love of writing has prompted her to run two Writers’ Circles to encourage other would-be authors. Her novels are mainly historical murder mysteries, but she also writes books set in the present day, often with historical flashbacks. She enjoys a good deal of success in the American market, and has a steadfast following for her two series – The Underwood Mysteries and the D.I. Matt Piper novels. Suzanne has written 16 novels including two children’s stories with an Ancient Egyptian theme aimed at 8-12 year-olds: Cassie’s Quest and Cassie’s Quandary. Kate Robinson Kate writes children’s stories about her pet beagle Breezie Boo, and this delightful little dog certainly gets around! Kate’s first illustrated book on the Adventures of Breezie Boo was published in 2014 (A Walk Up Kinder Scout) and since then she has written a series of books about her exploits. She has also written two Christmas stories for children and in her spare time can often be found sitting on the floor at festivals reading to children and encouraging them to explore the countryside like Breezie Boo. Kate also happens to be the daughter of Suzanne Downes, so Writers Ink really is a family affair!

Barbara Fagan Speake Barbara was born and brought up in Connecticut, on the eastern seaboard of the USA. She moved to the UK in 1972 following her marriage, and had a varied career as a research psychologist, clinical psychologist and senior manager in the NHS. A previous author of non-fiction books, she turned her attention to fiction writing in 2001. Barbara creates her characters from both the US and the UK and draws on her experience of both countries as well as on her professional background. A fictional city in Connecticut, Westford, is the setting for her standalone debut novel, Secrets Only Sleep (2005). She continued to use the setting for the novels in her Scottish Detective Annie Macpherson series: Primed by the Past (2011), Programmed to Kill (2012), Past Deception (2014), Scared to Tell (2015), Based on Lies (2017), and Committed to Revenge (2018). She also writes short stories and flash fiction and has published some of these in Shades of Crime, Dark and Light (2016). She runs a crime writing group jointly with fellow author, Suzanne Downes. Barbara has a Facebook Writer page and a website at:

Patricia M. Ahern Pat was born in Manchester but moved to Stockport in 1976 and is married with three grown-up children. As a child and then as an adult, she loved storytelling, especially fantasy and mystical tales. She always harboured an ambition to become a writer but life took over and, after returning to study as a mature student, she became a teacher at a local college. However, once she had more time on her hands, she was determined to write and decided on a children’s novel. The inspiration for Pondlife: Blue Moon Eclipse came unexpectedly when she was tending her small garden pond. This story combines her love of nature and some memories of the childhood adventures she had with her three brothers. She enjoyed the experience of writing Pondlife so much she is now busy writing the sequel.

Sylva Fae Sylva lives in an enchanted woodland near Macclesfield. She is a teacher, writer, and mum to three Forest Fae. Her first book, Rainbow Monsters, complete with illustrations and activities, was published in 2016 and she has since written a follow-up book called Mindful Monsters. Sylva also writes short stories which have featured in a number of anthologies. She is currently writing exciting new tales for children. Sylva is also a regular writer and reviewer at One Stop Author Services, as well as advising on all aspects of book design, layout and formatting. One Stop Author Services offer reasonable rates for anyone who wants help to self-publish their work.

Sylva Fae Sylva lives in an enchanted woodland near Macclesfield. She is a teacher, writer, and mum to three Forest Fae. Her first book, Rainbow Monsters, complete with illustrations and activities, was published in 2016 and she has since written a follow-up book called Mindful Monsters. Sylva also writes short stories which have featured in a number of anthologies. She is currently writing exciting new tales for children. Sylva is also a regular writer and reviewer at One Stop Author Services, as well as advising on all aspects of book design, layout and formatting. One Stop Author Services offer reasonable rates for anyone who wants help to self-publish their work.

Rae Reynolds Rae lives with her husband in a quiet corner of South Yorkshire. She has two grown-up children who are fully equipped with roots and wings – her greatest achievement to date. Rae has worked as a careers adviser with teenagers for 36 years, and in her spare time she enjoys walking and cycling – particularly when said activities are followed by tea and cake. Rae won a BBC TV competition to write a column for the Independent Newspaper in London (which is where she met her pal and fellow Inky Suzanne Downes), and in recent years has had several articles published in the Yorkshire Post. She is currently writing the sequel to her debut novel Blood Poison.

Macca G After completing his studies in London, Macca moved back home to Manchester to work as a Medical Writer. Over the past four years Macca has been writing light-hearted anecdotes based on his experiences in the online dating arena. Told from the perspective of a cartoon bear, his book series Online Dating Laid Bear gives an insight into the sometimes torrid yet humorous world of internet dating. You can find him on Facebook (@MaccaGAuthor) and Instagram (@MaccaGAuthor).

Scents on the Breeze

The smell of black peas and mulled wine wafted on the cool autumn breeze. The judges at Shady Acres country fair made their way slowly along the line of competition entrants. There was an obvious winner, but they deliberately gave equal time to each group of eager teens proudly presenting their guy. The bonfire was set, it just needed a prize-winning guy to sit up top. The judges nodded to one another and made their way back to the winning pair. Dave and Martin grinned and pocketed their fifty quid prize money, then carefully hoisted their guy up onto the wood pile. Dave adjusted the scary pumpkin face, worried it would slip off before the flames took over. With the guy in place, they wandered back to the drinks tent to spend their winnings. "Well done lads. That's a very lifelike guy you got there, scary too." The mayor of Shady Acres raised his glass to the lads and nodded to the guy now blazing scarlet against the dark sky. "But weren't there three of you originally?" Martin spluttered into his beer. "Oh he's here somewhere," Dave said with a wink. The flaming guy collapsed into the glowing embers in the centre of the bonfire. The smell of roast pork and wood smoke mingled with the black peas and mulled spices wafting on the autumn breeze.

You can find additional stories and anecdote on her website

Millie Slavidou is a British writer and translator living in Greece and Cyprus, where she writes about languages and books for children. Sparky is a newly-hatched dragon with a problem: he can't breathe fire. Not wanting to stand out from all the other dragons, he leaves the nest and sets off on an adventurous journey to solve his problem. Finally, he meets Nicky, who is determined to help him on his quest to find the secret of fire. Will Sparky ever discover how to breathe fire?

This is a delightful book, perfect for early readers. It is to be hoped that further stories in this series will soon emerge!

I bought this to read with my Reception age daughter who is just moving on from picture books to short chapter books. She loves dragons so was immediately taken with the story and engaged with the dialogue and plot.


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Survival Beginnings: Jenny's Story, Sci-Fi / Horror by Rhonda Hopkins Some days, the only plan is survival... Pre-Order 99¢. Fifteen-year-old Jenny and her twin brother, Jason, find their neighborhood in disarray. The neighbors are acting strangely, and the elderly gentleman who lives next door has left senility behind and gone straight to full-on crazy.

New Release

Rhonda Hopkins is an awardwinning author. She lives on five acres in a small town in Texas within minutes of Fort Worth. Before she began publishing her books, she served twenty years as an investigator for the state and the family courts.

Rhonda offers a free eBook as a welcome gift to her email subscribers.


She met all kinds of people and loved the interactions with folks from all walks of life. She uses her past experiences to craft characters that are diverse and full of life, along with situations that include the dark and the light side of humanity. She especially enjoys finding that light - the hope and spirit of survival in everyday people. Rhonda writes Apocalyptic Science Fiction; Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Romantic Suspense, and Mystery for adults, young adults, and middle grade. She also writes Nonfiction.

Navigating Family Court - In the Best Interest of Your Child, Non-fiction: Family Law/Parenting by Rhonda R. Hopkins Going to court can be scary. Going to court to decide custody of your child can be truly terrifying — there is so much at stake! Pre-Order $4.99. The better prepared you are, the less stress there will be for you and your child. Navigating Family Court: In the Best Interest of Your Child, written by Rhonda R. Hopkins, a twenty-year veteran within the family court system, will offer the following insights:

• • • •

• •

What to Expect When You Go to Court What Things a Judge Might Order What is Involved in a Custody Evaluation What to Do if there are Issues Involving Drug/Alcohol Abuse, Child Abuse/Neglect, or Domestic Violence Information on Mediation, Parent Education, and Counseling A List of Things You Should Gather for Easy Access Tips on Co-Parenting And More!

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A Solitary Reaper A Captain Savva Mystery, International Mystery by Rachael Wright A gritty, emotionally-charged mystery A Solitary Reaper, is a profound exploration of the love which binds us and the secrets which tear us apart. Secrets, lies, and pain lie under the beautiful and serene mask of the isle of Lesvos, Greece. Captain Alexandros Savva of the Hellenic Police knows all three first hand. The decade-old murder of his only child haunts him and pushes him to solve every case regardless of how undeserving its victim

A Christmas Poem — “Fireside Questions for Santa” “Fireside Questions for Santa” With Christmas Day drawing nigh, I have some questions and wonder– “Why?” Like, what is it about Santa that makes little kids cry? And how in the world does he get reindeer to fly? How high do leaves go when they “mount to the sky”? How many toys do elves make versus having to buy? So going to stay up late, or at least I’ll try, And will hide behind the sofa, on Santa to spy. I want to face him– eye to eye, To directly ask the jolly elf guy— “With no disrespect or meaning to pry– How is it a fat old man can be so spry? And get down the chimney without bruising a thigh?” So busily hanging stockings by the chimney to dry, While waiting here for Santa with questions to ply, But for now I’m hungry and will bid “goodbye”, Here anxiously awaiting the Old Boy to drop by. Goodness, gracious, me oh my. I wish that I had some Pumpkin Pie!

Wishing a Merry Blessed Christmas to all– “and to all a Good Night!”

“That’s What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown . . . .” The morning of December 9th, 1965 found me one week away from my 16th birthday, approaching nearly not fast enough at the time, as you may well imagine. That evening featured the debut of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on the CBS television network, based on my favorite comic strip “Peanuts” by creator Charles Schulz. The show remains a muchanticipated classic and delight each holiday season for millions of viewers to this day. Fifty-two years have not diluted the show’s message. While there are many discussion themes running thru the story, the most poignant for me has always been Linus’s speech on stage, responding to a frustrated Charlie Brown’s question of — “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!?” At this time of year, trying to keep our wits about us while navigating thru and around all the hustle and bustle of crowded malls, traffic, grocery shopping, cookie exchanges, decorating, children’s school plays and activities, holiday parties, family pictures and greeting cards, boxes, packages, wrappings, and bows, all while trying to out-maneuver porch pirates from swiping online deliveries, do you ever find yourself wondering the same question — “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Sometimes we simply need to pause, taking a moment to catch our breath and reflect.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” — Dr. Seuss

As one of my sometimes forgetful uncles used to say years ago — “I don’t need to be told, but I do occasionally need to be reminded.” In reply to his friend Charlie Brown, Linus took the stage to remind us all — “Lights, please . . . .”

“And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. “And the angel said unto them — “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” “And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.”” And that is what Christmas is all about. For Charlie Brown. For Linus, Lucy, and Snoopy. For us all. The reason for the season, as they say. Christmas, it turns out, does indeed mean a little bit more.

Linus is famously noted for carrying around his trusted security blanket with him wherever he goes. Held tightly fast and never let go lest panic ensues. Have you ever noticed that at the point when Linus repeats the words of the angel “Fear not!” that the blanket is suddenly on the floor beside him, confidently lain aside until he once again retrieves it at the end of the speech? There are subtle messages and lessons awaiting us in that simple action and demonstration of faith, too.

As Ebineezer Scrooge even came to realize in the end — “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year!” Peace, Good Will, Kindness, Generosity, Charity, Compassion, Empathy, Love — none of these are or should be exclusive or seasonal things, as we should truly keep them in our hearts throughout the year. The Christmas Season is an annual reminder of how we should be always, for everyone and all things in this miraculous and beautiful world we all share and call home. Thank You for visiting and spending part of your day with us. Wishing you and yours a very Merry and Blessed Christmas and holiday season! A simple act of kindness or encouraging word can change someone’s entire life around. Will you do that for someone today? In the Spirit of Christmas. — Jim (and Red!) “Gifts

of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.” – Peg Bracken

If you enjoyed this article, you can find short stories, features and poetry on his website…

The Dandelion Clock Historical fiction/historical romance by Rebecca Bryn The war to end all wars: A wish to end all wishes Families torn apart by the Great War. While Bill, a young boot-last maker fights the Central Powers in Gallipoli, Egypt, and Palestine, Florrie, his sweetheart, struggles to care for her siblings and protect them from an abusive father. But war changes everything. Can Bill keep his promises to marry Florrie and bring home his beloved warhorse, Copper?

This is a story based in a reality that kept me reading late into the night. I knew WW1 was not “the war to end all wars”, but what of “a wish to end all wishes”?

A war story to touch your heart.

Penny Luker The Shadows of LoveLove themed poetry by Penny Luker These are not gentle love poems This is a collection of poems about the different forms and stages of love. When is love, love, and when does it become obsession? Why does love change?

New Release

Scarlett and the Wolf "Here Scarlett, drop this bag round at your grans on your way to the club, will you?" Scarlett grimaced at her mum and glanced in the bag - a packet of custard creams and the latest copy of OK magazine. "Your gran asked me to pick them up for her but I haven't had chance to go see her today." Scarlett sighed and pulled her red hoodie up over her tangled brown curls. "OK Mum," she yelled as she slipped out the door. "Oh and Scarlett... don't cut through the Forest Estate, it's not safe at this time of night." "OK Mum, I won't," she yelled over her shoulder. "And stay away from that Wolf boy, he's bad news that one." Scarlett sighed and carried on. She had no intention of going the long way round to Gran's nursing home, she glanced back to check Mum wasn't watching, and nipped down the ginnel to the Forest Estate. "Alright Red?" a figure slunk out of the shadows startling her. Scarlett's heart was still pounding when she recognised the sly grin of Jackson Wolf. He wasn't quite as bad as Mum made him out to be, but he did have a habit of appearing in all the wrong places. "Shit Jackson! Don't do that. You know I'm not supposed to hang out with you. If Mum sees..." "What ya got there Red? Anything for me?" "Nah, just some stuff for my gran. I'll drop this off and see you at the club later. Now go before my mum catches us chatting." Jackson started to protest but paused as Scarlett shushed him and pulled out her buzzing phone. She glared at Jackson to keep him quiet while she answered the call. "Hi Gran... Yes I'm on my way now. I'll be there in ten... Tell you what, I'll bang on your window so you can buzz me in, save you getting out of bed. See ya soon... Love you too." "Love you too Granny darling," mimicked Jackson. "Sod off Wolf! I'll catch you later."

Jackson Wolf leapt on his bike and blew her a kiss as he cycled away. Scarlett giggled as she watched him disappear into the Forest Estate. He wasn't that bad, a cocky sod maybe, but his bad reputation was mainly down to the hype he'd spread himself. It was all about image on the Forest. Ten minutes later Scarlett arrived at Shadewood Nursing Home. As planned, she rapped on Gran's window and ran around to the door before the buzzer stopped. Five minutes with Gran, then she'd be off to the club. The curtains were drawn, and by the bundle of covers, it looked like Gran was tucked up in bed. She tiptoed to the bed, if she could leave the bag without waking her, she could get away even quicker. Suddenly, there was a flush of water, the bathroom door flung open flooding the room with light. Scarlett froze, her eyes flicking between the bed covers and Gran. The covers were shaking. "Oh hello love! Did your mother send you over with my biccies?" said Gran as she flicked back the patchwork quilt to climb in.

"Mmm biccies!" growled a voice from under the covers. Scarlett squealed in realisation and Gran screamed, as Jackson leapt from the bed roaring with laughter. "Help! Security!" Gran screamed, brandishing her walking stick. Jackson ducked under the waving stick, barged past Scarlett and legged it out of the door. "Laters, Red!" he called and winked over his shoulder. Scarlett stifled a laugh, as Jackson dodged old Bailey's zimmer frame, and ducked out of the clutches of the matronly receptionist. With a wave and a cheeky grin, he sped off, chased by three staff members and a stick-wielding granny. Scarlett looked around. The foyer was empty and in their haste to catch Wolf, they'd left the door to the medical room open. Perfect! She hastily grabbed as many tubs of pills she could stash in her backpack. Casually she sauntered outside to where Gran was still shouting obscenities at Jackson as he disappeared into the Forest Estate. "You alright Gran?" "That Wolf boy better not have stolen my custard creams! If I catch him..." Granny hobbled back to the room muttering threats under her breath. "It's OK Gran, your biccies are safe, let's get you back into bed." Scarlett realised Jackson must have snook ahead, getting Gran to buzz him in, thinking it was her granddaughter. The sneaky sod! She'd have words with him later! Still, his stupid prank had worked in her favour. Kissing Gran goodbye, she left slowly, careful to keep her backpack from rattling as she passed the front desk. The Forest Youth Club was buzzing by the time Scarlett got there. The doorman gave her a wink and ushered her in; she was a regular and knew all the staff. Her ready smile and polite manners had got her a reputation for being a 'lovely young lady'. Ha, if only they knew! Security cameras covered most of the club, but there was a blind spot in the corner booth. Scarlett's gang always made sure they grabbed that table for their base. Not that anyone would suspect her of anything dodgy, but better to be careful. A couple of the guys were already there, so she nipped to the loo to check out her haul from the nursing home. She sorted through the containers, some she'd have to chuck away, but she'd got plenty of good stuff too. It'd bring in tidy sum from the local druggies. "What ya got there Red?" "Bloody hell Wolf! You scared the shit outa me. What ya doing lurking in the ladies loos?" For the second time today, Scarlett's heart was pounding thanks to Jackson Wolf. How did he always manage to sneak up on her like that? "I can't believe you pulled that prank on Gran. You're bad, Wolf!" Jackson stuck his hand in Scarlett's backpack and pulled out a tub of pills. He rattled them in her face, shaking his head and tutting. "I may be a bad Wolf, but you're the big bad Red in the hood."

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 anecdote on her website

Addicted to Publishing Publishing my first book was both terrifying and exhilarating. How would it be received? Would I be outed as a fraud and have my internet privileges locked away? Would people be kind or mean?

So many emotions came with the first book, and when nothing exceptionally bad, or amazingly good happened, I kept writing. As I was ramping up to publish book two, I got excited. It was a geniuses idea that come from nowhere. This was going to be the big one! This one will launch my career. The excitement was palpable. It was received to the tune of ‌

But that’s okay, writing marches on, my next book is almost ready. Here we go again, let’s publish this baby. This is the one! I’ll be famous. It’s my best yet. It gets the most five star reviews. People do love it. I’m not famous YET. I published again and again. I came to realize I’m addicted to publishing! With every book I get excited. I know it will be the one. The one that hits it big. The one that make it’s to the New York Times best sellers list. The one that will get me out of this town. Will this be the one? Stay tuned and find out.

Theresa Jacobs believes in Magic, Fairies, Dragons, and Ghosts. Yet she trusts Science and thinks that Aliens know way too much. Through hard work, she has published a Horror Novella, Horror anthologies, children’s books, and poetry. She is a contributor to an online Horror Magazine. While working full-time, she writes countless novels, novellas, and other works. She works full time in retail furniture. When she is not at work she spends her time, reading, writing, exercising her dog, and binge watching TV shows, with her longtime partner and fiancé. She is also a big Movie buff and a SciFi Nerd at heart. If you enjoyed this article, you can find book links, videos and Free stuff on her website…

Author Val Tobin studied general arts at the University of Waterloo, then went to DeVry Toronto to get a diploma in Computer Information Systems. She worked in the computer industry as a software and Web developer for over ten years, during which time she started to get serious about energy work and the paranormal and occult.

Signs from the Other Side When my father passed away in 2005, something strange happened around the time of his funeral. As my mother and brother sat in the living room at my parents’ house, they heard a thud on the front door. My mother said it sounded as though someone had dropped something on her doorstep. She got up to check it out and when she opened the front door, she found a hawk, a pigeon in its talons, sitting on a large rock in her front yard. They stared at one another for quite a while — long enough for my brother to join her and see it for himself. After a while, the hawk flew away, carrying the pigeon with him. White feathers covered the front steps and yard. My mother said that, for weeks after, she continued to find white feathers inside her front door. I consulted with a First Nations friend who studies nature signs, and he told me the hawk is a messenger from the other side. Whether you believe in this type of spirit communication or not, you have to admit the coincidence was weird. Birds of prey feature often when we seek a sign from my father. This wasn’t the first freaky coincidence, nor the last, and when it’s not a hawk we get, it’s an owl. Since this past weekend was Father’s Day weekend, I longed to receive a sign from my dad. He’s been gone for so long, and I wanted to hear from him again. Saturday evening, my husband and I went for a walk in the cemetery next to our house. As we rounded a bend, we were halted in our tracks by two crows dive-bombing something in a tree overhanging the path we walked.

Just then, a bird cried out, and we looked up to see a hawk sitting on the branch of the tree. He stood proud and resolute, not a bit rattled by the angry crows attempting to unseat him. Awed, we climbed a nearby hill and watched them for awhile, and my husband snapped some pictures. The crows cawed in fury and flew at the hawk but never touched him. The hawk remained unrattled, keeping his perch. He gave the odd screech, a sound that sent chills through me. Since the stalemate seemed like it would continue for a while, we decided to resume our walk. As I made my way down the hill, I spotted a feather in the grass before me: a feather from the hawk. I picked it up, thinking about my father. Hawks always remind me of my father since that day one visited my mother after he died.

Hawk Feather, Courtesy of Bob Tobin

If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar posts on her website...

Val Tobin

When their colleague is murdered, three wanna-be authors can't help meddling in the investigation, which puts them on the killer’s radar. Robin refuses to leave the house, Daphne has OCD, and Beth falls asleep at the most inopportune moments. Yet all three find themselves caught in a catand-mouse game where anything can happen and no one is safe. Detective Jacob Turner is a modern-day Columbo in search of a clever killer. Instinct tells him something doesn’t add up. Then, the case becomes personal and the hunt is on...

A Guide to Creating your own Natural Skin Care Products Salts, Soaks and pampering is an inspirational guide to creating your own natural skin and hair care products. Say goodbye to your bad complexion and lank hair, and say hello to healthy, glowing skin, and gorgeous hair. ontents: Introduction, Bath Crystals, Muscle Soak, Goats Milk Bath Powder, Fizzy Bath Bombs, Grapefruit Sugar Scrub, Moisturising Massage Bar, Peppermint Body Butter, Shea Butter Deodorant, Foot Soak, Foot Scrub, Honey and Oatmeal Facial Scrub, Rosemary and Mint Shaving Cream, Natural Make-Up Remover, Tomato Facial Scrub, Banana Face Mask, Peel Off Face Mask, Honey and Egg Face mask for Greasy Skin, Anti Wrinkle Face Mask, Grease Control Hair Mask, Conditioning Anti Frizz Hair Mask, Damage Repair Hair Mask, Nail Cream, Connect with Lacey Lane, Acknowledgements.

One Footstep Forward… through time, space & life This is the journey I take from pain, madness and the blur of reality against me as i learn to let go. learn to not love. learn to say goodbye to the love of my life. he has always been my love-i had not known that before we met-but once found…once loved…once beloved. the question is — how?

Windowless Room Below there is a room with no windows A portal to the past Where fear and terror live on in my mind Inside this room is a computer-a witness to my shame In a dark web lurks the source of future fear I know that the record of my humiliation and sorrow still haunt the corners of this windowless room

But now a wolf appears beside me His strength becomes my own He leads me ahead-there may be fear but there is also comfort and love When the record of my abuse surfaces he will be there He will hold me, control my breath, my hand tightened in a fistful of his neck’s ruff The sound of his displeasure rumbling through both of our chests until the vibration Of his menace beats back the darkness and I swim in the song of his body joined to mine Fear of my future deserts me as I begin to see the reality of what love is in His sharp sighted eyes My trust is his and his protection mine Never again will i come to harm at the hands of another Never again Will i step foot in a Windowless room

Lori has additional posts that focus on survival on her website‌

Kim McDougall As ley-lines swell and magic spills back into the world, keeping the Hidden Coven safe becomes a race against dark forces who would take the power of the witches for their own. There’s a hole in the world and it’s Bobbi’s fault. Now she’s trying to clean up her mess. With a band of alien imps to round up, a booby-trapped grimoire to decipher and the ever-looming menace of her demon father hanging over her head, Bobbi doesn’t sleep much these days. As Quinn’s world unravels and his body weakens from illness, he holds on tight—sometimes too tight—to the precious moments they have left together. But all those problems pale in the light of the divine Lady’s call to battle. Now Bobbi must choose between her biggest threat and her greatest love.

Paranormal Suspense

Strain of Vengeance- Bixby Series Book 3 One of them will be my salvation. The other my downfall.

We had one assignment—eradicate the new threat posed by the alien parasites. And we thought we had won. What should’ve been a joyous return home after a grueling mission has now turned into a race against time to save those we love. The Grand, our safe haven, has been invaded. Our people either dead or kidnapped. Left heartbroken, our nightmare never seems to end. But I’m Bixby, and I refuse to let the invaders win. None of us are willing to give up until we have everyone we've lost back safe. But can our people trust us to come to their rescue when we can't even trust each other? Luke and Sam. Sam and Luke. So many lies. So many cover ups. So much pain. One of them will be my salvation. The other my downfall.

From a very early age, Lucinda E Clarke always wanted to write, but was ordered to “get a proper job.” So, she dutifully trained as a teacher, and has taught in seven different countries . She is now in Spain and writing books (pretending be retired).

Clock and Clueless TRAVEL – PRAGUE One of the main things to see near the Old Town Square in Prague is the special clock. It is currently being repaired and was covered with a sheet that only showed the picture of the clock. This is a pic off the internet to show the real thing – when it is not covered by a sheet.

It is an astronomical clock first installed in 1410, so I guess it is due for an overhaul. The 12 apostles pop out on the hour.

I’m ashamed to admit I have no idea what this building is, but I like the architecture. I popped the signage into Google translate and it told me it’s the Law School.

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN (This is a continuing story that began on the March 19, 2018 blog post) Now there were quite a few important and powerful people who didn’t want Isabella to marry Ferdinand but despite that, the two young people sign their agreement on February 7th 1469. Now all that remains is for them to meet and do the marrying thing. The princess sneaks off but someone tells on her and Henry’s soldiers are sent to arrest her. (Told you this was an exciting story).

Just in time the Archbishop of Toledo rescues her and takes her to Valladolid where she is safe. Isabella summons Ferdinand from Zaragossa 200 miles to the east to come at once and marry her. Will he? Find out next time!

AFRICA FACTS We were filming in a deep rural school and the teacher had prepared a Q & A session for the cameras. The question was “Who is the greatest man in South Africa?” Rows of eager little faces were desperate to answer. “My Chief – Mr Magwane (the Headmaster) – Mr Sonenze (a teacher) – a famous footballer.” After each ‘wrong’ answer, the teacher became more and more frantic. She gave them hints – such as prison on Robben Island – where is that? they wanted to know. Nobel prize winner – what is that? they asked. Finally, she gave up. “Mr Nelson Mandela,” she told them brightly.

“Who?” they asked. She gave up. We wanted to laugh, but as an ex-teacher I felt for her. Till next time, take care.

You can find similar blogs and other interesting stuff about Lucinda’s adventures on her website…

Amazon Goodreads The Eilan Water Trilogy, historical romance set in what will become Scotland. A mixed tribe is forming from the Pict and Scotti people. Torcuil, the head of the band is slowly increasing his territory. When the Romans leave they must be strong enough to survive the coming power struggle.

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Cherime MacFarlane Pinterest | LinkedIn | Instagram

Book One: The Other Side of Dusk is a McGrath finalist.

A tale of the twilight of the Roman Empire

Book two of the Eilan Water Trilogy. Aed, a warrior and a bard has a desire. And he will fight Muirne’s father and kin if he must. Aed built a home for her but they may have to wage war to keep it. All hinges on his ability to evade his uncle and cousins, snatch Muirne and avoid her cousin, Grainne. He wounded Grainne’s pride and her father’s plans. Muirne worked hard over to winter to contain her anger and earn gold from the small flock, all she has left of her inheritance. Aed’s warning to her father and uncle, he would come for her in spring, forces them to try marrying her off before he comes. Ualan agreed to accompany the bard on a raid to take the woman from her kin. The two young men set off in a skin boat for Eire. A shipwreck changes everything as does the brothers’ fears of Aed.

Soft Sci-Fi / Unconventional Romance

A Demigoddess’s Guide to Interplanetary Parenting

RL Andrew

A tale of the twilight of the Roman Empire

Karma’s a bitch then you have kids. Shayne and Annu’s Interplanetary took off after they amended but Shayne’s still waiting for rainbows, unicorns and unadulterated worship. What they got instead behind a whole new nightmare.


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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.”

Being A Good Girl I’ve read westerns where on several occasions a six-gun accurately shoots over a distance of fifty metres, knocking the gun from another man’s hand—I didn’t get in touch to tell the author it is fantasy. I’ve read romance in which characters spend so much time expressing their love and gushing tenderness—I forgot where they were, and if they were dressed or naked. In this tale, like my other erotica titles, apart from being detailed and realistic, I’ve opted for a cohesive story. Yes, I’m afraid I use that old-fashioned idea of a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are no college bets, big debts to be repaid—however, magic potions to turn men into women (or vice-versa), and no time-travel to change somebody’s sexual orientation. As I explained in my two-part article, Boys will be … Girls: Part 1, and Part 2, the crossdressing sub-genre is an area ripe for creative fiction. In my novel, Curious and Camping, cross-dressing is part of a double central theme, combined with relationships. The same sub-genre is merely a sideshow within another novel; Give & Take. I realise that for many people, (some authors included), the idea of erotica as a genre is simply an excuse to compose smut—and those good folk are welcome to their opinions. If the work has gone in, and appropriate research or knowledge is used, an author can write well about anything.

If you didn’t already know, I started my erotica writing after reading a now famous, badly-written, badly-researched novel which featured an unlikely and highlydangerous introduction into the world of BDSM. Don’t start me … Being a Good Girl takes the angle of a young man who is caught en femme, which I believe is a superb premise to begin such a tale. I believe that many men (irrespective of age, their position in society, or background), are ‘caught’ through choice. We suggest these men have been caught, but is it not also the case that they might have longed to get their predilection out there, to express their desire and partially relieve the stress, and the burden of self-imposed guilt? Let’s have a look at a parallel in the world of crime. How many times do we see a movie or TV series which highlights the serial killer, or other criminals, who become more daring, and leave more and more clues for the authorities? Whatever the reasoning, where there is a sense of guilt, there is invariably a desire to be caught and punished, but perhaps not exposed. Surely caught and exposed are the same thing? I would say no, in the case of cross-dressing. To be ‘caught’ is more akin to being discovered by the significant other in a relationship. Being ‘exposed’ is related to a wider public knowledge. Being caught may result in any number of routes to be followed, and possibly the end of the partnership, whereas the other—being exposed, is pretty damning. We don’t live in a tolerant society whatever anybody says in the media. And, so, back to my tale of the accidentally discovered young cross-dresser.

He has a more advanced world surrounding him than he would have had thirty years ago. The internet is awash with websites, blogs, forums and so on. Contacts and information are available in abundance, and this is fodder for the creative writer. It takes what was once a narrow, shady world and opens it up to allow the character to be revealed, in conjunction with those with whom he achieves a connection. Is the story targeted at a male or female audience? Neither. My erotica aims to draw a reader in with the blurb, and then entertain with the story. If a particular scenario appeals, it depends on the outlook and expectations of the individual. You have to ask yourself how you would feel to be in such a relationship. Some people have no opinion, for others, it’s one of their fantasies, and others, it’s a reality. In cases like the one featured in Being a Good Girl, it is invariably the partner who holds the key. Whether or not the spouse, partner or whoever agrees to take the ‘guilty’ party back into a relationship opens a whole new area for the writer to play in, and once again we can investigate a variety of options. I’ve taken our main character on a journey of discovery. There are four main characters, and two others with minor roles, so the cast is as intimate as the plot. Does Darren enjoy his sexual education, and all ends well? You’ll have to read the young man’s account to find out—it’s written in the first-person point of view.

Visit Tom’s website for similar articles…

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “Margie,” Paige called over the police radio. “Can I get a case number, then I’ll be clear and available if anything else comes in.” Margie relayed the number within seconds. “Are you heading out now?” “Affirmative,” Paige responded. “Jason Bennett, the complainant, is also the owner and he’s pretty upset someone stole his new skis. I’m sending you the serial number and other details. Can we get it listed in the national database right away?” “I’ll take care of that if you’ll head over to the market and handle a shoplifter,” Margie bargained. “Sure,” Paige stopped at the end of the Bennett’s drive before making a right onto the highway. “What do we know?” “That’s about it,” Margie admitted. “The Manager, a Daniel Wardle, has the suspect secured in a room and is requesting the police. No additional information at this time.” “Okay,” Paige sighed. “I’ll update you after I arrive.” Chances were pretty good that shoplifting complaints would increase during the holidays but Paige expected them to come from Walmart or Jensen’s Department store, not the local market. She pulled into the lot and parked next to the door. She was rummaging in the back for her notepad when a man in his late forties, early fifties approached her vehicle.

Continue Reading Innocent Strategy

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Innocent Strategy “Officer, thank you for coming so quickly,” he held out his hand. Paige frowned, straightened and studied the man. Finally, she gave his hand a quick shake and secured her vehicle. “You called this in?” “Yes,” he nodded. “Daniel Wardle, store manager. Most people call me Dan. I have the thief secured in an office. I want her prosecuted. This is not the first time she’s stolen from me. I don’t care if it’s the holidays. Theft is theft.” “Okay,” Paige followed the slightly overweight manager into the store, through a door and ultimately arrived in an office area. “Did you recover the items?” Dan frowned. “Well, that’s a bit of a problem. Not exactly.” “Did this person shoplift or not?” Paige demanded. “Yes,” Wardle insisted. “It’s just... well, um... she won’t tell us anything and she doesn’t actually have the items on her.” Paige sighed. This was beginning to sound like a wild goose chase. “Where is the person you have in custody? I’d like to speak with her myself.” Wardle motioned to a closed door as he stared defiantly at Paige. Oh goodie, this should be fun. Paige thought as she pushed open the door and entered the room. She had only taken one small step when she noticed the young girl. She paused to glance back at the annoyed manager before sliding the door completely shut. Misty glanced up and spotted the policewoman. Her heart started beating faster and she swallowed hard. She just hoped Jack had gotten Seth away from the store before the mean man had caught her. Seth needed the milk. If Jack got Seth home, at least they would be okay…for a little while. Misty lowered her eyes to her lap. If she didn’t say anything, maybe she wouldn’t go to jail. Paige moved forward and settled into one of the office chairs. “Hi,” she said softly. The girl was terrified enough as it was, she had to go slow here. “I’m Paige, can you tell me your name?”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 Misty looked up, then dropped her gaze back to her lap. Should she tell them her name? If not, she’d be listed as Jane Doe, just like on TV. Then nobody would find her and Jack would be scared. “Misty,” she whispered softly. “Good, that’s good Misty. You don’t have to be afraid,” Paige continued. “I’m just here to find out what happened. Is you mom or dad with you in the store?”

“No,” Misty shook her head. “You came here by yourself?” Paige pressed. “Yes,” Misty lied. She had to protect Jack and Seth. “Okay,” Paige settled further into her chair. This might take a while. “So,” she tried to sound casual. “The manager says you took something. Is that true?”

Misty didn’t answer. She did steal, but she’d sent it with Jack. There was no way she was going to admit that. “Okay, let’s leave that for later.” Paige wasn’t sure how to get through to this girl. Getting to the point wasn’t going to work, maybe just a little get to know you session was in order. “How old are you, Misty?” “Ten,” she said softly. “Ten,” Paige considered. “So, that would mean you are in... fifth grade?”

Misty nodded. “Wow,” Paige smiled. “Pretty soon you’re going to move to Junior High then. Are you excited?” Misty shrugged. Okay then, that didn’t work. Paige considered carefully. “Misty, if you came here by yourself do your parents know you are here?” Misty shrugged.

Innocent Strategy “You know,” Paige said. “I’m going to have to call one of them. Which one would be best?” “For what?” Misty asked. She didn’t have anything on her. Maybe they had a camera but it would show Jack leaving with the stuff, not her. She wasn’t sure what they were going to do with her but she wasn’t telling them anything. “Well,” Paige frowned. Fair question, kid. “That’s a good point. Can you stay here for a minute while I talk to the manager?” Misty nodded. Paige stood and left the room. “Well?” Dan asked. “Are you going to arrest her?” “For what exactly?” Paige asked. “You said you didn’t find anything on her. What exactly do you think she stole?” “I don’t know,” Dan swallowed. “I saw her back in the milk and dairy section. She had a carton of milk when she walked away. Plus, I saw her with a box of granola bars.” “Okay,” Paige frowned. “So, if she shoplifted, where are they?” “I don’t know, okay?” Dan said in frustration. “But Blaire tried to cover for her. She rang up a half gallon of milk and the bars and paid for them herself. She’s going to be disciplined for that but she still refuses to cooperate. She claims she doesn’t know the girl.” “Wait,” Paige held up a hand. “Are you telling me you want this girl charged with shoplifting merchandise that someone else paid for?” “Well, yes. But technically the girl did steal it. It’s just that one of my cashiers felt sorry for her and paid the bill herself,” Dan held firm. “And the girl still took the stuff. That’s theft.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “Actually,” Paige sighed. “It’s a civil problem. And unfortunately for you... the cashier is the second party, not the store. I’m going to need to speak with this cashier. Immediately,” Paige added when Dan just stood there. “Fine,” Wardle marched out the door. Moments later he returned with a woman in her late twenties.

“Do you have somewhere we can speak in private?” Paige asked Dan. Dan looked around the room, clearly pointing out they were alone. “I need a private conversation with...” Paige focused on the woman. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.” “Blaire,” she said immediately. “Blaire Duffy.” “I need a place I can speak with Ms. Duffy, alone,” Paige said again.

“I’m afraid I can’t allow that,” Daniel objected. “The incident took place in my store and therefore I must be present.” “Suit yourself,” Paige moved to the door. “Blaire, if you decide you want to discuss the situation involving you and Misty, give Margie a call at the station.” “You can’t just leave!” Dan bellowed. “I want that girl charged.” “I can,” Paige said calmly. “As far as I can ascertain, no crime has been committed. I highly suggest you free that little girl immediately before her parents call us and request charges be filed against you for kidnapping.” Paige stepped into the open area of the market and waited, knowing Dan would suddenly change his mind. He did. “Deputy Carter,” Dan said contritely. Paige smiled. “Yes?” “I may have acted in haste. There is another office you could utilize to speak with Blaire if you feel it is absolutely necessary,” he added. “Necessary?” Paige shrugged. “Nope, I believe I’m finished here. Have a nice day Mr. Wardle.”

Innocent Strategy “Wait,” he said immediately as he placed a hand on her arm. “I mean, well... I would really appreciate it if you would speak with Blaire. I think she might be able to shed some light on the situation,” Wardle corrected. “Hum,” Paige hesitated. “Well, okay. I have time to talk to Blaire if that’s what she wants.” She stepped back into the office area and waited for Dan Wardle to lead them down the hallway. “I’ll be out here, watching the other door to make sure the child doesn’t sneak out.” Paige closed the door and studied the woman in question. “As far as I’m concerned, this is a civil problem. The moment you paid for the merchandise... what happened to the milk and the granola bars, anyway?” Paige asked. “I don’t know,” Blaire admitted. “I just saw the girl with the boys and figured they needed a little help. I think maybe the boys took the stuff but I can’t be sure.”

“Boys?” Paige pressed. “Misty said she was here alone.” “I well...” she glanced at the closed door. “Whatever you tell me inside this room will not be repeated to your boss,” Paige assured her. “They’ve been in before. The first time I noticed her was a couple months back,” Blaire admitted. “Then, sporadically since then. That first day, she took a package of diapers. She’s taken odds and ends since then; some cereal, bananas, a package of hotdogs, stuff like that. I paid for the stuff each time I saw her. Nobody caught me before. I guess what I’m doing is against store policy or something but those kids looked like they really needed it. It’s not much for me but if a kid like that steals milk and diapers, not candy bars and goofy toys, you know she needs it, you know?” Paige considered. “Have you ever seen them in here with a parent?” “Never,” Blaire shook her head. “I tried to talk to the girl once, but she spooked. Took off running. It was awhile before she came back. I figured they’re neglected or abused or something but I couldn’t get close enough to find out. So, I just helped out a little. I should have that right. You know, to buy that food and stuff if I want. It’s my money, ain’t it?”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “It is,” Paige agreed. “And as far as I’m concerned you do. You are not in trouble with me or my office. As far as that goes, neither is Misty. Except she lied and I’d like to know why.” “Her name is Misty?” Blaire asked. “Well, I guess next time I’ll know what to call her then. But, if she’s needy and comes back here, Mr. Wardle is not going to cut her any breaks.” “I agree,” Paige opened the door. “Have a nice day Blaire Duffy.” Dan stepped forward. “That’s it? That’s all? What are you going to do with the girl?” “I’m going to see if I can give her a ride home,” Paige walked past the man and approached the door. “What kind of message is that for a kid who steals? Go ahead, no problem. Someone else will just pay for it. Don’t worry about sneaking things out that don’t belong to you.” Dan ranted. Paige stopped and turned. “Mr. Wardle,” she paused and waited for him to acknowledge her. “You told me yourself that you did not recover any merchandise. What exactly did that girl steal?” “That doesn’t matter,’ he insisted. “In the eyes of the law, it matters significantly.”

“Fine,” he seethed. “But I don’t want her back here. If she so much as steps foot in my parking lot, I will have her charged with trespassing. You make sure she knows that.” Paige shook her head at the insufferable tyrant and entered the room where Misty still sat. “So,” she said casually. “I learned something from one of the cashiers. You lied to me.” Misty’s head shot up and she looked in wide-eyed panic at Paige. What if she wasn’t able to go home? Jack might panic and do something stupid.

Innocent Strategy “Were they your brothers?” Paige asked softly. This girl was twitchy and terrified. Paige wanted to know why. “Yes,” she admitted. “And your parents? I told you I would need to contact them and I will,” Paige said as she settled into the chair once again. “I don’t have a dad,” Misty mumbled. “And my mom is at work. You can’t talk to her until she gets home.” “And when will that be?” Paige pressed. Misty shrugged. “She gets home when we’re asleep. I don’t know.” “Maybe I could call her at work and let her know you’re okay,” Paige offered. “I don’t have a number. She says we can’t bother her there,” Misty added.

“What if you have an emergency?” Paige questioned. “Then we call the police,” Misty shrugged. Paige grinned, the kid had an answer for everything. She scowled when she heard the manager pacing outside. “How about I drive you home and we’ll talk more about it then.” She stood and waited. “It’s not a request. Let’s go,” she added when Misty remained frozen in her seat. A loud screeching sound filled the room as Misty slowly pushed back her chair and stood. She didn’t want anyone to know where she lived. She was worried now. She’d messed up. Hopefully, Jack and Seth would be home and locked inside by now. This was all so hard. A tear slowly slid down her cheek as she started to cry. Paige’s heart melted at the young girl that was trying to act so tough. “It’s okay, kid.” She wrapped an arm around the girls’ shoulders and realized just how tiny she really was. A sinking feeling settled in her gut and she was pretty sure Blaire was right. Some kind of abuse or neglect was at play here. She directed Misty out the door and far away from the crazy store manager. What a heartless monster. How could anyone look at this frightened kid and not want to help?

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 Once they were settled inside the patrol car, Paige turned to look at Misty. “If you’re stealing food, I’d guess you’re hungry. How about we stop and grab a burger and fries before I drop you off?” “Really?” Misty asked, studying Paige for a trick. “Really,” Paige said as she pulled into the drive-up. “How many burgers? Two or three?” “I have two brothers if that’s what you’re asking,” Misty said cautiously. Paige smiled. “This isn’t an interrogation, Misty. I just need to know how much food to buy. No hidden agenda. No grown-up tricks going on here. Just a simple number, that’s all I’m looking for.” “Three, including me.” “Three it is,” Paige pulled forward and began speaking into the box. Paige took the bags of food and passed them to Misty. “Okay, where to?” “Umm,” Misty hesitated. “Can you just drop me back at the grocery store?” “Sorry,” Paige shook her head. “The manager doesn’t want you back there. He said if you return, he wants you charged with trespassing.” Misty’s eyes grew wide. “Can he do that?” “I’m afraid so,” Paige glanced at the girl as she pulled from the drive-through and parked in the lot. “Misty, what you did was wrong.” Misty shifted uncomfortably. She knew it was wrong, but she was desperate. “Do you know what consequences are?” Paige pressed. “I guess,” Misty mumbled. “Explain it to me,” Paige inquired. “I guess… if you do something bad, something bad happens to you,” Misty said as she glanced out the window.

Innocent Strategy “Sort of,” Paige smiled. “It means every action creates a Domino effect.” “I don’t understand,” Misty admitted. “Dominos?” Paige shook her head. “Okay, let me put it this way. Pretend a person is driving home and realizes she has a flat tire. She pulls over and tries to figure out what to do. As she stares into the trunk of the car, a passerby stops and helps. The woman is sent on her way, thankful for the help. She pulls into a parking lot and sees an elderly lady struggling to load her groceries into her car. She remembers how it felt to be helped when she needed it, so she stops and helps the lady. That lady gets home and sees a local teen shoveling the driveway for her neighbor. She immediately goes inside and gathers up a few Christmas cookies and a mug of hot chocolate. The boy, rejuvenated, decides to clear out a few more neighbors driveways. And the list continues to go on. Dominos!” “So,” Misty considered. “When you do something good, the Dominos are good. And when you do something bad, the Dominos are bad?” “Yeah,” Paige agreed. “Taking things that don’t belong to you is wrong. You’re not in trouble with me because one of the cashiers decided to pay for everything you have taken. But the Domino effect is that the manager doesn’t want you in his story again. Plus, the cashier got into trouble for helping.” Misty’s head shot around and she stared at the cop. “But you said if you do something good, good things happen. Something good should happen to the cashier that helped me. She shouldn’t be in trouble. I don’t want anyone to be in trouble.” Paige smiled. “Just because she got into trouble at work, doesn’t mean something good won’t happen outside of work. She might get a nice big surprise for her generosity. But you can’t steal things anymore. Do you understand?” Misty swallowed the lump in her throat. She didn’t want to steal but she had to take care of Jack and Seth. Paige studied the girl. She was in trouble and needed a friend, not a lecture. “Enough about that. Let’s get you home before those fries get cold. There’s nothing worse than cold fries and I bet your brothers are hungry, too.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 Misty looked out the window again. Paige was a cop but she’d done something nice when she bought them dinner. Maybe it would be okay to tell the cops where she lived. Maybe her mom was wrong about this, too. “Okay,” she brushed away another tear. “Go that way, I’ll tell you where to turn.” Paige pulled from the lot, made each turn as Misty directed, and ultimately left the highway to travel down a long driveway. The first thing she noticed was a lack of vehicle tracks. The snow was almost melted, but it was obvious a car hadn’t driven the dirt trail at all since the last storm. What day did it snow? Paige tried to remember. She was positive it had been at least three days. Maybe Misty’s mother took the bus. But the buses didn’t run in the middle of the night. Something was not right here. She brought the vehicle to a stop in front of the run-down house. It looked more like a summer cabin than a family home. The wooden structure needed repairs for sure. The paint was peeling around the wood door frame, there was a wooden panel nailed haphazardly to one side, probably to seal seams that had opened up. The stairs leading to the front porch were old concrete that was sluffing off on the edges and the rock foundation had a few holes where sections of rocks had fallen out or crumbled under the pressure. As a whole, not unsafe but certainly not ideal. Misty glanced at the police officer who was studying her house. She wondered what the lady was thinking but didn’t dare ask. Instead, she pushed open the car door and struggled to carry the bags on her own. When the cop climbed from the car and took two of the bags, leaving her with one bag and the carton holding three chocolate shakes, Misty considered her options. She didn’t want the lady inside her house, but the cop had already forced her way into Misty’s life and she was afraid it was only the beginning. Paige had just stepped onto the porch when the front door flew open and a small child of about five stood in the opening. Misty panicked, then relaxed. “Jack, take these into the kitchen, okay?” She shoved the items she’d been holding into her brother’s arms and turned to grab the bags from the policewoman. “I got this. Thanks for the ride.”

Innocent Strategy Paige hesitated then handed Misty a business card. “I need your mom to call me.” She silently studied the young girl. “I’m not going to drop this. You know that. Have your mom call me when she gets home.” Then she turned and walked back to her car. Misty rushed into the house and ran to the window. She watched as the police car disappeared down their long driveway. Once the car was gone, she joined Jack in the kitchen. “Where is Seth?” “Sleeping. He wouldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t get him to stop,” Jack admitted. “I’m sorry. He stepped in water. I wanted to get us home but his feet got wet. Then he sat in the snow and cried. His pants were completely soggy. He wouldn’t stand up and I had to drag him all the way home. We were both so cold and wet. I took off the soggy clothes and wrapped him in a blanket. As soon as I finished, he crawled under the bed and cried until he was sleeping.” Misty put a hand on Jack’s arm. “It’s okay. You got him home. I’ll go get him. We need to eat.” “This is really all for us?” Jack asked as he pulled out a carton of fries. “Yep,” Misty smiled. “I’ll get Seth and we’ll have a real dinner.” Seth was sleeping under the bed with his legs poking out. Misty crouched and gently pulled on his feet until he was clear of the bed. Then she began to pull on a dry pair of sweats and added some socks. Seth rubbed his eyes, curled up and started to fall back to sleep. “Seth, you have to wake up. Do you want some fries?”

Seth rubbed his eyes again and pushed his lip out in a pout. “Fies?” “And ice cream,” Misty said standing. “I promise you’ll like it. But you have to come downstairs.” She held out her hand. “Kay,” the sleepy toddler slowly rose to his feet. Misty took advantage and pulled a warm sweatshirt over his head before he could protest. Then she took his hand and led him down to the kitchen. *****

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 Paige slowly strolled to her desk and dropped into her chair. She studied the contents of the bag and sighed. Cold fries. She hated cold fries. Paige dropped the carton into the garbage and unwrapped her burger. Her mind was stuck on Misty and her brother’s. They were so young. The little boy couldn’t be more than five. She wondered how old the other brother was. Did he fall between Misty and Jack or was he younger? He must be younger if Misty was stealing diapers a few months ago. What about their parents? Misty said she didn’t have a dad. Was that because he’d left them? Or had he ever been a part of their life at all? The kids were obviously close, but that didn’t necessarily mean they all had the same father. She had just finished her lunch when her boss stepped through the back door. Paige stood and followed him into his office. “Oh, hey Paige.” Jericho removed his leather coat and hung it on a hook on the far wall. “What’s up? Margie said you had a shoplifter but I didn’t see anyone back in the cells. Did you cite and release?”

“No,” Paige settled into a chair. “It was a young girl. That’s what I needed to talk to you about.” “Okay,” Jericho settled into his chair. “Talk.” “I was wondering if I could work a split shift,” Paige requested. “It’s pretty slow and Dean just came on duty. I’d like to head home and come back tonight, work the graveyard if that’s okay.” “Why?” Jericho studied his deputy. “The kid,” Paige began. “Misty. My shoplifter. There’s something going on with her and her brothers. I’d like to camp out, watch the driveway.” “By kid you mean…?” “She said she’s ten,” Paige provided. “Her brother looks about five.” Jericho frowned. “What did she take?” “Milk and granola bars,” Paige said, frowning.

“How did you handle it?” Jericho asked, a kid stealing food didn’t seem normal.

Innocent Strategy “Well,” Paige sighed. “I bought her and her brother’s burgers, fries and shakes then took her home.” “And the theft?” Jericho wondered. “The girl didn’t have anything on her and one of the cashiers paid for the items the manager claimed she took. I concluded it was at best a civil problem and Blaire, that’s the cashier, didn’t want to file a complaint,” Paige explained. “And the manager?” “Was pissed,” Paige admitted. “And insisted she’s not welcome at his store in the future. I told her to stay away. If I ever get to talk to her mother, I’ll explain the situation.” “If?” Jericho frowned.

“Yeah,” Paige nodded. “That’s why I want to work the split. Misty said her mom was at work and normally gets home after the kids are already asleep. I’d like to check it out. I’m worried about neglect… maybe even abuse.” “But you left the kids there alone?” Jericho considered. “I didn’t have a reason not to. They had coats and boots, sure Misty technically shoplifted but once the cashier paid the bill, there was no reason to bring her in.” “Where does the mother work?” Jericho asked. “Maybe you should head over and talk to her now.” “That’s the thing,” Paige sighed. “Misty said she doesn’t know. Claims she doesn’t even have a number. Her mother told her to call the police if there was a problem. The kid’s ten and smart. She’s more than responsible enough to babysit for a few hours.” “Then why the split shift?” Jericho asked. He agreed, something was off but he wanted to hear Paige’s take on the situation. Paige shrugged. “My gut is telling me something is not right with that family. I just want to hang out, wait for the kid’s mother to come home and talk to her myself.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “I doubt you’re going to figure this out with one conversation, but go ahead,” Jericho approved. “Let me know what the mother says. And, tell her if she’s going to leave her kids home alone they need more of a contact than call the police.” “Will do,” Paige stood. “I’m also going to do my best to get inside that house. If there’s no food, do I have your blessing to remove them? Even temporarily?”

“I trust you,” Jericho sat back. “You have my blessing. Do what’s right for the kids. The rest will work itself out.” “Thanks,” Paige started for the door. “I’ll let you know what I find. See you tomorrow.” Jericho nodded and watched as Paige walked from the room. He was finding it difficult to get her alone. He needed to have a conversation with her but the timing had to be right. Not while she was working a case. Oh, well. Jericho thought. He’d waited this long a few more days wouldn’t hurt. ***** It was nearly five in the morning and Misty’s mother still hadn’t shown. Paige was parked on the highway next to the driveway where she had a clear view. She’d already checked the bus schedule, the last run was hours ago. She’d wait a little longer, grab a couple hours sleep then head back and talk to Jericho. It was beginning to look like three little kids had been abandoned but Paige wasn’t ready to jump to conclusions just yet. An hour later, Paige finally decided to head home. As she pulled into the driveway, she glanced next door. Dax still hadn’t made it back from Washington. What was taking so long? Nathan said the screening process would only take a couple days, but Dax had been gone for nearly a week now. She hoped nothing had gone wrong. Based on what the General had said, Dax should pass his security clearance… no problem. So, why was he still back east? She needed his input on the Misty situation. Okay, not really. But she missed their breakfast routine. She missed Dax.

Innocent Strategy She pushed through the door and headed upstairs. Misty, Jack and her feelings for Dax would have to wait. Right now, she needed sleep. She moved to the window to pull the blinds closed then hesitated. A chill ran down her spine and she focused on the tree line. Was someone watching her again? Paige frowned, moved to turn out the light and walked back to the window. She stood frozen for several minutes but the feeling was gone now. If someone had been there, he was gone. She lowered the blackout screen and climbed into bed. She’d check out the area when she got up, it would be light then and easier to find any clues that may have been left. Daniel slid further into the trees as anger surged through him. Paige Carter had been working all night and he was no closer to finding her files than he had been before. He’d had the perfect opportunity to gain access to her home and failed again. He was running out of time, Dax Hamilton wasn’t going to be out of town forever. He was beginning to believe there was no hope, no way inside, no way to find out what she was constantly studying. He’d eliminated Chaya only to face the same tenacity from her daughter years later. But Paige hadn’t been here when the initial incident happened. The catalyst that had put this all in motion. She didn’t know anything about it. She couldn’t. So if he could just avoid her from here on out, maybe he would be safe. One encounter with the stubborn, arrogant woman was enough. He’d just stay out of her way from here on out and he’d be fine. Daniel practically chanted that mantra all the way back to his car. Everything will be okay, Everything will be okay... he was still distracted as he slid behind the wheel and cautiously drove away.

***** Paige woke to snow. She stood in front of the window watching the large white flakes fall from the sky as she sipped her coffee. So much for searching the area for clues. Anything that was there, would now be gone and she’d never know if someone had been out there or not. It was going to drive her crazy, the not knowing. Her instincts told her she was right, someone was still watching her. But was that enough? Should she report her suspicions to Jericho or just stay alert? Nope, she was keeping this one to herself. Jericho’s protectiveness had eased over the past few weeks and she didn’t want him on full alert again. Anyway, he was clearly investigating something of his own. Something he was stressed about but not sharing with the team. She’d wait and talk to Dax when he got home. She had other things to worry about today... three young kids and a missing mother.

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 An hour later Paige was in her patrol car, headed for the office. She needed to talk to Jericho about Misty and her brothers. “Paige?” Margie’s voice came over the radio. “Go ahead,” Paige answered immediately.

“What’s your twenty?” Margie asked. “I’m just pulling out of my driveway, why?” “Can you respond to the corner of Main and Third? We have a car off the road, collided with the tree, which toppled and struck the Chevron sign. I’m told there are injuries. Fire’s already enroute.” “On it,” Paige said as she flipped on her emergency equipment and headed for the crash.

***** “I hate her,” Jack said. He was curled up on the couch near tears. “Who?” Misty asked as she stood over him and added another blanket to the throw blanket he was already using. “Mom,” he said softly. “I hope she never comes back.” “You don’t mean that,” Misty argued. “We need her.”

“We do not,” Jack insisted. Misty sighed as she sat next to her brother. She didn’t want to cry, but tears started to fall. “I don’t know what to do.” “Go to the store,” Jack urged. “Get him some medicine.” “I can’t,” Misty shook her head. “The manager said if I go back, he’ll have me arrested.” “Then I’ll go,” Jack suggested.

Innocent Strategy “You’re sick, too,” Misty argued. “And it’s too cold out there. You might get lost.” “I won’t get lost,” Jack pouted. He pushed off the blankets and stood. “I’m going.” “Jack,” Misty argued. “You can’t.” “I’m going,” Jack said again. “I won’t get lost. We’ve been there a gazillion times.” Misty smiled. “That’s not a word.” “Is too,” Jack said as he stepped into his winter boots. “How do I know which medicine to get?” he frowned. “We need baby Tylenol,” Misty told him. “Wait, let me get the empty bottle. You can take it with you.” She rushed out of the room as Jack pulled on his coat and gloves. Misty slid the bottle into Jack’s pocket then grabbed her scarf and wrapped it around his neck and ears. “Be careful and come straight home. I’m going to worry until you get here. And don’t be obvious. You need to pick up a couple things, then put them back down before you pick up the Tylenol. Then, pick up two at the same time and set one of them back down. Don’t leave right away. Walk around the store for a minute, then come straight home.” Jack rolled his eyes at his sister. “I know!”

Misty gave her brother a hug and opened the door. “Be careful, okay?” “Okay,” Jack said as he turned and walked outside. Jack slowly made his way down the driveway then across the road that was usually busy. Tonight, it was snow packed and slippery but he couldn’t see any cars. He was proud of himself, he only fell once and was really glad he didn’t get run over before he got up. Once he reached the other side, he walked to the funny tree that told him the right pathway to take. It was a shortcut they always used and would lead right to the market. The trail was covered in snow and Jack had a hard time knowing if he was

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 still on the path or not. He had to stop every few steps and look around to make sure he was going in the right direction. The trees looked different with all their branches covered in snow. He was so cold and terrified he was lost and heading in the wrong direction when he saw the old barn. His heart soared. He was almost there. Jack immediately picked up his pace. He had to hurry, Seth was really sick and his sister was going to be worried if he took too long. Maybe he could follow his own tracks on the way home. Jack made his way up the sidewalk, crossed the parking lot and entered the store. He didn’t even look around, just began to walk up and down the aisles. He finally made it to the row with the medicine. But when he reached into his pocket to pull out the empty bottle, it was gone. That’s when he began to panic. What was he going to do? He needed that bottle to know what medicine to get Seth and he’d lost it. Maybe it fell out on the road. He’d been so worried about getting run over, he hadn’t checked to make sure he still had the bottle. Tears ran down his face as he stared at all the boxes. Maybe he could guess. He frantically searched the shelf, studying one box after another trying to remember what the bottle Misty gave him looked like. All of them looked different than the bottle though. He would have to open them up and look inside to find the right one, it was his only option. Jack slowly reached for the shelf, his hand shook as he wrapped his tiny fingers around one of the boxes. He bit his bottom lip as he carefully tore open the top of the flap then jumped and let out a scream when a strong hand wrapped around his neck. Jack looked up to see an angry, mean looking man glaring at him.

“Come with me young man,” Daniel Wardle said as he pulled the kid towards the back. The kid started to cry, like that was going to matter. What was wrong with parents these days? Did nobody teach their kids right from wrong anymore? ***** Blaire spotted the boy the instant he stepped into the store. She’d watched as best she could but when Mrs. Donaldson stepped up with a large basket full of items, she’d lost track of him. Moments later she watched in horror as her manager marched the frightened, tearful child into the back office.

Innocent Strategy “Here’s your receipt,” she handed Mrs. Donaldson the long strip of paper. “Be careful out there.” “Thank you, dear,” Mrs. Donaldson said tucking the receipt into her large purse. “What do you think that young boy did? You look worried, is everything okay?” “I don’t know,” Blaire admitted. “His sister was in yesterday. She took some milk and Mr. Wardle called the police. I’m worried he was trying to steal something tonight and my boss must have caught him.” “Oh dear,” Mrs. Donaldson frowned. “Milk, huh? That’s unusual for a child.” “Yeah,” Blaire frowned and glanced toward the back office. “How did the encounter with his sister go?” Donaldson asked. “I mean, did the cop arrest her?” “No,” Blaire smiled. “Deputy Carter was wonderful with her.” “Well…” Donaldson trailed off. “Maybe you should call him.” “Oh,” Blaire considered. “It was a her, and that’s a wonderful idea. Thank you,” Blaire pulled out her phone and dialed the number Paige had given her. “Carter,” Paige said as she climbed into her car to try to get warm. Her toes were so cold she couldn’t feel them any longer. She absently watched Frank hook onto another vehicle as she listened to the woman on the phone. ***** Jericho pulled up behind Paige. She’d been on duty far too long. He stepped from his vehicle and watched as Frank slowly pulled a car from the ditch, then approached the driver side of the patrol car. Paige was on the phone so he tapped lightly on the window to let her know he was there. Paige jumped at the tap on the window then immediately rolled it down. “Thank you for calling me Blaire, I’ll be right there.” She disconnected and glanced at her boss. “Hey.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “You look beat,” Jericho observed. “I brought you a sandwich but why don’t you let me handle this and you head home. I’ve called in the reserves, Susie’s taken over dispatching and Havilland’s on duty. We’ll manage.” “I’ll let you take this but I can’t go home,” Paige grabbed the sack of food. “Thanks for this, I’m starved.”

“What do you mean you can’t go home?” Jericho challenged. “I’m quite certain I was the one elected sheriff in this county. As long as I get the big office, I call the shots.” “Blaire from the market just called,” Paige said as she took a huge bite of the sandwich. She swallowed then gulped down some of her water. “Misty’s brother is at the market. The manager took him into the back room. That can’t be good. I’m worried he shoplifted.” “Family trait?” Jericho frowned. “No,” Paige shook her head. “I don’t think so. The kids only five. Misty must have sent him because she couldn’t go herself. She’s just a scared kid and the manager was very clear he’d scream trespassing if he saw her on the property. I didn’t get a chance to update you, the blizzard had me hopping all day. Mom never showed last night. I stayed until six. The kids must have been desperate to risk another theft so soon. Maybe something to do with the storm. I’m actually surprised Wardle hasn’t called it in already.” Just then Jericho’s phone buzzed. “Walters. Uh-huh. Transfer me to the number, I’ll take care of this myself.” Paige frowned. “I can handle this, Frank’s almost finished here if you need to leave.” Jericho held up a finger. “Sheriff Walters here.”

Innocent Strategy Paige watched for several seconds as Jericho listened to the man on the other end of the call. She wondered what could have happened now. The night had been long and difficult already. The last thing they needed was some kind of emergency. “We’re on our way, but as you might have noticed the roads are a mess and we are dealing with an actual emergency at the moment. We’ll get there when we get there. Yes, I will be dealing with this myself.” “If you need to go, I’ll finish up here then head over to the market.” Paige climbed from the car and stood next to her boss. “Actually that was Daniel Wardle,” Jericho said softly. Paige frowned, she knew that tone. Jericho was angry. “What did he do?” ”He has your boy and wants him locked up for shoplifting immediately,” Jericho began. “He called the office. Susie said he went off on her, yelling about my incompetent deputy, our lack of protocol when handling shoplifters, society’s inability to teach their children right from wrong and a lot of nonsensical blubber that Susie ignored. Then he insisted she send an officer right away because he apparently doesn’t have time to wait and it had to be someone other than you. So, you ready to go?” Paige shook her head. “That man is a tyrant. Does he know he’s dealing with Misty’s brother?” “I don’t think so,” Jericho sighed. “I’ll deal with Wardle. You try to find out why in the world a five-year-old kid would walk through a blizzard to shoplift tonight. If we can’t track down their mother, we’ll have to take action. They can’t be alone in this weather.” “I agree. It had to be an emergency,” Paige was sure of it. “Otherwise, Misty would never have let him out of the house.” “Let’s go find out,” Jericho glanced at Frank. “Who owns the car?” “A young girl, she’s only eighteen. Lost control and landed in the ditch. Her dad came and picked her up already,” Paige smiled. “I think he was more rattled than she was and that’s saying something. The girl was a mess. Frank gave them the info and they’ll check in with him when this blizzard is over.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “Great,” Jericho motioned to Frank, who pulled away. “Let’s go then.” He walked back to his vehicle and started the engine. Jericho waited for Paige to pull out then he followed her to the market. The two of them stopped just inside the store and waited. “Deputy Carter,” Blaire said, obviously relieved. “They’re back there. In the office. The little boy, he was so terrified and Mr. Wardle was so mean. I tried to go back and check on him, but Mr. Wardle ordered me to get back to work. I’m the only cashier on duty tonight. We’re pretty slow, on account of the snow and all, but we’ve had a few customers here and there.” “I’ll handle it,” Paige assured the woman. “Let’s go,” she said to Jericho. “I know the way.” She motioned to a closed door. Daniel jumped to his feet the instant he saw the large, intimidating man. Maybe he’d made a mistake. The guy didn’t look like someone he should mess with. He’d heard of Jericho Walters, but hadn’t ever met him. In his line of work, he typically dealt with the street officers, not their boss. His frown deepened when Deputy Paige Carter stepped through the door. “I specifically asked for someone other than her.” “Actually,” Jericho said coolly. “I’m glad you mentioned that. When you call my office, you get whatever officer we decide to send. End of story. This is not some kind of pick your deputy program. And, if you ever harass one of my employees the way you harassed Susie tonight, you will not like my response. And make no mistake, you will get a personal response.” “I um…” Dan stuttered. “I’m sorry, but Deputy Carter refused to deal with the last shoplifter simply because it was a child. I didn’t want the same problem again to-

night. It’s unprofessional.”

“Did your cashier pay for the merchandise or didn’t she?” Jericho asked pointedly. “Oh, well… technically, yes.” Daniel admitted. “Then my deputy handled the situation exactly the way it needed to be handle. Where is the child?” Walters demanded.

Innocent Strategy “Um…” Wardle frowned. “The girl?” “Is the child you have in custody another girl?” Paige asked. “No,” Wardle frowned. This was not going the way he had hoped. “It’s a boy and he’s in that room over there.” Paige moved past the two men and entered the room. Jack was sitting in the same chair Misty had occupied. It broke Paige’s heart. The tiny child looked so terrified but there was something more. He looked defeated and tears were streaming down his face. When he looked up their eyes locked and Paige knew the boy recognized her. “Hello, Jack.” Jack swallowed. He didn’t know what to do. Seth needed medicine and Misty was going to be worried. He wondered if he was going to jail. “We need to talk,” Paige said as she sat next to the boy. “Okay,” he said softly. Paige had a moment of déjà vu. This reminded her of the talk she’d had with Misty. She better step softly or he’d clam up just like his sister had. “Can you tell me what you were trying to take tonight?” “I didn’t take anything,” Jack said defiantly. “That’s not what the manager said,” Paige told him. “I just opened it, I didn’t take it,” Jack insisted. “Okay,” Paige agreed. “What was it? What did you open?” “Medicine,” Jack said softly. Paige frowned. “What kind of medicine? Is somebody sick?” Jack swallowed. He didn’t know what to do but somehow he needed to get home before Misty came looking and he was worried about Seth. He had to get home. Maybe this police lady could help. “My brother, Seth. He’s really sick and I was supposed to get him some medicine but I lost the bottle so I opened the box to see if it looked like what I remembered.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “Can you tell me what’s wrong with Seth?” Paige asked, worried now. “He’s really sick,” Jack said. “He’s really, really hot and he has a bad cough. He makes a funny sound when he breathes.” “You’re right, it sounds like Seth is really sick,” Paige agreed. “What if I drive you home and see if I can help?” “Umm,” Jack bit his bottom lip. “I don’t know. Misty said I had to hurry but she might get mad if I take you home.” “Well,” Paige shrugged. “I just thought if Seth was sick, I should take a look. You know, make sure he’s okay and doesn’t need a doctor.” “I think…” Jack paused. “I think he might need a doctor. He’s really sick.” Paige stood. “Let’s go home, Jack. Let’s go see if Seth needs my help. I think Misty might be worried too. She’d want me to drive you home don’t you think?” “Okay,” Jack stood. “Am I going to jail?” “No,” Paige assured him. “I won’t let anyone take you to jail. I promise.” Jericho watched as Paige and a small boy stepped from the room. The kid looked scrawny and a little malnourished. There was definitely something going on with that family. “Are we done here?” “We are,” Paige affirmed.

“So, you are arresting this one, right?” Wardle demanded. “I caught him redhanded. You are arresting him for the theft?” “Mr. Wardle,” Jericho studied the man. “Have a good evening.” “What does that mean?” Dan asked. Paige held Jack’s hand as she left the office, Jericho followed them out the door. Once they stepped outside, into the blustery wind and snow filled air, Paige rushed Jack to her vehicle and settled him inside. Then she turned to her boss. “I’m taking him home. He said his little brother is sick. I’m worried. From his description, it could be serious.”

Innocent Strategy “I’ll follow you,” Jericho told her. “If we’re right and the mother has disappeared, you’re going to need my help.” “Okay,” Paige agreed. “But be prepared, Misty is going to try to hide the truth and keep us out of the home.” The two vehicles slowly made their way up the driveway. Jack hadn’t said a word all the way back. Paige knew he was worried and didn’t want to let his sister down. She could appreciate their fear, but it was time to get to the bottom of this. She parked her car and turned to study Jack. “You ready?” “She’s going to be mad,” he practically whispered. “She trusted me.” “I don’t think so,” Paige said as she watched the front door fly open and Misty run across the front yard to the parked vehicle. “Misty,” Paige said as she exited the car. “Jack told me Seth is sick. I need to see him, can we go inside and get your brother the help he needs?” Misty was crying as she pulled Jack from the car and gave him a huge hug. “Are you mad?” Jack asked softly. Misty shook her head then looked at Paige. “Seth needs a doctor.” She started to cry harder. “I don’t know what to do and I thought… I was so worried about Jack. I should have made him stay home.” “Let’s take a look at Seth and then we can discuss Jack,” Paige motioned for the house. “Is he in trouble?” Misty asked. “It was my fault. I made him do it.” “No, you didn’t,” Jack protested. Paige smiled and glanced at her boss, who had stepped up behind her. “I need to see Seth, okay?” Misty took a deep breath, glanced at the front door then nodded. She slowly made her way up the stairs and across the patio then pushed open the front door. The group stepped inside.

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 The first thing Paige noticed was how cold it was. “Misty, how long has it been since you had heat?” “I don’t know,” Misty answered. “The electricity went out a few months ago.” Jericho frowned as he glanced around. The girl had lit a candle to give the space some light, but it was clear they had been alone for some time. He moved to the kitchen and tried the water. Nothing. How had these kids survived for so long, in the winter like this? “Where is Seth?” Paige asked before her boss blew a gasket. By the look on his face, he was close. “Upstairs, in the loft,” Misty ascended the stairs, Paige followed. They stepped into an open loft area that contained three small beds. Again, Misty had lit a candle, but the little boy was seriously sick. “Sheriff?” Paige called.

“Yes,” Jericho answered as his head appeared just above the floor. One look at the room and he pulled out his phone. “I’ll take care of it.” Within minutes an ambulance was parked in front of the house and EMT’s were loading the tiny child onto a stretcher. “I’ll head to the hospital with the baby, you take care of those two. Bring them to Gunnison with you. I’ll have Family Services meet us at Gunnison Valley and we’ll figure it out there. See you soon,” Jericho said as he left the house.

Paige stepped into the living room and spotted Jack on the couch. The kid was crying again. She slowly sat next to him and pulled him into her arms. That’s when she realized he too had a fever. “Why didn’t you tell me you were sick, Jack?” Jack sniffled. “Is Seth going to die?” “No,” Paige assured him. “He’s going to be okay but he’s really sick and will have to stay in the hospital for a little while.”

Innocent Strategy Misty cautiously sat next to Paige. “This is all my fault. If I hadn’t gotten caught, Jack wouldn’t have had to bring Seth home and they wouldn’t have gotten wet in the cold. That’s why they’re both sick. Seth is worse than Jack but it’s all my fault.” “Are you guys ready to tell me where your mom is?” Paige asked. “We don’t know,” Misty answered as she stared at her hands. “She left and didn’t come back.” “Has she done this before?” Paige asked. “Sometimes,” Jack answered. “I hate her. This is all her fault.” “You don’t hate her,” Misty objected. “It’s my fault.” “It’s not your fault, Misty,” Paige told her. “Now, what do you mean by sometimes?”

“Mom sometimes leaves us alone for a few days. But she’s never been gone this long. I’m worried something happened to her,” Misty admitted. “I tried, but the power went out, then the water and we ran out of food. I didn’t know what to do.” “Did she really go to work?” Paige asked. “Sometimes,” Misty said softly. “But I think she went to a party the night she left.” “Okay,” Paige was having a hard time holding in the anger. How could a mother leave to go party and never come home? How could she not worry about the wellbeing of her three children? The woman was clearly unfit. “Let’s head to the hospital then. I know you guys want to see your brother and I want a doctor to look at Jack.” “You promise Seth’s okay?” Jack asked. “I promise,” Paige told him and held out her hand. Jack took it and Misty stood. “Let me lock up,” she rushed into the kitchen and grabbed a set of keys then followed Paige, blowing out the candle before she stepped out the door and locked it behind her. The house was pitch dark and eerily quiet. As they pulled away, Misty wondered if they would ever see their home again. She was smart enough to know that

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 now the cops knew their mom was missing, they wouldn’t let them live there alone any longer. ***** Emily Donaldson hung up the phone, knowing she’d done the right thing. Her best friend’s daughter had been so depressed for nearly a year now. The news she’d just shared might save an entire family. And if this worked out the way she hoped, those kids would be much better off. She’d known immediately who the child was at the grocery store. She’d seen all three of the kids sneaking around for weeks. In fact, two weeks ago she’d nearly called Family Services herself. But she didn’t like to meddle and she hadn’t been sure she was right. The two boys had snuck over to the Farnsworth farm and returned with a bucket of water. Emily had been curious enough to make her way to the front window and peer inside. Unfortunately, it was pretty dark and she couldn’t make anything out clearly. The house looked clean enough, but she hadn’t seen lights inside the place for over a month. Again, not enough to report but curious just the same. When she’d realized that tiny child was one of the kids she’d been suspicious of, she’d rushed home and called her friend. Maybe it was time to put things in motion. She just hoped she hadn’t waited too long. Guilt had gotten the better of her as she watched the baby being carried to an ambulance and the second deputy escort the other two kids to her patrol car. That’s when she realized it might be too late. But Jan would know what to do. Jan would know how to help her poor friend. Jan would handle everything, Emily was sure of it. ***** Paige stepped into the private room and settled into a chair. “Seth’s condition is serious but we caught it in time. He has a severe case of pneumonia but shouldn’t have any permanent damage. The poor kid’s lungs are full of liquid. Jack’s been admitted as well for his fever, they’re watching for signs of pneumonia as well. When I explained the situation to the nurse, she talked the doctor into admitting Misty as well. All three of them are scrawny and malnourished. They need a few days of constant liquid and food to get them back to normal.”

Innocent Strategy Jericho studied his deputy. “This wasn’t your fault.” “I guess I know that,” Paige sighed and settled further into the chair. “I didn’t have a reason to remove them, just my gut. That’s why I watched the house all night. I really did plan to discuss it with you first thing but the storm got in the way.” “Misty thinks the boys are sick because of their trek back from the store, but the doc says it was already developing before yesterday,” Jericho provided. “Those kids were on a pathway to danger and didn’t know it. I have Susie working on the mother. Once we have a name, we can try to track her down and deal with her criminally. In the meantime, Family Services is on their way. Jan, the Director said she thinks she has a place to house them at least temporarily but she would like to wait until tomorrow morning to make contact.” “Then why is she headed out tonight?” Paige asked. “She wants to see the kids, make that first initial contact. You know, be sure we didn’t scare them to death when we drug them out of their home, threw them into a police car and hauled them in.” Jericho smiled. “Yeah,” Paige smiled back. “That’s exactly how it all happened. How’d she know?” “Jan’s alright,” Jericho added. “Don’t get me wrong. She just came here from Seattle a few years back, returned to her roots I guess you could say. Apparently, they did things a little different in the big city. She’s still sensitive to that time in her life and I don’t argue. I think it’s good for the kids to get to know her right off the bat.” “Duly noted,” Paige stood. “I need coffee, you want some?” “I’m told there’s a decent pot in the employee lounge,” Jericho offered. “Throw in a little cream and one sugar. The lounge is to your left then three doors down on your right.” Paige slipped out the door and disappeared. Jericho wondered if it was a good time to tell her about his relationship with Chaya. He couldn’t procrastinate forever, but somehow he didn’t think a hospital waiting room while they were dealing with three young, frightened kids was the time to delve into such a sensitive topic. Once again, the conversation would have to wait.

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 ***** Jan stepped to the front door and rang the bell. The dog began to bark, she could hear shuffling, then footsteps, and finally the door swung open. “Good morning, Matt.” “Ms. Bolton,” Matt pushed open the screen door and motioned for the woman to enter. “Did we have an appointment?” “No,” Jan said casually as she looked around for Matt’s wife, Penny. “I wanted to let you know the paperwork is complete.” “Oh,” Matt frowned. “Couldn’t you have called? I mean, with the weather and all I would think that would have been better. It’s still pretty bad out there this morning.” “If that was all I had to talk to you about, I would have simply called.” Jan paused in front of the couch. “Is Penny home?” “She is,” Matt glanced towards a closed door. “Does she need to join us?” “That would be great,” Jan said as she settled onto the couch. “Um, okay.” Matt moved down the hallway then disappeared through a door. Penny was sitting in front of the window, the same as she was every other morning since they had lost their baby. Matt moved forward and knelt beside her. “Baby, Jan Bolton is here. She said she needs to talk to us about something.” He reached up and placed a hand on her left cheek, hoping the contact would get her attention. He knew his wife was depressed. She was devastated. But it had been nearly a year and she seemed to be getting worse, not better. He didn’t know how to pull her out of this funk she’d fallen into. “What?” Penny finally turned and focused on her husband. “What did you say?” “Jan Bolton,” Matt stood and held out a hand. “She’s here and she said she needs to talk to us. The paperwork has been approved. Maybe she has a child that needs us.”

“What if I can’t do it?” Penny asked, panic evident in her tone.

Innocent Strategy “I know you can,” Matt took her hand and led her from the room. “Let’s hear her out, see what she has to say, then we can decide. Okay?” Penny nodded. Once the couple was settled across from Jan, she began. “Like I told Matt, your paperwork has been approved. I know you said you were thinking of two children but I’m wondering if you would consider fostering three.” “You have three children that need a home?” Matt asked. That seemed like a lot for first time foster parents. “I do,” Jan affirmed. “I met them last night. They are all in the hospital.” “Oh, dear,” Penny gasped and began shaking her head. She couldn’t take in a sick child. She couldn’t get her hopes up and then have them die again.

“They are healthy, or they will be I should say,” Jan corrected. “The youngest, he’s eighteen months old. Seth has pneumonia. His older brother and sister are both malnourished and Jack, he’s five, has a severe cold... that’s all. The doctors just wanted to admit them overnight. Mostly due to the malnutrition.” “And their parents?” Matt asked. “Well, that’s a bit of a mystery,” Jan admitted. “We believe they’ve been abandoned in their own home. The police are working on that as we speak. I was hoping you might join me. I’m heading back to the hospital this morning. Maybe if you met them, you might be willing to at least take them in on a temporary basis. They truly are adorable.” Matt studied his wife. “I don’t know, three seems like a lot to handle. We don’t know what we’re doing. This is all so new to us.” “I know,” Jan nodded. “And if you simply can’t do it, I understand. But I was hoping you would at least try. Just come to the hospital, meet them. I haven’t told them they will be relocating to a temporary home yet. They won’t even know what this is about. Give it a go and if you don’t think you can handle it, well then...” Jan sighed. “Then I’ll see what else I can do.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to meet them, Matt,” Penny swallowed hard. If they weren’t sick, maybe they could do this. Maybe they could try. Being a foster parent didn’t have to be permanent. If it was too much, they could tell Ms. Bolton they couldn’t handle all three. She thought of her lost baby and wondered how any mother could abandon three children of her own.

“Are you sure,” Matt asked his wife. He wanted to try but was she up for it? Penny nodded, then stood. “Can we go now, before I have time to freak out and change my mind?” Jan also stood. “Of course. Why don’t you meet me at Gunnison Valley Hospital? I’ll be waiting at the main entrance. “We’ll just be a minute, then we’ll meet you there.” Matt walked Jan to the door, anxious to meet the kids that could be his new family... at least for a while. ***** It was two days later, Paige was sitting at her kitchen table enjoying her morning coffee when a familiar knock sounded on her back door. She jumped up and welcomed Dax with a smile. “You’re back?” Dax pulled Paige in for a hug then released her. “You look tired.” Paige sighed. “I have so much to tell you.” “Well, let’s get started.” He held up a bag of donuts and gave them a little shake. “I’ll share if you have coffee.” Paige grinned and poured black liquid into her neighbor’s favorite mug. “How was Washington?” “Same,” Dax set the bag on the table and accepted the mug Paige offered before settling in. “Reminded me why I hate it there.” He took a slow sip and sighed in contentment. “It’s good to be home.” “Good to have you back,” Paige settled in across from him. “So, background all finished, interviews done, are you official?”

Innocent Strategy “I am,” Dax nodded. “This isn’t going to be a problem, is it? I mean, when I’m working on something and can’t give you the details?” “Not at all,” she said immediately. “It will change things, maybe be a little awkward as we get used to it but not a problem. I had to adjust with Nathan, we’ll do the same.” “Good,” Dax visibly relaxed. “Speaking of Nathan, he and Sophie couldn’t stop talking about how great it was to spend Thanksgiving with you. I think they might be back for Christmas.” “Is something going on with him, Nathan I mean?” Paige asked. “I don’t want to know anything top secret, but he’s been acting a little weird lately.” “No,” Dax sighed. “Just work, I think. Maybe it’s made him appreciate what he has a little more.” “Oh,” Paige frowned. “He’s working on one of those missions. I hate those, he gets so... introspective. But if that means he’ll visit more often, I’ll take it. I really do miss them. That’s about all I miss, and Carmen of course, but I’m starting to love it here in Manti.” “Speaking of Manti, tell me what’s been going on here,” Dax pressed. Paige explained what happened with the kids and told him about the feeling she was being watched and Jericho’s mysterious disappearances. “In fact, once we brought in Family Services, Walters took off. He’s been gone for two days now. What do you think he’s doing?” Dax couldn’t answer that question so he dodged. “Sheriff stuff I guess, but tell me about the kids. What’s going to happen to them? Did you guys track down their mother? That woman should have serious consequences after what she did. No heat, no water, no food... in this weather? I have a few suggestions if you need them.” Paige laughed. “I’m sure you do. No, we haven’t found her yet. I left a card with a note telling her to call me but still nothing. I’m not surprised, she left those kids alone for months.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” Dax told her. “But what happens when you find her? Will she get them back?” “Not if I have anything to say about it,” Paige shook her head. “Misty and Jack are staying with foster parents. A young couple, Matt and Penny Anderson. Seth is scheduled to be discharged today or tomorrow. I thought I’d head out and check on them tomorrow morning. Misty was only held overnight. I stopped by the Anderson home the following day and talked to Misty. She was apprehensive about the move but she’s a trooper. I think she’ll adjust okay. And if Misty is okay, the boys will be fine.” “Sounds like you might be attached,” Dax observed. “It’s impossible not to get attached,” Paige grinned. “Misty is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to her brothers. And little Jack... well he’s a little firecracker. I’m sure Seth is just the same. He’s only eighteen months old, so he’s still learning. The Anderson’s are going to have their hands full.” “It’s nice they are willing to take in all three,” Dax straightened his legs and crossed one ankle over the other. “With all they’ve been through, it’ll be easier if they can stay together.” “I agree, and apparently so does Jan Bolton. She’s the Director of Family Services,” Paige explained. “I was surprised she took on this case herself. Normally there’s a case worker that handles the fieldwork. But Jan met the kids and immediately formed a bond with them. They’re lucky to have her advocating on their behalf. I just met her, but I’m impressed.” “Sounds like you have that under control, what about the voyeur? Anything other than that one morning?” Dax asked. Paige shook her head. “Nope, I don’t know why but as far as I can tell he hasn’t been back. We did have that snow storm and it’s been cold since. Which means the snow hasn’t melted. Maybe he’s worried about prints.” “Maybe,” Dax agreed. “And on the other front? Any progress on the manhunt for the mysterious Mr. J?”

Innocent Strategy “Not much,” Paige admitted. “I’ve spoken to Judge Potter and I’m pretty sure he can be eliminated. I also tracked down Keith Judd’s travel schedule and he was in Africa when my mother died. Other than that, it’s a work in progress. Joey seems to be avoiding me, but I also think I can eliminate him. His mother was in the hospital in Gunnison and I believe he was staying there full-time during the week mom was killed.” “Well,” Dax considered. “Sounds like you’re making progress.” “Slow progress,” Paige grumbled. “But yeah, I guess.” “And speaking of progress, I need to head home. I have work,” Dax stood. “If I make it home on time, do you want to get together for dinner?” Paige asked as she too pushed to her feet. “Love to,” Dax told her just before he pulled her against his chest and kissed her senseless. Paige stood breathless as Dax casually walked out her door and sauntered back home. She was beginning to think that man kept her frustrated and confused on purpose. She sighed, then headed upstairs to dress for work. ***** Misty stepped hesitantly from her room and snuck down the hall to Jack’s bedroom. He would be sharing with Seth when their brother got out of the hospital today. She tip-toed to the bed and settled in close. “Morning,” Jack said softly as he sat up and looked around. “Jack?” Misty said softly. “What?” Jack frowned. “What do you think happened to mom?” “I don’t care, I like it here,” he said defiantly. “I hope she never comes back.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “Do you really mean that?” Misty asked. She was confused. She loved her mom, but she was also mad at her for leaving. She didn’t blame Jack for wishing she’d stay away. It was nice here. The Anderson’s had been kind and friendly from the start. They’d only been here three days, though. Maybe it wouldn’t last. Maybe their mom would come home and make them return to the cold cabin with no food. “I think I do,” Jack admitted. “Mom left. We were hungry and cold and she didn’t care. I’m mad at her and I don’t know if I want to see her.” “I know,” Misty hugged her brother then stood. “I think Seth comes home today. I hope so. He’s going to love it here.” “What if we can’t stay?” Jack asked. Then he jumped up from his bed. “I saved us some food. You know for, when we have to leave. We won’t have to be hungry again. I’m saving stuff for later.” Misty frowned, should she be saving food? Just in case? Things were so hard right now. She didn’t know what to do. She just knew it was her job to take care of her brothers, no matter what happened. ***** Paige was at her desk, going through files when the door opened and a woman stepped inside. She was wearing all black, from head to toe. When she took off her black coat, jet black hair fell over her shoulders and Paige could see she had several tattoos and multiple piercings. Paige thought she looked a little old for the Goth look; but, to each their own. The woman spoke briefly to Margie, who motioned to Paige and frowned. Paige continued to watch as the woman approached her desk then plopped unceremoniously into her visitor’s chair. Within seconds, the woman threw a business card onto Paige’s desk. Paige glanced down; then, back to the woman and waited. “I take it you have my kids,” the woman finally said. “Just tell me where to pick them up so I can get out of here.” “Where you can pick them up?” Paige echoed. “You might want to lose the attitude... Like, now.”

Innocent Strategy “You left me a card, said to come see you. I assume that means you have my kids. I’m here to get them,” the woman said again. “Can we hurry this up, I have somewhere I need to be.” “I left that card nearly a week ago,” Paige told her. “So, this is going to take a while. You can start with your name.” The woman frowned and squirmed a little. “Becca Watson,” she finally said. “And your kid’s names are...” Paige asked. “Misty, Jack and Seth,” Becca said impatiently. “But, you already knew that. So let’s just cut to the chase.” “The chase, Ms. Watson, is that you abandoned your children in the dead of winter. I’d like to know why?” Paige settled back in her chair to watch the woman squirm.

“I didn’t abandon my kids,” Becca said, clearly each word was carefully thought out. “I don’t know what they told you; but, I had work. Misty’s old enough to take care of the others now and then. I got the card a couple days ago, but I work nights. I figured you’d be sleeping; so, I waited for my day off to come by.” “So,” Paige seethed. “Let me make sure I understand. You came home from work in the middle of the night and your kids were gone. But you found my card and decided, hey I’m tired. I think I’ll get some shuteye before I head back to work tomorrow. I have no idea where my kids are; but, no problem. I’ll just deal with it on my day off?”

“That’s not what I said,” Becca practically yelled. Jericho stepped from his office and walked towards the two women. Paige was surprised to see him. She thought he was still out of town and briefly wondered if he was sick or something. “Sheriff Walters,” he said as he settled into a chair next to Becca. “Sheriff,” Paige acknowledged. “This is Becca Watson. She is Misty, Jack, and Seth’s mother. She claims she got my card days ago, but waited until her day off to come by and see about the kids.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “That is not what I said,” Becca argued. “Okay,” Jericho said watching her carefully. “Why don’t you explain to me what you did say and we can go from there.” “Look,” Becca said, turning to address the sheriff. “I work nights. Misty watches the kids while I’m gone. She’s old enough and she’s a mature kid. So, when I got the card I didn’t anticipate trouble. That’s why I waited to come in ‘til now. It’s my day off and I wanted to get this all cleared up.” “And by all cleared up you mean....?” Jericho asked. “That card,” Becca pointed impatiently to Paige’s desk. “You told me to come here. I don’t know what I gotta clear up but here I am.” “Where are your kids, Ms. Watson?” Jericho asked. “What?” Becca darted a look towards Paige then back to Jericho. “Don’t you have them?” “I’m curious, when you got home from work two...three days ago and the kids weren’t home, where did you think they were? I’m sure you didn’t report them missing, this is my shop and I’d have heard about it if you did. So, you went to bed and got up the next morning to find no kids. Then, you just moseyed on back to work without a second thought? And, you did that for two additional nights without the slightest concern for where your kids actually were? At what point did you decide to stop in on your day off to inquire about your children?” Jericho pressed. “Or, are you inquiring about your children? It’s hard to tell.” “If you don’t have my kids, then there’s no reason for me to be here,” Becca moved to stand. “We do have your kids,” Paige said flatly. Becca returned to her seat. “I’d like to pick up my kids and get out of here. As I stated, I have somewhere I need to be.” “Where do you work, Ms. Watson?” Paige asked.

Innocent Strategy “What?” Becca widened her eyes then forced herself to relax. “I work at... I’m between jobs at the moment.” “So, when you say you waited for your day off to stop by, you really meant...?” Paige pressed. “I want a lawyer,” Becca folded her arms and glared at Paige then Jericho in defiance. “That’s fine,” Jericho stood. “Judge Potter is in a trial the rest of the day. I’ll contact the DA. I’m sure he’ll be by in the next day or so to discuss your arraignment.” Paige stood and handcuffed the woman before she realized what was happening. “What?” Becca sputtered. “What are the charges? You filthy pig, I want to know the charges.” Paige watched Jericho step back into his office and close the door. She proceeded to the back and deposited the mother-of-the-year candidate into a cell. “I have a right to know the charges,” Becca screamed. “Child endangerment, Child Neglect, Abandonment, False info to the police, should I go on?” Paige paused. “Naw, Tolman will go over them in detail when he gets here.” She casually walked back into the office area, closing the heavy door behind her so they didn’t have to hear the freakish screams coming from the hysterical woman.

Paige had just settled back into her chair when Jericho stepped into his doorway and motioned for her to join him in his office. “James said he’s going to let her sit for a day or two,” Jericho advised. “He’ll need a factsheet as soon as you can get it to him but Jan Bolton is going before Judge Elaine Parker in the morning with a petition to remove the children at least temporarily, and place them with the Andersons. The hearing to determine if that woman is fit will come later. In the meantime, I want charges filed against her. James will be handling this case himself. He agrees with our immediate arrest and is just as outraged as we are over this. He’s going to ask the judge to remand her as a flight risk. So, before the end of the day I want her transferred to the jail.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “I’ll take care of it,” Paige promised. “I told Margie to call Gage,” Jericho disagreed. “He’ll take care of it. I need to talk to you about something.” Paige frowned. “Okay.” “It’s come to my attention that you have been actively searching for the man your mother may have been seeing at the time of her death.” “Oh,” Paige straightened. Was she in trouble? “I...well, yes.” “I want to talk to you about that,” Jericho settled back and watched. “Do you have time, this might take a while.” “I’m fine,” Paige answered. “There’s nothing pressing at the moment.” “Well,” Jericho began. “Before I get into the details, I’m curious. If your mother was seeing someone at the time of her death, why is that important now?” Paige hesitated. She hadn’t ever actually asked herself that question. The letter was a clue her mother had left the night she died. Paige hadn’t question it, just immediately began following the clue. But why? That was hard to explain. “I assume you are aware by now that I have been looking into my mother’s murder.” “Yes,” Jericho agreed. Paige was a little surprised by that. He’d never said anything and he wasn’t revealing how he felt about that now. “I guess the easy answer is that he might know something. The report was crap. I don’t know this Detective Tibble but he was inept at best, corrupt at worst. I’m actually wondering why you allowed it. Why didn’t you oversee the case yourself? How could you let someone like that investigate my mother’s murder?” “It wasn’t my call,” Jericho said sadly. “I don’t understand,” Paige frowned. “You were the sheriff at the time. Who else could have made that call?”

Innocent Strategy “The District Attorney at the time, Dean Cosgrove,” Jericho shrugged. “He found out your mother and I were friends. He claimed it was a conflict of interested and convinced the mayor that having me involved would jeopardize the case. Mayor Ralph Cole backed him up, probably because they frequently golfed together. I never saw the investigation until it was over and then it was too late to step in. I trusted the system. I even agreed having me in the middle would muddy the waters. I didn’t know Tibble, he’d been brought in by Cosgrove from Price. He never worked for me, in fact, I never met the guy. He was an investigator for the prosecution. He showed up and took the case on immediately. It all happened pretty fast. The day after Chaya’s body was found, Tibble was on the case. He claimed he was some hot shot detective up there. I have my doubts about that, but it was a political appointment by the Mayor and the DA. I had no say, it wasn’t my department.” “I guess I don’t understand why you allowed it. I just can’t see you backing down. That’s not the man I’ve come to know,” Paige pressed.

“Paige,” Jericho sat forward. “There’s something you may not know. Something that was protected and not listed as part of the report. I am the one that found your mother’s body.” “I didn’t know,” Paige considered that. It must have been hard to find the murdered body of a close friend. “I’m sorry for that. Sorry you had to see that.” “Don’t be,” Jericho sat back. “Not many people know and I hope you will keep it that way. It was protected in case I had to testify against the killer. And, it was another reason Cosgrove insisted I could not be the one to investigate the homicide.” Paige considered for a minute. “I guess I still don’t understand. I’ve worked with you for several months now. You don’t back down from anyone. Why didn’t you fight it? Why didn’t you insist on at least following the investigation to make sure they actually worked the case?” “I was too emotionally involved,” Jericho admitted. “I found your mother’s body. That fragile, petite, beautiful woman shot — multiple times — and left for dead in an abandoned warehouse.” Jericho closed his eyes at the pain the memory still brought him. He’d loved that woman more than life itself. The discovery had nearly killed him.

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 Those first few days were a little foggy to him, even now. Once he pulled himself together, it was done. Tibble was the lead detective and no amount of arguing with Cole or Cosgrove would change it. “I know you guys were close,” Paige said softly. “I remember seeing you at the house. Mom said you were a good man, but you just terrified me.”

Jericho smiled. “You were a little wild. A teenage girl in a small town. I thought maybe it would straighten you up. Scare you into doing the right thing.” “It worked,” Paige grinned as she remembered the days before her mother’s death. “Most of the time.” “It was me, Paige,” Jericho said softly. Paige blinked, confused. “What was?” “I’m the man you’ve been looking for,” Jericho shrugged. “I was the man dating your mother. It was more than that, I was madly in love with her. That’s also something I hope you won’t share. But, I think you have a right to know and I’m afraid I don’t have any special insight that will help find the killer. Believe me, if I did, he’d be in prison already.” Paige stood, barely able to control her emotions. She was angry, hurt, confused. “You? I had pretty much ruled you out. I mean, you were the sheriff. If you loved mom, I was sure you would have been relentless in your search. Inexorable in your need for justice. If it had been you, the crime would have been solved years ago, right? So I dismissed it, ignored it, talked myself out of even looking at you.” She turned to glare at her boss. “I will never be able to respect you again. I will never trust you, never believe you. You are a liar and a fraud. I need this job; so, I will be professional when I have to deal with you. But, I will never, ever believe in you again. You’re worse than a fraud. You’re a failure. You have no business being our sheriff. You... I have to go. I’m taking the rest of the day off.” Paige rushed out the door, grabbed her bag and darted to her car. She needed air, she needed space, she needed... what? At the moment she didn’t know. She just had to get home.

Innocent Strategy Paige pulled into her driveway, shut down her car, and glanced toward her neighbor’s house just in time to see Dax step onto the front porch. It was in that moment clarity hit... Dax had known. She was sure of it. She watched as he slowly descended his stairs. With each step he took, the knot in her stomach grew. She couldn’t deal with this right now. She had to get away. Dax had reached the edge of his property when Paige threw the car in reverse and stomped on the gas. The vehicle squealed, then slid on the loose gravel when she slammed on the brakes. Within seconds she was off, barreling down the highway, running... the way she ran that morning after graduation. She had to get away from this town... away from Jericho Walters... away from Dax.

***** Jericho sat silently behind his desk, mulling over what Paige had said. She was right, in some ways he was a fraud. Mostly, he was a failure. He knew that. All these years chasing ghosts and he still hadn’t figured out what Chaya was up to. He still couldn’t find the meaning behind her death. A killer walked free. A decade of work and he had more questions than answers. Chaya had hinted, asked veiled questions, but ultimately kept her secret close to the belt. He thought about all the times they’d discussed it. She admitted she was hiding something but wouldn’t let him help, even after he’d practically begged her to talk to him. Chaya had refused to let him in. That was the thing that haunted him the most. Why? Was she trying to protect him or was it more personal? He often wondered if she simply hadn’t trusted him. No wonder her daughter didn’t either. But he’d earned the daughter’s feelings. He couldn’t blame Paige for her anger, he certainly didn’t deserve her trust. Not after all these months of not telling her the truth. Chaya was a different story. He never did understand her insistence on secrecy. Not the secrets she kept from him, not with their relationship. Was it even about him? Or, was it still about her husband? The capable soldier who had died and left her all alone? Jericho couldn’t answer that question. He just knew he had failed her and because he failed, he lost her. Then, he failed her all over again when he fell apart after her death.

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “You okay?” Marie asked as she stepped into the room. “Yeah, sure,” Jericho gave his normal non-answer. “Now tell me the truth,” Margie demanded. “I know she hurt you. I can see it in your eyes. And, you have that look again. The one that always scared me. The one I haven’t seen in years. You will not retreat into yourself again. Not this time. Paige might be mad, but she’s alive. You can get through to her. You will. And, in time, she’ll understand.” “How could I possibly expect her to understand something I haven’t figured out for myself?” He reached into the bottom drawer and pulled out his file. “I need you to copy this, give the copy to Paige when you see her; then, put the original back in the desk.” He stood and pulled on his coat. “I’ll come back later and get it.” “Where are you going?” Margie asked, worried.

“Away,” he moved toward the door then stopped. “Don’t call this time. I need some time alone. I need to figure out what I want to do with my life.” “What does the mean?” Margie called after him. “Paige pointed out my failure as a sheriff and expressed her unfiltered opinion that I’m not qualified for the job. I need to decide if she’s right. Please, copy the file and make sure Paige gets it right away. I’m putting Gage in charge while I’m gone. If you have an emergency, call Pat.” He was out the door before a stunned Margie could reply. ***** Paige wasn’t sure why she was here. She sat at the top of the hill, watching the kids play with Matt Anderson. It looked like a good fit. She hoped so. The kids continued sledding and laughing as Matt moved to the driveway and lifted a Christmas tree from the back of the truck. He disappeared into the house, only to return and join them on the hill again. After over an hour of playing and laughing, the four of them headed inside. Paige imagined hot chocolate by the fire and a night of decorating.

Innocent Strategy At least they would have a decent Christmas this year. It was impossible to tell what the future held for them. With any luck, parental rights would be taken away from Becca and the kids could find a permanent place with a family that loved them. Maybe even the Anderson’s. With a sigh, Paige turned and headed towards her vehicle.

She was deep in thought as she approached the area where she’d parked; and, jumped about a mile in the air when she saw the dark figure standing next to the driver’s side door. She took a second look as her heart tried to settle and recognized the woman immediately. “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?” “No,” Margie said solemnly. “We need to talk.” “I’m not really in the mood,” Paige made a motion with her hand, hoping Margie would take the hint and move out of the way.

“Too bad,” Margie didn’t budge. “Margie,” Paige sobered. “I’m serious, not now.” “Look at me Paige,” Margie demanded. “Do you think I’m not?” Paige took a second to study Margie. The woman was dead serious, something had happened and Margie was upset. “Okay,” she relented. “Get in the truck, it's cold out here.” Paige released the lock and climbed inside. Margie settled into the passenger’s seat. “Jericho is gone.” “What do you mean, gone?” Paige asked, wishing she didn’t care; but, she did. “I don’t know,” Margie admitted. “He wouldn’t say. You hurt him. I haven’t seen him like this since your mother died.” “Good,” Paige said; then, felt guilty.

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 “Not good,” Margie disagreed. “He’s a good man and he’s been through more than any one person should in this life. I like you, Paige; but, you’re wrong. And because of you, a man that I admire and respect more than anyone I’ve ever met is suffering. He’s alone and a little lost. If there is one thing Jericho Walters has never been, it’s a failure. But, ironically, that’s the one demon he can’t face — his belief that he is. And, the only person in the world that could help him realize he’s wrong... just told him he’s right.” “Margie,” Paige didn’t like the feeling of guilt that overcame her. She wasn’t the bad guy here. Jericho had lied, he had failed her mother, and he had failed her. “Jericho has left before. He’ll be back. He always comes back.” “We’ll see,” Margie grabbed the handle and pushed open the door. “I’m not so sure this time. It’s different. Before he was...well,” Margie dropped the file on Paige’s seat. “Read that and you’ll know. Not this time. This time he might never return. This time, he has nothing to come back to. And, if he lets himself fall too far into that chasm of despair, nobody will be able to bring him back... this time.” Paige watched as Margie shut the door and walked away, not even glancing back. Had she just ruined her friendship with a woman she admired? Was it really her fault Jericho left? But, he’d be back. He always came back. Right? Paige put the car in gear and headed for her bosses residence. Maybe she could catch him before he left. But if so, what was there to say? That she’d been wrong? He wouldn’t believe that because she didn’t believe it herself.

The house was completely dark. She drove by three more times before she gave up. Jericho was gone. She left the area and headed for home. He’d return, he had to. But, Margie had been so sure — so upset. She’d never seen Margie like that before and it worried her. She pulled into her driveway and grabbed the file, wondering what it could be. Once she was inside, she headed for the kitchen and dropped the heavy folder on the table. Whatever Margie had left her, it was significant. After pouring herself a glass of wine, she settled in.

Innocent Strategy Paige flipped open the top folder and froze in shock. She read through the top page, then read through it again. She had only gotten through three pages when there was a knock on her door. She jumped up and ran to it, throwing it open to see Dax standing in a blizzard with a questioning look on his face. “I think I’ve forgiven you,” Paige said as she motioned for him to come in. “Okay,” Dax shrugged out of his coat and waited. “For what?” “You knew,” Paige accused. “You knew it was Jericho and you never said a word.” “Oh,” Dax frowned. “That.” “Yeah, that,” Paige frowned. “He told me about your mom and how much he loved her; but, he said it in confidence and I promised not to tell anyone. That includes you,” Dax settled into a chair. “You look upset, what’s going on?” Paige told him about her confrontation with Jericho, his leaving, and Margie’s visit. Then, she pointed to the file. “How’d she know you were out there?” Dax wondered. Paige furrowed her brows. “I don’t know. I didn’t ask, she just lit into me about Jericho; then, gave me the file and left.” “So what’s the file?” Dax asked. “It’s about my mother,” Paige admitted. “I was so cruel to him. The things I said,” she shook her head in disgust. “I’m not like that.” Dax laughed. “What?” He stood and took her hand, leading her into the living room. Once he was settled onto the couch, he pulled Paige down next to him. “You are exactly like that... with Nathan.”

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9 That’s when it hit her, she was upset with Jericho because he was like a father figure to her. Learning he’d allowed her mother’s case to be mishandled had felt personal because their relationship was personal... like her and Nathan. “I’m worried,” she admitted. “Margie thinks he’s gone for good. She said something about the way he was after mom died. She said he doesn’t have anything to come home to this time.”

“He’ll come back,” Dax assured her. “How do you know that?” she pressed. “I really was awful. And, I called him a failure. Apparently, all this time he’s felt like a failure because he hasn’t caught mom’s killer and I threw that in his face. But, look at that file! The stuff in there, it’s good. He documented everything. The stuff I wanted from the original report, Jericho has it. The forensic stuff, the details. Do you have any idea how difficult that must have been for him — to document every minute detail of the death of the woman he loved; and, I threw it in his face?”

Dax wrapped his arms around Paige and held her close. He did know. He’d had to relay the details after the death of more than one of his men. Guys he loved, guys he was responsible for, men with families just like Chaya Carter. He knew what Jericho had gone through for justice and he admired the man even more for it. “I know because if he doesn’t return, we’re going to find him; and, we’ll drag him back kicking and screaming if we have to.” “Thanks for that,” Paige shifted and pressed her lips to his. “Better,” Dax kissed her forehead. “Now, let’s see if there’s a decent movie on cable. It’s a blizzard out there and I’m not quite ready to head home.” Paige settled in and let Dax pick the entertainment. They had just started to watch some action flick when Paige turned to study her neighbor. “You could stay.” Dax studied her for a minute. “What?” “Stay with me... tonight,” Paige said softly. “It’s a blizzard and there’s no reason to fight through it. I want you to stay.”

Innocent Strategy “Are you sure?” Dax asked, not sure himself. “Positive,” Paige leaned in again and brushed a light kiss across his lips. She immediately knew she’d made the right decision... at least for tonight. Tonight, she needed him. Tonight she didn’t want to be alone. THE END

Thank you for taking the time to read the season finale of Paige Carter. Season 2, Episode 1 (Bad Blood) will resume in the next edition of Connections eMagazine, but if you can’t wait to find out what happens… Season 2 can be purchased in its entirety from your favorite eBook store. And don’t forget, Season 3 is currently underway and available exclusively on my website. There are only a couple episodes left before the exiting finale. You won’t want to miss it. Season 4 will begin April 2019.

Paige Carter Season 1—Episode 9

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