Connections eMagazine November 2020 Edition

Page 1

Connections eMagazine

Volume 6 Issue 4

Message from the Editor The Purpose of this eMagazine is to connect readers with authors and bloggers. This is a FREE eMagazine that is produced quarterly. Our final issue this year is dedicated to cozy reading in front of the fire, holiday fun, and cold-weather activities. I hope you’ll take the time to look around. “Reading is a form of prayer, a guided meditation that briefly makes us believe we're someone else, disrupting the delusion that we're permanent and at the center of the universe. Suddenly (we're saved!) other people are real again, and we're fond of them.” – George Saunders. 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.



Author Connections… Enjoy a cozy discussion with some

amazing authors about the holidays, movies, music and our Read More... lovable pets.

Blogs | Stories •

He that loves reading has everything within his reach.

- William Godwin •

Paige Carter Free Books

Hot Deals—99 Cents Writers’ Lives

Author Tips & Tricks

The Devils Bridge by Graham Watkins Knowing Where Your Towel Is by Rebecca Bryn Hot Rod Todd By Adrian S. Czarnecki WATWB — News that Doesn’t Suck by Eric Lahti The Happy Snowman by Sylva Fae Here be Dragons by Ronesa Aveela Ogden, Utah — The Wild West or a peaceful outdoor mountain town by Melanie P. Smith The White Hat by Graham Watkins Switching Roles by Sylva Fae Parallel Dimensions by Anne Francis Scott Coming Back Strong By Keith Guernsey

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.

Graham Watkins

Melanie P. Smith

Adrian Czarnecki

Rhonda Hopkins

Katherine K. Hamilton

Tom Benson


C. Forrest Lundin

Melanie P. Smith

Lucinda E. Clarke

Jennifer Reynolds

Nik Grybaski

COPY EDITOR… Sylva Fae PRODUCED BY… MPSmith Publishing

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

Author Connections Holiday Discussion

During this time of year, there are so many holidays to celebrate — Halloween, Samhain, Thanksgiving, Armistice Day, Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Years, Ramadan and many others. Some are area, philosophically, or religion specific; others are universal and celebrated around the world. We surveyed a group of authors to find out if they had a favorite holiday or tradition and asked them to explain why it’s so special. RONESA AVEELA — Holidays have stopped having much meaning to me as my family has dwindled. I still look forward to Thanksgiving every year, though. My favorite part is the turkey soup that keeps me warm and full long after the regular meal itself is over. Rebecca writes with her friend Nelly and together they make Ronesa Aveela. RHONDA HOPKINS — I love Halloween and Christmas. Probably because of all the decorations. There's so much creativity! Our family always gathers for the major holidays. Things aren't as "traditional" anymore, but we evolve and change as each requires. Regardless of circumstances, we always have good food and a lot of fun during our celebrations. SYLVA FAE — I love Christmas, especially if we have snow here in England. Somehow, a snowy Christmas is far more magical. I loved the whole atmosphere of anticipation and excitement, as a child. Now I get to create that magic for my children. My Christmas Day afternoon is spent snuggled in front of an open fire, sleepily watching the children play with their new toys.

M.J. MOORES — My favourite holiday tradition revolves around Christmas. My mom and I would sit down on her bedroom floor, lay out all the gifts we're giving, the rolls of wrapping, and bows, sip shots of Baileys Irish Cream and giggle and wrap and talk about the things we loved about the people we bought gifts for. Other than the booze (which, I partook in as early as age 10), my 9-year-old son and I do the very same thing. Perhaps when he is 10 he might like to try a sip CHERIME MACFARLANE — Christmas gets us through the winter. The lights, family and the season get us through to the first of the year. Then we only need to get through January and thankfully a short month, February. From there it's a hop and a skip to April. PATRICIA M AHERN — Christmas is our family's favourite celebration. My daughters live in London and try to get home in time to decorate the tree, which we've done together since they were little. We have a particular CD with Christmas songs that we play whilst we're doing it, and many of the baubles and decorations are from theirs and my childhood with wonderful memories attached. The fairy, I have had for forty five years! @pondlifeauthor VAL TOBIN — We get together on Christmas Eve with my hubby's family and on Boxing Day with my family. Christmas Day we spend with the kids. Until COVID, we've gone to Christmas Day dinner at my daughter's in-laws' house, but I don't know what'll happen this year. We also celebrate Yule with some special friends. I don't know if that'll happen either this year. I wrote about Yule in the December 2019 issue of Mom's Favorite Reads magazine. MELANIE P. SMITH — There is always something enchanting about Christmas. From sparkling light displays, festive neighborhoods, and the magic of fluttering white snowflakes falling from a starlit sky, to the joy and love on a child’s face as they rush to discover what gitfs were left under the tree. It always feels like there is hope in the air; and, especially this year, we all need more hope in our lives. As far as traditions, I always enjoyed the adventure of cutting down our own Christmas tree. We are no longer able to do this, but for years we would gather as a family and venture out into the forest in search of the perfect tree. Once every family had a tree, we’d pull out the hot chocolate and the sleds. It became an annual family fun day on the snow packed hills.


As an author, do you include holiday celebrations or common traditions in your writing? Can you share a link to one of your titles that includes a tradition or holiday theme in the story? RONESA AVEELA — All of the books Nelly and I write have a connection with Bulgarian celebrations and beliefs. Our first book, "Mystical Emona: Soul's Journey," a romantic fantasy, talks about many holidays as the story takes place between March and December.

RHONDA HOPKINS — My upcoming young adult paranormal cozy mystery series, The Witches of Whispering Pines, will celebrate many holidays. After all, the fictional small town in E. Texas has a festival nearly every month.

SYLVA FAE — I put together a Children's Christmas Collection with a group of my author friends (including Patricia Ahern). There are four books in total, but here's a link to the boxset:

MILLIE SLAVIDOU — Yes, the title says it all, Lucy Evans Instaexplorer Christmas in Greece.

CHERIME MACFARLANE — Sometimes, it depends. In one series two of the books revolved around a brother and sister who are Russian Orthodox and their celebrations are at a different time of year because they use the older calendar.

VAL TOBIN — I wrote an article on Yule for the December 2019 edition of Mom's Favorite Reads magazine.

ANTHONY RANDALL — My current WIP starts at Christmas time, there are also relevant Christmas chapters in both Sombrero books.

PENNY LUKER — My books often have a Christmas story in, for example The Mermaid.

MELANIE P. SMITH — I have several short stories about Christmas. New Beginnings can only be found on my website. I also have my Christmas with the Hunters series. The first story, A Country Christmas, was released December 2019. The next story — Christmas Surprise will be available at the end of this year, and the final installment — A Country Christmas will be released next year.

What is your earliest holiday memory? REBECCA BRYN — Jumping off a curb stone outside Queen Mary Flats, I think in Hunstanton. I'd be about three years old. RONESA AVEELA — When I was probably 4 or 5 I remember seeing a doll I wanted under the Christmas tree. I found my mother and whispered, "Shrinking Violet came." RHONDA HOPKINS — I think I was four and I got a car I could peddle for Christmas. The bright red sports car had a racing stripe down the side. My dad loved cars and shared his passion of them with me throughout his life. SYLVA FAE — I crept quietly downstairs on Christmas morning, peeped into the front room - there was a pair of wellies behind the curtains. I squealed and ran, thinking Father Christmas was still there. It turned out to be a Paddington Bear teddy that I wanted. He's a little tatty, but I still have him.

M.J. MOORES — It's kinda strange, actually. Every year (except this year) we always celebrate Christmas night at my grandmother's house. She is 96 this year and the 30+ relatives who somehow fit into her little bungalow will all be phoning her or visiting with social distancing. Her home is my home. My mother moved around a lot when I was growing up, so my grandmother's house was a source of stability for me. This will be the first time in my entire life that I'm not able to celebrate with her and my relatives in one location at the same time. My earliest memory was of living at her house, in the basement, when I was maybe 2 or 3 years old. We had our own fake tree in the sitting area and we slept on the pull out couch. A few presents sat under the stragally tree but that didn't matter. I knew on Christmas morning, all I had to do was walk upstairs and my stocking would be brimming, the turkey would be cooking, and a million presents would cascade from under and around the biggest tree I'd ever seen -- and my entire extended family would be there to celebrate with me. CHERIME MACFARLANE — Christmas in New Orleans, in the French Quarter. I must have been four. I thought it was cold, silly me. VAL TOBIN — Visiting my grandparents on Christmas Eve. My brother, sister, and I would watch the television for updates on Santa's journey. When we returned home, the presents would be under the tree. My parents followed Hungarian traditions. My mother told us baby Jesus brought the presents on Christmas Eve. The cynic in me wonders if that's so we wouldn't wake her up early on Christmas morning. PENNY LUKER — I remember waking up on Christmas morning to a Christmas stocking. We were quite hard up at the time so it was filled with a satsuma, nuts, a pair of socks for school, but there would also be a tiny plastic puzzle and some sweets. We didn’t get sweets often. I also remember there would be a Christmas annual that we could read until we were allowed to get up. At the time I never knew we were poor.

MELANIE P. SMITH — When I was little, we always had huge Christmas celebrations with our family. The entire day was spent visiting with grandparents, aunts and tons of cousins. First, we drove to my grandparents house on my father’s side in the early afternoon. Then we headed over to my grandparents on my mother’s side in the evening. In addition to the chaos and excitement from all the kids, I remember the food. We had huge turkey dinners at both homes. To top it all off, my maternal grandmother would bring out the pies; pumpkin, chocolate cream, and banana cream. We were all stuffed, but there’s always room for pie — right?

Do you have a favorite holiday food?

RONESA AVEELA — Besides turkey soup, which I've already mentioned, I always loved the fresh apple pie my mother made, with homemade crust that was so flaky. RHONDA HOPKINS — My favorite is chocolate pie, a recipe passed down from my maternal grandmother. SYLVA FAE — I don't have a specific favourite, it's more the combination of so many delicious foods. My mum is the best cook ever, but she always prepares enough to feed an army! M.J. MOORES — Pie. The spread my grandmother puts on for my entire extended family of 30+ relatives always ends with the dessert table and 8 kinds of pie. It's glorious. The pies are cut into 16ths and you're allowed to start with 2 pieces each. Once everyone has their firsts, there's plenty to try for round two!

CHERIME MACFARLANE — Pecan Pie, cold turkey sandwiches with jellied cranberry on it and mayo. I love helping my daughter make candy Christmas wreaths and white fudge with apricots. KATHARINE HAMILTON PFEIL — Dressing! Hands down. And for dessert, my Aunt Medina’s custard peanut butter pie VAL TOBIN — My mother's red cabbage and my sister-in-law's turnip puff. My husband's garlic mashed potatoes. Turkey. Stuffing. Cranberry sauce. I do a lot of baking, too, which satisfies my sweet tooth: chocolate chip cookies, shortbread, toffee bars, ginger snaps, fudge brownies, and other treats. So, favorite? Can't pick one. PENNY LUKER — My husband makes a vegetarian lentil cottage pie or nut roast for Christmas Day. Both are so tasty. I’m just the vegetable chopper-up and washer-up on Christmas Day, which I like. MELANIE P. SMITH — For me it’s the combination of everything that makes the meal great. My husband and I both love pumpkin pie, so that’s a must. Each member of the family has a specialty for Thanksgiving. Mine is the pie. If you’re making pumpkin pies for an army, you might as well add a couple extra — well, that’s my motto, anyway. I also look forward to leftover turkey for sandwiches, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and all the rest.

Halloween is a popular time for horror movies, Christmas brings romance, comedies and even Die Hard. Do you have a favorite seasonal movie? RONESA AVEELA — I always loved to watch "A Christmas Story." I can't recall how many times I've watched that and laughed at so many things. RHONDA HOPKINS — Halloween is my favorite Halloween movie. For Christmas, it's Die Hard. SYLVA FAE — I love Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas. It's beautiful and haunting, fitting Halloween and Christmas together. VAL TOBIN —Die Hard is our Christmas movie of choice. For Halloween, I like episodes of Supernatural. Also whatever horror movie catches my fancy. When Stranger Things released on Halloween, that was my binge-watch. This year, it'll be The Haunting of Bly Manor. I loved The Haunting of Hill House. Almost forgot: Rocky Horror Picture Show makes a great Halloween movie. THERESA JACOBS — Halloween is always my favorite holiday and I'll start watching my new favorite Ghostbusters Answer the Call (yes, the all woman casted- but has to be the unedited version only, it's the best!). I watch this over and over, while cooking, cleaning, and carving out my pumpkins. MELANIE P. SMITH — I have several favorites; A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life and the Polar Express are probably my top three.

Do you love Christmas music or hate it? What is your favorite holiday song, or name the one you hate the most and tell us why it generates such a strong response REBECCA BRYN — Hate it with a passion. Can't even think about it. RONESA AVEELA — I love listening to Christmas music. When I had a two-hour commute to work, it made the long ride enjoyable. My favorite song for the season is "Mary's Boy Child" by Boney M. Another more recent one that makes me cry is "The Christmas Shoes." It always reminds me of my mother. BARBARA DORAN-ROGEL — Yes, I love it, love the season. I think my favourite is by The Pogues’ Shane McGowan. It's irreverent though but moving somehow. I also love the traditional songs. I taught my son and his friend to sing Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer to their class here in Germany when they were about nine. SUSAN DARLENE FAW — I listen to Christmas music when i write. I think my favourite songs are by the Penatonix. RHONDA HOPKINS — I love Christmas music. My favorite is Mary Did You Know by Pentatonix. But, really, I enjoy it all. SYLVA FAE — I hate the repetitive loop in shops that starts as soon as Halloween is over, but I secretly love it as Christmas approaches. My favourite has got to be the Fairytale of New York. CHRIS ROBERTSON — Absolutely hate it. Let me rephrase what I said. I don't hate Christmas music. As a musician I can't hate any music, although most of today's pop music comes close. What I do hate, is the fact that you hear nothing but the same 15 or so songs all day, everyday. Yes they are by different artists constantly but the incessant barrage of the same lyrics over and over gets on every last nerve I have. It’s the same reason I can't listen to the radio. Same songs, repeated, constantly.

M.J. MOORES — I love Christmas music. Singing has always been a passion of mine and being in the school choir or talent show or Christmas concert and getting to sing at church always filled me with such joy and excitement. As a kid, my favourite song was Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree. As an adult, I'm partial to Chestnuts Roasting on a Open Fire. December 1st I'm "allowed" to play Christmas music and I make the most of it My hubby is a bit of a Scrooge, but he's my Scrooge - lol! CHERIME MACFARLANE — I love all kinds of Christmas music. VAL TOBIN — I love Greg Lake's I Believe in Father Christmas. There's a version with him and Ian Anderson live at St. Bride's Church that I love: I also love The Pogues' Fairytale of New York. Oh, and The Little Drummer Boy--the David Bowie and Bing Crosby version. ANNE FRANCIS SCOTT — I love Christmas music, especially the songs sung in the 1940s era movies. White Christmas by Bing Crosby is one. I remember listening to that as a kid, falling asleep, feeling so peaceful. LUCINDA E. CLARKE — Love it. Especially carols. PENNY LUKER — I love the Carol of the Bells. It’s beautifully sung by Hayley Westenra. I quite like Christmas music in December but not before. BRYAN NOWAK — Love Sleigh Ride by the Boston Pops under the baton of John Williams. For songs which will make me turn the station it would have to be "Last Christmas". MELANIE P. SMITH — I have always loved Christmas music — but my taste doesn’t typically run to the stuff blaring in the shops. Some of my favorites are… Anything by Elvis, the Pentatonix, and Home Free.

Pets? Do you have one? Many consider their four-legged companion an integral part of the family. How do you include your pet in your celebrations? Do you dress him/her up for Halloween? Prepare a special gift, stocking, or meal? Do you have a photo of your pet you can share with us today?

SYLVA FAE — I have four rabbits, all little characters. I don't think they'd appreciate being dressed up, they'd probably just eat the costume.

REBECCA BRYN — I have a dog, and she is the boss in our house. Our lives revolve around her.

PENNY LUKER — Here are my beautiful girls. They will get a special meal on Christmas Day and a toy, which will probably be ping pong balls. They like batting them down the stairs. Great fun. BARBARA DORAN-ROGEL — I don't have a dog anymore but when I did, he got an extra portion of turkey and a wrapped present.

CERI BLADEN — I have lots. Here's one with one of the dogs, too (above & below)

MAX POWER — We have 3 dogs.. this is Kevin at Christmas (above).

CHERIME MACFARLANE — My pets get loads of treats. Turkey and ham for sure.


VAL TOBIN — We don’t put a tree up because Scully would chew on the branches. But he still gets gifts. (above)

ANNE FRANCIS SCOTT — Shorty does Christmas! He's wondering where his presents are. The fat man in the red suit always waits until early Christmas morning to bring them. lol (below)

MELANIE P. SMITH — Port loves to camp and ride ATVs but he wouldn’t tolerate being dressed up. He does get a special meal on Thanksgiving and a gift for Christmas (above)

Do you have a funny story about your pet and a Christmas tree, Halloween costume, or New Year’s bash? Or, anything else your fans might enjoy? RHONDA HOPKINS — Christmas trees are a playground for cats. Samantha always kept me entertained and annoyed in equal measure. I wouldn't have traded a minute. M.J. MOORES — When I was 13-years-old my mom finally broke down and got me a white cat for my birthday. Leuco was about 6mths old that first Christmas. We set the fresh tree up without any decorations to let the branches fall into place. For that whole week, Leuco would look at it from a distance but not touch it. The night we finally decorated, he went missing. We couldn't find him anywhere. In the middle of the night tiny mews and cries drew us from our bedrooms all the way over to the tree. He sat on a branch, near the top, but not visible unless you moved the decorations out of the way. Silly boy. We found him up it several more times throughout December but he never broke a single decoration. CHERIME MACFARLANE — My two cats I had for many, many years could not be around Christmas trees. So I haven't had one for years. VAL TOBIN — Whenever we try to put up a tree, Scully climbs it, but even worse, he chews on the branches, which makes him sick. We haven't put up a tree in years, but we improvise a Christmas "shrine" where we can set out our gifts. MELANIE P. SMITH — I don’t have any funny Port Holiday stories to share. He will chase embers from a fire, dust devils, rocks in a pond, and snowflakes but he really couldn’t care less about the tree, festive lights, or gifts. Years ago, we did have a cat that went nuts over tinsel. The stuff was like cat nip for that crazy feline. She started with the silvery strands on the lower limbs, then climbed the tree (nearly knocking the whole thing over) to get to those sparkling strands higher up. Triumphant, strand dangling from her mouth, she proceeded to play with it like a cat toys with a mouse. As entertaining as it was, my mom decided no more tinsel after that. Especially when we continued to find silvery treasures hidden around the house for months.

Do you have a holiday horror story like destroying an important Thanksgiving meal, crashing your ex’s holiday party, or a ridiculous trick that went awry? Your fans would love to hear about it. REBECCA BRYN — No Comment. (I think that means yes.) CHERIME MACFARLANE — Not really. I can say that there are times when getting together for Christmas is a real chore. The worst one was the time it was -25 and we had a blizzard raging. Still, most of us made it.

VAL TOBIN — No, but I saw a UFO, years ago, when we were driving home from celebrating Christmas Eve at my mother-in-law’s. We were approaching our house around one in the morning when I looked up to see a triangular craft with a light at each corner.. I shouted, “What’s that?” It disappeared then, and I said to my husband, “Did you see that?” He hadn’t, of course—too busy watching the road to be looking up in the sky. PENNY LUKER — We had a very late lunch one year when the oven had been put on automatic but didn’t work, but no real disasters. I used to volunteer to wash up to get away from all the noise. I’d disappear into the kitchen and put on the radio. It was a mammoth task and when I’d finished everyone wanted tea and cakes. MELANIE P. SMITH — I come from a large family, so with all the aunts, uncles, and cousins plus their kids — our Christmas gathering looks more like an Alibaba and the forty thieves reunion. It’s not feasible to prepare a traditional holiday meal for that many people, so we go the potluck route. A few years back, it was our turn to bring side dishes. My assignment was something we Utahns call funeral potatoes. For those of you who just said What kind of potatoes? It’s basically just a cheesy hash brown casserole. So, I mixed up the ingredients, layered everything into two casserole dishes, and slid them into the oven. Now, here’s where I made my first mistake. I decided to time things just perfectly, I figured, if they finished cooking just before I had to walk out the door, I could pull the hot dish out of the oven, hop in the car, and arrive with two steaming bowls of potatoes just in time for dinner. Unfortunately, Murphy decided to drop in for a visit. The casserole started to bake and I went into the other room to get ready. Then, suddenly, I heard a loud noise in the kitchen that sounded like an explosion. When I opened the oven door, instead of two glass dishes filled with the perfect potato casserole — I found the remnants of a potato bomb covering my entire oven. What happened? I used glass dishes and one of them shattered and glass flew everywhere. Potatoes, cheese and goo erupted like a volcano, spewing potato lava over every surface of that oven before it solidified into a crusty, tacky mess. Worse, shards of glass landed in the second dish — making both of them a total disaster destined for the nearest garbage can. We had a shortage of potatoes that day, but that left more room for dessert — yum!

MEET THE AUTHORS REBECCA BRYN — I write fiction as Rebecca Bryn and non-fiction as Ruth Coulson. My favourite genre to write is historical fiction although I also write mystery and fantasy. Find me at

RONESA AVEELA — Rebecca and Nelly write as Ronesa Aveela. Nelly was born in Bulgaria and grew up with all the fascinating stories we write about. Rebecca is someone who has always loved mythology and folklore. You can find more about us at

SYLVA FAE — I write children's stories. When my girls were little, I wrote picture books, but as they have grown, so too have my books. My stories are inspired by the vivid imaginations of my children. Find my books at:

CHERIME MACFARLANE — I'm a proud long-time Alaskan. I fell in love with the place ages ago. I write in several genres one of which is contemporary romantic suspense set in... wait for it, Alaska. Surprise. The love of my life was from Glasgow, Scotland. We visited there several times and I write about Scotland as well. A little historical and some contemporary. You can find me on Bookbub, Amazon, and at Paper Gold Publishing.

VAL TOBIN — I'm a former software/web application developer, but I also have a master's degree in parapsychology. I write stories worth losing sleep over that draw on all my knowledge, skills, and experience in both the explainable and the paranormal. You can find out more or sign up for my newsletter on my website:

RHONDA HOPKINS — I write young adult, cozy mystery, paranormal, and zombie apocalypse fiction. All my main characters face their destiny with courage and heart. I also write nonfiction to help people navigate their way through the famiy court system in the U.S.

M.J. MOORES — I am a writer of speculative fiction, action/adventure, and romance in the Young Adult and New Adult age spectrums. I have 4 book series' that all revolve around action/adventure with a twist. My Chronicles of Xannia series is sci-fi/fantasy adventure with a hint of romance. Think a young female Indiana Jones, on another planet, hired to lead a quest into the forbidden deserts. My Shadow Phoenix serial is a YA Vigilante Steampunk Superhero story that takes place in the Victorian era and follows a spunky 17-year-old trapped between high & low society. My D.E.M.ON. Tales novella series is a cross between Men in Black and Supernatural with a secret government society tasked with keeping demons, cryptids, and monsters out of the spotlight and firmly in the dark where they belong. And, my Flawed Attraction Romances follow college/university students who find themselves in impossible situations as they're thrust together to solve the problem and somehow fall in love along the way. You can learn all about my books at:

CERI BLADEN — I'm a Welsh girl now living in Turkey. I write historical, contemporary or fantasy stories, all with a little romance. Find my books at:

THERESA JACOBS — I longed to write my entire life and let fear hold me back. When I hit my mid-life crisis I went from zero to a hundred and published 10 books in 5 years. I write everything and anything now. Horror, sci-fi, YA, how -to ... you can find it all here:

MELANIE P. SMITH — I am an American, multi-genre author, photographer and adventurer. I write Paranormal, Criminal, Suspense, Police Procedural and Romance Novels. Learn more on my website at:

The Devil’s Bridge The widow, Marged, lived on the south bank of Afon Mynach. For company she kept a little dog and a cow. Each morning, as the sun’s warming rays crept over the mountain, she would rise from her bed and milk her cow. The milk was rich and creamy and Marged would make butter and cheese. Each afternoon Marged would push a heavy barrow, loaded with butter and cheese, to the village of Ponterwyd where she would sell her produce at the crossroads. Because she could not cross the river near her house, the current being too fast, Marged had to push her simple cart along the bank of the river until it was shallow and calm enough to ford. Each evening, as the sun vanished in the west, she would trudge the long journey home along the riverbank, dragging the empty cart behind her. 'My bones ache and my legs are so stiff. If only there was a bridge; it would save me hours of walking,' she moaned, as she fell into bed. She slept a deep troubled sleep and did not hear the rain beating on her roof, nor see the lightening flashing across the sky or hear the thunder crashing as a great storm raged through the night. Next morning, Marged woke and dressed. The dog, eager to start the day, scampered around her feet. She opened the door to the byre and called, 'I am here, Malen (for that was the cow’s name). It is time to give your milk'. Marged peered into the gloom but her precious cow was gone. The old woman ran outside. The dog followed and started to bark excited by her confusion. 'Where are you, Malen?' cried the old woman. Then she saw her cow. It was standing on the far bank of the river. The river was swollen with the storm, running fast and deep with a deafening roar. Next to the cow, stood a man, dressed in a monk’s habit. A hood covered his head. 'Is this your cow?' yelled the monk. His voice was strangely powerful and carried easily above the thunder of the river. The old woman replied but her answer was carried away, drowned by the noise of the water. She nodded a reply.

'She must have been frightened and got lost in the night. You will have to walk miles upstream if you want to cross the river to collect her,' boomed the monk across the gorge. 'Oh dear! If only there was a bridge I could skip across the river and milk her in a moment,' wailed the old woman. 'Marged, I shall build you a bridge before noon,' cried the monk. 'A bridge before noon? That would be a miracle but how could I repay such a kindness? I have no money,' called the old woman. The monk laughed. 'Money means nothing to me. All I ask in return is the soul of the first living thing that walks over the bridge,' he cried. Marged wanted the bridge and eagerly agreed to the contract. 80 myths and legends from across Wales. A collection of eighty Welsh Legends and Myths, gathered from across Wales. Previously published in five volumes as ‘Legends and Myths from Wales’. The Welsh, like other Celtic races, love a good story. From the time of the Mabinogion and the Black Book of Carmarthen welsh folk have passed dark winter nights in front of roaring fires and entertained with mythical stories. Welsh Legends and Myths is a compendium of traditional myths, Welsh fables, Welsh fairy tales and real stories.

'Go inside your house and wait. I will call you when the bridge is finished,' yelled the monk. Marged took her dog into the house and closed the door. Outside, a great commotion started. She could hear rocks being hammered and split, trees being felled and sawn into planks, chains clanking with heavy loads and great shouts as the monk toiled to build the bridge

As time passed Marged grew hungry. She took some bread and cheese from the cupboard and started to eat. The noise outside stopped. 'It is ready,' called the monk. Marged opened the door and ran outside, still holding her breakfast in her hand. The monk and her cow were stood on the far side of the river. In front of them a fine bridge with a stone arch stretched across the ravine. 'Come across and inspect your new bridge,' invited the monk. Just as she was about to walk onto the bridge, the old woman remembered what the monk wanted in payment for his work - the soul of the first living thing that walks over the bridge. She stopped. 'Your cow needs milking. You must come and get her,' implored the monk with a devious grin. 'How can I be sure the bridge will take my weight?' called Marged. 'Come, Marged. You can see how strong the bridge is,' coaxed the monk. 'The river runs fast. I might fall in and drown,' yelled the old woman. 'Trust me. You will be quite safe,' replied the monk. But Marged did not trust the monk. 'Here boy,' called the old woman. As the dog sprang up, Marged threw her bread and cheese right over the river. It landed by the monk’s feet. The hungry dog chased across the bridge to the food and wolfed it down. The monk flew into a rage. His face grew red and his hood fell to his shoulders revealing two black horns. Marged had dealt with the Devil. 'I’m an old woman but I’m not an old fool. Our deal is done. Be on your way Satan and take your dog’s soul with you,' cried Marged. 'The soul of a dog is no use to me. Keep it. You have tricked me, Marged. I won’t forget this,' boomed the Devil and vanished.

The old woman lived with her dog and cow for many years and people travelled from far and wide to see her fine bridge over Afon Mynach. The Devil never returned but the bridge he built in one morning stands to this day. Some people say you can make out the Devil's face in the bank below the bridge. Have a look at the picture and see what you think.

Graham Watkins is a multi genre author who started writing when he retired. He cut his teeth researching and reinventing Welsh legends and myths, a four year project exploring Wales and its rich legacy of stories. If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on Graham’s Website…

New Release

An enjoyable collection of twenty-one short stories that will make you smile, wonder about human nature and stifle a giggle. From the absurd to the thought provoking, the past to the present, this eclectic anthology of original tales takes an irreverent look at life, pokes a stick at officialdom and explores the daft side of our existence. Such as: • Tom Wellies takes a Bath - A gentle story involving a length of string, a pair of Wellington boots and boundless optimism. • A Walk in the Woods - It starts in the present but becomes a mystical journey into the past. • I Blame Spud - A tale with a twist of a night out, a train ride and unexpected consequences. • The Boy in the Picture - The narrative of a growing child with an ancient aunt and a photograph above the fireplace. And more:

A Walk in the Woods & Other Short Stories

By Graham Watkins

Knowing Where Your Towel Is Like a lot of people, I haven’t been sleeping well recently. We all have a lot on our minds, and it’s a job to switch off at night. The late news, that bit of research that’s evading me, a problem unresolved, and I lie awake. Come 2am and self-recrimination mode kicks in – the things I’ve done and shouldn’t and the things I should have done and didn’t . Too late by far, now, but still they play on my mind in the wee small hours. Last night I woke at 1.30am to a smell of burning. The smoke alarm had gone off around 11pm, and though we couldn’t find any sign of fire or smoke, there’d been a bonfire on the building site down the road, and we could only think the wind had changed and blown the residue – an old three-piece suite and a load of plastic didn’t help the stink – in our direction. As we’d taken out the battery back-up in case it was a low battery and pipped at us at midnight, a sin that requires me to take a large hammer to it, I felt obliged to investigate – just in case. No fire, no smoke, but the bedroom and conservatory stank of old bonfire. (windows and doors now open to de-fumigate) Anyway, I was up now, so I decided to make a cup of tea. I opened the door to see if the stink was as bad outside, and thankfully it wasn’t. Needing to breathe, I took my cuppa out onto the patio, sat on the bench, and drank my tea while looking up at the stars. It was beautiful clear starry night, not a sound, not even a breath of wind, and no lights. I Douglas Adams on the importance of towels (from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979) "A towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might have accidentally "lost.". What the strag will think is that any man that can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with."

find the vastness of space a bit like the sea. They’re forces of nature so incomprehensible and primordial they reduce me to nothing; I find it oddly comforting to know I’m not in control and matter not a scrap in the scheme of things. If I try to think about space, I get as far as ‘if it doesn’t go on forever, what’s beyond it? and my brain explodes. I found Venus, a bright yellow star to the south, the Milky Way traversing the night sky, my old friend Orion off to the east, and looked for The Plough. There it was off to the north, and that must be the Pole Star. I realised then what was wrong with me – well, I’d known for about four years, ever since we moved house, in fact, but it brought it home to me. Our last house was in a very isolated position on the edge of a wooded valley and moorland, and when I couldn’t sleep, I’d go to the loo, look out of the bathroom window, and there on a clear night was The Plough and the Pole Star. They anchored me. I knew where I was in the world, I knew my tiny insignificant place, and that put my troubles into perspective: I knew where my towel was. Now, if you need to make a jump in hyper-space – as you will know if you’ve read Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy (thank you Douglas Adams for a book that gave a different and bearable reality during difficult times) you’ll know the importance of knowing where your towel is. And the fact is, by not seeing the stars, every night, I’d lost my towel. My jump into a new place, a new village has left behind the things I value most – silence, wilderness, darkness, stars.

Well, not stars, obviously. Wherever I am there will be stars. So next time I lie awake at night, I shall go outside, and if it’s a clear night, I shall sit on the patio, marvel anew at the universe, and look at the stars. That way, I shall know where my towel is. If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on Rebecca Bryn’s website...

Six demigods embark on an epic journey of danger, mystical creatures, dark magic, and intrigue. When an ancient prophesy is triggered, the tale of six powerful immortals begins. Legend has it, the chosen six will triumph over evil and restore peace. But first, they must gather together and converge on the land where their parents were defeated. Time is running out, the Titans want revenge, and the future of the entire world is at stake.

Meet the immortals The wiccan, the shifter, the Master of Water, the siren, the healer, the Reader of Minds. Their destiny awaits — If they accept their fate and unite to confront a dangerous enemy in the battle of a lifetime.

Holiday Short Stories of love and healing Matthew Hunter fell in love with Harley Miller the moment he met her. He wants forever. She wants right now. When tragedy strikes, Matt’s life is upended. He rushes out of town to help his cousin, certain when he returns Harley will be gone forever. Harley had a rough start. After years of hard work and determination, she’s finally living the life she always wanted. Just when she thought the secrets of the past were behind her, an unexpected surprise threatens to destroy everything. Can she learn to trust, or will she lose the only man she’s ever loved?

Coming to Audiobook 2020 Get to know Manti’s newest deputy sheriff in audio. Follow this police procedural series as they investigate local crimes, arrest the criminals and deal with personal struggles.

Seasons 1-4 Available at your favorite eBook store.

Coming December 2020

By Adrian S. Czarnecki PRESS RELEASE IDAHO, USA HUSKY PACK GAINS INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION.... The adventures of a litter of Siberian Huskies, dreamed up by Adrian Czarnecki of Eagle, Idaho, USA are capturing the imagination of children in the US and around the world. Hot Rod Todd, along with his brothers and sisters are based upon a real litter bred by Adrian. “Each of the real huskies has a separate and distinct character,” says Adrian, “we have tried to translate that into a series of fantasies aimed at pre-teen children, both for entertainment and as a learning experience.” So far the first story in the series, Hot Rod Todd to the Rescue, brilliantly and beautifully illustrated by artist Cameo Anderson, has reached as far as the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Australia and the Philippines, where the pups have a regular following. Asked why he decided to write a series of Siberian Husky adventures Adrian says: "You know, huskies often get a bad reputation because they look a lot like wolves. We know better, that they are loving, playful family dogs, and we wanted to share that experience with as many people as possible. So what better way than to show their friendship and fun than by first addressing the children. If we can help them to become responsible pet owners through our stories then we'll have contributed something important to society."


The first in the Adventures of Hot Rod Todd series follows the huskies on a rescue mission to find their sibling Rock Star Merc, who's lost in a frightening forest. Adrian says, "The characters are not at all random. The pups in the story are all named for characteristics we saw in their real-life role models. Cameo and I spent many hours developing individual persona’s and characters. We still have one, Echo Czar aka Eye Patch Echo, at home, along with parents, Empress Maya and Damien Czar, and we play with them every day."

Haku As well as the illustrated story book and a Learning ABC’s book there is a companion coloring book is available as a FREE pdf download. All are online at Finally, the sequel to Hot Rod Todd to the Rescue, Hot Rod Todd Visits Loch Ness has now been released and is available through the books website. This sequel, equally exciting, see’s the pack flying off to the UK in Rock Star Merc’s very special tour jet where they visit Loch Ness and — well lets say’s there’s plenty of twists and turns, highs and lows and adventure and of course, plenty of unlikely friendships and family moments.

Ian, Balto and Hot Rod Todd How a husky and a book helped a little boy learn to read Article by Ashlee Kiser Some of my earliest memories include my mother reading to me from a book of stories that included fairy tales and Greek myths. I can still remember frequently requesting that she reread the same story of Persephone being trapped in the underworld after eating pomegranate seeds. I’d never eaten a pomegranate seed, so this story seemed so exotic and full of intrigue. By the time I was in second grade, my mom had me reading the Little House series and experiencing life as a pioneer girl through the eyes of Laura Ingalls. Then the horse books crept into my life: Thoroughbred, Saddle Club, Golden Filly, High Hurdles, and even the Lucy Hill Mysteries were all series that graced my book shelves. I read everything I could get my hands on! Is it any wonder that I went on to pursue two degrees in literature? My son Ian did not immediately jump straight into a love of reading. Reading to him in the evenings was received as punishment. He didn’t want to sit still long enough to make it through a book, and he would try to choose the smallest books with the most pictures and fewest words. When he started kindergarten, he struggled with shaping his letters and sounding out words. By 1st grade his reading test scores were not only below grade level, but also considered at-risk. We met with his teachers and the learning specialists at school, had the chats about dyslexia and attention deficit. Over and over I kept hearing that Ian will catch up, that he’s just working at his own pace. As parenting Ian didn’t come with a customized instruction manual, I’ve been very fortunate to have some pretty amazing resources available to me. My former supervisor, Dr. Jasitt, earned his PhD in adult literacy and has a strong passion for helping any reader to become more proficient. Ms. Virginia, another former supervisor who has a background in developmental learning, has a knack for assessing learning styles and meeting educational needs. Between the two of them, Ian stayed well stocked in books, and eventually being read to became less of a trial for Ian, and more of a pleasant


Morse ritual before bed. Virginia has insisted from the very beginning that parents should provide books that relate to their child’s interests. She and Dr. J sent home dozens of books on tractors, bulldozers, farming, motors, and even dinosaurs – nothing really sparked his interest. But then we took a trip to Alaska and Ian discovered huskies. He decided that his life just isn’t worth living without a husky to share it. And thus began Ian’s obsession. We did some research, then eventually we took Ian along to choose his very own husky pup. Ian kept his eyes jammed shut until he heard the mama dog bark. His eyes flew open as puppies bomb rushed him, and he immediately scooped up the cream colored male. Ian discovered love at first lick, and knew that this was his dog. He knew exactly which puppy was for him, and thus the cream pup was christened Balto. Virginia has always been a research ninja, and she began to fill Ian’s bookshelves with books on huskies, particularly biographies of the original Balto and Togo. Much as Ian enjoys these books, he still struggles to read them on his own, and his attention wanes quickly. He still prefers illustrated books, preferable with full color images, but there are not many options available in Ian’s small interest area of Siberian Huskies and sled dogs. So you can imagine my excitement late last fall when I came across a post in a Facebook group describing a new children’s book series focused on a pack of Siberian Husky pups. I immediately placed an order through Amazon, and added it to the stack of Ian’s Christmas presents. To say that Ian loves Hot Rod Todd to the Rescue would be an understatement. He has found a pack of Siberian pups (his greatest obsession), and each has its own unique persona: Hot Rod Todd is the leader of the pack, and races classic hot rods. Eye Patch Echo, one of Todd’s brother’s, provides comedic relief and help around the garage. BBQ Haku, the only female pup from this litter, wears an attractive, but not overly feminine orange bow. She’s provides a strong model for other girls as she’s employed in technical communications for the racing team.

Rock Star Merc tours the world as an international rock music sensation.

Morse Koda, another brother, lives in Montana. He’s a bit of technological genius. HRH Simba, the final brother, lives with Morse Koda. Like Morse Koda, he has also pursued a career in technology. Together they use technology to stay in touch with the other pups who live in Idaho. The first book of the series finds the pups in the wilderness of Montana searching for their lost brother, Rock Star Merc. The pups receive help from wildlife, and are able to reunite with the stray Merc so that they can return home. Positive themes highlight the story, and the artwork is absolutely stunning. You can read the book yourself to learn more. Here’s what I love about Hot Rod Todd: 1. My son, Ian is truly engaged in reading this book. He knows the names and appearance of each character. He enjoys looking at the pictures when he’s not reading, but as his reading skills improve, he spends more time reading to interpret the action he sees in the images. 2. Ian is learning to think critically. We have conversations about the pups even when we’re not reading. 3. The author is reachable. Mr. Adrian Czarnecki loves feedback from his readers and carefully considers all ideas as he’s working on a sequel. He consults with several parents, and always answers his email, even if it’s simply to answer a question from a fan. index.html 4. Merchandise is available to increase the fandom. Ian currently has two tee shirts and a neck gaiter featuring Hot Rod Todd. Balto has two bandanas featuring the characters.


Merc 5. IAN IS READING! Now that Ian can read Hot Rod Todd to the Rescue by himself, he’s asking me to read the longer chapter books with him. Even on nights when I am tired and would be fine going straight to bed, Ian is coming to me and requesting that we read together. After we finish a chapter, he asks me to keep going. Sometimes he interrupts me and poses questions about what we’re reading. Other times he’ll take over and he’ll read a few pages to me. The Adventures of Hot Rod Todd book 2 is now published. Hot Rod Todd Visits Loch Ness is available through Amazon or you can reach out directly to the author to purchase an autographed copy. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a sneak peek at this book, and I think Ian will love it even more than the first. Last year we made a deal with Ian that when he earns a 100% on a spelling test, he gets to pick out any shirt he wants from the Hot Rod Todd store. This week Ian earned his first ever 100% on a spelling test, so he’s heading online to pick out a brand new shirt with his favorite literary characters. Thanks for the inspiration, Hot Rod Todd!

'Adventures of Hot Rod Todd' sort of came about by accident. I was chatting with Todd's owner who had sent me photo's of a truck she was going to do up and of Todd at a car/truck show. Jokingly I said "that's a Hot Rod Todd truck" so I started texting some silly stuff like an adventure and then low and behold it morphed into 'Adventures of Hot Rod Todd, Hot Rod Todd to the Rescue'. That's how it began, honestly.

Adventures of Hot Rod Todd Hot Rod Todd Visits Loch Ness This, the second book in the Adventures of Hot Rod Todd children's picture story books sees Hot Rod Todd and the pack getting an invitation to visit the UK to race. So, they decided to make it a family vacation with Wild Child Rock Star Merc taking them in his revolutionary eco friendly Tour Jet piloted by Captain Chinook. The pack decided to visit Loch Ness in Scotland and oh my, what ensues on that trip is 'out of this world'. As always with the pups there are thrills and spills, ups and downs, twists and turns but always, ALWAYS, the message is all about friends and friendship, caring about others without question, values and morals. Beautifully illustrated by Cameo Anderson, 'Hot Rod Todd Visits Loch Ness is a children's picture-story book comprising full page colored illustrations with text that parents can read to their youngsters or, if at reading age or learning to read, youngsters can read and enjoy themselves.

New Release

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8

Unexpected Threats

Gage pulled up to the large house and debated. He and Ethan had never gotten along. His father, Drew Clayton, believed it was a matter of jealousy. Gage figured he was probably right, but that didn’t help him much at the moment. If he didn’t approach the arrogant man in just the right way, he’d get nowhere. Then, after Ethan slammed the door in his face, he’d probably call the sheriff to complain. Gage needed a plan, but after hours of procrastinating he still didn’t know how to approach Ethan Weldon about his high school football ring.

Okay, Gage inhaled a deep breath and slowly let it out. He hates me because I was a Texas Longhorn and because I received a full scholarship to play football, something he always dreamed of doing himself. According to Drew Clayton, Weldon had big dreams and he was good. But he also had a chip on his shoulder and an uncontrollable urge to party. The day the college scouts had come looking, Ethan was hung over and off his game. He’d been offered a partial scholarship to Colorado University out of Boulder, but he’d been set on Penn State, Virginia Tech or even Texas U. Instead, Drew Clayton was offered a scholarship to Texas. Then, years later, his son Gage had attended his father’s alma mater on a full scholarship as well. Then, Gage committed the ultimate crime... he went on to play in the NFL. “This is not personal,” Gage mumbled. It’s official business. He’d just approach it that way and hope for the best. Within seconds, he was standing in front of the large, decorative door waiting to ask for a favor from a man that hated his guts and always would. “Deputy Clayton,” Ethan said coldly. “Funny, I don’t remember calling the police.” “You didn’t,” Gage said flatly. “But I do have a couple questions for you. I’m working a case that involves an old high school football ring.” Gage pulled his own ring out of his pocket. “I was hoping you’d be willing to show me yours.”

Continue Reading Pg. 95 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 94

By Eric Lahti There’s a lot going on in the world. In addition to riots and shootings, the continued threat of the Cronizzle, and most of California being on fire, we lost a great woman – the Notorious RBG – recently. All in all, not a great year. While it would be easy to get down about all these problems, we still have one very important thing going for us: There are still dogs and they’re still happy to see us. It’s been known for a while that petting a dog (or a cat) for 10 minutes can reduce your stress. All they ask for in return is food, water, and the entire damned couch. Or maybe that’s just my dogs. We also know that their sense of smell is on the order of 10,000 times more sensitive than ours. Or, to put that in different terms, that means a dog could sniff out a single drop of something in two Olympic-sized pools. In addition to reducing our stress and taking up all the space on the couch, dogs have been trained to use those keen sniffers to detect cancer, malaria, and other maladies. Now, researchers in Finland have trained dogs to sniff out the Cronizzle – that’s Covid19 for those of you who aren’t hip and with it.

A couple of the major problems in dealing with Covid-19 are the potentially long burn time of two weeks before someone even knows they have it and asymptomatic carriers who will never know they have it. Pair those things up with an airborn, highly virulent bug, and you’ve got a recipe for a pandemic. While various tests have been kajiggered up in labs around the world, they still take time and money to produce results. A dog can be trained to react to the smell of the virus as it comes out in our sweat and can produce results nearly instantaneously. All they ask in return is that you get off the damned couch so they can really stretch out and would it kill you to get them a blanket and pillow? You can read the original article here. While you’re out perusing the Internet for more dog -related activities, be sure to check out No Dog Left Behind, the wonderful folks who helped rescue dogs who were left homeless in the wake of Hurricane Laura and Bob The Dog, who’s just too damned cute for words. If you’d like to connect your blog and help spread a little joy (or snark, like I do), it’s easy to sign up. Just ask and ye shall receive.

Eric Lahti grew up looking for UFOs and buried treasure in northwest New Mexico. Unfortunately, he never found either of them, but he did get some good stories. He currently works as a programmer, database admin, sysadmin, and a whole host of other things. If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on Eric Lahti’s website...

Coming December 2020 Pre-Order Now

A Witchy Mistake: Witches of Whisper Pines Prequel

New Release

Just for subscribing.

A misuse of powers. The rule of three. Unintended Consequences.

A misuse of powers. The rule of three. Unintended Consequences.

The magical rule of three states that the energy you put into the world comes back to you three-fold. Sixteen-year-old Charley Cooper is furious when her cousin Danu uses her powers to get back at a high school nemesis without considering the consequences. When someone puts the other girl into a coma, Danu becomes the prime suspect. As annoyed as she is at her cousin, Charley doesn't want her to go down for something she didn't do. Even though Charley has never had magical abilities of her own, when she has what she thinks is a vision about an attack on Danu, she's forced to investigate. Can she find the guilty party before her cousin pays - one way or another?


The Curse of Aves Borough by D.C. Anslem

A HALLOWS EVE TO REMEMBER. Gianna Raven learned about her town's curse at a young age, everyone did. The urban legend claimed an evil witch damed the town centuries ago but Gia was privy to another detail. The curse was tied to her family. Two decades later Gia learns the curse is more than just a scary story and she is the only one who can stop the very real evil from befalling her town. After her protection ritual goes horribly wrong, Gia must battle her doubts, a curse which has haunted her family for generations and a monster from another realm that is hell bent on destroying her. iew/1051717

A Christmas Oath by Vicki Hopkins

Christmas should be a time of peace on earth and goodwill toward men, but it isn’t for Elizabeth Dutton. When Francis Oldman breaks their engagement, giving her no reason as to why, she sues him for breach of promise of marriage. The jury finds in her favor, and she is awarded £1,000 for damages suffered – the price of her broken heart. Three months later, while still pining over her lost love, the annual invitation to the Darley’s Christmas Eve party arrives. Elizabeth decides that a new dress and a bit of Christmas spirit might cheer her up. What she hoped would be a pleasant evening, turns into one disaster after another, especially when Francis Oldman walks through the door. Nevertheless, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without gifts. Before morning arrives, Elizabeth receives the gift of clarity, and Francis discovers that sacrifice can bring miracles.

Small Town Christmas Serendipity Indiana Book 1 by Magdalena Scott Melissa and her son need a new start. Jim wants a second chance. The past can ruin their future...or make it magical.~*~ Single mom Melissa is moving back to Serendipity, Indiana to raise her young son and run her new business—in spite of a painful past and the fact that the man who broke her heart years ago still lives in their hometown. With his dad’s death, the work of the family Christmas tree farm has fallen to Jim Standish. But how can he hold everything together for the sake of his family, when his past is pulling him apart? Nobody can do it all, and there’s an obvious solution for the Standish family. But in Serendipity, there’s often more going on than a casual observer will ever know. A new tragedy puts Melissa and her son in closer contact with the Standish family. Ignoring the past, and Jim Standish’s part in it, is no longer an option. This is a story about second chances: facing difficulties of the past and not only moving on, but becoming stronger because of them. It’s also a story about “coincidences” in life that may be more than that. A delightful touch of Christmas magic makes Small Town Christmas a story that ends on a sigh! books/view/573371

Mistletoe & Fire Glow: A Holiday Romance Short Story by Nicole R. Locker Follow Cordi as she learns to believe in Christmas miracles when a chance meeting turns into something more. books/view/689980

The Winner is Love Winner Series: Book 1 by Stephanie Payne Hurt Contests were not Stacy’s thing, but when her friend enters her in a contest for a weekend with Slade Collins, the movie star, her life changes drastically. Will the cozy cabin in the mountains be the starting point of something wonderful or a realization of things that aren't meant to be? Will love find its way in or will they say goodbye on Monday? This is the 1st book in “The Winner” series. view/260085

Out and Back by Diane Strong

childhood in an attempt to grapple a family crisis back at her childhood home in Minnesota while her own perAn out and back is a run that sonal dramas are unfolding at her starts and ends at the same point. small ranch in Kentucky. Along the way we are changed. In the end we are back where we books/view/155148 started. Amber runs every morning, bakes home cooked meals, and keeps a spotless house. She homeschools her children, grows an organic garden and milks her own goats. But Amber Stonewall is not perfect. She is a mother who fails, a wife who is unable to show affection, a daughter who is absent and a sister who knows it all. When her mom dies, it all slaps her in the face.

A diary-like glimpse into the thoughts of an obsessive running/ fitness junky as she tries to deal with the death of her mother and other stressors life throws her way. Amber's daily jogs are the vehicle as she speaks to the reader much like writing a journal, with multiple flashbacks to her

Sarah Sues Santa by PJ Leonard

Little Monsters by Russ Anderson, Jr. Halloween has been getting out of hand for years. Roving bands of costumed children roam the neighborhoods of America, demanding tribute in the form of treats. Pray for those ill-prepared adults who don't have any to give them. "Tricks" can include property damage, assault, and, in some cases, even murder. books/view/756120

Sarah Pebbleton has been an angel all year, and Santa still didn't bring her exactly what she wanted! This is the final straw. She decides to send one more letter to Santa: to tell him she'll be suing him. What happens next sets Sarah off on a journey to three very different houses where Christmas is celebrated very differently, and she learns the most important lessons of her life about the Christmas spirit and fairness... 'Sarah Sues Santa' is inspired by P.J. Leonard's love for the season, and is offered for FREE as a Christmas gift to you! books/view/687206

A Billionaire Brothers’ Christmas (BBW: Billionaire Brothers 6) by Jenn Roseton When the five Trask brothers and their wives gather together for Christmas, they're all looking forward to relaxing and celebrating the holidays. But when the Trask brothers decide to cook the Christmas dinner, it's one disaster after another, until they realize that love and family is what Christmas is all about. This is a short holiday story of approximately 7,500 words and can be read as a stand alone.

A Curvy Coldwater Christmas (BBW Romance: Coldwater Springs 5) books/view/586490

She’s finished with men. He’s made it his mission to change her mind.

by Jenn Roseton When Kate is asked by her friend, Sarah McCord, to appear as Mrs. Claus in the Coldwater Springs Christmas parade, she doesn’t know what to think! After all, she’s only twenty-nine. And although she has a very curvy figure, she’s not matronly and gray-haired yet. But when she finds out that the hunky guy she’s admired for the last few months, Flynn Winters, will play opposite her as Santa, she’s glad she agreed to take part. Especially when the script calls for them to kiss …. https:// books/view/476817

Nearly Wild Main Street Merchants Series Book 3 by Linda Seed

Ruby’s Texas Ranger

by Louise Crouch

Kansas 1875. Jewel always dreamed of having her name on posters throughout the Wild West, just not quite like this. After years of searching, Texas Ranger Marcus Kearby relents to his father's demand he return to Dew Springs to settle down. Marcus must choose between Jewel and doing what’s right. Jewel must decide whether to make one last shot for Marcus's heart. books/view/935285

Rose Watkins has never been afraid of anything. She wasn’t afraid to leave home and cross the country on her own at eighteen, she’s not afraid to stand up for herself against judgmental bullies who criticize her unconventional looks, and she’s not afraid to chase her dreams, no matter how elusive they may seem. But after a phony date with doctoral candidate Will Bachman— concocted to help him save his ego in front of an ex-girlfriend— Rose realizes that the possibility of true love is perhaps the scariest thing she’s ever had to face. books/view/652022

The Happy Snowman By Sylva Fae Once upon a time in a quiet little place, There was a happy snowman With a smiley, snowy face. He loved to watch the children, Who played out in the park, And dogs ran by and shouted 'hi!' With cheery woofs and barks. His coal black eyes twinkled And his stony grin grew wide. He watched the children playing, Till the last one went inside.

"First take my hat and scarf Then we'll get a fire going. We need to get you warm and dry In case it keeps on snowing.�

Then he settled down to sleep Next to a copse of trees, His stripy scarf flapping In the gentle winter breeze.

Gratefully, the man received, The snowman's scarf and hat. "But how do we make a fire? Have you thought of that?"

But one night he was woken By a rasping cough and cry, And in the dark, a ragged man Was slowly trudging by. "Wait!" shouted the snowman. "It's too cold to be outside." The old man stopped and stared. "Did you just speak?" he cried. "I did," said the snowman. "Why don't you stop and chat, You look so cold and weary And you haven't got a hat." "It's true, I'm cold and tired," Said the man, "I'm hungry too. I think I'm totally lost, And I don't know what to do."

“First take the twigs from my arms. The tinder is quite dry, Then take the coals from my eyes, They'll make the flames burn high.” “Now take my carrot nose, You really need to eat. It isn't very much But it is a tasty treat.”

The man felt much better By the sun's first golden rays. He was grateful to the snowman And turned to him with praise.

“I need no eyes to know That you children play round here. I hear your happy voices So full of Christmas cheer.”

"Snowman let me thank you, For your very kind deed." "Just knowing that you're happy Is all the thanks I need."

“My carrot nose has fed a friend; The rest has helped to warm him I don't mind what's on the outside, All that matters is within.”

The old man said goodbye And carried on his way. A cheerful noise filled the air – The children out to play.

“Inside these balls of snow I'm just happy to be me A snowy heart filled with love – That's how I'm meant to be.”

A little girl with golden hair Looked Snowman up and down "You look so different today," She said with a frown. “Snowman, where's your hat and scarf? You've lost your eyes and nose? And yet you are still smiling Even though the cold wind blows."

This story is taken from the Children’s Christmas Collection – an anthology by Sylva Fae, Suzanne Downes, Kate Robinson, Millie Slavidou, Patricia M Ahern and Paul Ian Cross.

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




Join our community! Subscribe to our FREE monthly eMagazines


Inside our eMagazines ... • Parenting Tips • Short Stories • Recipes • Activities for Children • Exploring New Worlds • Wellness and Well-being • New Authors • A link to our video • And so much more...

No one has been able to “prove” the existence of dragons, but in the hearts and minds of the people, they did exist at one time. I’d like to share with you excerpts from the Dragon book that will be available soon. We’re aiming for November 2020. People believe dragons have created various structures. Some of the most common are dolmens, chambers formed by large stone blocks. These chambers are found throughout Europe in mountainous regions, with sheer cliffs that hide a cave. Some date back 7,000 years, while most are thought to be from the early Neolithic age (around 4000–3000 BC). In folk belief, they’re called dragon houses, and are said to be proof dragons existed, although archaeologists say they are likely to have been burial chambers. Other dragon tales tell how geographical sites came into being: rivers, lakes, mountains, and more. Springs at the bottom of a cave or a rock are often said to be tears of a kidnapped girl. Here are a few places people once believed dragons created. Great Stones of Khlyabovo Ridge: A long time ago in Khlyabovo, Bulgaria, a dragon protected the villagers. In return, the people provided him with animals from their flocks. Some men rebelled, saying they would no longer feed the dragon. And so, the dragon abducted and ate villagers. One boy, Katos, fought with the dragon all day, finally wounding it. When the dragon fell from the sky, it petrified and formed huge stones. Even today, local people say they see flames, the fire of the dragon, coming out of the rocks. ♦ Serpent’s Wall or Dragon’s Rampart: According to folklore, long, tall embankments in parts of Ukraine came into being when a hero tricked a dragon into dividing the land between them. The hero harnessed a plow to the dragon, and the dragon pulled and pulled, mile after mile, deeper and deeper, creating the ever-growing embankments. The hero didn’t cease urging the dragon onward until the creature died of exhaustion. A more historical purpose of the embankments was as a defense mechanism against invaders, with the dragons being symbolic of foreigners. ♦

Balaur Hill: This hill, named after a Romanian dragon, arose when a gigantic balaur fell from the sky and died. A single rib measured 22 inches (56 centimeters) in width. His body slowly rotted over a long period of time, forming a great mound.

Margarets Hill and Latin Well: A Bulgarian story talks about how a Latin man and his daughter Margarita cultivated a vineyard on a hill, which was near a well that dragons and fairies came out of. Near the well, the father built a cellar to store his wine. A young man courted Margarita in the vineyard, but one day a whirlwind arose and a black cloud covered the hill. The young man, who was a zmey, embraced her and flew into the cloud and headed toward the well. As the cloud descended, lightning crackled, and the two young people sank into the well, never to be seen again. The hill and well were named after the girl and

Source: Photo by Stankow, 13 September 2013. Creative Commons License: https://

her father. Even today, people will tell you, if you part the bushes and grass on the hill you can see the ruins of the basement by the well. At night, no one goes near, because it’s still a zmey’s haunt.

The story below relates how a hot spring gained its name. Many, many years ago, an old zmey ruled the forests between Struma and Mesta [rivers in Southwest Bulgaria]. He had two sons, and they were zmeys, which he sent here and there for work. “And what was the work of the zmeys, Grandpa Marin?” the curious asks. “Their job,” he explains, “was to arrange the clouds, to spread rain, hail, thunder, and lightning.” Once the smaller zmey was flying over the village of Mosomishte. It was Easter, so all the people were at the horo, and among them was the priest’s daughter, the beautiful maiden Toplitsa. The zmey saw her from the clouds, liked her, and then came down and grabbed her from the horo before anyone knew what was happening. The poor father asked and searched everywhere, but didn’t find any trace of her. A long time passed and her parents stopped thinking about her. One summer day, the priest climbed St. George’s Rock to gather wood for fire. It felt like something was pulling him higher and higher, until suddenly he saw his daughter, all in golden clothes and adorned with coins. They hugged each other in tears and the girl said that the young zmey had grabbed her, but her father got angry and drove them away from Alibotush mountain, where his palace was. Now the two lived on St. George’s Rock. The zmey’s bride was afraid that her husband would meet the uninvited guest, so she quickly sent her father away, but she wanted to give him a farewell gift. She filled up a sack of coins, but since she had already learned some zmey magic, she made the gold light as a feather so that it would not weigh on her father on the way.

She told him to open it when he got home. They said goodbye and Grandpa Priest left with the sack on his shoulder, but something kept irritating him to see what was inside. In the end he couldn’t stand it, he opened it and what did he see? The sack was full of onion peels! He got angry, poured out the peels, then took the sack and went home without wood. He decided to shake the sack one more time and what did he see? One coin was stuck inside. The priest told everything to his wife and she scolded him and ordered him to go back immediately and to bring the onion peels, which were enchanted coins. The priest hurried, climbed back, but it was too late. Right in place of the peels, a large river of hot water gushed out and dragged everything down. When the priest shook the sack, his daughter saw him from the rock and got very scared that the zmey would see and get angry. She began to pray to God for help, and he heard her prayers and made the hot water gush out and take away the onion peels. Since then, they named the river Toplitsa after the priest’s daughter. According to the legend, its warm water gradually cools and when it becomes really cold, the river will dry up. Source: PIC. “ЛЕГЕНДИТЕ СА ЖИВИ! Николина от село Пирин била последната любов на Змея Горяни.” (“LEGENDS ARE ALIVE! Nikolina from the village of Pirin was the last love of Snake Goryani.”) May 9, 2017.

Another interesting tale I discovered while doing research is not from Eastern Europe, but it has many of the same types of characteristics as those stories. In his “League of the Ho-de’-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois,” originally published in 1851, Lewis Henry Morgan (1954: 149 ff.) described a Seneca legend about the “homed serpent.” Heno, an assistant of the Great Spirit responsible for the formation of clouds and rain, and a keeper of the thunderbolts, was a guarantor of fertility. In one account he made his abode in a cave behind Niagara Falls. A young woman at a village at the mouth of Cayuga creek above the falls was betrothed to a disagreeable old man, and to escape her fate she put herself in a bark canoe and released herself on the current to plunge to her death and freedom. On her descent over the falls, however, she was caught by He-no, taken to his cavernous home and married to one of his helpers. Before this event the people of her village has been plagued by a mysterious pestilence, and He-no now revealed to her the cause: a gigantic water serpent dwelt under her village on Cayuga Creek, poisoning the waters and feeding on the bodies of the dead buried there. He told her to advise her people to move to a new location, which they did.

The serpent, losing its source of sustenance, emerged from the earth to find the cause, and entered the lake to follow the people to their new home. While swimming in the channel of Buffalo Creek, the monster was spotted by He-no, who struck it with a thunderbolt. As Morgan (1954: 160) puts it: “The Senecas yet point to a place in the creek where the banks are semicircular on either side, as the spot where the serpent, after he was struck, turning to escape into the deep waters of the lake, shoved out the banks on either side. . . . The huge body of the serpent floated down the stream, and lodged upon the verge of the cataract, stretching nearly across the river. A part of the body arched backwards near the northern shore in a semicircle. The raging waters thus dammed up by the body broke through the rocks behind; and thus the whole verge of the fall upon which the body rested was precipitated with it into the abyss beneath. In this manner, says the legend, was formed the Horse-Shoe fall.” Source: Blust, Robert. “The Origin of Dragons.” Anthropos 95, no. 2 (2000): 519-36. Accessed September 20, 2020.

Spirits and Creatures Series Book 1 BUY NOW

Spirits and Creatures Series Book 2 BUY NOW

Spirits and Creatures Series Book 3


Ronesa Aveela is “the creative power of two.” Two authors that is. The main force behind the work, the creative genius, was born in Bulgaria and moved to the US in the 1990s. She grew up with stories of wild Samodivi, Kikimora, the dragons Zmey and Lamia, Baba Yaga, and much more. Her writing partner was born and raised in the New England area. She has a background in writing and editing, as well as having a love of all things from different cultures. She’s learned so much about Bulgarian culture, folklore, and rituals, and writes to share that knowledge with others.

Mary & Bright

Mary Rutherford dreads Christmas time. Having grown up in one of the most influential families in town, her Christmas holidays are spent attending her father's company Christmas party and silently blending into the background. This year, however, her parents insist she plan the party, and with little help from her mother, Mary reaches out to an old friend for help: Brighten Smith. Brighten Smith recently moved back to his hometown to escape California and the disappointment of a failed relationship. Helping his grandmother at her local bakery provides him the opportunity to catch up with old acquaintances and friends. When he finds Mary Rutherford needs a caterer for her family's grand Christmas party, he volunteers for the job, though he has zero experience. As he learns more about Mary, he finds he wants to do more than cater her party; he wants to give her the best Christmas ever. Can he and Mary pull off a successful Christmas partnership? And can Brighten give Mary an unforgettable Christmas?

Katharine E. Hamilton

Dark to Light Light at the End Series - Book 3 A group of four have trekked over 120 miles from Auchcarn to explore the territory under the huge gap in the nuclear cloud. They’d made interesting discoveries on the journey but within two miles of Aviemore, they see a column of smoke rising from a chimney. Could there be survivors in Aviemore, the once-famous ski resort, and if so, who, how many, and in what condition might they be?

A satisfying conclusion to the series. It shows what the world could be like if the people in charge didn't have a desire for power and instead were in their positions to truly make the world a better place for everyone to live.

Surprises were in store for the adventurers.

New Release


Book One: Coming Alive Avery never expected to take another chance at love. Until she’s thrown a curve ball she isn’t anticipating – a man that causes her pulse to race and also happens to be one of her bosses. Logan doesn’t trust women. Period. But a one-night stand cut short exposes him to a mysterious woman that flips his world upside down.

Book Two: Coming Together Pregnancy wasn’t in the cards until life sends them a surprise.

The Welcome to Carson Series A Small Town Romance Boxset Books 1-4 by Renee Harless This box set is filled with a family all finding love at the most unexpected moments. Hot doctors, rockstars, and billionaires fill the pages with their twists and turns that will leave you wanting to move to the small town.

Book Three: Coming Consumed Sydney knows firsthand what can happen when lies catch up to you. As an undercover agent, Dylan lives his life by strict codes and calculations and he knows he is in trouble the first time he lays eyes on Sydney. One wrong move can put her in danger, but something about her draws him in and that may prove to be the biggest risk he has ever taken. Book Four: Coming Altered One night. One memory. One tour. A one-night stand was all Cassidy had expected. She didn’t sign up for the memories. Memories where the sexy, muscled man from the bar had played her body like an instrument.

All items on Sale at time of publication, however prices are subject to change and may not be permanently reduced

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

Inside Burning Sands by PR Adams I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. I joined the Air Force, and my career took me from coast to coast before depositing me in the St. Louis, Missouri area for several years. After a tour in Korea and a short return to the St. Louis area, I retired and moved to the greater Denver, Colorado metropolitan area. I write speculative fiction, mostly science fiction and fantasy. My favorite writers over the years have been Robert E. Howard, Philip K. Dick, Roger Zelazny, and Michael Crichton.

Unforgivable Love and Light Series by Tina Wainscott He knows things about her that no one could know; he makes her feel things she never knew she could feel … and he's come back to warn her that a killer is watching her. Although Katie grew up in Possum Holler, Georgia, she feels isolated and disconnected from the town’s residents—aside from her loving but oppressive husband. And while her job as his vet assistant is fulfilling, her growing discontent becomes uneasiness when local girls start disappearing. Then, the boy who helped her through a horrible time in her childhood, and who was sent away because of that help, has come back to town. Spooky Silas, as he was known then, helps open her eyes to the emotional manipulation of the man she married, encouraging the return of her feisty self. But that’s not the reason Silas has returned. He knows something about the missing girls. And he knows Katie is next. He has always loved Katie but stayed away to keep her safe from the shadowy abilities he possesses. Those abilities may help, or they might ultimately plunge her into more danger as he grows closer to the killer … whose face is terrifyingly familiar. view/994580

Flames of Chaos Legacy of the Nine Realms Series by Amelia Hutchins Aria and her sisters return to the Human Realm of Haven Falls to find one of their own that’s gone missing. They soon discover things have changed in the Human Realm and that nothing is what it seems, including Knox, the egotistical, self-centered, frustratingly gorgeous man who declared himself King during their absence. Sparks fly when the two enter a fiery battle of wills as Aria learns she is more than just a witch in the Hecate bloodline; she is much, much more. Will Aria embrace her savage side to find her sister and save her family, or will she burn to ashes from his heated kisses and burning hot embrace? Knox has ulterior motives for being in Haven Falls and never expected the little witch to show up and brazenly challenge his rule. It was supposed to be easy; get in and get out. Move pieces into place and set the stage for the war he’s been planning for over five hundred years. Aria is his sworn enemy but something within her calls to him and he hates himself for craving the fiery kisses that have reignited his cold, dead heart. One taste, and he thought he could get her out of his system. He was wrong. Will Knox let go of the memories of the past, driving his need for revenge that will destroy the pretty little witch he craves, or will he push the boundaries to fight for and claim what is his by right? Either way, war is inevitable. And nothing will stop him from reaching for what is his.

Darkest Before Dawn A Guardian’s Diary Series by Amelia Hutchins

The Complete Midnight Fire Series by Kaitlyn Davis Kira Dawson has the power to burn vampires to a crisp. The problem is, she doesn't know it yet. The even bigger problem is, she's dating one. When Kira Dawson moves to South Carolina, she meets Luke, a blond goofball who quickly becomes her best friend, and Tristan, a mysterious bad boy who sends shivers down her spine. Kira knows they're keeping secrets, but when she discovers Tristan's lust for blood and her own dormant mystical powers, Kira is forced to fight for her life and make the heartbreaking decision between the familiar comfort of friendship and the fiery passion of love. From bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis comes a paranormal romance perfect for fans of Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This bundle includes all four full-length novels in the Midnight Fire series (Ignite, Simmer, Blaze, Scorch) as well as the anniversary novella (Burn)! view/373268

Going through an apocalyptic event doesn't mean the end of the world. My dad is a modern day Noah, you know building an ark, trying to save folks and getting my brother, and I ready for the impending end of days – whatever that means. Nothing in his prepper manuals had us ready for what actually happened. I had nothing to prepare me for Jaeden and Lachlan. Heck, I don’t know of any girl that would have been prepared for those two. There was nothing to prepare us for the things that go bump in the night or zombies, although now that I think on it, zombies might have been easier to deal with than what really happened. No, an apocalyptic event is just a set-up for things in our world to be shaken AND stirred. What will rise from the ruins remains to be seen.

Cursed Complete Series (Verity, Clarity, Adversity, and Purity by Claire Farrell Sixteen-year-old Perdita Rivers has spent her entire sheltered life being told what to do. Lately, she’s felt ready for a change, and the universe seems to agree. Her new best friend’s brother is the boy of Perdita’s dreams. Literally. Even though he plays hot and cold, she’s sure there’s more to it, but she’s kind of distracted by the sense she’s being followed - not to mention the rumours of wild animal sightings that seem to mean more to her new crush’s family than they should. Perdy’s on a mission to find the truth, but maybe the truth is the danger she should hide from, after all. view/1034942

Primal Nature The Primal Series by Monique Singleton Immortality is thrust upon a seemingly random woman. Against the backdrop of World War 3, she fights her own grueling battle to find out and come to terms with what she is becoming. A killer, a monster or maybe even worse. Immortality comes at a price. A big price: her sanity

Someone to Believe In The O'Neil's Series Book 1 by Kathryn Shay Bailey O’Neil, aka, the Street Angel, has been the arch enemy of Senator Clay Wainwright since he was a district attorney and she a young, idealistic social worker with four Irish older brothers who watch out for her. Clay put her in jail for harboring a teen offender and eleven years later, she’s a thorn in his side as an anti-gang specialist trying to get kids out of gangs. While Clay wants to put them in the hands of law enforcement, Bailey is determined to help these troubled teenagers make good lives for themselves. But when Bailey and Clay are thrown together, the impossible happens—they’re attracted to each other. Both the Street Angel and the Senator must find a way to deal with their differences in order to make a life together.

Chaos Volume 1 (Books 1-3) by Claire Farrell Cara Kelly’s life is going nowhere when she’s lured to a faery festival. There she sees darkness and magic, madness and lust, and she comes out the other side with new eyes and an addiction to the fae. When the faery who saved her life returns to her, Cara knows there’s something wrong. Two souls exist in one body, and both need her, but to help one, she’ll end the life of the other. At first, her mind is made up, but both souls know how to charm her.

As the days pass, it becomes clear that the faeries need a leader, and Cara finds herself sucked into a world where morals don’t exist. The truth of her past is hidden in the magic, but all Cara needs to do is survive the king’s coronation, then the fae will let her go forever. But that’s not what she wants anymore, and it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference between a king and a half-blooded solitary fae. Cara’s losing her way, and her heart, to the fae, but there’s still her life, and her humanity, left to lose.

Blood Secrets Blood Series: Book 2 by Elizabeth Morgan Heather Ryan's life has never been simple. The latest in a long line of descendants who have made it their mission to hunt down and slay the Ancient Vampire, Marko Pavel, she is also the first born Infected.

Heart’s Desire by Ingrid Fitzgerald At 15, Charity is tricked into marriage. Her new husband abandons her to his northernmost estate and forgets her for the next ten years. Julian, angered at having been forced to marry, plays the bachelor until he learns of a new servant at Shepridge End. The need for this servant shows that his child bride isn't done with her tricks. With murder on his mind, he goes to confront his unwanted wife.

Tragedy at Silver Creek by Belinda G. Buchanan

Running Nameless

Nathan Parker Series—Book 4

by Don Bissett

Guilt is a powerful thing, and former deputy Jack Collins is mired in it. He feels as if he is slowly drowning as he tries to cope with the aftermath of a serial killer’s reign of terror, as well as his new—and unwanted—job as chief of police. The pressure soon begins to take its toll when the body of a young woman, bearing the same puncture wounds as the killer's previous victims, is discovered.

She attacked him. That was Nathan Parker's introduction to the secretive, nameless girl with a troubled past. A hesitant witness to the disposal of the corpses of two unidentified children, she ran from him. Repeatedly. But for ex-cop Nathan Parker, running is not an option. Having found the bodies, he is inescapably tied to the case, even though it has nothing to do with his job as an insurance fraud investigator. Compelled to discover who the children were and who killed them, Nathan ignores the warnings of the detectives pursuing the case. He reconnects with the nameless girl, whose guarded, bizarre, and often aggressive behavior make working with her and prying information from her unwieldy challenges. On top of that, she has the habit of disappearing whenever the going gets tough. In spite of the struggles of their reluctant partnership, they pick apart the tangled web of the conspiracy shrouding the deaths of the children. In this crusade, Nathan collides with his boss, the police, and his crumbling personal life. And with each step forward, the girl entangles him, pulling him further down a dark path that crosses the line between right and wrong. When their frenzied investigation ends, with the arrest of the architect of the conspiracy, she disappears again, running nameless, leaving Nathan to deal with the lawless chaos they created. books/view/370282 books/view/558896

From Randi With Love by Randi Alexander Seven Sexy Cowboy Romances, Full-length Stories to Spice Up your Holidays! •







ALL HAT NO CATTLE books/view/671639

New Release

Two Appaloosa horses, two young people fulfilling the duty a father can't. Louise leads a sheltered life in Eastern Oregon. Her family has a cherry orchard and raises Appaloosa horses. The letter her father receives will change the family forever. Jay has a daughter he knew nothing about. The girl’s mother is dead and needs her father’s help to escape a vengeful cousin.

Injured, Jay can’t make the lengthy ride to the railroad in Idaho and then to Dodge City. Louise is to go after her sister accompanied by her adopted brother, Abner. Nothing like it was when her father made the journey to Oregon Territory years ago, it’s still difficult. There are a lot of obstacles on the trail, the terrain not the least of them. Louise wants more than a brother-sister relationship with Abner. He made a promise to her father and means to keep it any way he can.

Joyce needs her father to come for her. In hiding, the place her aunt tucked her away in isn’t much better than the one she left. Will he make the trip? The gambler gets caught up in circumstances he didn’t bargain for. In danger for having been witness to a murder, Hal hopes the couple from Oregon won’t dump him along the trail. Growing fonder of the girl by the day, he vows to make sure she reaches her father.

Ogden, Utah — The Wild West to a Peaceful Outdoor Mountain Town by Melanie P. Smith Today Ogden, Utah is a place tourist go for adventure and history. The town has something for everyone. It is home to the Utah State Railroad and the Browning Firearms Museums as well as Botanical Gardens, Waterfall Canyon Trail, and Historical 25th Street. The streets are quaint and cozy, and the people are friendly. But that was not always the case. In the 1920’s, Ogden was the known as the dangerous and notorious Wild West. OGDEN TODAY Summertime is a great time to go hiking and exploring in the outdoors. In Ogden Canyon, it’s the time to chase waterfalls. There’s just something calming about water as it cascades over a cliff or runs down a steep hill before settling into a pond or the river below. Ogden canyon has several waterfalls; some are easily accessible; others require a bit of a hike. Ogden Canyon Waterfall, the largest and most impressive, is located at the mouth of Ogden Canyon. It is also the most accessible and can be seen from the highway. North Fork Park Waterfall is another popular destination, but it requires a short one mile out and back trail hike. Last, but not least, the Waterfall Canyon Trail requires the longest hike and is approximately two and a half miles down a heavily trafficked trail; but the view is definitely worth it. Ogden city is also the gateway to Snowbasin, Powder Mountain, and Nordic Valley. Makes sense, Utah does have the “greatest snow on earth” after all. These resorts provide easy access to skiing, mountain biking, and fishing in the summer.

It’s a great tourist location whether you’re looking for the cozy feel of charming shops, cafes and pubs; or you’re looking for an opportunity to have a memorable adventure in the majestic mountain range. And, as an added bonus, some claim Ogden is home to Utah’s most haunted hotel — Ben Lomond Suites. But we’ll save that story for another day. OGDEN HISTORY It doesn’t take a lot of effort to discover Ogden has an interesting past. To begin, Ogden claims to be the oldest European settlement in Utah — although some dispute that claim. They assert it dates back to 1845 with the formation of Fort Buenaventura on the Weber River. Locals believe the Mormon settlers met the founder, Miles Goodyear, and purchased his fort and his claim upon arrival. In 1848, the area was renamed Brown’s Fort after the Brown family, pioneers Brigham Young sent to the region to manage the settlement. In 1851, it was again renamed Ogden, in honor of Peter Skene Ogden — a fur trader who was believed to have lived in the territory around 1825. Another little known fact, Ogden was the third city to incorporate west of the Missouri River following San Francisco and Salt Lake City. In 1869, things changed drastically for Ogden. Why? The Railroad and the birth of Promontory Point — Utah’s hub for the First Transcontinental Railroad. For those of you who don’t know, Promontory Point is where the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads met. Because of this, it was decided Promontory Summit would host a Golden Spike ceremony where they would drive in the “last spike” to commemorate the momentous occasion. Ogden soon became a major railroad town,

serving nine different rail systems. With this, came unsavory characters, outlaws, and railroad workers that wanted to blow their pay on liquor, women, and opium. Shootouts became common and the street — which became known as 25th Street — was run by a Madame who happily supplied the men with prostitutes. In 1917, earlier than the rest of the nation, the Utah State Legislature voted in an era of Prohibition — hoping to make Utah a dry state. The law actually had the opposite effect in Ogden. It quickly became a money-making hub with illegal businesses springing up everywhere, but particularly on 25th Street. Eventually, bootleggers dug tunnels that connected all 25th Street businesses to each other — making it easier to transport booze and women from one place to another. It didn’t take long for Ogden’s downtown area to become notorious for its lawless nature. Prostitution, bootlegging, and gambling ran rampant and with those vices came violence. Ogden was truly the Wild West. Murder and assault were so prevalent it’s been reported that Al Capone said he wouldn’t dare walk the streets of Ogden for fear of his life.

Finally, in 1933 prohibition was repealed, but that didn’t solve Ogden’s problems. Instead, as residents suffered through the great depression and decreased rail traffic, the mob moved to Ogden and took control of the gambling and prostitution rings. With the mob came even more violence and criminal activity. During WWII, the railroad was once again needed to transport goods. It also became a hub for government services. Once Hill Air Force Base was built in 1938, the area calmed down and was finally considered safe again. Because of easy access, and an influx of passenger train activity, both German and Italian POWs were housed in camps near Ogden. After the war, Ogden again hit hard times. They grew desolate and boarded up buildings with the construction of a new Interstate Highway System, air travel, and a decreased demand for rail transportation. Over the next several decades, those who remained in Ogden turned to outdoor activities. The boarded-up buildings on 25th street became a commodity with quaint shops and pubs popping up to entice the tourists. The transportation hub is gone forever, but Ogden is now a popular destination for recreation seekers and art enthusiasts. This charming Utah town definitely has a colorful history, but that’s what makes Ogden such a hidden treasure.

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.

Find more from Author Melanie P. Smith on her website:

Lucinda E. Clarke A Real Page Turner With A Twist! I found this book to really be a page turner. What I thought would happen, didn't. What I thought wouldn't happen, did. I thought I had the ending figured out before I got to the ending. I was wrong. There was a nice little twist I never saw coming. Great read!

Suspenseful and rivetting

A Year In the Life of Deidre Flynn

All the books in this series are entertaining and easy to read. Recommended if you like a good psychological mystery.

In the Life of‌ Series | Book 3 Deidre is determined to protect her adopted niece Leah, but despite fleeing the country, the menacing threats continue. They believe their enemies can't reach them now, so who is behind the life-threatening attacks? The incidents escalate, each more horrifying than the last.

How can they fight back when they don't know who the enemy is and they have no idea what they want?

A fast-moving, page-turning, psychological thriller that will leave you breathless, as once again, Leah is the victim of a cruel conspiracy that lurks in the shadows.

A gripping thriller for fans of Louise Jensen, Avery Bishop and Claire McGowan.

The White Hat

Ernest Neap shuffled forward in the queue. He didn't feel conspicuous in his raincoat and white roll necked shirt. In fact, he'd dressed like that to blend in; to merge into the crowd. Shouts of, 'Tickets please?' galvanised the people ahead of him into action; reaching into pockets, producing iPhones and holding them up to be scanned. Ernest's ticket had cost him fifteen pounds. It was a lot of money for a pensioner like Ernest to pay but, and this was why he'd bought it, the ticket was a means of escape from his mundane life for a couple of days. The cyber security conference promised entertainment, a chance to get out of the house and perhaps even find a new career. Since retiring, Ernest had tried working as a security guard in the shopping mall but he'd been fired after three days. 'You're too old to chase shoplifters and teenage yobs around shops Neap,' said his supervisor, 'and you should have told us about your knee replacement. Go home old man and put your slippers on.' Cyber security, that was the answer; sitting in front of a computer would suit him fine. It never occurred to Ernest that computer programming was involved. 'Ticket!' demanded a kid in a green t-shirt on the door. Ernest fumbled in his pocket, producing a handkerchief and a crumpled slip of paper. The bar code was a faded lemon yellow. 'My printer needs a new ink cartridge,' he explained. The kid grinned, nudged his companion, then tried and failed to scan Ernest's paper ticket. He shrugged and gave up. The second youth handed Ernest a ribbon with a security badge and shoved a plastic bag at him. 'What's this?' asked Ernest. 'Goody bag,' replied the youth. 'Your t-shirt, programme and stuff.' Propelled forward by the queue, Ernest stopped at a table in the atrium and rifled through the bag: A pen, chocolate bar, the programme, leaflets and a grey t-shirt. He unfolded the

shirt, held it up and read, 'CyberX 2018.' Around him visitors were undressing and slipping on their grey t-shirts. It was easy for them. Most had arrived dressed in shirt and jeans. Ernest removed his coat and was about to take of his white roll necked shirt when he changed his mind. Instead he pulled the grey t-shirt on, over his white shirt and put his coat back on. 'So there it is, we're in,' said the speaker. The lecture hall was brightly lit and full. A dribble of cold sweat ran down Ernest's back. He wanted to remove his coat but there was no room to move. Tier upon tier of watchers followed the green dot as the laser light danced across the screen. Some made notes. Others used their phones to photograph the images of computer code. The auditorium buzzed with excitement. Eager to see, Ernest peered over the shoulder of the cameraman, standing in front of him. The speaker, a young man wearing a black t-shirt with long hair wound in a bun, turned off his laser pen. 'I'm happy to take a few questions.' Several hands shot up. The speaker scanned the sea of faces and pointed to the back of the lecture hall to a youth with large glasses. 'Brains in Thunderbirds, he'll do,' thought the speaker. The audience waited while a helper hurried up the stairs with a microphone. 'So are you saying the programme you've written will penetrate any firewall?' asked Brains. 'Yes I am,' answered the speaker, 'and, as I've just demonstrated with Mcabbey and DogGuard the firewalls are totally unaware they've been compromised.' 'What about Thornton?' 'Just as useless.' The speaker scrolled back to an earlier slide of a dozen leading firewall logos. 'They all are. If it's a computer connected to the internet no firewall is impenetrable and the claims they all make in their advertising blurb are ALL bullshit.' In less than an hour, Ernest had watched the speaker penetrate different firewalls, undetected by the systems supposed to protect the computers. He'd exfiltrated data, installed malicious software, taken control of a network operating system, encrypted data and sent a ransom demand. 'That's about it guys. Don't worry; I'm a white hat,' said the speaker. 'What you have just seen is real but no harm has been done. Now, if I was a black hat, a hacker with evil intent, you can see how easy it would be for me to do real damage. I'll be sharing all the programme code on my website after the presentation and if you want to see it again there will also be a podcast. Feel free to use the code I've written and you're welcome to improve it but remember, we're all red team members here, our job is to test organisations defences not to break in and steal stuff.' He smiled, acknowledging the applause signalling the end of his presentation. Ernest sat and waited while the lecture hall cleared. Young, long haired computer geeks, unshaven, some in shredded jeans, shuffled down the stairs, past the speaker's desk and out of the hall. A few lingered to ask the speaker questions, to congratulate him and thank him for sharing the secrets that would unlock the back-door of any computer.

A podcast, available on the internet, giving away a programme, written to break into computers, struck Ernest as ridiculous; like handing out lock-picks to burglars - a hackers’ bonanza. Get your free crook's kit here! He thought back to when things were simpler, when thieves used a brick or a jemmy to break in, a fishing rod through a letterbox to hook keys from a hall table, a time when real villains used sawn-offs to rob banks, a time when his mates called him Nipper Neap, a time when he had mates. The speaker was drinking coffee in the atrium, apparently listening to a lanky kid dressed in a grey t-shirt, when Ernest approached. In fact the speaker was only half listening. The other half of his cortex was comparing the kid with Shaggy Rogers and wondering if he had a dog called Scooby Doo. 'Last year I was in the team that pen tested Buy and Save,' said the kid. 'You know, the supermarket chain.' 'Cool,' said the speaker. 'We probed with a Neutrino Exploit Kit and then did some manual stuff. It was easy. I got in through the finance director's personal laptop. Imagine that. The finance director, what a twat. His password was a joke and got me straight past the firewall and into Buy and Save's head office network. I left a little present, just to prove the hack.' 'Present, what do you mean?' 'I changed the purchasing algorithm.' The kid rubbed the stud in his nose. 'Yeah, to wind them up - ten tons of baked beans randomly ordered to different stores. It'll take them months to find out why.' He giggled nervously, waiting for a reaction; to see if we enjoyed his joke. A convoy of lorries loaded with baked beans, thundering along a motorway, flashed though Ernest's mind. The speaker raised his eyebrow and turned to Ernest. Realising he'd said a stupid thing and over-stepped the mark, the kid, backed away and melted into the crowd. 'Why did you do it?' Ernest asked quietly. 'Do what?' 'You say you're a white hat but you're giving these kids the tools to hack into computers.'

The speaker placed his cup on a table and motioned for Ernest to follow. He stumbled after the speaker, pushing through the crowded foyer and out to the plaza. The speaker turned and faced Ernest, holding his hand up to shade his eyes from the sun. 'You don't look like a programmer. Who are you?' 'I'm a security expert,' said Ernest. 'A white hat.' 'You a white hat!' said the speaker. 'Do you even know what it means?'

Ernest felt the barb. The cheeky young sod was insulting him. 'How old are you?' asked Ernest. 'Twenty, twenty-five? When you were a kid didn't you go to Saturday morning pictures?' The speaker looked blank, as if he was listening politely but he wasn't. His cortex was thinking, 'Who is this old man? I think he looks like Uncle George.' It occurred to Ernest that multiplex cinemas might not show Saturday morning pictures any longer. 'Every week they would show a short cowboy film and the good guy always wore a white hat....'

'Of course, we all know and guess what, Uncle George?' interrupted the speaker. 'The bad guys wore black hats.' He grinned. 'So you're telling me you were a sheriff, you tamed a town, put the bad guys in jail. I bet you even got the girl in the white dress. Don't tell me.' He put a finger to his forehead. 'She was the school teacher.' Ernest took a small involuntary step towards him. 'I was a copper, Nipper Neap of the Yard. You might have heard of me.' 'Nipper Neap of the Yard. Well Mr. Policeman or should I say Mr. Ex Policemen, you ask a very good question. Why do I do it? I'll tell you why. This is a cyber security conference. We're here to talk about how to beat the black hats and to do that we have to learn about the tools they use, to follow them down the rabbit hole. That's why, to share the knowledge.' He checked his watch. 'I have to go. A talk I want to hear on side stepping data leak protection with just a browser is about to start... Look Columbo, if you're serious about understanding what I'm doing, check out the code. You'll find the answer there.' 'Who's Uncle George?' called Ernest but there was no reply. The speaker had gone, back into the conference centre. Ernest spent hours looking at the programme's code but it told him nothing. He simply wasn't good enough to understand. Like an old dog, he was struggling with a new trick. The speaker had said the answer was in the code but the jumble of numbers, letters and symbols was beyond Ernest. He wasn't clever enough to unlock it, to reveal its secret. Then, one evening, he decided to test the code, to see if it really worked, to prove the speaker's presentation wasn't fake and perhaps learn what he would not tell. Ernest switched on his computer and ran the speaker's programme. It stopped and asked for a target. Ernest thought for a moment and then typed He wasn't sure why he chose his electricity supplier as the guinea pig. Any large company would have been suitable.

The screen went black, then, after a few seconds, it turned dark blue. Letters and numbers started to flash across the screen as if someone was typing furiously. 'What's happening,' muttered Ernest. The typing accelerated and became a blur of characters. Unsure what he was supposed to do next Ernest went to make a cup of tea. He returned, carefully placed his cup and saucer beside the keyboard and munched on a digestive biscuit.

The typing had stopped. The screen had changed. The speaker's programme had worked its magic. Ernest was in and, what's more, he had domain admin. He could go anywhere he pleased in Gold Power's computer network; customer details, suppliers records, bank accounts, policy documents, emails, nothing was hidden. Gold Power's inner secrets were his to explore. Ernest grinned. He felt rather pleased with himself. He'd hacked into a big company. 'Cyber security isn't that hard,' he said to no one in particular. Of course, getting in was one thing but what should he do now? Ernest didn't know. He'd not really been paying attention during that part of the speaker's presentation. Ernest wasn't a thief, he didn't want to hurt Gold Power or blackmail the company but it wouldn't do any harm to have a look around, would it? Ernest spent more than an hour exploring. He read boring emails, minutes of meetings agreeing price increases, personnel records and then, almost by accident, he found himself looking at his own electricity account. Mr. Ernest P. Neap - estimated meter reading 16th November 268,456Kwh - units consumed 1,243Kwh balance outstanding ÂŁ218.56. The paper bill had arrived from Gold Power in the post that very morning. Ernest held the invoice up against the screen and compared the amounts, half expecting them to be different. They were the same. Then, he had an idea. Why not issue himself with a credit note? No one would know. He wouldn't be greedy; a couple of hundred pounds. Gold Power could afford that. Ernest raised the credit note for two hundred pounds and waited for his account update. Minutes passed. Nothing happened. 'Oh well! Must have done something wrong. Probably for the best,' muttered Ernest and closed the programme. He was tired and it was past his bed-time. A loud bang woke Ernest. It was dark. Someone was breaking in. He fumbled for his glasses on the bedside table and peered at the alarm. It was five o'clock. Loud voices. Men were yelling inside the house. Heavy footsteps pounded up the stairs. The bedroom door burst open. A torch beam blinded Ernest. Strong hands pulled him up and forced his arms back. He was handcuffed and dragged from the room. 'Find his computer,' ordered a voice.

'It's here,' shouted another. 'Bring it along.' Ernest sat in the interview room. A naked light bulb glared down. Wearing just the boxer shorts he wore in bed, he was cold and tired. The canvas chair hurt his back. Lunchtime had passed but there was no food. His stomach was growling. Ernest scratched the stubble on his chin and yawned. 'Are we boring you,' said the inspector. Ernest stared at the inspector's bulbous red nose. He knew the type from his time in the force; beer belly bruisers who enjoyed celebrating in the police social club after a good collar. 'I'm tired.' 'Gold Power's security team knew, as soon as you were in their network. They watched you poking about, saw everything you did,' said the inspector. He smiled. Nipper Neap of the yard, a crooked cop, what a great case to crack. He'd dine out on this one. 'Thought you were clever, did you Neap, hacking their system?' 'I told you, I was testing a programme from the cyber security conference in Manchester. For God's sake, you know I'm a retired copper. I haven't done any damage. You can check.' The inspector sat back in his chair. He was enjoying the interview, enjoying putting Nipper Neap in his place. 'You were probably scouting and planned to come back later.' He got up and went to the window. 'Do you want to know how their security knew who you were?' 'Was it because I looked at my electricity account?' 'Did you? I didn't know that,' said the inspector and sat down again. '...There was an alarm in the programme code you used. It warned them you were hacking their network and,' he pointed at Ernest, 'it did something else. The code unlocked an executable file which laid a breadcrumb trail straight back to your computer. You see, while you were hacking their network, snooping around in Gold Power's system their security team was exploring your computer. Ingenious, don't you think?' 'So what happens now? What are you going to do with me?' 'I'm going to charge you and, you'll be pleased to know, the courts are cracking down on cyber crime. Ernest Neep, an ex copper hacking into a major utilitie's computer network. They'll love that. You might not have stolen anything but you'll get a custodial sentence. Three to five years, I should say,' said the inspector.

Three to five! Ernest felt sick. 'You're not the first,' smirked the inspector. 'What do you mean I'm not the first?' 'Honey-pot has caught other black hats with their hands in the till.'

'Honey-pot, what's honey-pot?' asked Ernest but he already knew the answer; it was in the code. Then he remembered, honey-pot was the name of the speaker's programme. Ernest Neap was home on bail, waiting for a trial date, when there was a knock at the front door. 'Looks official,' said the postman and handed him a brown envelope together with a second, white envelope. Ernest recognised the Crown Prosecution Service Crest on the corner of the brown envelope. His heart sank as he signed for the letter. He took the letters into the kitchen, carefully slit the brown envelope open, read the contents and did a little dance around the kitchen table. Because of his exemplary record as a decorated police officer with many years of service and because no harm had been done the CPS had decided to drop all charges against him. 'His activity, penetration testing Gold Power Limited, was considered by the CPS to be the action of a White Hat,' said the letter. In the excitement he forgot the white envelope was there. Later that morning while he was preparing a celebration lunch, a sausage sandwich with brown sauce, he found it on the table. The envelope was from Gold Power Limited. In it was a single sheet of paper, a credit note issued by their accounts department for two hundred pounds. Graham Watkins is a multi genre author who started writing when he retired. He cut his teeth researching and reinventing Welsh legends and myths, a four year project exploring Wales and its rich legacy of stories. If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on Graham’s Website...

I wrote Elfabet a long time ago and for a while it sat in a bulging folder of stories that would hopefully make it into a book one day. It sat there because I had a fairly specific idea of how it should be illustrated, but I had no illustrations. One day, I popped into a local shop that stocks my books, and there on the same shelf was a beautifully illustrated alphabet by a local artist, Katie Weaver. I contacted her, we met for coffee, and I knew that I had found my illustrator. We had great fun creating Elfabet (Katie came up with the title), and Katie was inspired to do a Christmas version. She had the idea in her mind, but whatever I wrote, didn’t quite fit what she envisaged. She wrote down her ideas to show me, and it was perfect as it was. I encouraged Katie to write the rest of her story, and she did. There are now two books in the Elfabet series, one written by me, one written by Katie, and both illustrated by Katie.

While Katie was working hard on her Christmas Elfabet, and illustrating books for other authors, Elfabet was winning a first place award at the Chanticleer International Book Awards. Meanwhile, I was inspired by Katie’s illustrating style. I’ve always been a doodler, but never considered myself an illustrator. With Katie’s support and advice, I set off doodling illustrations for an AlphaBet Races book. Hopefully, this book will be released early 2021. So, for a time, we switched roles – the illustrator became a published author, and the writer is soon to become a book illustrator. It just shows what you can achieve with the right motivation and support.

Both Elfabet and Christmas Elfabet are available from Amazon. 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

Parallel Dimensions by Anne Francis Scott Once, I walked into an area in Texas where I had never before set foot. It was a long time ago, just an apartment complex. Nothing special. But the minute I stepped across the lawn, the instant strong feeling of recognition stopped me in my tracks. I literally couldn’t move. I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, trying to get a grip on what was happening. The complex was a maze of buildings, and from where I stood, the range of numbers that marked each section weren’t visible. Didn’t matter. I walked right up to where I needed to go, as if I’d been there a thousand times before.

The experience haunted me. It was like peeking over the edge of a memory that wouldn’t come in to full focus.

After a while, I did what most people do in these situations and chalked up the incident to déjà vu…

Flash forward— Let’s think about this. If you look up the word déjà vu in the dictionary, you’ll find an explanation that refers to the illusion of a past experience which is actually occurring for the first time. So, scratch the déjà vu theory. I knew right where I was headed. Then there’s the reincarnation scenario—a story I’ll share another day, but I’ll address the gist of it now: Nope. Because the building was new, and I had been around a tad longer. The only explanation left to me was, I had actually walked the same path before. On a different level of existence. There are so many theories on parallel dimensions; it’s difficult to wrap your brain around just one. What I have read leads me to believe that Einstein, whose psychic experiences are well documented, approached the subject of parallel dimensions as matter versus reality. If your mind likes to wander down the quantum trail, here’s an interesting link (note this scientific approach also refers to “illusions”): Message to Eagle.

I tend to approach the idea of different (or parallel) dimensions from the spiritual side. This particular experience has followed me through the years, maturing. A gift of insight. I believe that when we leave here our souls—the heart of what we are—move on. And I sometimes wonder if “moving on” leads us to a place which exists slightly out of step from the world we now know. In theory, there may be several levels of that alternate world, like stairs needing to be climbed until we reach the place where we were always meant to go. A level of understanding, I suppose. Until we pass, we won’t really know for sure, but, being the curious sort, I like to ponder. Thanks for reading,

Anne Francis Scott

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

Find More from Author Anne Francis Scott Website:

Jennifer Reynolds —

Willa and her family survive the initial zombie outbreak by hiding in her Grandmother’s cellar, but nothing good and safe lasts forever when the world is ending.

Awake—Book 1 If you like Post Apocalyptic Novels be sure to check out Awake— the story of Olivia “Liv” Stone. Find details in my author brochure.

WRITERS’ LIVES Author Rebecca Bryn

I sometimes think I must have a split personality or twin souls, or maybe, the genes passed me from my parents are constantly battling with one another. The part of me that needs the freedom of wilderness and chaos is in constant conflict with my OCD other, which demands meticulous planning and order. I sort CDs in alphabetical order with the titles all facing the same way, arrange pebbles in neat but random groups, and line things up very precisely but not quite equally spaced. My OCD self is constantly busy, whereas chaos self is, not to put too fine a point on it, lazy. Consequently, life is a constant state of organised chaos, which, believe me, is better than chaotic organisation.

OCD me isn’t helped by my having married a child of chaos. I know where to lay my hands on everything in the kitchen cupboards, which cupboard, left or right-hand side, back or front, until that is, hubby gets in there. Nothing ever goes back on the same shelf, the same cupboard, or even the same room. OCD me often throws up hands in despair, but I knew what he was like when I married him – his clothes hanging and thrown everywhere except in the wardrobe or drawers told me that. Trying to change people is a lost cause, so chaos me embraces him with love. A typical ‘writing’ day will start with a cup of tea which I take back to bed, and usually, this is the time when plot ideas for the day’s writing, and remedies for the previous day’s plot dilemmas, start to form. I try not to not get up, not be dictated to by routine; I’m retired, I tell myself, but OCD me demands the routine is stuck to. Walk the dog, where the ideas blossom, and I wish I’d remembered my voice recorder to get them down before I forget them, then breakfast and coffee in one hand while typing one-fingered to rush down the bare outline of the ideas, answer my emails, and invariably get sucked into social media by responding to relevant comment, promoting my existing titles on Facebook and Twitter, and becoming mired in the dreaded newsfeeds. Already chaos has taken over, and the planned ‘writing while it’s quiet and getting stuff down while it’s still in my head’ has gone for a burton. By this time, husband is suggesting it’s time for a cappuccino – and I for one can’t resist. As I write, we are in lockdown, so it’s coffee and chat in the garden if it’s warm as there are no planned outings or unnecessary shopping etc (husband is in the vulnerable group, so we aren’t allowed out). I love gardening and hate housework, and the lockdown has removed much of the distractions that gave my life order; I no longer have any concept of time or even what day it is. Chaos is taking over in the house, but the garden is immaculate! My ‘office’ reflects my split personality. My computer word and picture files are terribly organised, (husband strictly not admitted) and my research books have relevant pages neatly bookmarked with odd-shaped scraps of paper that get smaller and smaller as I go, torn from anything I have to hand and carefully annotated with scribble I can barely read. I write at a laptop in a reclining chair in my living room, usually in the evenings having procrastinated for most of the day, while half-watching a war film, Forged in Fire, Salvage Hunter, or Chasing Classic Cars.

On either side of my chair is a small table, both made by my husband – they too reflect my personality – odd shapes, lovely grain, and wonky legs, but beautifully polished tops– they’re the only things in the house that are – polished I mean; there is much that is odd-shaped and wonky, including myself. The surfaces of these aforementioned tables are piled untidily with research books and notebooks with website links, book links, ASINs, promotion sites, and all manner of useful and useless writerly things. The spaces between, on top of, or under these, at the time of looking, contain a dog brush and comb, a SATs monitor, a hard-skin remover, a post-it note, a part bar of chocolate, a cup, and a plate – both empty, though the cup is usually half full of cold tea or coffee, and I have to be very careful where I place it as the table has a hole in it large enough to swallow a cup – I did say they were odd shapes. You might guess by now that I didn’t plan to become a writer. I was perfectly happy having graduated to becoming a watercolour seascape artist, but after proofreading several novels for a friend, my husband asked me why I didn’t have a go. I told him I had no imagination, couldn’t write, and wouldn’t know where to start. So what did I do? Typed Chapter One with no clue what I was going to write and haven’t stopped since. Similarly, I didn’t set out to write historical fiction, and neither did I intend to write about the inequalities and degradations that women suffered during the 19th and early 20th centuries, or the horror that was Auschwitz and the killing fields of WW1 Egypt, or the constricts of faith in Victorian England or global warming, but rather these things presented themselves to me, made me consider what the research might teach me, and I found I had to tell the stories to the best of my ability.

My writing process is as chaotic as my ‘life plan’. Something will spark an idea, which I mull for a while. I do some research – okay, a lot of research, even down to knowing what the weather was like in the summer of 1841, how good the crops were, and when the full moons were (It must be OCD me who does the research) – I have a beginning and a rough idea of the end, and the rest I leave to my characters, trusting that they will get themselves where they need to be by the time I type The End. So far, they have managed it very well despite my occasional interference, and I love them for it, warts and all. To balance this, obviously, OCD me keeps a chapter by chapter plan of what has happened with all relevant names, dates, and details with timelines neatly mapped. And that’s procrastinated for another hour. Rosie, my latest heroine, is demanding my attention with good cause. She’s got herself roped into going on strike against the chain masters of the Black Country in August 1910, a wet summer by the way, and she’s worried about how she’ll feed her family, so I’d better go and reassure her that I shan’t let her starve before she loses it completely and lets a long-held and dangerous secret out of the bag.



Amazon Author:

Thank you for reading, and remember to keep breathing. You’d be surprised how often I forget. Discover additional IASD authors:

185,000 readers currently subscribe to the Fussy Librarian’s free ebook newsletter.

Use Code Increase reviews and future sales when you promote your free ebook with The Fussy Librarian! Your book will be listed on our website for each day of your giveaway, even before it appears in our email newsletter. Perma-free books will be listed for two weeks, including on the home page of our website.

Goylake Publishing has teamed-up with the Fussy Librarian and is offering 20% off your first book promotion. To qualify, your book must be either permafree or listed free during the special offer.

20% Off

Listings in our email newsletter include your book’s: Genre Title Book cover One-sentence description Links to retailers

Click Here..

Maybe you’ve already seen the benefits of offering an ebook for free — the influx of reviews from readers who needed that extra nudge to take the plunge on a new author; the rise in sales of other titles; the increase in exposure and name recognition.

Visit Website

By Keith Guernsey It was early 1995 and my girlfriend at the time complained that I was having trouble hearing her. I made light of it telling her I didn't want to be interrupted watching my beloved New England Patriots and do household chores (which I'm lousy at anyway!) Fortunately, she persisted, and the bad news was about to get worse.

After the first several rounds of tests proved inconclusive, my doctor told me that I needed an MRI to see what was really going on. I had never had one, but with all the negative things that I heard about this test I knew it would not be a lot of fun. I remember driving down Route 93, south to Stoneham, MA to see what fate had in store for me. Little did I know that what was about to happen was worse than I ever could have imagined! The very pleasant young technician pointed to a long, cylindrical (and very confining!) tube and said "just hop up on this table and slide on in.” She continued, “You have to hold yourself perfectly still while you hear a constant loud banging. “I asked her how long I would have to do this, and she said 45 minutes. My answer was along the lines of "you are not going to put this big body in that little tube for 45 seconds, never-mind 45 minutes.” I jumped up, thanked her for trying and flew out the door. I called my doctor to report back that an MRI was not going to happen. My Doctor said we had one more option, a CT scan. However, if that didn't work, I must have an MRI. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the scan was conclusive. I had a benign brain tumor called an Acoustic Neuroma on my eighth cranial nerve (left side). I had no idea what any of this medical mumbo jumbo meant, but I knew it wasn't good. I just knew it was time to face the biggest challenge of my life.

The day of the surgery, my Dad was with me, which I found comforting, until I turned to him and saw the panic on his face. It didn't dawn on me just how serious this was until the intake nurse started asking questions about the power of attorney and organ donations. We completed the paperwork in stone cold silence and off I went to be prepped for surgery. Fortunately for me it was quick until the drugs kicked in and I was off to la-la-land.

The next thing I remember is waking up to the very relieved faces of Mom, Dad and my sister Michele. (My girlfriend bowed out as soon as she heard the original diagnosis.) It felt like I had just taken an extremely long nap. It was ten-hours of excruciatingly detailed brain surgery. I was truly blessed to have the best neurosurgeon, Dr. Peter Black, heading up the surgery team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Five days later, I jogged out of the hospital, thinking (naively) that the worst was behind me. Six weeks of recovery passed. Aside from the expected permanent hearing loss in my left ear, I felt great and was ready to go back to work at a job I loved, ad sales at Cahners Publishing in Newton, MA. And I even decided to dip my toe back into the dating pool. I did so with trepidation, but it turned out to be the best decision of my life! Susan and I met through a personal ad in the local newspaper (yes kids they did have those before online dating services, i.e., Match and eHarmony). Shortly after we met, we moved in together. The next chapter of this story turned into another chapter in Grim’s Fairy Tales. At six months, I returned for a routine follow up MRI. After checking the results, Dr. Black came out to the waiting room with a frown on his face. Susan and I knew the results weren’t good. It turns out that while they had removed the entire tumor, they had not killed off the surrounding tumor cells and it had grown back with a vengeance. I asked Dr. Black what would happen if I decided not to have the surgery. His response was very simple, "you will die". The second round of surgery was more complex. They not only had to remove the remnants of the tumor but scrape around it to remove the remaining tumor cells. The resulting headaches prevented me from sitting, standing or lying down. All I was able to do was drown my sorrows in comfort food. I ate and ate until I resembled a cross between the Goodyear Blimp and the Michelin Man. At my doctor’s request and urging by my friends and family, I finally realized it was time to commit to what has become a 20-year return to good health and a healthy lifestyle. Someone much wiser than I once said, "slow and steady wins the race.” I took that advice and slowly began to reshape my thinking and eating habits. I am proud to say that in 1997 Susan and I were married. With her support, cooking healthy meals and many hours in the gym, I lost 140 pounds and reached my high school football playing weight. My new goal is making it to 95 so that I can dance with my lovely bride on our 50th wedding anniversary! Keith D. Guernsey —is retired and living on Lake Lanier with his lovely wife Susan and Zoey, his four-footed daughter . Twitter=@thegurns

– Andy Rooney

The web is a wonderful tool. There’s instant access to a wealth of knowledge on any topic - including Self-Publishing. Here are a few examples to help authors along the way.

Indie Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Which is Best? This article examines some of the best reasons to turn your writing career into a solo act. Authors who work with trad publishers must meet the demands of those publishers. With Indie publishing, the only person you need appease is yourself.

How to Self-Edit Your Manuscript Like a Pro You wrote a novel, well done. Now you can just sit back, put up your feet and wait for the publishers to come knocking. That’s how it works, right? Nope. Your book needs an extensive round of editing — a process that is usually longer and more painful than writing. Keep reading to learn tips on how to proceed.

5 Brands of Horror and How to Use Them Effectively The world is scary. That’s a good thing for horror writers. Let’s examine some of the best brands of horror then analyze ways to use those brands effectively. Okay, Let the ride begin!

YouTube for Authors: How to Market Your Books on YouTube As the book publishing industry moves online more and more every year, it’s important for authors to establish an author platform to market their books to their ideal readers. But how can authors market their books most effectively? Today, I will run through nine ways to market books (primarily genre fiction novels) on YouTube.

Author Nik Grybaski

Nik Grybaski lives in the shadows of the worlds Nik creates. A writer, photographer, baker and gin enthusiast, Nik enjoys nature and watching obscure black and white films. Nik has been writing for many years. Sharing stories but never publishing them, until now. Black Danube came to Nik when he was washing away cat wee from the kitchen floor. To this day Nik does not know how cleaning inspired this book.

1899 Vienna. A young Jewish dissident is murdered, his face mutilated - his fiancĂŠe, the prime suspect. Crime photographer Leo Katz has proof she is not guilty. But to save the innocent woman from the gallows, he risks revealing that he is a fraud and on the run.

As Leo unmasks the sordid network of vice behind the city’s elegant facades, he realises the gruesome death is a smokescreen for more depraved crimes and must bring the killers to justice before he becomes the next target. Grab your copy of this thrilling, murder, mystery now!

Unexpected Threats “Do you have a warrant?” Ethan challenged. “It hasn’t come to that... yet.” Gage issued his own challenge. “But if that’s what you want,” he shrugged as if the idea didn’t bother him at all. “Come in,” Ethan decided. He didn’t have his ring, but he didn’t want trouble and with their history, Gage Clayton just might cause him loads of it. Gage followed the man into a masculine den and settled onto a comfortable leather couch. “Look,” he began. “This can be real easy. You show me the ring, I leave and never bother you with this again.” “And if I don’t?” Ethan asked. “Show you my ring?” “Then you stay on the list and eventually Sheriff Walters or Deputy Carter will pull you in for a formal interrogation.” “It’s that serious?” Ethan asked. “I’m afraid it is,” Gage said, never taking his eyes off the man. Was this about the rivalry or was the man stalling because he didn’t have his ring? If the case went all the way back to high school and a drunken party up the canyon... well, Ethan was certainly a likely suspect. “I’m going to be honest with you,” Ethan decided. “Because I don’t want trouble over this. But, I don’t have the ring.” “What happened to it?” Gage asked. “I lost it,” Ethan admitted. “In a bet. The thing is still here, in town I mean. It’s just not in my possession.” “Can you tell me whose possession it is in?” Gage asked. “If that’s necessary,” Ethan said hesitantly. “But, I will ask that you keep the details confidential. I know, with the... tension between our families that’s unlikely; but, I’m still going to ask. You said this is official business. I hope you can keep personal feelings out of it.” “Mr. Weldon,” Gage focused on the man sitting before him. “Whatever rivalry exists, it is between you and my father. It has nothing to do with me on a personal or professional level. I barely know you, I certainly don’t feel any tension towards you. I’m here about a ring, that’s the extent of it. I’m a deputy in this area and I’m only here to do my job.” “I understand,” Ethan stood and began to pace. “Giles Sullivan has my ring. The insufferable man mounted it in a display case and proudly exhibits it on the mantle in his living room... for all to see.” 95

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “Must have been a pretty good bet,” Gage grinned. Giles was the town drunk. A man that never graduated from high school, let alone played any sports. He was a screw-up, and everyone knew it. The man might display his winnings on his mantle, but he rarely had company so nobody would ever see the item he was so proud of. At least, that should be a small comfort to the man standing before him. “Just my luck, the one and only time Giles ever got lucky and it was my football ring on the line,” Ethan sighed and dropped into a chair across from Gage. “Why didn’t you just win it back?” Gage asked. “He won’t put it on the table,” Ethan scowled. “He always envied those rings, always wanted one. To him, it doesn’t matter that he didn’t earn it. He won it and he’s keeping it.” Ethan stopped the rant he was about to break into and remembered who he was talking to. “Anyway, does that get me off the hook?” “I’ll have to pay a visit to Giles, but if what you told me is correct, you’re off the hook.” Gage stood and started for the door then stopped. “You know, whatever beef you have with my dad... it has nothing to do with me. I never competed with you, never really knew you. Just because I followed my dreams and yours got derailed... well, we all have to accept fate at some point. My career was cut short just like yours, but I don’t blame anyone for it; especially, not the next pro kid fresh out of school and eager to play the game he loves.” “I don’t have a problem with you, Gage,” Ethan admitted. “It’s just every time I see you, I’m reminded of the life I never had. A life you did have. It’s a little hard to get past, so I just turn and head the other way.” “Understood,” Gage nodded before he stepped through the front door and made his way to his vehicle. He’d head over to Giles’ and check out the story. He had time, all his cases were cleared; and so far, nothing pressing had been reported this morning. Gage took the turnoff that led to Giles’ old cabin when he saw the smoke. “Margie, we have a fire,” he said into the microphone. He provided the limited information he had and worked his way toward the black cloud billowing into the clear blue sky. It didn’t take long before the fire truck pulled in behind him. “Take the next right,” Myers, one of the local firefighters said through the radio. “It looks like it’s close to the ridge.” “Copy,” Gage said before taking the turn and accelerating on the hardpacked dirt road. Within minutes, a fully engulfed vehicle came into view.


Unexpected Threats Gage jumped from his car but was stopped by two firemen with hoses attached to their small truck. They worked hard to put out the flames but in the end, the vehicle and all its contents were a total loss. “Gage,” Myers called. “You need to see this. I’m guessing this problem is now yours... and it’s a crime scene. The crispy corpse is going to be difficult to identify and the car’s a total loss. I can’t even make out a VIN.” Gage moved forward to study the body sprawled across the front seat. It was obvious to him, the man... he thought it was a man... had been seated in the passenger side, not the driver’s seat. He rounded the vehicle and peered in the side window. From this angle, it was clear they had a homicide on their hands. There was a big gaping clue in the center of the body’s forehead. He needed assistance on this one. Who better than their resident forensics expert. He pulled out his phone and dialed Paige. *****

Paige studied the vehicle, the body, and the surrounding area for several minutes before she moved forward and began the tedious task of uncovering forensic evidence. Gage had been right, identifying the victim was going to be difficult. She just hoped there were other clues that hadn’t been destroyed in the fire that would help them. The first thing she did was survey the ground next to the driver’s side door for footprints. Unfortunately, the firemen had destroyed any evidence that may have been left when they put out the fire. While she was there, she leaned in and tried to make out the VIN. No luck, the damage was too extensive in the interior of the car to make anything out. Myers informed her an accelerant had been used as a quick and efficient means of destroying the man and any potential evidence that might have been left in the vehicle. With a sigh, she moved away from the car. She wouldn’t disturb anything until Gage returned with a warrant. In the meantime, she’d fan out and see what she could find. If she got lucky, the perp parked close by and left something she could follow up on while they waited for the ME to work his magic. She was several feet away from the vehicle when she spotted the tire tracks. They looked like truck tires to her. They were certainly too large to be from a compact car like the one used to conceal the victim’s body. She pulled her camera from her bag and began to take several shots. The threads might be impossible to track, but at least she’d found a clue. Paige glanced up when she heard the sound of an approaching vehicle. Gage swung out of the car, paused to glance around and headed straight for Paige. “Got the warrant,” he said holding up a stack of papers. “Let’s see if we can locate a usable VIN.” 97

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “With the accelerant, the inside is going to be toast.” Paige joined her colleague and the two of them moved to the front of the vehicle. “Let’s check the engine block. The front doesn’t look as damaged as the interior.” “Yeah,” Gage agreed and tried to release the hood. After several tugs, it finally popped opened and the two deputies peered inside. “Myers and Holt did their best to keep the fire from reaching the engine and the gas tank. A few minutes later and the damage would have been much worse. Give me your flashlight, I think I can make out the last few digits.” Paige handed over her light and waited for Gage. He shifted, pulled out a rag and wiped away the blackened crust that was coating the entire car. “It looks like a zero, nine, one, eight, six,” Gage straightened. “I can’t make out the letter proceeding the numbers, could be an N, could be an H.” “That should help,” Paige brightened. “Can you read the first numbers or letters? We know it starts with a one but if we can get the next two, we can identify the manufacturer. With the beginning and ending numbers, we’ll be able to track the vehicle to a current owner.” “Right,” Gage leaned back under the hood and shone the light in front of the engine block again. “Looks like a one, the second digit is either a C or a G and then another one.” “That helps,” Paige jotted down the letters and numbers. “How?” Myers moved forward and asked the two deputies. ly.

“Because it tells us that the vehicle is an American made car, that’s the one,” Gage said absent-

“And the second letter is the manufacturer,” Paige continued. “Gage said a C or a G. That means the car is either a Chrysler or a Chev.” “It’s a Chevy Cruze,” Myers told her. “I can see that without a VIN.” “And we have the last five, possibly six digits,” Gage added. “Which will identify the vehicle. Now we just plug the info into the DMV database and find our listing. Once we identify the vehicle, we have an RO... registered owner.” “It’s called investigating,” Paige grinned. “Technically, I only need the last six numbers to identify the owner.” “What if the car’s stolen?” Myers asked. “Then we’ve got nothing,” Gage said soberly. “So, let’s hope it’s not stolen.” 98

Unexpected Threats Paige moved to the driver’s side of the vehicle and pulled open the door. She had to press the button three times, but the trunk finally opened. “Let’s see what we have in the back.” Myers and Gage followed her and glanced inside. “Is that some kind of safe?” Gage asked. “Yeah,” Paige slipped on a pair of gloves and tried to open the lid. No luck. “Any ideas?” “Nope,” Gage shrugged. “Let’s see if we can track down the RO then we can go from there. We might get lucky and find the safe belongs with the car and the owner can gain access for us. Otherwise, we’ll just have to break the lock and go from there.” “I’m all for breaking the lock now,” Paige lifted the compact box out of the trunk. She moved to her own vehicle, pulled out a small toolbox and returned to the safe. Within minutes, she had the lid open and the contents revealed. The instant she saw the note, she stood and made a second pass around the vehicle. When she reached the passenger’s side, she opened the door, crouched down and studied the body intently. “What does it mean?” Gage asked when she returned. “It means someone thinks we’re stupid,” Paige grumbled. “And they want us to believe our prime suspect is my neighbor.” “It’s a pretty clean frame job,” Gage agreed. “I mean, the bullet through the forehead... Dax is an excellent shot and he has military experience. There’s no question he could pull that off. The tire tracks, bet they match Hamilton’s truck and the note with his name and address, just in case we missed the rest. How do you want to play this one?” “Meaning?” Paige turned to Gage, accusation evident in her glare. “Meaning,” Gage said casually. “We both know Dax didn’t do this, but we have to talk to him anyway. We have to establish an alibi, get a statement on the record, you know... investigate the crime.” “We don’t need Dax to establish an alibi,” Paige disagreed. “Because I’m his alibi. Dax was with me all night. And, we were both sitting at my kitchen table having breakfast when the real suspect started this fire. I’m pretty sure Dax couldn’t have a better alibi if he tried. He wasn’t out here in the middle of nowhere killing this man and setting his car on fire because he was with one of the police officers investigating the homicide.” Gage grinned. “Epic fail and the perp should have known that.” “Which tells me we’re not dealing with a local,” Paige surmised. “I will need to talk to Dax, but I need to contact Nathan first.” 99

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “The general?” Gage asked, perplexed. “Yes,” Paige nodded. “Because I’d lay odds, this has something to do with that top secret committee he’s running and if I’m right, Dax won’t be able to discuss it anyway.”


“Hello, Paige,” Nathan answered the ringing phone. “Nathan,” Paige said flatly. “Are you busy?” “Actually, I am.” “Can it wait?” Paige pressed. “I have a dead body that is clearly a homicide and someone wants me to believe Dax is my prime suspect.” “What?” Nathan stood and left the room. “Do you know who it was? Who is dead?” “Not yet,” Paige admitted. “The victim was shot, there are signs he may have been tortured, and then he was set on fire. I’d say someone went to a lot of trouble to make sure I can’t identify my victim.” “What points to Dax?” “For starters,” Paige sighed. “A safe in the trunk with Hamilton’s name and address. Then there’s the envelope with some kind of top-secret mission summary. I assume that will point to Dax as well. Tire tracks that match his pickup truck and a bullet hole in the center of the man’s forehead, put there by a .40 caliber handgun. I know it’s a forty because they left the casing on the back floorboard just in case I’m stupid and didn’t connect everything else. You know, the very same caliber Dax never leaves home without. Do you need me to continue?” “You don’t believe Dax had anything to do with this, do you?” Nathan asked. He knew he shouldn’t be having this conversation on his cell phone but he needed the basics, then he could decide what to do about it.

“No,” Paige sighed. “Whoever did this, they’re not from around here. The locals would know to check and see if Dax was with me before they tried to frame him for murder.” “You can rule him out because he was with you when this happened?” Nathan said in relief. “Exactly,” Paige confirmed. “So, what are you guys working on that would make someone want Dax out of the way?” 100

Unexpected Threats “What makes you think this has anything to do with me?” Nathan evaded. “Cut the crap, General,” Paige said in irritation. “I need to know what I’m dealing with here.” “I need to call you back,” Nathan decided. They’d said enough already.

“Don’t shut me out,” Paige argued. “I’ll call when I can but it won’t be on this phone,” he disconnected and hoped Paige got the message. Paige frowned and stared at her phone. Something was wrong. Did Nathan think his phone was bugged? If so, this might be bigger than she originally believed. She started to slide her phone into her pocket but changed her mind. Pulling it back out, she dialed Dax. “Hey,” Dax said in greeting.

“I need to talk to you,” Paige was worried. Whoever had done this was still out there and Dax could be in danger. “What’s wrong?” “The body Gage called me out on this morning?” Paige turned and walked away from the group. “Well, someone is trying to frame you for the murder. The evidence is piling up and it all points to you. I think someone wants you out of commission.” “Who is it?”

“I don’t know,” Paige leaned against the trunk of an old tree. “But he had your name and address in the car when he died, there are tire tracks that will match your truck and he was shot in the forehead with a forty cal.” “I see,” Dax considered. There had to be more. Sure, that all pointed to him but if this was a frame job there had to be more. “What else?” “There are signs of torture,” Paige said softly. “He’s missing both pointer fingers, which will also make it impossible to get prints. His femur was fractured and so are a couple ribs. Any other evidence was destroyed in the fire.” “And?” Dax pressed. There had to be something else pointing to him. “And I found an operation summary in a safe, a fireproof safe left in the trunk. Someone wanted to make sure I found your information, a bullet casing and the summary,” Paige confided. “Does it identify the op?” 101

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “Only by name,” Paige told him. “Operation White Scorpion.” ter.”

“Shit,” Dax sighed. “Yeah, that was one of mine. Let me call you back. I need to talk to Por-

“He just hung up on me,” Paige advised. “Hopefully, you can get more than I did. And, I expect the two of you to fill me in later tonight. I have to know what’s going on here, Dax. We know you didn’t do this because you were with me when it happened; but if I’m going to identify my victim and find the murderer, I need the truth.” “Has Nathan ever hung up on you before?” “No,” Paige said, worried. “He hasn’t been himself lately and I got the impression he’s worried his phone is being monitored. Is that possible?” “Anything is possible,” Dax decided. “Be careful, I’ll tell you what I can when you get home tonight. Give me some time to do some digging. I have a few contacts of my own. That mission was top secret, Paige. Nobody should have a copy of the summary. If that got out, we have a leak at the Pentagon.” “Do you think it’s connected with the committee?” Paige was growing more concerned by the minute. And now, she was worried about her favorite general in addition to her boyfriend. “Maybe,” Dax ran a hand through his hair in frustration. What was going on here? He needed answers and he wasn’t going to get them from Paige. “Give me a few hours. Stop by the house when you’re done for the night and we’ll talk. I’ll tell you everything I can.” “Okay,” Paige agreed. She didn’t like it, but she also knew there were things Dax couldn’t share. She’d have to accept anything he was willing to give her. “It’s going to be late, I have a lot to deal with here before we can even remove the vehicle.” “I’ll see you tonight,” Dax said. “Be careful and even if it’s late, come to my house when you’re finished. We need to talk.” “I will,” Paige promised before disconnecting the call. Dax sounded worried, which terrified her. Dax never sounded worried. He was a warrior. If this upset him, it was big and it was dangerous. Paige took a minute to compose herself, then returned to the vehicle and got to work.


Dax was still trying to get answers several hours later when a brisk knock sounded on his front door. He closed down his computer and moved to the window. A man in a suit stood stoically on 102

Unexpected Threats his front porch. He took a second to glance at the stairway, hoping his friend didn’t try to intervene if there was trouble. Zee was nearly recovered, but an altercation could be a setback. When he didn’t see his friend, he moved forward and pulled open the door. “Maddax Hamilton?” the man flashed an open wallet then quickly slammed it shut. Dax got a good enough glimpse to recognize Homeland Security’s blue and grey shield. This was getting interesting. “Yes.” “I’m Agent Williams,” he held out a hand. Dax studied the man’s profile, then glanced around. Where was the guy’s partner? These guys never traveled alone. He immediately decided William’s wasn’t who he claimed to be. He glanced at the outstretched hand but ignored it. “There’s been an incident,” Williams lowered his hand. “I’ll need you to come with me immediately.”


Zeus heard the knock and moved to the window to see who had come calling. Nobody they knew would knock on the front door that way. He instantly spotted a nondescript black car with a male occupant, but he couldn’t see the guy’s face. He pulled out his phone and snapped a photo of the vehicle. That’s when he heard voices in the main living area. Apparently, the man’s partner was the one who had knocked. Zeus silently made his way out of his room and down the hallway. He paused at the top of the stairs and snapped another photo of the man speaking with Dax. That’s when he heard the demand. “It’s not a request, Mr. Hamilton,” the angry man insisted. “We can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way. You need to come with me.” “I assume you have a warrant,” Zeus stepped forward and casually leveled his gun on the edge of the railing. “Otherwise, I’m afraid Mr. Hamilton respectfully declines your invitation.” “This isn’t over,” Williams seethed. “You want a warrant? I’ll come back with a warrant. Your friend there... he just chose the hard way.” The agent yanked open the door and slammed it shut behind him. “What was that about?” Zeus descended the stairs and settled in on the couch.


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “I’m not sure,” Dax frowned. “Something is going on here and I don’t like it.” Zeus straightened. “Meaning?” “Paige is working a homicide,” Dax informed his friend. “And someone is trying to frame me for the murder. Now this,” he pointed to the door. “I’m not convinced that guy works for Homeland.” “What aren’t you telling me?” Zeus pressed. “Paige found something at the scene,” Dax evaded. “Something that should be classified at the highest level. Something that never should have left the Pentagon.” Zeus studied his friend. “But you can’t tell me about it?” “It’s above your pay grade,” Dax said absently and began to pace. “Carmen’s been spooked lately and now this. We’re missing something and I think Porter knows more than he’s sharing.” “What do you want to do about it?” “I’m worried about your girlfriend,” Dax admitted. “Go, now. Pick up Carmen and bring her back here. I need to make some calls. Once I have answers, we’ll put our heads together and see what we come up with. I need Carmen anyway, she’s got the tech skills to sniff out our snitch.” “You want Carmen to hack the Pentagon?” Zeus said in shock. “I might,” Dax studied his friend. “Do you have a problem with that?” “Only if you get her thrown in prison,” Zeus decided. “I have faith in our girl,” Dax told him. “You might try it sometime. She’s a keeper and if you take her for granted much longer, you just might lose her.” “We’re not having this discussion,” Zeus stood. “I’ll get Carmen; but if she says no to the hacking, the answer is no.” “She won’t say no,” Dax said confidently. “Go pick her up and come right back. If you’re not here in an hour, I’m going to come looking. We’ll figure out a plan for dinner once we’re all here.” “We’ll be back,” Zeus promised. Carmen lived less than five minutes away. He had plenty of time to discuss the problem before Dax confronted her with his request.

***** 104

Unexpected Threats Dax was about to make another call when there was a faint knock on his door. He set the phone down in frustration, so far he had more questions than answers. When he peeked through the window, he spotted the delivery truck pulling away. He cautiously opened the door and spotted the package on his doorstep. One glance at the address and he relaxed. He wasn’t sure what Nathan had sent him, but it would have to wait. He had one more call to make before Zee got back. He placed the box on the coffee table and made his way to his room. Minutes later, he had the satellite phone activated and operational. “Dalia,” Dax said in greeting. “It’s me, Dax Hamilton. I need some information.” Dalia hesitated. “I need to verify.” “The scorpion has left the desert,” Dax said without hesitation. “He lives in the castle in the air,” Dalia responded. “Are you alone?” Dax asked. “Can you talk?” “Quickly,” Dalia said urgently. “What is it?” “Can you confirm the location of the scorpion?” “No,” Dalia frowned. “He said he was coming to you. He really has left the desert. Have you not seen him? He...” Dax heard muffled voices and realized Dalia must have placed a hand over the mouth piece. Seconds later she returned. “I must go,” she warned. “He was bringing the details to you. If he didn’t make it... he must be dead. I can’t talk now. Find the scorpion.” Dax ended the call, shut down the phone and secured it with the rest of his military gear. He slowly made his way to the living room and settled in to wait for Carmen and Zee. Worry engulfed him, but he tried to push it away. Dalia Abadi-Basara was still living in Iraq. She was still working with the US troops and under protection. Other than Ahmed, she was the only local Dax trusted. And, Ahmed Al-Hashim was like a ghost. He had no home, no means in which he could be contacted by the outside world, no family left, no friends and no way to confirm his status... alive or dead. Ahmed would have a handler, of course. A Ranger that had replaced Dax when he retired. A soldier that didn’t know Ahmed’s identity but knew how to retrieve the valuable information Ahmed uncovered. But if Ahmed had traveled in secret to the US hoping to deliver information to Dax in person, the Kurdish militant didn’t trust the man assigned to receive the Intel. 105

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 What did Ahmed know? And why hadn’t he made contact? Was it too dangerous? Did someone follow him? Did the man that had come by the house earlier have something to do with the mystery? Of that, Dax was positive. Unfortunately, everything else was a mystery. He still had more questions than answers. But Ahmed’s presence did tell him one thing. Another attack was brewing... a plot that was huge and imminent. Nothing else would force Ahmed out of his homeland. There was no other explanation, no other reason Ahmed would travel to Manti to meet up with Dax after all this time. He just wished he’d had a chance to see his friend one more time. Because deep in his gut, Dax knew the dead body Paige was trying to identify was the brave, selfless militant Dax had come to respect years ago. The man who had been tortured, shot and set on fire was Ahmed Al-Hashim. And, he had died before he completed his mission.


Carmen and Zeus stepped through the front door carrying Chinese takeout. “We brought dinner,” Carmen declared before Dax could say anything. “And, I want food before we discuss hacking, law-breaking and mayhem.” Dax forced a smile and stood. “Let’s eat in the kitchen.” “You okay?” Zeus asked once they settled in for the meal. “You seem upset, did something happen while I was gone?” “No,” Dax brushed him off. “I’m fine. Let’s talk about it after the meal.” The group was just cleaning up when a knock sounded at the door. “You two stay here,” Dax turned and started for the door. “I mean it. No matter what happens, stay here.” Carmen looked at Zeus, panic evident in her eyes. “Get in the pantry,” Zeus ordered. “Don’t come out, no matter what. Do what Dax said. I need to see who it is.”

“Zeus,” Carmen protested. “Hurry,” Zeus gave her a little push, relieved when she did what he asked. He moved cautiously into the doorway but couldn’t see a thing. He waited, listening carefully to see if he recognized the visitor. When he couldn’t make anything out, he moved forward and made his way down the short hallway that led to the living area. Zeus paused, positioning his body so Dax could see him, but the man in the doorway couldn’t. He knew the instant Dax registered his presence. 106

Unexpected Threats “I told you before... I’m not going anywhere with you,” Dax said soberly. “I haven’t changed my mind.” “And I told you,” Williams said through gritted teeth. “We have some questions. You will need to come with us so we can clear things up. A man is dead, Mr. Hamilton. We believe you know something about that.” “You would be wrong,” Dax took a step back and to the side. He positioned his body so the man calling himself an agent couldn’t see his left arm. “Where is your partner?” “What?” Williams asked. “I’m not an idiot,” Dax gave Zeus the hand signal to remain in position. “If you work for Homeland Security, you have a partner. Where is he? Protocol dictates that the two of you confront me together. You aren’t allowed to take a suspect into custody alone. Unless I see your partner, I’m calling the cops.” Williams narrowed his eyes at his target and considered his options. The instant Dax saw his partner, he’d know they weren’t with Homeland. But, if he didn’t comply, the guy was going to call in the locals and things would get complicated. He didn’t have a choice, he had to call in Nassar. He pulled out his phone and pressed speed dial. Williams turned and had a brief, muffled conversation then straightened and quietly waited. Within seconds, there was a knock on the door. Williams pulled it open and stepped back to reveal his companion. Dax shouldn’t have been surprised, but he was. Never in his wildest dreams would Dax have imagined a time when Fakhir Nassar would be standing in his living room. The man was a thug. A high-level terrorist wanted by more than a dozen organizations nationally, and even more internationally. How in the world, did a man on every watch list imaginable enter the US without detection? And why? Ahmed must have discovered something big, something this man wanted hidden. And, he was desperate enough to risk apprehension and imprisonment to retrieve it. Or was it Ahmed that he wanted? If anyone realized what Ahmed was doing, if they learned he was a spy... it was a distinct possibility. But if it was just Ahmed they were after, Nassar would be in the wind already. No, Ahmed was here to deliver Intel and Nassar was here to make sure the data never saw the light of day. “Fakhir,” Dax said calmly hoping Zeus would follow orders and just take notes. “It is time to go,” Nassar said. “Or would you like me to talk to the woman next door instead?” Zeus took a step forward but stopped when Dax gave him the signal to back down and contact command. Who was he supposed to contact? They didn’t have a command, they were retired. 107

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 Nassar moved forward, his steps deliberate and calculated. Dax remained frozen in place studying the enemy’s movement closely. He was ready for the attack, but still couldn’t prevent it. Nassar flicked his wrist and a tiny dart lodged into Dax’s throat. Dax reached up and pulled out the offending object, understanding it was too late. Whatever had been on the tip of the dart, was now in his system. He couldn’t prevent his own abduction, but he could protect Zee and Carmen. He could protect Paige. He wouldn’t resist, hopefully that would buy them some time. He sent Zee one last command then let Nassar and Williams escort him across the room, out the front door and into a waiting vehicle. Zeus slammed his fist into the wall in frustration. He’d never disobeyed an order from his team leader before and he wasn’t about to start now. But, he could gather Intel before they disappeared. He pulled out his phone and snapped a shot of this Fakhir guy. Then, he stepped onto the front porch, making sure he remained hidden in the darkness and snapped another shot of the vehicle. Then another. He kept snapping pictures until the vehicle backed out of the driveway and disappeared. “What happened?” Carmen demanded when Zeus stepped back into the house. “They got Dax,” he said soberly. “Why didn’t you stop them?” “He ordered me not to.” Screw command, Zeus decided. He was calling in reinforcements.

“Zeus,” Carmen practically screamed. “What are we going to do about Dax?” “I’m calling in the team,” he told her while he continued to punch in numbers, then silently waited for the call to connect. “Hey, Zeus,” Hawk said in greeting. Surprise and joy radiated from his voice. “Dax was just abducted,” Zeus advised. “I need help.” Hawk pushed away from his chair and left the restaurant where he was enjoying a rare night out with friends. “Tell me what you know.” Zeus filled him in on both visits. “I’m calling in Ken. He’s living in Nephi now so it shouldn’t take long for him to get here.” “The rest of us will be there as soon as we can,” Hawk promised. “Will Porter talk?”


Unexpected Threats “Probably not to me,” Zeus admitted. “But I think he’ll talk to Carmen. I’ll have her try his cell.” “Keep comms to a minimum,” Hawk ordered. “I’ll bring some burners. We don’t know how deep this goes or what we’re dealing with. I don’t want to risk it.” “I agree,” Zeus told him. Once he disconnected, he called in Kenny then he turned to address Carmen. “We’re going to your house. I need you to gather up all your computer equipment and bring it back here. I’m not letting you out of my sight until this is over and I think we might need you on this. Dax said something about hacking the Pentagon. Do you have a problem with that?” Carmen grinned. “Not at all. But, I think we need to call Paige. She should know about this.” “Dax asked her to stop by after work,” Zeus took her hand and pulled her out the door. “She said she’d be late so if we hurry, we’ll be back before she gets home. We’ll talk to her in person. That man threatened her before he took Dax. I have to believe it’s the only reason Hamilton went willingly. Well, that and the poisonous dart the prick flicked without warning.” “Poisonous dart?” Carmen gulped. “I didn’t see that part.” “You shouldn’t have seen any of it,” Zeus scolded. “I asked you to wait in the pantry.” “And Dax asked you to wait in the pantry,” Carmen countered. “I guess neither one of us is all that good at following stupid orders.”


Dax woke to discover he was in some kind of warehouse and he was tied to a large, metal table. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on each of his senses. He could smell freshly cut hay from the open window and he could hear crickets chirping in the distance. Okay, it was still night time. He hadn’t been out long. Unless he’d been out twenty-four hours, but he didn’t think that was the case. Something moved in a nearby room, a chair? Maybe a table. He could hear two voices... Fakhir and the man calling himself Williams. That was a crock, the guy didn’t work for Homeland Security any more than Dax did. He forced his body to relax and focused on the voices. Fakhir was angry about something, a shipment hadn’t come in. Could this have something to do with the cop’s murder in Chicago? The ties Carmen found to New Orleans? Maybe it was all connected. Maybe his involvement in Porter’s committee was the reason he’d been taken and this didn’t have anything to do with Ahmed. 109

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 And, maybe pigs really did fly. It was all connected and Dax was more convinced than ever that the body Paige was working belonged to the obstinate Iraqi militant. And within a matter of minutes, Dax would learn firsthand just what methods of persuasion the duo had used on his friend. He’d been tortured before and lived through it. He could survive again... maybe. This time he was dealing with Fakhir – a man that might just behead him and move on. But the man must need something and that gave Dax leverage. As long as those two believed he had what they wanted, he was in control. He planned to use that to his advantage. “I’m glad to see you are awake,” Fakhir stepped through the door. “The chemical on the tip of the dart was temporary but believe me when I tell you, it could easily be permanent. I am going to ask you some questions. You are going to give me the answers I seek. Then I will kill you quickly. We both win as long as you tell the truth.” Dax remained silent. “You understand, yes?” Dax still didn’t answer. Fakhir shook his head, displeased. “We’ll do this your way then.” He pulled out a cattle prod and pressed the end against Dax’s side, under his ribs and held it for several seconds. Dax’s body jerked upwards involuntarily. He clamped down, relaxed his muscles and rode out the pain. It wasn’t the first time this tactic had been used on him but Fakhir didn’t need to know that. “Now we talk, yes?” Fakhir asked. Dax studied the ceiling, wondering if he could remove one of the tiles and escape from above. Fakhir mumbled in Arabic and once again forced electricity into Dax’s side. The man would cooperate, eventually. They all succumbed in the end.


Paige pulled into her driveway, tired, frustrated and hungry. She glanced toward her neighbor’s house, wondering if she should bother him tonight or wait for morning. She was surprised to see a strange Lincoln Navigator parked behind Dax’s truck. She shoved open her door and took two steps toward the house when her neighbor’s front door flew open and Carmen raced toward her. Before she knew what was happening, her friend had her tangled in a huge bear hug. 110

Unexpected Threats “Hey,” Paige stumbled back a step. “What’s this about?” Carmen released Paige, took her hand and pulled her toward Dax’s open door without answering. The men inside were driving her nuts. It was hard to breathe through all the testosterone and ego currently contained inside the ancient home. But the worst part was not knowing if Paige had been abducted, too. She’d called Nathan Porter a million times and still hadn’t heard back from her boss. Her friends were in danger and there was nothing she could do about it. Paige stepped into the living room and froze. There were five buff, somber, unfriendly faces staring at her. Well, four... Zeus was still friendly. He jumped to his feet and moved to stand next to her. “Hey, everyone,” he wrapped an arm around Paige’s shoulder. “This is Paige Carter and she belongs to Dax.” Paige frowned. “Actually, I don’t belong to anyone. I do however, date the man in question. Where is Dax, anyway?” “She doesn’t know?” Hawk glared at Zeus. “Know what?” “You need to come in and sit down,” Carmen wrapped an arm around Paige’s waist and maneuvered her to a lounge chair.

“Carmen, what’s going on?” Paige asked setting the file that contained everything she knew about her current case on the coffee table in front of her. “Where is Dax?” “He’s been abducted,” Zeus said, kneeling in front of Paige and taking her hands in his. “Two men claiming they worked for Homeland Security came by. They said they needed to question him about a dead body.” He glanced at the file Paige had brought with her. “I’m guessing probably that case.” “Wait,” Paige pushed Zeus away and leaned forward. “Homeland isn’t investigating my murder. Why do you think they are connected? And if Dax is with Homeland Security, he hasn’t been abducted.” “We don’t think they are Homeland,” Carmen moved to a folding table that held her computer, printer and other tech equipment Paige couldn’t begin to identify. “Zeus was able to take pictures before they left. Here’s the vehicle, we ran the plate and it’s not government issued. Here’s the first man, he called himself Agent Williams but I’ve identified him as William Broadbent. He doesn’t have a criminal record, in fact he was squeaky clean until now.” 111

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “Meaning?” Paige wheezed out. She could barely breathe. Two men claiming to be Homeland Security had taken Dax... right on the heels of another man being tortured and killed. That couldn’t be a coincidence. What was Dax going through at this very minute? “Meaning,” Hawk stepped forward. “Carmen also identified the second man,” he dropped another photo on the table in front of her. “Fakhir Nassar.” “Fakhir...” Paige stood, ran from the room and lunged into the bathroom. She knew who Fakhir Nassar was and knowing he had taken Dax made her physically ill. She dropped to the floor and dry heaved for several minutes before she finally stood and rinsed her mouth. She stared at her reflection in the mirror for several seconds and gave herself a silent pep talk before she pushed open the door and returned to the group. “Who are you?” she demanded of the men as she dropped back into a chair. “Oh,” Zeus moved to the chair next to Paige and took her hand. “This is our unit. Dax’s unit, I should say. That’s Hawk,” he pointed to the intimidating man that had provided Fakhir’s name. “He’s our second... in command. And, you know Ken over there.” “Hey, Paige,” Ken said soberly. “And that’s Thor,” Zeus pointed to a giant in jeans and a t-shirt that hugged his muscles and would probably fit the Hulk. “And, that guy over there is Jeeves.” Zeus finished, pointing to the corner. “Why are you here?” Paige asked, confused.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Hawk asked. “Dax is missing, we’re here to find him.” “But...” Paige looked around. “Wait, how long ago was he taken?” “A few hours,” Carmen said quietly. “Hours!” Paige erupted. “Has anyone called Nathan?” “I tried,” Carmen rushed forward. “I’ve left him at least a dozen messages but he’s not returning my calls.”

Paige reached into her purse and dialed the general. “Paige,” Porter answered, clearly agitated. “I said I’d call when I could. I don’t have any answers for you. Just hang tight until morning.” “Dax is missing,” Paige got out before her eyes began to water. She knew telling Nathan would make it all real. 112

Unexpected Threats “I sent you a present,” Nathan responded. “I wasn’t sure if you’d be home so I had it delivered to Dax. Why don’t you open it up tonight and we’ll talk about it in the morning?” Paige stared at the phone in horrified shock. She’d just told Nathan Dax was missing and he wanted her to open a present? Then it hit her. “Did Dax get something in the mail from Nathan?” She glared at Zeus. “Not that I know of,” he began to frantically look around the room. “Yes,” Carmen said, jumping to her feet and rushing into the kitchen. She returned with a small box addressed to Dax Hamilton with a return address that she didn’t recognize but it had Nathan Porter’s name on it. “It’s a little weird, the address is wrong so I put it in the kitchen.” Paige snatched up the box, pulled out a pocket knife and sliced through the packing tape. Inside were two cell phones and a card. She yanked out the card and read it out loud. “Dax, I’ll explain everything. Keep one of the phones and give the other to Carmen. I need your help. The instant you receive this package, call me. I took the liberty of programming my number for you. Just speed dial one. Anxious to hear from you. NP.” She pressed one for several seconds then waited as it dialed a number she didn’t recognize. Nathan answered on the first ring. “Tell me what you know about Dax,” he said in greeting. “I’m putting you on speaker,” Paige advised before pressing the button and setting the phone on the coffee table. Her file fell to the ground, the contents spreading out across the floor. “I’m here with Carmen and a bunch of guys I don’t know,” Paige advised. “They say they belonged to his Ranger unit.” Hawk moved forward and studied the contents of the file Paige had knocked to the ground. He crouched and retrieved a photo of a man he knew well. “Why do you have this photo?” “What?” Paige asked absently, then lunged forward and snatched up her documents. “That’s police business and not something I can discuss.” “What’s going on?” Nathan demanded. “Blaze Hawthorne here, sir,” Hawk moved forward. “We have a situation and I think it just got more complicated.” “Paige called me this morning,” Nathan advised. “I believe my phone is being monitored and the conversation we had may be the reason Dax is in trouble.” “It’s worse than you think,” Carmen provided. “Zeus was able to snap pictures of the men that 113

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 took Dax. They gained entry by claiming they worked for Homeland Security but they don’t. The first man was William Broadbent and our suspicions about him are now confirmed. He’s working with the enemy. The second man, the one that shot Dax with some kind of medicated dart was Fakhir Nassar. I’ve confirmed it, sir. The pictures match.” “What in the hell is Nassar doing in Utah?” Nathan demanded. “How did he enter the United States for that matter? He should have been identified immediately and detained.” “I think I know,” Hawk said quietly. “But I’m unable to discuss it at this time. In fact, I’m not sure I could even discuss it with you in private. My information is still highly classified.” “I’ve read through the file, the op plan, the details of Operation White Scorpion,” Nathan told him. “If we need to discuss that mission, I’ve been completely read in as of an hour ago.” “That makes things easier,” Hawk relaxed. He grabbed the phone off the table and left the room. on.”

“Anyone know what that was about?” Ken asked. “I’ve never heard of Operation White Scorpi-

The room erupted in conversation. Nobody seemed to know anything about the mission. No one but her. Paige reached into her file and pulled out the summary. “I do.” “What?” Thor barked. “How?” “Because this document was left at the murder scene on a case I’ve been investigating all day,” she held up the document. “While Rambo in there talks to the good general, let me read you a story.” Paige cleared her throat and began to read. When she finished, the room was silent. Jeeves was the first to speak. “Okay, so Hawk and Dax cultivated an informant. One that was able to gain access to top-level Al Qaeda operatives. How does that play into this?” “It plays,” Hawk said joining the group. “Because our informant is dead. Paige found his body this morning.” “How...” Paige began. “And if anyone asks, I didn’t just tell you that,” Hawk lowered himself into a chair and studied Paige. “I don’t know you but the general ordered me to read you in.” He turned to face Carmen. “He said you have a higher clearance level than me, but again... I don’t know you.” “Hawk,” Zeus locked eyes with his friend. “I know them both and I’ll vouch for them. I can see Porter already did. Paige might not have clearance, but she’s solid. And she’s working the case for the locals. But honestly, none of that matters. She’s in love with our leader and the feeling is mutual. Read her in.” 114

Unexpected Threats The two men stared at each other for several seconds before Hawk looked away. He glanced around the room, stopping on each of his men before moving on. “I trust each of you with my life and with my secrets. I know without a doubt every man in this room would lie, without hesitation, if anyone asked if I shared top-secret information with them.” He turned to face Carmen, then Paige. “Would you?” “Lie?” Carmen asked. “Absolutely, because this runs deeper than even you know. And before I came out here, my boss told me I should deny everything if cornered by anyone. And since my clearance is higher than yours, Mr. Hawthorne, I know more about the situation we’re dealing with than you do. In my opinion, if anyone asks... they’re working for the enemy and can’t be trusted. So, hell yeah, I’d lie... and I’d enjoy doing it.” Hawk couldn’t help it, he smiled. “What about you?” Paige studied the man sitting before her. She didn’t know him either and she wasn’t entirely sure she could trust him. “Lie to who?” “Wrong answer,” Hawk stood and started to leave the room. Paige grinned. “You know, trust is a two-way street. How do I know I can trust you to keep the information to yourself if asked?” “Fair enough,” Hawk returned. “Yeah, I’d lie. You want to know why?” “I do,” Paige never blinked. The man was trying to exert his authority over her and it wasn’t going to work. They were in her town, and a madman was currently torturing the man she loved. She did love Dax. They’d never said it out loud, never expressed their feelings that way, but she loved him and she would do anything if it helped her get him back alive. “Because Dax is more than a team leader,” Hawk told her. “Each and every man in this room would go to the wall for that man. We’d do it without hesitation and without reservation. We’d do it because Dax Hamilton has literally saved the lives of every one of us at one time or another. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for him. Even if that means breaking my oath to this country and disclosing highly classified information to my team and a local deputy who doesn’t come close to having the necessary clearance to know the details.” “Who is the man in the photo?” Paige asked. “You don’t know?” Hawk asked. “No,” Paige admitted. “We tracked the vehicle, it was a rental. The man was obviously using a fake name, but we were able to locate the cabin he’d been living out of through his financial 115

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 records. The name is fake, but it’s good and he’s not stealing the money as far as we can tell. He opened the account himself. That photo was captured from a video at the car rental agency. We’re still trying to put a name... a real name, with the face.” “Ahmed Al-Hashim,” Hawk provided. His expression went cold. “And if those two men killed him, they will pay dearly for their crime.” “I’m not sure what that means, but first we have to find them,” Paige studied Hawk. He made her uncomfortable and she wasn’t entirely sure she could live with his idea of justice. She knew Dax was a seasoned military operative. She knew he was Special Forces, just like her father. But, Dax was compassionate and good. This man... he was hardened and cold. If Nathan told her to trust him, she would but she wondered if she could live with the means he used to get to the end. “Can you tell us about Ahmed?” Zeus asked. “Why do you think he came here?” “Ahmed was a good, honorable man,” Hawk began. “He lived a fairly good life with his wife and his young son. I think the boy was eight when a group of soldiers entered his village and slaughtered over fifty innocent, unarmed families. That is when Ahmed vowed he would get revenge. He was Kurdish, but he pretended to be Sunni. It was easy enough, records in Iraq are nonexistent. He traveled for days to join their fight. Risked everything and convinced them he was on their side. Nobody knew he was part of the village they had destroyed days earlier. Nobody knew him at all. He had skills he learned as part of the Kurdish resistance, which allowed him to move up the ranks of this new army. Soon, he was meeting with top-level men. Terrorists that were responsible for horrific attacks. Most were individuals the FBI had on their most wanted list. The DOD did the same. One day Ahmed was shopping in a haji mart when American soldiers entered the area, accompanied by their Kurdish translators. Dax just happened to be in the group and the man assigned to his unit was a distant relative of Ahmed’s. Dax never told me what happened that day, but from what I gathered... he was injured saving Ahmed’s life. Somehow, miraculously Ahmed was also able to maintain his cover. The two of them developed a friendship. The meetings were coordinated by Ahmed’s cousin under the cover of darkness. All contact was kept secret from both sides. Dax insisted on it. He wanted to make sure when he left, Ahmed would be safe.” “What happened?” Jeeves asked. “Ahmed funneled information to Dax. Dax developed and carried out op plans in a way that protected Ahmed but stopped the enemy. It worked and over the next year we took down a lot of bad guys,” Hawk reminisced. “Then Ahmed came across something big. The operation that took down the towers was so successful, they wanted an encore.” “And you guys stopped it,” Thor nodded. “Operation White Scorpion.” 116

Unexpected Threats “Yes,” Hawk agreed. “And still, nobody ever knew Ahmed was involved. We protected that man’s identity. Paige just read you the summary. His name is never mentioned. There are only two people on earth that know Ahmed was involved. Me and Dax. I know I never told a soul and we all know Dax didn’t either. So, the question I have now is why? Why was Ahmed here and why did Fakhir need to torture and kill him?” “Are you sure he didn’t give in?” Paige asked, remembering the damage to the body and knowing there was more she couldn’t see due to the fire. “I’m sure,” Hawk said confidently. “Whatever they were after, they didn’t get it from Ahmed. If I had to guess, it’s the reason they wanted Dax.” “Part of the reason,” Carmen corrected. “This thing is big. You know that. The fact Paige found classified information in the trunk of Ahmed’s car tells us how high up the corruption goes. The fact Nathan sent out burner phones and refused to talk to any of us on his cell phone tells me there’s more. Part of that is Dax. He scares them and he should. So, they need him out of the way before they try to implement their master plan. You guys know that better than anyone. But, I think maybe there’s more. I intend to find out what. Excuse me, I have a call to make.” “Can you tell my favorite general that I’ll be keeping Dax’s phone until he returns,” Paige asked. “These guys brought their own burners with them so they won’t need this one.” She turned to address Hawk. “You did bring your own, right?” “Right,” Hawk looked at Zeus. “Where does Dax keep his gear?”

“In his room, why?” “Sat phone,” Hawk stood. “I need to know if he made a call today.” “Who would he...?” Paige didn’t finish her question because the infuriating man had already left the room. She sat back, wondering what she was supposed to tell Jericho about the mess that had landed in their backyard. And Gage. Maybe she needed to call Nathan, too.


Paige was up before the sun. She had so many things running through her head. She flipped on her kitchen light and jumped in surprise when she saw Carmen sitting at her small table. “What are you doing here?” “Coffee should be done,” Carmen stood. “And I need a cup before we talk.” Paige filled her mug then moved to sit across from Carmen. “Talk.” 117

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 Carmen studied her friend, took a sip of coffee, and sighed. “You need to decide your boundaries.” “Come again?” “What are you willing to do to get Dax back and what line can’t you cross?” Carmen began. “I’ll use me as an example. Technically, I’m still employed by the FBI but I am assigned to Nathan. Nathan’s committee consists of FBI, CIA, Pentagon officials, Congressmen. Each group has a different set of rules. Some of the things Porter asks me to do would get me fired at the Bureau; but in my current assignment, it’s perfectly okay. You used to be FBI, now you’re local PD. You have different rules. And... well, those guys over there... every one of them is military. Not just military, they were Rangers. They have different rules of engagement than you. Different tactics, a different threshold. I guarantee there is going to come a time during this mission when you’ll have to make a decision. You will have to decide what you can live with if it means getting Dax home safely?” “You want me to break the rules?” Paige frowned. “Oh,” Carmen took another sip of coffee. “I want you to do so much more than that.” “I think I’m still missing something,” Paige turned to stare out the window. The sun was finally starting to come up. She needed to wrap this up and get outside. She wanted to search the area where the men parked their car and look for evidence. “You are missing a lot,” Carmen admitted. “Some I can tell you, some I can’t. This is all connected. The reason I’m here. The threats to me. I had a long conversation with Nathan last night and he knows all of this. But, that car... the men that took Dax. They’ve been driving by my place for days. Zeus and I have been careful and I don’t think they know I live there. We tried to make it look like the place was rented by Zeus. Nathan is going to call me this morning and we’ll play like I’m still vacationing in Bali. Then we’ll cut off all communication on his regular line.” “Is he being monitored, then?” “Yes,” Carmen sighed. “And he’s frantic about it. He thinks it’s his fault Dax was abducted. They orchestrated this elaborate plan to make the locals believe Dax murdered that man. Then you called Nathan and immediately told him the plan didn’t work. A few hours later, Dax was taken. He thinks if he talked you into believing it was Dax, maybe...” “It’s not his fault,” Paige insisted. “He tried to get off the phone but I wouldn’t let him. I continued on, talked over him and insisted he had to listen to me. If anyone is to blame, it’s me.” “It’s the two men that showed up here and took Dax that we need to blame. Zeus is a mess, too. He was here and didn’t try to stop it. They threatened you, Paige. We think that’s the only reason Dax went so easily. He ordered Zeus to stand down.” 118

Unexpected Threats “And Zeus obeyed the order because Dax was his leader,” Paige realized. “He did the right thing. From what I know about Fakhir, if Zee had interfered, he’d be dead.” “I agree, but that doesn’t make Zeus feel any better about all of this,” Carmen said soberly. “Which brings me back to my original point. I’m here because of Brian. We’ve been able to track his movement and I found some stuff on his computer. He stumbled onto a gun running operation out of Chicago. One that led to New Orleans... to a shipping yard. I’m not sure yet, but I think I can connect some of the illegal activity to the State Department.” “Our government is running illegal guns?” Paige said in shock. “High-level personnel at State and maybe the DOJ are running illegal guns,” Carmen corrected. “The ties are hidden with some of the players working for non-profits, generic memos and approval requests. It’s complicated and difficult to unravel, but I’ve been working on it for months. I’ve been able to track some of the shipments back from the incident with Brian. Now, Nathan tells me his phone is bugged and Tyler Lloyd was murdered. We have a mole on the committee and that hit Porter hard. He handpicked every member of that team. They all go way back. Before this, Nathan would have trusted those people with his life, he’s had them over for dinner, introduced them to his family, gone into battle with some of them. I’m worried about him. He’s not doing well and that’s dangerous. We need him at the top of his game if we’re going to survive this.” “I think I can help with that,” Paige decided. “I want to spend an hour or so going over Dax’s yard. There might be clues that will tell us where they took him. Once I’m finished, I’ll call Nathan. I might be able to get through to him. Is there anything else you’re not telling me?”

“No,” Carmen drank the last of her coffee. “Nathan had me do a deep run on all the guys in the unit. I think I trust them. Zeus trusts them and I couldn’t find anything even slightly suspicious on any of them. Nathan is understandably hesitant but unless one of them does something that brings their actions into question, I think we need to operate under the assumption they’re the good guys.” “I agree,” Paige sat back. “Dax trusted them, too. He knows them, has gone on missions with them. I think we can assume their only mission here in Manti is to rescue their leader. And, I agree... they’ll use any means necessary to achieve their goal. I hadn’t thought of the rules of engagement issue,” Paige admitted. “You’re right... they are going to do things differently than I would. I’m going to have to talk to Jericho, see how he wants me to handle this from our end.” “I don’t think that’s going to be necessary,” Carmen stood. “Nathan said he’s going to call the sheriff and tell him as much as he can. He doesn’t want you getting in hot water over this, but it’s bigger than a simple homicide. This is a matter of national security and at the moment... everyone is under suspicion. Nathan will make sure Jericho doesn’t talk to anyone about the operation.”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “Well,” Paige stood. “I guess that makes my job easier. Now, you go back and see what Rambo and his band of militants have planned for the day and I’m going to search for clues.”


“What is she doing?” Hawk studied Paige from the front window. “What she does best,” Carmen said casually. “She’s collecting dirt,” Hawk grumbled. “She’s collecting evidence,” Carmen said without looking up from her computer screen. “Whatever,” Hawk settled into a chair next to Carmen. “Have you traced the money?”

“No,” Carmen sighed. “I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. So, you better hope Paige finds a lead we can follow up on.” “Jeeves,” Hawk called. “What do you have for me?” “Not much,” he admitted. “These guys are careful. It’s not like a normal mission. Not even the ones we’ve worked since we retired. We normally have weeks to gather facts and filter out the bad Intel. We’re running out of time but we don’t have a single thread to tug. There just aren’t any leads to follow.” “Keep digging,” Hawk ordered. “Dax is counting on us. Ken? Maybe, you should call Mo.” “I’d like to wait on that,” Ken frowned. “After the ordeal with Zeus and the Mexican prison, those ties are a little strained.” “I...” Zeus objected. “I’m not blaming you,” Ken interrupted. “I’m just saying I’d like to wait.” “Fine,” Hawk relented. “But if we haven’t found anything two hours from now, you call Mo.”


Paige slid the tiny pieces of leather into a bag and checked the seal before looking up. Jericho had arrived. She straightened and waited for her boss to approach her. “Did you find anything we can use?” Jericho asked. 120

Unexpected Threats “Maybe,” Paige held out the bag. “This looks like leather. Can you think of any old manufacturing plants, clothing warehouses, anything like that nearby? It would have to be vacant and secluded.” “Not off hand, but I’ll do some checking,” Jericho offered. “How are you holding up?”

“Don’t ask,” Paige clamped her jaw tight in an attempt to hold back the emotions. “What’s in the other bag?” “I have some dirt samples I need analyzed,” she held out the bag. “I was thinking I might overnight them to Sean.” “Split the sample,” Jericho told her. “Send some to Sean and give the other half to me. I’ll hand-deliver it to our lab and see what they can tell me. I know people, too.” Paige held out the bag. “There’s more over there. I’ll get another sample for Sean and I won’t argue. We could use all the help we can get if we’re going to find Dax.” “Paige,” Jericho sobered. “Don’t say it,” Paige shook her head. “I’m doing my best to work the case but I’m worried once I involve Sean, they’re going to try to take over. Fakhir is pretty high up on the ‘Must Capture’ list.” “I’ll handle that,” Jericho assured her. “What can I do to help?” He glanced up and studied Dax’s house. “With them... or anything else.” “I’m not sure how to handle them,” Paige admitted. “Carmen pointed out something I hadn’t thought of. Their methods are drastically different than ours. What they are allowed to do... or just do, that’s going to cross a line I can’t cross as a law enforcement officer. What am I supposed to do about that?” “I trust you,” Jericho began. “But you’re right. You can’t control them and nobody expects you to. The main objective is to get Dax home safe. How they do that... honestly, I don’t care. I know I’m not supposed to say that, but I’ve grown attached to the kid. I care about him, too. And those men in there... any one of them would give their own life to protect Hamilton. I can see it in their eyes.” “When did you talk to them?” Paige asked, surprised. “Last night,” Jericho shrugged. “After I spoke with Porter. We’ve come to a tentative agreement. One, I think I can live with and I hope you can, too.” “Which is?” 121

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “I’ll make myself available,” Jericho focused on Paige. “I’m not taking over your case but I want to be close. If anything questionable happens, I’ll take the heat for it. I don’t want you to be put in a position of defending yourself... or them.” “You don’t need to do that,” Paige argued.

“I do,” Jericho disagreed. “And I will. If we catch one, or both of the men responsible. You can bet those guys are going to conduct an interrogation. I’m going to let them.” “What if...” “I’m going to back off,” Jericho clarified. “I’m going to write up a report that very clearly states the feds came in and requested a professional favor. They informed me the men were wanted in connection with terrorist activities and it was a matter of national security that I transfer custody to a team of Agent Wilken’s choice.” “So,” Paige considered. “We are bringing Sean in on this?” “We’re not,” Jericho corrected. “General Nathan Porter, retired, is... probably already has.” “And Sean’s team?” “I have a feeling it will consist of Carmen and five egomaniac, control freak, retired Rangers,” Jericho grinned. “And I’m fine with that, too. Are you?” Paige thought about the situation for several seconds. “Yeah, I’m fine with it.” “Good,” Jericho gave her a quick pat on the back. “I can be reached on my cell phone if you need me.” He held up the bag of soil samples Paige had collected. “I’m going to see a lady about a dirt analysis. Wish me luck.” “Do you think Margie could look into the old factory angle?” Paige called out and held up the bag that contained a leather strip. “I think with the soil and the leather, we might be able to narrow down their location.” “Send her a photo,” Jericho decided. “Then mail that to Sean as well. Maybe the feds can use that high tech equipment to tell us something about the material. In the meantime, I’ll have Marge checking abandoned buildings.” “I’ll go take a picture now,” Paige scooped up another soil sample. “Then I’ll get these in the mail. Do you think Nathan already talked to Sean? I’d like to warn him they’re coming.” “I’m sure he has,” Jericho yanked open his car door. “Give him a call, it should be safe.”



Unexpected Threats Paige finished packaging up the materials and stepped into the room where Carmen and the five men were huddled around her computer. “Did you guys find something?” “I’m not sure,” Carmen admitted. “I hacked into the city’s camera system and I found something strange.” “What?” “Ahmed,” Hawk glanced up. “What’s that?” “I’m sending them to the FBI to be analyzed,” Paige set the package on the table next to the front door. “What about the camera system?” “Ahmed drove by this camera on Main Street twice a day, for several days, ending three days ago,” Carmen told her.

“You think he came here?” Paige surmised. “Makes sense,” Zeus agreed. “If he was trying to talk to Dax, wouldn’t he stake out the house in hopes of catching him alone?” “But, Dax is rarely alone,” Paige provided. “Right,” Zeus agreed. “Because I’m always here. But Nassar didn’t know that because they think I live at Carmen’s and that Williams guy was seriously surprised when I popped out and interrupted him on his first visit.” “Would Ahmed leave something here?” Paige asked Hawk. “Would he break into the house when Dax was gone to make sure the information got into his possession somehow?” “If he was desperate,” Hawk shrugged. “He’d probably leave it somewhere he considered it safe. I’m not sure he would try to break into the house, though. He’s not a skilled burglar, he’s a skilled soldier.” “That might be something to think about after we find Dax,” Paige considered. “Anyway, does any of that help you? The traffic cams around the city?”

“Not so far,” Carmen slumped a little lower in her chair. “But, I’m not giving up. I have another search running over there,” she pointed to her laptop. “I’m working on it, Paige. If there’s something to find, I’ll find it.” “I want to get those in the mail,” she told the group. “Sean called the delivery service and if I can get them to the office before five, they can have the package to the Bureau in less than three hours. We should have the results in the morning.” 123

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “See ya,” Carmen gave a little wave. The men just stared and clearly thought analyzing dirt was a waste of time.


Dax tried to shift but stopped abruptly when his entire body erupted in pain. He could handle the stupid cattle prod. The electrical current was painful, but temporary. He could handle a fist to his kidney, his stomach and even his face. What he was having a hard time handling, were the broken ribs. Normally, he could even handle that. But, right now, tied to this cold metal table, he just couldn’t find a position to relieve the pain. Dax thought of Paige and hoped she was okay. They had threatened her, claimed they’d leave her alone if he came quietly, but men like Fakhir couldn’t be trusted. His mind started to wander and an image of Ahmed popped into his head. He shoved it back. He wouldn’t survive this if he let sorrow take root. With a little luck and a lot of talent, Zeus, Carmen and Paige would be able to track his location. But he couldn’t rely on luck. He knew it was up to him to escape on his own. If he wanted to survive, and he did want to survive, he’d need a plan. He had to find a way to get off this table and surprise the enemy. He gave his wrist another tug and nearly gave in to despair. There was no way he’d get out of the metal constraints on his own. They were welded to the table. He needed another plan. Hours later, he drifted off still trying to come up with a solution to an impossible problem. His only hope was pretending he had the information Ahmed came here to deliver. As long as they believed he was the only one that knew where it was, he’d live.


“Please tell me you have something,” Paige said when she picked up the phone. She was groggy, irritable and dead tired. Dax had been gone more than thirty-six hours. Was it even possible he was still alive? “I have something,” Sean assured her. “The soil sample you gave me contained neatsfoot oil.” “I don’t know what that is,” Paige admitted. “I didn’t either,” Sean smiled. “Grotto said they use it to oil saddles, to keep them pliable and to protect it... if it gets wet.” “Saddles?” Paige considered. “And leather. I need to call Margie.” “I’m headed your way,” Sean informed her. “I’ll hook up with you after I drop my stuff with my sister. You’re stuck with me until this is over so don’t argue.” 124

Unexpected Threats “No argument here,” Paige said cheerfully. “I like working a case with my favorite Feebie.” “See you when I see you,” Sean disconnected.


Two hours later, Paige was sitting in Hamilton’s living room with five impatient, frustrated, angry men. She couldn’t blame them, she was frustrated too. But, she didn’t have to put up with their constant attacks and mumbled digs at her, her profession, or her competence. She was about to confront Hawk directly when the doorbell rang. “I got it.” She stopped to peek out the window, then flung the door open and smiled at the two men standing just outside. “You, I was expecting,” she pointed to Sean. “Why are you here?” she asked Havilland.

“Margie sent me,” Havi smiled. “And I thought you might need backup.” Paige rolled her eyes. “You thought right. Come in, tell me what you found.” She escorted the men through the living room... past five sets of prying eyes... into the kitchen. “Want a soda or something. Or, if you’re off duty there’s beer.” “We’re good,” they both said at once. “Do you have a laptop or something handy?” Havi asked. “I need you to pull up a map of the area.” “Carmen?” Paige asked, sensing her friend just outside the door. “On it,” Carmen rushed to her desk, grabbed the computer and headed back to the kitchen, Zeus on her tail. Paige glanced up to see that Hawk had also followed. “If you guys want to join us, we can take this back in the living room,” Paige said coyly. “I just thought since I was so inept at my job, you wouldn’t be interested. I mean, I’m a lowly cop in a small town. I’m sure you brilliant military guys have something far more important to handle while we speak among ourselves.” “We didn’t say that,” Hawk protested. “We simply asked if you had anything new. The attitude, well that’s on you. This isn’t a competition, Paige. I realize we don’t know each other, but if we’re going to save Dax... it would help if we could start working together.” 125

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “I agree... together. As a team. It would also help if you stopped treating me like you’re the expert and I’m the peon,” she countered. “Because my skills might not be all muscle and tactics but they just generated our first lead.” “Are we done here?” Havi glared at Hawk. “Because I’m pretty sure I know where those men were before they parked in the driveway out there.” “Where?” Carmen asked. “Pull up Manti on the map,” Havi ordered. Carmen went into her classified satellite imagery system and pulled up Manti. Havi raised an eyebrow. “May I?” he pointed to the computer. Carmen immediately slid the laptop across the kitchen table, positioning it in front of Havilland. “Margie and I were talking,” Havi zoomed in closer. “And with the new information from the soil, we realized we were thinking too big.” “The warehouses and factories you mean?” Paige asked. “Right,” Havi stopped playing with the map and looked at Paige. “I remembered the old saddle shop... Saddledoo, I think.” “Old?” Jeeves asked. “Yeah,” Havi turned to look at the stranger who had entered the kitchen, followed by the rest of the men. “The old man started it years ago. He lived out here...” Havi pointed to the map. “Pretty far away from the main part of town. He got tired of riding his horse for miles when he needed simple leatherwork done. So, he figured it out for himself and then started making repairs for his neighbors and other ranchers in the area that needed minor saddle repair work. His daughter grew up in the shop and picked it up and ran with it when he passed. She actually made saddles as well as making repairs.”

“Are they still there?” Paige asked. “No,” Havi shook his head. “The kid... I think her name was Alice, no Andie. She met a guy, got married and when they had their first kid they decided to move out of state somewhere. The place is still out there, but it’s vacant. I suspect the family still owns the land... well, and the shop but it hasn’t been operational for years…too far out of the way for any other kind of business I think.” 126

Unexpected Threats “Show us where it is,” Paige insisted. “Is that the road to Laurel Bluffs?” “It is,” Havi agreed. “The property is on the border. It’s technically in both unincorporated Sanpete and Laurel Bluffs but the buildings are on the Sanpete side.” He moved the mouse to follow the old road that was no longer maintained and stopped when two buildings came into view. “This one,” Havilland pointed to one of the buildings, “is obviously the house. This one was the shop.” “Can I see that?” Hawk asked. He took the computer, zoomed out and started taking notes on a small pocketbook. “Do you know what this is?” He glanced up and focused on Havilland. “Nothing, really.” Havilland pointed to a section of the map that was a different color than the rest. “Over here used to be a large corral. That section was the feeding and loading area for horses and cattle. It’s basically a large meadow now.” “Have you been out there recently?” “Sure,” Havi shrugged. “Could we land a helicopter in that area?” Hawk glanced at Ken. “There were logs piled up over here the last time I was out there,” Havilland pointed to a section off to the side. “But this area should be large enough for a bird.” Hawk gave Ken a nod and the man disappeared out the back door. “Won’t they hear us coming?” Paige asked. “Maybe,” Hawk studied Paige for several seconds. “You asked me to include you. I’m going to include you. My team will drop in here,” he pointed to a grassy area between the house and the saddle shop. “We drop in, rappel from the bird and hit the residence first. If they’re out there, that’s where Fakhir will be. The chopper will land here,” he pointed to the meadow. “And you and the fed offload and join us.” “Jericho will insist on coming as well,” Paige informed him. “I don’t know about Havi, that’s the sheriff’s call. I do have a question, though.” “Go ahead,” Hawk prompted. “You only have five guys. If one of them is flying the helicopter that means four. How are you going to secure the house and the shop? That’s too few men. They could slip out the back and get away without you even knowing they were there.” 127

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “Trust me,” Hawk looked at each of his men. “Five men is more than enough. We’ve handled larger operations with fewer resources more times than I could count. And, the pilot is extra...that makes six.” “Fine,” Paige decided. “I’ll trust you with tactics. I need to make a couple calls. Nathan needs an update and I need to bring Jericho in.” She stood and left the room.


“Mr. Nassar!” Williams frantically called. “They found us. We must leave.” “How?” Nassar barked in frustration. He still didn’t have answers and he was growing impatient with this prisoner. “The woman,” Williams explained. “The female cop. The one that figured out Hamilton didn’t commit the murder. She’s too smart for a small town like this. She retrieved soil samples from the driveway and had them analyzed. Tiny particles apparently fell from our tires. There was something in the soil that led to this old shop. They are already developing a plan to invade. We must leave immediately.” Fakhir threw the cattle prod against the wall in frustration. “I will leave. Get my bag. I’ll have to drug the prisoner and transport him to the secondary location. We can’t risk escape. You stay behind and clear out the house. Make sure there is nothing left behind that could lead those men to our other compound. Be quick, clean up and then follow me out. Go, get my bag. We must leave. I’ll need your help to get Hamilton in the back of the car.”


Paige climbed into the helicopter and settled in next to Jericho. She was a little surprised and extremely impressed at how quickly these men developed a plan of attack, then put the thing in motion without hesitation. She studied Dax’s friends, focusing on each one as they double-checked their gear and prepared for take-off. She shouldn’t be surprised, this is what they did. They were the experts. Trained men who had executed countless missions in worse conditions than these. And, Dax had been their leader on most of them. She had a new appreciation for the life he left behind, and had to remind herself the man she loved wasn’t just a small town carpenter. He was a dangerous, well-trained machine. Just like the five soldiers currently crowded into a Black Hawk helicopter that was taking up the entire parking lot of the local Sheriff’s Office. Good thing visiting hours were over at the jail. She was extremely curious and wondered how in the world the team had arranged for the military transport but didn’t dare ask. What would she do if they said it was stolen? 128

Unexpected Threats Borrowed without permission? Redirected from a training mission? No, she wouldn’t ask. She’d remain blissfully ignorant. Paige watched out the window as they flew over the city. She marveled at how different the place she now called home looked from this vantage point. They continued past back roads; and within minutes, the pilot began a slow decent at what looked like mere inches above the tall pines. The team began their last equipment check before sliding open the large door and moving methodically toward the opening. Paige continued to stare as five men disappeared in seconds. Moments later, the helicopter came to a gentle stop in a meadow just a few yards away. Jericho, Sean, and Paige jumped from the bird and ran toward a secluded building they hoped contained a man they all cared for and respected. “Dax?” Paige called out, darting into the empty building that used to be a successful saddle shop. She froze when she saw the metal table and the four thick metal rings welded in the perfect position to secure two arms and two legs. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw the blood. Suddenly, large hands were resting on her shoulders and someone forcefully turned her around and pushed her outside. How long had she been in there, anyway? “You don’t need to see that,” Jericho pulled her into his arms and held her while she regained her composure. “Is he...” she couldn’t say it. Couldn’t ask. “No,” Jericho assured her. “I don’t think so. I think they were warned. Somehow, they knew we were coming and one of the men escaped with Dax. It sounds like he’s been relocated.” “What?” Paige pushed away and straightened. “How could they know? That’s impossible. How did they find out we were coming?” “I don’t know,” Jericho said honestly. “Hawk is trying to get information from the guy that called himself Williams but he’s clammed up. I’d like to join them. Do you think you can handle it?” “Let’s go,” Paige said angrily. “I want answers.” The two of them walked into the residence and joined the other men. Sean was leaning against the wall. Thor had wrapped his large arms around their suspect and currently had the man securely locked in place against his big chest. Hawk was trying to get answers. Ken was standing next to Sean and Zeus and Jeeves were missing. “Where is he?” Paige demanded. “Where is Dax?” 129

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 Williams glanced up, spotted Paige and smiled. “I want a lawyer.” Apparently, Williams’s cocky attitude set Thor off because he lifted the man in the air and marched out the door. The rest of the men followed. “Where are you taking him?” Paige demanded. She followed them outside and glanced around. When they disappeared into the old saddle shop, she turned to her boss. “What are they doing?” “Let’s give them a few minutes,” Jericho decided. “But...” Paige began. “Paige,” Jericho said sternly. “This is no longer our investigation. Do you remember when I told you my intention was to engage in a little professional cooperation?” “Yes,” Paige said slowly. “Well,” Jericho studied the closed door that led to the saddle shop — where the men had disappeared. “It started several minutes ago. We apprehended the man who was impersonating an officer. At that time, Agent Sean Wilkins informed me the FBI was looking for Mr. Broadbent in connection with terrorist activity. In the spirit of cooperation, I immediately transferred custody of our prisoner to the feds. I have no idea what happened to the guy once he was no longer my prisoner. And, neither do you. We are not going into that building and that’s an order.” “Do you think they strapped him to that table? The one with blood... Dax’s blood. Where they...” Paige stopped and swallowed hard. “I have no idea,” Jericho shrugged. “I hope so. I hope they scare that man so severely he has nightmares for the rest of his miserable life.” Paige glanced up in surprise. “I thought...” “You thought I’d give in to his idiotic demand for a lawyer?” Jericho asked. “Not likely. I have no idea what those boys plan to do with that man; but at the moment, I’m thinking of myself as a means kind of guy.” “How did they know?” Paige asked again. “We kept it to ourselves. The only outside help we got was at the FBI lab, with the samples and that Black Hawk. How did they know?” “That is something I intend to look into,” Jericho continued to watch the closed door. “If there’s a leak, I plan to find it.” “What if...” Paige yanked out her burner phone. “I need to call Nathan.” 130

Unexpected Threats “Go ahead,” Jericho continued to stare at the door. He tried not to speculate on what was happening inside. “Paige,” Nathan answered on the first ring. “Did you get him?”

“No,” Paige wiped away a tear. Somehow, the instant she talked to Nathan everything became real... and so much worse. “They have William Broadbent. The rangers I mean, they’re trying to question him as we speak. They knew. Somehow they knew we were coming and Nassar moved Dax to another location before we got here. Nathan, how did they know?” Nathan Porter seethed. “I’ll look into it. I promise, I will get to the bottom of this. Do you still trust the men? The unit, I mean. Do you think one of them could have tipped them off?” “No,” Paige considered. “No, I don’t think it was us. I know it wasn’t Sean or Jericho or Havilland. Do you think... what if they are monitoring the house? You said this goes high up. What if they planted something to monitor us? Is that possible?” “Is Carmen with you or did she stay at Hamilton’s place?” “No,” Paige slid her hand into her pocket. “She’s at my house with Gage and Havi. She didn’t feel safe out here and she didn’t want to stay there alone. I asked the guys to keep her company at my place until we get back.” “I’ll call her,” Nathan assured her. “She has the equipment to do a thorough scan. If they planted something, she’ll find it and remove it.”

“No,” Paige said quickly. “Leave it. We might be able to use it. If they have a way to monitor us, we might be able to throw them off. You know, give them a false sense of security. We can move the operation to my place. Have Carmen scan my house first. Make sure it’s safe. Then we’ll deal with my neighbor’s. If we find something there, let’s figure out a way to use it to our advantage. If not, you have another mole to uncover. And, I’d start at the lab.” “It could be both,” Nathan decided. “Are you okay?” “It’s Dax you should be worried about.” “But...” Nathan paused. “I’m talking about the interrogation. Are you going to be okay?” “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Paige decided. “Jericho turned the prisoner over to the feds. We assume he’s being transported to a secure facility where he can stand trial for his crimes.” “That’s my girl,” Nathan smiled. “Remember that company line and you really should forget about the guy. Just don’t think about it and it won’t bother you.” 131

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “Are you telling me he’s going to be tortured?” Paige wondered. “No,” Nathan disagreed. “I have no idea what’s going to happen to him. I’m telling you, neither one of us needs to know.” Just then, Zeus and Jeeves exited the main residence. “I gotta go. I’ll talk to you when I get home.” Zeus made his way to Paige, Jeeves stopped to talk to Jericho. “What now?” Paige asked. “I’ll go see what Thor and Hawk got out of the guy,” Zeus shrugged. “There’s nothing in the house that will help, but you’re the evidence expert. Maybe, you should give it another go.” “Okay,” Paige nodded. “I’ll do a search. What if he doesn’t talk? What will you guys do?”

“I think Ken is calling Mo,” Zeus said softly. “Isn’t Mo the guy that helped Dax when he and Ken went after you?” Paige asked, wondering what Mexico had to do with this. “He is,” Zeus confirmed. “He’s a cop, the Federales.” “That’s not how you say it,” Paige rolled her eyes. “It’s Policia Federal, bozo.” “Toe...mato, Toe...matto,” Zeus smiled. “Let me see what the plan is and I’ll fill you in, okay?”

“Zeus,” Paige grabbed his arm. “They knew we were coming. I’m going to ask this because I have to...” “No,” Zeus answered. “It wasn’t one of us. It wasn’t the pilot, either. We have a problem, a leak somewhere but it wasn’t one of us.” “Okay,” Paige nodded. “That’s what I told Nathan.” Zeus smiled in approval. “Be careful, girlie. Another day or two and you just might start thinking of yourself as part of the team.”

“I think I already do,” Paige said softly. Paige did her best to search the tiny residence, but there was nothing to be found. She ran through it twice before stepping back onto the front porch in defeat. She stepped forward and stopped next to Jericho who was leaning against a sturdy wooden railing. The two of them stood silently, pondering their next move. Several minutes later, Hawk exited the other building. “I thought I’d bring the two of you up to speed. The man isn’t talking. He’s cocky, thinks he’ll get a lawyer 132

Unexpected Threats and turn the tables on us. Maybe have us arrested and he knows your buddy in there is a fed. He’s trying to use that as leverage. Thinks he can claim police brutality or something. Basically, I think I got all I’m going to from him.” “What does that mean?” Paige asked. “It means,” Hawk glanced at Jericho. “We’re transporting him to another location. Somewhere he doesn’t feel so confident.” Jericho gave the slightest nod. “Where?” Paige asked. “Like Gitmo or something?” Hawk laughed. “That would be a possibility if we had the time, but no. Ken called Mo. They’re working out a plan as we speak. Some little village where they can meet up in private.”

“Mo is in Mexico,” Paige pointed out. “Exactly,” Hawk confirmed. “Alejandro Molina is a police officer in Mexico. Ken sent him photos of the two men that abducted Dax and requested his assistance. Mo happily agreed, but he insisted we transport our prisoner to him. There’s a village on the border. I’m told it’s half US, half Mexico. He wants to meet there. Mo recognized both of the men immediately and he’s rather anxious to have a little chat with our good friend Williams in there.” “Why?” Paige asked. “Because Mo has been looking for the duo. He also answered the question of how Nassar snuck into this country without detection,” Hawk told her. “Williams apparently met up with Nassar in Mexico. The two of them obtained weapons and a rather extensive collection of drugs before heading for the border. Williams helped Nassar sneak into America with the assistance of a seasoned coyote. Unfortunately, they encountered a man by the name of Diego Cardenas who tried to stop them.” “What happened?” Jericho asked, but he already knew. “Nassar killed Diego, shot him between the eyes and left him to be scavenged by animals,” Hawk provided. “Friend or relative?” Paige asked. “Fellow police officer,” Hawk answered. “Mo says Diego was a good man. Had a wife and two kids. Some of the cops have a bad name, people think they are all corrupt but not Mo and he says not Diego. They were just hard working cops like you, and Nassar gunned one of them down out of convenience. Plus, Mo owes Dax. He wants to do what he can to help.” 133

Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 8 “Are you okay with this?” Paige asked Jericho. “I am,” Jericho told her. “Sounds like a legal extradition to me. We captured a fugitive and turned him over to the FBI. The feds were informed the man was wanted in Mexico on a homicide charge. Sounds like these guys are being extremely cooperative and understanding. I wish you luck in your travels.” Paige stared at her boss in shock. “No reservations?” “None,” Jericho said. “In fact, I’m relieved. I was afraid these guys would have to do something unpleasant to get the man to talk. Once he’s out of the country, he becomes someone else’s problem. It’s a way to maintain our integrity... as a country, I mean.” Paige turned on Hawk. “If Dax dies because you’re driving that man all the way to Mexico to have him interrogated, I will never forgive you.”

Hawk grinned. “Who said anything about driving?” He gave her a wink and walked away. “Are they taking the helicopter?” Paige demanded of Jericho. “What about us?” “If I had to guess,” Jericho smiled. “I’d say those two vehicles are for us.” Paige watched the men’s Navigator and Carmen’s SUV pull up the drive. Gage, Havi and Carmen jumped out and approached their colleagues. “Nathan sent us,” Carmen explained. “And I have information on that other thing. You are going to have roomies for the foreseeable future.” “That means we’ll need to sit down and try to remember everything we’ve discussed in that house,” Paige frowned. “It’s going to be impossible.” She turned just in time to see Ken and Thor escort their prisoner from the building. Williams was still smiling as they made their way across the open yard. He sobered when they walked right past Paige and her small group; then, continued into the narrow woods. The rest of the men joined Paige and the others in the front yard. Apparently, only Ken and Thor would accompany the prisoner to his new destination. “Where are you taking me?” he screamed. “I demand a lawyer.”

Paige thought she should feel sorry for the man. She expected to feel something... sympathy, unease, apprehension. But, she didn’t. His attitude only made his actions seem more egregious somehow. He sold out his country, smuggled a terrorist into the homeland illegally and stood by — maybe even helped — while his partner killed an innocent cop who was just trying to do his job. No, Paige didn’t have a problem with the plan. Not now that she saw how unrepentant Williams was about everything he’d done. Not when she thought of Dax, alone somewhere with a madman that had tortured, killed and mutilated the body of another good man. 134

Unexpected Threats She stood there, gazing into the darkened trees long after the two soldiers and their prisoner had disappeared. She continued to watch and listen as Williams screamed for help in the distance. Then, she shifted slightly and watched the skyline as the distinct sound of a helicopter filled the air. The group waited silently while the pilot prepared for lift-off. Then, they stood mesmerized watching the flying transport vehicle pass overhead, continue over the old dirt road and finally disappear. Jericho turned to Paige and wrapped an arm around her shoulders guiding her toward the vehicles. “Let’s go home.” Read the current season for free. Available exclusively on my website. Each season runs from April to December. Season five now in progress. If you subscribe to my blog, you will receive the entire first season absolutely free just for signing up.

Season 1 1. Lakeside 2. Lasting Consequences 3. Perverted Theology 4. Camp Reefer 5. Youthful Plunder 6. Newborn Harvest 7. Unfortunate Trio 8. Impetuous Flight 9. Innocent Strategy 135