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Connections eMagazine

November 2019

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.

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Setting realistic goals. New Year’s resolutions are popular but more often than not, they end up making the person setting goals feel like a failure. Learn how to set realistic goals, stick to them, and bounce back after a setback.

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Christmas Calls by Tom Benson Beware the Christmas Mouse by Sylva Fae Real Life Influences What We Write By Eric Lahti

15 Stairs to Brave By Max Power Christmas Traditions by Melanie P. Smith The Secret of Hagia Sophia By Sarah Stuart

The Woman Who Didn’t Smile by Penny Luker Christmas Crafting By Lacey Lane Fly Aware Summer by Sylva Fae

A Christmas POV by Tom Benson Hauling Ass… By P.A. Rudders


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


EDITOR... Melanie P. Smith

PRODUCED by… MPSmith Publishing

Melanie P. Smith

Jennifer Reynolds

Lucinda E. Clarke

Katie Weaver

Graham Clayton

Val Tobin

Depths of Darkness

Tom Benson

Gordon Bickerstaff

Barbara Fagan Speake

Sylva Fae

Ronesa Aveela

Diana J Febry

Ruth Coulson

Would you like a listing in the next issue of Connections eMagazine? Click here for submission requirements.


New Year’s Resolutions Setting Realistic Resolutions One major holiday down, several more to come. As we spend time with family, attend work parties and shop for that perfect gift, our budget and our fitness goals tend to spiral out of control. Enter January and the dreaded reset with unrealistic goals to get your life back on track. Setting lofty New Year’s resolutions is the easy part. Following through and allowing yourself a reset when you falter is the hard part. I’ve come up with seven things that will help you achieve your goals. 1) Don’t set generic goals or make too many resolutions. Make sure your resolution is clearly defined. One of the most common goals set at the beginning of every year is “I’m going to get into shape or I’m going to lose weight”. Great goal, but it lacks specifics. How will you do this? Will you run a mile every day? Do ten pushups? Ride an exercise bike for twenty minutes five times a week? As you contemplate your goals, be sure to build in some wiggle room. Make sure if life gets in the way one day, you can make it up later and still feel like you succeeded. Along those same lines, don’t get too ambitious. Taking small steps is the key to success and once you achieve that goal, you can always set another one so you continue to progress and succeed rather than feel like you failed. 2) Track your progress – “If you can measure it, you can change it” is a fundamental principle of psychology. It applies to New Year’s goals as well. Keep a journal, take notes, or find an app that fits your personal needs. Do whatever works for you but find a way to measure your progress. Begin by documenting clear and concise goals, then memorialize your progress. Even a small step is a milestone to celebrate. Remind yourself often where you started and how far you’ve come. It’s a great way to keep you motivated.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. - Henry Ford


Featured Article By Melanie P. Smith Famous Failures

Albert Einstein He wasn’t able to speak until he was almost 4-years-old and his teachers said he would “never amount to much”

Walt Disney Fired from a newspaper for “lacking imagination” and “having no original ideas”

Oprah Winfrey Was demoted from her job as a news anchor because she “wasn’t fit for television”

Elvis Presley Elvis auditioned and was told to “stick to driving truck, because you will never make it as a singer”

If you’ve never failed You’ve never tried anything new! 3) Have patience and generate a plan for dealing with missteps. Get up when you slip up. Real progress is gradual. Some people may see rapid gains only to hit resistance later. Others may experience slower, but steady progress. Making lasting changes takes time and it is different for everyone. Don’t compare your progress with others. Factor in slip ups and setbacks. A big part of your plan should be to develop a system that deals with missteps. Everyone will experience a setback at some point. Don’t give up. When you start to get discouraged, remember every great success was preceded by failure. 4) Publicize your goals to friends and family. As embarrassing as it might sound to announce your New Year’s goals to the world, social support will help you succeed. It might take some personal courage and the willingness to open yourself up to vulnerability, but those are the very reasons it will increase your odds of success. If those around you understand your goals, they will help hold you accountable. Close friends and family can also provide support during the difficult times, they may even check in with you on occasion to see how your progress is going. It might just be that added boost that motivates you and keeps you on track.


5)

Block out time for your goals on your schedule. How often do we say, I just can’t find the time? Adding it to your schedule makes your goal a priority. It might sound silly to add ‘clean out the closet’ to your calendar but if you do, suddenly you have the time. Just remember, nobody has time — unless they make it. Think of it the same as you would a work meeting, a doctor’s appointment or an important event.

6)

Avoid thinking it’s ‘All or nothing’. Have you ever thought “I might as well get dessert since I already ate those fries?” Or, I don’t have a full hour to work out so I’ll just skip the gym today. Fitness or weight loss goals are probably the most common resolutions, but that’s not the only way to make lifestyle changes. You might want to be more charitable, stop procrastinating, meet new people or generate lasting relationships, save more money, strengthen current relationships, the options are limitless. And it never has to be all or nothing. If you don’t have a full hour, take 20 minutes. If you have a cold or injury, recover now and pick up where you left off once you’re back to normal. If you have a financial emergency, deal with that and instead of saving ten percent of your check, save one or two then pick things back up when you can. Any effort towards your goal is better than making no effort at all — or worse, giving up.

7) Keep your future in mind Think of your ideal life two, five, or ten years from now. Once you can see it, set fluid goals rather than rigid objectives. Again, use baby steps so the goals are achievable. If your goals are fluid, it’s easier to adjust and adapt. Once you break a rigid resolution, it’s natural to feel like a failure and give up. Stay fluid, keep the long goal in sight, and adjust as necessary to stay on track.

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space. - Johnny Cash


At the beginning of 2019, I had several goals meticulously planned out. I hit the ground running and started out strong, had three new novels in the works, got a jump start on my police procedural series, and was so sure this was going to be an extremely productive year. Around May or June, life got complicated. My writing progress was derailed and I found myself struggling just to keep my head above water. I had too many projects and commitments in the works and most of those projects involved other writers. All three of my novels were pushed to the background. Here we are in November and I haven’t published a single book. I did get a novella published. I also have a short story that was published in a multi-author anthology, as well as a third short story that I haven’t decided what to with yet — it was intended for an anthology that never came to fruition. My police procedural has stayed on track and I managed to have two of my novels produced into audiobooks. Not the banner year I expected and — I can also admit — I’ve felt a few moments of defeat where I looked at where I am compared to where I wanted to be, and told myself I failed. Once November hit, I panicked a little — determined to complete at least one of my novels before the end of the year. Then, personal and family obligations surfaced and, once again, I had to push my writing to the background. As I look back over my lack of progress this year, it’s easy to focus on the negative. It’s easy to get discouraged and think I haven’t accomplished anything. Not true. I didn’t accomplish all of my goals, but that’s okay because I took a few baby steps in 2019. I’m going to be happy with the progress I did make and work to make 2020 even better. I tend to struggle with #3. Setbacks feel more like implosions in my world. So, looking at the past year’s accomplishments as half full rather than half empty is hard for me, but I’m working on it. Maybe the obstacles I faced in 2019 were meant to teach me a little success is better than no success at all. When you set your goals this coming January, I truly hope you succeed. However, I also hope you don’t become so focused on your goal you forget to have fun. Eat that ice cream on special occasions, sleep in on that blistery winter morning, fly a kite instead of working out when relatives come to visit. Flexibility is key and most of all, never give up. If you never try, you won’t fail — but, you also won’t succeed. Achieving your goal is possible if you develop the right skills, learn patience, and always pick yourself back up when you fall. Good luck and remember — You’ve got this!

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. - Winston Churchill


Christmas Calls by Tom Benson Babies have no sense of time as cute as they might be new life brings a love sublime how parents’ eyes will see From writing I will take a break at Christmas for two days pausing, yes, stock to take a short time, just a phase No excessive food or drink no partying till late no piles of dishes in the sink no rattling of a crate Andrew went his own way blessed to make good choices In greeting he will say, “It’s great to hear your voices” For us he’s still a gift as he was when born between us there’s no rift we don’t feel forlorn Brought into this world and nurtured, growing steady his own life was unfurled each stage complete when ready


We get together annually apart from when we talk we make a journey manually yes, fly or sail, then walk Festive fun is fine watch movies, eating food but some years down the line one thing makes life feel good Production of a child helping as it grows remembering how it smiled before the day it goes

Whatever else we’ve done and no matter what we do Christmas is made fun when chatting with Andrew

Tom Benson

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

Find More from Tom Benson on his website: http://www.tombensonauthor.com/


Beware the Christmas Mice!

Beware the Christmas Mice is just one of the stories from the Children’s Christmas Collection, an indie anthology by awardwinning authors; Suzanne Downes, Kate Robinson, Paul Ian Cross, Patricia M Ahern Millie Slavidou, and Sylva Fae. Available on Amazon

The Blurb...

As the winter nights draw in there’s nothing quite like curling up in front of the blazing fire, under the twinkling Christmas tree, to share stories with your loved ones. With a selection of festive tales for you to enjoy, from naughty Christmas mice causing chaos to robots rescuing reindeers, from strange green fish, to naughty little sisters, and from looking after a poorly Chrismas robin to a brilliant beagle called Humbug, the Children’s Christmas Collection has something special for everyone. Discover something wonderful this holiday season. Merry Christmas one and all.


I’ve told you once, I’ve told you twice, Beware, beware the Christmas mice! Once they’re inside, they cause such a mess. They don’t twitch a whisker at Mum’s distress.

They hurry and scurry, they get everywhere, under the sofa and onto Dad’s chair.

They pull down the tinsel and Climb up the tree, then knock off the fairy onto the TV.


They unwrap your presents and shred all the wrapping. They cause total mayhem, while you lie napping.

Then into the kitchen and onto the table. They unplug the kettle and chew on the cable.

They leave the fridge open, and nibble the cheese. They stomp in the butter and flick all the peas.


They jump in the jellies, throw cake out the door, then leave mince pie crumbs all over the floor. Then just as your mum comes back to the house, they all run and hide, each and every mouse.

As you wake on the sofa, from Mum’s angry cries, the mess and the mayhem is such a surprise. Mum never suspects that the Christmas mice came. She looks at the mess and you take the blame. I’ve told you once, I’ve told you twice, Beware, beware the Christmas mice! Sylva Fae owns a wood where she and her husband run survival courses and woodland craft days. She escapes to the woods at every possible opportunity to enjoy the peace and fresh air. She takes the girls off on adventures in their own enchanted woodland, hunting for fairies and stomping in muddy puddles. You can find additional stories and anecdotes on her website https://sylvafae.co.uk/blog/


I grew up in a trailer park on the outskirts of Farmington, NM. I’m not gonna lie and say it was the greatest place on Earth. It was home and that was good enough. We had a real rogue’s gallery of people that lived out there. For some, I suspect, it was an opportunity to get out of the hustle and bustle of Farmington, a town with a population of a little over 30k at the time. For others, it was probably the fact that trailers were cheap, and rent was cheap, and living out on the hill in a trailer they owned was better than renting any of the run-down apartments in town. On one side of us, we had a guy who had the occasional party. Nothing too big, just some friends drinking beer and hooting it up. What made the parties interesting in a terrible kind of way was the fact that, no kidding, he’d go out and steal someone’s sheep for dinner. Across the street was a guy that woke me up at 3 a.m. one morning screaming about how terrible the world was. Apparently, he’d gotten drunk as a skunk and managed to bounce his girlfriend’s head off the cement. She was out cold, probably massive head trauma. The cops and ambulance showed up and we never saw those people again. But the sheep smuggler and skull smasher aside, the real bull-moose loony were our other neighbors.

Brett and Joyce used to have epic fights. The kind of fights that rattled not only the windows in their trailer, but the windows in ours. They were experts at escalating, too. They’d feed off each other’s rage and amplify it in a massive feedback loop until the screaming was so loud it became pure white-hot noise. On the nights when it got really bad, we’d see the back door of their trailer fly open and Joyce would fling one of Brett’s beloved beer steins out. Some bounced when they hit the back yard, others shattered. A few minutes later, the back door of the trailer would fly open again and Joyce would go sailing out. She’d hit the same rocky ground, get up, brush herself off, and go right back in again. Then another beer stein would fly out the door. Then Joyce would fly out the door. Lather, rinse, repeat until they were both so exhausted they couldn’t keep the rage going anymore. In the morning, my mom and would I gather up the unbroken beer steins and put them on the rickety wood steps to Brett and Joyce’s trailer and life would otherwise go on as normal. This wasn’t an every night affair, by any means. You’d have to be superhuman to do that level of fighting every night! But it happened. The SWAT team would show up, using our trailer as a wall, tactical gear and full-auto weapons trained on Brett and Joyce’s trailer and we’d just move to the other end of the trailer and keep our heads down until it was all over.


Eventually Brett and Joyce split up, which was probably a good thing for everyone involved. She left, hooked up with some other guy and everything was quiet for a while. But the thing is, both of those two had learned to hate each other and they never let that go. Things finally came to a head when Joyce – after moving out and finding someone else – hired a hit-man to take Brett down. Brett survived because he happened to bend down to pick something up just as the shot was fired. Joyce wound up in prison. Brett moved out. Things quieted down. It was just us and sheep smuggler and a whole bunch of people we didn’t know. Everyone kept to themselves and, other than the trailer down the block from us catching fire, things were quiet on our end of the park. From the outside, that place was like a war zone. SWAT teams, sheep smugglers, hit-men, guys bouncing their girlfriend’s heads off driveways. Most people would see that as madness. I just saw it as something that happened and went about my business of riding BMX bikes and getting into the occasional fight. That, as far as I was concerned, was just what life was. Now, here’s the really interesting thing. For all their screaming and violence, Brett and Joyce were fundamentally good people. She made the best tortillas in the world. He collected rare beer steins. They took care of me when I was sick, and my mom couldn’t stay home from work. Literally, anything you needed, they’d help out with. Our back doorsteps got rickety over time and we came home one day to find the sheep smuggler out there fixing them. My mom got sick and Joyce made her dinner and brought it over. We, as a species, have a tendency to focus on the negative. Those people are fighting all the time? Must be bad people. He steals sheep for dinner? Bad person. Stay away. But people are just people. Unpredictable, dangerous sometimes, but ultimately they’re just people. And, no matter what anyone says, no one sets out deciding to be the bad guy that day. Even in the heat of the fight, when beer steins and wives are flying, no one thinks they’re the bad guy. As a species, we also have a wonderful ability to justify our actions to ourselves, flimsy though that may sometimes be.


It was that kind of early exposure to what most people would write off as the “criminal element” or “bad people” that shaped me. There’s that realization that people can be complete train wrecks one minute and ready to give you the shirt off their back the next. Or they try to tear each other apart one second and be the most gentle, reliable people you’ve ever met the next. People are just people. They do stuff and that stuff ain’t always pretty. So, flash forward a few decades and I’m revising Brett and Joyce, a couple I haven’t even thought about in years, and wondering if they didn’t provide some kind of template for characters in my books. I don’t write about nice things. You can call it urban fantasy, you can call it crime noir... call it whatever you want, but I tend to have less-than-stellar good guys and I always strive for sympathetic bad guys. Because, just like Brett and Joyce, those bad guys are just people doing what they do. Be it revenge, power, freedom, whatever, the difference between good and bad has nothing to do with the want; it has everything to do with how they try to fulfill that want. And that right there is the key to villainy. No one is evil all the time. From their point of view, they know what they’re doing, they’re doing the right thing. Be it protecting your beloved beer stein collection or destroying beer steins because he loves them more than he loves you, there’s always a good reason. Seen from the outside, especially when things and people are flying out the door, it may look despicable, but to make a truly believable bad guy you have to look a little deeper and have some sympathy. Maybe not sympathy for the action, but sympathy for the reasons behind the action.

Eric Lahti is a writer of paranormal crime fiction. He currently lives in Albuquerque, NM where he works as a programmer, studies Kenpo, and lives with his wife, son, and two basset-hound mixes that think they’re the toughest dogs in the world. Find More from Eric Lahti on his website...

https://ericlahti.wordpress.com/


Reeled me in and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end

“What a story! I loved it. And there simply has to be a sequel.” “Gripping from the first page, you’ll be hooked!”

Leah’s nightmare began the day the dog died. A few years earlier a fatal car crash took the lives of Leah’s beloved husband and their two babies, leaving her disabled. Life looked bleak. She was approaching forty, unemployed, broke and desperate.

Then she met Mason. He was charming, charismatic, persuasive, and a successful businessman, well respected in the community. His teenage daughter did nothing to welcome Leah into the family, but life is never perfect. Then, two years into her second marriage, Leah Brand’s world is turned upside down; inanimate objects in the house move, her clothes are left out for the rubbish collection, pieces of furniture change places, there are unexplained noises and hauntings. As the disturbances increase, everyone accuses Leah of losing her mind. Soon she begins to doubt herself and she starts to spiral down into a world of insanity. Is she going mad, or is someone out to destroy her? And if so, why? A gripping, psychological thriller for fans of Mary Higgins Clarke and Louise Jensen.

https://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com/


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Take a magical glimpse into Santa's workshop, in this rhyming, alphabet themed Christmas story. Are the elves behaving themselves... probably not, but let's see if Elsie Elf can sort them out in time for the big day! A colourful, fun book to add to your Christmas collection. The perfect count down to Christmas, with lots of treats to spot on each page.


By Max Power

Listening to the rain beat down as I lay quiet in my bed last night; I felt a sense of disquiet. It was so dark and I needed to pay a visit to the bathroom. I was drawn back to remember my childhood. Darkness was my enemy as a small boy and I conquered it, by challenging myself to walk up the stairs, one extra stair each night with the lights out. It was a terrifying thing for me. At the top, I knew a monster lurked and I knew he had a taste for small boys. He hunkered down, just out of sight where the landing turned and the night seemed blacker. But I was a determined little boy. That I feared the dark became a source of huge annoyance. It was besting me and I hated to be bested. So off I set on my mission and on the first night I simply stood in the dark at the bottom of the stairs, and stared at the space where I knew the monster lay in wait. I told no one and I had to slip away nightly to test myself. By the end of the week I still hadn’t reached the top. There were fifteen stairs and I knew each one intimately by the time that week was over. I knew every creak that gave me away to the creature with a voracious appetite for little boys, the very feel of the carpet beneath my toes, and every familiar sound as well as some frighteningly unfamiliar ones. It sounds silly now, but in those ascents, I was in a state of heightened vigilance and fear. It wasn’t a childish fear of the dark for me. The creature that waited for me, was as real as the bannister I held onto and as certain as my preparedness to flee, the moment he leapt out to grab me, which I knew he surely would. I tested myself in the light of day, turning and running, or simply leaping to the bottom of the stairs so I might escape the beast if I needed to turn and run in the dark. My daytime practice sessions were taken very seriously. I put as much effort into planning my escape, as I did for anything else I had done up to that point in my short life. Small and slight though I was, long before I had made it to the landing on my nightly visits, I could leap from the tenth stair to the bottom and land on my feet without falling. It was a huge jump for such a waifling. That I could do it, that I was willing to practice such a dangerous leap daily, only emphasises just how real my fear of what lay in wait in the dark, truly was. The last four or five steps were very frightening indeed. My night vision had improved with training, but there was no window on the landing and with the bedroom doors closed at the top of our small terraced house, the darkness faded into gloom at the bend in the landing, with three more steps off to my left out of my line of sight. They led to the unknown, a seemingly impenetrable shade of night to hide my waiting monster. It was as familiar to me as my mother’s face, that space at the top of the stairs, but at night it was a different world. On the night of my assault on the first landing I was utterly terrified. Ten steps was the point where my bravery always seemed to abandon me. That was the limit to my ability to make it to the bottom in a single bound.


That night, I kept going. Four steps away, then three, I lifted each foot with the other already on the half turn, ready to flee and jump to the bottom if necessary. I knew I couldn’t make a jump of more than ten stairs, so I calculated and recalculated as I went, fearful of making an error that could cost me dearly. Three steps from the top, was two steps higher than I could jump. I would have to make a double bound, first down two to make it to the tenth stair and then the big jump itself. But as I neared the top, the closer I got, I began to realise there were holes in my plan. Beads of sweat gathered on my forehead and I knew I hadn’t ever practiced the jump in the dark. Not that I could have, for that would have meant turning my back on… There was a noise and I froze. It was there, right there just around that bend. He knew what I was doing and he was waiting. I finally placed my right hand on the first landing, an incredible feat and then, gently leaned forward and placed my other hand beside it. For sure I heard a low growl, and I lay my skinny little torso against the stairs, retreating a couple of steps to do so. My eyes darted left and right, trying to make out where the creature was exactly. I felt sure I saw him shift a little in the corner. I lay on my tummy because I did have a plan B. I was able to slide down the stairs on my belly like a snake so fast; he would never catch me and never having to take my eyes of the space where I knew my nemesis waited. I could hear the feint sound of the television from our living room below where my parents were, but they couldn’t help me now if he struck. Other than that, all was quiet and I knew that this was my moment. I had come so far, overcome so much and if I panicked now, there might not be enough brave left in me to try again. I sat sideways on the eleventh step, eyes focused on the bend in the stairs, back to the wall. My little legs shook as I pushed myself up and sat on the twelfth, then the thirteenth, and then I was only one stair away from the landing. As I pushed my skinny little arse up onto the final step, my legs were actually shaking and then there it was again. I felt sure there was a low growl. I hung there in mid-slide, supported by my shaky legs and arms like a backward crab, ready to abandon my final push to the top should the creature make a lunge. I stretched out my neck and tried to peer into the night to see him around the bend, sitting as I knew he would be on the top landing, but I could only see black.


I lowered myself and finally sat there, barely on the edge of the landing but barely was enough. I was like a sprinter waiting for the starting pistol, so ready to burst out of the blocks to the bottom of the stairs at the first hint of an attack. The fine fair hair on the back of my neck stood on end and I sat there, finally able to see around the bend to the place where my monster had retreated, only it was too dark to see. It was then that it dawned on me. He had retreated. I had pushed him back off the first landing and now that was mine. Having taken the first hill, the next should surely be easy. Victory should have tasted sweet, but revelling in it would have to wait. I had indeed used up my last reserves of little boy bravery. There was a creak and I still believe I heard that low growl again so, discretion being the better part of valour, I retreated to base camp as fast as I could. I had secured my first true victory over the dark that night. There would be more battles to come, but for that moment, I knew what I had achieved and it was a momentous event in my life and something that I can still go back to today when, like last night, I felt a heavy weight on my chest. As I returned to my bed and listened to the rain beat against the window, an old familiar foe returned. There was a flash of lightening which briefly illuminated my old friend Mr Squiggles, my shadow man, my night hunter. He had returned to stalk me in the dark. That dark soul, my forboding precursor to a darker world was where he always is, sitting on my window ledge, watching and waiting. I looked at the clock and it was my witching hour, the same time he always appears and then…he was gone. The night seemed to flicker around me. He had come to check up on me again. He has haunted me since my first dice with death. That he returns is disturbing, more by his patience than by his presence, more by what he represents than what he is. I lay there and listened to the rain and remembered my first ascent to that landing and I smiled… Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? Maybe it’s time to pick one up. Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy. You can find more details about Max Power’s books here https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com


PERMANENTLY

Stealing Power (Detectives Kane & Colt Series Book 1) by Bo Brennan

Stealing women's power is easy ... restoring it is deadly.

Earthbound (The Valiant Chronicles Book 0) by Val Tobin

Nothing says bad day like waking up dead. Software developer Jayden McQueen is dead, but it’s not in her stubborn and controlling nature to say die. When she’s offered a chance to return to the physical plane to bid a final farewell to her loved ones, she seizes it. Who wouldn’t want to attend their own funeral? Warned that her time on this side of the veil is limited, she promises to return before the deadline. Then she discovers her death was murder and not the heart attack her family believes. Knowing she will be trapped, earthbound for eternity, Jayden refuses to leave until she uncovers the truth behind her death.

Detective Chief Inspector AJ Colt lives his life in the limelight. The charismatic star of New Scotland Yard is public relations gold. Everyone loves him. Well, almost everyone. For three years a vicious serial rapist has been taunting and tormenting him, sending him recordings of every sickening crime he commits. But with no DNA from the devastated victims the trail is stone cold dead, until a familiar landmark leads Colt back to his hometown - the last place on earth he wants to be. It's also the last place on earth Detective India Kane wants him. The obsessively private local keeps her head down, works hard, and doesn't bother anybody. She likes life that way. When people bother her, things have a tendency to get messy. She's just landed a career changing case - a brutal drugfacilitated rape investigation - and doesn't take kindly to the arrogant newcomer parachuted in to snatch it from her. The hunt is on.


The Very Worst Riding School in the World by Lucinda E. Clarke

All Eyes On Me (A Miranda and Parker Mystery) by Linsey Lanier The Las Vegas desert. A once famous pop singer lies dead. The only clue to her murder—a bizarre disfigurement. Only one thing to do. Call in Parker and Steele. To avoid the hassle of a media frenzy, the local police sergeant decides contact his old mentor, Wade Parker, and ask him to consult on the case. After nearly dying eight months ago, Miranda Steele can't wait to get back to real detective work Nobody deserves to die that way. But this one isn’t so easy. If she can't solve this case, not only will she fail her destiny, another psycho killer might get away with murder.

Who would be stupid enough to open and run a riding school when they are terrified of horses, can't ride, without insurance or capital, and with not the faintest idea of how to care for horses. Add to that, two of the four horses are not fit for the knacker's yard. Yes, that's exactly what I did - like so many of my adventures I 'fell' into this one as well with hilarious results.

The Billionaire’s Secret Heart (Scandals of the Bad Boy Billionaires Book 1) by Ivy Layne Josephine: It was the worst blind date in the history of the universe, until Holden Winters swept in and rescued me. Are you kidding? Holden Winters? A scion of the notorious Winters family, Holden is gorgeous, wealthy, and brilliant. He dates socialites and pop stars, not computer science grad students more comfortable in a hoodie than couture.

Our night together was a fantasy…and a huge mistake. Holden: I don't usually steal other guy's dates. I don't have to. A look is all it takes, and the women fall over themselves to get to me. Then I saw Josephine, sitting with her dweeb of a date, just waiting for a man who could appreciate her lush curves and sharp brain. When she ghosted on me, I shouldn't have been so shocked, but women never walk away from me. Josephine thought she could call the shots - she didn't realize that a Winters man always gets what he wants. And I wanted her.

The Billionaire’s Secret Heart is a standalone romance with a happy ending. It’s the first in the Scandals of the Bad Boy Billionaire’s series, and introduces the notorious men of the Winters family. You can read it on its own, but you'll want to read the others once you get a taste of the Winters men ;}


A Shot In The Bark by C.A. Newsome A grieving artist, a smitten detective, a devious killer: You never know who you'll meet at the dog park. Would you recognize a killer if you talked to one every day? Artist Lia Anderson doesn't. Neither do her friends at the Mount Airy Dog Park. When the apparent suicide of Lia’s deadbeat boyfriend draws the attention of Detective Peter Dourson, he decides to adopt the dead man’s dog to infiltrate the tight group he’s certain conceals Luthor Morrissey’s killer. As his investigation uncovers secrets, a grieving Lia fights her growing attraction to the laidback detective. Meanwhile, Luthor's killer lurks, desperate to stay ahead of the investigation— no matter who has to die… If you like believable characters, a multi-layered plot, and a compelling sense of humor with your intrigue, pick up this can't-putdown whodunit for a romp through the dog park with Lia and the gang.

Fall Fast (SEALs Undone Series Book 5) by Zoe York

Ghost Hand (The PSS Chronicles Book 1) by Ripley Patton

Stranded with a Navy SEAL

Olivia Black has a rare birth defect known as Psyche Sans Soma, or PSS. Instead of a right hand made of flesh and blood, she was born with a hand made of ethereal energy.

Navy SEAL Nathan Meyers and recent divorcee (as of an hour ago) Emme Ryan both want a night of escape from their real lives, for very different reasons. A chance meeting and a single drink at an airport bar turns into a night of unexpected fun when a freak snow storm keeps them on the ground. But when morning comes, will they stick to the rules they set out at the start of the night? The SEALs Undone Series Fall Out - Drew and Annie Fall Hard - Jared and Cassie Fall Away - Trick and Gaby Fall Deep - Miles and Piper Fall Fast - Nathan and Emme Fall Back - Cade and Mel Fall Dark - Vince and Larken Fall Dirty - Hunter and Serena Fall Quiet - Quinn and Leah Fall Fast - Jason and Julie

How does Olivia handle being the girl with the ghost hand? Well, she's a little bit morbid and a whole lot snarky. Her mother thinks her obsession with death, black clothing, and the local cemetery is a bid for attention. But when Marcus, the new guy in Olivia's calculus class, stares at her like she's a freak, Olivia doesn't like it. And when her hand goes rogue, doing things she never imagined possible, Olivia finds herself running for her life with Marcus from a group of men bent on taking the power of her hand for their own nefarious purposes.


The Sweetest Seduction (The Kelly Brothers Book 1) by Crista McHugh Never, ever, mix business with pleasure...

Killer Cupcakes (Lexy Baker Cozy Mystery Series Book 1) by Leighann Dobbs Things are going great for Lexy Baker. She's finally opened her dream bakery, gotten rid of her cheating boyfriend and settled into her grandmothers house with her perky dog Sprinkles at her side. But her blissful life doesn't last long. When her ex boyfriend is found poisoned with cupcakes from her bakery, Lexy finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation headed up by her hunky neighbor detective Jack Perillo. With the help of a gang of iPad toting, would-be detective grandmothers, Lexy decides to take it upon herself to find the real murderer in order to clear her name and get her bakery back in business.

As things heat up on the murder trail, in the kitchen and between Lexy and the hunky detective, it's a race against time to put the real murderer behind bars and get back to baking. Will Lexy get her man?

Lia Mantovani has created one of the hottest restaurants on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, but all that could disappear if she loses her lease with Kelly Properties. Having had her dreams ripped away from her before, she’ll do everything in her power to keep her restaurant. Her fate hangs on the whims of the frustratingly handsome Adam Kelly.

Adam has spent years trying to convince world famous chef Amadeus Schlittler to open a restaurant in Chicago, but he wants the prime location held by Lia. Business has always come first… until sparks fly when Adam meets her. When things get hot outside the kitchen, though, they’re both in danger of getting burned.

The Royal Companion: An Epic Love Story (Book 1) by Tanya Bird Aldara is sixteen when she is sold to the obnoxious crown prince as a gift for his brother. Forced to leave the only life she has ever known, Aldara is sent to Archdale Castle, where she is mentored to become Prince Tyron’s perfect Companion. But no amount of lessons can prepare her for the troubled man marked by war. He sees straight through the polished exterior presented to him. He sees her. She must keep the facade together or deal with the repercussions. Prince Tyron has just returned from war. All he wants is privacy to grieve the men who died at the border. So when his brother gifts him a Companion upon his return, he is forced to embrace a tradition he has so far managed to avoid. Except Aldara is not like the others. She walks with her face to the sun and arms swinging. Her laughter makes him forget the lie. But if they ignore the rules that safeguard them, there will be consequences…


AMIDST ALIEN STARS Mysterious and chilling events on an alien world threaten the interstellar survival of the human race… They have awoken surrounded by alien stars. Following their abduction from Earth, Laura Sinclair and son, Jason, lead a group of desperate humans in a bid to forge their own future and that of their home planet.

To succeed, they must solve the puzzle of extraterrestrial races in the throes of a perplexing and historic conflict. But they are in a strange, new universe; on a bizarre and dangerous planet. Who can they really trust as they struggle to understand the challenging and hostile environment that holds them in a grip of iron? And what do the aliens really plan for them and their hybrid children? The exciting sequel to highly rated science fiction novel Milijun: Enter a world like no other as the truth will out in a realm as far away from home as it ever gets.

New Release FACEBOOK @ClaytonGrahamAuthor

TWITTER @CGrahamSciFi

Clayton Graham

https://claytongraham.com.au/ SILENTLY IN THE NIGHT A collection of tantalizing tales with more twists than braided hair: Mystery, murder and mayhem – plus a moment of romance.

Sympathize with a doomed husband and connect with an altruistic robot. Explore an isolated Scottish isle and touch down on a far-flung asteroid. From the light-hearted to the darkest depths of the human psyche. They’re all there in this smorgasbord of short stories to keep you guessing at every turn. From the author of Milijun and Saving Paludis. Buy ‘Silently in the Night’ and discover new worlds today!


MILIJUN

SAVING PALUDIS

A tangled web of alien intrigue descends upon an unsuspecting Earth…

An alien revolution, forged by a timeless legacy, threatens to stop mankind’s galactic expansion dead in its tracks…

When aliens seize Laura’s son, Jason, she will move heaven and earth to get him back. As she becomes entrenched in a game of cat and mouse with both the aliens and Earth authorities, she learns the deadly secrets behind the extraterrestrial incursion.

Challenged to breaking point, she battles for the survival of Jason and several others who are unwittingly being used as pawns in a cosmic game of survival. But then she realizes that the aliens have dramatic and terrifying plans for her, too. Should she accept the vision of a new Earth, or fight to the end for a return to normality? Milijun is the First in Series of an action-packed sci-fi alien invasion story. If you like tales of first contact, secret military operations, and the people caught in the middle, then you’ll love Clayton Graham’s fastpaced sci-fi thrill ride. Buy Milijun to discover the future of evolution today!

Stefan Lattanzis never expected his planet to become a battlefield, but when researchers from Paludis share a scientific breakthrough with Earth, peace escalates to the brink of war in a hurry. Adding fuel to the fire, the local aliens have a mysterious and devastating agenda of their own, and a desperate human cult has its own plans to exploit the remarkable new technology. To save his precious home world, Stefan must team with two strangers, a botanist and a mysterious seer. They must trust in each other to prevent newly-emerged forces from destroying Paludis and creating a dystopia from which they will never return. But how can they defeat the might of Earth? Saving Paludis is an electrifying sci-fi thrill-ride. If you like futuristic technology, alien political intrigue, and highoctane, paranormal action, then you’ll love this incredible interstellar adventure!!


By Melanie P. Smith It’s that time of year again. With cooler weather comes harvest festivals, iceskating in the park, winter sports and a variety of holidays. As much as we might like to burrow in with a good book, a cup of hot-chocolate, and a blazing fire — most of us find our lives more complicated once the holiday season hits. Because holiday activities and traditions are an integral part of our lives during the winter season, I thought it might be fun to highlight traditions celebrated around the world that you may not have heard about. Instead of the usual tree lighting, mistletoe, and St. Nick — Let’s talk about fried chicken, witches and pickles. Hide the Pickle – America No, not that pickle. Some call it “Find the Pickle” but the game is the same. You buy a pickle-shaped Christmas tree ornament and hide it somewhere on the tree. The person who finds the pickle gets an extra present, a unique prize, or is said to have a year of good fortune. It has become a common American tradition. Many believe it originated in Germany, but that has been discounted. Nobody really knows where it started, but apparently families around the US have been searching for their pickle since the 1800’s.


La Befana - Italy In Italian folklore, on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, Befana visits all the children and delivers clothing, toys, and candy to the good boys and girls - coal or garlic to the bad ones. The child’s family usually leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with a few morsels of food common to the region for Befana. She is often referred to as the ‘Christmas Witch’ because she is portrayed as an old hag, riding a broomstick and covered in soot - logical since she gains entrance through the chimney. Yes, I know it sounds an awful lot like a female version of Santa – ‘tis the season, I guess. There are slight variations, but basically the legend derives from a well-known biblical story, with a twist. As the story goes, three wise men (or magi) were traveling across the land on their way to witness the birth of the infant Jesus. It was getting late and they stopped at a modest home to ask for directions. I have to take issue with this part of the story. Does anyone know three men (wise or not) that would willingly stop and ask for directions when lost? I don’t — but I digress.

Anyway, according to legend Befana provided shelter for the night. The following morning, the magi invited her to join them on their journey. She declined, but later had a change of heart. She set out in search of her three attractive new friends (Okay, I added the attractive part) but she couldn’t find them. To this day, she is still wandering aimlessly, searching for the baby (or maybe the irresistible men), hoping to deliver her gifts and make the child happy. Although unsuccessful thus far, she is persistent and each year picks up the search, determined to locate baby Jesus. Until she does, she will continue to leave gifts in each home she visits - believing the Christ Child can be found in all children.


El Caganer - Catalonia, Spain I apologize in advance because this one is a little - different. Most of us have now heard about the ‘Elf on the Shelf’ Christmas tradition depicted in a 2005 children’s picture book. You may not have heard of the elf’s mischievous, defecating cousin - Caganer. The word El Caganer literally means ‘the crapper’. This holiday figurine was originally depicted as a peasant, often wearing a traditional Catalan red cap, with his trousers down - showing a bare backside, and defecating. Why? There are way too many guesses to list here, but; basically, nobody knows. The exact origin of the caganer is unknown but the practice has existed since the 18th century, some believe it started during the Baroque period. You can find this custom practiced in Catalonia and the surrounding region. There is even a sculpture of what looks like El Caganer inside the cathedral of Ciudad Rodrigo, Province of Salamanca - though it is not part of the nativity scene. Legend has it, farmers would be punished with poor crops and bad fortune if they failed to include El Caganer in their nativity scenes. The locals began creating elaborate exhibits that included the entire city of Bethlehem – not just the manger – in these nativity displays. Many included farmhouses, outlying areas, shepherds tending their sheep, handmaidens by the river, etc. creating a game of find the caganer. Kids have a blast trying to find the naughty elf. These days you can find a wide variety of characters available. From cartoons, to famous athletes, singers, political figures and more. Again, you may be asking why? Well, because nothing says Christmas like your favorite role model taking a little potty break. Plus, you have the added benefit of seeing your guest’s reaction when they spot the undisciplined figurine hiding in the corner with his pants down.


Other Traditions around the world - Various Norwegians believe that Christmas Eve coincides with the arrival of evil spirits and witches. December is the darkest time of year and superstition tells them mischievous spirits and witches roam the lands eager to cause unrest. To ward off trouble, they hide all the brooms in the house so the lurking witches can’t steal them and fly away on their annual Christmas night ride.

For many Japanese families, a traditional Christmas dinner is KFC. Due to tiny ovens and a clever marketing campaign, Kentucky Fried Chicken has become a yuletide feast on Christmas day. It has become such a popular custom, you have to order this festive bucket weeks in advance and people stand in long lines just to pre-order their scrumptious Christmas meal. During the week leading up to Christmas, Venezuelans attend church daily and it is customary to travel to the church services on roller skates. This tradition is so widespread, many roads are closed to provide worshippers safe passage.

In Austria, St. Nicholas has an evil counterpart — Krampus. He is a demon-like creature with one task; punish bad children before Christmas. Men dress in devil costumes and roam the street carrying chains and a basket for abducting bad children and hauling them to hell. Or, maybe it’s just a great way to keep delinquents off the streets for a few nights — you decide.


In Guatemala, the locals believe the devil and other evil spirits live in the dark, dirty corners of your home. Therefore, they spend the week before Christmas sweeping up, collecting rubbish and piling everything in a huge heap outside. An effigy of the devil is then placed on top and the whole thing is set on fire — it symbolizes burning away everything bad from the previous year and starting new from the ashes. In Ukraine, they add an artificial spider and a web to their Christmas tree. The tradition comes from the tale of a poor woman who couldn’t afford decorations. She woke on Christmas morning to discover a spider had covered her tree with a glorious, sparkling web. These days, people add it to the tree hoping for good luck. On Christmas Eve, unmarried Czech woman stand with their back to the door and toss one of their shoes over their shoulder. If it lands with the toe facing the door, it means they’ll be married within the year. If it lands with the heel facing the door, they’re in for another long year alone. I’d be interested in hearing the stats on this one to see how often it works out. I guess it could be a great way to discover you’re dating a heel.

In Spain it is customary to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve. The small town of La Font de la Figuera has taken the tradition one step further; they hold a New Year’s Eve run with the participants wearing nothing but red underwear. The town has the highest rate of pneumonia in the country – I’m sure that’s purely coincidence. Hot Cockles — The holiday season is a time for family gatherings, parlor games and gifts. Hot Cockles is an 18th century game that is great for the whole family. One person is blindfolded. Someone else in the room hits them in the head. The blindfolded participant must guess the identity of the person that hit them. Once they do, it’s that persons turn to get hit. What a great way to alleviate all that family tension that’s built up over the past year. I’m pretty sure this would be dangerous in my family.


Residents of the former Yugoslavia would tie their mother to a chair and sing “Mother’s Day, Mother’s Day, what will you pay?” demanding she give them presents in exchange for her freedom. I wouldn’t try this one at home — at least not with my mother. Tired of the 12 Days of Christmas? You could have the 13 gnomes who come into your home during Christmas to steal your belongings. They either bring gifts for good children or potatoes for bad ones. Each has their own personality. I think I have heard this one. There’s Dopey, Bashful, Happy, Sneezy… oh, wait, never mind. In Kansas City, Missouri (USA) they have their own holiday icon. In 1936, Kline’s Department Store was owned and operated by a Jewish family. They were looking for a nondenominational holiday icon to promote the holidays and the Christmas Fairy Princess was born. For decades, the princess greeted shoppers in her white gown, gloves and diamond tiara. With the tap of her magic wand, a secret chute would open, and the child would receive a gift. Today the photos are digital, and the toy chute was replaced with a treasure chest and an automatic switch, but the magic is still the same and who better than a fairy to grant that one big, secret wish? It’s fun and entertaining to hear about other customs, especially those that are drastically different than our own. This is especially true around the holidays because there are so many cultures, religions, and observances to choose from. The holiday season presents many opportunities to try something different. Some are funny, some are somber and sacred, some are magical and help bring that enchanted sparkle to a child’s eyes. We all live in a world that is rich with diversity. We are all different and yet, the same. Embracing our differences, trying to understand diverse cultures and traditions, might simply be interesting or educational. On the other hand, who knows, it might be a great way to start a new cherished tradition. Our family tradition was to get together and chop down our own Christmas trees. We’d make an entire day of it with snowmobiles, sledding, and hot chocolate. Once it got dark, we’d head home with a fresh tree and a lot of memories. What Christmas traditions do you celebrate with your family?

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


If you like stories about things lurking in the dark or in the shadows, you’re going to like this one.

$0.99

I was scared, terrified, and ready to put a metal room on my house by the end Prequel to The Hunted: A Storm Lake Story Thirteen-year-old Rachel and her little brother are looking forward to a weekend of canoeing and spending time with their friends up at the family cottage on Storm Lake in Ontario, Canada. But something terrifying has birthed itself from the trees, and the kids find themselves trapped in an isolated marina fighting for their lives..

There were enough twists that keep me guessing. Every time I thought I had figured out what the kids would get into next, she threw me a curve. And the ending was a complete surprise. Read it and you may never go to a lake or into the woods alone again.

www.valtobin.com


Author Val Tobin Romance, paranormal, thriller/ suspense, and science fiction.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the woods … Twelve years ago thirteen-year-old Rachel Needham lost her mother to the claws and fangs of the grendels, Storm Lake’s monsters. Now, Rachel leads teams of protectors into the forests to hunt down and eradicate the scourge that has spread around the world. Death hides in the treetops ... On the team’s latest foray, they stumble across the body of a young woman. Who was she? Why did the grendels, who survive by eating flesh, leave her untouched? If the grendels didn’t kill her, how did she die?

Then the past comes calling and sucks Rachel and her protectors into a nightmare of terror and betrayal. You’ll never want to walk under a tree again … Buy Now and start your terrifying journey.


The Secret of Hagia Sophia By Multi-Award-Winning Author Sarah Stuart ‘Follow the lollipop and remember I’m Number Nine.’ A guide to one of the most fabulous buildings in Istanbul waved an imperious hand and pointed to a round board on a stick. An hour from now, maximum, he’d be guiding another group, and inflicting the same boring facts on them. You gathered from that I dislike guides? Right. If I want to know something, I can read a leaflet. Hagia Sophia has the second biggest dome in Europe, and it was a Christian Church and then a Mosque, until somebody or other decided it would trap more tourists as a museum. What I want to find, if I can remember the exact location, is a hole. Not any old hole: this one grants wishes, or it does if you twist your thumb in it through 360 degrees, and that isn’t easy. You don’t believe me? Consider the evidence. Last time I came to Istanbul I heard the story of the thumb hole from a couple equally intent on escaping their guide and wishing for a grandson. Not having children, never mind married children, or offspring with partners, my wish was for a Kindle Fire. Surprised? No. Why would you be when you like reading? A Kindle Fire is exactly what Dad gave me for Christmas, with none of the usual nagging for a list of desirable gifts. That Christmas I didn’t write a list. I didn’t drop a single hint. In fact, I ostentatiously praised my ancient Kindle that shows book covers in shades of grey. Sarah wanted a Kindle Fire? No way.

There are a lot of pillars inside Hagia Sophia. (It means The Shrine of The Holy of God in English, if you’re wondering.) I suppose they’re there to hold the place up though they’re carved like works of art, or most of them are. The one I’m looking for is plain, probably because it isn’t on view and never would have been to any but the nosiest worshipers, Christian or Muslim.


Oh glory! I hope that guide can’t count. A lot more people have heard about the thumb hole: there’s a queue, a long winding queue, and no way am I going to be walking out of the exit when Number Nine expects me to leave. How shall we pass the time? Any ideas? No? Fortunately, I have – we’ll look carefully at each person who makes a wish and take a guess at what they desire most. You want to know what the first one looks like? Of course, you do; your idea of what they could be wishing for may be completely different from mine. It’s a shame I can’t ask them, but everybody knows if you tell somebody what you wished for it doesn’t come true, just like the wish you get when you blow out all the candles on your birthday cake with one puff – and one candle in the shape of a number is cheating. (I know. I do it – I’m twenty-one every year.) This pillar is so big even a man can’t clasp his arms around it. The chap at the front just tried, and you don’t need to know what he looks like. He has two children and it’s them who want to wish. It’s going to take ages, listen. ‘Brad, if you plan on waiting until both twiddle their thumbs, which looks impossible to me, you’ll find me in the Grand Bazaar.’ ‘Where in the Grand Bazaar?’

The woman, mother obviously, looked down her nose. (Yes, it is possible.) ‘The shops that do all the handmade table linen.’ ‘Julia, some of it costs a fortune!’ ‘If you’d had more patience yesterday, I could have got it then. I brought all the measurements.’ She marched off, leaving Brad spluttering. Making stuff to measure, using your choice of the handmade patterns, only takes two hours, but he’s right about the price. With luck, he’ll lift those children up for their goes quickly.

‘Come here, Jed, and don’t you go wandering off Rosie.’ Brad picked up Jed. What the heck do you suppose his full name is? He’s about eight, I’d say. Fair hair, specs, grubby hands: not much to go on, but I’m not clairvoyant. My guess is a computer game. Yours? ‘I’ve done it, Dad. I wished for an Xbox for Christmas.’ He won’t get it, unless Brad wanted ideas, but I was wrong. Let’s try Rosie. She’s older, about ten – long pink sundress – matching hat dangling down her back – a true ash-blonde. I bet she’ll be after a princess costume, or maybe not. She’s no little lady. The only way she can get her thumb through 360 degrees is Brad turning her upside-down. No, the colour of her panties wouldn’t help but it does say Tuesday on them. According to the rhyme, she’s full of grace!


I thought they’d finished! Brad’s having a go. I think we can agree on his wish. If he’s too late to stop Julia ordering made-to-measure tablecloths, he gets to the Grand Bazaar before she reaches the jewellery section. Next? I can describe him in one word: phantom. No, be fair, Sarah, five words: The Phantom of the Opera, one eye covered, cape, the lot. He’s up to no good, unless he’s in love again. I suppose he might be. ‘You can call me anybody –’ Sorry, I can’t even sing Happy Birthday in tune. Helped me no end when the music teacher wrote satisfactory on my school report. Mother didn’t believe a word any teacher said, ever again.

Whatever the phantom wished for he’s gone. I wonder if he put the evil eye on the next couple. It sounds like it. ‘Hurry up, Ava. I booked dinner on the boat down the Bosporus.’ ‘I thought you were joking!’ ‘I promised you the first meal of our honeymoon would be a romantic river cruise.’ ‘That’s not a river. It’s got waves on it. We saw them from the bridge.’

‘It’s romantic, and I chose Istanbul because one side of the river is in Europe and the other is Asian.’ ‘You chose, Gregory. I agreed because you went on about buying me a necklace at the Grand Bazaar.’ That bazaar has a lot to answer for. I ought to tell you Gregory is about twenty years older than Ava and he looks very rich: bespoke suit, gold watch – and she’s shoved in front of him to twist her thumb. You still reckon she’s wishing for calm water or a necklace? My bet is she’s thinking of a fire at the solicitor’s office where they signed the prenup. It’s Gregory’s go now, and he looks worried. It can’t be about paying for romantic dinners, or a necklace. My guess is a fast response from the fire brigade before she takes him for half his worldly goods. I wish there was somewhere to sit. My feet hurt. It’s all very well for you, sitting reading in a comfy armchair, feet up on the sofa, or in bed. I’m the one in the queue. Next? Okay, okay, Patience. She’s Japanese – no kimono but half-close your eyes and you can see one, and boy is she slim. I wish I hadn’t eaten all the chocolate I bought at the bazaar. No, I haven’t wasted my wish: there are still about ten groups of people in front of me. This girl makes me feel fat, and too tall. How the heck is she going to reach? If Brad was still here, she wouldn’t be so undignified as to let him turn her upside-down. I don’t believe this! The next chap in the queue is on his hands and knees, and she’s standing on his back. What could a beauty like her possibly want? I do wish you’d think louder, leaving me to do all the guessing. She’s on her own. True love? Whatever it was, she’s turned her thumb, and if that chap spends much longer brushing dust off his trouser knees, he won’t see which way she goes.


Right – think Elvis and you’ve got him. I’m dithering here. Is he wishing for a trip to Graceland or his own karaoke machine? Neither? Just to be able to sing like Elvis? You could be right. In my dreams I’m the next Billie Eilish; I love Bury A Friend. ‘What do want from me –’ Sorry, though perhaps if I did sing these people would decide to come back tomorrow. What do you mean, it would spoil the game? Never a thought for a girl’s sore feet, or it being cold! Rosie must have been frozen in that sundress in November. The man twisting his thumb now must be eighty if he’s a day. He’ll dislocate it turning it that slowly, but you do see what I mean? While your thumb is twisting through 360 degrees in that hole – not any old hole, that one – you can think, and what you wish will come true. Does the old guy want a new coat, new shoes, or both? Yes, he does look Turkish. How did you guess? You must be thinking louder and making sense. He’s only just found out that in the city he’s lived in all his life is a pillar that could grant him riches. That’s what he wants, comfort in his old age, though he was ogling Ava earlier. He could have her and save her worrying about whether the fire will consume the prenup before Gregory’s fire engine arrives. She must have guessed about the fire brigade, and I don’t know what happens if two people make conflicting wishes. Okay, we’ve got him sorted. See what you think to this one. Turkish, definitely. Forty? Near enough, and he’s got a wooden lollipop under his arm and the number on it is nine. Start praying. It doesn’t matter which God you believe in. If you’re an atheist, borrow Zeus: he’s the Greek God of Thunder – harmless, unless you get struck by lightning. What am I panicking about? I’m not panicking. I never panic, except when my party guide gets to make his wish before me. Suppose he wished all his group would file out when they should and never come back?


Keep praying. He’s gone, and my feet aren’t walking towards the exit. They still hurt. I think it’s the boots I bought in the Great Bazaar. What do you mean, I’m missing somebody? I started this game to pass my time, not yours. Her name is Patsy-Ann, or she’s borrowed a friend’s rucksack: that’s the name on it, and she’s American. Of course, she is. She’s wearing a baseball cap back to front. Not enough evidence? Okay, I cheated. Her passport’s sticking out of the back pocket of her jeans. She’s with a group of friends, but she’s the only one who put her thumb in the hole. That was quick! 360 degrees, no problem. It’s taking her longer to hoist that rucksack onto her shoulders. They’ve all got them, hung about with bags from the bazaar. My best guess is she wished for a night in a spa hotel, not that they’ll spend much time there. The nightlife in Istanbul is lively – Two teenage boys, and they’ve got massive backpacks hung about with frying pans and all sorts of other camping gear. They’d like a night in a hotel, sure to. No? Only if it’s the same one the girls picked. You could be right. Keep thinking loudly; it’s more fun, and I might need you to pray again. Who’s next? I know who’s joined the back of the queue: Brad and Julia. They’ve bought Rosie a coat, matching hat, gloves, and boots. Either she wished for them or she was shivering with cold. If they both wish to find a stash of money, they’ll bang their heads bending down to grab it. They’re still arguing, but not as much as Ava and Gregory. I expect Brad and Julia will stay married. I hope so. Rosie’s a sweetie, and who’d adopt a boy called Jed if neither wanted him? Next to put his thumb in the hole, impatient reader, is a Frenchman. No passport: his girlfriend is with him. French was a subject a teacher was honest about – Sarah must try harder – but I’m pretty sure pieds are feet and mauvais is bad. I bet her feet hurt. She’s wearing boots just like mine. The man at the Grand Bazaar said they were a one-off, unique. I thought his English was good, knowing a word like unique. The Frenchman is twenty-five? Twenty-six maybe? Drop-dead gorgeous. Some girls have all the luck. She looks like a model, so he won’t wish for a replacement. If I thought he might, I’d ask you to pray. It would be worth learning French to – never mind. Will he wish for stardom? I wonder if he can sing. He could be in films. He is in films, and if I move to ask for his autograph, I’ll lose my place in the queue. He’s wishing for a holiday without a single fan recognising him, and he’s come to Istanbul because it’s the only place with a wish-granting thumbhole. I think the girl behind him recognised him too. I’m sure she did: she found a pen and paper. She’s close enough not to lose her turn if she asked for his autograph, but she hasn’t. Unless you thought of the same wish as me, I’m one up. What’s she like, the thwarted autograph hunter? About ten years younger than me. (I’m sticking to twenty-one, but you can allow for artistic license.) Brown hair, hazel eyes, what looks like a fur coat I hope is fake, and boots like mine. How long does that wretched man wait before he puts another unique pair on his stall? If her feet feel like mine, and the French girl’s pieds, she’ll wish the cheating hawker down among the sewer rats.


Hagia Sophia closes at five o’clock. Time passing is getting more worrying than the cold and the state of my feet. I wish I hadn’t dumped my old comfy flatties in a litter bin. It’s okay, that wasn’t a wasted wish either. Until I put my thumb in that hole it doesn’t count, and I’m not taking pity on Brad and Julia and letting them go in front of me. If I wanted to, I think the people queuing behind me, and in front of them, might turn violent, especially the lady I’ve just noticed is wearing unique boots. If they fit, the nails will be sticking in her. Mine were, and it isn’t that far from the Grand Bazaar to the Hagia Sophia: it just feels like ten miles through a cacti plantation. Another boy. He needs lifting but he’s okay with the thumb twist.

‘I wish that bump in Mummy’s tummy was a boy not a girl.’ Well, we know, but so do his parents, who very likely thought he wanted a sister. Next – I thought it was a couple. It is a couple, but I hadn’t spotted the baby. You’re not going to believe this, or maybe you are given the other lunatics. Dad is holding the baby level with the hole and the mother is guiding the nearest thumb around the hole. Rosie could have told her that doesn’t work. Dad turns it – yellow clothes instead of pink or blue – upside-down. Mother does the talking, in a squeaky voice. ‘I wish for a holiday in New Zealand with Grandma and Grandpa.’ ‘You forgot to say Christchurch! We could land anywhere.’ ‘He’s got an inch to go – they live in Christchurch.’ I’m not heartless, truly, but it looked like justice when it was sick all over the pair of them. I didn’t know babies could project vomit like that, but I do now. Hang in there – have a coffee. I wish I could have a hot coffee. Next is a Jenny Agutter look-alike, near enough. Not quite as young as she looked in the original Railway Children film, but with that same mix of innocence and understanding: the archetypical elder sister, only without any children needing to be turned upside-down. After Rosie’s Tuesday panties and the projectile vomiting, I’m pleased about that; I’m only one more person away from the thumbhole. She’s lovely, young, and alone. I’m not sure how safe Istanbul is for somebody who’s any of those things, never mind all of them. The doorman at my hotel issued awful warnings about using taxis. The romantic in me is screaming love for her wish, but it’s very likely a good wish for somebody else, or am I muddling her with her film character? Probably. One more person, and he looks nice in a laid-back way. Not a man to buy a girl unique boots. If he doesn’t disappear while I’m making my wish, I might bump into him, accidentally. It’s not until then I realise while I’ve been talking to you, he’s been watching me. ‘Maybe, this time –’ Quiet Sarah, and concentrate. The reader who’s been thinking hard, and praying, deserves a chance to guess what my nice man is wishing for. It won’t be for somebody who’s been twenty-one for the last twenty-one years and looks strained. I must do the way I feel.


Did you think, loudly, that it might be? That is very likely is? Your trouble is being a romantic softie, dear reader. He’s gone, and it’s my turn. If I tell you what happened you’ll guess my wish, and hope you were wrong about his. Imagine a wedding dress. White silk with a mandarin-style collar, long sleeves, a fortyfoot train, all spangled with sequins that glittered like diamonds. I wore it to the rehearsal; the train was so long the bridesmaids needed to practice carrying it around the ell-shaped turn in the church aisle. It’s supposed to be bad luck for the groom to see the dress before his bride arrives with her father, so he wasn’t there, but what could possibly go wrong? What went wrong was he didn’t turn up. He hadn’t lost his nerve, overindulged on his stag night, or been taken to hospital with appendicitis. All either annoying, to put it mildly, or worrying, but forgivable. He was at another church, in another city, marrying another woman. Their divorce is final, he is planning a November wedding to yet another woman, and my thumb is in the hole. I wish she’ll see you for the man you are, a liar and a cheat, and she’ll leave you standing at the altar, and you’ll come to Istanbul and look into the Bosporus, and you won’t see me until it is too late and you’re falling backwards into the icy water, and you can’t swim and you’ll scream because you know I could save you, but I won’t. Notice, if you guessed right and read my mind, I used only one sentence; only one wish is granted, and it must be made as the thumb is turned in the hole. Fact or fiction, dear reader? Go to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and try it: the thumbhole is there, in a pillar less ornate than the others.

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. Find out more about Sarah on her website: https://authorsarahstuart.com/


Let the Nightmares Begin … Dare you venture into these macabre worlds created for your ‘entertainment’? Whether or not they are publicly admitted, many of us have a fear or phobia. A phobia is an irrational fear. True terror, on the other hand, can evolve from no more than a belief, or a thought, provoked by a situation, or rapidly changing circumstances. Remember, your thoughts can be your worst enemy, and the better your imagination, the more terrifying your world can become. Here, you will find a wide selection of atmospheric tales by members of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group. AUTHORS: Tom Benson, Sylva Fae, Melanie P. Smith, Penny Luker, P.A. Rudders, Sarah Stuart, Lacey Lane, John M.W. Smith, Theresa Jacobs, Pam Kesterson

Hell Fire Dwelling in the Shadows Pyrohypnosis The Round House A Fate Worse Than Death Thimbles at Dawn The Prophesy Lion Only the Lonely The Jacket The Memorial Be Careful What You Wish For Pain Relief Mistaken Identity

Available executively on Amazon Read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited

A Psychological Horror Anthology


The Woman Who Didn’t Smile By Penny Luker I was sitting in the cafe finishing my coffee, when I noticed a very old man with a beautiful smile lead in a frail old lady, who was as fragile as a little bird. Her skin was brown and crinkled like screwed up wrapping paper. There was no light in her eyes and her face was dour, but the man smiled at everybody as he wove their way through a jumble of table and chairs. He tried to help her sit down on a padded bench against the wall, and she argued with him that she couldn’t get her feet under the table and that there wasn’t enough space. Gently he moved the table and escorted her around the side of it. When she’d sat down he sat with her, talking softly and calming her. Five minutes later he got up to go to the counter and get their drinks. ‘I won’t be long,’ he said. ‘And you can see where I’m going.’ The queue meandered back towards the door, but the man waved at her as he stood sideways making sure she was always in view. Slowly I sipped my cooling coffee and nodded to my companion, who was on her phone. I liked watching people and although the cafe was crowded, nobody seemed to rush us. The tiny little bird woman tried to engage the man sitting near her in conversation, but he stoically resisted, concentrating on his partner. She tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to something on the floor. ‘You’ve dropped that,’ she said. It was a dirty serviette, which probably wasn’t his in the first place, but he relented and bent down and picked it up. ‘Thank you,’ he said.


A few minutes later the little bird woman became agitated. ‘Where’s he gone? Where’s he gone?’ she repeated parrot like. One of the waitresses, who was cleaning the tables, stopped and sat by her. ‘Look there he is,’ she said pointing to the counter. ‘He’s waving to you. He’ll be back in a minute. Can you see him?’ The tiny bird woman calmed down again and soon the old man wove his way back through the tables and chairs, carrying a tray with two drinks and a cake. He sat down beside her, helping her with her drink and cake, talking to her in his lovely gentle voice. All the time he was smiling at her and anyone else who looked over to the table. But her eyes remained dull and no smile lit her face. I felt sad for the man that he worked so hard for no response, but there was nothing I could do. My companion offered me another coffee but I was happy just sitting in the warmth of the cafe. When I looked over to the table again, they had finished their coffee and cake and he was still talking to her gently. Suddenly she looked at him and patted his hand. He closed his eyes as if to treasure the moment and I realised that I’d seen something special. ‘Come on, it’s time to go mum. We need to get your coat on.’ I heard my companion say. I stood up to get the coat off the back of my chair and caught my face in the mirror behind me. I was shocked that my face held no smile. I was smiling inside but my face, looked vacant, almost cross. I turned to my companion. I couldn’t remember her name, but she’d called me mum. I patted her arm and said, ‘You’re a good girl. Thanks for bringing me here. I do enjoy it,’ and I saw a smile light up her face; a warm smile, full of love. I hope she could see I was smiling too.

Penny Luker used to spend her time working as a teacher, then as an Associate Lecturer. She now spends her time writing stories and poems. She also enjoys playing the piano and ukulele and painting in watercolour. Learn more about Penny on her website: https://pennyluker.wordpress.com/


My Writing Year - 2019 A successful writing year is measured using a variety of criteria by different authors. For me, I must feel that if not prolific, I’ve at least achieved a good standard with what I have published. I’m a firm believer that if as an author I expect a payment, I owe the customer my best efforts.


Rather than talk about ‘numbers’ as a guide, it would be better to look at the time taken for some of my most recent publications. Codename: Nightshade, for example, went through my process for two years before I was happy with the end result. One Man, Two Missions, was a bundle of files for a long time before I was satisfied with every story. I created Tom Benson-Erotica to avoid, or at least reduce the mentions of the genre on here, but this post will be one of the exceptions and for good reason. I wrote a novel, a full-length prequel novel, and a book of fifty erotic poems. Although the erotica output in my own name may not sound impressive, one of my most ambitious projects to date was the creation of a new author.


Coming Soon ...

https://katyacummingerotica.wordpress.com/ During 2019, I published five full-size novels as Katya Cumming. I've kept the pseudonym and the stories (in progress), a secret for two years. When I came up with the idea I promised myself not to go public until I had completed several books and published them over a period of twelve months. This would allow me to assess unaided development. The experiment was also to see if ‘Katya’ would be prolific, and successful. She has been both when considering she's had no support or advertising campaigns


The theory of creating ‘box sets’ was beyond me for a while. I’d checked a fair number on Amazon and couldn’t see many reviews, so I figured that maybe they were popular as a purchase, but not easy to review. Whatever … I spent a couple of weeks selecting and producing four box sets. They haven’t been my most successful venture, but in each case, I’m giving something back in terms of pricing, so it’s the consumer’s loss; not mine.


These make super cute table decorations.

Photo by Elaine Rector Morgan

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Do you love Christmas? Want to create crafts but need ideas and a plan? Do you have ten thumbs? Let Lacey guide you to Christmas crafting success. Learn how to make wooden snowmen, Santa sweet tubes, wool angels, no sew sock snowmen, pompom reindeer wreaths, and much more. Simple, beautiful, and practical crafts are just one click away.

Get your copy here: smarturl.it/ChristmasCrafting ALSO AVAILABLE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED

Coming Soon ...


A woman is murdered in a Glasgow city hotel room. Police have everything they need to charge a suspect. Caught at the scene, he confessed, and he's filled with guilt and remorse. With undeniable evidence; the police expect him to plead guilty. Rumours suggest the man will plead not guilty and tell his story. If he faces trial, the truth will cause international outrage and the government will fall. Faceless mandarins in corridors of power are determined he will remain silent.

“Great for fans of fast-paced political thrillers.” I couldn’t turn pages fast enough…you “will find yourself on the edge of your seat.”

Lambeth Group agent, Zoe Tampsin, is ordered to make him plead guilty. What she discovers will crush her soul and place her next in line to be murdered. Who is pulling the strings? What secrets are they hiding?


PUNISHTING THE GUILTY: Featuring Detective Annie Macpherson A man’s body is discovered in an alleyway in Westford, Connecticut. Scottish Detective Annie Macpherson, continuing her employment with the local police, must rise to the new challenges of leading an investigation and carrying a firearm for the first time. Soon there’s a second case, when first-on-scene officers report finding a female body in ‘bizarre’ circumstances. As Annie and her partner, Detective Dave Ellison, uncover more about the dead woman’s past, the suspects mount up. Local journalist, Ellie Harrington, is writing a book about a chilling event in the town’s past, investigated by police at the time. The detectives gradually find themselves enmeshed in an intricate interweaving of their current investigations with this decade-old closed case. In the midst of all this, Annie has to contend with family issues, demanding her presence back home in Scotland. Annie and Dave ultimately find themselves in a race against time to unearth longburied secrets before someone else dies.

Will they succeed?

“A great read if you enjoy mystery, suspense and good detective work.”

“ I couldn’t put it down! Waiting in the dentist, on the way home, lying on the bed! Wherever I was it was read!”


Where has the year gone? It only seems like yesterday that I was planning for a couple of months writing in the garden, rather than being cooped up inside. One minute I was sitting under the willow tree, glad of its shade from the glaring sun, I blink, and the greens have faded to golden brown, my lawn has a carpet of leaves and the sun is hiding from the rain. Now, I only brave the chill of the garden to feed and chat to my furry friends; I have some of my best discussions with our pet rabbits and guinea pigs, and unlike my children, they listen without answering back. Occasionally I hear the familiar, ‘chack chack’ calls of the jackdaws overhead, and venture out once more, just in case…

Back at the start of summer, I was preparing for a visit from my friend, Suzanne. The table was set in the garden, my furry friends were out exploring and happily munching on the long grass, and the sun was out – perfect! Instead of coming around the back and letting herself in with a cheery, “Yooo hooo!”, I was surprised by a knock at the front door. There stood Suzanne with a dishevelled jackdaw, who was shouting hungrily. We grabbed a selection of foods, bits of apple and a few mealworms, and tentatively threw them close to him. Instead of fluttering away, he ate ravenously, coming closer to feed from our hands.


Now, I know you should never interfere with wild birds, but this fledgling had chosen us to be his temporary parents, and was demanding food like a naughty toddler. In fact, once he had a full tummy, he climbed up onto my shoulder, tucked his head under his wing, and fell asleep. My duties as a hostess were somewhat hampered, so Suzanne made us coffee, and we sat chatting quietly so as not to wake up our sleeping baby.

Instead of the productive day we’d planned, Suzanne and I became bird mummies. We named our inquisitive fledgling, Jerry, and set about caring for him. First job, a bath! Jerry jumped in with glee, wiggling and flapping water everywhere. He shook his newly clean feathers and shouted for second breakfast. Our day became a cycle of feeding, playing and providing a safe lap for snoozes. Eventually, he fluttered up to the trees and we had a moment’s reprieve.


Later, we picked my girls up from school and told them about our exciting day. They rushed home to see Jerry, but he’d gone. I was quite sad the girls didn’t get the experience of being close to a wild bird, but I knew it was more important for him to be wild. They got changed out of their uniforms and went off to play. An hour later, I heard a call from the garden, where my littlest was bouncing on the mini trampoline – “He’s back!” And he was. Jerry had decided trampolining looked fun and was sitting on my daughter’s head. My girls took over bird-mum duties, playing with him, while avoiding his sharp beak. The next few days followed the same pattern, I would go out to feed the animals, and would acquire a companion. In between feeds and baths, Jerry would snooze or chatter on my shoulder, while I pottered doing chores in the garden. I was torn, I don’t believe in taming wild birds and animals, I believe they should have their freedom, yet this little creature had come to us when he needed help. I rationalised that he was able to fly and could leave at any point. After a few days, Jerry looked visibly healthier. His intelligent eyes shone, his feathers now had a glossy sheen, and he was getting quite plump. I shared photos on Facebook, and my little jackdaw became quite a celebrity - he was very obliging at posing for photos. I had become quite attached to my little friend and I wondered what would become of him, I couldn’t abandon him, yet I didn’t want him to become dependent on us.


That afternoon, as I was hanging out my washing, Jerry snuggled into the nape of my neck chattering away, two adult jackdaws circled the garden shouting. Jerry jumped up, looked at me then took off towards the adult pair. He didn’t come back. With mixed feelings, I watched him fly. The three birds landed on the roof of the house opposite and shouted, and then they were gone. My baby had found his real bird family. Over the next week, I felt bereft. I missed our snuggles and chats. I missed the games we played, though I have to say, I didn’t miss having the washer permanently running to keep up with all the poop-stained clothes. Several times I wandered the streets, a mad neighbourhood bird-lady, calling to distant jackdaws that watched me from the trees. Jerry had sought help when he needed it, but he had now gone back to the wild. And now, as I sit writing this and looking out of the window to the garden beyond, I see a jackdaw sitting on the garage roof, the willow boughs shielding him from the autumn rain. I wonder, if that’s my Jerry but it’s probably just a local bird who’s heard tales of the mad bird-lady. I’ll leave some mealworms out just in case.

Jackdaw Facts During my few days as bird-mummy, I researched the behaviour of jackdaws so I could learn how to help Jerry. ♦

Jackdaws are the smallest of the crow family, and are incredibly inquisitive and intelligent birds.


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Jackdaws love people. They particularly like to make eye contact and are able to recognise human facial expressions. The also remember individual humans they have interacted with. Jackdaws form strong bonds and pair for life. They often form same-sex love matches, and even marry to elevate their status in society. They love all things shiny, as Suzanne and I can confirm! Thankfully, all our rings are still intact, though our knuckles did take a battering. Jackdaw parents continue to care for their offspring, long after they have learned to fly and fend for themselves. Jackdaws are sociable, and very loyal to their partner. They are known for being one of the few species that share food with others, and will often inform the flock when they find a good food source.

Usually, I would never interfere with nature taking its course; however, Jerry communicated his needs quite clearly, and insisted we help him. He was also able to fly competently. The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) give good advice on what to do if you see a fledgling on the ground: ‘However tempting, interfering with a young bird like this will do more harm than good. Fledglings are extremely unlikely to be abandoned by their parents. Just because you cannot see the adult birds does not mean that they are not there. The parents are probably just away collecting food - or are hidden from view nearby keeping a watchful eye, or even being frightened away from their youngster by your presence. Fledglings should be left where they are, in the care of their own parents. Removal of a fledgling from the wild has to be a very last resort - then only if it is injured or has definitely been abandoned or orphaned. If the bird is on a busy path or road, or other potentially dangerous, exposed location, it makes sense to pick it up and move it a short distance to a safer place. Make sure you leave it within hearing distance of where it was found. Birds have a poor sense of smell so handling a young bird does not cause its parents to abandon it. If you have cats, make sure they are kept indoors until the fledglings are airborne. In any conflict of interest between wild animals and domestic pets, it is always the domestic pet that must give way.’ Sylva Fae owns a wood where she and her husband run survival courses and woodland craft days. She escapes to the woods at every possible opportunity to enjoy the peace and fresh air. She takes the girls off on adventures in their own enchanted woodland, hunting for fairies and stomping in muddy puddles. You can find additional stories and anecdotes on her website https://sylvafae.co.uk/blog/


The time has come for Sparkle to set off on her magical quest across the shimmer. The feisty, young unicorn wants do good and help those she meets, but she finds her new magical powers are not easy to control. Will she do enough to please the queen, and gain her full unicorn powers?

Beautiful What a beautiful book‌ Absolutely love it.


My Christmas POV

Year closing down in days it’s time to celebrate done in many ways but some will still create We are a breed apart authors at year’s end writing’s at the heart of how our time, we spend Me, I take a break done partly o’er two days my words I won’t forsake be it one word or a phrase Yes, this is my POV ‘point of view’, you know it’s how I tend to be with my creative flow Writing is my passion and I indulge each day it won’t go out of fashion ditched or pushed away Enjoy your festive cheer and go on, sing a song have yourself a beer party with the throng ***


By Tom Benson

I’ll slip in some time right here on my Mac writing prose or rhyme From writing I can’t slack My wife and I relax we have few traditions avoiding lots of snacks for me, such hard decisions A phone call to our son chatting for a while it introduces fun bringing forth a smile We’ll enjoy a film or two and go out for a walk we’ll do as we want to perchance we’ll sit and talk

Tom Benson

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

Find More from Tom Benson on his website: http://www.tombensonauthor.com/


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4

Pernicious Liaisons “Paige,” Margie’s voice came over the radio. “Respond to an industrial accident. I sent the address to your computer. Havilland is primary, but he needs a back. Apparently, the workers have started arriving and he’s having a difficult time controlling the crowd and preserving the scene.” “Copy,” Paige pulled to the shoulder, glanced at the address and made a U-turn. “Show me enroute.” Paige pulled into the construction zone and took in her surroundings. Havi certainly had his hands full. Her fellow deputy was doing his best to secure the area, but at least twenty men were gathered around demanding entrance. She jumped from her car, raised two fingers to her lips and let out a long, loud whistle. It worked. Every eye was now on her. “Who’s in charge here?” Havilland pointed to a man sitting on the bottom step that led to a portable trailer. Paige assumed the structure was a temporary office of some kind they used on every construction project. She approached the man and sat down beside him. He was obviously in shock, his face was ghostly white and his rapid breathing made her wonder if he was going to pass out. “I’m Deputy Carter,” she began. “Can you do me a favor? Try something for me. Take a really big breath and hold it, count to three then slowly let it out. That’s it, now let’s do it again. One more time. Feel better?”

Continue Reading Pg. 89 This is a continuing storyline. A new episode is published in each issue of the eMagazine - Box sets can be purchased at any eBook store

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A Study of Rusalki — Slavic Mermaids of Eastern Europe Spirits and Creatures Series Book 2 Seductive. Beautiful. Dangerous!

Or are they innocent and looking for love? Discover the allure of Slavic mermaids - Rusalki. If Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had grown up in Eastern Europe, his soul would have longed for the secrets of the rivers, lakes, and marshes, rather than the sea. And the pale, beautiful maidens residing there would have been the ones who sent “a thrilling pulse” through him, instead of the heart of the great ocean. And who are these lovely maidens? … Rusalki, a Slavic version of mermaids. If only the modern-day Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” had been born one of them. She would already have had legs, and not a fish tail, and wouldn’t have had to give up her voice! Well, maybe. It’s more than legs that makes the Rusalki different from what you know about mermaids.

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Discover their origins.

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Learn how to protect yourself from their enchantments.

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Read about terrifying encounters.

Ronesa Aveela Through folklore, literature, music, videos, and illustrations, you’ll uncover the secrets of these spirits who have haunted Eastern Europe for centuries.

The “Spirits and Creatures” series has been called “brilliant,” “fascinating,” “well researched,” “humorous,” “intriguing,” “engaging,” “lyrically written,” “beautifully organized,” and “informative.” It’s the perfect book for those who want to learn about Eastern European folklore, but don’t want to read a dry, academic book.

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Hauling Ass ... Norman Villiers was enjoying his morning swim, just like he’d done countless times before. After about half an hour, he was ready to flip his direction back towards the shore before settling himself down for a few hours’ writing. Little did Norman know he’d have the strangest story of all to write when he eventually made it back … if he made it back?

It started with the agonising pain suddenly sweeping over Norman when he performed the underwater manoeuvre to change direction. That was the moment his backside had momentarily bobbed above the surface, the red material of his trunks setting it apart from the surrounding blue of the water. That was all it took to alert the alien inter-dimensional energy probe before it hooked and hauled him in. In truth, it probably wasn’t as painful as Norman imagined, just the unpleasant shock of something invading him in a most intimate and personal way, his near nakedness adding to the discomforting loss of dignity. A sense of panic quickly overwhelmed him, further fuelled by an increasing awareness of his body being hauled, dragged, or transported by some means he couldn’t yet fathom. Norman’s only clue to what it might be was the uncomfortable feeling in his rear, like when his doctor had performed a digital rectum exam to check Norman’s prostate—his eyes still watered at the memory, just as they were doing now, though not from the abrasive seawater. Norman had read enough stuff in the National Enquirer and UFO Today to suspect the worst, eerily aware of the similarity between what was happening to him, and the dozens of other alien abductions he’d read about.


Norman would have preferred to believe he’d been caught up in some surreal dream or nightmare rather than the literal reality of being ass-hauled to god knows where. Nonetheless, he was forced to confront the truth, that everything he’d ever read about alien abductions was real: the strange lights, the odd looking silver-skinned entities judging from the one holding him, and the … well, he chose not to think about the anal hooklike means that had been used to scoop him up out of the sea. Norman shuddered, fearful of what was coming next? Dissection, more probing into his orifices, or being bred with some hideous alien creature … Norman envisaged every worst-case scenario his writer’s imagination could possibly conjure, all of which ended badly for him. * “It’s gotta be a 200-pounder at the very least,” the figure declared, smiling for the camera at the same time. The silver-skinned alien stood on the deck of the inter-dimensional craft, proudly posing while a second and much smaller silver-skin took a picture of it holding the Earth creature by its arms and legs.


With spindly hands that could easily encircle the Earth creature’s body several times over, the silver-skinned alien ignored its frantic squirming and wriggling to break free, either oblivious to or unconcerned by its face and complexion slowly turning blue from a lack of oxygen. “Can we keep it, Dad?” asked the young alien after having taken the pic. “I’m afraid not, son. They don’t make very good pets, we’ve tried, and their natural habitat is way too toxic and polluted to make them suitable for eating,” his dad replied before tossing the Earth creature’s body into the Electro-Magnetic Stasis cage. Norman gasped a huge sigh of relief when discovering he could breathe again. “That’s why we usually throw them back,” the younger sliver-skin’s dad continued. “Do you think they mind us catching them, Dad?”

“Oh, no,” he answered, smiling. “Most of that dimension’s creatures barely have a six-second attention-span. No sooner do we put them back, they forget all about us. Really, little one, you needn’t worry about their welfare, they’re far too primitive and stupid to remember anything of what might have happened.” “But how do we know that? And how do we know the energy traction probes we use to pull and push them through the dimensional corridors doesn’t hurt them?” Like the young of all species throughout the multi-verse, this one was no different, curious and filled with questions.


“It’s doubtful they feel any pain, son,” his father reassured the young alien. “Just a bit of temporary confusion, but nothing too stressful. You’ll see that in a moment when we throw it back. “I promise you, son, it’ll just happily scamper away as if nothing had happened.” The silver-skinned alien then reached its foot-long fingers down into the oxygen-filled EMS cage for the Earth creature, the alien equivalent of a fisherman pulling his ‘catch’ out of a water-filled plastic bucket. Norman panicked at being deprived of oxygen again. Still, at least he wasn’t being asshauled now, the anal energy probe hook or whatever it was having thankfully been removed. Unfortunately, that hardly lessened Norman’s fear that he was about to be subjected to some other vile alien procedure—an involuntary clench of his buttocks accompanied his anticipation of the worst. Though quite different from what he had expected, the encirclement of the alien’s fingers around his body, like an anaconda twirling itself about a victim before crushing it to death, was every bit as terrifying. And then … * Norman was back in the ocean, somewhat out of breath from being plunged several feet below its surface. Spluttering and coughing out mouthfuls of seawater upon reaching the surface, he once again struck out for the shore, this time with greater urgency than ever before.

Exhausted, Norman collapsed in a heap. Had it all been a bizarre hallucination, he wondered? Back at his beachside house, Norman removed his trunks to shower. The material at the back looked as though it had been scorched to the point of burning, though on the plus side, whatever it was had at least cauterised the piles he had intermittently suffered from. Norman knew no one would believe him, but by god, he wasn’t short of ideas for his next story now.

***

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Somebody wants Richard Fielding dead. Richard was looking forward to making a fresh start with his new wife, Alicia when they moved into Clenchers Mill. Then the attacks started. Detained in the hospital after an unusual accident, he dismisses the claim his new wife is trying to harm him. He’s convinced the property attacks are the childish pranks of locals annoyed by his plans for Clenchers Mill. As a successful property developer, he’s seen it all before. Mindful of Alicia’s reluctance to involve the police he instructs Kate and Simon to make discreet inquiries. Kate and Simon are keen to find the culprit, but are inexperienced and blissfully unaware they are dealing with a determined killer toying with their prey before they strike. Their first case may prove to be their last.

“I loved this book and look forward to more! “

“Kept me in suspense from the very first chapters and made me turn pages faster as I got closer to the end.” “The perfect mystery to curl up with on a day off.“


WATERCOLOUR SEASCAPES How to master masking techniques to paint realistic seas A step-by-step guide to painting transparent watercolour seascapes using masking fluid. Detailed demonstrations with a wealth of pictures as well as basic painting information for the new painter.

“Such lovely paintings to work from, and great instructions go make it easier to accomplish. “

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AMAZING eBook

Apple Pie and Arsenic (Maple Lane Mysteries Book 1) by C.A. Phipps

~Deadly pies! ~ Spring Festival and murder. Can Maddie clear her name? Finding the body was a shock. Accused of putting it there pushes Maddie over the edge and into the Sheriff’s path. Her ex-flame is as confused as she is when the mystery heats up with another batch of clues. As the timer ticks down in the race to find the murderer before Maddie’s put in jail or the body count climbs, she enlists the help of her friends. Danger threatens at every turn, and when Maddie ends up on her own, scared and out of her depth, it seems that even an award-winning baker isn’t safe from Maple Falls’ first serial killer. Things like this just don’t happen in her small town. Or, it didn’t until now.

If only solving murder were as easy as apple pie!

An Ace and A Pair (Dead Cold Mysteries Book 1) by Blake Banner Detective John Stone of the NYPD has the best arrest record in the 43rd precinct. But he’s a dinosaur who belongs to another age. Detective Carmen Dehan has such a bad attitude that nobody at the precinct can stomach her. Captain Jennifer Cuevas wants them both out of the way and thinks they make a perfect pair. So she gives them the Cold Cases file – the cases nobody gives a damn about. She has no idea just how hot a cold case can get. Ten years back Nelson Hernandez and his four cousins were playing poker in a dive at Hunts Point. Somebody came in, blew them away and beheaded and castrated Nelson, leaving his head and his balls on the table. There was no shortage of suspects, the Jersey Mob, the Triads from Manhattan, or the 43rds own bent cop, Mick Harragan. But nobody was ever charged, and the night of the murder Mick Harragan went missing with Nelson’s wife, Maria. Now Stone and Dehan plan to find him – whatever the consequences…


Home to Chestnut Grove by Christy Barritt A heartwarming, small-town Christmas story about restoring broken hearts and remembering those you love. When Faith Winters returns to Chestnut Grove, Virginia, for the community’s annual Christmas celebration, she’s determined to make amends. She’s failed at making it on Broadway and is certain The Boat Man: A Suspense everyone hates her for decisions she had no control over. Blood Guilt Thriller (A Reed & Billie

Novel—Book 1) by Dustin Stevens

Jake Whitmire is the sheriff in Chestnut Grove, but keeping the area free of crime is the least of his worries. Most Detective Reed Mattox, just three days are filled with trying to keep the months removed from the death community’s spirits up as jobs have disof his partner, has turned invisiappeared. He never expected to see the bility into an art form. woman who broke his heart return home Switching to K-9, taking over the to lead up the town’s Christmas concert, graveyard shift, moving to a nor is he sure he can ever forgive her. farmhouse miles outside of CoAs someone in town begins sabotaging lumbus, his every move has bethe community’s celebration, Faith and come predicated on putting as Jake work together to find the person much distance between himself responsible and ensure their friend Jenand the outside world as possible. ny’s last request is fulfilled. Can holiday That distance is shattered when hope heal the broken spirit afflicting bodies begin turning up in The Chestnut Grove residents? Or is it time Bottoms, the poverty-stricken for everyone—including Faith and section of town he is assigned to Jake—to treasure the memories of the patrol. Grisly, horrific scenes start past but to move on? to pop up in the middle of the night and the overburdened precinct has no choice but to put Reed on it. Now operating far outside of his comfort zone with a Belgian Malinois for a partner that attracts attention wherever they go, Reed is forced to unravel the murders, taking him across the city and back years in time, to an event that some very influential people will do anything to keep buried...

by Ben Cheetham Is it ever truly possible to atone for killing someone? After the death of his son in a freak accident, Detective Harlan Miller's life is spiraling out of control. He's drinking too much. His marriage and career are on the rocks. But things are about to get even worse. A booze-soaked night out and a single wild punch leave a man dead and Harlan facing a manslaughter charge. Fast-forward four years. Harlan's prison term is up, but life on the outside holds little promise. Divorced, alone, consumed with guilt, he thinks of nothing beyond atoning for the death he caused. But how do you make up for depriving a wife of her husband and two young boys of their father? Then something happens, something terrible, yet something that holds out a twisted kind of hope for Harlan - the dead man's youngest son is abducted.


The Demise (A Braxton Mystery Book 1) By Diane Moody Tiny Braxton, Tennessee, is a quiet, tight-knit community wrapped around an old town square just a stone's throw from Nashville. But when the town's most prominent citizen is found dead at the base of its water tower, news of Peter Lanham's apparent suicide roars through town like a massive tsunami. Peter, the handsome, beloved CEO of Lanham's Fine Foods, had taken a small, family-owned grocery store founded in 1927, and grew it into a successful national chain. With most of Braxton's residents employed by Lanham's corporate headquarters, word of Peter's demise left them searching for answers. What could possibly have made him take a swan dive off that tower?

Gates of Power: A gripping Crime Thriller (Jack Valentine Book 1) by Peter O’Mahoney Justice is a dangerous game... When Chicago’s most revered newsreader, Brian Gates, is found murdered in his dressing room, all the evidence points to one man—professional computer gamer Alfie Rose. Desperate to prove his innocence, Rose defies the advice of his legal team, hiring private investigator Jack Valentine to dig into the case. Still reeling from a personal tragedy, the relentless Valentine embarks on the most dangerous case of his career—battling against the far-right, the complex world of lawyers, and media corporations that will do anything to deliver the news first. With a community on edge, Valentine turns leads into danger and friends into suspects, but what he uncovers will change him forever…

Julie Parker is convinced he didn't. As receptionist at Lanham's executive office suite, she's determined to find out what really happened to her boss. An aspiring actor who also stars as "The Lanham Girl" in the company's TV commercials, Julie prides herself on her perceptive observations and people-skills. Who better to find out what happened to Peter up on that water tower? Matt Bryson, on assignment as a rookie Special Agent for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, isn't about to let the attractive receptionist intrude on his first case. She may be a hometown insider, but he's perfectly capable of solving the case without "Miss Marple" screwing up his investigation. A perfect setting, a cast of oddball characters, and just enough drama to raise lots of suspicion. The stage is set.


Beauty in Flight Book 1 by Robin Patchen

Light the Dark: A Carolina Moon Christmas Novella by Christy Barritt

Her beauty once opened doors, but the felony conviction slams them shut. Harper Cloud used to love the gilded glamour of Las Vegas, but on the far side of prison, she sees the cracks in the veneer. These days, she keeps her head down and focuses on the elderly patients in her care. Even her new wealthy east-coast boyfriend, Derrick, can't entice her away. She's trusted men before, and look where that got her. She tries to brush off the feeling that she's being watched. But when she's followed home one night and her pursuer gets within a hair's breadth of grabbing her, she knows it's time to leave Las Vegas. Maybe Derrick can be trusted. Maybe his job offer—to care for his aging grandfather in Maryland—will be the second chance she needs. But Derrick has secrets of his own, secrets that could take him down-and take Harper with him. Can there be a second chance for someone like her? .

No Safe Place (Witness Protection Book1) by H.L. Wegley How much would you sacrifice to regain your honor? After ex-football star, Matt Mathison, allows a careerending injury to send him to the far country, the prodigal wants to come home and regain his honor. But Matt returns with an assassin on his trail. When he encounters a young woman with secrets, a woman he is drawn to and who seems to need him, he must choose between helping her or endangering her. Miranda (Randi) Richards, a young meteorologist, takes a job in a remote area near the Olympic National Park to nurse her wounds after her parents brutally disowned her when she converted to Christianity at college. When Randi, a world-class, middle-distance runner literally runs into Matt on a park trail, she believes she's found someone who can help heal her heart. But she learns Matt has secrets that threaten both her heart and her life.

Nine months pregnant, Hope Solomon is on the run and fearing for her life. Desperate for warmth, food, and shelter, she finds what looks like an abandoned house. Inside, she discovers a Christmas that’s been left behind—complete with faded decorations on a brittle Christmas tree and dusty stockings filled with loss. Someone spies smoke coming from the chimney of the empty house and alerts Dr. Luke Griffin, the owner. He rarely visits the home that harbors so many bittersweet memories for him. But no one is going to violate the space so near and dear to his heart. Then Luke meets Hope, and he knows this mother-to-be desperately needs help. With no room at any local inn, Luke invites Hope to stay, unaware of the danger following her. While running from the darkness, the embers of Christmas present are stirred with an unexpected birth and a holiday romance. But will Hope and Luke live to see a Christmas future?


A Christmas To Cherish (Cherish Series Book 2) by Josie Riviera There’s nothing a Christmas kiss won’t cure. Except perhaps a shattered heart… When Emmanuelle Sumter steps off the train in Cherish, South Carolina—a town simply glowing with the promise of Christmas—she finds herself praying God will help her find the broken pieces of her life. Shattered, like her beloved harp. Her dreams. And her trust in men. Her friend Dorothy told her Cherish is a safe haven. But she never expected Dorothy’s brother, Deputy Nicholas Thompson, would relight the one thing she thought she’d lost forever. A spark of hope. Not long ago, while Nicholas’ sister was in rehab, Emmanuelle’s voice and smile on his Skype screen held him together. After that, she seemed to disappear, an absence he felt keenly when his ex-fiancée left his faith in God dented but not broken. Now she’s in Cherish, even more stunning in person. Yet she’s holding tight to a private pain she refuses to reveal. Nicholas resolves to be patient, vowing that he’ll never let anyone hurt her again. Even when her past rears its ugly head to destroy what’s left of her heart.

Mia’s Gift (Small-Town Christmas Wishes Series Book 1) by Cindy Flores Martinez Welcome to Snowflake, Colorado—a small town where wishes come true! When six old high school friends receive a letter that their fellow friend, Charity Hart, wrote before she passed away, their lives take an unexpected turn. She leaves them each a check for $1,500 and asks them to grant a wish—a secret wish—for someone else by Christmas. And she wants it to be special. Mia Rosa is thinking of leaving Snowflake, Colorado for good. Her cupcake shop on Main Street isn’t doing well, and seeing her ex-fiancé around town is awkward. When she receives a letter from her old high school friend, Charity Hart, asking her to be a secret angel, she’s convinced that she can’t go through with it. But Mia soon learns that handsome Jesse Quinn and his fifteen-year-old niece, Kristi, are in desperate need of a miracle. The group home where Kristi lives is shutting down, and no other foster homes are available in Snowflake. Will Mia be able to secretly grant Jesse and Kristi’s wish for Kristi to stay in the town she calls home?

His Mistletoe Match (A Snow Pines Sweet Christmas Book 1 by Lacy Anderson They’re about to get a new leash on love – underneath the mistletoe. Maggie

Ash Allen’s wild reputation is going to cost him his spot in the family’s multi-billion dollar company. His uncle is sending him to the tiny town of Snow Pines two weeks before Christmas with one demand: close down the family’s charity foundation and prove that he can do this job. Sounds easy, until a surprising meeting under the mistletoe with a beautiful woman and her dog throws him off guard. Rhiannon Grant is scraping every penny to get her mom that post-chemo trip to Europe she promised her. As the director of the Snow Pines Foundation, her Christmas bonus is just around the corner. When her boss’s handsome nephew shows up, she’s determined not to get distracted. But it’s hard to ignore a man who’s won over the heart of her dog.


All items on Sale at time of publication, however prices are subject to change and may not be permanently reduced Remember Me: (Chapel Cove Romances Book 1) Welcome to Chapel Cove, Oregon, where life begins at forty. As their fortieth birthdays loom, three childhood friends return unexpectedly to their home town. Stunning coastline, a harbor against life’s storms, and a welcoming community await them. Hurt by challenges, disappointments, and failures; reminded of their unfulfilled hopes and dreams, they’re offered a fresh start. And, if they’re brave enough to accept it, a second chance at love. Will they allow God to safely anchor them in their hearts’ home, or will doubt and uncertainty drive them to repeat their old mistakes? Discover this small town filled with love, hope, and faith, in Chapel Cove Romances, a series of sweet and clean standalone Christian stories from three bestselling authors.

A Christmas Holiday Romance (Romances of the Heart Book 1) by Carmen Crowley and Carol Stokes She's fleeing a failed wedding. He escaped his fiancée for freedom. Will a trip to the ski slopes snowball into romance? Abby Andrews is heartbroken. Still reeling from a called-off wedding, she heads to Las Vegas with her twin sister to clear her head. When she clumsily spills a drink on a handsome casino owner, she's mortified, going all-in on avoiding him for the rest of her trip.

Abby never expected the charming gentleman to invite her to spend Christmas with him in Colorado.

The Billionaire’s Christmas Bundle of Joy (Love at Christmas 1) by Holly Rayner Mia Daniels is an anchor at SNO News, and loves her job, especially when she gets to report on her favorite thing: Christmas. The only man getting in her way is her miserly, Christmas-hating boss: the gorgeous and irresistible billionaire James Chance. After a snowstorm maroons them both at work however, Mia seizes her chance to show James the magic of Christmas; she decides to throw a mini-Christmas celebration for her gorgeous billionaire boss, with lights, decorations, and of course, mistletoe! Unable to resist their burgeoning desires, they fall into one another’s arms in a passionate and unexpected encounter…


David: Her Cowboy (Second Chance Protectors Book 3) by Akexa Verde & Autumn Macarthur A cowboy, a celebrity TV journalist, and a baby in danger... After losing his leg and the love of his life in an explosion, David King dedicates himself to the charity he founded in her memory, and to the Texas ranches he inherited. But when he finds an abandoned baby, he needs to keep the baby safe and uncover why someone is ready to kill to get the child. Unexpected help comes from the celebrity investigative reporter who crashes into his vehicle. But can he trust the famed serial dater who just wants to rehab a ruined reputation?

Aster Andrade has made many mistakes in her life. Like a teenage pregnancy, staying in an abusive marriage far too long, and failing as a mom. Now it seems she’s lost the career she gave up so much for, too. Helping the innocent baby is not a mistake. The reclusive cowboy intrigues her. But she's not about to fall for the wrong man again. As the danger surrounding them escalates, can David and Aster keep the baby safe - along with their hearts?

What He Wants (Baxter Boys Book 1) A Sweet, Second Chance Romance by Jessie Gussman One night changed everything… Cassidy Kimbell killed a man when she was only nineteen. Torque Baxter took the blame, serving ten years for her crime. He told her to flee the scene of the accident. He told her to run. He told her to keep her mouth shut, so that’s what she’d done. She’d let a boy with a crush become an innocent man behind bars. Today, that man is being released. Cassidy expects Torque to hate her. She knows nothing she has done to atone all these years can compare to what he’s lost. But she hopes becoming his sponsor on the outside, especially since she’s a lawyer now, might help. Little does she know, Torque doesn’t want her to owe him. He wants her to love him. But to do that Cassidy would have to give up the life she’s built for the last ten years. She'd have to sacrifice it all, just like he did.

Her Big Fat Fake Billionaire Boyfriend (Clean Billionaire Romance Series Book 1) by Victorine E. Lieske Kenzie Bennett just wants to attend her sister’s wedding without looking like the loser her mother thinks she is. When she mistakes Camden for her date-for-hire, she doesn’t realize her good fortune. Unfortunately, her ex left her scarred, and even though Camden is everything she’d want in a man, she’s not looking for love. Camden James needs a distraction from his crazy stalker ex-girlfriend, and Kenzie fits the bill perfectly. Spunky and full of life, she makes him laugh. The more time he spends with her, the more he falls in love. Too bad she’s made it clear there isn’t anything between them.


Pernicious Liaisons

Continue Reading | Episode 4 “Yeah,” the man let out another jagged breath. “Thanks.” “Looks like maybe you had a bit of a shock,” Paige said sympathetically. “Long, deep breaths are better. Those short, quick ones will make you hyperventilate. Do me a favor and keep going, long deep breath in, hold it and let it out.” They sat there for several seconds until a little color returned to the man’s face. “Can you tell me your name?”

“Billy,” he swallowed. “Uh… Billy Duncan.” “Okay, Billy,” Paige shifted. “My friend over there said you are in charge. I’m wondering if maybe you could talk to your men. Get them to back off a bit. My guy… well, he’s just trying to do his job, but they’re making that difficult. Any chance you could help us out?” Billy glanced up and realized the men were crowding the officer, demanding entrance into the building to start the day’s work. He glanced back at Paige, stood and made his way to Havilland’s side. “Listen up.” Paige marveled at the instant change. Where seconds ago the crowd was angry, demanding and unruly, it was now completely silent. Eerily so. “I um…” Billy swallowed hard. “I found Dutch… Dutch’s body this morning. He fell, I guess. After we all left, he fell and…” “Dutch is dead?” Someone asked in shock. “He’s dead,” Billy lowered his head and looked sick.

Paige stepped in, patted Billy on the shoulder then faced the crowd. “I’m sure you can understand how important it is for us to preserve the scene. We need time to take a look around, determine just how Dutch died and make sure the building is safe for you to return to work. I know this is difficult, but we really need your cooperation.” “So,” a large, hard-looking man called out. “What are you asking, lady?” 89


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “We’re telling you to back away,” Havilland said, annoyed. “I need everyone to gather on the other side of the office,” Billy stepped in. “I’m closing down the site for the day. Before you leave, I need an accounting of who’s here and what time you arrived.” He glanced at Paige. “I assume you’re going to need that?” Paige nodded. “We will, thank you.” “Once I get your info, you’re free to leave,” Billy shouted. The men were grumbling now, mostly about lost wages. “If you’d let me finish before you go off half-cocked,” Billy raised his voice over the men. “I was gonna say you’ll get a day’s pay, but keep mouthing off and I just might change my mind.” Once again, the group became completely silent. Paige moved in next to Billy. “As you get their arrival times, would you inform the men we’re going to need to speak to each one of them individually? If they stick around, we’ll get to it this morning. If they prefer, we can stop by their homes later this afternoon.” “I’ll tell them,” Billy nodded. “I’ll make it a condition of the day’s pay… to be available for the cops.” “I appreciate that,” Paige made her way toward Havilland. “Come on then,” Billy called to the men. “Meet me on the other side of the office.”

Paige and Havi suddenly found themselves alone. Havilland let out a relieved breath. “Tough guys,” he shook his head. “I was afraid I’d have to arrest half a dozen of them before this was over. “What do we have?” Havilland glanced at the yellow tape, decided it would keep the scene secure enough and made his way into the partially erected building. “Looks like the man took a nose dive from up there.” He pointed to a large metal beam about thirty feet above them. “It appears he was working on something on the upper floor. Billy said they shut down the work for the day at around seven. Said Dutch, he’s the owner of this operation. Well, he was until...” Havilland shrugged. “Dutch said there was a problem with the electrical and he needed to stay another hour or so to fix it because the inspector was due first thing this morning.” 90


Pernicious Liaisons Paige moved to the edge of an unfinished wall and glanced at the body sprawled out below them. “Medical Examiner on the way?” “Yeah,” Havilland glanced around. “Thing is…” he hesitated.

“Thing is,” Paige realized. “You’re not entirely sure it was an industrial accident.” She shifted her focus from the body to the area the victim occupied before his untimely demise. “Could have been,” Havi said. “But, these guys… they work in this environment every day. One guy, alone? Well, that just doesn’t make sense to me. Now, in the middle of the day when things are hoppin’? Sure, accidents can happen. Someone snags a couple two-by-fours, someone else reaches for one tool or another and they collide. Wham... one, or both, end up dead.”

Paige studied the beam directly above them. It was nearly two feet wide, at least eighteen inches. A seasoned construction guy, someone who had been in the business long enough to have his own operation, wouldn’t take a nose dive easily. She glanced down at the body, again. “Alright,” she turned and headed for the door. “I’m convinced. Let’s head down and process the body.” “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Havilland asked. “That I convinced you to investigate further.”

“I guess only time will tell,” Paige exited the building and headed for their victim. As she approached the area, she spotted what could only be women’s footprints. There was a flat surface and, a couple inches back, a small round indentation. Women’s high heel shoes. She reached for her phone but paused. “Give me your phone.” “What? Why?” Havilland objected. “You have your own phone in your hand.” Paige sighed. “Give me the phone.” She turned and glared at her fellow cop. Havilland sighed and held out his phone.

Paige immediately crouched, set Havilland’s phone next to the footprint and used her own phone to take several pictures. “Oh,” Havilland said in understanding. “Yeah,” Paige straightened. “Oh.” She passed his phone back to him. “What is that?” 91


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “Women’s shoe prints,” Paige answered as she slowly made her way to the body. With her own phone, she took over two dozen photos of the man’s lifeless form lying face first in the dirt. Once she was finished with that, she retrieved several markers from her vehicle and began placing them near items that could be evidence.

Havilland stood back, watching Paige as she worked. The woman was the most thorough cop he’d ever met, but she got results. He knew the markers would make it easier for her to diagram the scene later. Something that would be essential if this ever went to trial. He was glad she was the one to respond this morning. Gage would have been argumentative, to say the least. He sighed, wondering if he’d ever get along with the big man. Paige heard Havilland sigh and she frowned. “You’re the one that asked me to look into this. Paige, investigate this as a homicide rather than an accident. Have you changed your mind?” “No,” Havilland glanced up when the improvised SUV used by the Medical Examiner pulled into the lot. “I wasn’t thinking about the case, I was counting my blessings. I’m grateful you responded to back me this morning.” Paige grinned. “Oh, well...” she stood and motioned for the ME to pull forward. “You could always apologize to Gage. Tell him you regret the way you handled the situation with his sister. Appeal to him man to man. You know, explain how you thought a quick break was the best way to go.”

“Yeah,” Havilland started to walk away. “Because that would make everything just peachy. Re-opening old wounds at the same time I pray my nose isn’t broken.” Paige grinned and took a step forward, then froze. The rays from the bright sun had hit something metal next to the body, creating a quick but bright flash that she almost missed. She made her way around the body, crouched, pulled a pen from her pocket, and slowly slid a delicate necklace forward that was wedged beneath the ground and Dutch Hagerty’s lifeless body.

“Looks like a locket,” Havilland said next to her. “Are you going to open it?” “No,” she stood and glanced around, trying to remember where she parked her car. et.

Havilland pulled an evidence bag from his pocket, opened it and held it beneath the lock“Boy Scout, huh?” Paige grinned as she dropped the locket into the bag. “I had no idea.” 92


Pernicious Liaisons “Nope,” Havilland sealed the bag. “I just think a cop should be prepared, too.” “Ready for transport?” Benny Parks, the local Medical Examiner asked when he reached the body.

“You finished?” Havilland asked Paige. “Yeah,” Paige took a step back. “Go ahead, Benny.” The two officers watched as the medical professional rolled the body onto a stretcher and wheeled it to the back of his vehicle. Within minutes, the body was loaded, secured and ready for transport. “Which one do I call when I’m done?” Benny called back. “Me,” Havilland gave him a wave.

“Should be later this afternoon,” Benny assured him before climbing into the vehicle and making a large circle. He had just started down the long drive when a bright red sports car came flying around the corner and nearly collided with the SUV head-on. Paige frowned and began moving that way, Havilland did the same. The ME swerved, missed the vehicle, and gave a long, annoyed honk before pulling onto the highway. The sports car continued into the parking area of the site and slowed abruptly, gravel flew several feet behind the vehicle, dust billowed and circled the tires before the tiny vehicle came to a complete stop. A woman in a designer summer dress and large sunglasses shoved open the driver’s side door and seemed to glide as she graciously extricated herself from the vehicle. “Is there some emergency I’m not aware of?” Havilland barked. The woman glanced over, surprised to see the two officers and frowned. “I don’t understand.” Paige wasn’t buying it. The woman had spotted them immediately, she just wanted to pretend she hadn’t. She was thumbing her nose at the little people, making sure Paige and Havi knew they were beneath her. The designer shoes that didn’t match her too short dress didn’t escape Paige’s notice. Was this the woman who had left prints near the body? “This is a restricted area. I’m afraid you need to vacate the premises.” “Do you know who I am?” Havi sighed, Paige grinned. “Not a clue. But now that you mentioned it, I will need your name,” Paige insisted. If she had a quarter for every time she’d been asked that question... well, she’d be set for life. She’d already noted the plate, so if the woman balked, she’d track 93


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 her down later. “I’m not going anywhere until I speak with my husband,” the woman turned and took several steps toward the portable trailer.

Paige glanced at Havilland who shrugged and followed the woman into the small structure. Once they were inside, he locked the door and moved behind the large desk. If this was the victim’s spouse, Mrs. Hagerty... things might get ugly fast. Felicity Hagerty frowned. “I’d like an explanation. That is my husband’s desk. I find it highly disrespectful for you...” she pulled a strange face. “Well, for you to come in and act like you’re in charge or something.” Paige grabbed a folding chair and positioned it to the side of the desk before casually settling in. “We are in charge.” She noticed the subtle change in the woman’s demeanor. Apparently, she didn’t like that response. “Before we discuss the situation here, at the site, I’m going to need you to tell me your name.” Felicity flipped back her fiery red hair and huffed. “Why, I’m Mrs. Dutch Hagerty and you are trespassing.” Havilland grinned. “We’re the police ma’am. We don’t trespass.” “Where is my husband?” Felicity ignored him. “The inspector should be here any minute. We cannot afford this,” she brushed a hand through the air impatiently. “Whatever this is. I will not risk a delay because you want to play...” “This isn’t a game Mrs. Hagerty,” Paige inserted, sensing her partner was about to blow. “I regret to inform you, Dutch Hagerty... your husband, well he passed away last night. I’m afraid the inspection is going to have to wait. The building is a crime scene.” “What do you mean passed away?” Felicity focused on the man as she shifted in her chair. The tiny dress rode up, exposing a generous portion of her thigh. She batted her eyes at the male officer and subtly licked her lips. “Dutch was healthy and fit. You must be mistaken and the inspection simply cannot be delayed. You understand, don’t you?” she cooed as she pushed her chest a little higher in Havilland’s direction. Paige blinked in shock. Seriously? The woman had just learned her husband was dead and her instinct was to pull a Sharon Stone? Before she could whip out a cigarette and light up, Paige decided to take over. “The inspection will be canceled.” 94


Pernicious Liaisons “Can’t you do something to fix this?” she leaned forward slightly, obviously believing if Havi got a clear view down the front of her dress he’d give her what she wanted. “Nope,” Havilland settled back in the chair. “You know, I find it interesting that you are more concerned with a building inspection than how your husband died.” Felicity straightened and her eyes grew cold. How dare this... public servant reject her advances like that? “I simply do not believe you. Dutch is fine. I saw his truck in the lot. He’s probably in a closet running wire or something and you made a mistake.” “I assure you, Mrs. Hagerty,” Paige continued. “We have not made a mistake. We don’t give notification of a man’s death to his loved ones...” she paused for effect. “Lightly.” “There are questions,” Havilland began. “The death is suspicious. Can you tell us, when was the last time you saw your husband?” “You said he passed away,” Felicity objected. “I assumed that meant from natural causes.” “There’s nothing natural about falling over thirty feet from a second-floor beam,” Havilland countered. Felicity’s hand shot to her mouth and she gasped. Paige watched, there was something fake about Mrs. Hagerty. She couldn’t say what. Her actions seemed in line with someone who had just been surprised but it didn’t ring true somehow. She knew she should step in, soften the blow but she wanted to see how Havi handled the situation and it was his case. Felicity took a shuddering breath. “Dutch was killed in an accident, then? I need to call OSHA, get the investigation started right away. They are sticklers for that kind of thing. I won’t be given a huge fine because you delayed notification. And there is no reason a tragic accident has to delay the inspection.” “I said he fell from the beam,” Havilland said calmly. “I didn’t say it was an accident. And, it hasn’t escaped my notice that you didn’t answer the question. When was the last time you saw your husband?” “What exactly are you implying, officer?” “It’s Deputy Havilland,” Havi corrected. “And I’m not implying anything. We are conducting an investigation. The first step is to determine when you saw your husband last. The 95


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 second step is to determine where you were last night. Feel free to take those in whatever order you prefer.” “My husband has been tragically killed and you sit here...” Felicity inhaled sharply. “You have the nerve to interrogate me?” “Not to step on Havilland’s toes here, but there is another question you have failed to answer, Mrs. Dutch Hagerty. You never gave us your first name.” Paige’s gut was screaming now. Sure, you never could predict how a grieving spouse would react to the news their loved one was dead but Mrs. Dutch here was acting more than a little suspicious. “My name is Felicity Hagerty,” the woman stood. “And if you have any further questions, you can contact my lawyer.” She reached into her handbag and pulled out a business card. “Ryan will be notified if you harass me again. I doubt your boss will be pleased if he gets slapped with a lawsuit over an industrial accident.” Paige and Havilland watched as the woman marched out the door. “That went well,” Paige stood and smiled. “Didn’t go over too well, you know when you ignored her damsel in distress routine.” Havilland also stood. “More like femme fatale if you ask me.” The two of them stepped back out of the trailer and paused at the bottom of the stairs. It was a hot, dry morning, the afternoon was going to be unbearable. Billy Duncan rushed over from the side of the building. “Mrs. Hagerty didn’t look happy. Did everything go okay in there? She demanded to know where the rest of the workers are. When I told her I sent them home, she nearly blew a gasket.” “Billy?” Paige studied the middle-aged man. He seemed a lot better now. “We need to start interviewing everyone that works here. I’d like to start with you, if you think you’re up to it.” *****

Several hours later, Paige was headed back to the office. They hadn’t learned much from Billy and even less from the workers that had stayed back to be interviewed before enjoying a paid day off. Once she and Duncan Havilland had interviewed everyone at the site, they’d split the list of remaining employees and began making house calls. She had just left Cody Barnes residence, the last man on her list, and wanted to hook back up with Duncan before they decided their next move.

96


Pernicious Liaisons Paige stepped through the back door of the station, closed her eyes and took a second to just enjoy the nice, cool, air-conditioned building. When she opened her eyes, she realized Jericho was waiting in the doorway. “Sorry, what’s up?” Paige took several steps forward, pausing a few feet from her boss. “I need you and Havilland in the conference room,” he turned and walked away. Paige frowned, stepped into the large open office area and spotted Duncan headed her way. “We in trouble?” she asked. Duncan Havilland shrugged. “If I had to guess, that hot-shot attorney of the late Dutch Hagerty made a phone call.”

“Did you get anything new?” Paige asked before stepping into the large room that contained a massive oval table. Jericho Walters, Sanpete County Sheriff, was sitting at the head of the table silently waiting for the two of them to join him. Havilland shook his head before settling into an executive chair, Paige took a seat across from him. “I don’t like getting blindsided by a self-important, arrogant attorney,” Jericho began. “Especially before I had my morning coffee.” He held up a hand when Duncan started to speak. “But, I talked to Margie and she told me you were busy handling the investigation, so I’ll give you a pass... this time. Next time, I expect a phone call.” “Sorry, sir,” Duncan answered. “It’s my fault. This is my case, Paige is just helping me out. I should have made notification right away.” “No harm done,” Jericho relaxed. “Now, give me the basics. I have a feeling Mr. Ryan Wickert is not going away anytime soon. Why do you think that fall was more than an unfortunate accident?” “At first,” Havilland began. “It was just the fall. The boss working at night, all alone and he just falls for no reason? Didn’t track for me. I’m guessing Paige agreed because once she got there we started looking at things from a criminal lens.” “I do,” Paige affirmed. “I also found women’s footprints at the scene and a locket that I want Heidi to examine for fingerprints, particles, everything.” “Then there’s the wife,” Havi provided. “She’s...” 97


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “I’ve met Felicity,” Jericho interrupted. “There’s no need to go any further. Do you think she’s involved?” “Shoe prints match the ones she was wearing this morning,” Paige offered. “I haven’t measured for size, but with your permission, I’d like to bring in an expert.” “On shoes?” Jericho asked. Paige smiled. “Shoes and technology. Carmen is still in town. One look at these photos and she’ll be able to tell me size, make, anything I need to know about those prints.” “I don’t see any harm in it,” Jericho nodded. “What else?” “Billy Duncan,” Havi started. “He’s the foreman. Billy said there was trouble in paradise. There’s a question about ownership of the company. Billy’s not sure Felicity Hagerty is the rightful owner. He thinks Dutch created a contingency... in case of trouble.” “What kind of trouble?” Jericho asked. “He doesn’t know,” Paige answered. “He just knows Dutch brought him in because Billy was supposed to run the crew if the trust Dutch formed was activated for any reason.” “And the proceeds?” Jericho wondered. “No idea,” Duncan shrugged. “We need to figure out who the attorney was and what legal provisions are in place.” “I got the impression this Ryan Wickert was Felicity’s personal attorney,” Jericho considered. “I’ll make a call to Tolman and see what he can tell me about the man. He may know what kind of law this Wickert fella practices.” “Will it complicate things?” Paige asked. “Bringing in the CA before we can prove we have a case?” Jericho grinned. “Of course.”

“Then can we wait?” Havilland asked. “We could,” Jericho said. “But we’re not going to. I can’t risk it. The arrogant prick is bound to go to Tolman eventually. He wasn’t happy with my response this morning. The sooner we bring in James Tolman, the better. He might even be able to run interference... give you two time to prove your theory,” Jericho stood. “Now, I have a phone call to make 98


Pernicious Liaisons and you need to put your heads together and bring me something I can use to convince our illustrious attorney we need to pursue this.”

“You said you’ve met Felicity Hagerty,” Paige also stood. “Are you friends?” Jericho flashed her an annoyed scowl. “You did meet the woman, right?” Paige smiled. “Sorry, my bad. I guess you won’t be upset then when I tell you, I think she’s responsible.” “No,” Jericho shrugged. “But thinking and proving are two very different things.” Once their boss had left the room, the two deputies put their heads together, trying to come up with another angle to chase. Just like Paige, Havilland’s interviews hadn’t resulted in anything significant. “Okay,” Paige ran a frustrated hand through her hair. “We know Dutch didn’t use his wife’s lawyer for company business. But he ran a construction company. These days’ people sue for the smallest infraction. Let’s have Margie get into that court system, the one that shows criminal and civil cases. Maybe Hagerty Construction has a docket or brief or something we can pull to see what attorney filed the paperwork on his behalf.” “Oh, you mean that XChange program?” Havilland asked, following her into the open office area. They made a beeline for Margie. “Yeah,” Paige stopped next to Jericho’s assistant’s desk. “That’s the one.” “You need me to run something in XChange?” Margie asked, overhearing the last of the conversation. “Hagerty Construction,” Havilland provided. “We need to see if we can find their attorney.”

Margie began tapping on her keyboard. Within seconds, she was motioning for the duo to come around the desk. “There were a few cases, but this one was the most recent. Last year and it says here....” She clicked on a link and an official court document appeared. “Maury Humphrey filed this paperwork. Here’s his address and number but I’m sure he’s left for the day. I’d try him first thing in the morning if it were me.” “Thanks, Margie,” Havi smiled. “You’re awesome.” 99


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 Jericho stepped into his doorway with his cellphone pressed to his ear. “James says Wickert is a civil attorney.” He disappeared back into his office. “Divorce maybe?” Havilland asked.

Paige considered. “Maybe, but I think Billy would have known if his boss was pursuing a divorce. He just said there was trouble and Butch was making preparations. I didn’t get the feeling anything had been filed yet if there was a divorce pending.” “You’re right,” Havilland agreed. “Could have been something to do with her prenup,” Margie provided. “Are you saying there was one?” Havilland asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Margie nodded. “I don’t know Felicity Hagerty. I don’t run in the right crowds. I mean, I’m one of those lowly working people.” Paige laughed. “Join the club.” “But I hear things,” Margie shrugged. “That’s an understatement,” Havi smiled. “When Felicity married Dutch, their prenup was the talk of the town. Dutch had been burned before, not a marriage but a partnership that had gone bad. He wanted to protect the company. The agreement is ironclad, from what I heard. And, there are rumors, nothing substantial mind you, that Mrs. High and Mighty was involved.” “With?” Paige pressed. “It’s a mystery,” Margie admitted. “Nobody knows. But the marriage was on the rocks and there was speculation that Dutch was working to firm up things regarding the company. I heard he was creating a trust with a secret board of directors.”

“But isn’t it a private LLC?” Havilland asked. “That doesn’t make sense with that kind of setup.” “I don’t know anything about that,” Margie frowned. “Seems he would have needed a good lawyer to change a company’s structure though. Maybe, this Maury Humphrey can shed some light.” 100


Pernicious Liaisons “Thanks again, Margie,” Havilland started to move away from the desk. “I have one more place I want to visit, then I’m going to call it a day. I’ll see the two of you in the morning.”

Paige watched as Havilland exited the building. “Has Dean checked on?” “He has,” Margie answered as Jericho stepped from his office. “Tolman is going to do a little checking, behind the scenes. He’s not convinced this was anything more than an accident but he knows Felicity Hagerty, not on a personal level. Apparently, he’s had to endure more than one charity function where he’s dealt with her. The shoe prints, her reaction, they have him intrigued. I’ll let you know when I hear anything. In the meantime, I say we all call it a day. Go home, Paige. There’s nothing pressing that can’t wait for morning.” Paige nodded and followed her boss out the door. Jericho turned just before he reached his car. “Gage brought me a list this morning. Seems there were quite a few athletes that received that ring. He’s working on narrowing the list some. I’ll let you know when we have something finalized.” “Thanks,” Paige sighed. “Seems every time we find a good lead, things around here pick up and I don’t have the time to pursue that cold case. Thanks for letting Gage help on this. I think he’s the best man for the job.” “I agree,” Jericho nodded. “And we’ll find time. We both just need to be patient.” “Goodnight,” Paige said before climbing into her vehicle and heading home.

*****

Paige pulled off the highway and followed the long drive back to the construction site. If anyone asked, she wouldn’t be able to explain why she’d returned. She just needed to see the place at night. According to the ME, Dutch Hagerty died between nine and eleven the previous evening. It was five minutes after ten... well within the window. She’d just go up, take a look around and get a feel for the building... how it looked and felt when Dutch met his demise. She frowned when she spotted the beat-up old Toyota parked next to Dutch’s large work truck. 101


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 Paige pulled in next to the car, jotted down the plate then shut down her vehicle. As she stepped into the warm night, she heard a faint sound coming from inside the building. After glancing around one more time to make sure she hadn’t missed anything out in the open, she made her way to the front entrance. With each step she took, the noise got louder. Paige moved forward and paused at the bottom of the staircase. It sounded like someone was crying. She slowly, silently ascended the rough steps, cautious not to make a sound. When she reached the top, she peeked around the corner and spotted a woman sitting against a wall near the place Dutch had been just before he fell. Paige pressed her back against the wall that separated the two women and considered. She had no idea who this girl was, didn’t know if she’d murdered their victim, didn’t know if she had a weapon. All of the above were possible, but Paige decided none of them were probable. The woman was clearly distraught, mourning the loss of someone she cared about. Paige crouched and peered around the wall again. “Hello,” she called. “I’m Deputy Carter, can I came over and talk to you?” The woman jumped, as much as one could when they were sitting on the floor. She swallowed hard and tried to clear her throat. “Uh...okay,” she finally said. Paige stood and moved toward the emotional woman who was still crying. She stopped a few feet away and waited. The instant the woman looked up Paige began. “Can you tell me your name?” The woman pressed the palm of her hands to her eyes, then briskly wiped away the remaining moisture. “Sandy Mitford.” “Okay,” Paige crouched in front of the woman so she could see her more closely. “Can I call you Sandy?” “Sure,” the woman hiccupped. “Sorry.” “I’m guessing you knew Dutch,” Paige declared. Might as well get to the point. “Yes,” the woman suddenly looked defiant. “Did you know him well?” Paige asked, already knowing the answer. “Yes.” So much for getting to the bottom of things. “Can you elaborate, please?”

102


Pernicious Liaisons Paige shifted and settled in next to the woman realizing this was going to be a long conversation.

“I went to college with Dutch,” she began. “We dated a little but mostly we were just really good friends. He graduated and came back home to take over the family business. I finished up school and moved to Denver. We lost touch, you know how it is. You always mean to hook up with your old college pals but somehow life always gets in the way.” “I understand,” Paige nodded. “But you did get in touch?” “No, not really,” Sandy disagreed. “I mean not on purpose. I landed a pretty good job in Denver, at an investment firm. Dutch took over the construction business. I’m surprised our paths met, but they did. Dutch came to Colorado a few years back. He heard about a large development going in and wanted to submit a bid, talk to the owners, stuff like that.” “And you ran into each other?” Paige realized. “We did,” Sandy nodded and brushed away fresh tears. “We were both surprised and wanted to catch up, you know. It was innocent, just a couple friends meeting for lunch.” “But it turned into more?” “Eventually,” Sandy admitted. “But not then. Dutch seemed a little sad, I got him to open up and he told me a little about his marriage. I was single, never been married, so I couldn’t really relate but we had been such good friends in college... Well, I guess it was just easy for us to reconnect.” “When did the affair start?” Paige asked, knowing she was right. “About six months ago,” Sandy sighed. “We didn’t mean for it to happen. I mean for over two years we just... well, we just remained friends. Dutch would call when he needed a break. He didn’t get the job in Denver but he did get a few smaller projects. He was in town off and on and we sort of just picked up where we left off. It was strictly platonic, I swear.” “I believe you,” and for some reason, Paige did. “About eight months ago, Dutch discovered his wife had been having an affair,” Sandy said softly. “He was furious at first, but then he decided it was for the best. He’d been struggling, trying to fix their relationship and nothing seemed to work. Now, he knew why. She didn’t want to fix it. She had someone else.” 103


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “But she didn’t divorce him because of the prenup?” “Yeah,” Sandy said a little surprised. “If she left him, she wouldn’t be living the good life. That woman lived to shop. So much, sometimes Dutch worried he couldn’t pay the bill.” “What happens now that he’s dead?” Paige asked. “I don’t know,” Sandy admitted. “Dutch was putting things in place, you know, preparing for an ugly divorce. The first thing he had to do was prove she was cheating. He told me a couple days ago he finally had what he needed. The second step was to make sure the company was safe. He knew she’d go after that and he hoped the prenuptial agreement would be enough to save it.” “Did it matter that he was also having an affair?” Paige asked. “I don’t know,” Sandy said, frustrated. “When I asked him for the details, he just said not to worry about it. He said it was his mess and he wasn’t going to drag me into it. We didn’t mean to get involved, we really didn’t. It’s just...well, I always had a crush on Dutch. He was so kind and... good, you know?” “I didn’t actually know Dutch Hagerty, but I’m glad he was good to you,” Paige told her. “And I am truly sorry for your loss.” “He came to Denver, for a job, about six months ago,” Sandy continued. “Dutch was so upset. He felt so alone. I hated seeing him like that and invited him to dinner. We talked all night long. He had discovered Felicity, his wife, was getting information from his former partner. Dutch and Keith had started out friends, but almost immediately problems developed. Dutch ended up buying Keith out, but it was expensive. The split was not a good one and Keith has been trying to ruin Dutch ever since.” “Do you know Keith’s last name?” “Uh...” Sandy hesitated. “Do you need to bring him into this?” “I need to talk to him,” Paige said. “Okay, it’s Keith Shavell.” “Do you think he had anything to do with Dutch’s accident?” Paige asked. “No,” Sandy shook her head. “But I don’t think it was an accident.” 104


Pernicious Liaisons “Why not?” “Because I think Felicity found out about me,” Sandy admitted. “She called my phone last night, just before nine.” “Did you answer?” “No,” Sandy pulled out her phone, punched a couple buttons and Felicity’s voice filled the room. “Sandy Mitford,” Felicity said angrily. “I know who you are. I talked to those... vile college friends of yours. I know you have wanted my husband for years. Stay away from him or you will regret it.”

“Can you forward that message to my phone?” Paige asked. Havi needed to hear the message and the anger. It might explain what happened out here last night. “Sure,” Sandy pressed a few buttons and then Paige’s phone pinged. “Am I a suspect now?” “Technically, yes.” Paige sighed. “What can you tell me to clear your name? That message came in just before nine. What did you do after you received it?” Paige pulled out her phone. “Oh, can I record this? I’m not actually the lead investigator and I’d like him to hear your answers.” “Okay,” Sandy said hesitantly. “When that call came in, I was with my brother.” “His name?” “Jerry,” Sandy sighed, knowing he was going to be brought into this now. “He’s a year older than me. He’s looking for work and just moved to town. I was going to ask Dutch if he had a job my brother could do. Maybe intern or something but Jerry agreed to come a few days too late. This is so messed up. What am I going to do without him?”

Paige didn’t know how to answer that and figured the woman didn’t really want an answer, anyway. “So Jerry is staying with you? He was there all night?” “Yes,” Sandy nodded. “I was upset when I got that call. I didn’t know what to do. I considered calling Dutch, but I figured he already knew. He always knew things like that somehow. Anyway, Jerry talked me out of it. He wasn’t happy about the affair, but he understood. 105


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 We argued a lot, he was mad at me for using my boyfriend to get him a job. It took us hours to work through it all and by the time we were finished, it was too late to call Dutch. I was going to talk to him tonight. We were supposed to meet, for dinner and he was going to tell me the plan. He said he’d put everything in motion and it was all going to work out, soon.” “Did Dutch ever give you jewelry?” Sandy furrowed her brows. “No, why? I mean, he probably would have but I was so uncomfortable with the affair and all. I told him we had to keep our relationship a secret until his marriage was over. Once I moved here, we never ate out, in public. I was too scared a friend or one of his employees would see us. We drove all the way to Price when we went out and he never gave me gifts.” “Okay,” Paige wondered if that was how Felicity had found Sandy. Was the locket intended as a gift to his girlfriend? Maybe a symbol that things were moving along and they would be together soon? “Did Dutch ever talk to you about the business? Billy said Dutch was making some changes, things that would protect the company because things with Felicity were rocky.” “No,” Sandy pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around her knees. “We didn’t talk about that. I worked for an investment and development firm in Denver so I understood the business but we didn’t talk about that. Dutch said the business was doing well, that he was finally getting the good jobs and his company was in demand. He relied on Billy a lot, that man knows the business and Dutch trusted him. Billy was probably the only person besides me that Dutch did trust. But Dutch was a private man, he didn’t talk about himself a lot. Not the details. He talked about his dreams, mostly. He wanted to build a big house near a lake. Dutch had purchased some property just outside Palisades State Park and he wanted to build a house out there with a garden and an amazing backyard. I can still picture it, the way he described it. It was going to be our dream home.” Tears started to stream down Sandy’s face again. Paige was starting to get a pretty good picture of the man who had met an early death. And one question kept rising to the surface. How could this man, the man Sandy was describing, the man Billy had described early that day... how had he come to marry Felicity Hagerty? “I think that’s everything for now,” Paige stood. “I may need to contact you in the future if I have more questions. And uh...” Paige glanced around. “I can’t let you stay here. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” 106


Pernicious Liaisons Sandy stood. “I understand. It’s okay, I was about to leave, anyway.” The two women made their way to the parking lot, climbed into their respective vehicles and left the area.

*****

“I have a meeting with Maury Humphrey and need to head out,” Duncan called out the instant Paige stepped into the office. “You coming?” “Sure,” Paige turned to head back out into the parking lot. Once they were settled inside Duncan’s vehicle Paige waited to learn where they were going.

“Humphrey’s office is located in Price,” Havilland said, pulling onto the highway. “We’ll take eighty-nine to six, should take a couple hours. Hope you didn’t have plans this morning.” “Not really,” Paige settled in for the ride. “But I met someone last night at the construction site.” She proceeded to tell Havilland about her encounter with Sandy. “I recorded most of it so you can listen to the conversation once we’re finished here.” “Or you could play it now,” he suggested. “We have plenty of time. I’d like to listen to what she has to say and hash it out before we meet with Humphrey.”

*****

The office was professional and looked expensive but not pretentious. Paige and Duncan were seated in a small conference room away from the various offices scattered around the main floor of the building. Clearly, this firm was doing well for itself. Within minutes, a well-dressed man stepped into the room. “I’m sorry I couldn’t come to you this morning,” Maury began. “I know driving all the way out here had to be inconvenient but Judge Reese rarely reschedules unless it’s a dire emergency. And, according to him, the death of a man is not an emergency, Dutch was already dead after all.” “We understand,” Havilland held back a grin. Sounded like most judges he’d met throughout his career. Their time was valuable, everyone else... not so much. 107


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “Anyway,” Maury settled into one of the chairs and set a file on the table. “I’m not sure how I can help.” “First,” Paige leaned forward. “Can you tell us what kind of law you practice? And maybe who you represent?” “Mostly corporate law,” Maury clasped his hands on the table in front of him and considered. “I had two clients, Dutch Hagerty and Hagerty Construction. Originally, the company was an LLP; but when the partnership was dissolved, it was restructured as an LLC with Dutch as the sole shareholder, but he restructured things a bit and changed the way things run.” “Changed it how?” Havi asked. “He signed the paperwork last Friday to put a Board of Directors in place to oversee the finances, a silent controlling contingent, I guess you could say.” “So, was he merging with another corporation?” Paige asked. “No,” Maury shook his head. “This board was comprised of limited shareholders he trusted. People who knew the business but would not have any involvement with the day-today operations. They were strictly money people. Dutch set it up so they made financial decisions and were paid a portion of the profits... it was the only solution we could come up with to deal with the problem he was facing. Because the shareholder’s stake was so limited, it wouldn’t have much impact on him personally; but it would protect the company’s interests. Like I said, the men were people he trusted, men who would not interfere with Dutch. He still had full control while he was alive and he had the first right to purchase their shares if they wanted to sell down the road.” “I know all that attorney-client privilege stuff, but we need to understand what was going on here,” Havilland pressed. “Due to the changes Dutch made,” Maury began. “The provisions he put in place in case of his death, I can’t go into the business dealings with you. However, I can give you a little information on the personal front. Explain what Dutch asked me to do, protections you could say that went into place a few weeks ago.” “Whatever you can tell us would be appreciated,” Paige told him. 108


Pernicious Liaisons “Dutch was filing for divorce,” Humphrey explained. “I do not practice family law, but the corporate stuff blended into the family stuff; so, I’ve been working with a man by the name of Peter Thayer. He was representing Dutch in the divorce.” “Okay,” Havilland sighed. “Any idea how we get a hold of this Thayer guy?” “Sure, I can give you his card before you go.” “We appreciate your help on that,” Paige told him. “Anything else you can tell us?” “Like I said,” Maury sighed. “He created the board for the business. He didn’t want most of the personal property. He had his current residence and from what I gathered, he was going to give that to Felicity in the divorce. He recently purchased a large plot of land near Palisades and he wanted to build a home he actually liked out there.” “He didn’t like his family home?” Havilland asked. “Have you seen it?” Maury asked. “No,” Paige admitted. “Well,” Maury smiled. “You are in for a treat if you ever do. In answer to your question, no. He hated it. Felicity would get the house, her sports car and all of her possessions. Furniture, clothes, jewelry. Dutch didn’t want any of it.” “What about alimony?” Paige asked. “Dutch Construction seemed to be doing well.” “No,” Maury said. “She was not entitled to anything when it came to the company.” “I’ve been told there was a prenup,” Havilland pressed. “I also have reason to believe they were both having affairs. Does that play into the status of the company?” “It does,” Maury sighed again. “I told Dutch he would not be able to keep his relationship a secret for long. He hired a private detective a few months back. He needed proof his wife was cheating for the prenup to take effect. He got his proof alright, it’s what prompted him to put all the planning in place. In regards to the company that is. I understand why he did it; and under the circumstances, I’m glad he did. This whole thing is just a mess and I’m afraid it’s going to get a lot more complicated before it’s all settled.” “Can you elaborate?” Paige asked. 109


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “Not a lot,” Maury said sadly. “I will say this... I’m not sure Felicity married Dutch for love. I told him as much after he discovered her secret. I can’t really get into more than that, for various reasons. Maybe Trent can. Trent Dunbar. He was the PI Dutch hired to look into things. Now that Dutch is dead, he might have a little more leeway to discuss the details with you. Let me get his card as well as Pete’s. Hopefully, you can sort all of this out.” Maury paused. “I’m wondering, can you tell me something?” “Depends,” Havilland said cryptically. He hated dealing with lawyers. They didn’t want to share anything, but they expected you to share everything with them. “I suppose I deserved that,” Maury smiled. “I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m just trying to help and not get myself disbarred in the process.”

“We understand,” Paige also smiled. “What is your question?” “Can I assume this visit and your investigation are signs Dutch Hagerty didn’t die in an accident?” “Do you think it was an accident?” Paige asked. “No,” Maury said without hesitation. “I think Felicity and her lover found out what Dutch was doing and they tried to eliminate him before he finalized his plans.”

“Did they?” Havilland asked. “Did Dutch have a chance to finalize things?” “They failed,” Maury told them. “For the most part. My job just got a lot harder, but at the end of the day, Dutch took care of everything he needed to before he passed away.” Maury left the room and returned with two business cards. Havilland took the cards, thanked the attorney for his time and followed Paige back to the car. “I can’t decide if that was worth the trip or not.”

“I think it was,” she settled into the passenger’s seat and held out her hand. “Give me the cards, I want to pay a visit to this Thayer guy. I think he’s our best bet. PI’s will usually talk to the cops.” Paige called the number and had a brief conversation while Havilland maneuvered through traffic to find the address. At least the guy operated out of Price and they didn’t have to drive to Provo or Salt Lake today.

110


Pernicious Liaisons “He said he has a few minutes to fill us in before he heads out,” Paige said disconnecting the call. “And he said it’s in that area, over there... across from that daycare.”

Minutes later, Duncan and Paige once again, found themselves seated in a small conference room. This time, the secretary was actually friendly and had just passed out mugs of coffee when a middle-aged man stepped into the room. He wore cowboy boots, a button-down western style denim shirt and faded jeans. “Casual Thursday?” Havilland asked. “Casual every day,” Trent settled into a chair and studied the two lawmen. “Before you go treatin’ me like I’m some small town hick that always wanted to be a cop but couldn’t hack it, I guess I should tell you I’m retired. Did my twenty and got out. I’m selective and discrete because I’m just that good.” “And before you go treating us like were a couple small town hicks, I guess I should tell you I left the FBI last year to see how the locals do things,” Paige provided. “Now that we got that all cleared up,” Havilland grumbled. “Can we stop throwing around resumes and get down to business?” “Testy partner,” Trent winked at Paige. “But he’s right, I’m on a tight schedule. You want to know about Dutch. Good guy, shame what happened.” “You mean that he accidentally fell to his death?” Havilland tested. “Sure,” Trent settled deeper into his chair. “If that’s the way you want to go with this. You’d be wrong, but I won’t argue. Not unless someone pays me to.” “So,” Paige said slowly. “In your professional opinion, Dutch didn’t have an accident?” “We both know my opinion doesn’t mean shit,” Trent shrugged. “What matters is what the two of you can prove.”

“I’d like to hear it anyway,” Paige pressed. “If I had to guess, Felicity and Keith Shavell had a hand in it.” “Who is Keith Shavell?” Havilland asked. “Felicity’s side piece,” Trent provided. “And Dutch’s old partner.” 111


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “What, what?” Paige sat forward. “Felicity is involved with the partner he had so many problems with? The split that was so ugly and nearly ruined the company?” “That’s him,” Trent nodded. “It was nearly impossible to catch them together. Those two are careful but I managed it a few months back. Let me see, I cornered them probably eight, nine months ago. Took the pictures to Dutch. He didn’t take it well. I think it was a bigger blow than he wanted to admit. He realized his entire marriage was a sham.” “He thought Felicity married him to get a portion of the company?” Havilland concluded. “To steal back what Keith couldn’t get on his own?” “That was our theory,” Trent agreed. “Dutch cared for Felicity, in the beginning. The guy was one of the good ones. I keep a distance, you know how it is. This job, your job... you have to remain focused and a little aloof. But Dutch somehow got through. He worked his way in and I considered the guy a friend. At first, I couldn’t find a trace. Like I said Keith and Felicity were careful but everyone slips up and I was there to catch it. Dutch was in Denver at the time, just finishing up a strip mall or something. Anyway, they let down their guard. Had dinner in public, headed back to the house and that’s how I got them. Dutch gave me access to the security cameras. The two of them thought a private backyard meant they really had privacy. Idiots.” “Did Felicity know she’d been caught?” Paige asked. “Not sure,” Trent admitted. “I don’t think so, though. Like I said, Dutch took it hard. Then he headed back to Denver. Hooked up with an old friend. I think that’s when things heated up between those two. But this one, Sandy something or other... Dutch really loved her. I checked her out, too.” Trent opened a file. “Yeah, Sandy Mitford. She appears okay. Brother’s struggling - needs a job, but I don’t think they’re on the take from Felicity or Keith.” “I ran into Sandy and I agree,” Paige provided. “We stopped by to visit with Maury Humphrey,” Havilland continued. “The man told us next to nothing. Anything you can provide that might help?” Trent considered. “I mostly dealt with the infidelity issue but I do know Dutch completely overhauled the structure. Of the company, I mean. He set up a board to oversee all financial dealings. Got Maury to do it up, I don’t know how much you know about Humphrey but that at least is iron clad. The company is safe. His death, well it got those two nothing they were after. Senseless really.” 112


Pernicious Liaisons “What about the personal stuff?” Paige asked. “No idea,” Trent said. “Not really. All I know is what he told me. Dutch said the company was safe. That this board had been set up to be isolated, a secret. Nobody in the company knows who sits on it. He checked them out, made sure they didn’t have any dealings with Keith before he hired them. All financial dealings must go through them, no exceptions.” “And by he checked them out, you mean you did?” Havilland asked. Trent just smiled. “So,” Paige considered. “If nobody knows who they are, who runs the day-to-day stuff?” “Billy Ralston,” Trent smiled. “He’s solid, I checked. Billy will be in charge of the company, run down the projects, then send the request to the board. The board will vote, send Billy the approved budget and he’ll take over from there.” “Why the secrecy?” Paige asked. “Dutch was worried about Keith,” Trent shrugged. “Apparently, the man had infiltrated his organization once before. Dutch wanted to make sure the company was safe.” “And who gets the profits now that he’s gone?” Havilland asked. “They go into a trust,” Trent told them. “Billy will get a raise, but don’t for one minute think that man had anything to do with this.” “We don’t,” Havilland assured him. “But he doesn’t own the company?” Paige asked. “No,” Trent hesitated. “Who?” Havilland asked. “Sandy,” Trent admitted. “But I honestly don’t think she even knows that yet. Like I said, I think it was the real deal. Dutch was excited to get this all resolved and move forward. He bought that property by the lake, set up the company so Sandy would be set and just wanted the whole thing behind him.” “But does Felicity know?” Paige asked.

113


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “Couldn’t say,” Trent stood. “Now, I need to run and I think I’ve told you more than I should have.” “What about the property? By the lake, I mean?” Havilland asked.

“Can’t say for sure, but I’d guess all his personal belongings will go to Sandy,” Trent sighed. “That part of the deal could get ugly. I mean, Dutch filed for divorce but it wasn’t final before he died. I don’t know if he was able to save anything but the company. Shame, be nice if the girl could at least get the lake house.” “One last thing,” Paige stood. “With Dutch gone, how does that impact things?” “Like I said,” Trent picked up the file and headed for the door. “Doesn’t as far as the company goes. You’d have to ask Thayer about the divorce stuff.”

The instant they were back in the parking lot, Havilland pulled out his phone. “Who are you calling?” Paige asked. “Margie,” Havilland answered absently as he waited for his favorite assistant to pick up. “I want to know everything there is to know about Keith Shavell.” “Think there’s a reason to visit Thayer?” Paige asked. “I expect he’ll just give us the run -around.”

“He’s in Ephraim,” Duncan said, once he looked at the card. “Hey Margie, I need you to run everything on a name. Hold on just a minute.” He turned back to Paige. “Call Thayer and see if we can stop by on our way back to the office. I want to at least ask. You never know what he might give up. Okay, Margie, I’m back. Here’s what I’ve got.”

*****

They didn’t get much from Thayer. As suspected, he cited privilege and evaded nearly all their questions. He did answer one thing though. Sandy Mitford would receive the lake property. Dutch had Quit Claimed it over to Sandy last week. Paige was beginning to wonder if Dutch knew his life was in danger. Or maybe he was just preparing for an ugly divorce? She also wondered if buying that locket and signing over the property was how Felicity found out about the college friend turned partner. She was still deep in thought when Havilland stepped up to her desk. 114


Pernicious Liaisons “What’s wrong?” he asked. “Huh?” Paige looked up. “Oh, I was just wondering if Dutch knew his life was in danger. I mean, he signed the property over to his girlfriend, protected the company and after being betrayed by Keith and then Felicity... I just can’t believe he’d trust Sandy the way he did unless he knew something was in the works.” Havilland dropped into her visitor’s chair. “Good point. I mean he’d been burned...badly. Twice. How did he know he could trust this Sandy woman? Maybe we need to interview her again.” “I’m not sure she can tell us much more, but I’m game. How about now?” Paige stood.

They were headed for the door when Margie stopped them. “I have something you might want to see here.” “What did you find?” Havilland asked. “Keith Shavell and Felicity Hagerty... formerly Loflin go way back. The two of them were arrested in a check fraud case nearly nine years ago.” “That’s something,” Havilland moved to skim the details. “There’s more,” Margie said, switching programs. “After Keith and Dutch had their battle over the company, Keith got into some trouble. He has five lawsuits filed against him over a subdivision project up in Spring City.” “Could be motive,” Paige said glancing at Duncan. “Knock off Dutch, Felicity inherits everything and Keith comes in, clears out the account to settle the liens against his company and takes over Hagerty Construction. The two of them are in the clear to bring their relationship out in the open and all their troubles are gone.” “Maybe,” Havilland glanced at Margie. “Can you connect those two more recently? Nine years is a long time. A jury is going to need more.” “I’ll see what I can find,” Margie promised. “Go visit that Sandy woman. She might be able to help more than she realizes. And don’t worry about Jer, I’ll fill him in for you. I’m expecting a call from that snooty Wickert anytime now.”

115


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “Don’t deal with him,” Paige paused to advise. “Send him over to Tolman. They speak the same language.” Margie was laughing as the two deputies turned to leave.

The minute they were in the parking lot, Havilland turned to Paige. “It wasn’t a bad plan. Could have worked. It still might. We have a good theory but proving it is going to be difficult.” “It could have worked in any other town - maybe,” Paige disagreed. “But not here. I wasn’t as suspicious as you, but I would have looked around. Once I spotted the shoe prints, that was it for me. Dean, Gage, even Logan... he’s new but smart... we all would have looked closer. Now that we have, we know it’s homicide. Let’s figure out a way to prove it.” Paige didn’t have a chance to continue because her phone rang. “The prints were made by a size eight pair of Jimmy Choo’s,” Carmen said the instant Paige said hello. Paige grinned. “You’re sure?” “Is the Pope Catholic?” Carmen asked, offended. “Of course, you’re sure,” Paige said. “I’m sorry for doubting your amazing ability as a shoe whisperer.” “You’re forgiven,” Carmen said. “Look for a pair that has a scuff on the pad of the left shoe. It will probably be invisible from the top, but once you turn it over you can’t miss it. You’re dealing with a construction case, so my guess is she stepped on a tool of some kind. Something that gouged a piece out. May have been that night, but something that small would be impossible to find. The damage wouldn’t stop her from wearing them but it leaves a distinct mark.” “You’re my hero,” Paige said gleefully.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Carmen joked. “Now, I got to get back to my real job. Nathan needs some Intel... like yesterday. Out.” “Good news?” Duncan asked as he climbed into his vehicle and waited for Paige to join him. “I told you Carmen would come through for us,” Paige clipped in the seatbelt. “The shoeprints around Dutch’s body were made by a size eight Jimmy Choo stiletto.”

116


Pernicious Liaisons “It is impossible for you to know that,” Havilland argued. “It’s impossible for me, yes. For Carmen, the amazing shoe genius? She probably had the answer in five seconds.” Paige considered. “Now we just need to figure out what size shoe Felicity wears.” “Good luck with that,” Havilland frowned. “It’s not like she’s going to tell us.” “Sure she will,” Paige decided. “After we’re done with Sandy, let’s pay a visit to the Hagerty residence. I need to see what all the fuss is about, anyway.” Havi grinned. “Yeah, I was a little curious about that, too.” “Okay,” Paige glanced up at the modest home. “Let’s go see what Sandy Mitford knows.” Sandy opened the door a crack and peeked out. When she spotted Paige, she slowly pushed it wider and stepped aside so the police officers could come inside. “It’s too hot to stand out on the porch,” she explained as she moved into a modest living room. “We won’t take much of your time,” Paige assured her. “We just have a few additional questions. This is Deputy Duncan Havilland.” “Hello,” Sandy held out her hand in greeting.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Havi said. “I’m sorry for the interruption. I can see you are having a difficult time. You have my condolences.” “Thank you,” Sandy settled into a chair, leaving the couch for Paige and Havi. Once they were settled Havilland took the lead. “Well, first let’s just get this out of the way. Do you own an expensive pair of stilettos?” Paige snorted then covered her mouth with her fist. “What he means to ask is if you own a pair of Jimmy Choo’s.” “Oh, heaven’s no,” Sandy shook her head. “I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than forty dollars for a pair of shoes.” Havilland frowned. “Mark that as a no,” Paige pointed at his notepad. 117


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 Havilland scowled at Paige then made a notation on his pad. “Okay.” He glanced around and spotted an elaborate figurine of a hawk on the mantel. “Paige asked you about gifts from Dutch and you said he never gave you gifts. Did that just mean jewelry or any kind of gift? I notice that hawk on the mantel and can only imagine how much that would set you back.” Paige rolled her eyes at her friend’s delivery but it was a legitimate question. “No,” Sandy crossed her ankles. “Dutch never gave me presents. I don’t know how expensive that particular piece was. It was a gift from my mother. She gave it to me just after my father passed away because we both loved hawks and she thought it would be a nice reminder now that I live so far away.” “Thank you,” Havilland inwardly felt sorry for the woman. First her father, now the man she loved. “Paige shared that message with me, the one Felicity left you. I’m wondering if you know how she discovered you. How did she know about you and Dutch?” “I don’t know,” Sandy frowned. “I’m not even sure she knew, exactly. I mean she knew he spent time with me but the rest... uh, well our relationship, I’m not sure she did know about that.” “She sounded pretty angry,” Paige pressed. “Could she have hired a detective?” “I suppose,” Sandy shrugged. “I mean we hadn’t been seeing each other, not like that, for very long. After Denver, I felt guilty and Dutch had so many things to take care of. I mean, to end his marriage and all. Then, he had to protect the business from Keith.” “So, you knew about Keith and Felicity?” Paige asked. “Yeah,” Sandy looked down at her hands. “I should have said something earlier but Dutch was so upset about it. I mean, he had so many problems when Keith embezzled from the company and the partnership ended. Then to find out his wife was a fraud, too. Dutch was embarrassed. I think he was more ashamed than hurt by it all.” “Why don’t you tell us what you know about the embezzlement,” Havilland prompted. “I wasn’t aware that was the reason for the split.” “Oh,” Sandy looked up and frowned. “I thought everyone knew that. Well, Dutch said he caught Keith in the act. When he confronted him, Keith tried to justify it. Said he had more expenses than Dutch and he should get a bigger piece of the pie. They argued, Dutch 118


Pernicious Liaisons refused to budge because they needed those funds for their next project. They were still in debt over the equipment they’d purchased and Dutch felt they needed a large slush fund to keep their head above water. Keith wanted more, said he had creditors he had to satisfy and leaving the money in the bank did nothing to help him get out from under his debt.” “I understand the partnership was dissolved but do you know anything about the details? And were there ever any charges filed against Keith?” Paige asked. “Um...” Sandy turned and focused out the window. After a few seconds, she stood. “I have something that might help,” within seconds she had disappeared down the hallway and into a back room. “What do you think she has?” Havilland asked. “No idea,” Paige shrugged. “But from what we’ve learned, Dutch really loved her. He planned to have a life with her. Maybe, he gave her some kind of record book or something.” Sandy returned carrying a box. Havilland jumped to his feet and hurried down the hall to help. “Thank you,” Sandy said as she settled back onto the chair. “Um, well... Dutch said he didn’t trust to leave these at home after he found out about Felicity and Keith. I got the impression she didn’t know where they were before that. It was like he was worried she was searching the house while he was away.” “Did he say that?” Paige asked. “Not in so many words,” Sandy sighed. “Like I told you before, Dutch was private and I think he wanted to protect me from all this. Anyway, he said this was what he gathered on Keith but he didn’t use it. His lawyers wanted to, but he just wanted the man out of his life. He wanted to focus on moving forward, building the company, and forgetting the man he thought was a friend.”

“Sounds reasonable,” Havilland lifted the lid and glanced inside. He wasn’t surprised at the large volume of paperwork he saw. He’d just handled the box and knew the thing had to be full. “Have you gone through this?” Paige asked. “No,” Sandy said immediately. 119


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “Why not?” Havilland asked. “Because it’s not mine,” Sandy said as if the answer was obvious. “I’m only giving them to you now because something in there might help. If you suspect Felicity or Keith are involved in Dutch’s death, they are both in this together. I was thinking it might be about Keith’s debt. He got money when they dissolved the agreement. But back then they had a lot of debt and very little cash. Dutch bought him out, but Keith always claimed he got cheated. The court decided Keith either had to accept part of the debt or all he got was half the money in the bank. It couldn’t have been enough to satisfy his bad dealings. Plus, he went off and tried to start a business of his own. His customers were angry and the work was awful.” “Dutch told you that?” Havilland asked. “No,” Sandy gave a little smile. “Dutch wouldn’t talk much about Keith. I worked in the business, well on the fringes anyway. I heard things. Keith’s reputation is shot. He has to be badly in debt and can’t get the work to catch up.” “Do you mind if we borrow those,” Paige pointed to the box. “I’d like to go through it and see if there’s anything that will help us determine what happened to Dutch.” “No,” Sandy told her. “I’m not even sure who they belong to now... I mean, Dutch left them with me but maybe Felicity owns them now.” “We’ll figure it out,” Havilland stood and picked up the box. “Thank you for your assistance. We’ll get out of your hair now.” He moved to the door and waited for Paige to open it. When they were back on the highway heading to the Hagerty residence, Paige finally spoke. “It’s all connected. The bad dealings, the marriage to Felicity, Dutch being killed. And every time we look into something else, Keith’s money trouble surfaces. Desperate people do horrible things.” “Wow,” Havilland said as he pulled up to the cast iron gate. “I’d say Dutch was doing well. No wonder Keith was pissed.”

“Ask the butler if he will allow entry, my dear fellow,” Paige mocked as Havilland pulled up to the black metal box. She listened to a brief discussion then the gate swung open and Havilland pulled up to the house. “Not my taste,” Paige glanced around the cobbled drive and the large flower pots on the front courtyard. “Me either,” Havilland shut off the engine and climbed from the car. “Let’s get this over with.” 120


Pernicious Liaisons Paige smiled, knowing her partner wasn’t looking forward to the lady of the manor’s advances. “Follow my lead,” she whispered just before the large door swung open. “I knew it,” Paige smiled when a man dressed like a butler opened the door. He led them into a flowery, scented room that made Paige want to vomit. She was sure everything in the room was ultraexpensive; but, the overdone flowers with the mauve accent wall and the white fluffy rug, the ugly throw pillows on the couch... the list went on and on – just made the entire space look tacky. Yet somehow, it fit Felicity Hagerty to a tee. She settled in and waited... it didn’t take long. “Can we make this quick?” Felicity asked. “I have a ton of calls to return and everyone wants to know when I’m going to hold the funeral. I wish I could give them some idea but that atrocious man at the morgue won’t tell me a thing. Do you know when my husband’s body is going to be released?”

“Nope,” Paige stood. “Those are amazing shoes. I’d love to wear something like that but they always seem to make my feet look tiny. What are you an eight? Eight and a half?” “Yes,” Felicity walked, glided... to a chair that looked even more uncomfortable than the couch. “I’m a size eight.” She glanced at Paige’s shoes and scrunched up her nose. “You’re feet are too small to wear elegant footwear. Better stick with those boots and tennis shoes. They fit you... in every way possible.” Paige smiled and turned to Havi. She gave him a look that told him she was finished, then relaxed against the back of the couch. “Mrs. Hagerty,” Havilland began. “We have a few questions we need answered then we can leave you to your phone calls.” “I told you to speak to my attorney,” she stood. “I’ll let him know you stopped by. I’m sure he’ll want to file a complaint with your superiors.” “If that’s the way you want it,” Havilland also stood. “I just thought you’d like to explain your relationship with Keith Shavell before I turn my findings over to the County Attorney.” He shrugged and turned to Paige. “Let’s go.” “Keith who?” Felicity asked, more than a little nervous that they had found some kind of connection. “That’s okay,” Havilland moved toward the front door. “I’ll just let CA Tolman ask your attorney about it.” 121


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “Well,” Felicity’s mind was racing. “I did know a Keith Shavell years ago. Is that who you mean?” “Don’t you worry about it,” Paige placed a hand on the woman’s arm. “I’m sure it’s nothing.” They left her there, standing in the doorway, wondering what the police knew and how they would connect it. Havilland was laughing as he pulled away from Felicity Hagerty’s home. “I’d say we got a two-for.” Paige grinned. “She is going to go nuts! And she can’t say anything because she doesn’t know what we know. If she admits to knowing Keith, she can’t bluff because they have history and she has no idea what part of that history we discovered. Think it will keep her up tonight?” “Yeah,” Havilland shrugged. “I figured you scored on the shoe size, I had to up my game a bit.” “And you did. Let’s see if it’s enough for Potter,” Paige turned in her seat. “I want a search warrant for that house. I want those shoes.”

*****

Paige and Havilland sat in the conference room going through documents. They had briefed Jericho the instant they got back to the office. Then, they’d met with Tolman and presented their case. He was skeptical but agreed to see what he could do. Now, all they could do was wait. So, they decided to use that time to find out what Dutch had in that box. Margie joined them after only a few minutes. A few hours later, Gage stepped into the room. “Paige,” Gage called. He had only taken a few steps inside the door.

“Yeah?” “Can I talk to you for a minute?” Gage glanced at Havilland then focused on Paige. “Sure,” Paige looked up. “Just as soon as the two of you go somewhere and hash this out.” “What?” Havilland scowled. 122


Pernicious Liaisons “This thing,” Paige motioned from Duncan to Gage and back again. “You need to talk because I’m tired of all the tension and so is Margie, she’s just too polite to say it out loud.” Margie smiled but didn’t respond.

“Go out there, in the office area...” Paige smiled. “Or I could lock you each in a cell and not let you out until you resolved it already.” “Paige,” Gage warned. “This is none of your business.” “That might be true... but you brought all of us into it with all the tension and dirty looks. I’m done. Go do whatever... punch it out, insult each other’s mothers... I don’t care just end it.”

Gage stomped away. Havilland didn’t move. Paige and Margie stared at him until he pushed back his chair and left the room. “I’m not sure the part about punching it out was wise, but thank heavens you finally forced them to deal with this. I swear that girl has caused more altercations between her brother and the men in this town than he ever had playing football,” Margie huffed and then returned to the pile in front of her. “I’m not sure how to fix this,” Havilland began. “I guess I’ll start by saying I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt Christy.” “I’m not sure talking about my sister is a good idea,” Gage grumbled. Duncan ran his hand through his hair and settled into one of the visitor’s chairs across from Gage’s desk. “But don’t we have to? I mean, we have to find a way to work together.” “She said she thought you were the one,” Gage said turning to stare out the window. “I know,” Duncan admitted. “But that was the problem. I mean, I didn’t even date the girl for a month and she was already planning our wedding.”

“What?” Gage’s head whipped back around and he focused on his fellow officer. “Did you say you didn’t even date a month?” “Yeah,” Havilland frowned. “That’s right, didn’t she tell you that?” “No,” Gage shoved his chair back, stood and began to pace the room. “I swear I’m going to throttle that girl.” 123


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “What did she tell you?” Havilland asked cautiously. “She said she thought you were the one. She said I had to make you pay for breaking her heart. She said the break came out of the blue. One minute she was trying to decide what to wear on your next date, the next she was devastated, wondering if you found someone new,” Gage settled back in his chair. “Exactly how many dates did the two of you have?” “Four,” Havilland said. “Four casual, let’s get to know each other dates and then suddenly Christy is telling me how she wants a fall wedding and her colors have to be forest green and pale pink. And, do I want a pink cummerbund or a green one?” “Oh man,” Gage shook his head. “I’m gonna... I don’t know what I’m going to do to that girl. I’m sorry, about all of it. She made it sound like you’d been dating for... I don’t know a year or something. I didn’t spend much time with my family while I was playing and she made it seem like you really broke her heart. She begged me not to become friends with you, said she couldn’t handle knowing her brother took the guy in...bonded with a man the way cops do, that shattered her world... or some nonsense like that.” “Gage,” Havilland said more forcefully. “Not even a month. You know me well enough to know I’m not a relationship guy. Then, she started talking marriage and I know she’s your sister; but I freaked. Told her it was over and I bolted. Maybe I didn’t handle it as well as I should have but seriously man... a month.”

Both men looked up when Paige stepped into the room. “It didn’t sound like furniture was flying so I thought it might be safe to join you,” Paige approached holding what looked like a ledger. “If you think I’m going over those books for you, you’re crazy,” Gage grumbled. “I had more than I could take on that baby selling case.” “Actually,” Paige glanced at Havilland. “I wanted you to look at this. You seemed to know more about construction than the rest of us. If I had to guess, you’ve been on a crew.” “I have,” Havilland took the ledger and skimmed the contents. He let out a long whistle. “No wonder Dutch went tilt over this.” “What is it?” Gage asked.

124


Pernicious Liaisons “Clear documentation of Keith Shavell’s questionable transactions. He was paying personal debts with company funds and it looks like he was paying off a previous company with funds from the partnership trust. All that in addition to the embezzlement,” Havilland said.

“That’s what I got out of it too,” Paige leaned against a desk and studied the two men. “Did you figure it out? You two, I mean?” “Did you know?” Gage asked. “Yeah,” Paige sighed. “But it wasn’t my place to say anything. You know Christy. She’s a little... I don’t know, she gets these ideas and sometimes they just run away from her. Like maybe she went out a few times with a great guy by the name of Havi and got caught up in the fantasy of it all. She was young. I’m sure when he dumped her, she took it pretty hard. By the time she explained it to you, the whole thing had become bigger than it really was.” “You let me believe he broke the girl’s heart,” Gage complained. “How do you know he didn’t?” Paige shot Duncan an apologetic look. “I mean, she may have thought he did.” “Paige,” Gage pushed. “You knew I would understand where he was coming from. You know about Kathy Hendrickson.”

“Who is Kathy Hendrickson?” Havilland asked. “A stalker,” Paige sighed. “Football groupie that had a thing for Gage. She was a little scary to tell you the truth. The woman started showing up at the bars and clubs after the games, everywhere Gage went, she appeared. Finally, one night she managed to push her way into a spot at his table. Gage was too polite, she got the wrong idea and she started blogging about their babies.” Havilland laughed. “Oh man, I’m sorry.”

“Had to get a detective to threaten her with jail and take out a restraining order before I got away from that nutcase,” Gage admitted. “Anyway, Christy’s not a stalker but she does have an active imagination. You should have told me. Both of you.” “Now we did,” Paige shrugged. “Can we get back to the case?” Havilland glanced down at the ledger. “This is illegal.” 125


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “Yes,” Paige said impatiently. “But the victim is dead.” “Not necessarily,” Duncan grabbed a phone and dialed Stan. The prosecutor would know if they had a case or not.

Paige listened as Havilland answered questions. It only took her a minute to realize he wasn’t talking to Tolman, he was talking to Stan Donaldson. Made sense, Havi always liked to deal with the lowest ranking man that could get the job done. She usually found herself dealing with Tolman, not by choice but because he usually stepped in and Stan seemed to have something against her for some reason. Havilland hung up smiling. “Stan agrees, the way the business is set up, Dutch wasn’t the only victim. We might be able to use this to get answers in our murder investigation. If we get lucky, Keith will talk. If nothing else, it provides a clear motive. It’s the reason Keith got practically nothing when he left the company. If he’s still struggling to pay these debts, it’s the reason he had to stop Dutch from changing things up before the divorce.” “But how does that help us now?” Paige asked. “Don’t know yet,” Havi said as he moved back toward the conference room. “He’s going to talk to Tolman and get back to me.” “Well,” Paige followed. “If you’d called James in the first place we wouldn’t have to wait.” Paige stepped into the room then realized Gage had wanted to talk to her. She turned and called out his name. “What now?” Gage teased. “You said you needed me for a minute,” Paige reminded him. “Yeah,” Gage told her. “I do, but it can wait. Finish up your case. It sounds more important.” “You sure?” “Positive,” Gage pulled out a file and focused on one of his own cases. The minute she entered the room, she realized Margie had found something else. “What do you have?” “Margie just tied Felicity into this mess,” Havilland said, grabbing for the ledger. 126


Pernicious Liaisons “How?” Paige settled in next to them. “Pixolium,” Margie said. “It was one of the companies Felicity and Keith defrauded nine years ago. It looks to me like they were blackmailing Felicity. Maybe, they found out she was married to a man who had become successful.” Paige studied the information Dutch had compiled. He must have gone looking as soon as he realized his wife was connected to his crooked partner. He had bank statements, payment amounts, canceled checks. The data was a gold mine. Felicity was desperate to get her hands on the family fortune. “What is this?” Havilland asked. “A secret account Felicity used to stash money?” “I don’t think so,” Paige rifled through the documents and found what she was looking for. “Look, Dutch transferred that money from his profits to her account. I’d say he was keeping his finances and hers isolated.” “Felicity needed funds, but Dutch controlled the purse strings,” Havilland decided. “She couldn’t access his accounts and once he decided to divorce her, he probably tightened that up.” “And here’s a copy of the prenup,” Margie held up a document that was several pages long.

“Let me see that,” Paige settled in to read the details. Once she was finished, she looked up and realized her colleagues were waiting for her to explain. “It’s simple really,” she began. “In the event of a divorce, Dutch agreed to give Felicity half the family residence, half the furnishings and all of her possessions. The business is the sole property of Dutch and Felicity has no claim to it if the marriage is dissolved. If Dutch dies, Felicity will receive his profits from the business; but the company will be controlled by other unnamed parties.” “And if she cheats?” Margie asked. “She gets nothing,” Paige said soberly. “Seriously?” Havi said in surprise. “Usually, the spouse would get something.” “Nope,” Paige shook her head. “She gets nothing. This alone is motive.” “Especially, when you throw in this packet from Dunbar,” Margie provided.

127


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 Havilland opened the envelope and emptied the contents onto the table. It took a matter of seconds to realize Dutch had painted his wife into a corner she couldn’t get out of. “That’s a pretty clear motive,” Paige glanced from photo to photo. They were clear, concise and demonstrated without question that Felicity Hagerty and Keith Shavell were involved. And she was engaging in this type of behavior at her marital home, in the backyard. “I agree with Trent, they are idiots.” “I’m going to take all of this over to the CA’s office. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll have my warrant and we are going to serve it tonight,” Havi promised. “I’m free,” Paige smiled. “Margie, you don’t have to wait. We’ve got this. Thanks for all your help.”

“I think I will head home,” Margie stood. “And let’s call it even. Life around here just got a lot easier with those two getting along.” “They were just being dumb men,” Paige headed for the door. “They were bound to figure it out sooner or later.” “I’m always happy for sooner,” Margie locked up her desk and headed for the exit. “See you in the morning. Call if you need anything. Susie will be here in under an hour.” “Have a good evening,” Paige called out. They wouldn’t need Margie. Susie wasn’t as proficient as the sheriff’s assistant but she was a good dispatcher and she knew the system well enough to pull anything Paige couldn’t handle herself. By the time Havilland returned, Gage had gone home and Susie was looking up new desserts on Pinterest. Paige was pacing the room impatiently. “Got it,” he held up the paperwork for Paige to see. “I have a search warrant for the Hagerty home and Tolman’s blessing to bring both of them in for questioning. We know how to find Felicity, if we’re lucky she’ll tell us where to find Keith.”

“If we’re lucky, he’s at her house tonight,” Paige corrected. They were lucky. Felicity argued at first. Insisted they didn’t have a right to enter her home. Then she tried her usual tactic on Havi. His response was to hand her over to Dean to transport to the office for questioning. That’s when she started to throw a fit. Demanded a phone call to Ryan Wickert and insisted they would all be fired. Keith just sat silently in a comfortable lounge chair with a sick look on his face. Apparently, he was smart enough to 128


Pernicious Liaisons realize they were in serious trouble. It took Paige less than five minutes in Felicity’s closet to find the shoes. She hadn’t even bothered to clean them. They were still covered in dust and the subtle scuff mark Carmen told her to look for was there, on the left shoe clear as day. Paige bagged the shoes and returned to the library where Havilland was babysitting Keith Shavell.

“Find what you need?” Duncan asked when she stepped into the room. Paige held up her evidence bag. “Good,” Havi stepped forward and stood in front of Keith. “Get up, we’re relocating to the station. I have a few questions for you.” Keith stood and waited for Havilland to lead him out the door. “Hey, Logan,” Paige called. “Yeah?” Logan appeared in the doorway. “Here’s the warrant. You’re in charge. Make sure you lock up before you leave,” Paige held out a ring full of keys for the rookie. “Dean got them from the owner. She’s a pain, so don’t forget to lock everything up.” “Roger,” Logan took the keys and the warrant and moved back into the house. He and Lovato could finish up. His older colleague was currently studying an alarm system. Logan hoped they could provide something that would benefit the case but if not, it was fun to execute a warrant. One more task he could add to his resume... not that he planned to leave Manti. He loved it here and hoped one day soon they’d have another full-time slot he could fill. In the meantime, he’d learn everything he could about the job he loved. It was several hours later when Paige pulled into her drive. She was tired, hungry and grumpy. She made it all the way to her front porch before she realized Dax was sitting in one of her chairs. “Dean said you caught the bad guys,” Dax stood. “I expected you to be happier.”

Paige let out a lon frustrated sigh. “We caught them and I think we have enough evidence to hang them.” “But?” “But Felicity lawyered up immediately and the smarmy attorney wouldn’t let her say two words. We ended up booking her anyway, but it’s cleaner if we can get them to confess.” 129


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 “That’s not the problem though,” Dax observed. “It’s the prosecutor,” Paige released her gun belt and dropped it onto the couch. “This Stan guy, I think he hates me. I called, just before I left to see if Havi was getting anything out of Keith. He’s the second suspect and the CA wanted him interrogated at his office so he could offer a deal in exchange for information about Felicity. Anyway, I get Stan Donaldson and he’s a real jerk about it. Says it’s not my case and I’ll have to get my information from Havilland.” “That’s not standard?” “It is,” Paige dropped onto the couch. “But it was the way he said it and he knew I couldn’t talk to Havi because he was still interviewing our perp. It just stinks. Now, I have to go to bed not knowing if he got anything or where the case stands until morning.” Dax moved her equipment to the chair and settled onto the couch, pulling one foot onto his lap. He maneuvered the boot until it came free and dropped it to the floor. “Maybe I can distract you,” he smiled when Paige moaned as he began massaging her foot. “You can always distract me,” Paige said softly. “But I seriously think Stan hates me.” Dax frowned. “Hate as in...” “No,” Paige opened her eyes. “Stan’s young. Younger than me. He couldn’t have anything to do with Mom. I mean I was only seventeen. He has to be five, six years younger than me at least. When Mom died, that would make him twelve tops. More like nine or ten if I had to guess. And it all leads back to Tracy. Neither one of us was born at the time, so he’s in the clear.”“ Then let it go,” Dax suggested as he removed her other boot and went to work on her right foot. Paige settled further into the couch. “Keep that up and I’ll let everything go. I won’t be conscious much longer.” Dax grinned and continued to pamper his favorite cop.

*****

130


Pernicious Liaisons Paige stepped into the station and headed for her desk. “Paige,” Jericho called. She pivoted and headed for her boss. When she stepped inside his office, she was surprised to see Gage sitting in one of the chairs. She gave him a questioning look then settled into the chair next to him. “Gage has narrowed the names for us,” Jericho began. Paige frowned and looked from Jericho to Gage. Then it hit her. “The ring?” “Yes,” Jericho handed Paige a stack of papers. “The top page is the most important.”

Paige scanned the names then turned the page. “And the rest?” There were a lot of names listed... several pages that contained name after name. Some she recognized, many she didn’t. “Those are the athletes who received that particular ring,” Gage provided. “All of them?” Paige asked in amazement. “Yes,” Jericho answered. “Now you can see why I asked Gage to try to narrow it down a bit.”

“Right,” Paige turned back to the first page. “And these are what’s left? After he narrowed the scope?” “Yeah,” Gage sighed. “I was hoping to whittle it down even more, but I guess I don’t have enough information. That’s the best I could do.” “It’s great, Gage,” Jericho assured him. “I appreciate all the work you’ve put into this already. But, Paige and I will take it from here. I know your cases are piling up and I don’t want our problem to become your problem.”

“I understand,” Gage answered. “But with all due respect, it already is. My problem, I mean. I know that list probably has the man on there that killed Paige’s mom. She was my friend in high school. She’s more than that, now. She’s my partner. Dean, Havi... even Logan feels the same. I can’t speak for Lovato because he’s hit and miss around here. Usually works graves and I don’t know him all that well. But we all think of this as our problem. I’m not asking you to bring us in... not permanently or anything. I just thought you should know, 131


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 4 we’re here to help in any way we can.” “Thanks, Gage,” Paige swallowed the lump in her throat. When she left Quanitco, left the east coast to drive all the way to Utah, she didn’t expect to find a new family out here. But she had and the realization hit her pretty hard. Everyone here, as well as Dax, Carmen and even Zeus had become her new family and she was theirs. Gage stood. “Anyway,” he hesitated. “I just thought you should know. I’ll leave you two alone to discuss that list.” “Actually,” Jericho settled back in his chair. “I think we’ll discuss that later. I’m guessing Paige would like an update on her murder.”

“I would,” she admitted. “Keith Shavell didn’t exactly sing,” Jericho smiled. “But he told us enough. Claims he didn’t have anything to do with the murder. Admitted the marriage was a fraud, even admitted it was his idea. The whole point was to con Dutch out of his fortune and pay off the guys hounding Keith. In Shavell’s eyes, Dutch owed it to him and he didn’t do anything wrong. Plus, he needed the money. He’s in deep and doesn’t have a way out. Apparently, that subdivision was supposed to be his salvation; but he cut corners so much, hired shoddy workers and now has half a dozen lawsuits pending. He can’t sell a single home because the city council has an injunction of some kind.” “Do you believe him?” Paige asked. “I mean about not being involved in the murder?” Jericho shrugged. “That’s for the lawyers and the courts to figure out. It’s possible. Apparently, Felicity found that locket and drove over to confront her husband about the affair. Keith claims that’s all he knows. Havilland said you didn’t find any other footprints by the body so who knows, really.”

Paige considered. “We didn’t. I’m nearly positive he wasn’t there. Doesn’t mean he didn’t send her though. I mean all that stuff Dutch had on Keith was pretty incriminating.” “Like I said,” Jericho shrugged. “That’s for the lawyers to figure out. Felicity has been charged with Dutch’s murder and that’s enough for me.”

132


Pernicious Liaisons “Even if Keith Shavell goes free?” Paige asked. “He won’t,” Jericho grinned. “The feds heard about the business stuff. Keith is going away for the embezzlement and the other fraud. Seems those stockholders Dutch enlisted aren’t all that forgiving.” Paige smiled and stood. “Then, I guess I can live with that, too.” She started out the door then stopped and turned. “What about that list? When do you want to talk about it? I mean, there are names on there...” “Not here,” Jericho cut her off. “Why don’t you call that man of yours? Tell him to expect two for dinner and I’m in the mood for a good steak.” Paige smiled. “I’ll do that. And Jericho, I’m pretty sure I can already eliminate your friend from that list.” Jericho didn’t answer, he just nodded then focused on some sort of paperwork he had on his desk. Paige started for her own desk, then made a detour and dropped into the chair across from Gage. “Thanks for all your work. On that... you know.” “You’re welcome,” Gage answered. “I meant what I said.”

“I know,” Paige swallowed, stood and moved around to give her oldest friend a hug. “And, it means a lot to me. Don’t think we’re shutting you out. We’re not and if I need help, I’ll call. I promise.” “That’s all I asked.” Paige moved back to her desk, picked up the phone and dialed Dax. It was time to focus on her mother again.

Current Season Available on my Website

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Connections eMagazine November 2019 Edition  

Vol 5 Issue 4 - Our Holiday issue... - Connections eMagazine is a FREE publication for those who love to read and the authors who make it po...

Connections eMagazine November 2019 Edition  

Vol 5 Issue 4 - Our Holiday issue... - Connections eMagazine is a FREE publication for those who love to read and the authors who make it po...

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